Monday, November 22, 2010

Reds news

According to Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter) the Reds have signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal. I like this. The Reds need a lefty and the D-Train may still have something. Because he's been on the Blue Sox recently, however, I can tell you this is definitely a long shot.

More on Votto

Here are a couple of good Votto links from the stat world.

Votto wins MVP

Joey Votto won the N.L. most valuable player award today from the BBWAA. Remarkably, he got 31 of the 32 first place votes, with Pujols getting the other and finishing second. The two had remarkably similar years, with Votto winning the Hank Aaron award as the league's best hitter and Pujols winning the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards for firstbasemen. Their stats were very similar, too. (The links are to their pages.)

I think three things helped Votto win it, one, the Reds won the division. Take Pujols off the Cards and they still don't win. Take Votto off the Reds and no way the Reds win. That's the definition of "valuable." Two, Votto was terrific in the clutch. Predicting clutch hitting has mostly been debunked by the stat heads, but that doesn't mean particular clutch hitting shouldn't be rewarded. Can you say Votto is a clutch hitter? Not really. Can you say he came through in the clutch this year? Big time.

Finally, I think this was considered a "down" year for Pujols, even though he led the league in rbi for the first time in his career. After all he hit only .312, his worst season for batting average in his career.

The best thing to happen to Votto this year? Perhaps getting snubbed for the All-Star game. That made him a household name only half way through his historic season.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In defense of the statheads

As you know, Felix Hernandez, he of the 13-12 record, won the A.L. Cy Young over, among others, CC Sabathia. The award was announced yesterday. Twitter was a flitter all afternoon with the announcement of a sea change in the awarding of awards. Praise (or laments, depending on your point of view) for the process overshaddowed Hernandez's actual award.

I had to travel about six hours in the car today, which meant listening to the likes of Kevin Kennedy discuss how the win has been devalued by the sabermetric community. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have never heard a stathead say that a win is bad. In fact, in my experience, statheads value only the win. They spend considerable time and effort, and a lot of brain power, sifting through data with one goal in mind: trying to determine how teams win. The idea (and someone can correct me if I'm wrong) is to crunch as much data as possible to put that data into useful information. Because games are won by a team's players' actions on the field, this information typically takes the form of statistics on players. They use the statistics (information) to evaluate the players to come as close as possible to explaining past ourcomes or predicting future ones.

This in no way devalues the win. In fact, the statheads are saying only, "let's get as much information as possible to evaluate our players." And why evaluate the players? To help determine how teams win games.

The Cy Young is given to the best pitcher in each league each season. All of the information available points to one clear conclusion: there are better ways to evaluate a pitcher's performance than his won/loss record. Does this devalue the win? Of course not. The premise is only that you can't tell who pitched the best by comparing pitchers' won/loss records. While a pitcher certainly contributes to the win (or loss), he doesn't completlely control the outcome of the game. The only thing devalued is the use of a pitcher's win total to determine how well he pitched.

Statheads measure things like a player's contribution to a win with advanced statistics like WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). WARP puts a number value on a player's overall performance, or his contribution to the team's wins. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it's more information instead of less. But more importantly, it's statistically relevant. Let's put it another way; people argue a pitcher, "pitched to the score" meaning he didn't mind giving up more runs or only threw fastballs with a big lead. But the statheads ask if that is, in fact, true, and then set about to prove or disprove it. (It's mostly been disproved, like the idea of clutch hitting.) WARP is a Baseball Prospectus stat. It (and its many variations) are used in almost every discussion on the BP website ranking players against eachother (including hall of fame discussions, etc.). Is that devaluing a win? No. It's emphasizing wins over more traditional statistics.

Take the MVP for example. If you want to know which player was the most valuable to his team, do you want to know how many rbi's he hit or how many wins he contributed? Of course, you would prefer to know how many wins. Using "advanced statistics" then really means, "using more, and more accurate, information." When an old-school commentator (like Kevin Kennedy) says something like such-and-such player was "clutch" what he's really saying is, "I'm ignoring information that is readily available, through the tremendous effort and hard work of others, to assist in my evaluation of a player." If a pitcher had more control over which team actually won a game, it would be the perfect stat. But there are too many other factors involved to measure pitcher performance that are better than simply asking who won. Most fans only care who won, and that's fine. But in giving out an individual award for pitching excellence, "who won" is not enough information.

By the way, baseball already has an award that, "values wins." It's a team award and it's called the division championship.

Reds fans should root for the Yankees to get Cliff Lee

Nothwithstanding this brilliant blog post, Reds fans should root for the Yankees to get Cliff Lee. Why? The Rangers' fall back plan if they don't re-sign Lee is to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation as their "ace." They would then need a closer. They could try playoff workhorse Alexi Ogando, but would more likely look outside the organization. And that might be the only legitimate chance for the Reds to trade Francisco Cordero. Unloading his contract would make improving the team elsewhere a lot easier.

Of course, that would throw the Reds between the same rock and a hard place the Rangers are in. The Reds would then have to decide whether to groom the Cuban Missile for the rotation or succumb to temptation and use him in the closer role, like the Rangers did with Feliz.

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reds fans should root against the Yankees getting Cliff Lee

But not for the reason you might think (that the Yankees get all of the good free agents). But because their fall back position is Carl Crawford. And if that happens, the Yankees will have to trade Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson.

Gardner would be a great fit for the Reds. According to some experts, he's the best left fielder in baseball. Gardner hit .277 last year with a .383 on-base percentage and 47 stolen bases. He would be a great lead-off option, and could even yield to Gomes against tough lefties. The best part: He made barely over the minimum last year and is not yet arbitration eligible.

There's a lot of buzz out there about the Reds (and a ton of other teams) trying to trade for Justin Upton. Gardner is not as good, but the Reds wouldn't have to give up the farm to get him the way they would for Upton.

Arroyo for Gardner? (Remember, this whole idea is premised on the fact the Yankees did not get Lee. Arroyo's above-average 200 innings would plsy well in New York.) How about Volquez for Gardner? He's got more upside than Arroyo and a smaller contract, although he is arbitration eligible. The Yanks might take a chance on him. Downside there for the Reds, however, is they gave up Hamilton to get Volquez and Gardner is not Hamilton. I'd let the Yanks choose: reliable high-priced 3d starter, or riskier, cheaper, potential number 2?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dusty robbed in Manager of the Year voting

Dusty lost the Manager of the Year in the National League to San Diego Padres manager Bud Black by one point. Each voter names a first, second, and third place manager. Dusty got only 13 first place votes to 16 for Black, but was named on 27 ballots to Black's 25.

Black no doubt won the award because no one expected the Pads to do anything this year and they finished one game out, being eliminated on the last day of the season. But his team had a 6 1/2 game lead in late August, lost ten in a row down the stretch, and finished up 14-17 in the last month or so. In his favor, the manager has the most day-to-day impact with bullpen use, and Bud's bullpen was the league's best. There may still be some anti-Baker bias out there, as well, as a lot of national writers are down on him for his perceived overuse of young pitchers in Chicago. Of course, that had nothing to do with this season, but impressions are what they are.

I am very disappointed for Dusty. I think his fingerprints were all over the Reds' division crown. To me, the fact the Reds made the playoffs carried the day on a close vote. But if you think I'm disappointed now, wait until Joey Votto gets robbed on Monday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cy Young voting

Roy Halladay was the unanimous choice for the N.L. Cy Young Award, getting all 32 first-place votes.

Bronson Arroyo received one fifth place vote, finishing tied for 12th with Matt Cain, one spot behind Tim Lincecum.

Reds sign Hernandez for 2011

The Reds re-signed Ramon Hernandez on a one-year, $3 mil. deal. I'm surprised by this, not on the Reds end, but on Ramon's end. I would have expected him to wait for a multi-year deal rather than sign so quickly with the Reds. Catchers seem to be in demand this off-season.

But as a fan I'm thrilled. The Reds catchers led the league in hitting last year at .296. Hernandez hit .311 after the all-star break. Although they both bat right-handed, they formed a language platoon, with Hanigan generally catching the English-speaking starters and Hernandez catching the Spanish-speaking starters.

With Mesoraco coming off a great year and the Reds using their top pick on a catcher in June, Hernandez is not the future for the Reds. But this is a great signing for 2011. And don't forget Hernandez filled in very well for Votto when Votto was hurt in 2009. The Reds don't have a great back-up option at first, and now they don't need one.

Hanigan will be the starter with Hernandez as the back-up, but I expect them to split the time pretty evenly. I'll pick Hanigan for Opening Day, mostly because I expect Arroyo to be the starting pitcher. The fact Hernandez came back so quickly tells me the Reds had a fun clubhouse last year. Hernandez wants to be part of that again. So do I.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reds news

The Reds resigned Ramon Hernandez for one year for around $3 mil. I like this and promise more later on the topic.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trade proposal

According to reports the Reds are about to sign Arroyo to a two-year extension covering 2011 to 2013. We said last week that picking up Arroyo's option was a no-brainer, but I'm not so sure about an extension. If the Reds plans go well, they won't need Arroyo past July of this year, let alone in 2013. But if they can get a team-friendly deal, without a no-trade clause, that wouldn't be so bad. Arroyo has certtainly proven his durability. But as we've pointed out in the past, why would Arroyo sign a team-friendly deal after being burned in Boston? And if they can't get a team-friendly deal, then they shouldn't sign him in the first place.

Here is what I propose: see if they can trade Arroyo to the Mets for Jose Reyes. I know that sounds crazy, but it might work. The Mets absolutely need a guy like Arroyo as a 3rd or 4th starter that can eat innings at an above-average (barely) rate. They both have similar salaries for this year (and only this year unless the extension is inked) so the money is a wash. The Mets need to re-stock their farm system and could certainly use a catcher, so I would include one of Yasmani Grandal or Devin Mesoraco (the Mets' choice), and throw in one more player. Perhaps Paul Janish, who could hold down short for the Mets until prospect Wilmer Flores is ready. If not Janish, the Reds have some other shortstop prospects, one of which they could throw in. Or, the Reds could include another innings-eating pitcher, like Sam LeCure or Matt Maloney. (I would be sad to see one of those guys traded because I just started a Twitter account (@bigzbluesox) and follow them both.)

This trade would be risky for the Reds. They would be giving up good young players for a one-year rental of Reyes (I doubt they could sign him long-term). But to have a legitimate lead-off guy that can play short and steal bases would mean a ton to the line-up in 2011 and make the Reds the favorite to repeat in the Central.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jocketty executive of the year

As we predicted over two months ago, Walt Jocketty was named executive of the year by his peers via the Sporting News.

I said back in August that he deserved it, but that making the playoffs would seal the deal. Just about every move he made this year paid off. Let's wait and see what additional awards the Reds might receive. I think Votto is more likely to win than Dusty, but we'll see.

Reds moves

The Reds exercised options on Arroyo as we predicted they would. This was a no-brainer, even at $11 mil. Whether or not the Reds keep him or trade him, he was worth the $11 mil. coming off the year he had.

They also kept Gomes at a little under $2 mil. Ironically, this is more than they paid him last year, and I see him having a reduced role in 2011. But I still think he's worth that salary, even as a platoon guy or a veteran bench player. I'm formulating a post on what the Reds should do with Gomes and the left field spot which will be up during the hot stove season.

The Reds also declined the option on Harang, instead opting for a $2 mil. buyout. This one hurts. I think Harang still has some use, but not at $12 mil. They could try and bring him back on a minor league deal or a non-roster invite to Spring Training, but I don't think I'd even offer him the $2 mil. as a salary. I think we have seen the last of Harang in a Reds uniform.

Less obviously, the Reds declined on Cabrera at around $4 mil., offering him the $1 mil. buyout. That means a couple of things, some good some bad. The good, maybe Dusty is moving away from his preference for veterans. (Although Dusty might not have had a say in it, but I doubt that.) Also the good, Cabrera didn't earn $4 mil. last year and I don't really think he will in 2011 either. His veteran leadership was important to this team, but his performance wasn't better than that of Paul Janish. Dusty can provide the leadership; the Reds need a shortstop that can field and hit consistently. Cabrerra on a much smaller deal, with Janish, might make a decent tandem for next year, but I think the Reds should move on and look for an upgrade at the position. But they will miss him.