2007 Sabermetric Year in Review: Cincinnati Reds
March 21, 2008 4 Comments
How to tell that someone is not actually from Ohio. I mention that I’m from Cleveland. They mention that their friend Larry is from Cincy thinking that there’s an off-chance that I know him (because we must have grown up near each other). I chuckle when I think of the fact that I’ve been in Cincy once in my life. But, now it’s stop #24 on the tour.
Record: 72-90, 5th in NL Central
Pythagorean Projection (Patriot formula): 74.28 wins (783 runs scored, 853 runs allowed)
Team Statistical Pages:
More Reds Resources:
Overview: Well, to be honest with you, if you want an absolutely outstanding Sabermetric look at the Reds (better than one that I could write), check out Justin Inaz’s “On Baseball and the Reds” blog. I’m guessing a lot of Reds fans know about it, but I hope that a lot of Sabermetrically-inclined folks who enjoy good writing also click on that link.
What went right: Brandon Phillips went from the pride of the Montreal Expos farm system to surplus to requirements in Cleveland to the second-best second sacker in the NL. What’s the difference between the Indians version and the Reds version? About 5% worth of strikeouts and a much better BABIP. In other words, he learned to make better contact and not strikeout as much. And on Opening Day, he’ll be 26.
Then there was the Renaissance of Ken Griffey, Jr. Remember when Junior Griffey was already having his plaque enshried in Cooperstown as the “greatest player who ever lived?” When he was going to be the one breaking the all-time homerun record? Then injuries got in the way. Last year was a little reminder of what could have been. For the first time since 2000 (his first season with the Reds), KGJr. had 500 AB. To see Griffey’s stats is to see a slow but noticeable decline in his production. He was coming down from such a high plateau that his down years are worth more than some players’ peaks. Griffey will hit his 600th HR next year, and maybe if he sticks around a few more years, he’ll end up hitting 700 (another three years of 36 HR each will do the trick.) But let’s pretend that Griffey had not been robbed of those homeruns by those injuries. Griffey came into Cincy having 398 HR. He’s since hit 195 in 3479 plate appearances, for rate of a home run in 5.6% of his plate appearances. If we gave him 600 PA per year for the last 8 years (2000-2007), that would be 4800 PA in which he would have hit (assuming that career average stood up) of 269 HR. He’d right now be sitting on 667. Since it looks like Barry Bonds’s career is now finished (unless he’d like to play for a team named the Carp), that would mean that Griffey would need 96 more HR to overtake Bonds as the all-time home run leader. Griffey will be 38 next season. Figure he has another 3-4 good seasons in him, and he can still hit for power. What might have been!
What went wrong: I’ll take what the heck happened to Ryan Freel for $200, Alex. I’d love to say that there was some sort of over-arching theme as to what happened with Freel. He… just… collapsed. His walks went down, his BABIP went down. Line drives turned into ground balls and popups. Maybe the explanation is this: Freel was never really that good to begin with. Sure, he made a decent bench guy in the NL (.740 OPS, can play a bunch of different positions, has some speed), but when he lost a little oomph, he became a sub-replacement player.
Yeah, that about sums it up: The Reds had (only) 4 guys who logged more than 500 PA in a Reds uniform, but 14 who got at least 200. Sounds like a team casting about for exactly whom to put on the field. So, they went out and spent an obscene amount of money on Francisco Cordero.
Does Adam Dunn have good plate discipline?: No. He’s just allergic to swinging. Here’s the thing about Adam Dunn, or more to the point, people’s reaction to Adam Dunn. For some reason, there’s a belief that a good baseball player has to have a certain statistical profile and that walks aren’t part of that profile. Personally, I think a lot of that opposition stems from the fact that walks are boring to watch. One of the lessons of Sabermetrics is that what’s the most interesting to watch in the moment is not always the best thing to do to win the game. So you have to make your own decision. Would you rather win the game or be entertained in the moment? Frankly, I think there are plenty of people among baseball fans who would actually pick “be entertained.” Remember, plenty of people smoke for the same reason.
The mystery of Aaron Harang: He strikes out almost a batter an inning, has an outstanding K/BB ratio, gives up very few line drives, puts up the kind of “regular” numbers that he does, and doesn’t have a hint of luck creeping into his stats. He also does it with 90% of his pitches being either a fastball that averages around 90 mph and a slider. How the heck does that happen? Here’s an interesting thought. If Harang could harness a little bit of luck both in his batted balls and in the Reds picking up some slack for him, he could easily win 20 games. And maybe then the Reds would finish third or fourth in the NL Central.
Outlook: Dusty Baker took the team over. For all the grief that Sabermetricians give Baker about his backwards ideas concerning Sabermetrics, Sabermetricians should also know that the manager actually doesn’t seem to have all that much effect on the outcome of a game. So, Reds fans, when Dusty starts talking, just smile, nod, and hope that he’s mumbling about a victory.