2013 Reds

Redleg Nation 2013 Season Preview: The Bench

The Bench
2012 Slash Line*: .235/.286/.347
2013 Projection: .250/.310/.380

2012 WAR: -0.2
2012 WAR/600 PA: -0.1
2013 Best Guess WAR/600 PA: 1.0
Projected Difference: +1.1/600 PA

*The 2012 bench for the purposes of the above calculations was: Chris Heisey, Scott Rolen, Xavier Paul, Miguel Cairo, Wilson Valdez, Mike Costanzo, Henry Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius, Willie Harris, and Denis Phipps. Rolen is included because Frazier, the projected starter at 3rd shared 3rd base duties with him last year.

Projecting a bench is a tough task because, really, you are projecting several players over small sample sizes and hoping that you’re wrong in different directions so that it all balances out in the end. For our purposes, I’m considering the bench to consist of Chris Heisey, Xavier Paul, Jason Donald, and Jack Hannahan (we already dealt with Devin Mesoraco the other day). If that turns out not to be the case, well, that’s why I have an update post scheduled.

Paul and Heisey are returning pieces. With Heisey we pretty well know what to expect. Paul doesn’t have quite as much of a track record, but everything suggests he should be a good left-handed hitter off the bench. The two should work well together as co-fourth outfielders depending on who’s pitching.

What we all really care about is the upgrade from Cairo and Valdez to Donald and Hannahan. Both players had down years last year, and combined, they were worth -0.3 wins. Cairo and Valdez combined to be worth -2.1 wins. Yes, it really was that bad. Of course, the best part is that neither Donald nor Hannahan should be expected to play that poorly this year. All of the projection systems see them as solid infield back ups.

Overall, you can take it to the bank that the bench will improve. However, do keep in mind that it’s unlikely to be just these four. Other players will come and go and they will probably drag the numbers down a bit. Still, this is a solid bench. Much better than it was last year.

Redleg Nation Season Preview Schedule

Joey Votto – 2/27
Brandon Phillips – 3/1
Todd Frazier – 3/4
Zack Cozart – 3/6
Ryan Ludwick – 3/8
Shin-Soo Choo – 3/11
Jay Bruce – 3/13
Ryan Hanigan & Devin Mesoraco – 3/15
Bench – 3/18
Johnny Cueto & Mat Latos – 3/20
Aroldis Chapman & Mike Leake – 3/22
Homer Bailey & Bronson Arroyo – 3/25
Bullpen – 3/27
Updates & Preview Wrap-Up – 3/29

42 thoughts on “Redleg Nation 2013 Season Preview: The Bench

  1. Hal McCoy wrote today that Cesar Izturis stands a good chance of making the team. I’m not sure if that’s based on anything, or if McCoy just recognizes Izturis more than he does Donald.

    • Hal McCoy wrote today that Cesar Izturis stands a good chance of making the team. I’m not sure if that’s based on anything, or if McCoy just recognizes Izturis more than he does Donald.

      The more and more I hear from Hal McCoy, the more and more I realize that he is an idiot. He’s the Dusty Baker of sports journalist, very slow the recognize or implement change.

  2. I can’t see any reasonable alternative (baring injury) to the 5 players listed as the Reds bench in 2013.

    After last season, I was disappointed that Heisey’s performance dropped of in 2012 and concerned that he had somehow lost his machismo as a pinch hitter. I was ecstatic that XP finally filled the LH bat the Reds needed off the bench, but concerned that he wouldn’t be able to replicate a similar performance (with some regression) in 2013. With two weeks left ST and slow starts in ST that have been completely turned around by both of these players, I am confident that XP will continue with his solid paly in 2013 and Heisey will rebound as a pinch hitter for his .194/.306/.290 slash line in 2012 to his career slash line as a pinch hitter of .294/.350/.517. I think Heisey & XP will (or should) also be the primary clutch PH used during 2013, making their contributions from the bench even more valuable. I believe Hannahan & Donald will be serviceable PH available for low leverage opportunities. With that said, I think te bench may be more productive than the 1.0 WAR anticipated.

    With 2 weeks left in ST, I starting to feel a little angst with Ludwick’s complete lack of productivity at the plate during ST. He really needs to start picking it up in order to come out of the gate by opening day. Everyone else seems to be on track for being ready by the end of ST and I’m not overly concerned about Ludwick’s early ST results.

    • @Shchi Cossack: Yes, Ludwick seems to be the only rusty one left as Jay has been only mediocre in March, not awful. Luckily Heisey and Paul seem like more than adequate substitutes if Luddy has a lingering injory or something he is working through.

      I think the Burris experiment needs to end now. He and Izturis have the most ABs this Spring and his OBP & SLG are both sub .300 We have seen those numbers before under different infielders and he shouldn’t be taking time from Hannahan or Donald honing their approach.

      • @rightsaidred: I think you can throw Olivo in that same boat. For the player’s benefit, if they are unwilling to report and play for the Bats as insurance, the sooner they get released, the better chance they have of landing another gig. Middle IF and C are in high demand right now, so the right thing to do would be simply designate them for reassignment and start getting ready for the final ST push.

  3. After years of slick-fielding light hitting backup shortstops like Juan Castro and Paul Janish or veterans like Edgar Renteria and Wilson Valdez making the Reds it’s nice to see that the Reds are in a position where they can justify cutting Cesar Izturis, a 33 year old switch hitting Gold Glove winner and All-Star. I can’t seem to find that article by Hal McCoy suggesting that Izturis will make the team but, in my opinion, by hitting .297 with a .350 OBP Izturis has done everything he can to make it a tough decision. Jason Donald is the clear favorite for the job, and has been all along, but Izturis has made it interesting.

    Not only is Jack Hannahan an improvement over Miguel Cairo but I like that he should eliminate much of last year’s controversy by providing a more straightforward split of playing time at 3b than Dusty could do last year. Splitting up playing time between Rolen and Frazier was always controversial but Hannahan should be reserved for RHPs. I mean, most pitchers are right handed but splitting playing time between two righthanded hitters is more complicated.

    Henry Rodriguez could be an asset to the bench later in the season and I hope he starts off well in AAA. He provides a lot more for us to be optimistic about as far as bench depth than the Reds had last season.

    It’s amazing that everybody stayed healthy so far. Some guys like Izturis, Olivo, and Derrick Robinson probably recognized that an injury was by far their best chance to make the team.

  4. There’s an awful lot of Izturis and Burress going on – enough to make me nervous that Dusty is infatuated again.

  5. Heisey is the only one who concerns me. I think the league has mostly figured him out. I know he’s not going to be ready this year, but Ryan LaMarre would be a more ideal player as a 4th outfielder because of his stellar defense and speed. Plus you factore in arbitration raises for Heisey, and eventually it becomes difficult to justify keeping him on the roster.

    • @Sultan of Swaff: Do you have any date to explain how you feel about Heisey? Other than slugging (which can be explained by a probably random fluctuation in his HR rate), his numbers were right in line with his career norms. I think he continues to look like a very nice 4th outfielder.

      • @Jason Linden: Yeah, I’m not seeing it either. I’m not sure the league has figured him out. I mean you can get him out away but if you make a mistake, he generally will hit it. I don’t think he’ll ever be a great hitter but he’s a good mistake hitter which is certainly good enough for spot starts and PH duties.

        • @Sultan of Swaff: Jason has 6 years of data, and can point to all kinds of players with off years, what do you have? :D

          I’m not a big Heisey fan, but c’mon. You made the assertion, back it up.

          I (ssue)
          R (ule)
          A (nalysis)
          C (oncluion)
          :P

        • @Sultan of Swaff: CP said it. The only thing that changed about Heisey last year was lower percentage of fly balls going over going over the wall. That’s something that happens to lots of batters and rarely is it predictive.

        • @Jason Linden:
          As well as, who’s to say the slugging from his second season wasn’t a fluke. Heisey’s first season, he hit 8 HR’s. His third season, he hit 7. It would be more likely that the second season was a fluke slugging-wise.

          As well as, there is all indication that the other teams haven’t found him out. Even though his pinch hitting BA did go down, his pinch hitting OBP didn’t. And, his starting BA went way up. As well as, what many were saying was a weakness of his before last season, hitting left handed pitching, his numbers against left handed pitchers went way up. It seems to me that Heisey was trying to make more adjustments to his swing if anything.

  6. Really, Frazier was part of the bench in 2012 as he was not on the opening day roster, and played multiple positions. He alone makes the bench for 2012, but the rest is accurate.

    I have always like Heisey and do like Paul in the small sample. Looking forward to both having good years.

    I think bench will be improved this year just because of Mesoraco.

    Izturas is interesting just because SS is now a thin area with no one at AAA ready to step up. If Zack were to get injured, how well would Donald do for 40 games?

    • @reaganspad: You’re right about Frazier, of course, be he got more at bats than Rolen and is the projected starter at third, so his projection has already been factored in for the purpose of this series.

  7. i don’t want to hijack a thread, but i’m shocked the nation isn’t blowing up about chapman’s comments.

    • @al: I am a little surprised by the lack of freak out, but then again, lots of starting pitchers have been converted to the bullpen despite their wishes.

      I kind of get why Chapman would prefer to close:
      1) easier
      2) the adrenaline rush
      3) less risk of failing=money is more guaranteed

      Chapman’s agent can’t be too happy though. Guys like CJ Wilson make 5 yrs/$77.5M, Chapman is costing himself a lot of money.

      I’ve said this for the past 1.5 years: If the Reds really think Chapman can’t start, and others teams do, then trading Chapman for a huge Gio Gonzales-like prospect haul is a huge no brainer (obviously you don’t get quite as much b/c Chapman has a smaller track record), but he’s comparable due to his being under control for 3 years. They should have traded Chapman and signed a Closer. Well, I guess they got 1/2 of this right. :wink:

      I fear this will be an epic failure of management…

  8. This said it all to me: “We’re going to do what’s best for the organization, for the team and for him,” Baker said. “But it makes it a lot easier if you get the person’s blessing.”

    You can certainly read too much into a quote, but that sure sounds like Dusty saying, we were going to tell him to be a reliever anyway, but it’s a lot easier now that he says it’s what he wants.

    Why would it be easierto tell him to start now that he’s said he wants to close?

    • @al: I read it the opposite way. Let’s face it closing is ‘easier’ for a talented pitcher than starting.

      Tired starters like Eck and Smoltz got nice extra few years out of their careers with the move.

      They asked Chappy right after he ‘labored’ with 60 pitches with only a couple Ks. It certainly can’t feel as satisfying to have to ‘hold back’. It must be more strategically taxing for a guy who hasn’t had to ‘think’ too much on the mound since arriving in Cincinnati.

      I think last year he said the exact opposite. So I am giving Chapman’s opinion all the credit it deserves which is to say little to none!

  9. I certainly don’t place any substance to anything Mr. Baker might say. He has consistently demonstrated that his comments are completely self-serving.

    I don’t know how this situation will evolve or what role Chapman will fill for the Reds in 2013, but I place a whole lot more validity on Uncle Walt’s comments than on Mr. Baker’s comments.

    As far as Chapman’s desire to fill any specific role on the pitching staff, he has once again demonstrated a real lack of maturity. Last season he wanted to be a starter when he was asked to be a reliever. This year he wants to be a reliever when he was asked to be a starter. He should take a clue from Choo on how a professional handles a sensitive & controversial request to fill a specific role on a ‘team’, except it’s pretty difficult to just keep your mouth shut when your ‘manager’ can’t lead by example.

    • @BloodyHo: totally agree. nothing is served by chapman talking to the media. it just ups the second-guessing. it’s not that hard to just say “i’m happy doing whatever.”

      • @al: “We gotta play it one day at a time.” … “You know, I just wanna do whatever I can to help the team win.” … etc. Didn’t he listen to Crash Davis when he was teaching LaLoosh how to interview? I mean you’re not supposed to say anything with substance.

        • @LWBlogger: Just like last year with the somersault, I’d bet someone in the organization lets Chapman know to not ever do that again.

    • @BloodyHo:
      I wouldn’t be surprised if Baker told Chapman to go talk to the media about it. After all, it was Baker who ran to the papers in 2010 when he didn’t get an extension midseason. It was Baker who went to the papers first with all of this Chapman stuff.

      I can understand Chapman’s comments. And, they would push me a little more toward having him close (where I was before). But, I would still look to see what he can do starting. I’m not saying anything like a couple of seasons but a couple of months at most. If he can make the transition to starter, what he has done before, he would be valuable to us in a trade since we probably won’t be able to re-sign him. If he doesn’t make it as a starter, we have him close, and we may be able to re-sign him.

      Sorry, but I just don’t think the team’s overall success this year is going to rely on the Chapman’s transition. Yes, the club is making a question to be answered, but I don’t believe it will make or break us getting to the playoffs, winning the WS, etc. It is still a team game.

  10. Not sure where this belongs, so into the most recent thread it goes.

    If any of you listen to the Baseball Tonight podcast on ESPN, this morning’s episode featured an interview of Joey Votto by Buster Olney. The podcast actually opens with Chapman discussion and an interview with John Fay, so its very Reds-heavy today and worth checking out if you like to keep posted on MLB news. Chapman talk bores me, but the Votto interview was great. It was about his style of hitting, and he discussed having different approaches based on who he is facing, what the team needs, and his health. Here’s a sample:

    “I might go entire games or weeks hitting with two strikes, thinking that’s the best approach. After I hurt my knee, … , I hit with two strikes. I never – I took one swing against Matt Cain in the playoffs trying to let it go, knowing I was going to get a particular pitch and I fouled it back, it was a slider. That was the only chance I took, all the rest of the time I was hitting with two strikes. Fortunately, I learned that style of hitting in the minor leagues, and I can apply it in the big leagues.”

    Certainly explains the drop in power, but remarkably high OBP. I’m curious if he is still on a 2-strike approach now that his knee has had some time to heal.

  11. The outfield with Heisey and Paul I’m fine with. Being a Heisey fan, I still would like to see him start, but after seeing Ludwick’s bat at least last season (will he repeat it?), you couldn’t take that out of the lineup. I do believe Heisey could have gotten in a lot more and a lot earlier in CF. I am one who believes Stubbs simply played too much.

    The infield is a huge question, also. But, with the numbers I’m seeing, they should definitely be better than last season. I don’t mind seeing slick defense but no bat, or other combinations. For, if someone did have a good bat and glove, they would probably be starting somewhere. If you consider a player’s tools of offense and defense, most starters probably have both tools, most bench players probably one weakness. But, whoever we have here, they have to be better than last season. I will give Cairo and Valdez their credit. Cairo did play a great role with us. He just wasn’t good enough to re-sign as a player. Valdez did beat us as a pitcher and played several positions for us, even OF. He just didn’t quite fit.

    I would also like to see Devin get a couple of weeks in straight at minimum as the starter, “the man”, to see just what he can do. I wonder if he is still in Baker’s doghouse?

    I’m just not too concerned about the bench this season. My concerns:

    1) production from the 4 hole
    2) can the entire pitching staff repeat anything close to last season’s performance

  12. Ok, so let’s get back on track.

    The Mesoraco apologists point to his BABIP as evidence of his bad luck. I’m starting to question BABIP as a luck indicating statistic. I’m not saying necessarily I doubt it, just questioning. If BABIP luck was the true then Votto isn’t good, he’s just lucky. If scouts determine a pitcher can induce a high probability the batter will ground to the SS by getting them to swing to a pitcher in a particular zone, that’s not luck, it’s probabilities. There is a big difference. Probabilities are always correct given a large enough sample.

    That said, I think Mesoraco figured something out this winter. He’s a different player and he may not battling for the starting spot over the bench.

    Paul, well, his numbers over a small sample (<100 ABs) where out of his norms. But even if he regresses a bit, I'd still call him solid. Regardless, I don't know if last year, even in such a small sample was a fluke. It is possible he figured something out. He was competent at the plate, hitting to all fields.

    I think we can say at this point you know what you're getting with Heisey. Other than one VERY good series against the Yankees in 2011, he has been pretty consistent over his career. His slugging was down some last year, which dropped his OPS+ below 100 for the first time, but he is what he is, a replacement level player who we all like because he's a nice guy and always hustles (which is THE defining characteristic of a "ballplayer" for most Reds fans).

    As far as Hannihan and Donald, other than defensive improvements, they look an awful lot like Cairo and Valdez to me. It was said they had bad years last year, same can be said of Cairo and Valdez both having career worst years. I'm not excited about either and feel they're both suited as solid temporary fill-ins in the event of injury, but not in any pinch hitting roles.

    • @TC:
      I wouldn’t quite say Heisey is a replacement type player. Last year when Heisey went first in the competition for the LF job, Heisey:

      1) Started 32 of 35 games (half the time was in CF with Stubbs injury)
      2) Batted 288/324 during that time, batting much of the time in the 1-2 holes, where power isn’t a necessity

      I see the only reasons why he went back to the bench after Stubbs came back was:

      1) Baker didn’t know any better to keep Stubbs on the bench
      2) Once when we all saw Ludwick’s bat come out when Heisey started in CF, you couldn’t keep it out of the lineup.

      I believe if you put Heisey under most any other manager, and he would very possibly be starting on that team. Remember, Baker was a manager who tried to start Harris over Frazier at 3rd.

      • @steveschoen: I’m always shocked when I look at Heisey’s stats. My perception is that he is much more than a replacement player, but we I see his stats, he is very near the definition of replacement level. His OPS+ is right around 100. His career UZR/150 is 3.8. His WAR dances around the 1.0 level. Perhaps that’s different if projected over a full season rather than a half season of PAs.

        Anyway, there is a disconnect between we I perceive and what the stats say. Maybe you’re like me in this regard. But then again, you could be right. I’m just trying to make sense of his stats is all. Perhaps sitting on the bench isn’t necessarily good for him. Perhaps he could have continued is 288/324 slash line. Although I kind of find that line a bit disturbing. A .288 BA is nice, but the corresponding OBP should be higher. The difference is only .036. The league average is more than double that.

        • @TC:
          I understand TC. Hey, I’ve always said that “routine” can be very important to these players. That’s one thing I believe affected Devin last season. He went from AAA where he was “the man” to the big league club riding the bench most of the time, even when he was in the good graces of Baker. Mental effects? Physical effects? Emotional effects? I do believe the same exact stuff with Heisey (hard to time diving for a flyball if you aren’t playing or only playing once in a blue moon, in order to see that flyball to time it). I know Baker says he tells the players several days before whether they are playing or not. But, then, he also said he will start someone at least one game whenever the team is near their hometown. But, then, I’ve seen Baker many-a-time not start players when the team was near their hometown.

          As for the differences in the numbers, the difference in the league was 64, less than double 36. But, also, Heisey’s BA and OBP were both higher than the average, definitely higher than the CF we had out there last season.

    • @TC: Once again I feel like I’m following the Master. I don’t substantially disagree with anything you said. The key issue then becomes utilization. If Hannahan and Donald get an inordinate amount of playing time to the detriment of the team offensive production, we will see the same 2012 Harris/Valdez/Cairo issue with Hannahan/Donald in 2013. I’m not concerned about the amount of playing time for Heisey and XP, as long as they are utilized properly. In fact, I think we may see XP with some significant playing time in LF against RHP early in the season until Ludwick regains his stroke at the plate.

      • @Shchi Cossack: Lol. Thanks, but I sit at the feet of every day players like yourself, the editors, preach, al, Matt WI, and many others. (Pinson343, miss you sir.) I’m the equivalent a middle reliever. My value as a citizen, however, is that I know it.

    • The Mesoraco apologists point to his BABIP as evidence of his bad luck. I’m starting to question BABIP as a luck indicating statistic. I’m not saying necessarily I doubt it, just questioning. If BABIP luck was the true then Votto isn’t good, he’s just lucky. If scouts determine a pitcher can induce a high probability the batter will ground to the SS by getting them to swing to a pitcher in a particular zone, that’s not luck, it’s probabilities. There is a big difference. Probabilities are always correct given a large enough sample.

      There are a number of thing that drive the BABIP statistic in an individual season.

      Batted ball type (line drive, ground ball, fly ball)
      Defense
      Luck

      Joey Votto had a career high BABIP (.404) largely because he had a career high in line drive rate (30.2%). In 2012, the average MLB player hit a line drive 18.3% of the time. In 2012, line drives produced a BABIP of .714.

      Read the full article I linked to above. I think it is a good descriptive article on a mainstream website. While it is directed at fantasy baseball players, I think there is plenty of good background information on this stat for all baseball audiences.

      A player does have control over which pitches he swings at by type of pitch and whether they are in or out of the zone. Or better stated, those batters who do have better control over what they swing at, produce better offensive results. Hitters pitches are hit for more line drives and pitchers pitches induce more pop-ups and ground balls. Line drives result in outs less frequently. That’s why some players can consistently outperform the league average BABIP.

      Mesoraco’s line drive rate of 16.7% was just a little below the league average rate. His less than average # of line drives shows up in the higher the average flyball category, which has the worst BABIP average. Even with that factored into the equation, his BABIP was lower than what you would expect based on his actual batted balls rate. Maybe his BABIP should have been more like .275-.280, but it was .234. At least some of that difference is rightly attributed to luck.

    • @TC: As for Donald, I am buying a potential Valdez comparison at the plate but his age (28) combined with the fact that his short career shows better offensive percentages across the board should indicate that he can outpace Valdez just being average.

      Hannahan’s distinction is clear as Steve pointed it out almost immediately: a double digit career BB% rate. Cairo was about 6% over his career and less than that last year. Additionally, there is no way Hannahan could equal Cairo’s performance at the plate last year unless he bats blind folded. No one on this team will garner 150+ plate appearances and bat 187/212/280. You could make Mike Leake a backup infielder and get much better numbers than that without any coaching.

      So this pair should provide a goodly increase of base runners over a season even if the other categories don’t jump quite as much as hoped.

      • @rightsaidred: In Jason Donald vs Wilson Valdez I think they may be sacrificing defense and experience for hitting potential. My impression so far was that Valdez was a better fielder, but maybe I’m wrong. Donald hit .316 (.364 OBP) in 2011 and .202 (.246 OBP) in 2012 and who knows what we’ll see from him offensively? I think it’s fair to hope that he hits better than Valdez, but I think it’s far from certain that he will.

        I think a biggest improvement that Hannahan provides is that he hits lefthanded. In that way he’s not just a straight up replacement for Scott Rolen and Miguel Cairo, he’s something different, he’s a platoon option at 3b and a massive upgrade over guys like Willie Harris and Mike Costanzo. In 2012 Hannahan hit .270 with a .331 OBP against RHPs, and finding bench players capable of hitting against RHPs was tough for the Reds before they added Xavier Paul and Dioner Navarro later in the season.

        I think Hannahan could have a great season if he is used the right way, primarily reserved for use against RHPs with Frazier and Votto facing all the lefties. I don’t think Dusty will have any trouble figuring that out. It’s much simpler for Dusty to figure out than the combination of the more similar Cairo, Rolen, and Frazier.

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