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mdccclxix
08-08-2011, 02:12 AM
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, concern for me in 2012 and beyond is the defense. Since the Mets series, and possibly just before, this team has been so horrific on defense in comparison with their better selves.

It cannot be overlooked that 2010 happened in very large part because of the defense. Scott Rolen is a once in a generation type defender at third and he as much as anyone stabilized the young rotation. It is plain as day this year watching Cairo and Frazier flub plays that Rolen, at 36 and wounded, delivers with stunning command. It is a huge deal if he cannot contribute in 2012. 2013+ is far enough away right now, yet, there ought to be plans to upgrade what we currently can project at 3b. Frazier, Francisco, ALONSO for petes sake, are all nice bats, but create a whole new climate defensively, which as we know is 1/2 the game. I'm pinning for Zimmerman right now.

Knowing what was said and reported out of Louisville and by the prospect mavens about Yonder's LF progress makes you wonder if Yonder is just having a panicky start and he'll settle, or if their respective agendas or visions colored the reports inaccurately. I'm jaded at this point, and I think batsfan was honest when he said Yonder is just not fit for LF.

There is also cause for concern, IMO, with regards to Frazier, who's rap is that he doesn't have a position. SS and 2b are definitely out of the question for him. LF and 3b are serious questions given that neither has stuck. In a defense first organization, this is not an ideal situation to rely on.

Francisco's defense is just not something I want to endure. I've heard enough about his range and accuracy to scare me away.

As for Sappelt, I've heard his arm is not very strong, we shall see, but is it really time to be thinking of moving Stubbs because we've got a guy that can hit for a little higher average? Again, this is another prospect that weakens our current defense.

As for the veteran players on this team, I think I expected a lot more from Votto, Janish and Bruce. Phillips has been amazingly good and no one in the organization will come close to his defense in the next 2 to possibly 4 years.

Overall, I think if you start taking out these defensive stars from the lineups of the future, just for the sake of offense, or just for the sake of fitting all these minor league prospects into the team to see how they finally play out, we will almost certainly begin remembering how painful it is to watch a season slip away with "uninspired play", "poor fundementals", "lack of focus" and all those other awful descriptors that really just describe "crappy defensive players".

EE, Dunn, and Griffey were all shipped out for good reason, defense being chief among them. I believe Dusty knows what he's talking about when he states the value of good defense. I also believe this pitching staff could further turn in to a pumpkin when a season of comical infield defense breaks their spirit by June.

Really, the key dilemma in 2012+ is what happens in a world without Gold Glovers Rolen and Phillips? Literally none of the current group of prospects can assuage this fear. I'm sorry, but the trend in baseball is not "out-slug the opponent". It's foolish to think any alignment without those 2 vets can out-slug the defensive drop-off that is created by their absence.

Defense is also a large factor in the psychology of the game. Bad defense is bad vibes no matter when it occurs. Perhaps its because its one area of the game where success is in the high 90's percentage wise. You should make all the plays you can touch. Likewise, a commanding defense has that much more of a smothering effect on the opponent.

So, a world without Rolen and/or Phillips is a scarey place. Heck, right now a world without Gomes in LF is scarey, but we'll see how long Sappelt can hold onto his spot and if his arm is truly a serious detriment. Frazier, Francisco and Alonso are not defensive players, and they are not likely to offset anything significant with their bats, otherwise I'd have to believe some of Gomes and Cairo and Lewis even would not have been on the 2011 team, as these prospects were "ready" offensively. In general, I think Reds fans need to start thinking realistically about constructing a complete team again. We may be able to keep pace with the FO or at least understand them a bit better.

Edit: I forgot about Mesoraco - his defensive development is paramount to his success - remember, it's half the game. Get him up here so we can have a look, sure, but I won't be surprised if his delay in arriving is tied to him having a fully rounded game.

Guacarock
08-08-2011, 03:40 AM
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, concern for me in 2012 and beyond is the defense. Since the Mets series, and possibly just before, this team has been so horrific on defense in comparison with their better selves.

It cannot be overlooked that 2010 happened in very large part because of the defense. Scott Rolen is a once in a generation type defender at third and he as much as anyone stabilized the young rotation. It is plain as day this year watching Cairo and Frazier flub plays that Rolen, at 36 and wounded, delivers with stunning command. It is a huge deal if he cannot contribute in 2012. 2013+ is far enough away right now, yet, there ought to be plans to upgrade what we currently can project at 3b. Frazier, Francisco, ALONSO for petes sake, are all nice bats, but create a whole new climate defensively, which as we know is 1/2 the game. I'm pinning for Zimmerman right now.

Knowing what was said and reported out of Louisville and by the prospect mavens about Yonder's LF progress makes you wonder if Yonder is just having a panicky start and he'll settle, or if their respective agendas or visions colored the reports inaccurately. I'm jaded at this point, and I think batsfan was honest when he said Yonder is just not fit for LF.

There is also cause for concern, IMO, with regards to Frazier, who's rap is that he doesn't have a position. SS and 2b are definitely out of the question for him. LF and 3b are serious questions given that neither has stuck. In a defense first organization, this is not an ideal situation to rely on.

Francisco's defense is just not something I want to endure. I've heard enough about his range and accuracy to scare me away.

As for Sappelt, I've heard his arm is not very strong, we shall see, but is it really time to be thinking of moving Stubbs because we've got a guy that can hit for a little higher average? Again, this is another prospect that weakens our current defense.

As for the veteran players on this team, I think I expected a lot more from Votto, Janish and Bruce. Phillips has been amazingly good and no one in the organization will come close to his defense in the next 2 to possibly 4 years.

Overall, I think if you start taking out these defensive stars from the lineups of the future, just for the sake of offense, or just for the sake of fitting all these minor league prospects into the team to see how they finally play out, we will almost certainly begin remembering how painful it is to watch a season slip away with "uninspired play", "poor fundementals", "lack of focus" and all those other awful descriptors that really just describe "crappy defensive players".

EE, Dunn, and Griffey were all shipped out for good reason, defense being chief among them. I believe Dusty knows what he's talking about when he states the value of good defense. I also believe this pitching staff could further turn in to a pumpkin when a season of comical infield defense breaks their spirit by June.

Really, the key dilemma in 2012+ is what happens in a world without Gold Glovers Rolen and Phillips? Literally none of the current group of prospects can assuage this fear. I'm sorry, but the trend in baseball is not "out-slug the opponent". It's foolish to think any alignment without those 2 vets can out-slug the defensive drop-off that is created by their absence.

Defense is also a large factor in the psychology of the game. Bad defense is bad vibes no matter when it occurs. Perhaps its because its one area of the game where success is in the high 90's percentage wise. You should make all the plays you can touch. Likewise, a commanding defense has that much more of a smothering effect on the opponent.

So, a world without Rolen and/or Phillips is a scarey place. Heck, right now a world without Gomes in LF is scarey, but we'll see how long Sappelt can hold onto his spot and if his arm is truly a serious detriment. Frazier, Francisco and Alonso are not defensive players, and they are not likely to offset anything significant with their bats, otherwise I'd have to believe some of Gomes and Cairo and Lewis even would not have been on the 2011 team, as these prospects were "ready" offensively. In general, I think Reds fans need to start thinking realistically about constructing a complete team again. We may be able to keep pace with the FO or at least understand them a bit better.

Edit: I forgot about Mesoraco - his defensive development is paramount to his success - remember, it's half the game. Get him up here so we can have a look, sure, but I won't be surprised if his delay in arriving is tied to him having a fully rounded game.


You're right to be concerned. The prospects we're calling up from Louisville all look weaker on defense than on offense. The one exception might be Cozart, who didn't seem particularly challenged at SS, although he only played a few games before going down with his hyperextended elbow. Fortunately, SS is the single most important defensive position on the diamond, so if Cozart is a strong glovesman, then we at least know that Phillips will have some capable support up the middle.

The two other prospects we really need to see play are Sappelt and Mesoraco because they would presumably hold down two positions -- CF and C -- where defense has to be paramount. I say presumably because we could always shift Sappelt over to LF and retain Stubbs in CF if we find that Sappelt's arm limits his value in CF, but we determine that he's our ideal leadoff man.

Sappelt made a spectacular catch in his debut game today, so even if his arm's not quite as strong as Stubbs, it's apparent that the kid can get to and track down line drives. In other words, even if he's not a CF, he would be a serious defensive upgrade over Gomes, Lewis, possibly even Heisey in LF.

Mesoraco, we don't know yet. The knock on him is that he's weaker on defense than Grandal, but the superior bat. Still, it's clear that Mesoraco has worked hard to improve his defense, and continues to step up his game in that arena. He has a strong arm and a decent record in shutting down opponents' running game, and he has also cut down each year on the number of passed balls he allows. So even if his defense has some holes, he's fixing them. Bear in mind, he doesn't have to exhibit Johnny Bench's chops coming out of the gate, only match Ramon Hernandez.

At 2B and 3B, I share your reservations. For 2012, we would be wise to solve the 2B dilemma by picking up the option to bring back Brandon Phillips for the year. Should we extend him for 2013 and 2014? I'm not so sure. His defense remains golden, but his power and speed are fading. He hasn't fallen off the same cliff as Rolen did this year, but you can see it happening in the not-so-distant future.

As for Rolen, he is a unique cat. We're probably not going to be able to replace his glove anytime soon. If Frazier can match Rolen's offense, and not be as dismal on defense as EE, then that's an acceptable short-term fix for 2012. Long-term, Frazier might not be a steady enough 3B and have to reassigned to a super-sub, utility role. I wouldn't waste a lot of time trying to dislodge Zimmerman from the Nationals or Wright from the Mets. It doesn't look like either will be available this winter at an acceptable price.

Which brings us to our last prize prospect -- Alonso. He appears to have more offensive upside than anyone else, but also more defensive warts. If we can play him at 1B or in LF, who cares? Of all the positions on the diamond, 1B and LF are the ones where you not only can play slower and more wooden defenders, but you absolutely should if you're having trouble scoring the runs you need to win. We've gone 17-26 in one-run games this season. Pitching is partly the culprit for that, also some bad luck, injuries, lame dugout calls. But the other fault line lies in the fact that we have an offense that is potent at times, but lacking in steady sticks outside Votto's. Alonso would give us another tough out, another guy whose OBP and SLG combined would likely surpass Rolen, Phillips, Bruce or Stubbs.

If it's at all possible, it would be best to add Alonso's bat to our arsenal, especially knowing we could be forced to trade Votto by 2013, whether we like it or not. The rub probably lies in how you might platoon Sappelt and Alonso in LF, or whether Sappelt can man CF. We have about seven weeks to sort those questions out -- longer if we want to go through another inactive winter -- but I wouldn't recommend that after seeing the results from our last inactive off-season.

Ron Madden
08-08-2011, 03:49 AM
You're right to be concerned. The prospects we're calling up from Louisville all look weaker on defense than on offense. The one exception might be Cozart, who didn't seem particularly challenged at SS, although he only played a few games before going down with his hyperextended elbow. Fortunately, SS is the single most important defensive position on the diamond, so if Cozart is a strong glovesman, then we at least know that Phillips will have some capable support up the middle.

The two other prospects we really need to see play are Sappelt and Mesoraco because they would presumably hold down two positions -- CF and C -- where defense has to be paramount. I say presumably because we could always shift Sappelt over to LF and retain Stubbs in CF if we find that Sappelt's arm limits his value in CF, but we determine that he's our ideal leadoff man.

Sappelt made a spectacular catch in his debut game today, so even if his arm's not quite as strong as Stubbs, it's apparent that the kid can get to and track down line drives. In other words, even if he's not a CF, he would be a serious defensive upgrade over Gomes, Lewis, possibly even Heisey in LF.

Mesoraco, we don't know yet. The knock on him is that he's weaker on defense than Grandal, but the superior bat. Still, it's clear that Mesoraco has worked hard to improve his defense, and continues to step up his game in that arena. He has a strong arm and a decent record in shutting down opponents' running game, and he has also cut down each year on the number of passed balls he allows. So even if his defense has some holes, he's fixing them. Bear in mind, he doesn't have to exhibit Johnny Bench's chops coming out of the gate, only match Ramon Hernandez.

At 2B and 3B, I share your reservations. For 2012, we would be wise to solve the 2B dilemma by picking up the option to bring back Brandon Phillips for the year. Should we extend him for 2013 and 2014? I'm not so sure. His defense remains golden, but his power and speed are fading. He hasn't fallen off the same cliff as Rolen did this year, but you can see it happening in the not-so-distant future.

As for Rolen, he is a unique cat. We're probably not going to be able to replace his glove anytime soon. If Frazier can match Rolen's offense, and not be as dismal on defense as EE, then that's an acceptable short-term fix for 2012. Long-term, Frazier might not be a steady enough 3B and have to reassigned to a super-sub, utility role. I wouldn't waste a lot of time trying to dislodge Zimmerman from the Nationals or Wright from the Mets. It doesn't look like either will be available this winter at an acceptable price.

Which brings us to our last prize prospect -- Alonso. He appears to have more offensive upside than anyone else, but also more defensive warts. If we can play him at 1B or in LF, who cares? Of all the positions on the diamond, 1B and LF are the ones where you not only can play slower and more wooden defenders, but you absolutely should if you're having trouble scoring the runs you need to win. We've gone 17-26 in one-run games this season. Pitching is partly the culprit for that, also some bad luck, injuries, lame dugout calls. But the other fault line lies in the fact that we have an offense that is potent at times, but lacking in steady sticks outside Votto's. Alonso would give us another tough out, another guy whose OBP and SLG combined would likely surpass Rolen, Phillips, Bruce or Stubbs.

If it's at all possible, it would be best to add Alonso's bat to our arsenal, especially knowing we could be forced to trade Votto by 2013, whether we like it or not. The rub probably lies in how you might platoon Sappelt and Alonso in LF, or whether Sappelt can man CF. We have about seven weeks to sort those questions out -- longer if we want to go through another inactive winter -- but I wouldn't recommend that after seeing the results from our last inactive off-season.

Great post. :thumbup:

buckeyenut
08-08-2011, 06:19 AM
If Sappelt is starting in LF, he doesn't weaken your defense. He upgrades it. If he is in CF, he weakens your defense.

Problem is, Frazier, Alonso and Sappelt all fit in LF on this team.

I do think a plan at 3B this offseason is critical. Rolen needs a heart to heart. We can't count on him next year. The guy I really want in that role is David Wright, if we can somehow convince NYM they need to tear this thing up. Not sure if resigning Reyes helps or hurts that option. But we have the horses to deal them if we want him.

mth123
08-08-2011, 06:55 AM
I think Sappelt will be fine in CF. He won't be as smooth as Stubbs, but he'll cover plenty of ground and will be far from a weakness. He'll fit better in the line-up. As noted earlier, he'd be a real plus in LF.

Alonso's bat has looked great so far, but he needs to be dealt IMO. I just don't think he'll be adequate out there (but he should play out there every day until dealt).

Frazier won't be Rolen, but there is a chance he could be OK at 3B. His bat has been OK for now, but I'm a skeptic that he could play every day at any spot. I like the idea of him on the team, but probably in Cairo's role. If the combo of Frazier and Francisco end up becoming the 3B tandem for the next few years, the Reds will most definitely take a step backwards.

I need more info on Mesoraco's defense. I don't trust everything I read about a player's defensive ability. A lot of times defense is used as a default "but" in a report. If a player has a strong bat, its often followed with "but there are questions about his defense" whether he's a good defender or not. That may be what is happening here. Kind of the opposite of what happened with Paul Janish or Jaun Castro where questions about the bat were followed with exaggerated superlatives that made them sound like the greatest defensive players of all time rather than the merely solid defensive players that they are. I think we've seen a bit of that with Stubbs too BTW.

Second Base is the black hole. The Reds have a lot of strong defenders, but Phillips is the heart and soul of this team's defense. He make plays that no other second baseman in the game today makes and saves the pitchers a lot of baserunners. I don't see anyone above A ball that might be an adequate replacement. I'd just as soon see the Reds sign him up through 2014 than to let him walk. By then Torreyes or Hamilton might be ready to take over.

Defense might be an issue moving forward especially at 2B and 3B. Go for it before they leave.

Mario-Rijo
08-08-2011, 09:19 AM
I'm not overly concerned about the future of the defense sans perhaps 3rd base. Whoever we get there short of David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman is gonna be a downgrade, Rolen is quite slick and extremely knowledgeable down there. I'm not sure BP is back after '12 but he isn't gonna be all world forever either but I just I highly doubt he goes for a 2 year deal after '12, this will be his final and likely best contract opportunity. He's probably thinking 3-4 years minimum and Uggla type money. After '12 it'll likely be time to find his replacement. I still think that guy can be Cozart if we invested in a top of the order SS. But I am ok with Cozart at SS as well although I think he will have a Hardy Lite type of offensive future complete with long bouts of ineffectiveness.

But Stubbs in CF, Sappelt and/or Heisey in LF and Bruce in RF is as good an OF defense as there is in baseball and they will only continue to improve. Yes they have had some hiccups but again as I have said with regards to their offensive games, once they learn to quit pressing those hiccups will be fewer and much further between. That only leaves Votto who will always be solid if not better and Mes/Hanny who are both above average defensive catchers (well Mes will get there, just like he did when so many panicked about his offense). The only thing I worry about with Mes is his long throwing motion which might be tough to get squared away but his arm strength makes up for some of that.

_Sir_Charles_
08-08-2011, 10:05 AM
I'm not sure I follow what the concerns are for Frazier at third. From everything I've seen and heard, he's very solid there defensively. The only reason he wasn't playing there regularly in Louisville was because Francisco needed the reps there. And since they didn't see a very viable option for LF down there, they decided to get Todd some reps in left. He didn't get bumped off of 3B due to poor play.

Guacarock
08-08-2011, 10:31 AM
I'm not sure BP is back after '12 but he isn't gonna be all world forever either but I just I highly doubt he goes for a 2 year deal after '12, this will be his final and likely best contract opportunity. He's probably thinking 3-4 years minimum and Uggla type money. After '12 it'll likely be time to find his replacement.

I think you're right about Phillips. He'll be back in '12, there's little doubt about that. But then he's likely to be gone. While the Reds might be agreeable to extending him a two-year deal after '12, he's going to want a final, longer term contract and to wrap up his career in style like Uggla. Can't see the Reds guaranteeing him $12-$14 million annually through 2015 or 2016.

The Phillips situation could be another reason the Reds seriously weigh trading Votto for Bautista this winter. Otherwise, we might have to face the prospect of letting go of both Votto and Phillips, the two faces of the franchise, over the winter of '12-'13. That would provoke a firestorm beyond belief from the royal unwashed public.

Kc61
08-08-2011, 10:55 AM
The need for strong defense is one reason why the Front Office's "accumulate young players and hold them" philosophy is a problem.

IMO the Reds simply have too many guys who don't fit defensively or who are redundant defensively.

Some examples:

Number one is that Alonso is a first baseman, redundant with Votto.

Number two is left field. Yes, Sappelt can play left. Yes, Frazier can probably play left. But I thought left field was the place for a clean up hitter. How do guys like Sappelt and Frazier in left field satisfy the Reds' need for a clean up man?

Most reports I have read suggest Frazier as a super utility type. Does he have the bat or the glove to be a regular third baseman?

Francisco is a bust to most people on this site. I disagree and think he is a powerhouse against RHP. But again, does he have enough defensively at third?

And for those who want to trade Stubbs, you just can't plug a corner outfielder into CF.

Those are the defensive issues I see now. They exclude issues like Phillips. But it's noteworthy that the Reds have accumulated all this talent -- still, there is no second baseman who could conceivably replace Phillips on the horizon.

What I see is a lot of AAA talent that doesn't fit the Reds needs well. It requires player transactions to get the right pieces. The Reds don't seem to do those.

Mario-Rijo
08-08-2011, 10:57 AM
I'm not sure I follow what the concerns are for Frazier at third. From everything I've seen and heard, he's very solid there defensively. The only reason he wasn't playing there regularly in Louisville was because Francisco needed the reps there. And since they didn't see a very viable option for LF down there, they decided to get Todd some reps in left. He didn't get bumped off of 3B due to poor play.

Just lack of range is the problem people seem to be seeing with him.

Mario-Rijo
08-08-2011, 11:05 AM
The need for strong defense is one reason why the Front Office's "accumulate young players and hold them" philosophy is a problem.

IMO the Reds simply have too many guys who don't fit defensively or who are redundant defensively.

Some examples:

Number one is that Alonso is a first baseman, redundant with Votto.

Number two is left field. Yes, Sappelt can play left. Yes, Frazier can probably play left. But I thought left field was the place for a clean up hitter. How do guys like Sappelt and Frazier in left field satisfy the Reds' need for a clean up man?

Most reports I have read suggest Frazier as a super utility type. Does he have the bat or the glove to be a regular third baseman?

Francisco is a bust to most people on this site. I disagree and think he is a powerhouse against RHP. But again, does he have enough defensively at third?

And for those who want to trade Stubbs, you just can't plug a corner outfielder into CF.

Those are the defensive issues I see now. They exclude issues like Phillips. But it's noteworthy that the Reds have accumulated all this talent -- still, there is no second baseman who could conceivably replace Phillips on the horizon.

What I see is a lot of AAA talent that doesn't fit the Reds needs well. It requires player transactions to get the right pieces. The Reds don't seem to do those.

Plug one into 3rd and problem fixed, now you can have your leadoff hitter in LF.

Kc61
08-08-2011, 11:11 AM
Plug one into 3rd and problem fixed, now you can have your leadoff hitter in LF.

Yes, but Mike Schmidt is unavailable.

RedsManRick
08-08-2011, 02:04 PM
The grass is always greener. There have been a few ugly games the past few weeks, but is that really an accurate assessment of our team defense? The defensive stats are not perfect by any stretch, but:

Defensive Efficiency Rating: .721, tied for 3rd in MLB
UZR/150: 9.1, 1st in MLB
Defensive Runs Saved (vs. Avg): +25, 4th in MLB
Total Zone FRAA: +27, 1st MLB

There is a consensus among that stats that the Reds are an excellent defensive team so far this year. But looking ahead, firstly I'd say it's pretty silly to project out more than a year or two. We just need to go back a few years and look at all the projected lineups for of guys who aren't on the team.

C: Hanigan & Mesoraco: Hanigan won't get any worse. And Hernandez isn't exactly a stud. Maybe a small step back.
1B: Votto. Shouldn't get any worse, could get better.
2B: Phillips, we'll have him next year -- our best talent in the system are middle IFs. Maybe there's a gap year in 2013, but I'm terribly concerned.
3B: Legitimate concern. Are we poised to take a hit at 3B when/if Rolen is gone? Though we should note, replacing him with Fransisco or Frazier is not like going back to EE.
SS: Janish isn't going anywhere, though the bat is obviously an issue. Cozart looked quite good out there. And there's talent on the way.
LF: Clearly our biggest defensive weakness with Gomes out there. Alonso certainly doesn't look the answer, but the Reds LFs put up a -8.9 UZR last year. They've put up a 5.4 so far this year. Heisey and Sappelt are massive steps up, but it does remain to be seen who gets the bulk of the time. I think Sappelt wins the full-time gig.
CF: Stubbs. He's been inconsistent. He's among the most defensively talented guys in the league, but his routes going back on the ball have been hit and miss. I'd like to see him play deeper. In any event, he's not likely to get worse.
RF: Bruce. Less stellar this year than last, but still solidly above average.

I guess my problem with your argument is this. Defense is only a problem if we make it one. The offense is producing at at average level, so it's not like Stubbs has to go. Janish isn't acceptable, but Cozart certainly looked promising.

Could these guys play better? Obviously. Will we have to replace them at some point? Of course. But it's not really a concern for 2012 nor a major one for 2013. Of the 3 major facets of the game, defensive is our biggest strength. I'm definitely worried about improving in all three areas moving forward. But in the context of where we can improve the most or where we're in risk of taking massive steps back, it's not a concern for me.

As for the bat vs. glove argument, it's silly in my book. Sure, there are traditions based on the types of players who are the most common/ most available. But there's no one way to do it. Would we be a better team with (the old version) of Dunn in LF or the current version of Jacoby Elsbury or Brett Gardner? There's nothing magic about having a slugging LF or speedy SS. How many teams get as much offense from C as we do? Or from 2B? Runs are runs. Sticking to some made-up hard and fast rule about which type of production you get from which position merely limits your options and prevents you from taking advantages of market inefficiencies.

The question should always be, how can we get the most overall production in a cost-effective manner? Sometimes that's adding offense. Sometimes that's adding defense. But robbing Peter to pay Paul just because you like Paul better doesn't leave you any richer.

traderumor
08-08-2011, 03:00 PM
The grass is always greener. There have been a few ugly games the past few weeks, but is that really an accurate assessment of our team defense? The defensive stats are not perfect by any stretch, but:

Defensive Efficiency Rating: .721, tied for 3rd in MLB
UZR/150: 9.1, 1st in MLB
Defensive Runs Saved (vs. Avg): +25, 4th in MLB
Total Zone FRAA: +27, 1st MLB

There is a consensus among that stats that the Reds are an excellent defensive team so far this year. But looking ahead, firstly I'd say it's pretty silly to project out more than a year or two. We just need to go back a few years and look at all the projected lineups for of guys who aren't on the team.

C: Hanigan & Mesoraco: Hanigan won't get any worse. And Hernandez isn't exactly a stud. Maybe a small step back.
1B: Votto. Shouldn't get any worse, could get better.
2B: Phillips, we'll have him next year -- our best talent in the system are middle IFs. Maybe there's a gap year in 2013, but I'm terribly concerned.
3B: Legitimate concern. Are we poised to take a hit at 3B when/if Rolen is gone? Though we should note, replacing him with Fransisco or Frazier is not like going back to EE.
SS: Janish isn't going anywhere, though the bat is obviously an issue. Cozart looked quite good out there. And there's talent on the way.
LF: Clearly our biggest defensive weakness with Gomes out there. Alonso certainly doesn't look the answer, but the Reds LFs put up a -8.9 UZR last year. They've put up a 5.4 so far this year. Heisey and Sappelt are massive steps up, but it does remain to be seen who gets the bulk of the time. I think Sappelt wins the full-time gig.
CF: Stubbs. He's been inconsistent. He's among the most defensively talented guys in the league, but his routes going back on the ball have been hit and miss. I'd like to see him play deeper. In any event, he's not likely to get worse.
RF: Bruce. Less stellar this year than last, but still solidly above average.

I guess my problem with your argument is this. Defense is only a problem if we make it one. The offense is producing at at average level, so it's not like Stubbs has to go. Janish isn't acceptable, but Cozart certainly looked promising.

Could these guys play better? Obviously. Will we have to replace them at some point? Of course. But it's not really a concern for 2012 nor a major one for 2013. Of the 3 major facets of the game, defensive is our biggest strength. I'm definitely worried about improving in all three areas moving forward. But in the context of where we can improve the most or where we're in risk of taking massive steps back, it's not a concern for me.

As for the bat vs. glove argument, it's silly in my book. Sure, there are traditions based on the types of players who are the most common/ most available. But there's no one way to do it. Would we be a better team with (the old version) of Dunn in LF or the current version of Jacoby Elsbury or Brett Gardner? There's nothing magic about having a slugging LF or speedy SS. How many teams get as much offense from C as we do? Or from 2B? Runs are runs. Sticking to some made-up hard and fast rule about which type of production you get from which position merely limits your options and prevents you from taking advantages of market inefficiencies.

The question should always be, how can we get the most overall production in a cost-effective manner? Sometimes that's adding offense. Sometimes that's adding defense. But robbing Peter to pay Paul just because you like Paul better doesn't leave you any richer.Preach it.

nate
08-08-2011, 08:52 PM
The grass is always greener. There have been a few ugly games the past few weeks, but is that really an accurate assessment of our team defense? The defensive stats are not perfect by any stretch, but:

Defensive Efficiency Rating: .721, tied for 3rd in MLB
UZR/150: 9.1, 1st in MLB
Defensive Runs Saved (vs. Avg): +25, 4th in MLB
Total Zone FRAA: +27, 1st MLB

There is a consensus among that stats that the Reds are an excellent defensive team so far this year. But looking ahead, firstly I'd say it's pretty silly to project out more than a year or two. We just need to go back a few years and look at all the projected lineups for of guys who aren't on the team.

C: Hanigan & Mesoraco: Hanigan won't get any worse. And Hernandez isn't exactly a stud. Maybe a small step back.
1B: Votto. Shouldn't get any worse, could get better.
2B: Phillips, we'll have him next year -- our best talent in the system are middle IFs. Maybe there's a gap year in 2013, but I'm terribly concerned.
3B: Legitimate concern. Are we poised to take a hit at 3B when/if Rolen is gone? Though we should note, replacing him with Fransisco or Frazier is not like going back to EE.
SS: Janish isn't going anywhere, though the bat is obviously an issue. Cozart looked quite good out there. And there's talent on the way.
LF: Clearly our biggest defensive weakness with Gomes out there. Alonso certainly doesn't look the answer, but the Reds LFs put up a -8.9 UZR last year. They've put up a 5.4 so far this year. Heisey and Sappelt are massive steps up, but it does remain to be seen who gets the bulk of the time. I think Sappelt wins the full-time gig.
CF: Stubbs. He's been inconsistent. He's among the most defensively talented guys in the league, but his routes going back on the ball have been hit and miss. I'd like to see him play deeper. In any event, he's not likely to get worse.
RF: Bruce. Less stellar this year than last, but still solidly above average.

I guess my problem with your argument is this. Defense is only a problem if we make it one. The offense is producing at at average level, so it's not like Stubbs has to go. Janish isn't acceptable, but Cozart certainly looked promising.

Could these guys play better? Obviously. Will we have to replace them at some point? Of course. But it's not really a concern for 2012 nor a major one for 2013. Of the 3 major facets of the game, defensive is our biggest strength. I'm definitely worried about improving in all three areas moving forward. But in the context of where we can improve the most or where we're in risk of taking massive steps back, it's not a concern for me.

As for the bat vs. glove argument, it's silly in my book. Sure, there are traditions based on the types of players who are the most common/ most available. But there's no one way to do it. Would we be a better team with (the old version) of Dunn in LF or the current version of Jacoby Elsbury or Brett Gardner? There's nothing magic about having a slugging LF or speedy SS. How many teams get as much offense from C as we do? Or from 2B? Runs are runs. Sticking to some made-up hard and fast rule about which type of production you get from which position merely limits your options and prevents you from taking advantages of market inefficiencies.

The question should always be, how can we get the most overall production in a cost-effective manner? Sometimes that's adding offense. Sometimes that's adding defense. But robbing Peter to pay Paul just because you like Paul better doesn't leave you any richer.

Don't go trying to get two high fives in a day!

:cool:

mdccclxix
08-08-2011, 11:28 PM
Sappelt made a spectacular catch in his debut game today, so even if his arm's not quite as strong as Stubbs, it's apparent that the kid can get to and track down line drives. In other words, even if he's not a CF, he would be a serious defensive upgrade over Gomes, Lewis, possibly even Heisey in LF.

I can see what you're saying, Sappelt in LF is the best of all probable scenarios, assuming his defense is as advertised. As has been noted, defense is so often poorly communicated, or poorly interpreted by fans, and often overlooked. The result can lead to incorrect reputations about a player for years. He looks to be very fast and just being average on defense while hitting for average from leadoff will fit very nicely on this team. Let's hope he can hit .300 against RHP. I can buy what Sappelt is selling, but poor defense from him will lead the Reds to look for that cleanup hitter to fit out there, I believe.


Mesoraco, we don't know yet. The knock on him is that he's weaker on defense than Grandal, but the superior bat. Still, it's clear that Mesoraco has worked hard to improve his defense, and continues to step up his game in that arena. He has a strong arm and a decent record in shutting down opponents' running game, and he has also cut down each year on the number of passed balls he allows. So even if his defense has some holes, he's fixing them. Bear in mind, he doesn't have to exhibit Johnny Bench's chops coming out of the gate, only match Ramon Hernandez.

The funny thing is, I've heard Mesoraco's defense is better than Grandal's. So, to me this area is a great unknown, and deserves a cautious approach. I can totally see Hanny getting a 5/2 split with Mez on starts, mainly due to caution and defense. A bad defensive catcher, even just a below average one, is a real drag. It advances runners (often at a crucial time), it can hurt the pitcher's confidence, manager's confidence, it can even influence what types of pitchers the team acquires if it feels the catcher's offense is a must.

Losses on defensive lapses are so tough to justify and explain. Although they happen to every team, as they add up it becomes a hopeless feeling - it's tough enough to fight to score runs, now the team is just giving them away? Not acceptable. Not on this Reds team, with this staff of 3,4,5 starters, and with this ballpark.


At 2B and 3B, I share your reservations. For 2012, we would be wise to solve the 2B dilemma by picking up the option to bring back Brandon Phillips for the year. Should we extend him for 2013 and 2014? I'm not so sure. His defense remains golden, but his power and speed are fading. He hasn't fallen off the same cliff as Rolen did this year, but you can see it happening in the not-so-distant future.

I'm not sure when Rolen's problems started, but I think they were before where Phillips is now. I think Rolen is dealing with a tough injury, but I also believe Phillips just has better genes. The guy gets kicked and nicked around every year and literally can be brought to tears when he can't play. His speed on the bases is basically gone. He's maybe slower than Votto, and probably slower than Bruce. I'd bet on Frazier to win a sprint. At this point his defense is what it is - excellent - and I don't believe it will be terribly worse when he's 35. Likewise, he is no longer a power hitter, yet many feel he's as important, or more, than he's ever been to the offense. He is likely to continue hitting .280+ for the next 4 years. I'd resign him.


As for Rolen, he is a unique cat. We're probably not going to be able to replace his glove anytime soon. If Frazier can match Rolen's offense, and not be as dismal on defense as EE, then that's an acceptable short-term fix for 2012. Long-term, Frazier might not be a steady enough 3B and have to reassigned to a super-sub, utility role. I wouldn't waste a lot of time trying to dislodge Zimmerman from the Nationals or Wright from the Mets. It doesn't look like either will be available this winter at an acceptable price.


I am holding out hope that in 2012 Rolen can be what we hoped for this year - 110 games of awesome defense while hitting in the 6 or 7 hole. After that perhaps we've found more answers for the defense. Maybe a guy like Chase Headly could provide excellent defense and get that GABP boost on offense. As for Zimmerman, I'd trade Votto for the guy if he's healthy. He's signed for the same amount of time close to the same amount.


Which brings us to our last prize prospect -- Alonso. He appears to have more offensive upside than anyone else, but also more defensive warts. If we can play him at 1B or in LF, who cares? Of all the positions on the diamond, 1B and LF are the ones where you not only can play slower and more wooden defenders, but you absolutely should if you're having trouble scoring the runs you need to win. We've gone 17-26 in one-run games this season. Pitching is partly the culprit for that, also some bad luck, injuries, lame dugout calls. But the other fault line lies in the fact that we have an offense that is potent at times, but lacking in steady sticks outside Votto's. Alonso would give us another tough out, another guy whose OBP and SLG combined would likely surpass Rolen, Phillips, Bruce or Stubbs.


I think we are wishing Alonso could play LF but he really just can't. Gomes, and Dunn, are far better than what we've seen from him. Could he improve? Probably, but it's not worth the weight, or the low ceiling he has on defense. 1b would be good, but again, he's likely not an improvement defensively over our current vet, Votto.


If it's at all possible, it would be best to add Alonso's bat to our arsenal, especially knowing we could be forced to trade Votto by 2013, whether we like it or not. The rub probably lies in how you might platoon Sappelt and Alonso in LF, or whether Sappelt can man CF. We have about seven weeks to sort those questions out -- longer if we want to go through another inactive winter -- but I wouldn't recommend that after seeing the results from our last inactive off-season.

I just do not believe Alonso's bat can cover for his defense, LF is basically out of the question IMO.

mdccclxix
08-08-2011, 11:40 PM
If Sappelt is starting in LF, he doesn't weaken your defense. He upgrades it. If he is in CF, he weakens your defense.

Problem is, Frazier, Alonso and Sappelt all fit in LF on this team.

I do think a plan at 3B this offseason is critical. Rolen needs a heart to heart. We can't count on him next year. The guy I really want in that role is David Wright, if we can somehow convince NYM they need to tear this thing up. Not sure if resigning Reyes helps or hurts that option. But we have the horses to deal them if we want him.

You know, my mention of Sappelt in CF is really just a response to some who think it's sort of blase to ship Stubbs out in favor of this unproven AAA guy. Admittedly, I've considered dealing Stubbs myself, for a TOR pitcher, but this stark reality of a poor defensive team has caused me to rethink the assumption that he's replaceable.

On David Wright, he's actually not the defensive wizard I'd be looking for at 3b for the Reds. Barring the acquisition of a game changing / season changing TOR pitcher, this staff has such little room for error in the context of GABP, this offensive division, and their own execution and makeup.

mdccclxix
08-08-2011, 11:53 PM
I think Sappelt will be fine in CF. He won't be as smooth as Stubbs, but he'll cover plenty of ground and will be far from a weakness. He'll fit better in the line-up. As noted earlier, he'd be a real plus in LF.

Alonso's bat has looked great so far, but he needs to be dealt IMO. I just don't think he'll be adequate out there (but he should play out there every day until dealt).

Frazier won't be Rolen, but there is a chance he could be OK at 3B. His bat has been OK for now, but I'm a skeptic that he could play every day at any spot. I like the idea of him on the team, but probably in Cairo's role. If the combo of Frazier and Francisco end up becoming the 3B tandem for the next few years, the Reds will most definitely take a step backwards.

I need more info on Mesoraco's defense. I don't trust everything I read about a player's defensive ability. A lot of times defense is used as a default "but" in a report. If a player has a strong bat, its often followed with "but there are questions about his defense" whether he's a good defender or not. That may be what is happening here. Kind of the opposite of what happened with Paul Janish or Jaun Castro where questions about the bat were followed with exaggerated superlatives that made them sound like the greatest defensive players of all time rather than the merely solid defensive players that they are. I think we've seen a bit of that with Stubbs too BTW.

Second Base is the black hole. The Reds have a lot of strong defenders, but Phillips is the heart and soul of this team's defense. He make plays that no other second baseman in the game today makes and saves the pitchers a lot of baserunners. I don't see anyone above A ball that might be an adequate replacement. I'd just as soon see the Reds sign him up through 2014 than to let him walk. By then Torreyes or Hamilton might be ready to take over.

Defense might be an issue moving forward especially at 2B and 3B. Go for it before they leave.

I really like this observation. It's funny because I too believe Stubbs is slightly overrated defensively, although he's improved and is still very good and still likely much better than Sappelt. I just don't like the idea of dealing Stubbs before knowing that Sappelt is capable. If he can't make the throws then often it doesn't matter how quick he arrives to the ball. It's an incomplete defensive player at that point. Stubbs has it all except maybe some heeby jeebies near the wall and some inconsistency on charging balls. But, if I had to secure a position for the next 4 years it would be 3b before CF, knowing the dearth of prospects to come close to Rolen.

mdccclxix
08-08-2011, 11:59 PM
I'm not overly concerned about the future of the defense sans perhaps 3rd base. Whoever we get there short of David Wright or Ryan Zimmerman is gonna be a downgrade, Rolen is quite slick and extremely knowledgeable down there. I'm not sure BP is back after '12 but he isn't gonna be all world forever either but I just I highly doubt he goes for a 2 year deal after '12, this will be his final and likely best contract opportunity. He's probably thinking 3-4 years minimum and Uggla type money. After '12 it'll likely be time to find his replacement. I still think that guy can be Cozart if we invested in a top of the order SS. But I am ok with Cozart at SS as well although I think he will have a Hardy Lite type of offensive future complete with long bouts of ineffectiveness.

But Stubbs in CF, Sappelt and/or Heisey in LF and Bruce in RF is as good an OF defense as there is in baseball and they will only continue to improve. Yes they have had some hiccups but again as I have said with regards to their offensive games, once they learn to quit pressing those hiccups will be fewer and much further between. That only leaves Votto who will always be solid if not better and Mes/Hanny who are both above average defensive catchers (well Mes will get there, just like he did when so many panicked about his offense). The only thing I worry about with Mes is his long throwing motion which might be tough to get squared away but his arm strength makes up for some of that.

We'll see how it plays out. I'm more willing to resign Phillips and less convinced that we have adequate answers at this point about C, 3b, 2b, LF and heck, even SS. If Cozart can carry 130 starts at the level of Ocab then we'll have to consider it a success. We're likely to see better, I hope.

mdccclxix
08-09-2011, 12:01 AM
The need for strong defense is one reason why the Front Office's "accumulate young players and hold them" philosophy is a problem.

IMO the Reds simply have too many guys who don't fit defensively or who are redundant defensively.

Some examples:

Number one is that Alonso is a first baseman, redundant with Votto.

Number two is left field. Yes, Sappelt can play left. Yes, Frazier can probably play left. But I thought left field was the place for a clean up hitter. How do guys like Sappelt and Frazier in left field satisfy the Reds' need for a clean up man?

Most reports I have read suggest Frazier as a super utility type. Does he have the bat or the glove to be a regular third baseman?

Francisco is a bust to most people on this site. I disagree and think he is a powerhouse against RHP. But again, does he have enough defensively at third?

And for those who want to trade Stubbs, you just can't plug a corner outfielder into CF.

Those are the defensive issues I see now. They exclude issues like Phillips. But it's noteworthy that the Reds have accumulated all this talent -- still, there is no second baseman who could conceivably replace Phillips on the horizon.

What I see is a lot of AAA talent that doesn't fit the Reds needs well. It requires player transactions to get the right pieces. The Reds don't seem to do those.

:beerme:

mdccclxix
08-09-2011, 01:04 AM
The grass is always greener. There have been a few ugly games the past few weeks, but is that really an accurate assessment of our team defense? The defensive stats are not perfect by any stretch, but:

Defensive Efficiency Rating: .721, tied for 3rd in MLB
UZR/150: 9.1, 1st in MLB
Defensive Runs Saved (vs. Avg): +25, 4th in MLB
Total Zone FRAA: +27, 1st MLB


Yet, I wonder what things have looked like in the 2nd half. I know errors are flawed, but 19 errors in 23 games is pretty bad, and many errors have gone unscored on the road. 46 errors in the other 96 games this year. Rolen and Gomes/Heisey/Lewis were serving this team better.


There is a consensus among that stats that the Reds are an excellent defensive team so far this year. But looking ahead, firstly I'd say it's pretty silly to project out more than a year or two. We just need to go back a few years and look at all the projected lineups for of guys who aren't on the team.

You're absolutely right, we have little idea of what will happen, but the question isn't about figuring out exactly what we'll have, it's about what we have not looking like it can replace what has made this team a great defensive team. By extension, can this team compete without a great defense? I say not likely. Not in GABP, not in this division and not with this current staff.

I think the shift towards defense was a palpable message throughout the organization and fandom as early as 2009. Now, I'm hoping to hear more about it from the team and fans again. It's how we got here, in large part. Having a good defense helped restore the dignity of Reds players on the field, especially the pitching. I still feel, and felt before this year began, that this staff is full of fragile eggs that require above average defense. Let's not watch this staff mature, only to pull the rug out with bad defense. That would be bad timing, bad planning, and bad leadership.


C: Hanigan & Mesoraco: Hanigan won't get any worse. And Hernandez isn't exactly a stud. Maybe a small step back.
1B: Votto. Shouldn't get any worse, could get better.
2B: Phillips, we'll have him next year -- our best talent in the system are middle IFs. Maybe there's a gap year in 2013, but I'm terribly concerned.
3B: Legitimate concern. Are we poised to take a hit at 3B when/if Rolen is gone? Though we should note, replacing him with Fransisco or Frazier is not like going back to EE.
SS: Janish isn't going anywhere, though the bat is obviously an issue. Cozart looked quite good out there. And there's talent on the way.
LF: Clearly our biggest defensive weakness with Gomes out there. Alonso certainly doesn't look the answer, but the Reds LFs put up a -8.9 UZR last year. They've put up a 5.4 so far this year. Heisey and Sappelt are massive steps up, but it does remain to be seen who gets the bulk of the time. I think Sappelt wins the full-time gig.
CF: Stubbs. He's been inconsistent. He's among the most defensively talented guys in the league, but his routes going back on the ball have been hit and miss. I'd like to see him play deeper. In any event, he's not likely to get worse.
RF: Bruce. Less stellar this year than last, but still solidly above average.


I disagree about the catching situation. It's just blase to say Mesoraco will be as good as Hernandez. Hernandez has 1 passed ball this year and has been throwing out runners at about 33% while he's been here. There are legitimate questions about his game calling, I believe, but same with Mesoraco. To an extent, this type of uncertainty is the fate of the Reds, and it's assuaged by having a great prospect in line for a job, but there is a good amount of risk that Hannigan will be called on a lot for his defense or that Mesoraco is overwhelmed with learning the complete game at catcher, especially for a year or two, which sets the team back a bit.

I also disagree that Frazier and Francisco are locks to be better than EE. It will just have to play out, I guess. I tend to think the damning part of these delayed call ups has to do with defense.

I agree with the rest of the positions you laid out above. And I agree this is a good defense this year. It's not like there are a lack of athletes on this team. However, when you have Phillips and Rolen as question marks that have answers (as of today) involving average to very below average options defensively, it can almost be the equivalent (without number crunching) of looking at replacing Votto with Soto and Bruce with Dorn.

The premium this defense affords this team has been crucial, and from my observations this second half, it is by the boards. All the talk about championship baseball, playing the right way, coming to beat the other team, that's all gone. The feeling that this team can beat you any which way is gone, and now (for several other reasons as well) it's replaced by the feeling this team will lose any which way - frequently defensively.

Watching this off-brand of baseball again is a wake up call, for me anyway. I never watched a Reds team play D like last year. I thought throws from RF were supposed to curve off 10 feet wide of the plate and skip 3 times. It's very possible that just having that anchor Scott Rolen at 3b IS what makes this defense great. So aside from counting the number of positions that this team is good at defense, I think also we need to consider the weight of some of the replacements and the environment they create on the field and beyond.


I guess my problem with your argument is this. Defense is only a problem if we make it one. The offense is producing at at average level, so it's not like Stubbs has to go. Janish isn't acceptable, but Cozart certainly looked promising.

Could these guys play better? Obviously. Will we have to replace them at some point? Of course. But it's not really a concern for 2012 nor a major one for 2013. Of the 3 major facets of the game, defensive is our biggest strength. I'm definitely worried about improving in all three areas moving forward. But in the context of where we can improve the most or where we're in risk of taking massive steps back, it's not a concern for me.

Recently, the Reds have intentionally made it a problem by trying guys here and there. I really don't expect Walt or Dusty to overlook defense when constructing future teams. I do however expect there to be some debate and perhaps disappointment among Reds fans about which prospect deserves time in LF or 3b or C or even 2b in Cincinnati and down through the minors.

Most of my reaction has been from what is a) likely a test phase for the FO and b) the chaffing every Reds fan has to feel watching Alonso play LF or Frazier 3b after dreaming they could have actually replaced our prior options. It's easy to look at the offensive numbers and try to cram them into our line up, but it's only half the puzzle.


As for the bat vs. glove argument, it's silly in my book. Sure, there are traditions based on the types of players who are the most common/ most available. But there's no one way to do it. Would we be a better team with (the old version) of Dunn in LF or the current version of Jacoby Elsbury or Brett Gardner? There's nothing magic about having a slugging LF or speedy SS. How many teams get as much offense from C as we do? Or from 2B? Runs are runs. Sticking to some made-up hard and fast rule about which type of production you get from which position merely limits your options and prevents you from taking advantages of market inefficiencies.

The question should always be, how can we get the most overall production in a cost-effective manner? Sometimes that's adding offense. Sometimes that's adding defense. But robbing Peter to pay Paul just because you like Paul better doesn't leave you any richer.

I don't care where the next clean up hitter plays, either. I am of the opinion that we need one, and Bruce getting another shot is okay with me. If Sappelt gets on base .370 and leads off and plays average LF defense, we're obviously a better team. It's just that, if we need to bring in a cleanup hitter from the outside, LF and 3b are the only real vacancies right now for that player. And they better play good defense, too.

RedsManRick
08-09-2011, 03:57 PM
A few things:

1) Projecting our 2012 defense based on the last 23 games is no more accurate than projecting Bruce's 2012 on his June (or May for that matter). It's be a rough stretch, one that is not indicative of our talent and how they are likely to perform in the future.

2) "Defense is only a problem if we make it one" comment is precisely to your point about the premium. Our defense has been making our pitching look better than it is. But our defense can't get much better. Should we worried about it getting worse? Of course. But if we're going to focus on ways to improve the team, worrying about defense is 3rd on the list.

3) You see uncertainty among the youth and assume poor performance as your baseline, I assume average. Cozart certainly wasn't held down for his defense. Sappelt either, to my knowledge (it was mostly a question baserunning and maturity). Alonso? Sure, he's a defensive problem in LF (and presumably 3B), but I'm not counting on him playing there. As for EE, between 2004 and 2009 he was, he was the worst defending regular 3B in baseball. I'll defer to Doug here, but I'm pretty sure both Fransisco and Frazier don't stink at 3B. And defense isn't something that gets significantly affected by moving up to the majors.

4) Regarding your cleanup hitter comment, we disagree. To me, clean-up is a spot in the lineup, not a position. While lineup order matters, it matters less than we are inclined to think. What matters more is who gets PA, regardless of where they hit. If you're simply saying we need another big bat, I'd say that that this team, as constructed (and especially if Sappelt works out) can score plenty of runs as is. At worse it's average. I've yet to see anybody make a compelling argument about consistency which a. establishes that this team has been particularly inconsistent and b. that inconsistency is a characteristic of this team, rather than merely a fluke. Better lineup construction would help a little bit. A healthy Scott Rolen moreso -- and Rolen is still expected to be our primary 3B next year at this point, and healthier than he was this year.

Runs are runs. This year, Reds position players have been the most productive in the NL, compiling 25.8 WAR. And since you can't replace a hitter without replacing a defender, we shouldn't be talking about position player swaps without recognizing the combined impact of offense and defense. From the pitching side, our staff has the 2nd worst FIP and worst xFIP. We're the only team with a K:BB ratio under 2.0 and a HR/9 over 1.0. Sure, we need to consider defense. But on the list of things I'm worried about...

mdccclxix
08-17-2011, 09:14 AM
RedsmanRick, I've had a lot going on, but last nights loss reminded me of this thread and that I never responded to your last post.


A few things:

1) Projecting our 2012 defense based on the last 23 games is no more accurate than projecting Bruce's 2012 on his June (or May for that matter). It's be a rough stretch, one that is not indicative of our talent and how they are likely to perform in the future.

I agree for the most part, although it's unclear how likely it is they will perform at the highest level in the future if Alonso is in LF, for example, or Frazier is at 3b instead of Rolen, or if we carry another Renteria style veteran at SS, etc.


2) "Defense is only a problem if we make it one" comment is precisely to your point about the premium. Our defense has been making our pitching look better than it is. But our defense can't get much better. Should we worried about it getting worse? Of course. But if we're going to focus on ways to improve the team, worrying about defense is 3rd on the list.

Fair enough, but I didn't really bring the offense and pitching into the discussion because I want this thread to focus on the defense's role in the success of this team. It is my impression, suspicion, whatever, that it is taken for granted by fans. It is so easy to do, it's the kind of thing that's imperceptible in a way, yet it accounts for much of the winning this latest edition of the Reds has had. My rebuttal about where it should be listed on the "worry list" is perhaps #1 - why not? It's the glue that keeps this staff together. But really, the point I'm making isn't really about determining where defense ranks in relation to the other aspects of the team. I think everyone can see it's very important.


3) You see uncertainty among the youth and assume poor performance as your baseline, I assume average. Cozart certainly wasn't held down for his defense. Sappelt either, to my knowledge (it was mostly a question baserunning and maturity). Alonso? Sure, he's a defensive problem in LF (and presumably 3B), but I'm not counting on him playing there. As for EE, between 2004 and 2009 he was, he was the worst defending regular 3B in baseball. I'll defer to Doug here, but I'm pretty sure both Fransisco and Frazier don't stink at 3B. And defense isn't something that gets significantly affected by moving up to the majors.

Having Francisco and Frazier not stink will be quite a downgrade from the type of defense that we're used to with Rolen. I'm a bit cynical at this point about reports about defense from the minors - because of Alonso. The "grand experiment", as Lance McAllister calls it so bitterly, probably should have ended before the season started. (The poor Reds are flouting Alonso around the diamond just to cram a cost controlled bat into their future. It's a sad commentary on mid market baseball economics. But I'm digressing.) Alonso was not reported to be this bad on defense. If they can pass him off in such a way, I see no reason why Francisco (especially) will come up and display good range or a dependable accuracy from 3b. I'm just working on layman's info, I realize that, but it's all the more reason for me to have my doubts. I'm more comfortable on Frazier at 3b, but he won't be better than average I don't think.

What I'm seeing is, get ready for a Cubs brand of baseball where it's just a matter of a ball smacked to three or four different areas on the field and all of a sudden your 2 run first inning lead is gone and the game is muddied. Last night's game was a classic "bad defense" loss, or even just "average defense". A four or five out 1st inning (Alonso's poor break and Renteria's old age) turned a 2 spot from the offense into a 1 run deficit. Later on, Votto's flub brought in another insurance run.



4) Regarding your cleanup hitter comment, we disagree. To me, clean-up is a spot in the lineup, not a position. While lineup order matters, it matters less than we are inclined to think. What matters more is who gets PA, regardless of where they hit. If you're simply saying we need another big bat, I'd say that that this team, as constructed (and especially if Sappelt works out) can score plenty of runs as is. At worse it's average. I've yet to see anybody make a compelling argument about consistency which a. establishes that this team has been particularly inconsistent and b. that inconsistency is a characteristic of this team, rather than merely a fluke. Better lineup construction would help a little bit. A healthy Scott Rolen moreso -- and Rolen is still expected to be our primary 3B next year at this point, and healthier than he was this year.

Runs are runs. This year, Reds position players have been the most productive in the NL, compiling 25.8 WAR. And since you can't replace a hitter without replacing a defender, we shouldn't be talking about position player swaps without recognizing the combined impact of offense and defense. From the pitching side, our staff has the 2nd worst FIP and worst xFIP. We're the only team with a K:BB ratio under 2.0 and a HR/9 over 1.0. Sure, we need to consider defense. But on the list of things I'm worried about...

I totally agree about the pitching. I wonder how much James Shields could offset a guy like Frazier at 3b during a season? I really can't say. As for the 4th spot in the lineup, I'm not really clear on what we disagree about, although I'm sure you have a more sophisticated idea about lineups that I'm not privy to. All I'm saying is it would be nice to have a player with a greater threat to opponents than Phillips behind Votto. I hope Bruce can do it, or even Stubbs. Beltran was an ideal piece if you ask me.

Scrap Irony
08-17-2011, 04:39 PM
As for the bat vs. glove argument, it's silly in my book. Sure, there are traditions based on the types of players who are the most common/ most available. But there's no one way to do it. Would we be a better team with (the old version) of Dunn in LF or the current version of Jacoby Elsbury or Brett Gardner? There's nothing magic about having a slugging LF or speedy SS. How many teams get as much offense from C as we do? Or from 2B? Runs are runs. Sticking to some made-up hard and fast rule about which type of production you get from which position merely limits your options and prevents you from taking advantages of market inefficiencies.


This.

A thousand times this.

Serious question here:

IMO, the type of team/ players you have determines a part of the balance ledger in determing market inequality and players to be look for. That said, is Stubbs-- with his range, arm, speed, etc.-- more valuable to the Reds as a CF or as a trade piece? Because of his range (and Bruce's in RF), does that mean Heisey and Sappelt become less attractive in LF but more attractive in CF relative to Stubbs? At what point does the need for a cleanup hitter color the team's defensive choices? Is it all about free agent cost?

This offseason, for example, Carlos Beltran looks to be the only OF free agent bat that's a good bet to OPS over 850. There are a few others-- JD Drew, Bobby Abreu, Nick Swisher, Josh Willingham-- that may be good gambles, but the list as a while has some serious question marks.

Does that make Stubbs much more attractive, in that he can provide power and defense? Or does it mean the Reds should likely stick with Stubbs and save a few bucks and some headache by cobbling a LF together from spare parts of Sappelt, Heisey, Alonso (ugh), Frazier, and a (much) lesser free agent?

mdccclxix
08-17-2011, 05:58 PM
This.

A thousand times this.

Serious question here:

IMO, the type of team/ players you have determines a part of the balance ledger in determing market inequality and players to be look for. That said, is Stubbs-- with his range, arm, speed, etc.-- more valuable to the Reds as a CF or as a trade piece? Because of his range (and Bruce's in RF), does that mean Heisey and Sappelt become less attractive in LF but more attractive in CF relative to Stubbs? At what point does the need for a cleanup hitter color the team's defensive choices? Is it all about free agent cost?

This offseason, for example, Carlos Beltran looks to be the only OF free agent bat that's a good bet to OPS over 850. There are a few others-- JD Drew, Bobby Abreu, Nick Swisher, Josh Willingham-- that may be good gambles, but the list as a while has some serious question marks.

Does that make Stubbs much more attractive, in that he can provide power and defense? Or does it mean the Reds should likely stick with Stubbs and save a few bucks and some headache by cobbling a LF together from spare parts of Sappelt, Heisey, Alonso (ugh), Frazier, and a (much) lesser free agent?

It's a good question about Stubbs. Of course it depends on the return for Stubbs. If it upgrades other area(s) more than the drop off from Stubbs to Heisey or Sappelt, then it's definitely worth a look.

And just to clear things up, my reference to adding a cleanup hitter in LF or 3b is only because those are the positions most in flux, if you don't count SS I guess. It just so happens the Reds need players at those positions and they need a cleanup hitter (IMO) so there you have a coincidence, not a supposition that a cleanup hitter needs to play those positions. Your thought on moving Stubbs, or any other player, would change the make up of the team and create more possibilities for acquiring a clean up batter. Or if you don't like that term, then someone to pose a threat behind Votto.

RedsManRick
08-17-2011, 06:33 PM
I totally agree about the pitching. I wonder how much James Shields could offset a guy like Frazier at 3b during a season? I really can't say. As for the 4th spot in the lineup, I'm not really clear on what we disagree about, although I'm sure you have a more sophisticated idea about lineups that I'm not privy to. All I'm saying is it would be nice to have a player with a greater threat to opponents than Phillips behind Votto. I hope Bruce can do it, or even Stubbs. Beltran was an ideal piece if you ask me.

The point here is that in terms of our overall level of offensive performance, looking at the way the lineup is constructed and focusing on a particular spot (e.g. leadoff or clean-up) is looking at it the wrong way.

Firstly, protection has a much, much smaller effect than people seem to think it does. It's been studied numerous times and it just doesn't move the needle all that much.

You can say the same thing about lineup construction. As long as you're within the realm of reasonableness, there's something like a 15-20 run difference between the best and worst possible order.

So what's the point? It's that we shouldn't spend so much time worrying about the interplay effects between each player. About having a certain kind of lead-off hitter or somebody to compliment somebody else. At the end of the day, what matters most is simply giving a lot of PA to productive hitters. The details about how their skills play off each matter relatively little.

To that point, the correlation between a team's collective OPS and the number of runs it scores is .97. That means we can explain 94% of how many runs a team scores simply by looking at it's OPS. Put simply, get more productive players and you'll score more runs. So don't focus on upgrading in a certain spot; just upgrade somewhere.

And given the some logic, don't worry too much about offense vs. defense, just get the most productive players. It sounds ridiculously obvious, but it's not. Teams cling so tightly to their ideal type of players, that they'll take clearly inferior player who fits the mold over a clearly superior one who doesn't. How many guys like Heisey who are your classic "tweeners" get relegated to the bench so that a guy like Gomes who fits the slugging LF mold can play? Sure, if you have a choice between guys who are comparable, pick the one that gives you the balance you'd like. But don't prioritize the type of production over the amount of it.

In an ideal world, we would have a better hit to put behind Votto. We'd also have 8 gold glove winners and 8 silver sluggers. Or to be less extreme, we'd also have a leadoff guy with a .370 OBP, a healthy 3B, a SS who can hit his weight, and SPs who don't implode every 3rd start. But if we focus on any one thing, it comes at the expense of the others. Yes, a better hitter behind Votto would make us a better team, but so would 50 other things. The baseball universe isn't so big that we have to pick one. Pursue upgrades everywhere and pick the ones that give you the most bang for your buck.

wlf WV
08-17-2011, 09:43 PM
The perceived trend towards defense in MLB I believe is directly related to the clubs also holding on to prospects.I think it is motivated by the economy and not so much baseball theory.Defense and prospects are cheaper alternatives.It's a conservative climate,dress accordingly.

Guacarock
08-17-2011, 10:30 PM
Whether we like it or not, we're going to see a dropoff in defense at 3B in 2012 on the days when Rolen isn't playing. The easiest way to shade for that?

Just hold onto Cozart and Janish at SS, not bringing on board another veteran stiff like Renteria. I saw Renteria a few times this spring at Goodyear, and was shocked by just how badly he handled SS defense. This summer provided further proof of how much his skillset had eroded.

If we tighten up at SS, we can offset a little more lax play at 3B.

mdccclxix
08-20-2011, 03:26 PM
The perceived trend towards defense in MLB I believe is directly related to the clubs also holding on to prospects.I think it is motivated by the economy and not so much baseball theory.Defense and prospects are cheaper alternatives.It's a conservative climate,dress accordingly.

That's a good take. I don't know if or when another shift away from defense will occur, but if it's working for teams I can't see them getting away from it. Really, it's just good baseball, if not good economics. Perhaps defensive players will start getting a bump in pay or bad defensive players get a little less, we shall see.

mdccclxix
08-20-2011, 03:30 PM
Whether we like it or not, we're going to see a dropoff in defense at 3B in 2012 on the days when Rolen isn't playing. The easiest way to shade for that?

Just hold onto Cozart and Janish at SS, not bringing on board another veteran stiff like Renteria. I saw Renteria a few times this spring at Goodyear, and was shocked by just how badly he handled SS defense. This summer provided further proof of how much his skillset had eroded.

If we tighten up at SS, we can offset a little more lax play at 3B.

True, like RedsmanRick is saying, focusing on improving anywhere is a good way to go. For my taste, giving up a little range at 3b is certainly okay (Rolen's isn't the greatest anymore), but I think it's very important to have a strong, precise arm at 3b - pretty much the opposite of EE.

mdccclxix
08-20-2011, 03:52 PM
The point here is that in terms of our overall level of offensive performance, looking at the way the lineup is constructed and focusing on a particular spot (e.g. leadoff or clean-up) is looking at it the wrong way.

Firstly, protection has a much, much smaller effect than people seem to think it does. It's been studied numerous times and it just doesn't move the needle all that much.

You can say the same thing about lineup construction. As long as you're within the realm of reasonableness, there's something like a 15-20 run difference between the best and worst possible order.

So what's the point? It's that we shouldn't spend so much time worrying about the interplay effects between each player. About having a certain kind of lead-off hitter or somebody to compliment somebody else. At the end of the day, what matters most is simply giving a lot of PA to productive hitters. The details about how their skills play off each matter relatively little.

To that point, the correlation between a team's collective OPS and the number of runs it scores is .97. That means we can explain 94% of how many runs a team scores simply by looking at it's OPS. Put simply, get more productive players and you'll score more runs. So don't focus on upgrading in a certain spot; just upgrade somewhere.

And given the some logic, don't worry too much about offense vs. defense, just get the most productive players. It sounds ridiculously obvious, but it's not. Teams cling so tightly to their ideal type of players, that they'll take clearly inferior player who fits the mold over a clearly superior one who doesn't. How many guys like Heisey who are your classic "tweeners" get relegated to the bench so that a guy like Gomes who fits the slugging LF mold can play? Sure, if you have a choice between guys who are comparable, pick the one that gives you the balance you'd like. But don't prioritize the type of production over the amount of it.

In an ideal world, we would have a better hit to put behind Votto. We'd also have 8 gold glove winners and 8 silver sluggers. Or to be less extreme, we'd also have a leadoff guy with a .370 OBP, a healthy 3B, a SS who can hit his weight, and SPs who don't implode every 3rd start. But if we focus on any one thing, it comes at the expense of the others. Yes, a better hitter behind Votto would make us a better team, but so would 50 other things. The baseball universe isn't so big that we have to pick one. Pursue upgrades everywhere and pick the ones that give you the most bang for your buck.

I can't argue with what you're saying about lineups, and I don't think it seems like you'd be against some of my choices to hit 4th. I just want productive players as well. It goes without saying that a .850+ bat hitting 4th would help this team. Currently, the Reds 4th batter this season has hit .708 OPS, while the 5th has hit .838. I'm in favor of moving Bruce up a spot, as I don't think the L/L thing will matter, even late in games when Votto and Bruce have done well against LOOGY's. Wherever they can add it, this team could use another .800+ OPS bat to bolster the 1st, 2nd, or 5th spot (if they keep Bruce at 4th). Is that Sappelt? I don't know. Here's how I rank the LF options next year in terms of defensive value:

Heisey - no question he's got the best arm available out there, good speed and instincts as well

Frazier - better arm than Sappelt, probably just fine in terms of speed and routes

Sappelt - good speed and routes, very poor arm from what I saw last night - the Pirates just ran all over him with success, especially Garrett Jones' single turned double, yeesh...

Alonso - ...

Outside the equation for now: Dorn, Phipps

Overall, I'm not really comfortable with anyone but Heisey defensively in LF. I just don't know if he's that .800 OPS bat. After seeing a few more games from Sappelt, I also wonder about his ability to make a significant impact getting on base. A few times it looks like he tagged the ball and it just died before the warning track. Janish-esqe, if you will. Maybe Keppinger on HGH would be more fair. :D

RedsManRick
08-20-2011, 05:02 PM
Sounds like we're in agreement mdc. Here's how I'd put it simply:

Step 1. Get the most overall productive 8 guys you can.
Step 2. Figure out the best batting order you can with those 8 guys.

Obviously if you have some choices between relatively comparable options, you can prioritize defense or a given handedness. Just don't hamstring yourself by limiting your options from the start.

wlf WV
08-20-2011, 10:56 PM
True, like RedsmanRick is saying, focusing on improving anywhere is a good way to go. For my taste, giving up a little range at 3b is certainly okay (Rolen's isn't the greatest anymore), but I think it's very important to have a strong, precise arm at 3b - pretty much the opposite of EE.I agree,watching Rolen throw from 3rd has been such a pleasure,it's like poetry.I bet Votto loves him.He is an excellent instructor,at least what I saw on Reds Live.