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Thread: Comfortably numbered

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Comfortably numbered


    Can the Reds contend or (dare we ask) even win the NL Central? Stat gurus say yes - if the team makes the right choices.
    As the Reds take shape in Sarasota, no doubt you are wondering a lot of things. But mostly you're wondering: Do the Reds finally have enough talent to contend, after seven straight losing seasons?

    Today, with the help of a couple of stat gurus known as sabermetricians, we produce reasonable answers to those questions through the use of objective analysis.

    If you're a baseball fan, you've been using stats your whole life.

    Statistical analysis is just utilizing a few more stats and a few new stats to augment what you already know. It's just turning the diamond under a slightly different light to get a closer look.

    Why should you care about statistical analysis?

    Because you care if the Reds win.

    The decisions the Reds brass make in the next few weeks will have a big influence on whether the team is a surprise contender or again has a losing season.


    Every March, hope springs eternal for the fans of 30 Major League Baseball teams.

    But what happens to hope when you put the cold, hard numbers to it?

    Can the Reds break the streak of seven straight losing seasons? Can they crash the playoff party for the first time in 13 years?

    We turned loose a couple of sabermetricians - numbers gurus who use statistics as evidence for objective analysis - and were surprised to see what they came back with.

    They aren't predicting the Reds will contend, but rather that the Reds could contend if certain projections take place allowing them to score 70 more runs than they allow. (An explanation of that follows.)

    Their biggest point? That the Reds' best shot occurs if they play and pitch the youngsters.

    The bromides still apply - the pitchers must come through; key players have to stay healthy; some guys need to have breakout seasons - but consider the specific, numerical analysis:

    The projections - that is, "the probabilities" - say the Reds would be much better off with talented but unproven slugger Jay Bruce in center field than Ryan Freel, Norris Hopper or Corey Patterson. The point: Always play a guy somewhere because he's the best player, not because you "think" somebody else would make a better leadoff hitter.

    The Reds would be considerably better off with Jeff Keppinger anywhere in the lineup, as long as it's full-time, because he provides what this lineup desperately needs: a batter who gets on base. One way to do it would be to play the right-handed Keppinger at first base against left-handed pitchers, and at shortstop against right-handers. (Such a platoon is unorthodox, but then Keppinger is an unusually valuable piece. He adds more runs with his bat than fellow shortstop Alex Gonzalez saves with his glove. Despite the raves you read about Gonzalez's defense, all the fielding services indicate his range is average. At best, he would save 10 more runs over the course of an entire season than Keppinger, who the projections say would generate 10-18 more runs on offense than Gonzalez, not to mention how much more Keppinger provides on offense if he gets first baseman Joey

    Votto's at-bats vs. left-handers).

    The Reds are better off with Votto, also relatively unproven, at first base than veteran Scott Hatteberg, although Hatteberg has been a valuable contributor throughout his Reds tenure with excellent on-base percentage and consistent hitting.

    The Reds should take a hard look at batting Votto leadoff against right-handed pitchers, and Keppinger leadoff vs. left-handed pitchers. Don't sweat Votto's strikeouts. Votto has a good on-base average. So does Keppinger. Not speedy enough, you say? Beware the leadoff hitter with good speed, good batting average and low on-base percentage. Reds manager Dusty Baker had such a leadoff hitter in 2006 with the Cubs. Juan Pierre played every game, hit .292, stole 58 bases and yet scored only 87 runs thanks to a .330 on-base percentage. Adam Dunn has scored more runs than that in each of the last four seasons.

    It wouldn't kill the Reds to bat Brandon Phillips leadoff - maybe 5-8 fewer runs over the course of a season (which equates to maybe one victory) - but don't do it just for his speed. On-base percentage - not speed - is the most important single factor in scoring runs, say the sabermetricians. They are adamant about this, and they have the math to prove it.

    The Reds are on the right track with their bullpen. New closer Francisco Cordero's presence allows for last year's closer, David Weathers, and eighth-inning setup man Jared Burton to be used in whatever late-inning roles the manager wants. There are also better arms available to handle the sixth and seventh innings compared to last season. The numbers support what you already suspect.

    No. 3 starter Matt Belisle should be better than last season even if all he does is become a "neutral luck" pitcher as opposed to the "bad luck" one he was in '07.

    And it's nearly impossible for any combination of candidates for the Nos. 4 and 5 starting rotation spots (Josh Fogg, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Jeremy Affeldt and Edinson Volquez) to be as bad as the 4- and 5-hole pitchers from last season.

    What's it all mean when it comes to winning games? Today's analysis explains that, step by step.

    This is pretty much exactly what I've been saying for awhile. It's almost like they copied my thoughts. I'm surprised a place like the Enquirer put out an article like this, but it's very good. Hopefully logical thinking becomes more mainstream, as oppose to this...

    Take a look

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  3. #2
    Member 757690's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Re: Comfortably numbered

    I wasn’t going to comment on these articles, but then I say read the ORG ****ing all over themselves over Erardi, so I felt the need to comment.

    Here is my take on his article:


    I agree with most of what he says, and think Votto should lead off and Bruce should play CF, but here is what I had problems with in his article.

    "Always play a guy somewhere because he's the best player, not because you "think" somebody else would make a better leadoff hitter."

    This is a perfect example of what I am referring to when I fault Saber fans for thinking that it is dogma. I agree with Erardi that the Reds should start Bruce in CF this year, since he is the best player, and would make a good leadoff hitter, although not as good as Votto. But there are many times when it is not prudent to play the “best player” (translation: the player with the best stats). If my team did not have another high OBP guy and needed a leadoff hitter, I would play a guy with nothing but a high OBP, over a guy who might be a better overall hitter, higher SLG, higher OPS, since that is what the lineup needs. And the opposite it true. You just can’t put 8 sluggers out there, or 8 OBP guys and expect to win. A lineup needs balance. High OBP guys at the top and high SLG guys in the middle.

    "He [Keppinger] adds more runs with his bat than fellow shortstop Alex Gonzalez saves with his glove. Despite the raves you read about Gonzalez's defense, all the fielding services indicate his range is average. At best, he would save 10 more runs over the course of an entire season than Keppinger"

    First, Gonzo is a far superior fielder compared to Kepp. Their ranges and error rates may have been similar, but Gonzo is much, much better at turning the double play, which is essential for a SS. A SS who can’t turn a double play, (and Kepp is really below average at this, as anyone who saw him play last year will testify) is like a catcher who can’t block the plate. A below average DP combo will kill a team. Gonzo is worth far more than 10 runs a game based on the double play alone.

    But more importantly, defensive stats are rather meaningless. I know there have been great advancements in fielding stats and they tell us a lot more than they did just a few years ago but the best way to judge a fielder is still to watch him play everyday. It is impossible to determine how many runs a defender adds/subtracts due to his defense.

    An error or a missed play or an outstanding play changes the entire inning, and there is no way to know how that inning would have turned out if it happened differently. The defense plays differently, the pitcher pitches differently, the hitters approaches are different, and the manager manages differently. You can’t assume that the same events that follow an error, would have followed had the error not occured.
    The only way to truely know how many runs one defender saves compared to another, is to have two alternative identical universes, and have one play SS for the team in one alterntive universe and the other for the same team in the other universe. Then see how many runs each teams scores. Any other way short of that is just guessing.

    Also, an error/missed play adds pitches to a pitchers pitch count, and a great play subtracts pitches. That leads to less work for the bullpen, and so much more.

    There is just no way to use stats to determine how many runs one defender will prevent vs. another. Even projections based on very accurate models, (like Baseruns) can only tell us on average what has happened, how many runs similar players have created/subtracted in the past, on average. There is no guarantee that those averages will continue and more importantly, that those averages will be accurate for two very specific players in very specific circumstances. The averages assume that the same events will follow the error as will follow the made play, and that is not accurate.

    But the most important reason why defensive stats are not as valuable as watching a player, is that the two most important qualities a good defender adds is confidence and stability. You want your pitchers to have confidence to let the hitter make contact. The better the fielders are behind a pitcher, the less he feels he needs to strike everyone out. This allows the pitcher to have a much healthier and strategic approach to the hitters, gives him more options. This is far more valuable than any runs created/subtracted by the plays a fielder makes. A pitching staff that does not have confidence to let the hitters put balls in play, will be a much worse pitching staff because of it, and there is no way to know how much worse for the same reasons as above.

    “Beware the leadoff hitter with good speed, good batting average and low on-base percentage. Reds manager Dusty Baker had such a leadoff hitter in 2006 with the Cubs. Juan Pierre played every game, hit .292, stole 58 bases and yet scored only 87 runs thanks to a .330 on-base percentage. Adam Dunn has scored more runs than that in each of the last four seasons.”

    I agree with the general notion that a high OBP is more valuable than speed, most of the time, but there are instances where speed could be more valuable. It would require well over 50 SB with a 90% success rate, and a small difference between the the OBO, around 20 points. But my main beef with Erardi is in the example he uses. Juan Pierre in 2006 was a lousy leadoff hitter. But he did have success earlier, so you really can’t completely blame Dusty for that decision. But this was Erardi’s argument. He said that Pierre only scored 87 runs that year. Every stat guy knows that runs scored and RBI’s are terrible stats to use to evaluate a player. Those are more dependent on the team he has around him, then anything else. The Cubs that year lost Derreck Lee, and had only A. Ramirez to drive in runs for them. Any leadoff hitter would have had a problem scoring runs. Actually, the biggest reason why Pierre was a bad leadoff hitter that year, was that he was thrown out stealing 20 times, making his percentage under 75%. Getting thrown out 20 times is like killing 20 rallies.

    So while I agree with most of what Erardi said in general, when he gets to specifics, he becomes much less convincing.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008

    Re: Comfortably numbered

    I found it interesting, but I am much more of a lets play our best and see how it goes person than a slave to any stats.

    For example - a basketball team has two centers. The veteran is on the downside of his career and can average 12 pts and 10 rebounds a game, but has a dominating defensive presence. The younger center can put up 15 pts a game and 12 rebounds and is at least average on defense. While it may make sense to put in the guy to score and rebound more, you can't truly judge how important having a dominate inside force can be worth. The vet, although his stats may not be as good, would likely get the bulk of the playing time.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    North Dakota

    Re: Comfortably numbered

    Are you saying Freel will play better defense than Bruce in CF?

    Or are you arguing for Gonzalez over Keppinger? or both?

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Blue Ash

    Re: Comfortably numbered

    I agreed with the article simply on the terms that either Votto and Bruce are ready now, or they won't ever be. They have nothing left to prove in the minors, and it's time to see what they can do in the majors. All of the "experts" say they are ready and their time is now. So why screw around with Freel and Hatteberg anymore except for insurance policies in case of injury?

    Even if we don't contend this year, we will know more about the young players and the future.
    Who's on first?

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Omaha, NE

    Re: Comfortably numbered

    While I agree with most of the article, there is one thing I have - and will continue - to disagree on.

    Matt Belisle's "Bad Luck".

    I understand this BABIP stuff is "supposed" to be neutral, but IMO, this has more to do with "BAD STUFF" than "Bad Luck".

    Belisle is hittable because - well his STUFF is hittable. I think he has a very straight fastball that isn't "heavy" and all of the other cliche's that some other pitchers are granted as diagnosis as to why they AREN'T hittable.

    If someone can get a good look or "Crank" on a fastball and send it on the ground faster than normal, then it is more likely be get through the infield faster, or more likely to be hit on a line drive, etc...

    That's my opinion of Belisle, and until he starts "proving" that he can ASPIRE to neutral "luck", I'm not giving him the benefit of the doubt.


    I think that in a year or two, one of these guys - Frazier, Dorn, Valaika, Cumberland, Stubbs - will be ready to replace Dunn. They won't hit as many home runs as Dunn, but they should have similar OPS. - 757690, July 22, 2008

    Alonso will be playing 1B for the REDS and batting 4th one year from today. - Kingspoint, July 9, 2009

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