Thinking Inside the Box

Half Way to What?

Very shortly, the Reds will reach the halfway point in the season. As you are no doubt aware, they just peaked (or peeked) over .500 for the first time all year. They’ve been playing great lately and have been a joy to watch. But as the first half comes to a close, it’s interesting to look at what the Reds have done in and what we might expect them to do in the second half.

The Reds currently have a team wRC+ of 90. That ranks them 10th of 15 in the NL. However, they are nearly as close to first (108) as they are to last (74). It is important to note that pitchers pull everyone in the NL down. If you remove the Reds’ pitchers from the equation, their wRC+ is 97 other NL teams have similar changes (the Reds still rank 10th when pitchers are removed across the league).

Here is the NL ranking and wRC+ for the Reds for each position.

C – 3rd, 117
1B – 12th, 99
2B – 6th, 92
SS – 14th, 59
3B – 1st, 128
LF – 13th, 77
CF – 11th, 81
RF – 11th, 85

Looking at this, several things emerge:

  • Third (Frazier) and Catcher (Mesoraco) have really been carrying the team.
  • A clear sense of the dominant offensive positions can be easily seen as 1B ranks below 2B desptie a significantly higher wRC+
  • The Reds really did not do a good job filling in for Votto (140 wRC+) while he was injured.

Only left field has been a total disaster for the Reds as those players haven’t provided defensive value to compensate for the lack of offense, but Ludwick has been hitting lately, so there’s some hope.

Further, if you had been asked to guess at which two positions the Reds were most likely to excel offensively, you’d have been foolish not to pick right and first. However, the Reds rank quite low in those slots owing to injuries to the now healthy Votto and Bruce. Correspondingly, there is room for improvement.

The Reds, as it happens, have been offensively healthy for about 2 weeks. 2 weeks is not a good sample, but let’s take a look at the split anyway. I’m just going to give the wRC+ numbers and not worry about the rankings.

wRC+ Last 14 Days:

Team – 116
Team w/o pitchers – 126
C – 177
1B – 100
2B – 82
SS – 88
3B – 147
LF – 64
CF – 135
RF – 114

What we can see here are the good things that happen when no one is really slumping and a few players are hot. We can also, however, glean something we might have guessed at already. The Reds are a better offensive team now. Bruce is hitting like Bruce. Cozart is hitting like Cozart (meager as that is, it’s still an improvement over how he started). Hamilton is going to be just fine. The first base numbers, incidentally, are skewed in FanGraphs in some way I can’t figure out by Votto’s subs. He has a wRC+ of 127 since coming off the DL, so feel free to sub that in for the number above.

Now, Mes isn’t going to keep a 177 up and Hamilton is going to sustain a 135. But all those other numbers, those are doable as long as the Reds stay healthy.

Perhaps I am optimistic to a fault. I’ve certainly not been optimistic for most of the season, but right now, I feel pretty okay. I wouldn’t bet on the Reds to make the playoffs, but I’d bet on them to be fun to watch the rest of the way. And hey, you never know. Stranger things have happened.

20 thoughts on “Half Way to What?

  1. I agree with this assessment. The Reds will definitely put up more runs now but until the gas can of a middle relief corps is dealt with they’re not catching anybody for a playoff spot.

  2. I am enthusiastic about the offensive resurgence as the team got healthy. I am getting more and more comfortable with accepting the consistently very good performances of Simon, Mesoraco and Frazier with the expectation that such acceptance creates.

    With that said, I still feel that the hole is too deep to make a successful run in 2014. The Reds are winning series and on an even playing field, that formula wins divisions, but without a serious winning streak to erase a significant portion of the deficit, I simply do not see the prospects of a championship as very bright this season. The Reds are going to be fun to watch in the 2nd half and Bryan will grow into the job as some of the players emerge as significant forces within the lineup.

    The injury to Phillips and the emergence of Mesoraco should provide Bryan with the impetus to make some permanent adjustments to the lineup. If he can’t or won’t make those adjustments, I will have a difficult time respecting his leadership ability as a manager and accepting his ability to be the manager the Reds need to take them to the promised land.

    I really like the promotions of Jumbo and Contreras to the major league bullpen and their use in close games. Jumbo has the funkiest delivery I have seen in a long time, but he looked good last night. Both Jumbo and Contreras seem comfortable attacking the hitters rather than trying to avoid the hitters. I like that aggression in a reliever. If they can get positive results, that’s two positions in the bullpen that turn over this season. The resulting lower salary for the bullpen (i.e. Duke on a minor league contract rather than Parra on a guaranteed, multi-year contract) make bullpen adjustments easier when needed and history speaks volumes regarding the lack of bullpen reliability and consistency.

    I hope the Reds can make a serious run in 2014, but expectations for 2015 could be astronomical with many of the questions going into the 2014 season answered and possible permanent options for LF situation just waiting on the horizon. Cozart and Phillips will fixtures as defense first middle infielders with occasional offensive contributions, but the rest of the lineup will be solid and dangerous. The starting rotation should be healthy and deep with young replacements positioned to step up from AAA when and if needed.

    • I’m afraid Jumbo got away with a bunch of hung sliders last night. I was glad to see him mix in a few more of them and it’s easier to get away with those kinds of pitches when guys have to gear up for 98 MPH fastballs, but I was concerned by where he was locating them. Major League hitters won’t let those go by for very many more outings.

      • I don’t disagree with your assessment, but his performance in 2 outings has been no worse than the rest of the middle relief corp this season. Controlling his secondary pitches is an issue for him, but his wildness may be an asset as much as a liability, as long as he can control and limit the walks. I’m just much more comfortable with paying the major league minimum for marginal performances out of the bullpen than guaranteed, multi-year contracts. The Reds have the time and opportunity to evaluate his effectiveness now at the major league level in preparation for 2015 roster decisions. This may be his one and only real shot at the show and getting a few seasons from him, if he can be effective (and that is certainly an IF), at minimal cost is at least worth the look-see.

        • Dang you Cossack, you have got me squarely on the other side of your opinion which is not a safe place to be.

          I see Bruce continuing to get healthy, Homer settling down after the break and the bullpen getting fixed with these young arms or an acquisition. Bullpen arms are the cheapest thing to buy mid year.

          With our pitching and fielding, offensive output like we have had the last 2 weeks means that we win 60% + of our remaining games.

          I am not afraid of either the buds or the miller lites. I would be more concerned if I were Mil with their pitching than any of our woes

        • My heart is with you 100%. I keep seeing this team capable of putting up a serious run and putting the fear of Bryan Price into the rest of the NLCD, but I also keep seeing this team come up just short of making a serious run, a bad pitch in a critical situation here, an untimely error there, a bad AB somewhere else. The team is playing lights out, but just can’t seem to get over the hump. That’s what my head keeps telling me. I hope my heart beats the living daylights out of my head.

    • Right there with you Cossack. You nailed it sir. Reds do have options coming up to fill that LF hole. We have a log jam of major league talent that will be ready to take LF by storm in 2015. I am assuming that they will be auditioning for who gets what once the 40 man roster expands or once the Reds realize that they need to win 10 to 15 games in a row just to get back in this thing.

      Reds todo list from here until April 2015:
      1. develop talent at second and shortstop. Brandon is getting long in the tooth. Cozart…. just doesn’t hit well enough for a modern day major league ball player.
      2. Audition Winker, Waldorp, Rodriquez for the Outfield position.
      3. Keep both Jumbo and Contreras on the 25. They look good. Low salary, lively stuff.
      4. demote, release, trade the following Heisey, Ondrusek, Hoover
      5. Offer Marshall a settlement to simply retire
      6. off season work routines for all starting players and strength conditioning for Votto and Bruce.
      7. Hire a new team therapist
      8. Hire a new team conditioning guru.
      9. Hire a new third base coach.
      10. Hire brett butler as a bunting instructor. Pay him top dollar. Right now he is third base coach for the Marlins. Triple his salary, it would be worth it. Two birds with one stone since he can take over as our third base coach.
      11. Train Chapman for spot starter/long relief
      12. provide additional training resources for Tony Cingrani to work out additional #2 and #3 pitches.

      • Almost none of those have any chance of occuring, except maybe Winker in LF. This team is nearly immobilized from a payroll perspective, unless they trade Latos or Cueto or Bruce.

  3. If the Brewers go 42-42 the rest of the way, the Reds have to go 51-36 just to tie. So yeah I am dialing back my own expectations and will watch knowing that they aren’t going anywhere this year. Just for the love of the game.

    • But what if the Brewers tank and play less than .500 ball going forward? I’m still of the opinion they aren’t this good.

    • I agree. Everyone acts like this team should have a fork in them. For the division title…maybe. But for a wild card spot?? Are you serious? The NL is too mediocre and the Redlegs’ starting pitching and defense are too good not to think they have a good chance of claiming one of those spots. The sky seems to always be falling in Cincinnati.

      • I agree that the Reds are far from finished.

        However, the climb will be steep. To get 90 wins (the rough benchmark for the second wild card), they will need to win at a .605 pace, 52-34. That’s a pretty tall order, but not completely out of the question.

        • I would be willing to bet that the second wild card team won’t have 90 wins this year. The first spot…maybe. The second, I’m guessing, which everyone does, will be at the 84-85 mark.

  4. As for a LH reliever, there is one available in DFA limbo. The Indians DFA’d LH Josh Outman last week. The Reds can get him for free right now. His stats are better than Parra’s. His 10-day window to accept the minor league assignment ends on Saturday. His 7 day window to be put on waivers ends today. After Saturday, he can be a free agent and sign with any team. Walt, put in a waiver claim today.

  5. The Old Cossack really doesn’t know what to make of Bryan’s lineup decision for tonight’s game against Edwin Jackson and the Cubs. More appropriately, I’m afraid the Old Cossack does know what to make of it and I really don’t like what I see in Bryan’s lineup for tonight’s game and what it may indicate about Bryan’s management and leadership.

    Phillips is back in the lineup after a couple games off while nursing his injured heel. In his absence, Mesoraco simply laid an undeniable claim to the cleanup slot in the lineup previously given (not earned) to Phillips. So what does Bryan do with tonight’s lineup since Mesoraco has left him with no alternative other than hitting Mesoraco in the cleanup slot? He slots Phillips in the #5 hole and bumps Bruce to the #6 hole. This is against the RHP Edwin Jackson.

    Jackson has a marginally (.030 OPS) better split against RH hitters than LH hitters for his 12-year career, but over the past 4 years, the split is much more significantly (.070+) better against RH hitters than LH hitters.

    Since his return from surgery and the DL on May 23rd, Bruce has a marginally better OPS than Phillips (.718 for Bruce & .697 for Phillips), but since June 3rd, Bruce has a dramatically better OPS than Phillips (.866 for Bruce & .727 for Phillips). Despite the obvious and better offensive production and against a RHP with a significant split advantage against RH hitters, Bryan decides the demoting Bruce to the #6 hole is a better idea than demoting Phillips to the #6 hole.

    I’m sorry, the Old Cossack doesn’t buy any reason for the decision other than Bryan was afraid to demote Phillips to the #6 hole. I hope I’m wrong in that assumption, but the old duck syndrome certainly seems to apply.

    • Perhaps the message is going out to both BP and Bruce? I would probably rather them flipped, but it seems like BP is less of a SO risk than JB at this point so does it really matter? Spreading out the LH batters further may help in late game situations as well to get deeper into the oppositions pen.

  6. 3 games out of the wildcard. Forget all of the numbers; we just need to win 4 more games then four other teams the rest of the season and were in it. Not that big of a mountain to climb with the right perspective.

  7. I agree with the assessment. It’s obvious to see who’s been carrying the team offensively and who hasn’t.

    “The Reds really did not do a good job filling in for Votto (140 wRC+) while he was injured.”

    The thing is, no team could ever think of being able to do that, in any situation and circumstances. But, once the fateful day comes that Votto isn’t a Red any longer, that will hopefully free some money up to do other things. Where, you may not look to keep up the offense from 1st base. But, you could look to beef up the offense from the other positions.

    LF hasn’t provided defensive value because Ludwick plays LF mostly still, probably the worst defensive OF’er we have.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s