Thinking Inside the Box

Looking for Silver Linings

Last week, we had only a one game sample. This week, we’re up to seven games as I’m writing this before the Tuesday night game.

At this point in the season, the samples are still far from reliable, so what I’m really looking for here are positive and negative trends. I’m not going to address conventional numbers very often, especially in the early going. You all know what they are and at this point in the season, and single game can change things radically. For now, I though we’d go down the lineup and take a brief look at each player.

Billy Hamilton – The erstwhile leadoff man has had a rough first week. A jammed finger, lots of strikeouts and not much getting on base. However, there is hope. He only has a .091 BABIP right now, and I promise you that’s going to go up. He will at least spend more time on base than he has so far.

Brandon Phillips – Phillips, more than any other player seems to have found his level. The Ks and BABIP are both a little high, but they’re balancing each other out right now giving him a .259/.310/.370 line that looks a lot like what we’ll probably see at the end of the season.

Joey Votto – Our very own MVP hasn’t shown much power yet, and that’s what we’re all looking for out of him. Of course, he could always hit two homers after I write this and make it moot. That’s what I mean about it being early in the season. He is, however, walking, which is a good sign.

Jay Bruce – ¬†Hitting fourth regularly has worked well for Bruce so far, even if the numbers don’t show it yet. His .143 BABIP isn’t Billy Hamilton low, but it’s still unsustainably low. He’ll have Bruce-like numbers soon.

Ryan Ludwick – Here is our first of two batters who’s been lucky so far. His BABIP is high, but it’s his Isolated Power that needs to improve if the Reds are going to get what they need out of him.

Todd Frazier – Frazier, like Ludwick, has been lucky, but he’s also shown good power. If the power keeps up, he could be the third good hitter the Reds desperately need.

Zack Cozart – Will get on base one day. I promise.

Catcher Hodgepodge – Tune in next week for this as Mesoraco is just getting going.

In closing, I want to know what you want from this column as the season progresses. My inclination is to continue with mostly advanced stats and, once the season really gets going, focus on one or two players at a time, but if you want something else, let me know.

14 thoughts on “Looking for Silver Linings

  1. Maybe you could do a kind of thing where you put red down arrows and green up arrows beside each player’s name to show offensive trends, like if Billy gets 5 hits next week, he’d get a green up arrow to show he’s heating up, while if Phillips suddenly can’t buy a hit, he’d get a red down arrow. Then you could have a neutral “-” sign for players who performed about the same as the preivous week.

    I think it would be kind of fun to track the ebb and flow of each player, who gets hot and cools off and what not, from week to week, and maybe commenters could try to guess trends, like if someone is hitting the ball well but right at people, commenters could say “Yep, Frazier is about to explode.” Maybe you could even make a weekly contest/poll out of it, “Who will have the higher OBP this week, Frazier or Bruce?” or “Who will K less, Phillips or Cozart?” I know this is a “serious” site, but fun little things like that would just be one more reason to check in on the column every week.

    Then you could do as you said, have your “Spotlight Player Of The Week” and talk about whatever interesting tidbits you might have on our hitters, like if Joey has no hits in a week but walked half the time, or if Bruce has back to back 2 HR games or something.

    I think that’d be a pretty fun column.

  2. Jason, since you were kind and open enough to ask…

    This is Bryan Price’s first sesaon as a manager at any level. We heard all the platitudes after Bryan was hired. Most everyone was excited (myself included) about Bryan’s promotion and the prospects he brought for the Reds future, but there is a learning curve associated with moving to the position where the ‘buck stops’ for the first time. So how is Bryan doing with his learning curve as the season progresses? What has he learned? What is he doing well and what are his challenges as the season progresses? No manager is going to satisfy everyone with every decision he makes. No good manager ever stops his growth and learning, but the learning curve certainly flattens out. Numbers are not going to validate a manager’s performance, not even wins and losses, since there are many factors beyond the manager’s control that factor into the numbers. There are alos many aspects of a manager’s performance that an outsider will never witness directly and can only evaluate through interpretation and interpolation.

    So how about a periodic evaluation and discussion regarding Bryan’s performance and growth?

  3. Does anyone think there could be a silver lining with Broxton moving to the closer’s role? I know, I know, for the umpteenth time we could speculate that this would be an ideal opportunity to shift Chapman into the rotation. Why now? Call me crazy, but I think Latos is going to be out for an extended length of time. By all accounts, this elbow tenderness thing has been an issue every time he’s pitched. Not to be an alarmist, but the situation has a lot of the same indicators as the players who have UCL tears and undergo Tommy John. And again, the Reds are saying they ‘believe’ that it’s just minor irritation. Why hasn’t he gotten an MRI recently?!?!?
    I would think if Latos goes down for the season, Chapman has to start. It would be mid-May by then, so the workload would not be an issue.

    • Yep, I am worried about Latos as well. Losing him would not be good. Not sold on Broxton at all, he is not that good and may continue to be injury prone

    • That’s some awfully wishful thinking. Not only has Chapman not been stretched out to start, he’s in the middle of his own rehab process. Even if we wanted him to and he wanted to, it would be months before he could be ready to do it. Simon was stretched out as a starter all spring and has started in the past – not to mention he looked more than up to the job this weekend. I’d much rather stick with that if Latos is going to be out for a while. Jeff Francis has also looked pretty good in Louisville so far. I just can’t imagine they would suddenly take the leap with Chapman given all the turmoil in the pitching staff.

      • Having lived in Colorado Springs (Rockies AAA) for the last 9 years, I can strongly advise against letting Jeff Francis get your hopes up. His best season was 2007 when he finished 9th in Cy Young voting, and since then, his ERA has been about 5 and a half. Although, that’s mostly at Coors field, so call it 5. He’s accumulated 1.4 WAR over the last 4 seasons, or about 0.35 per year. Barely above replacement level at this point.

        Although, to your original point, he’d be a replacement, so maybe a viable one… who knows! ;)

        • I’d much rather stick with Simon – and I also think LeCure is a very viable option if you absolutely need another starter, especially once the regular relievers start coming back from the DL.

  4. One week
    Into the season
    Positives:

    BHam looking better at the plate
    Frazier
    Ludwick hitting decent right away
    Mes is back
    Cingriani
    Cueto
    Price is a new manager and can get better
    Bench-Pena, Heisey, Bernadina
    Cozart on defensive

    Negatives:
    Bullpen
    Injuries
    Cozart at bat
    Price is a new manager and could get worse
    BP’s speed
    Team is too laid back
    Homer
    They are the Cardinals female dogs

    The season is early though. No one jump off a bridge

  5. Jason, I love the column focus so far. I think advanced stats are the way to go since it’s easy to just look at a stat page and say “Yep, he’s got 12 homers,” and no real analysis can be done on such things.

    Tracking BABIP, and analyzing when it’s low/high is pretty interesting to me. I also think (for this team specifically) tracking how often players swing at pitches in/out of the zone, how often pitchers are throwing them in/out of the zone, etc. I always wonder things like “Man, does Cozart swing at more pitches than anyone else in the league?” and “Man, does Ludwick swing at more pitches than anyone else in the league?” I think FG has lots of stats for these very things! It would be cool to see somethign like “Well, 2 weeks ago, Frazier got hot because his zone% was 67%, now pitchers are adjusting and his zone% is down to 52% and his k% has risen because his o-swing% is up to 74%, or something akin to that!

    Keep up the good worK!

  6. I still think you’re being a bit pessimistic with BP. He’s already shown some spurts of hitting very well and I predict his numbers at the end of the season will be much closer to his career norms: something in the .275/.330/.430 range. He’s been on a bit of a roller coaster numbers-wise so far this year but I think when the dust settles it will be a bit on the higher end of that scale than the lowest end which he happens to be sitting at right now.

    • A 740-750 OPS does sound reasonable for Phillips. A wRC+ around 100 and a WAR of 3. His K rate has been inching up over the last few years and the walk rate is consistent.
      Frazier’s BABIP is high right now, at least his walk rate is up.
      Votto does need to get his ISO up, a few HR’s would help

      • In his time in Cincinnati Phillips has a wRC+ and OPS+ of exactly 100. He had one very good year in 2011 and one very bad year in 2013 that cancel each other out but every other year he’s been remarkably consistent. He looks healthy now so I wouldn’t expect anything different.

  7. Something I would like to see from this column is an addendum at the end of the breakdown of whatever you’re doing that week, that picks one advanced statistic and explains it: what it measures, how it measures it, what is the league average for the stat, what would be considered exceptional, etc. We often throw those stats around willy-nilly and having a place where the true definitions would get some exposure could be very enlightening. Cheers!

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