Reds By The Numbers
Numbers say Dunn, Griffey should go
BY JOHN ERARDI
Seven straight losing seasons and a bad start have made Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn lightning rods with Reds fans, most of whom want them gone - regardless of what can be had in return. The numbers so far are with the fans.
Here is how the Reds position players rank in OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) among the position players of the 16 teams in the National League:
C - 6th (Paul Bako will revert to the back of his bubblegum card soon enough; for now, he's Ernie Lombardi).
1B - 6th (Lower than we'd have thought, but Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Derrek Lee are a tough crowd).
2B - 6th (Brandon Phillips still isn't good at getting on base, but he can really slug it).
SS - 5th (Oh, are the Reds ever going to miss Jeff Keppinger ).
3B - 6th (Edwin Encarnacion still has the most upside of any Reds hitter).
LF - 9th (Earlier this week, Dunn got some talk-show points for hitting a sacrifice-fly on a pitch outside the zone, but it's going to take a lot more than that).
CF - 8th (Thanks to Ryan Freel ).
RF - 14th (Ken Griffey Jr. figures to move up in the rankings - he always "comes around" - but FIRST let him get hot, THEN move him into the 3-hole).
Pinch-hitters - 12th.
Not just cattle need range: Last year, Griffey Jr. got to nine FEWER fly-ball outs than the average major league right-fielder based on his chances. This year, he's already about five below average (second-worst among all MLB right fielders) and there's still three-fourths of the season to go.
Dunn's range is improving, 1.5 fewer fly-ball outs; making him 20th of 28 left fielders with more than 150 innings; last year, he got to 15 fewer fly balls than his fellow left fielders.
SO, WHAT TO DO
The Reds should be entertaining all offers for Griffey - even before he hits his 600th home run. With Jay Bruce tearing up Triple-A, the Reds have plenty of firepower to replace Griffey. It will be bittersweet to see him hit "600" elsewhere, but turning around this franchise will take some tough decisions from management. What better time to start making them than now?
CALLING BRANCH RICKEY
Reds management lacks the requisite ruthlessness to deal aging veterans to make room for younger players. Take a page from former Reds general manager Bob Howsam who was all for putting fans in the seats, but knew the best way to draw is through winning - and traded Tony Perez, 36, after the Reds title in 1976 to make room for Dan Driessen.
DUNN OR PHILLIPS?
With men on base, Dunn has 22 fewer plate appearances than Phillips, is hitting 86 points lower, slugging 52 points lower, and has the same number of HRs (3) - yet has 1 more RBI in those situations ... Is Dunn a witch?
SPEAKING OF BRUCE
Jay Bruce still isn't close to the on-base average of plus-65 points over batting average the Reds want ... but he's edging up.
With his .366 batting average, .398 on-base average and .662 slugging percentage, Bruce will be here within a few weeks, when he won't trigger an early arbitration date and cost the Reds millions more.
Still, there there isn't a "Bruce" alive or dead - not Lenny, not Willis and not Hornsby (unless it's Rogers) - who can put this moribund Reds offense over the top. The Reds are 12th in the NL in runs scored.
PUT PHILLIPS AT SS
The numbers don't support concerns that the Reds would be weakened at shortstop AND second base by moving Phillips. In the minors he played 356 games at SS (.950 fielding percentage), compared to Jerry Hairston's 34 (.921) - and Hairston doesn't have a shortstop's arm. Going into this season, Phillips had played five big league games at SS, Hairston six. Why are the Reds using a lesser fielder at arguably the most important defensive position?
The average 2B who moves to SS makes about six fewer plays per year than the average SS. But Phillips made about 15 MORE plays last year than the average 2B (among the NL's best), so at worst he figures to be average at SS. The Reds need the offense with Phillips at SS and Freel at 2B, when he's not in the outfield.
EASY DOES IT, BIG FELLA
Phillips THINKS he can hit anything, but the numbers say no. He swings at 33 percent of the pitches he sees that are out of the strike zone. That's the 13th highest rate in the bigs.
Swinging at pitches out of the zone isn't all bad. But No. 1 bad-baller Vlad Guerrero makes contact on 66 percent of those pitches; Phillips makes contact on 47.
Even a bad-ball hitter has to be realistic about just how bad a ball he can put a crushing on.
FLY INTO THE DANGER ZONE
Johnny Cueto is getting killed on pitches up in the zone - hitters have a .667 slugging percentage against him there (compared to a .394 slugging percentage down). We agree with Dusty Baker that Cueto should let the catcher call the game and focus on putting his stuff where not even the best big leaguers can hit it.
KEEP HOPE ALIVE
Did you know that even though Bronson Arroyo 's ERA is 6.08, his strikeout rate (8 K's per nine innings) is well above his career norms (6.2/9)? His ground ball rate is almost exactly where it was last year. His walk rate is up a bit this year, but not enough to explain his struggles.
So what gives? This year, batters have a .342 adjusted batting average against Arroyo on balls in play, compared to a .285 average the previous three years. And why are hitters batting 57 points higher? Probably just bad luck. Pitchers have very little control over batting average on balls in play. Hang with Arroyo; he'll turn it around.