Five Questions: Cincinnati Reds

I’m sick and tired this offseason seeing the Reds ranked last in various important statistical categories from last season and projections for the upcoming season.

They finished last in runs allowed in 2005 (including last in component statistics such as DER, FIP, and K/game), last in Team Runs Saved using David Pinto’s Probabilistic Model of Range, and last in Ben Jacobs’ 2005-2006 offseason moves ranking.

They have zero prospects in Aaron Gleeman’s Top 50 Prospects of 2006 as well as in Rany Jazayerli’s and Dayn Perry’s Top 50 Prospects of 2006. They surprisingly have two prospects listed in Baseball America’s 2006 Top 100 Prospects, but unsurprisingly don’t have a single A-rated prospect in John Sickels’ Cincinnati Reds Top 20 Prospects list.

Argh! Enough already! If you don’t have anything nice to say about the Reds, don’t say anything at all.

The big news lately with the Reds has been the trading of left fielder Wily Mo Pena to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Let’s start with that topic:

1. Did the Reds improve their 2006 chances of making the postseason by trading Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo?

Using 2006 ZiPS Projections, PECOTA and projections from Diamond Mind Baseball, SG, from the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, ran a few 1000 DMB seasons to project the outcome of the 2006 regular season. When averaging the results from the three projection sources, the Reds are projected to win 72 games and made the playoffs in the simulations only 1% of the time.

What’s incredibly cool about this is that by using the DMB simulator, one can see how all of the hitting, pitching, and fielding projections for the teams interact together throughout thousands of seasons. That’s far more powerful than simply calculating runs created and runs allowed and then using the Pythagorean formula to estimate wins.

How is this answering the above question? Well, he didn’t include the Pena-Arroyo trade, and SG states the following:

These do not include the Brandon Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena trade, which looks to be about a one win upgrade for Boston based on Pena’s expected role, and a 2-3 win upgrade for Cincinnati on a smaller set of 100 that I ran upon hearing about the trade. Boston scored about 15 more runs with Pena but gave up 5 more. Cincinnati gave up about 25 fewer runs per season, so I guess Brandon was a good pickup for them after all.

So that increases the expected win total of the Reds from 72 wins to 74-75 wins, which obviously is still not a winning season, and probably only increases their chances of making the post-season from 1% to 2%, if that.

Which means it appears the trade favors both teams and more so for the Reds, but it still doesn’t bump the Reds into the playoff hunt. At least not “on paper.”

2. What are the optimal batting lineups against right- and left-handed starting pitchers?

Dave Studeman recently used The Book in his Constructing Lineups article to argue against Cyril Morong’s recent research and Dan Scotto’s review of Morong’s findings on lineup construction.

Here’s what The Book says:

Your three best hitters should bat somewhere in the #1, #2 and #4 slots. Your fourth- and fifth-best hitters should occupy the #3 and #5 slots. The #1 and #2 slots will have players with more walks than those in the #4 and #5 slots. From slot #6 through #9, put the players in descending order of quality.

Easy enough.

The first step is identifying the three best hitters and then the fourth and fifth best hitter. The best three hitters would be Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., and, well, then there’s essentially a tie for 3rd with right-handed batters Austin Kearns, Edwin Encarnacion, and switch-hitting Felipe Lopez, with Kearns probably the best of the three.

However, the right-handed Ryan Freel has a better ZiPS projected on-base average than the three of them, plus he can steal bases effectively, so I’m pegging him as the “3rd-best hitter” and sticking him in the lead-off position and in left field. Dunn and Griffey, the two best hitters, would then bat 2nd and 4th, respectively, per The Book. What’s also beneficial with Dunn and Griffey in the 2nd and 4th spots is that it separates two left-handed hitting sluggers. Dunn will be at first base, while Griffey is unfortunately sent to center field.

I also like Dunn batting second because he takes a lot of pitches, giving Freel plenty of opportunity to steal some bases.

This leaves Kearns (right field), Lopez (shortstop), and Encarnacion (third base) for the 3rd, 5th, and 6th spots, and it probably doesn’t really matter where they go, but I’ll stick Encarnacion in the 6th spot since his projection probably has the more uncertainty to it. If he proves he’s a better hitter than others, he can move up in the order. The Book says to then place the remaining players in order of descending quality, so the catching duo of Jason LaRue and switch-hitting Javier Valentin would bat 7th, and Rich Aurilia will bat 8th and play second base.

And, honestly, this should probably be the lineup against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers, though based on his splits, Valentin should probably only bat against righties and be slotted 6th after Lopez and before Encarnacion.

Suggested lineup:
1. Freel, LF
2. Dunn, 1B
3. Kearns, RF
4. Griffey Jr., CF
5. Lopez, SS
6. Encarnacion, 3B
7. LaRue, C (if Valentin against RHP, swap with Encarnacion at 6th spot)
8. Aurilia, 2B
9. Starting Pitcher

If Tony Womack and Scott Hatteberg are to receive an ample amount of playing time, they should be at the bottom of the lineup and LaRue moves up. If Freel isn’t playing, one of Kearns, Lopez, and Encarnacion can lead off. Hell, anyone but Womack!
Man, why the hell are they even considering playing Womack? Cut him already you stupid morons!
Well, I probably didn’t follow The Book perfectly, and the Reds’ lack of a bench limits any platooning, so the word optimal will have to be used very lightly, if at all. This starting eight above could still score a lot of runs, however.

3. Which type of hitters benefit most from playing in the Great American Ballpark?

The park factors I’m going to use to answer this question are Diamond Mind Baseball’s park factors for singles, doubles, triples, and home runs for both left-handed and right handed batters in the Great American Ballpark:

              LHB                 RHB
Year:  1B   2B  3B   HR    1B   2B  3B   HR
2003: 104   94  24  123    94  110  34  122
2004: 104   94  23  123    94  110  33  122
2005: 103  104  43  123    94  116  55  117
Avg:  104   97  30  123    94  112  41  120

The average factors are rounded numbers.

So it helps lefties with regards to singles, but hurts them with regards to doubles, and vice versa for righties. Triples are reduced for both batter types, but more so for lefties, and both will see a great increase in their home run rates. So it’s quite favorable to be a home run hitter, as well as a singles hitter if left-handed and a doubles hitter if a right-handed.

As for the Average Joe in the NL who hits .261/.325/.413 in a neutral park with 106 singles, 33 doubles, 3 triples, 18 home runs, and 58 walks in 670 plate appearances (612 at-bats), the following lines would be expected for each batting type when Average Joe hits in the GABP:

Type  PA   AB   1B  2B  3B  HR  BB    AVG    OBP    SLG    XR 
LHB  670  612  108  33   2  20  58  0.265  0.329  0.421  82.9 
RHB  670  612  103  35   2  20  58  0.260  0.324  0.420  81.7

XR is Jim Furtado’s Extrapolated Runs, and I calculated the new numbers by multiplying the neutral-park number with the square root of the corresponding park factor after the park factor was divided by 100 (e.g., 18 home runs for the right-handed batting Average Joe multiplied by the square root of 1.20 is 19.7, or 20 home runs). I’m not 100% on the square root part, as I haven’t completed any park factor research myself, but various sources claim it results in a more accurate estimate.

So the left-handed hitting Average Joe benefits slightly more (approximately 1.2 runs throughout the season) in the GABP than the right-handed hitting Average Joe. Of course many, many players are not perfectly average or close to it, so each individual hitter needs to be evaluated accordingly.

4. Who is Homer Bailey, and what happened to all of the other pitching prospects?

Homer Bailey is currently the top pitching prospect for the Reds. He’s listed at 6’4″, 180 lbs, was born on the 3rd of May, 1986, bats right, throws right, and hails from LaGrange, Tex. He was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2004 draft, and has one full season (2005) under his belt: 103.2 innings, 125 strikeouts, 62 walks, 5 home runs allowed, 4.43 ERA, 1.46 WHIP at Dayton in the Single-A Midwest League.

Several prospect lists (see above) have him as the top-ranked prospect for the Reds, and Baseball America lists him as having the best fastball and curveball amongst the Reds pitching prospects.

As a result, he’s currently expected to win 20 games eventually for the Reds, become the first Cy Young Award winner in the history of the Reds, lead the team to postseason glory, etc., all while avoiding the arm-injury plague that is present in the Reds’ minor league system.

Hell, I would just applaud a long-lasting, above-average career with the Reds.

There are other pitching prospects, of course, but no one currently ready to jump into the Reds rotation and contribute this year or even next year. Why is that? The answer is because the Reds have had a terrible history with the June amateur draft in the last 20 years, with the exception of a few years. The Baseball Cube has complete draft histories for all of the MLB teams, so let’s examine the Reds’ draft history, and I’ll only list those pitchers selected in the first three rounds:

2005
2nd RoundTravis Wood – 2nd on Sickel’s list with B rating.
3rd RoundZach Ward – 10th on Sickel’s list with C+ rating.
Notes – No one drafted has reached MLB level yet, Reds drafted pitchers in 2nd through 6th round.

2004
1st Round – Homer Bailey – 1st on Sickels’ List with B+ rating.
Notes – No one drafted has reached MLB level yet, Bailey at least should.

2003
1st RoundRyan Wagner – Great debut season for Reds in 2003, well below average last two seasons.
2nd RoundThomas Pauly – Arm problems.
Notes – Only Wagner has reached MLB level.

2002
1st RoundChris Gruler – Arm problems.
1st RoundMark Schramek – Moved to 3B.
3rd RoundKyle Edens – Reliever in minors.
Notes – 19th-rounder Chris Denorfia, a center fielder, is battling this pre-season for 4th outfielder spot on the Reds, and has limited MLB experience.

2001
1st RoundJeremy Sowers – Did not sign with Reds. Drafted following year by Indians.
2nd RoundJustin Gillman – Arm problems.
Notes – No one has reached the MLB level yet.

2000
1st RoundDustin Moseley – Traded for Ramon Ortiz, who pitched one forgettable season for the Reds.
2nd RoundRyan Snare – Traded in package to Florida for Ryan Dempster, who pitched 204 terrible innings for the Reds.
3rd RoundDave Gil – Currently bouncing around organizations as a minor league reliever.
Notes – 2nd-rounder Dane Sardinha, a catcher, and 23rd-rounder Steve Smitherman, an outfielder have limited MLB experience and could contribute in a bench role.

1999
1st roundTy Howington – Arm problems, just released by the Reds.
3rd roundBrandon Love – Out of baseball after 2000 season.

1998
Notes – Kearns and Dunn were drafted with their 1st and 2nd round picks. Bobby Madritsch was picked up in 6th round, along with B.J. Ryan in the 17th round, Lance Cormier in 40th, Todd Coffey in 41st, and Terrmel Sledge in 45th round.

1997
Notes – They again didn’t pick any pitchers in the first three rounds, but did draft Scott Williamson in the ninth round, Brandon Larson in 1st, and Gookie Dawkins in 2nd.

1996
2nd roundMatt McClendon – Did not sign with Reds, later drafted by Braves, and did not play in 2005.
3rd roundBuddy Carlyle – Currently with Dodgers organization (or was in 2005), traded in 1998 by Reds for Marc Kroon, who was then granted free agency six months later.

Man that was ugly! Now you see why I don’t have high expectations for Mr. Bailey. I should note that the Reds last drafted a 20-game winner in 1982 (I know, winning 20 games isn’t the definitive single-season statistic for a pitcher, but who cares, it’s a fun fact) when they selected Tom Browning in the 9th round. 1982!!

Let’s move on immediately.

5. What are Dunn’s career projections for the three true outcomes?

Dunn’s proclivity for the three true outcomes (walks, strike outs, and home runs) is incredible, and I’m very curious to see if his career projections will result in a record-breaking TTO performance.

First, here are the career three true outcome career leaders, along with their plate appearances and TTO/PA:

Career TTO Leaders
Name                  Years   TTO     PA  TTO/PA
Reggie Jackson    1967-1987  4535  11416   0.397
Barry Bonds       1986-2005  4453  11636   0.383
Rickey Henderson  1979-2003  4181  13346   0.313
Babe Ruth         1914-1935  4106  10616   0.387
Mickey Mantle     1951-1968  3979   9909   0.402
Mike Schmidt      1972-1989  3938  10062   0.391
Harmon Killebrew  1954-1975  3831   9831   0.390
Carl Yastrzemski  1961-1983  3690  13991   0.264
Fred McGriff      1986-2004  3680  10174   0.362
Sammy Sosa        1989-2005  3677   9442   0.389

Unless Barry Bonds retires abruptly this season, he should become the TTO leader sometime this year (should that be with or without an asterisk!?). Jim Thome (3449 TTO) is currently second in active players behind Bonds (assuming Sosa is officially retired), but probably doesn’t have enough career remaining to challenge Bonds. I very much doubt Jeff Bagwell (3408 TTO), Frank Thomas (3079), Griffey Jr. (2990), or Craig Biggio (2914) will break the record.

Alex Rodriguez might, as he already has 2424 TTO. Using his current career-rate of 0.341 TTO/PA, he would need at least 8.5 more full seasons to have a shot at it. Given he’s only entering his age-30 season this year, this is entirely possible.

Let’s examine the active leader board in TTO/PA:

Dunn's Competition (1000 PA, .400 TTO/PA minimum)
Name                 Years   TTO     PA  TTO/PA
Russell Branyan  1998-2005   890   1691  0.526
Adam Dunn        2001-2005  1353   2783  0.486
Jim Thome        1991-2005  3449   7281  0.474
Mark Bellhorn    1997-2005   999   2185  0.457
Pat Burrell      2000-2005  1516   3578  0.424
Brad Wilkerson   2001-2005  1116   2690  0.415
Carlos Pena      2001-2005   782   1887  0.414
Troy Glaus       1998-2005  1702   4113  0.414
Jason Bay        2003-2005   517   1286  0.402
Craig Wilson     2001-2005   739   1847  0.400

Russell Branyan probably will not receive enough playing time in the future, but Pat Burrell, Brad Wilkerson, and Troy Glaus are also doing well in the TTO category and could challenge Rodriguez and Dunn. But I’m going to just focus on Dunn and his projections since this should be about the Reds.

Using Bill James’s Favorite Toy, the following is projected for Dunn: 410 walks, 2263 strikeouts, 517 home runs, and 4190 three true outcomes, which would place him third behind Reggie Jackson and Bonds. Well that’s not very satisfying, especially since I think he’ll play longer than the Toy suggests.

I could also use TangoTiger’s aging patterns to project Dunn’s career:

Adam Dunn's Career-to-Date and Projected TTO (Age-25 season was in 2005)
Age   BB     K    HR   TTO  CareerTTO
21    38    74    19   131     131
22   128   170    26   324     455
23    74   126    27   227     682
24   108   195    46   349    1031
25   114   168    40   322    1353
26   117   168    43   328    1681
27   122   166    45   333    2014
28   125   166    44   335    2349
29   128   170    44   342    2691
30   131   170    42   343    3034
31   133   173    43   349    3383
32   133   173    40   346    3729
33   135   176    39   350    4079
34   135   181    38   354    4433
35   133   188    37   358    4791
36   135   190    36   361    5152
37   139   188    32   359    5511
38   129   193    28   350    5861
39   124   210    23   357    6218
Tot 2281  3245   692  6218

That’s assuming 100% playing time, however, which is too unrealistic, and he’s probably not going to play until he’s 39 either. So two assumptions will be made: (1) He’ll play in 90% of the games throughout his career (based on his last four seasons averaged together) and (2) he’ll call it quits at age 37. This would then give him the following totals: 1825 walks, 2558 strikeouts, 577 home runs, and 4960 TTO.

Not only would he have the TTO record, but he’d have belted significantly more than 500 home runs and would be very close to Jackson’s career strikeout record. Hall of Famer with those statistics? Definitely. Now all that’s needed is he actually has to do it.

References & Resources
Recommended sites covering the Cincinnati Reds: Red Reporter, Reds (and Blues), Post beat writer Marc Lancaster, Redleg Nation, JinAZ On Baseball and the Reds, and try a Google search on Cincinnati Reds previews since this alternative preview didn’t say a damn word about Cincinnati’s pitching except for newly-acquire Arroyo and prospect Bailey.

More information on Pinto’s PMR can be found here.

Also check out John Sickel’s flashback on Eric Davis. Too bad we don’t have a good defensive CF now. Force yourself to the AL, Griffey!

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