Table of Contents

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reds Season Review

Cincinnati RedsImage via Wikipedia

I completed a "sabermetric" (I still don't like that word, but I've become resigned that I have to use it to be understood) review of the 2009 Cincinnati Reds at Red Reporter. Here are the parts:
Did some fun things here:
  • The introduction piece has a nice historical angle to it that I really like.
  • The position-by-position run above average plots in the position player pieces were a nice way of summarizing the overall team performance.
  • The hitting info included full baserunning from baseball prospectus pull park corrections, so I think it's the best available right now for Reds players.
  • The fielding info incorporated fan scouting data in a semi-crude, but still useful way. Again, I think it's the best available for Reds players.
  • I also really like the introductory graph for the pitcher piece. People can complain about one metric vs. another, but when all three approaches show the same thing, I think it paints a pretty strong picture.
Well, that's enough patting myself on the back for one day. It's exam week and I have to figure out what I'm going to do if school gets snowed out tomorrow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

BtB Power Ranking Season Reviews

Earlier this week, I completed my season-by-season reviews of all MLB teams. Fun exercise. Here they are:

Here's what I wrote about the Reds:
I root for laundry of this color. It was a rough season, but after dwelling in the basement for much of August and early September, a hot-hot-hot streak at the end of the year got them up to 26th place in the rankings and 4th place in the division over the last few weeks. cW% was substantially lower than true W%: 0.441 vs. 0.481. The reason was a slight underestimate of runs scored, and a slight overestimate of runs allowed, plus the fact that even straight-up Pythagoras had the Reds as a bit lucky. This was quite possibly the best fielding team in the National League, but their pitching was just a tad below average. And that, coupled with an offense that flirted with the 0.300 wOBA line for most of the year, spelled disaster. So, for the 9th consecutive season, Reds fans are wondering if next year will be the year they finally win more than they lose again.
And here are the final 2009 Beyond the Box Score Power Rankings. I really enjoyed doing that series this year, even if occasionally was a bit contentious (:cough: Giants :cough:). Very well received, and might go even further next season if we can keep it going. Just need to figure out some strength of schedule adjustments.

Now that I'm done with that series for a while, I have some Reds work I'm planning. Look for a recap of the 2009 season at Red Reporter sometime next week if all goes well. I also have a minor league study about half written up at BtB. Stay tuned...

Barry Larkin for the Hall

I finished a piece last night, running today at Red Reporter, arguing for Barry Larkin's induction into the Hall of Fame. Response has been very positive, with links from BBTF (Repoz) and Rob Neyer, among others. Everyone seems to think that Larkin should get in (as I show, that's clearly supported by the data), but some think he might have some trouble. Hopefully he'll get in before guys like Jeter start appearing on the ballot.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Regarding Mudgate: I will read from a prepared statement

I did it. It's all my fault. Yes, the attendant rubbed the balls correctly and thoroughly. But I cleaned them. With soap. And a Snuggie.

I deeply regret my actions and apologise to my family, friends, and the baseball community. I will accept any consequences that MLB/Dave Duncan/Tony La Russa deem appropriate.

This concludes my statement. On the advice of my lawyer, I will not be taking questions.

Thank you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reds offense

I posted a short article on the Reds' offense at Red Reporter. Excerpt:

As a result, in many cases we like to look at context-neutral offensive stats. There are a number to choose from, but my personal favorite is the one I calculate for Beyond the Boxscore: I estimate runs scored based on linear weights of offensive events (wRC at fangraphs) and baserunning stats from Baseball Prospectus (EqBRR). Based on this measure, after park corrections, through Sunday's games, the Reds trail the Astros 634 runs to 606 runs. Why? Despite their park disadvantage, the Astros rank ahead of the Reds in AVG, OBP, and SLG, as well as baserunning (0 RAA for Astros vs. 9 runs below average for the Reds). The Reds have just been a bit "lucky" in terms of how their offensive events have translated into runs, whereas the Astros have been a tad "unlucky."

The games disparity mentioned above still applies, so you can convert those totals to a rate stat. I prefer wOBA, which has the Reds trailing the Astros 0.319 vs. 0.309 (wOBA uses the same scale as OBP, but properly weights all offensive events--in this case, I'm even including EqBRR baserunning). The Reds rank ahead of only San Francisco by wOBA.

Monday, September 21, 2009

CTrent on Defense

CTrent has a nice article on the Reds' fielding. To my disbelief, he actually quotes me from an e-mail exchange we had:

"Through Wednesday's games, I had the Reds at 49 runs above average in the field," Inaz wrote in an e-mail. "That's an average of two different fielding stats (UZR and a team-level one from Hardball Times), plus catchers. Since 93% of all runs are earned runs, that would mean that we'd add ~46 runs to the Reds' ER if they were an average fielding team, shifting their team ERA from 4.31 to 4.62.

"tRA, which is my personal favorite fielding- and context-independent pitching stat, they have the Reds' actual runs allowed as 73 better than predicted in their model (I'm getting that from the xRR number), which would be ~69 more earned runs than expected. That pushes team ERA from 4.31 to 4.81," Inaz said. "Last one: the Reds' FIP, another fielding-independent pitching stat (this one only looks at k-rate, bb-rate, and hr-rate), puts the Reds expected team ERA at 4.66 compared to their ERA of 4.31. That one matches up well to the first estimate."

Pretty fun to see my crap alongside quotes by Baker, Arroyo, and Rolen, even if I'm clearly the least articulate of the bunch. :)

It's probably pretty obvious, but the e-mail exchange between myself and CTrent led directly to my fielding post at Red Reporter, which comes at this stuff from a slightly different angle.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

@RR: Reds can catch the ball


If one of the front office's major goals heading into this season was to improve the team's fielding, they seem to have succeeded: the Reds are clearly one of the best fielding teams in the league.

How much does it matter? Let's run with a figure of +50 runs this season, which is where I have the Reds in the BtB Power Rankings, and is a rough average of all the other run estimates. Add that to the average of ~40 runs below average that Reds teams have been from 2004-2008 (by bUZR), and you have a total of a 90 run improvement in fielding this year compared to the 2004-2008 teams. In the current NL run environment, that's roughly a 10-win improvement compared to the 2004-2008 teams!

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean they're an improved team, because the offensive dropoff is worse than the fielding gains...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Me, elsewhere

Yesterday, I updated my power rankings for Beyond the Boxscore...and for the first time in weeks, the Reds do not rank last! The reason? I've (finally) added catcher fielding to the dataset. Ryan Hanigan and crew have done a great job behind the plate this year, at least based on SB, WP, and Error data, and that was enough to springboard the Reds above the badly-slumping Pirates. So...."Yay, we're not in last place anymore!"

Also, yesterday was my debut as a contributer at Red Reporter. I posted a very short profile on Lonny Frey, a Reds Hall of Famer who passed away last Sunday. Excerpt:

Frey was purchased from the Chicago Cubs prior to his
age-27 season in 1938. Previously at shortstop, he would go on to play almost exclusively at second base for the next seven seasons. He really blossomed in 1939 when he gave up switch-hitting and focused entirely on hitting form the left side. He put up two consecutive 6+ WAR seasons and helping lead the team to two consecutive World Series. He then followed with three consecutive 4 WAR seasons--all told, his time with the Reds was easily the best stretch of the three-time All Star's career.

Being an independent blogger since 2006, I've had plenty of opportunities and offers to move to or join other blogs over years. And I've always declined, as I was content writing here. I could do what I wanted, set my own schedule, and not worry about any feeling of commitment and such. And given the uncertainty about my job future from 2006-2008, I didn't want to make any promises that I couldn't keep.

But I think what has happened over the past year and a half is that life has become so busy that I really just don't have time to run my own blog anymore...and so, my twice-monthly posting activity has resulted in very little traffic. And even worse, there's been very little interaction compared to how things used to be when I could post more often. I think I've finally come to grips with that at the same time that my personal and professional life has become substantially more stable (very busy, but stable!). Furthermore, contributing over at Beyond the Boxscore has helped me realize what I'm missing--interaction, mostly, and the feeling of not having to wait for a link in order for someone to read my stuff.

As a result of all of that, I finally decided to approach Slyde about joining on with his crew. I've collaborated with Slyde on a number of projects over the years, many of which have unfortunately never seen the light of day. But I'm very happy that he agreed to let me join up on very relaxed terms--the frequency of my posting over there is unlikely to be much better than it has been over here.

Basement Dwellers isn't going away, though. The Reds WAR position review series, for example, is going to continue to be posted here. And I'll continue to link to my stuff on the other sites as a way of tracking what I'm up to, as well as post the occasional short piece that isn't appropriate for other sites. But the majority of my Reds stuff will likely be posted at Red Reporter moving forward, while more general baseball work will continue to be posted at Beyond the Boxscore.

So, this isn't goodbye, but it does mark a change in how the site will be used for the immediate future. I do want to thank everyone who has contributed the 200,000+ page views and 150,000+ unique visits to this site since 2006. I've had a great time here and I hope you've enjoyed it too. See you at RR and BtB. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Reds and WAR - Best Pitcher Seasons (1900-2008)

Dolf LuqueDid Dolf Luque have the best pitcher season in Reds history? By WAR, yes, you can argue that he did. Image via Wikipedia

Guest writer Greg from Atlanta returns with his break-down of the best pitcher seasons by Reds pitchers. You can read his piece on the best Reds hitter seasons here.

The following is a WAR based looked at the Reds best pitcher seasons of all time and a sequel to this look at the 15 best Reds hitter seasons. The WAR pitching metric includes some interesting adjustments – particularly an adjustment for the defense. Pitchers who pitch behind a great defense (which were a key feature of the 39-40 Reds and the Big Red Machine) will find some of the runs they saved credited to the defense, while pitchers who labor with a lousy defense behind them (think Aaron Harang in 2007) get some extra credit.

If we included all years back to 1876, 7 of the top 9 Reds pitcher seasons would belong to 19th century pitchers. The differences between 19th century baseball and baseball of the early 20th century were huge, and most of those differences revolved around pitcher usage. The 1882 Reds (which won the American Association with a 55-25 record) featured a three man pitching staff, and two of those (Will White and Harry McCormick) combined for 97% of the team’s innings pitched. White made 2/3 of the team’s starts, went 40-12, and posted a team record 12.2 WAR. If you accept the WAR totals without any adjustments, you have to believe the greatest players of all time were all 19th century pitchers. For the purposes of this ranker, I will use a 1900 cutoff, and with a tip of the cap to Will White, Billy Rhines, Tony Mullane and the other Reds 19th century greats, lets take a look at the top 15 Reds pitching seasons since 1900.

15 – Bucky Walters 1940 – 6.4

Bucky Walters had a remarkable career, coming up with the Boston Braves in 1931 as a light hitting third baseman. He converted to pitching with the Phillies in 1935, and he promptly led the league in losses in 1936 despite an ERA+ of 106. Acquired by the Reds in mid 1938, he blossomed into a star for the 39-40 team, as he led the league in wins, ERA, and fewest hits/9 in both seasons. His 1940 season was the best in the National League, and he added two complete game wins in the World Series against the Tigers.

14 – Noodles Hahn 1901 – 6.5

Hahn was the first of a long line of Reds pitchers that had brilliant but injury shortened careers. Despite pitching only 7 seasons, he has the highest total WAR for any Reds pitcher. In 1901 at age 22, Noodles completed 41 of 42 starts, led the league in strikeouts, and was the third best pitcher in the league (behind Christy Mathewson and Vic Willis).

11T – Mario Soto 1983, Jim Maloney 1966, Fred Toney 1915 – 6.6

Speaking of brilliant but injury shortened careers, Mario Soto and Jim Maloney are tied for 11th with their second best seasons by WAR. Soto ranked second in the majors in WAR in 1983, led the NL in strikeouts, complete games (18), and ranked second in strikeouts and in the Cy Young vote behind John Denny. Over a five year period from 1981-1985, Soto made 162 starts, completed 63 of them, tossed 1200 innings and was essentially done as an effective pitcher just as the Reds were becoming a contender. In 1966, Maloney had “only” the 4th best WAR in the NL, but it wasn’t exactly an embarrassment to rank behind Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, and Jim Bunning. From 1963 – 1969, Maloney averaged 4.9 WAR per season, but in his second start in 1970, he tore his Achilles tendon and was finished just as the Reds were becoming a contender. Fred Toney’s 1915 was one of the great fluke years by a Red pitcher – he was a waiver find that went 17-6 with a 1.58 ERA for a seventh place Reds team. Using the neutralized pitching tool on Baseball Reference, his season translates to 19-4 with 2.13 ERA in 2008 at GABP.

9T – Gary Nolan 1967, Noodles Hahn 1903 – 6.8

Gary Nolan was the Reds first round draft pick in 1966, and made the team as an 18 year old in 1967. He promptly posted one of the greatest seasons ever by a teenage pitcher, going 14-8 with a 2.58 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 226 IP. He ranked 2nd in the majors in WAR behind Jim Bunning, 4th in the league in ERA and strikeouts, and in a memorable no decision on June 7th, he struck out 15 Giants (including Willie Mays four times) in 7 2/3 innings. His season translated to 2008 would have been 17-7, 2.97 ERA with 198 strikeouts in 218 IP. Granted, it was a pitchers era, but at that time Crosley Field was one of the best hitter parks in the NL. Imagine if Homer Bailey had come up in 2005 (he spent the year in class A Dayton), immediately placed among the league leaders, and struck out Albert Pujols four times in a game – that is what Nolan accomplished as a teenager in 1967.

Nolan was another great “what if” among Reds pitchers, and probably would have benefited more from modern pitcher usage (and modern medicine) than any other in Reds history. He struggled with injuries in 1968 and 1969, and then was the Reds best pitcher from 1970-72, throwing 671 IP in his age 22-24 seasons. However, the workload took its toll and he missed almost two years with injuries. He came back in 1975 and made the transition from great power pitcher to an extreme control pitcher and was a key rotation member of the 75-76 Reds. In 1976 he gave up more home runs (28) than walks (27) but by age 29, his career was finished.

8 – Mario Soto 1982 – 7.0

Mario Soto was like Aaron Harang, only better. Both were durable power pitchers, with good control being offset by giving up the long ball (Soto led the league in homers allowed 3 times in a five year span). The 61-101 1982 Reds remain (as of this writing) the only team to lose 100 games in franchise history, and one has to wonder how much uglier they would have been without Mario. He ranked second in the league in strikeouts, 4th in ERA, and 3rd in WAR behind Steve Rogers and Joe Niekro. But with no run support (18 starts where the Reds scored 3 or fewer runs), Soto ended up with a 14-13 record and in an era when W-L records dictated the Cy Young voting, Soto ranked 9th.

7 – Bob Purkey 1962 – 7.2

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the top 15, Bob Purkey was a unique pitcher. He used a knuckleball, but was not a knuckleball pitcher. He mixed it in with a fastball, curve, slider, and sinker and relied on his defense and control. In 1962 he went 23-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 288 IP for a Reds team that was considerably better than the 1961 pennant winners, but still finished third. His 7.2 WAR was second best in baseball (curiously trailing Turk Farrell of Houston, who posted a 3.02 ERA in 241 IP for the season). Purkey had a number of other solid seasons, and was a worthy selection of the Reds Hall of Fame in 1974.

5T – Bucky Walters 1939 and Noodles Hahn 1902 – 7.7

If you look at the standard stats, Bucky Walter’s 1939 season looks like the best season by a Reds pitcher in history. He went 27-11 with a 2.29 ERA in 319 innings, and won the NL MVP and the pitching triple crown (although it only took 137 to tie for the league lead in strikeouts). Bill McKechnie put together a tremendous defensive infield (Frank McCormick, Lonnie Frey, Billy Myers and Billy Werber combined for an estimated 40 runs above average in Total Zone) and Walters took full advantage. He was wild (109 walks in 1939 or 3.1 per game in an era when the league leaders would walk about 1 per game) but by allowing very few hits thanks to a great sinker and infield defense he was still very effective. He was the second best pitcher in baseball in 1939, trailing only Bob Feller.

WAR sees 1902 as Noodles Hahn’s best season, when he posted a ridiculous 1.77 ERA in 36 starts (completing 35 of them) for a mediocre Reds team. His 170 ERA+ was second in the league behind Chicago’s Jack Taylor, who also edged Hahn in WAR that year. Over a 4 year period from 1901-1904, Hahn completed 143 of 146 starts, but he was out of baseball by age 28.

4 – Jim Maloney 1965 – 8.0

Maloney was a classic power pitcher, ranking in the top three in the league in strikeouts per 9 innings nearly every year from 1963 – 1968 but also walking more than his share (including 110 in 1965). The 1965 Reds were a great offensive team (leading the league in runs scored by over 100 runs), but Maloney was the only starter on the team with an ERA better than league average. Some highlights from his season:

4/19 – In his first start of the year, Maloney gives up only one hit (a single by future Red Denis Menke leading off the 8th inning) in a 2-0 win.

6/14 – In the greatest start in team history during the Retrosheet era (game score of 106), Maloney holds the Mets hitless for 10 innings, then gives up a home run and single in the 11th. Jim’s line for the 1-0 loss – 11IP, 1 ER, 18 strikeouts and 1 walk.

8/19 – Maloney had to be thinking “not again” when he held the Cubs hitless in the first nine innings at Wrigley. In the top of the 10th, Leo Cardenas homered to give him a lead, and he closed out the shutout and no hitter in the bottom of the 10th. This one wasn’t as clean as the loss in New York – Maloney struck out 12 while walking 10.

9/1 – A five hit shutout against Milwaukee, featuring 12 K’s and only 1 walk.

Thru his age 29 season, his most similar player list reads like a who’s who of great power pitchers (Koufax, Carlton, Jenkins, Dwight Gooden and Jim Palmer are all on his top 10 list), and one has to believe that had has career lasted into his late 30’s he could have added considerably to his win total with the Big Red Machine behind him. Even with the shortened career, WAR sees him as the greatest Reds pitcher of the last 75 years in total WAR.

3 – Ewell Blackwell 1947 – 8.3

Signed as a 19 year old by the Reds in 1942, Blackwell had a cup of coffee with the Reds before joining the service for the duration of the war. A 6’ 6” lanky righthander, Blackwell combined a great fastball with an unusual sidearm motion, and in 1947 he was incredibly dominant for a 5th place Reds team that went 73-81. Blackwell went 22-8, led the league in wins and strikeouts, and was second in ERA (behind Warren Spahn, who edged him for the highest pitcher’s WAR of the year). Blackwell won 16 straight games, tossed a no hitter on June 18, and then nearly tied Johnny Vander Meer’s record on June 22nd, holding the Dodgers hitless for 8 1/3 innings. He started the All-Star game, and the National League would name him to the All Star team every year whether he was having a good year or not, reasoning that his unique motion would be tough on the American League (he struck out 12 in 13 2/3 innings with a 1.32 ERA in his All Star game appearances). He was plagued by a number of injuries for the rest of his Reds career, but posted another excellent year in 1950 (6.3 WAR).

2 – Jose Rijo 1993 – 8.6

Jose Rijo’s 1993 season has a lot in common with Mario Soto’s 1982; a brilliant season that was wasted on a bad Reds team. The 1993 Reds finished 73-89 and 31 games behind the Braves. and were plagued by injuries and turmoil. This was the year that Marge Schott was suspended, Tony Perez was fired as manager after 44 games, and nearly every Red made a visit to the disabled list. Much like teammate Barry Larkin, Rijo usually would miss games each season but in 1993 he made a career high 36 starts, was second in the league in ERA, and led the league in strikeouts. With less than 4 runs a game in run support, Jose was only able to post a 14-9 record despite having the best WAR in baseball. Greg Maddux predictably won the Cy Young with a 20-10 record while Rijo finished 5th. He had one more good year in 1994 before injuries effectively ended his career (except for an emotional comeback in 2001-2002). He has the highest WAR per 220 innings (5.0) of any Reds starter in team history and ranks 5th in career WAR.

1 – Dolf Luque 1923 – 9.9

Dolf Luque was one of the stars of the good Reds teams in the 1920’s, which featured pitching and defense and very little offense. The 1923 Reds were one of the better editions of those teams, finishing in second place with a 91-63 record (ranking 7th in runs scored and 1st in runs allowed). During his 12 year career with the Reds, Luque generally posted better than league average ERA’s with .500 W-L records, but in 1923 everything clicked for the 32 year old from Havana. He led the league in wins (27), ERA (1.93 in a hitters era), was second in strikeouts and allowed a total of 2 home runs in 322 IP. In WAR, it ranks among the top 25 seasons by a pitcher since 1900, and was not exceeded until 1946 when Bob Feller posted a 10.1 season. Luque ranks just behind Jim Maloney in total WAR for a Reds pitcher, and was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1967.

And lets not forget the trailers – the five worst seasons by a Reds pitcher were:

T5 – Dave Tomlin 1978, Si Johnson 1935 (2.7)

Why win/loss records are meaningless, part 47 – in 1978 relief pitcher Dave Tomlin managed to post a 9-1 record for the Reds. He also posted a 5.78 ERA, gave up almost 2 baserunners per inning, and an ERA+ of 62. The Reds finished 2.5 games behind the Dodgers, so having a reliever almost 3 games under replacement didn’t help matters any. Si Johnson had the misfortune of pitching for the Reds in the early 1930’s, and his .348 winning percentage (46-86) is the worst in team history.

T3 – Jim O’Toole 1965, Jean Dubec 1909 (3.0)

Jim O’Toole was one of the better Reds pitchers of the 60’s, but in 1965 had an awful year, going 3-10 with a 5.92 ERA (that would translate to 6.92 in 2008). He bounced back in a part time role 1966, but 1965 was one of the worst in team history

2 – Benny Frey 1935 (3.1)

Like Si Johnson, Benny Frey had the misfortune of pitching for the Reds in the 1930’s and his 1935 season gave the Reds two pitchers that combined for almost 6 wins below replacement level. Despite that, the Reds finished 6th for the year, which doesn’t sound impressive except that the Reds had finished last the previous 4 seasons.

1 - Bill Phillips 1901 (3.2)

Phillips was actually a pretty decent pitcher for the Reds at the turn of the century, but in 1901 he wiped out, posting a 4.64 ERA over 281 IP when the league ERA was 3.32. His start in game 2 of a doubleheader on June 24th didn’t help – a complete game 22 hitter (allowing 19 runs to the Phillies).

For current Reds fans who are wondering – Ryan Dempster in 2003 and Eric Milton in 2005, narrowly missed the worst 5 Reds seasons ever, but do rank in the worst 10.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Can a Ballclub's Record Justify It's Beer Prices?

I did a little article for the Wall Street Journal, appearing today, about beer costs. It's an extension of the fan value post I did at BtB a few weeks back. Fun!
This led us to wonder: Does quality have anything to do with beer prices?

Surprisingly, it does. A team with a .600 winning percentage charges, on average, about $1.30 more for a 16-ounce beer than does a team with a .400 percentage.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My conversation with Neal Huntington and Dan Fox

Ok, that's going a bit far. I was in a room with 50 other people for the Baseball Prospectus event at PNC Park, and they answered two of my questions during the Q&A (the first and last questions of the night!). Like a typical amateur blogger, I was completely unprepared--I brought a camera but not a notebook or recording device (and I didn't use the camera much), and didn't put much thought into composing my questions to be comprehensible (and thus they almost certainly weren't).

But here, at least in spirit, is a summary of the exchange. Please do not interpret any of these things as quotes...but I think, at least, they are not misrepresentations. If anything, I sounded less coherent, and Huntington sounded more coherent. If someone out there who attended can submit any modifications or additions, please do so. My goal is for this to be as accurate as it can be. Maybe there will be some audio on a BPRadio podcast later on where we can confirm some of this.

Me: I'm a big believer in scouting (at this point, Will Carroll made fun of me for being a Reds fan--it was funny). But how do you know that a scout is a good scout? I've asked this of other people and you hear "well, some of these guys have been doing this for a long time and know so much about the game." But what is your process for evaluating a scout to find out whether they really know what they are talking about, or whether they are full of it?

Huntington: It's a good question, and one that has been asked since the advent of scouting departments. It's always going to be subjective. But for me, the way you can identify a good scout is in how he breaks down a player. In my mind, there are probably two different kinds of scouts. The first one sees a player and within a minute decides he likes a player...and then proceeds to dig deeper and find support for that decision. To me, that's more the "old school" type of scout. My preference is for the other type, who will be very methodical in breaking down a player, piece by piece, and then at the end of the process will come to a decision that (motioning with hands) all of these things are adding up and therefore he likes the player.

Me (later, after some discussion of trades and prospect valuation): So how is it that you do break down a player? I mean, I write a blog, and we've gotten to a point that we can do a reasonably good player valuation in our basement (by this, I meant, that we have some objective numbers and methodologies to use when evaluating both MLBers and prospects, like seen here). But I'm wondering if you can talk about the process that you use to take all of your information and assign a number to your player, be it dollars, wins, or whatever unit you want to use. Clearly, you've made a lot of trades lately, and therefore must have this sort of thing down.

Huntington: I don't think we really do ever assign a "number" to a player. We have a lot of internal discussions about how we value a player, but it doesn't come down to a number to the point that there's a dollar figure put on a guy. At least not yet. Dan (Fox)'s information definitely comes into play with this, however, and often helps reign in some of our more outlandish positions.

Fox: Let me just add that something along the lines of what you describe is something we're working towards. But we're not there yet.

(Let me just say, I have absolutely no doubt that Fox, at least, is well aware of the sort of trade evaluations that people are doing in the amateur circuits. In fact, it is very clear from my conversations last night that he and others like him around baseball are constantly poaching the best ideas, methods, etc, that amateur researchers come up with and putting them to good use. My feeling is that they must still do something along the lines of what we do, but that they bring in a lot of other approaches as well to come to a decision on value. ... It's worth noting, however, that when SFiercex4 broke down the Pirates trades this season, he found that they received almost dead-on even value. So, either we're doing something that other teams are doing, or at least we're doing something that is an accurate way to predicting the decisions that teams will come to.)

Some other tidbits from the conversation:

* Huntington thinks that there has clearly been a big shift towards teams putting great value on their top prospects, more so than ever before in the history of baseball. He actually thinks that teams may be over-valuing prospects at this point. (I think they are probably being valued accurately, for the most part, but this is the first time this has happened in baseball history and so it is jarring).

* He also thinks that the competitive balance this year is disappointing. He continues to think that they can succeed, but it's going to be more of a challenge that it would have been 5 years ago. A salary cap would help, he thinks.

* Dan Fox stated that the ultimate goal in baseball analysis, data collection-wise, will be to have a complete digital record of a ballgame: tracking the ball and player position in real time. And we're almost there, as evidenced by the "GPS" software demo we all saw videos of earlier this summer. The question then will be how to mine it; that's where the next great advances in baseball statistics will come from. I hope the public will have access to those raw data...if nothing else, it's in baseball's best interest to let us do that research.

* The Pirates have a no-touch policy for the first six months a player is in the organization. After that time, they may try minor tweaks, but rarely will make huge changes to a player. There was lots of discussion of Tim Alderson in this regard.


As for me, it was a really fantastic evening. I got to meet and interact with a lot of folks that I've corresponded with and/or read over the years, including Dan Fox, Eric Seidman (chatted with him most of the game that followed the Q&A session--terrific guy), Will Carroll, Brian Cartwright, and, of course, the newly minted Pizza Cutter, Ph.D. Wonderful experience.

Furthermore, let me say that Neal Huntington is an incredibly impressive person. I'm sure most GM's are when you meet them--I remember Chad having a similar impression of Wayne Krivsky when they met for an interview early in Krivsky's tenure. But he seems like a very direct, no-nonsense person who had a very clear idea of how he felt was the best way to get his organization back on a winning path. It helps, I'm sure, that I agree with him. He talked a lot about the joint role of scouts vs. stats, and about making sure that the process is right, even if mistakes are occasionally made....something I've been talking about a fair bit of late. This kind of venue is precisely the sort of experience that could make a Pirates fan out of someone. I doubt I'll ever quit the Reds, but I sure like the Pirates front office.

I'll add some photos later on, though I didn't take photos of people--didn't want to be the Paparazzi.

Update: Here's Shawn Hoffman's recap of the event. For the record, Brian, I never ridiculed the Pirates' record. :)

If anyone else sees an event recap, please let me know--I'd like to link it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

@BtB: First Basemen WAR Review

Pete RoseImage by Kjunstorm via Flickr

Tonight I posted a WAR review of the most valuable first basemen in MLB history. Pete Rose is the most notable Red to appear--he played 1B more than any other position.

Tony Perez ranks 29th all-time among first basemen, behind Fred McGriff and ahead of George Sisler.

An all-Reds 1B review is underway. :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Recap of a Curve Game

Altoona CurveImage via Wikipedia

Went to an Altoona Curve game this evening. Let's just say that going with a 3-year old and a 3 month old, while a wonderful time, is not the best opportunity to scout our division rivals' AA team.

It was a blow-out by the third inning, though the Curve scored four in the 9th to bring the score 9-7. We left at the 7th inning getting cranky at their bedtime.

I saw two PA's by Pedro Alvarez. He took a called third strike and then popped out to short right. He was DHing tonight, so I didn't get to see him in the field.

Gorkys Hernandez grounded out the PA I clearly saw him, which was his first. I heard him hit an RBI triple, but I was in the bathroom stall helping my daughter go potty.

Ray Chang of WBC fame also had a great game. I saw him line a double to left field to drive in the Curve's first run. He apparently hit another at some point, but I missed it (maybe in the 9th?). Also made some slick plays in the field.

My 3-year old ate her first bag of Cracker Jack tonight. And she has demonstrably improved her bouncy house skills over the past year to being clearly above replacement level. The gymnastics lessons probably have helped with that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Offense and Defense Over Reds History

Mike has a nice post today that tries to rank this year's Reds offense for futility compared to other best-bad offenses in franchise history.

I thought I'd do a quick little study myself. I calculated actual team runs scored above NL average and runs allowed above NL average, after park factor correction, from 1890-2008 (ok, so I only have park factors for 1901+ teams). For 2009, I did the same, but I extrapolated to 162 games to make the data comparable.

By using park factors and the NL Average baseline, I should be correcting for pretty much everything aside from level of competition. Also note that I'm strictly using actual runs data--no RC, lwts, BsR, DIPS, UZR, etc. I love looking at components because they're less noisy (e.g. the BtB Power Rankings), but you also risk losing some information that the component stats don't take into account. So, for that reason, I think it makes the most sense to just start with straight up RS and RA.

Anyway, here are those data graphically.
Above-average is good on both offense and defense. The line is a 10-year moving average, because there are huge year-to-year fluctuations.

The past decade excepted, the Reds have traditionally had good defense (meaning pitching + fielding). Offensively, there really are only a few times when they've consistently posted above-average hitting clubs--though you can clearly see how remarkable the Big Red Machine era was (those two little dots blue dots near the top of the graph are runs scored above average in 1975 and oh man). Since then, the Reds have basically fluctuated around average on offense.

As far as best- and worst-offensive seasons go, here you are:

Top-10 Reds Offenses
Rank Year RSAA
1 1976 204
2 1975 180
3 1972 135
4 1965 125
5 1974 123
6 2005 103
7 1973 99
8 1939 98
9 1919 90
10 1968 86
Those '70's teams were really good at hitting the baseball.

Also, I think I remember there were a lot of complaints about too many home runs in 2005. Remember those days? :)

Worst-10 Reds Offenses
Rank Year RSAA
1 1930 -183
2 1982 -133
3 1951 -133
4 1945 -128
5 1932 -120
6 1891 -118
7 1929 -117
8 1934 -110
9 1893 -102
10 1933 -101
11 2009 -97
12 1997 -95
Ok, I cheated and gave you 12. The current Reds team is on pace (I'm extrapolating) to be the 11th-worst Reds offense, at least by this measure. What surprised me was that the '97 team showed up as just a tad "better." I guess I'd forgotten how bad that offense was, but they had four starters OPS below 0.700, including Pokey Reese at a brilliant 0.571.

And holy crap, that 1930 team was horrible. Harry Heilmann hit 0.333/0.416/0.577 for that team, but there wasn't much of a supporting cast. They won 59 games.

Top-10 Reds Defenses
Rank Year RAAA
1 1896 152
2 1940 142
3 1890 114
4 1904 112
5 1944 111
6 1964 110
7 1925 105
8 1999 104
9 1990 101
10 1967 96

If you glance back up at the graph, there were two large peaks in Reds' defense in the '20s and in the '40s, and you see some of that in this table. The 1890's also had some brilliant defenses, including probably their best defensive team ever in 1896. The 1940 team included Bucky Walters and Paul Derringer in the rotation, and won the World Series over the Tigers.

And two of the last three Reds teams to make the post-season (I count the 1-game playoff against the Mets in '99 postseason, technicalities be damned!) are on this list. Big Red Machine teams don't appear, though the '75 team ranks 18th.

And now...

Worst-10 Reds Defenses
Rank Year RAAA
1 1901 -169
2 2005 -162
3 2004 -135
4 2003 -123
5 1894 -113
6 1934 -105
7 1931 -83
8 1916 -82
9 1948 -74
10 2001 -72
I mean, like, holy crap, the 2001-2005 was a pretty horrible time for run-prevention, eh? I don't think offense was the problem in 2005.

One last thing. Since I had the data in front of me, I calculated PythagenPat-estimated winning percentages for all Reds teams since 1890. Through last night's game, the Reds have been outscored 81743-81634 since 1890, which results in a PythagenPat of 0.4994 since they joined the National League.

Top-10 PythagenPat Winning % Reds Teams
Rank Year PythW% RSAA RAAA
1 1975 0.662 180 77
2 1919 0.654 90 93
3 1976 0.639 204 18
4 1940 0.629 41 142
5 1939 0.616 98 79
6 1896 0.614 11 152
7 1972 0.607 135 21
8 1904 0.607 23 112
9 1994 0.602 78 41
10 1974 0.595 123 26
11 1999 0.593 41 104
12 1995 0.586 80 44

Big Red Machine at the top, naturally.

That 1919 team is interesting, as they were, of course, the "victims" (benefactors?) of the Black Sox scandal. The story you always hear is that the Reds were a vastly inferior team to the Sox, and how the Sox gave the series away. Maybe they did, but if they played to the best of their abilities, I wouldn't be surprised to see this Reds team still beat them. They were a very, very good team.

I was also surprised to see three teams from the mid-late '90's on this list (though I cheated a bit to get them on there again). The '99 team is a favorite of mine, but the '94 and '95 teams were superb as well. Both years were shortened seasons, so they might have posted even higher numbers vs. average had they played 162 games both years. Damned strike.

Worst-10 PythagenPat W% Reds Teams
Rank Year PythW% RSAA RAAA
1 1901 0.326 -91 -169
2 1934 0.360 -110 -105
3 1930 0.380 -183 -17
4 2003 0.385 -67 -123
5 1945 0.385 -128 -36
6 1933 0.387 -101 -49
7 1948 0.387 -90 -74
8 1931 0.397 -73 -83
9 1932 0.401 -120 -25
10 1891 0.403 -118 -26
The '30s were not a good time to be a Reds fan. Makes the 2000's look like...well, maybe not quite a golden era, but the '30's make our current decade look a lot better. The '30's had five consecutive seasons with actual winning percentages below 0.400 (1930-1934). The Reds' most recent season below 0.400 was 27 years ago (1982; 0.377 in reality, 0.415 by PythagenPat).

The '39 and '40 teams must have been incredibly special to this town. It's before my time, though, and I'm just starting to learn about those players and teams.

For the record, 2009 is on pace to be the 20th-worst team in Reds history.

Almost all raw data is from the Baseball Databank.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More on judging deals at the time they are made

Fantastic interview with Chris Antonetti that talks a lot about how the Indians evaluated risk prior to inking Travis Hafner. It's very relevant to my last post about problems with post-hoc analyses. Here's an excerpt:

So then, you must feel perfectly good about that whole process.

Yeah. There are obviously different degrees of outcomes in any decision you make, and I think what we try to look through and look back on the process, and how complete and how effective the process was, irrespective of the outcome. You could have a very good process and still bad outcomes. I'm not saying that's necessarily the case in Travis' case - again, our expectation and our belief is that he's gonna come back and with his physical issues behind him will go back to being a very, very productive major league hitter.

Well ... come on, I think you could say that it has not worked out at least on the medical side the way you hoped it would.

Oh, certainly, so far, that's correct, yeah.

So then, would it be fair to say that, with the management team currently in place, if faced with the exact same set of circumstances again, you go ahead and sign that same contract?

With the information we had at that point? Yeah. Yep. I think that's fair to say.

So from the day you signed the contract until now, a season and a half later, realistically, the contract that that player could command on the market has gone down precipitously, and yet you would look back at that and say, "There's nothing about that experience that would make us change our process at all."

With the information we had at point, no. Yes, I would say that. I would say that's correct. We are comfortable with the process we had to arrive at that decision.

I also thought that this last bit was an interesting comment.

But you've concluded that the process was as good as you thought it was?

And as good as we could have done with the information we had at that point. I think you can get into bigger questions about team building, about committing significant dollars in a market our size to a player at that end of the defensive spectrum. That's a different strategic question than what we thought of the process arriving at the decision and the risk associated with signing Travis to a long-term deal.

Interesting point about market size & player type. I guess you can make the argument that a guy at the far right of the defensive spectrum (1B or DH) is riskier simply because all of his eggs are in one basket. A shortstop might decline offensively, but still provide defensive value. If a 1B/DH doesn't hit, they have no value. That said, offensive projections are more reliable than defensive projections, so that might counter things a bit. Neat idea, anyway.

FWIW, I still think the Reds need to buy out Votto ASAP while he can still be signed for a massively below-market contract. :)

Hat tip to Tango.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Why do we bother trying to judge trades as they happen?

There's a tendency in the media and among fans to evaluate trades after the fact. You wait a few years, see which teams win out, and then see which team got the most value.

On the other hand, many of us also like to try to judge a trade as it happens. Everyone does this, some using a qualitative approach and others using a quantitative approach (e.g. my analysis of the Rolen trade). Yet some would say that we shouldn't evaluate a trade until after the fact, as there's just too much uncertainty in trying to forecast the future--and what matters are results, right?

I certainly agree that there are big error bars around quantitative trade analyses. But I still think there's a lot of merit in trying to judge trades as they happen, because it helps us recognize quality moves by GM's--regardless of the eventual outcome. You can make what, by all information available, is a great trade at the time, only to have some bad luck (injuries, etc) derail it in a post-hoc analysis. I still think we should recognize that the GM made a smart move, even if it falls apart later.

Paul DePodesta wrote a great article about this that I've been meaning to link to for a long time. Here's an excerpt:
As tough as a good process/bad outcome combination is, nothing compares to the bottom left: bad process/good outcome. This is the wolf in sheep's clothing that allows for one-time success but almost always cripples any chance of sustained success - the player hitting on 17 and getting a four. Here's the rub: it's incredibly difficult to look in the mirror after a victory, any victory, and admit that you were lucky. If you fail to make that admission, however, the bad process will continue and the good outcome that occurred once will elude you in the future. Quite frankly, this is one of the things that makes Billy Beane as good as he is. He is quick to notice good luck embedded in a good outcome, and he refuses to pat himself on the back for it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Reds WAR Review: Catchers

Picture of Eugene Franklin "Bubbles"...Bubbles Hargrave is probably the 4th-best catcher in Reds history. I hadn't heard of him. Yes, I'm lame. Image via Wikipedia

At BtB, I've started a series of recaps looking at the most valuable players at each position of all time, as measured by Rally's WAR database. Since I'm a Reds fan, I'm going to do a mirrored series here looking at past Reds greats. It will be a great way to help me learn some Reds history, and has the added bonus of keeping my mind off the current Reds team's woes.

Keep in mind a few caveats: the WAR values you see here are only for those seasons (or partial-seasons) players spent with the Reds. Second, WAR is not a perfect measure of value (I think it is the best available stat of its kind). And third, even if WAR was perfect in measuring what it tries to, career WAR value is necessarily the best way to evaluate who is the "best" player (i.e. peak seasons matter just as much as total career value when deciding things like that).

We'll begin the series with a Top-10 list of Reds catchers!

10. Ivey Wingo.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1915 13 3302 -63 0.313 -5 -1 48 7.3 1.5
This is the kind of lousy Reds fan I am: Wingo played in the second-most seasons by any Reds catcher, and ranks third in PA's among any Reds catcher. And I had never heard of the guy. Wingo wasn't a particularly great player (tied for lowest WAR/yr rate of anyone in the top-18 Reds catchers), but he played a long time, and at his retirement held the NL record for most games caught. His best year with the Reds was in 1917, when he hit 0.266/0.311/0.376 in 432 PA's in a league that averaged 0.249/0.305/0.328. That was good for a half-win above average, which translates to 2.3 wins above replacement that year. His tenure with the club included an appearance in the Reds' 1919 World Championship team, which (in)famously defeated the "Black Sox" that year. He also served as manager of the Reds for two whole games during the 1916 season, nestled between the managerial careers of Buck Herzog and Christy Mathewson. Wingo ended his career with the Reds.

9. Smoky Burgess. Reds Hall of Fame.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1955 4 1227 22 0.356 0 0 13 8 4.6
The fun thing about team lists like this, and part of the reason I'm only doing a top-10 list, is that you get players making your top-10 who only played for the Reds for a few years, sometimes as a reserve--but were really good players during their time. Burgess is our first example of this. He was a very good player over a long career, and ranks 27th among MLB catchers in WAR overall. He played four of those seasons with the Reds, and put up outstanding numbers despite serving as the reserve/platoon partner for C Ed Bailey during three of those four years. As a hitter, he hit for good power, fine average, and walking at twice the rate he struck out. His 0.356 wOBA (which is park- and era-adjusted) ranks 4th-best among Reds catchers with more than 50 PA's.

He is also one of just four catchers to be elected into the Reds Hall of Fame (curiously, Bailey is not one of them). How that happened is somewhat inexplicable to me. Chris Eckes of the Reds passed on a bit of info via Greg in Atlanta on this: Burgess was elected in 1975, his 4th year on the ballot, edging out deadball era one year wonder Cy Seymour by just 800 votes. Apparently, it was just a weak year!

8. Johnny Edwards.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1961 7 2624 -53 0.312 4 1 44 8.2 2.2
Edwards broke in with the Reds and played as their starting catcher for six seasons before losing his job to a rookie. I'm sure that stung, but at least he can take heart knowing now that the rookie would go on to become the best catcher in MLB history. For his part, though, Edwards was an average-fielding backstop who put up four decent seasons of performance from 1962-1965 before falling off a cliff in 1966. 1963 and 1965 were 3-WAR seasons, but he fell apart and posted -0.5 WAR seasons in '66 and '67. Hard to keep your job doing that. In his best year, Edwards hit 0.267/0.353/0.474, showing nice power in slugging 17 home runs. He was traded for Pat Corrales in 1968.

7. Ray Mueller.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1943 6 1864 2 0.336 9 3 16 9.2 3.5
Mueller is #7 on our list due to a pair of three-WAR seasons and one other decent season. He came to the Reds after missing the '41 & '42 seasons following his time with the Pirates (possibly military service? Anyone know?). He is best known for catching 233 consecutive games during the '43, '44, and '46 seasons for the Reds (he did miss 1945 while serving in the Army). Mueller had a little bit of power, but his best offensive asset was his ability to get on base. During his years with the Reds, Mueller walked as much as he struck out, which helped him post back to back seasons with ~a 0.350 OBP. Being incredibly durable, at least for a few seasons, didn't hurt either.

6. Tommy Clarke.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1909 9 1935 7 0.339 5 2 37 10.6 3.8
Clarke overlapped with Ivey Wingo during the second half of his tenure with the Reds, but Clarke spent almost his entire career with the Reds and posted above-average offensive performance over that time. As a late-dead ball era hitter, I have a hard time evaluating his individual strengths and weaknesses. But while Clarke didn't seem to have much if any power, he seems similar to Mueller in that he excelled at getting on base, posting a 0.351 career OBP. Also, if his BR Wiki page is any indication, he sounds like he was a pretty fiesty individual.

5. Heinie Peitz.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1896 9 2949 -11 0.331 18 4 42 14.2 3.4
Heinie is our only 1800's player in the top-10, and ranks as the 5th-most valuable catcher in Reds' history. He joined the Reds in a trade prior to the 1896 season, and went on to be their starting catcher until he was traded to the Pirates in 1905. Just shy of an average hitter and an apparently competant fielder, he played a lot during his career with the Reds, which is a big part of how he got to this spot on our list. He also played all over the diamond: most of his starts were at catcher, but he played first, second, third, and even pitched on a few occasions

4. Bubbles Hargrave. Reds Hall of Fame
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1921 8 2605 75 0.368 2 1 23 18 4.8
The Reds have had some great names playing the two position: Ivey, Heinie, Smokey, Admiral...but no one can top Bubbles (though it was apparently a rather cruel nickname that referenced his stutter). But he was more than a name--he was an excellent ballplayer. Aside from Burgess, Hargrave is the first clearly above-average hitter on the list. He started behind the plate for 8 seasons following his arrival in 1921. Hargrave won a batting title in 1926, a season in which he posted a .406 OBP. But his best season was in 1923, when he hit 0.333/0.419/0.521, good for 4.6 wins above replacement. He received MVP consideration in three consecutive seasons from 1925-1927, and ended with a career line of 0.314/0.377/0.461 with the Reds.

3. Ed Bailey.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1953 9 2576 24 0.346 38 10 38 19.4 5.3
Bailey might not have been the hitter that Hargrave was, Bailey was an excellent fielder. In fact, on a per-PA (or inning played, if you like) basis, Bailey has better fielding numbers than any catcher in the top-25 Reds catcher list. Yes, that includes Johnny Bench. Bailey was also a fine hitter in his own right, with good power (28 HR in 1956) and strong on base skills, posting a career line (or close to it) of 0.261/0.359/0.438 with the Reds. Bailey was a 5-time All Star (4 with the Reds), so he clearly was recognized at the time as among the game' elite. Why isn't he in the Hall of Fame, despite his backup/platoon partner Smokey Burgess's membership? My guess is that it's bias against low-batting average players. More on Bailey below.

2. Ernie Lombardi. Reds Hall of Fame.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1932 10 4277 114 0.366 -16 -3 35 27.1 4.4
When Bubbles Hargrave left the team after the 1928 season, the Reds didn't have to wait long for their next great catcher. Lombardi arrived in 1932 and was heralded as one of the better hitters of his time. He was a two-time batting champion, including the 1938 season in which he was voted league MVP. He also played in seven all-star games and in two world series--the Reds won one of them (over DET in 1940). Lombardi had good power, routinely posting between 10 and 20 home runs each season. And he walked his share, while hitting for excellent average. But while he was an excellent hitter, both Hargrave and Bailey posted better WAR rates. What made Lombardi special is that on top of all of his other accomplishments, he played a ton during his 10 seasons with the Reds, at least by catcher standards. He played at least 107 games every year with the Reds (average=120), and averaged 420 PA's per year during that time. He ended up with almost 1000 more PA's than Ivey Wingo, who received the third-most PA's of a Reds catcher. Lombardi ranks 20th on the all-time list of MLB catchers.

1. Johnny Bench. Baseball Hall of Fame.
Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1967 17 8568 253 0.369 71 6 98 71.3 5.8
Surprise! Bench rates as the best catcher in MLB history, at least based on WAR. Here's what I wrote about him at BtB:
As a Reds fan I'm biased, but I think if you were to ask a large number of fans the name of the best catcher ever, Johnny Bench's name would be at the top of the poll. It's not a slam dunk, but Bench comes out four wins above Fisk--and Bench had 1200 fewer PA's and a much higher peak. Bench was a brilliant defender, but probably not the best defensive catcher of all time. And he was a superb hitter, but is probably not the best hitting catcher of all time. What sets him apart is that he was extremely good at both offense and defense: with game-changing defense and prodigious power, he redefined his position. No other catcher has ever hit 45 home runs in a season, and only one other Mike Piazza) has topped the 40-mark twice. He was Rookie of the Year, a two-time MVP (second only to Berra), a 14-time All Star (13 consecutive), and the winner of 10 consecutive gold gloves. He was the best of the best, and I'm proud that he played for my's nice to be proud of something these days.

Reds Catcher Timeline

Below is a graph of total WAR from Reds catchers (primary position only) since 1890. The line is a 10-year moving average.
Striking that since Bench retired, the Reds haven't had a long-term, quality catcher. Best year was 2005 with the LaRue/Valentin combo. Catcher is clearly a position at which the Reds have historically been strong, at least going back to Hargrave. Who will be the next great Reds catcher?

WAR Career Trajectory Graph

Here are the four Reds Hall of Fame catchers, plus Ed Bailey.
Bench was obviously the best, but the most interesting thing to me about this graph is the Bailey/Lombardi comparison. Lombardi was much more productive over his full career. But during their best five seasons, Bailey was probably Lombardi's equal. Bailey should be in the Reds Hall of Fame, at least by my judgment.

Top-25 Reds Catchers, by WAR

Table is sortable--click on the header by which you wish to sort!

Rank Name Debut Seasons PA Offense wOBA FldRns Fld/700PA PosAdj WAR WAR/700PA
1 Bench, Johnny 1967 17 8568 253 0.369 71 6 98 71.3 5.8
2 Lombardi, Ernie 1932 10 4277 114 0.366 -16 -3 35 27.1 4.4
3 Bailey, Ed 1953 9 2576 24 0.346 38 10 38 19.4 5.3
4 Hargrave, Bubbles 1921 8 2605 75 0.368 2 1 23 18 4.8
5 Peitz, Heinie 1896 9 2949 -11 0.331 18 4 42 14.2 3.4
6 Clarke, Tommy 1909 9 1935 7 0.339 5 2 37 10.6 3.8
7 Mueller, Ray 1943 6 1864 2 0.336 9 3 16 9.2 3.5
8 Edwards, Johnny 1961 7 2624 -53 0.312 4 1 44 8.2 2.2
9 Burgess, Smoky 1955 4 1227 22 0.356 0 0 13 8 4.6
10 Wingo, Ivey 1915 13 3302 -63 0.313 -5 -1 48 7.3 1.5
11 Vaughn, Farmer 1892 8 2585 -52 0.312 9 2 22 6.7 1.8
12 LaRue, Jason 1999 8 2516 -59 0.308 7 2 42 6.2 1.7
13 McLean, Larry 1906 7 2251 -47 0.311 8 2 36 6 1.9
14 Seminick, Andy 1952 4 1122 -4 0.331 5 3 10 5 3.1
15 Taubensee, Eddie 1994 7 2291 7 0.339 -57 -17 31 4.8 1.5
16 Pavletich, Don 1957 9 1206 13 0.347 -18 -10 6 4.4 2.6
17 Schlei, Admiral 1904 5 1675 -33 0.312 2 1 27 4.2 1.8
18 Diaz, Bo 1985 5 1672 -53 0.299 21 9 26 4.1 1.7
19 Oliver, Joe 1989 8 2598 -87 0.296 10 3 43 3.5 0.9
20 Ross, Dave 2006 3 795 -14 0.315 10 9 14 3.3 2.9
21 Lamanno, Ray 1941 5 1536 -40 0.305 1 0 13 2.6 1.2
22 Wood, Bob 1898 3 492 7 0.351 -3 -4 7 2.6 3.7
23 Campbell, Gilly 1935 3 585 2 0.339 -1 -1 5 2.4 2.9
24 Picinich, Val 1926 3 810 -8 0.324 0 0 8 2.4 2.1
25 Hershberger, Willard 1938 3 427 2 0.34 0 0 4 2 3.3

Next up: First Basemen!

Update (9/15/09): I regret that I mistakenly neglected to include Reds teams prior to 1890 in the above analysis. As a result, some players were mistakenly omitted, though it did not affect rankings among the top-10. Players in the top-25 should have also included Pop Snyder (5 seasons, 6.8 WAR), Deacon White (3 seasons, but 6.2 WAR), and Jim Keenan (7 seasons, 5.7 WAR)