2014 Reds

I’m Sorry, What?

Yesterday, as I was basking in the glow of a solid managerial hire, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw this quote from Walt Jocketty:

He (Joey Votto) has to fit better into the role we see for him, or he might have to hit in a different spot in the order….. that’s something Bryan will certainly approach Joey with, and something we will discuss. There are certain things he has to do.

This is ridiculous. If you are sabermetrically-inclined, as I am, you realize the RBIs are highly overrated as an individual statistic and that Joey Votto had an excellent season (though perhaps not one that was up to his recent standard).

If you are old school, you should be able to realize that lots of other old school managers saw BP batting behind Votto and thought, yeah, let’s just not give him anything to hit. When he did get something to hit, he often responded by moving a runner into scoring position for Phillips to drive in with a base hit (or a sac fly or a groundout). If Bruce hits 4th and someone who can hit at all bats 2nd, JV is living in a different world.

If you’ve heard Votto talk about hitting, you know that he knows what he’s doing. If you’ve heard him talk about his injury, then you know his knee wasn’t right until very near the end of the season.

If you have any sense at all, you know that you don’t publicly call out your best player, the one you’re tied to for 10 more years, after he just had a very good season wherein he dealt with an injury.

I don’t get this at all. The only ironic thing about it is that if Votto does shift in the order, it would probably to be second, and there’s a very good sabermetric argument that this is where your best hitter should hit (there or 4th).

244 thoughts on “I’m Sorry, What?

  1. This thread is ridiculous.

    I’m beginning to think some people are just programmed to look at things a certain way, and nothing will ever change that.

    No matter how many times you SHOW someone that Votto isn’t ultra selective, or that he doesn’t get pitched to, they still think he’s being passive.

    No matter how many numbers you provide that show Votto is THE BEST POWER HITTER ON THE TEAM, even last year, they still think he isn’t driving the ball.

    Perceptions can be tough to break.

    • @Aaron Lehr: He most certainly wasn’t the best power hitter on the team last year. Talk about perceptions being tough to break.

      He had the highest slugging percentage, but that’s just because he had a high batting average. If you want to look at power, look at 2B, HRs and ISO. (ISO is SLG-AVG, to take out the batting average part of SLG).

      2B: 3rd, 13 behind Bruce
      HR: 2nd, 6 behind Bruce
      ISO: 2nd, .186 to Bruce’s .216

      So, who was the Reds best power hitter again last year?

      • @al: The problem lies at the definition of “power.”

        Who has more power, a guy who hit 40 HR when he hit 200 fly balls, or a guy who hit 20 HR when he only hit 80 fly balls, 50 ground balls, and 70 line drives?

        Counting stats are exactly that. They count what happened. They have ZERO relevance in any sort of logical argument. @al, as a statistician, you ought to know that.

        Even though I agree with your statement that Bruce was a better “power hitter” than Votto this year, by my own definition of power, the FACT of the matter is that more of Votto’s possible homers (fly balls) actually because homers.

        HR/FB %

        Votto: 18.3%
        Bruce: 17.1%
        Choo: 16.4%
        Paul: 15.9%
        Heisey: 12.0%
        Frazier: 11.7%
        Phillips: 10.1%

        That rate, by the way, is 6th in the NL behind Alvarez, Goldy, Stanton, Venable, and Dom Brown.

        You can argue my definition of “power” is faulty, even though I agree Bruce was better (mostly due to the doubles, not homers).

        This statistic is also the basis for Votto saying he could hit 10 more HR is he wanted. All you gotta do is hit fly balls. Sometimes they go out of the yard.

        • @prjeter: I think saying counting stats have zero relevance in a logical argument goes a bit far, no?

          But aside from that, I agree that the definition of power is what is being discussed. To me, HR/FB% is not a good way of defining power, because you aren’t looking at the hitter’s total production, only production in a limited context. For example: If a speedster always tries to hit the ball on the ground, but accidentally ran into one and had a HR/FB% of 100%, I would not say that he is the best power hitter in the game.

          Hitting with power does include the ability to get the ball out of the park on a flyball, but it also includes the ability to consistently get the ball in the air, and the ability to get the ball to the wall on a line drive. If you don’t like counting stats because they don’t tell you how many PA a player got, you have SLG or ISO, both of which I think are better than HR/FB as a measure of power.

        • @al: I concede, the counting stat statement was a bit far. Yes.

          Although, you’ll notice Bruce vs. Votto isn’t a sample size of 1 as your example has. I agree it’s not the best thing to show. Just that someone could argue that a power hitter is someone who hits a lot of homers on balls that have a chance to be homers. Increasing your chances of hitting a homer (hitting the ball in the air) increases the chances that you’ll actually hit a homer.

          What Votto attempts to do (my opinion) is limit his balls in the air to ones he thinks he can drive very hard. Hence, his higher GB and LD rate.

          I don’t know what the right measure of power is. Either way, we agree that Bruce was more of a ‘power’ hitter this year than Votto.

      • @al: You’re right, I primarily used 1 statistic to come to my conclusion and probably misstated it a bit. If you’re going by pure power, Bruce is probably ahead of Votto, and to be honest, always has been.

        But I think this is getting away from the point. People want to move Votto out of the 3 spot because they don’t think he’s driving the ball or has *enough* power (notice I said “enough”… I acknowledge that it was less that normal last year). I think it’s pretty clear (mostly by looking at LD%) that no one drives the ball more than Votto.

        It’s also funny that you discredit Votto’s SLG advantage because of his high average, but then cite ISO, which is artificially LOW for him for the very same reason. The bottom line is no one achieved more total bases per at bat than Votto.

        • @Aaron Lehr: I generally agree, and you can definitely say that no one got more total bases per AB, since that’s the definition of SLG.

          The only point I would disagree about is that Votto’s ISO isn’t “artificially” low because of his batting average. It accurately reflects the amount of power he hits for when he gets a hit. 1+ISO/AVG gives a players average number of bases per hit. For Votto that was 1.61. For Bruce that was 1.82.

          There’s nothing artificial about it. Votto has a higher batting average, but per hit he gets less bases than Bruce, because Bruce hits with more power. Votto gets more total bases overall because he gets more hits.

          To me, that means that Votto is the best “pure hitter” that the Reds have, and Bruce is the best “power hitter.”

  2. You guys really want to get sick? Look at the comments about Votto on the Phillips article on Reds.com. One of the comments being roughly that the Reds have overpaid for a non-producing 3-hole hitter and that contract will prevent them from signing Choo. Several people saying that BP was the Reds’ MVP last season… Wow…

    I think the people here who are voicing the most critical opinions on Votto are doing so intelligently and with their own reasoning. It’s not the knee-jerk opinions that are obviously all over some other blogs. It’s a tribute to just how good of a blog this is.

    • Several people saying that BP was the Reds’ MVP last season… Wow…

      You reap what you sow. The Reds paid media staff was spouting that for 3/4 of the season. Hell, I specifically recall Thom and Welsh discussing MVP candidates, and talking about MIKE LEAKE before mentioning Votto.

      • @Chris Garber: Can’t wait to see the league MVP voting. I’m expecting Votto to be 5th-6th, and I’m hoping Jay Bruce gets a few low place votes and eeks into the top 10 (because I love me some Bruce!). BP will get exactly 0 votes.

    • @LWBlogger: Just went over to Reds.com and read some comments. You are spot-on. I couldn’t stand it for more than 5 minutes. So much complete nonsence over there. Makes all the folks who frequent here looks like Rhodes’ Scholars.

  3. Here’s the thing (or at least one of the things) that’s dividing this conversation:

    Some folks see a walk as a failure of some sort. It’s not a HR, not a single. Indeed, it’s not even a sac fly or “productive out.”

    Other folks (like me) define a walk in a very different way. It is not an out. Here’s a quote I found somewhere online: “The Coin Of The Realm in a baseball game is the OUT. A team, on average, has 27 of them to either conserve or to squander. getting about 1/2 of a run more.”

    It’s that simple. You can look at the run expectancy values that have been thrown around this thread — the conditions under which an out is better than some sort of a “not out” are almost non-existent. They almost never arise before the 8th inning.

    Tell me if you agree with these statements:
    1. To win a baseball game, a team must score more runs than its opponent.
    2. In general, the optimal offensive baseball strategy is one that scores the most runs possible.
    3. Scoring fewer runs makes you less likely to win.
    4. A team has only 27 outs, so each and every out the team accures will decrease the likelihood that they will score the maximum number of runs. Stated more simply (if less precisely), every out a team makes will decrease the likely total number of runs they’ll score.
    5. Therefore, every out a team accrues will make it less likely that it will score enough runs to win the game.

    The only exceptions to #4 and #5 are when it is late enough in the game that you can confidently say that #2 is no longer true. If you have a very high level of certainty that EXACTLY ONE RUN will win the game, then you should maximize your chances to score that one run. The most obvious scenario is when the game is tied (or even when you trail by one) in the bottom of the ninth. I’d open to the idea that it may even be true as early as the top of the 8th, and to the idea that certain matchups (e.g. pitchers hitting) can skew the general rules.

    But these five statements are based only on the rules of baseball and simple logic. There’s no room for debate. If you cannot acknowledge these basic truths about baseball (or somehow disprove them), you cannot engage in a real discussion about this topic. This may sound arrogant or condescending, but there’s no way around it.

    And now that I see how the question was posed to Walt Jocketty, and that he “emphatically” agrees with the premise that a run-scoring sacrifice fly is more valuable than a walk, I have significant concerns about his understanding of the game. Because unless he’s only discussing the 9th inning, or Johnny Cueto is somehow batting behind Votto, Walt’s premise is simply wrong. (And it doesn’t even get into the idea that Votto could magically coax a run-scoring sac fly out of a plate appearance when he’s swinging at a would-be ball four).

    • But these five statements are based only on the rules of baseball and simple logic. There’s no room for debate. If you cannot acknowledge these basic truths about baseball (or somehow disprove them), you cannot engage in a real discussion about this topic. This may sound arrogant or condescending, but there’s no way around it.

      Plus ten to this.

    • @Chris Garber: Unfortunately Chris, Jocketty is a more traditional baseball thinker. A lot of people in and around the game, most ex-players, current players, coaches, managers and even some front-office personnel are traditional thinkers. The tide is changing towards more analytical thinking but that change is happening at a slower pace than a lot of more analytical analysts would like to think. This is why I’ve said all along that the Reds are most likely not going to be on the forefront of practical use of analytics in player development, and strategy. The organization as a whole has a more traditional approach and that starts with Jocketty. It’s going to be disappointing to a lot of the more analytically inclined fans.

      Players, for the most part still have the “get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in” mentality. This could mean a run coming at the expense of 2 outs. Does it fly in the face of run expectancy analysis? You bet it does, but no amount of math changes their thinking in this.

      • @LWBlogger: I agree 100%. It’s a traditional industry, with traditional/conservative/risk-averse thinking.

        There’s very likely a legitimate value to an individual player thinking in “old school” ways. (i.e. “protect the plate with 2 strikes” or “hit to the right side w/ <2 outs”). But that can’t excuse a senior executive ignoring readily-available data because “that’s not the way I was taught.”

        But enough of that. We’ve all read Moneyball.

    • @Chris Garber: My problem with your five logical steps is that I believe if you follow those steps, you would come away with the belief that OBP is the most important, and really the only important, offensive stat.

      Nowhere on the list is there anything that references power hitting, but we know, and have known for a long time, that stats like OPS are more highly correlated with team scoring than OBP. So the logic seems to break down.

      By saying that he could hit more HR if he wanted to, Votto seems to be saying that he would trade power for not making outs. That at least raises the question of whether that is always a good trade.

      • My problem with your five logical steps is that I believe if you follow those steps, you would come away with the belief that OBP is the most important, and really the only important, offensive stat.

        I’m not sure that’s the only rational conclusion. But the point is, you didn’t have to dispute any of the five premises to make that distinction and have that conversation.

        Dating back to Adam Dunn (and presumably Ted Williams), there’s this assumption that a hitter can simply swap Walks (or Strikeouts) for some more valuable outcome. There’s rarely even lip service paid to the idea that this won’t be a 1:1 exchange. Like Votto could just turn marginal pitches into fluke doubles.

        Ironically, nobody ever suggests that Brandon Phillips turn his 19 annual GIDPs or 15 annual infield popups into walks.

        • @Chris Garber: I guess to me, the problem with your 5 steps is that it’s already talking about outs, rather than plate approach.

          Yes, obviously, if you start with the premise that an out has already been made, it’s easy to say that the out decreased the teams chances of scoring runs as compared to the situation before the out was made.

          But what about these logical steps:

          1) OBP and SLG both factor into a team’s runs scored.

          2) Attempting to hit for more power may decrease OBP.

          3) Some players may achieve greater overall offensive production by attempting to hit for more power.

          4) It is possible that a player or team achieves greater offensive production by lowering OBP and increasing SLG.

          5) A team may increase offensive production by increasing the number of outs made.

          And as I’ve stated a bunch on this thread, to me, this isn’t about any fan’s assumptions of what can be done, it’s about what Votto said could be done. He said he guessed he could have knocked in 100 runs if he traded 15 hits. He said he could hit 10 more HRs if he wanted.

          All I’m asking is at what point, if ever, does sacrificing power and run production for OBP become detrimental to run production?

  4. I’m confused, the people who like Votto’s walks due to statistics should embrace this thinking and want him to hit 2nd so he gets more ABs, right? or are you guys beholden to the hold “your best hitter hits 3rd” old school concept?

    I’m fine with the walks, and I’m fine with Joey hitting second. I certainly don’t like him hitting third behind a guy getting on base at a .200 clip who happens to be fast or play shortstop, just because. I wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep if I saw
    ChooChoo, Vottomatic, then Bruuuuuce, Ludwick, Phillips, or Frazier in some order behind them on a lineup card(and I don’t sweat the two lefties in a row nonsense, either).

    • I’m fine with the walks, and I’m fine with Joey hitting second

      Me too. I’m just less than thrilled with the fact that the organization is arriving at the same conclusion via a terribly flawed thought process.

      But I’d be happiest if Votto would SLG .550 again.

    • @hoodlum: That’s what was my confusing the entire time, hood. Joey’s stats this past season would show he would probably be more effective at hitting in the 2 hole for us, a batting order of something like Choo, Votto, BP, and Bruce for 1-4, without giving up the automatic out in the 2 hole. Something the SABR’s would embrace themselves. But, then Jason expressed displeasure about it. Jason finally explained that he didn’t like Walt calling out Votto to adjust or he would make an adjustment.

      In short, (still assuming) Jason was displeased that Walt called out Votto without referencing as the rest of the club could be doing something as well. Walt did make it sound like, “If he doesn’t do it, we will do it”, instead of something like, “We will be looking at making adjustments involving Votto, either changing his batting strategy when he’s up there or his position in the batting order or going out and getting a better batter behind him, something.” Was Walt wrong with what he said? Nope. Was Walt wrong with how he said it? Probably. Enough to crucify Walt for it? Not nearly.

  5. Votto is going to average 1 home run a week — 26-30 or so every year. After 20 years, he will have almost 600 home runs. What exactly is missing with that advanced metric?

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