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Thread: There is no defending this defense

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    There is no defending this defense

    The Reds have always played defense. It goes all the way back to players like Bid McPhee and Dummy Hoy. It persisted through Heinie Groh and Eddie Miller.

    Since the invention of the Gold Glove the Reds have had four shortstops, four 2Bs, five OFs and two catchers take defensive honors.

    Let's take a look at the modern defensive history of the club using DER, which measures how well the team gets to balls in play (in general you want to be above .700).

    The Prelude

    In 1961 the Reds re-tooled for what turned out to be a solid decade and the defense played a big role in that flourish.

    1961 - .727
    1962 - .716
    1963 - .721
    1964 - .719
    1965 - .713
    1966 - .706 (only losing season of the decade)
    1967 - .718
    1968 - .716
    1969 - .716

    A few notes to make here. If you've been under the impression that teams played better defense back then than they do today, you're right. On average teams did play better defense. There's three major reasons for it. One was they carried more slick leather, no stick players. An awful hitter could have an elongated career back in those days if he played top flight defense. Also, the hitters weren't as good. Certainly some were, but on average they weren't stroking the ball like modern players. That means that fielders weren't chasing as many lasers as they do today. Third, the mound was higher, allowing pitchers to throw on more of a downward plane, which helps to induce groundballs. Hitters didn't automatically figure out what to do with balls that sink less, but eventually they did and it transformed the game.

    During these years the Reds weren't a stellar defensive unit (they only ranked in the top half of the league twice), but they were solid. So they entered the '70s with room for improvement.

    BRM

    1970 - .722
    1971 - .735
    1972 - .728
    1973 - .725
    1974 - .726
    1975 - .724
    1976 - .714
    1977 - .707
    1978 - .706
    1979 - .713
    1980 - .717
    1981 - .727

    They were in the top 10 in MLB every season except '76-'78, when the BRM started to get a little long in the tooth.

    The Collapse

    1982 - .702
    1983 - .716
    1984 - .708

    The gloves collapsed with the rest of the team in 1982, but rebounded to middle-of-the-pack status in '83 and '84.

    Rebirth

    1985 - .723
    1986 - .704
    1987 - .706
    1988 - .733
    1989 - .712
    1990 - .717
    1991 - .710
    1992 - .705

    The Pete and Lou years had their ups and downs. The team was 2nd overall in DER in 1988 when younger players like Larkin, Sabo and O'Neill took over permanent jobs in the field. The veteran-heavy crews of '86 and '87 ranked toward the bottom of the league, but mostly the club graded out as middle of the pack during this run.

    The Bowden Era

    1993 - .692
    1994 - .698
    1995 - .705
    1996 - .699
    1997 - .704
    1998 - .707
    1999 - .731
    2000 - .710
    2001 - .695
    2002 - .700
    2003 - .698

    This is where you need to don era-adjusted glasses. Expansion in 1993 changed the game irrevocably. Pitching and defense have never been the same and offense has proliferated. For the bulk of the JimBo years, the Reds played good defense relative to the rest of the league. The '93 results were awful (26th of 28 in MLB). Yet the '94 result was middle of the pack. The club then spent most of 1995-2000 in the top 10, with the exception of 1996 when it finished 11th. In 1999 the team finished first overall in MLB (with Mike Cameron, Pokey Reese and Barry Larkin up the middle). The current seven-season skid (I'm taking 2007 for granted at this point) coincided with an immediate decline in defense. The Reds ranked 23rd, 19th and 21st those seasons.

    The Abyss

    2004 - .696
    2005 - .683
    2006 - .691
    2007 - .681

    That's right, despite all the lip service paid to pitching and defense of late, the Reds have currently found a new low, slightly worse than the disasterbacle Wayne Krivsky inherited from Dan O'Brien. Only the comedy stylings of the two Florida-based teams in MLB are keeping them out of the cellar (which should serve as a reminder that youth isn't necessarily the cure for what ails them).

    The main point here is the defensive fixes haven't worked. Hard questions need to be asked and harder choices made if the club wants to make the product on the field fit the stated vision of the front office.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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  3. #2
    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    That's interesting M2 and it does hold with the data from earlier in the season. I will say that numbers aside, the Reds have, IMO played better defense this year, at least in the IF. Although AG doesn't have all that great of range I do believe there are a number of things he does better than Lopez (or Clayton) that don't necessarily show up in statistical review and I think Phillips has played better at 2B this year than last.

    I would be curious to see how the DP numbers hold up compared to previous seasons.
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro View Post
    That's interesting M2 and it does hold with the data from earlier in the season. I will say that numbers aside, the Reds have, IMO played better defense this year, at least in the IF. Although AG doesn't have all that great of range I do believe there are a number of things he does better than Lopez (or Clayton) that don't necessarily show up in statistical review and I think Phillips has played better at 2B this year than last.
    That fits my conception also. Phillips leads NL 2Bs in double plays turned, and Gonzalez has a pretty solid rate when scaling his DPs against innings played, since he's missed some time. When Encarnacion has his arm screwed on straight, I don't have any real complaints about the infield defense. Catcher is okay, not great, but okay with Ross back there.

    So now we get to the outfield, which is horrendous defensively and where meaningful fixes most need to occur. But, as mentioned a few days ago in another thread, the two guys most in need of upgrading are the ones providing the most offense. Now, a lot of teams put up with a slugger's less than rangy presence for the sake of his bat. We're doing it at both corners, and they're not flanking an all-world center fielder who can make up for some of it.

    This is not necessarily a permanent condition. Hamilton's fine with the glove, just not rangy enough to be a top centerfielder IMHO; Bruce is fine; Stubbs is great, if his bat comes around to where he wouldn't be an offensive sinkhole. For now, we just shrug off the bad outfield defense as the cost of having the best bats in the lineup. Hopefully we won't have to make that tradeoff forever.
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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    This provides further support for my theory that Wayne Krivsky wouldn't know good defense if it walked up, bit him, and spat a chunk of his flesh back in his face.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    I wouldn't necessarily say that "the fixes haven't worked" because the worst defenders, relative to the league, are the holdovers (Dunn, Griffey, and Encarnacion). Hatteberg is the only Krivsky guy that has been particularly bad.

    Unfortunately, at least a portion of the recent poor fielding is structural and is here to stay. All of the "bad" defensive years have come in a different ballpark than the one from the BRM era. The new park that has a short porch, a tall wall in the OF, hard wall angles in the OF, limited foul territory, and a grass surface. Previous DERs were achieved under more optimal fielding conditions.

    That would help to explain why the defense of many new players has taken a nosedive when they arrive in Cincinnati.

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    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    This provides further support for my theory that Wayne Krivsky wouldn't know good defense if it walked up, bit him, and spat a chunk of his flesh back in his face.
    I'd be very interested to see the numbers on a position by position basis. The only guy Krivsky brought in for defense has been AG. Your theory can't really be proven without looking at how AG stacks up against his predecessors, that is if we accept that DER is really giving us the complete picture, which I'd surmise it's not. My guess is that the drop off from Kearns to Griffey is as much a part of the story as anything and where exactly was Griffey supposed to play? (LF would be a start)
    Last edited by pedro; 08-30-2007 at 02:48 PM.
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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    One question about DER. If it rates how well players get to balls in play, does it account for what happens to said ball after the player reaches it? i.e. how well does DER correlate to actual outs?

    But overall, this is a bit suprising... Jr was moved out of CF to bolster the CF defense. Hamilton has played adequatley. Phillips seems to provide solid defense up the middle. Gonzo has had his issues (mostly related to off-the-feild distractions) but seems to get to a lot of balls. Keep has been adequate in his sted. EE isn't not a worry, and he seems to have made a lot of strides with his throwing issues. Dunn is..well...Dunn but it's LF. No team is really tearing it up out there. Hatte...well, middle of the road. I know the word "seems" and "appears" shows up a lot in the paragraph, but what I am saying is on the surface it's hard to imagine the Reds are 3rd last in total defensive skill (not that they are any great shakes, mind you).

    So that leaves Freel/Hopper's time in CF, catching and RF. I can believe Freel/Hopper provide middle of the road defense, at best on good days, but it's hard to imagine they are a total drag on the team. Jr has 38 year old legs so I can see where there's an increase of balls dropping in his area of responsibility. While Javy's a bit of a mess behind the plate, I can't see where Ross is torpedeoing the entire teams DER.

    I guess what I am trying to say, it that while I don't think the reds are a defensive powerhouse, my perception isn't that they are a total mess either. Doesn't mean my perception is reality, just trying to jive my perception with these numbers.
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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    One question about DER. If it rates how well players get to balls in play, does it account for what happens to said ball after the player reaches it? i.e. how well does DER correlate to actual outs?
    DER works in binary out/not out. It correlates 100% to actual outs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    I guess what I am trying to say, it that while I don't think the reds are a defensive powerhouse, my perception isn't that they are a total mess either. Doesn't mean my perception is reality, just trying to jive my perception with these numbers.
    The reality is that they have been a total mess. They're aiming for a club record low DER and their right at the bottom of the league for team defense. It doesn't get much messier than this. My take on the defense is that there's one guy who's good out there (Brandon Phillips) and everybody could be improved. CF strikes me as the most glaring hole. The team has to determine whether Gonzalez can rebound defensively at SS. The IF corners need to get a lot better. Perhaps a quality 1B can act as a catalyst for the rest of the IF (perhaps it can't, just musing on that one).
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro View Post
    The only guy Krivsky brought in for defense has been AG.
    Royce Clayton and Juan Castro last year. Prime examples.
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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    Perhaps a quality 1B can act as a catalyst for the rest of the IF (perhaps it can't, just musing on that one).
    A good receiver at 1B could potentially increase the number of infield balls that become outs. Dunn, despite his lumbering nature when fielding grounders, appears to be pretty good at handling throws (I have no stats to back this up; it's merely an observation). Maybe it's simply due to his stature and wingspan, or his football TE instincts. Still, I place a lot more value on a 1B who can receive throws than one who can field grounders (Rich Aurilia, for example).
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    My question is this -- could a poor DER be attributable to a poor pitching staff? The Reds give up a lot of bombs (would homers count as non-outs?) and don't strike out a lot of hitters relative to the league......
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    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    Royce Clayton and Juan Castro last year. Prime examples.
    Castro isn't a starter and compared to Lopez, Clayton's pretty much a wash.

    Range is great but defense isn't always about getting the ball after initial contact. Sometimes it's about being in the right place after the the first player gets to the ball. I'll admit that Krivksy seems more caught up in not making errors and being in the right place vs. range but I do think those things are more important that many here seem to believe. Given the roster that he was handed it's probably going to be a while before we really know how well Krivsky evaluates defense. IMO it's certainly not as cut and dried as you claim.
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    The reality is that they have been a total mess. They're aiming for a club record low DER and their right at the bottom of the league for team defense. It doesn't get much messier than this. My take on the defense is that there's one guy who's good out there (Brandon Phillips) and everybody could be improved. CF strikes me as the most glaring hole. The team has to determine whether Gonzalez can rebound defensively at SS. The IF corners need to get a lot better. Perhaps a quality 1B can act as a catalyst for the rest of the IF (perhaps it can't, just musing on that one).
    CF is definitely a glaring hole, although "most glaring" is primarily because we're carrying glaring holes in both corners, IMHO.

    It'll definitely be interesting to see what they do with the outfield both short- and long-term. They could keep going with the max-offense status quo; the big transition to a solid defensive outfield with Bruce and Hamilton flanking a CF to be named later; or something in between. The big variables are whether Dunn can be signed to a long-term extension -- if they even offer one -- and whether Bruce is any better in center than Hamilton is.
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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by lollipopcurve View Post
    My question is this -- could a poor DER be attributable to a poor pitching staff? The Reds give up a lot of bombs (would homers count as non-outs?) and don't strike out a lot of hitters relative to the league......
    Homers and Ks aren't balls in play so they don't get put into the equation. It has to be a ball in play and it either registers as an out or not an out.

    If the staff is surrendering an inordinately high number of line drives (I haven't checked), that would have an effect, but otherwise the Reds defense is about three games worth of outs behind where it needs to be.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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    Re: There is no defending this defense

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro View Post
    Given the roster that he was handed it's probably going to be a while before we really know how well Krivsky evaluates defense. IMO it's certainly not as cut and dried as you claim.
    I suppose it's a question as to how well he truly evaluates defense. I don't know. On the other hand, one thing I'm pretty sure about is that a GM obsessed with defense, and willing to walk the walk, would have packed Dunn and Griffey out of town long before now in favor of who-knows-what. The fact that he hasn't shows at least some awareness that the cure might have been worse than the disease.
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