Titanic Struggle Recap

Five wins in a row…and the Reds keep rollin’

Final R H E
Cincinnati Reds (49-42) 4 7 0
Chicago Cubs (38-52) 1 5 0
W: Simon (12-3) L: Beeler (0-2) S Chapman (19)
Box Score | Play-by-Play | Game Thread | Depth Chart | Win Probability

Positives

–Another good start from Alfredo Simon: 6.2 innings pitched, one run allowed on four hits, striking out eight while walking two. Simon is now 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA.

–The Reds broke open a 1-1 game with three runs in the fifth inning. Zack Cozart got things going with a one-out single to center. After a sac bunt, the two-out rally commenced. Billy Hamilton tripled, scoring Cozart. After a Skip Schumaker walk, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce came through with back-to-back RBI singles.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in dominating fashion to close out the game.

–BP was the only Red with more than one hit, going 2-3. But…

Negatives

–Phillips made a diving stop in the top of the eighth, and sprained his left thumb in the process, forcing him to leave the game. It didn’t look good on the television broadcast, but I guess we should be happy that it wasn’t broken. I guess. Until BP is back in the lineup and healthy, I’m going to be concerned about this one.

–To make things even worse, Billy Hamilton turned his ankle sliding into second (and there were other reports that he grabbed his hamstring after his next at-bat; UPDATE: he had tightness in his hamstring). He stayed in the game a while, but was ultimately replaced by Chris Heisey later in the game. Just when things start going well, the injury bug hits again. Reds fans just can’t have nice things.

Not so random thoughts….

–The Reds have now won five in a row, six out of seven, and 14 of their last 19 games. The good guys are now seven games over .500 for the first time all season, and if the score holds up in Milwaukee, Cincinnati will be 2.5 games out of first place. That’ll do, Reds. That’ll do.

–So, Alfredo Simon just became the National League’s first 12-game winner. I’d venture to say that no one saw that coming.

–tHom Brennaman expended a lot of energy tonight arguing that Simon (and Jonathan Broxton) should be an the NL All-Star team. Look, it’s great that Simon has won some games and stabilized the rotation during the period when Mat Latos was out with injury. But coming into tonight, Simon ranked 44th among all NL starters in WAR, 43rd in FIP, and 40th in xFIP. Let’s not pretend he’s one of the elite pitchers in the league, okay?

–We heard on the television broadcast that Aroldis Chapman has struck out at least one opposing hitter in 38 consecutive games, after tonight. Only one relief pitcher in history has topped that (Bruce Sutter, who had 39 in ’79).

–Yep:

–Reds will go for the five-game series sweep (their first since 1976) of the Cubs tomorrow. This is fun, eh?

246 thoughts on “Five wins in a row…and the Reds keep rollin’

  1. Alfredo Simon. What to say about Alfredo. Dear sirs, this guy is a pitcher; when I watched him in Baltimore, he was a thrower and not a good one at that. He is a very,very good pitcher and Bryan Price had a big hand in that evolution. It is not luck or an accident, he is who he is. He has been a very effective pitcher for 2-1/2 seasons now. The argument should end, we should expect this type of effort every time he toes the rubber. I’m awed by this young man.

    Here is to you Alfredo Simon. Thanks!

    • I was all wrong about Simon. I knew he had stuff. I had him pegged for Closer, and Chapman in the rotation.

      I am going to get this Chapman thing right one of these days. Duck Season, Rabbit Season…. He is a starter

    • I agree with you. I don’t care what his Alphabet Soup Numbers say, the guy has been an absolute stud for the Reds. Without him becoming the starting pitcher he has been there’s no way the Reds would be where they are right now. I have no problem at all with the home team broadcasters lobbying for him to make the All-Star team. He has earned that with his performances every fifth day thus far this season. Hopefully he will be selected in Cueto’s place.

    • Can you be more specific about how Simon is a better pitcher than, say, 2011 when he started for the Orioles? He walks fewer hitters now, but that’s about it. He struck out more when he pitched for Baltimore. He gives up more line drives now. He gives up about the same number of home runs. Fastball velocity is down a bit. He throws a cutter more now, and his splitter less. Simon is actually giving up more homers as a percentage of fly balls this year.

      The difference is substantially luck. His BABIP in 2011 was .317 and this year, it’s .233. So, instead of 32% of balls falling in for hits, 23% are. Pitchers simply don’t have that much control over balls in play. The best pitchers are lucky to get that number down to 27 or 28 percent.

      • Not going to argue about it. You either accept the reality or try to justify what is not. That is all I have to say. We look at life and baseball totally different and I accept it.

        • No, I’d really rather have my players be good. Luck tends to even out over time. Most clichés are wrong.

        • I don’t care if he’s pitching above his peripherals or not.

          The ASG isn’t based on lead indicators. It’s based on lag indicators. Supports of advanced stats can cry havoc that Simon is primed for a let down, the Reds need to be prepared, and all that stuff. It’s probably valid.

          However, his output, not his predictive measures, should and most likely will put him in the ASG.

          It grows tiring how the Saber crowd has to take the fight to the people at every turn… and this is someone with an analytics background and who appreciates Saber.

        • So, John, you are saying the ASG is for lucky players rather than good players?

          And being someone who appreciates and understands SABRmetrics, why choose to ignore them? Seems weird to pull the blinders back on…

        • Simon gets outs when he needs to get needs to get outs to avoid serious damage. Maybe he makes better pitches, maybe it is the defense that plays around him, maybe it is luck. I would suspect some of all of these.

          The prime tenet of Bill James should always be observed. It is to skeptical of everything, including your own stats and methodologies. Come to terms with the reality of the results and find a methodology which captures it.

        • JDX, I addressed that below. I’d vote a guy into the ASG based on his topline numbers. Many advanced statistics are measures of potential and future likelihood.

          Now, how I’d chose to spend money as an owner of a club is a different story.

          For example, I’d have a hard time voting Homer into the ASG because of his peripherals this year. He just isn’t performing in the aggregate. But I had every confidence that he’d turn it around and wasn’t hand-wringing about his contract.

          I just don’t think it’s worth arguing over advanced statistics and the ASG. It’s based on only half as season and never been done that way. Let the man have his due. Now I draw the line at Cy Young. You should separate the wheat from the chaff there.

        • Couldn’t agree more John Walsh. For the most part, I love what this site has to offer. Well-written and compelling. I check it multiple times a day. However, the numbers game thrown in with every article is getting old. And, like you, this is coming from a statistician. The biggest mistake I can make in my job is emphasizing numbers that only support my opinion. I see it a lot here. Baseball (and athletics in general) may be the worst format for advanced statistics. There are too many variables for it to be as absolute as some of the writers here may propose. Baseball players may go in a slump for a week if their socks get thrown in the wash. Some guys’ numbers may take a hit for an entire season because they play through an injury when another player would basically put themselves on the DL. Sabremetrics are helpful and can be very fun but it makes me cringe when I see somebody cite a few stats and rest their case.

      • I think that Simon looks to have more late movement last year than before, and that movement has just blossomed with all the innings. He looks like MIke Leake when Leake is on almost every night, with only a couple of bad outings.

        He has been extremely consistent with his delivery and stubborn like Johnny Cueto about what pitch he will throw.

        I leave it to you guys to discuss metrics. I just call it as I see it and i like the movement on Simon’s pitches

        • I’m not trying to be argumentative, but why wouldn’t the late movement show up with more strikeouts? His strikeout rate is lower than it was in 2011. It’s really low for a starting pitcher, despite that movement.

        • I think maybe the later movement is making it difficult for hitters to square up on balls. So the hitters swing and think the ball is going to be in one place, but the end up getting over it or, possibly anticipating a late dive, under it when it doesn’t dive.

          Late movement isn’t just about strikeouts. It’s all about keeping hitters from making solid contact, one way or another.

        • USER: I don’t think Simon cares a whole lot about strikeouts, My guess, and only a guess, is that he wants to gets outs as quickly and efficiently as possible. Guy can throw 95+ with great movement, and change pitch speed with ease. If he focused on K’s, his K-rate would be more impressive.

          Wild theory: maybe he just pitches to reduce the opponents run production and all else is secondary. Nuts I know so go ahead and blast me fellows.

        • More likely Homer Bailey pulls a Nolan Ryan. Today should be another example.

      • This is the stuff that cracks me up about advanced stats. I have watched, “with my eyes” all season as Simon and racked up 12 wins with a below 3 era. nuff said. You have 12 wins before any all-star break and you at the very least deserve to make the snub list. Go Simon Go!

      • This won’t be a very cheery comment. BUT… I’m not in favor of Simon pitching in the ASG. I worry that with all the AL studs ready to tee-up on him he will be an embarrassment to the team. AND he will be exposed and lose all trade value.

        It would be like bedding the ugly chick just to get your count up.

    • If only a flake of what-ever Simon has now would rub off on the Long Relief JJ Hoover, LeCure and Ondrusek …This Bullpen would be fantastic…The BP has been pitching better of late…Go REDS …

  2. Reds officially 2.5 games behind the Brewers after their loss tonight! Looks like they’ll stay behind the Cards though. Oh well. I can’t say I saw this run coming this week.

  3. Actually he is one of the elite pitchers in MLB. XFIP, FIP, etc tells you what a pitcher should be, ERA and WHIP tells you what a pitcher is. Reality is tough but it is reality. Alfredo Simon is a very good pitcher and one of the best in all of baseball , he proves it every 5th day.

    • This is wrong. Flat wrong. Please quit describing it this way, it is deeply misleading.

      xFIP and FIP tell you how a pitcher is doing based on what a pitcher controls.

      ERA measures lots of stuff that pitchers have no control over. Why do you insist on only looking at “earned runs scored” when that is such an imprecise measurement of how a pitcher has pitched?

      • ERA depends on scorer rulings, defensive range, defensive arms, sequencing of hitters, relief pitcher performance and more. None, none, none of those things is the “reality” of what a starting pitcher. None. Can’t you see that?

        • I forgot to hit the sarcasm button. I am more than fully aware of how to measure the proper value of a baseball player.

        • Ellis, I was replying to Charlotte. I get that you’re on the right side here. :-)

        • What you say is obviously true, Steve, though I’d revive, tiresomely, the suggestion that most of what happens of moment in baseball games is inextricably linked to elements beyond any given player’s control (OBP? Matters only if somebody drives you in, etc…). The thing is, you are left with no explanation for Simon’s success other than luck. Luck exists, I suppose, though it ,too, is hard to separate from action and intent. He doesn’t usually strike many guys out, and would not be doing as well with a poor defensive team, but he has had good results since he joined the Reds, and his stuff is visibly good, as is his control. My conclusion? Wins are a nearly useless measure of a pitcher’s value, but wins are ultimately all that matters.

      • Love that the bickering and complaining continues over how to evaluate a kid’s game on a night where the Reds win (again). Death, taxes, and sabermatrics fun!

      • If you, as a pitcher, can reliably induce players to hit balls in play that your superb defense will turn into outs, why waste time trying to work the count and get strikeouts? There’s only so many pitches in an arm.

    • This is sophistry.

      ERA is an output measure that lacks some objectivity. xFIP/FIP/SIERA are predictive measures. ERA tends to revert to them over the long run, but deviations aren’t a product of “scoring decisions”. Give me a break.

        • Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA SHOULD HAVE looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.

          ##

          Do we need to argue over what predictive means now? I have an analytics background, so you don’t need to take me to school or convince me. But it IS a predictive measure. That’s an objective fact.

        • Nice use of an ad hominem argument… the poster child of a losing argument.

          Please, tell me a story on the definition of predictive. Educate me on both vocabulary and analytics.

        • John, you understand that just because a statistic is predictive doesn’t mean that’s all it is, right. It can be predictive because it’s the most accurate way to measure in the present time, too. That’s one in the same. All that article that you cite (did you even bother to read it, or just search “predictive” and “FIP”) talks about is how to adjust FIP to make it more predictive.

          But a stat can be both predictive and accurate presently. In fact, the stats that measure current reality the best are generally the best predictors. ERA is a really lousy predictive stat because it’s a poor measure of reality.

        • Yes, I read the article. And yes, I saw the line in there about being descriptive and predictive.

          The point still stands. In the long run, it PREDICTS RA9/ERA better than most measures. But it is a descriptive statistic only in so much as it isolates key factors that most often influence run-scoring, though not necessarily for that game or series of games.

          I don’t just Google articles to support my arguments without reading them. This is Redlegnation, not the Facebook comments section.

        • “● FIP does a better job of predicting the future than measuring the present, as there can be a lot of fluctuation in small samples. It is less effective in describing a pitcher’s single game performance and is more appropriate in a season’s worth of innings.”

          http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/fip/

          Is this better?

        • :-)

          Meant to add a smiley. We’re 2.5 GB and rolling. Let’s keep it friendly here at RLN. After all, I’m ordering a t-shirt tonight.

        • >>Nice use of an ad hominem argument… the poster child of a losing argument.<<

          Technically you used an Appeal to Authority first.

        • Well played. But Appeal to Authority isn’t as bad as Ad Hom in my opinion. I laid out a structured case, sourced from reputable sources, and baselined that given my analytics I do in fact work with and value numbers (primarily as a defense against the Saber lynch-mob). :-)

      • To be clearer, it is an “output” measure in that it takes into account specific actions that tend to be lead measures of runs scoring–which is how games are won and lost. ERA actually does that, but with subjectivity of scorers and external factors (read fielding, luck) being able to impact it.

        But if you measure output by winning games, and if winning games is determined by scoring runs, then ERA is an output measure, albeit short-sided.

        I didn’t see Homer’s xFIP winning many games back in April/May when his ERA inflated like a balloon. But it did tell us to be patient—just like a good predictive measure should.

        Let Alfredo enjoy his piece, and maybe he’ll surprise like a Liriano last season.

      • xFIP/FIP/SIERA aren’t predictive. They measure performance. FIP uses inputs of K, W, HBP and HR, that’s it. The others are more sophisticated, but still based on what what the pitcher has actually done (ground balls, etc.). Zero future forecasting. It’s a measure of a pitcher based on what the pitcher controls. Not a prediction.

        Where the reputation of them being predictor stats comes into play is that when studies are done to see if ERA or FIP better predicts how a pitcher will perform in the future, the advanced metrics win. So you can think of them as being better predictors, but they are also just flat out more accurate.

        What’s sophistry is saying that “ERA is reality” as a measure for pitchers when it clearly depends on things other than the pitcher.

        A few comments down, Charlotte makes the accurate point that the Reds have a fabulous middle defense. Best he’s ever seen. You think that doesn’t keep the number of runs down? How much “credit” for that should Alfredo Simon receive? Is it Billy Hamilton preventing runs or Alfredo Simon?

        The BABIP numbers show that when you factor out the stuff that pitchers don’t have control over, that Simon is a good, but not great pitcher.

        • What a strawman argument. Don’t think anybody said here that Simon was a “great” pitcher. Koufax was great. Gibson was great. Simon is good.

        • Well does the pitcher keep the ball down in the zone?

          ERA is an output measure that calculates runs scored per 9 innings. Whether that’s pitching, bench positioning, defensive range, whatever. Among the key determinant factors of that output and the inputs that xFIP/FIP measures.

          No pitching occurs independent of pitching. For two months we (rightly) heard how Homer would get better because of those (accurate) predictive stats. But xFIP, FIP, etc. did no more to help the Reds win ball games… and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t scoring decisions or poor fielding that made Homer’s ERA balloon.

          Whether it’s deception, an anomalous season, good fielding, defensive positioning, whatever… whenever Simon goes on the mound his output has been solid and that’s how ASG players are selected–rightly or wrongly. Let the guy have his day.

        • I wouldn’t call it predictive, although it is a better predictor. FIP/xFIP/SIERA are ways to *isolate* the pitcher’s contribution. If they weren’t artificially put into the same scale as ERA so more people can relate to them, there wouldn’t be so much confusion.

          It’s analogous to the way ERA improved on Runs as a way to measure pitchers. Aren’t “runs” really more connected to the game outcome than “earned runs?”

          Yet no one would say that pitchers should be evaluated on runs over earned runs, because the pitcher isn’t responsible for the runs caused by errors. So it’s presumed that ERA is a more accurate measure of the pitcher, because it isolates the pitcher contribution.

          FIP etc. just takes that to the next level. They try to factor out even more variables that the pitcher doesn’t control.

        • Mutaman: Charlotte said up above that Simon was an “elite” pitcher. That’s the issue. Chad says in the recap Simon is a top 40-45 pitcher. Charlotte was disagreeing with that. So the good/great/elite distinction is exactly what’s at stake, not a straw argument.

        • John, you’re intentionally making the argument seem light by only referring to scoring decisions. The other variables – great defense, luck on BABIP, sequencing, relief pitchers – are much bigger factors.

          The issue of whether “no pitching can occur without pitching” is the wrong framework. The question is can “run scoring occur independent of pitching” and obviously, the answer is yes. Pitching, outside of what they control – strikeouts, walks, ground ball percentages – doesn’t influence run scoring much.

        • I can accept this from you above Steve…

          “I wouldn’t call it predictive, although it is a better predictor. FIP/xFIP/SIERA are ways to *isolate* the pitcher’s contribution. If they weren’t artificially put into the same scale as ERA so more people can relate to them, there wouldn’t be so much confusion.”

          But to be fair, you opened the door on scoring decisions. I was just maliciously exploiting it with hyperbole. :-)

          “ERA depends on scorer rulings, defensive range, defensive arms, sequencing of hitters, relief pitcher performance and more. None, none, none of those things is the “reality” of what a starting pitcher. None. Can’t you see that?”

          I take the point that these measures are better. I like looking at them more. But I draw the line at selecting ASG players based on things that are descriptive of inputs like K/HR/BB/etc. For the ASG let the players go based on top-line output. Hell, this is all being decided based on only ~81 games anyways.

          Cy Young voting, for me at least, is a different story and have no problem leveraging advanced measures to separate the wheat from the chaff.

        • I think your point on the ASG is totally fair. If that’s the criteria we’ve always used to put players in that game, then not following those criteria on Simon is unfair. If all anyone had said tonight was that Simon deserves to be in the ASG, I would have stayed out of it. But I was provoked to chime in by the claims that Simon is an elite pitcher and that FIP etc don’t measure “reality” that only ERA measures “reality.” Pushed a button. I should have just gone to bed happy with the winning streak and the Brewers poor stretch.:-)

        • Then we are in total alignment. I don’t think Simon is an elite pitcher. I hope we have a back-up plan, but also have my fingers crossed he can squeak through the season like Liriano last year. But I do think he should go to the ASG. All is again right with the world.

          Charlotte, you’re on your own. :-)

        • First, I think folks in the ERA camp have to come to a realization that pitchers have little control over whether a batted ball is an out, single, homer, etc. This is the first step into a larger world.

          Consider the following:

          1) Anthony Rizzo (for sake of argument) does not hit a home run on EVERY 90mph fastball down the middle. (I hope folks can agree this is fact)

          2) Pitcher A and Pitcher B both throw 90mph fastballs down the middle with equal movement.

          3) Rizzo hits a homer off Pitcher A and pops up off Pitcher B.

          Assuming an identical performance the rest of the game, conventional stats will tell you Pitcher B performed better than Pitcher A, which is simply not true. They did the exact same thing with different results.

          If you can accept the above argument, you have to be able to accept that random variation exists and that pitchers cannot fully control what happens when the ball leaves their hand.

          And if you can accept all that, you should accept that ERA is garbage. :)

        • JDX, this is my point in a nutshell…

          “● FIP does a better job of predicting the future than measuring the present, as there can be a lot of fluctuation in small samples. It is less effective in describing a pitcher’s single game performance and is more appropriate in a season’s worth of innings.”

          http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/fip/

          Chad just kicked a hornets nest with the Thom/Alfredo/Saber/ASG argument. You take ASG out of that, and I don’t have a problem. I think we should be happy with his performance, count ourselves lucky, and hope like heck it doesn’t fade. The underlying stuff just doesn’t support it.

          But the topline output has been there, for I’m sure a multitude of reasons under Simon’s control and otherwise, so I think he deserves to go to the ASG. That’s all really.

    • I have no problem with advanced metrics, I was into developing my own (such as OPS, not so advanced now) 50 years ago. But I have questions about the presumption of the scientific validity of some as accurate predictors, and with the ensuing presumption that projections based on these are more meaningful than actual results (see Charlotte’s note above).

      When researching great Reds starting rotations, I came across the 1940 rotation. Here are there numbers:

      Innings ERA FIP WHIP SO/9 SO/W
      Walters 305 2.48 3.85 1.092 3.4 1.25
      Derringer 296 3.06 3.29 1.106 3.5 2.40
      Thompson 225 3.32 3.80 1.300 4.1 1.07
      Turner 187 2.89 3.41 1.171 2.6 1.66

      For every pitcher, his FIP Is higher than his ERA, much higher in some cases. I believe in short this is because there weren’t as many strikeouts back then.
      The closest FIP to ERA is with Derringer, as he had an excellent SO/W ratio.
      The largest FIP to ERA is with Bucky Walters, as he had a SO/W ration of only 1.25. Yet see how low his WHIP was.

      If we look at Bucky Walters in 1939:
      Innings ERA FIP WHIP SO/9 SO/W
      319 2.29 3.81 1.125 3.9 1.26

      If based on 1939 FIP we predicted Walters’ ERA for 1940, we’d predict 3.81.
      In fact his 1940 ERA was much closer to his 1939 ERA.
      1939 FIP was a good predictor on the other hand for his 1940 FIP.

      I presume there a scientific claim that FIP (and/or variants) is a better predictor of ERA than ERA ? I’d like to see what that claim is based on. One would have to analyze a zillion numbers of course, but if there is such a claim, looking across all eras (including when there were very few strikeouts, as in the Dead Ball era), it would not seem to be valid.

      The last thing I want is to start a food fight. I would love to read replies based on hard information and scientific analysis. In particular, I welcome references to articles that present scientific studies that show how FIP and/or its variants are better predictors of ERA than actual ERA.

      • I took so long to write the above, that there has been a lot of discussion since then. And it’s a shame that the formatting of numbers was lost. Anyway, replies are still welcome.

      • More readable numbers, I hope:

        1940 Reds starters
        Pitcher INN ERA FIP
        Walters 305 2.48 3.85
        Derringer 296 3.06 3.29
        Thompson 225 3.32 3.80
        Turner 187 2.89 3.41

        Bucky Walters in 1939:
        INN ERA FIP
        319 2.29 3.81

      • MOST OF THE ABOVE QUESTIONS ALREADY ANSWERED BY STEVE. IF INTERESTED, ENSUING DISCUSSION WITH JDX19 BELOW.

    • It is a STRETCH to say that Simon is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, irregardless of what his numbers say. Even being someone who looks at ERA and WHIP, you should be able to rationalize that there are pitchers that are much better than him. He is, at best, the third best starter on our staff, and that’s only based off of half a season’s worth of starting. It has been great to have someone like him continue to produce, much like Mesoraco, Frazier and Billy. I think if all of our starters were pitching their absolute best you could even make an argument that he is the fifth best. That’s just my opinion however. Everyone perceives “reality” in a different way, there are those who are old school, such as yourself, and the sabremetric new-schoolers. Doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. Get off of your pedestal, Charlotte.

      • And what you see above are my opinions. Nearly every word written on this blog is an opinion. I disagree with every word you say but I respect it and you could be right, and very well may be. By the way to clarify, to date AS is one of the best pitchers in baseball for “this season”.

        The best overall (career) are guys like Koufax, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, etc. These are the true giants; if we are fortunate, maybe some of the current pitchers will reach that status. My Hall of Fame is a very exclusive club.

        I do appreciate your input and advice.;

        • So, by your logic, Casey McGeehee is one of the best third/first baseman in the game, because oh his first half numbers, THIS year. In retrospect, you can make an argument for that, but that logic is flawed.

        • I’m having a hard time making my point. I haven’t checked McGeehee (SP?) numbers but if his first half numbers warrant it:

          A. He is one of the best 3rd baseman up until today (7/10/14), “for this season”. Not for his career or his future career
          B. It is no guarantee he will be a month from now, a year from now, etc.
          C. I give him his due for what he is due
          D. I don’t negotiate a contract based on this
          E. I don’t give him an MVP based on this
          F. I don’t elect him to the Hall of Fame based on this
          G. I don’t assume this first half has much to do with luck unless I have seen him in a decent number of games

          I hope this helps clear up my intent.

  4. If we all clap together then BP’s wrist and BHam’s ankle will be ok and all will be right in Redleg Nation. Clap…Clap…Clap…

  5. Price talking about doing “due diligence” on the BP injury. I hope they consider doing the MRI to rule out ligament damage/tear tomorrow.

  6. We are going to find out just how valuable BP is to this team. Some here might disagree, but he will be greatly missed if he’s out for an extended period, or if he comes back affected by the injury ( see last year)

    • The Reds middle defense is good as I have ever seen. You take any one of the three out, you are going to be hurting. BP is very underrated here at the Nation but not by the majority. I don’t think he ought to hit higher than 6th in the lineup but he is one heck of a ballplayer and happy he is with our team. Get back out there soon BP!

    • Of course he’ll be greatly missed. He’s much better than Ramon Santiago.

      I doubt anyone on this board has ever insinuated BP isn’t important to the team in terms of on-field performance. Most talk revolves around the lunacy of him batting 3 or 4. Although, it’s a little less wild with Votto out of the lineup.

    • I like BP but one of the reasons he will be greatly missed if he goes down is that the reds don’t have anyone above replacement level to replace him.

      • But that’s, like, kind of the entire point. BP is an above replacement level player who gets a lot of grief on this board as if he isn’t one, and now we’ll be playing with a much inferior 2B. Whoever that turns out to be.

  7. Huge relief on the injury news for the two of them compared to what it could’ve been. It’s nice the All-Star break is coming up to give them a few extra days of recovery. Probably moreso for Phillips than Hamilton. Just hope it doesn’t affect BPs batting like last year’s injury did.

  8. ESPN updated playoff percentage.

    Cincinnati – 61.4 %
    Milwaukee – 60.5%
    St. Louis – 55.8%
    Pittsburgh – 32.9%

    • I’d be interested to see their algorithms. I bet they look at Latos’ performance so far and figure the Reds are likely to be significantly better than they were the first 2 1/2 months of the season. Then, throw in the fact that Hamilton, Meso, and Frazier continue to play above most projections and BOOM. That would be my guess.

      • I think it’s entirely based on run differential. They just extrapolate it across however many games are left in the season. Right now the Reds have the best run diff in the division at +27 versus Pittsburgh’s +25 and Cards’ +22. Makes it basically a dead heat.

        Speaking of run differential, Oakland is currently sitting at a staggering +147. The next highest in MLB is Washington at +57. Not even the All Star break and Oakland is almost tripling the best team in the NL and that was all basically BEFORE they traded for Smardjiza and Hammels. Their win expectancy is 110 games at this point and that rotation makes them a tough out in the playoffs. Billy Beane, ladies and gentlemen.

  9. Simon is 12-3 with I believe a sub 3 era…that is all that matters and yes SHOULD be in ASG and in the first half of this season is one of the top elite pitchers.

        • So Ondrusek and Jeff Samardzija are equally good this year? Both have 3 wins. And Samardzija has more losses…. actually, I guess Ondrusek is better.

          You’re totally right. W/L are all that matter when evaluating pitchers.

      • As far as the ASG is concerned, those stats seem to be the critical ones. No reason to get shirty among friends, eh?

  10. I hope they DL Phillips so he cant sneak his way into the lineup this weekend…I hope Hamilton sits tomorrow and maybe even a couple this weekend to rest the hammy

    • Easy there, BP may actually not be hurt that badly. Give it a little time. A sprain can mean a lot of things – and its on his glove hand – not like Molina where its his throwing hand.

  11. Tomorrow’s lineup might be:

    Schumaker(2B), Frazier, Bruce, Mesoraco, Ludwick, Heisey, Santiago, Cozart

    • Eeh gaads, at least Santiago is beginning to hit. However, Bruce will play 1B with Bryan Pena behind the plate especially since its a quick turn around and its a day game after night game.

  12. For those Reds fans that care what division opponents are doing, Pirates didn’t score. Still 4-2, bottom of 7.

  13. Cardinals add one on in bottom 7, 5-2. Looks like Reds will remain .5 behind Cardinals

    • Too bad – went out to try and cheer up Brewer fans on ESPN – can feel their pain. Reminds me of the Reds last year where they played .500 ball after Memorial Day — and then stunk it up in the 1 game play in. Would really like it to remain between the Brewers and Reds – Pirates and Cards had their turn on stage last year – its both of our turn.

  14. As I watch the Cards-Pirates game – its beginning to look more and more like its going to come down to the Reds and Cards – again this year. Pirates and Brewers really beginning to flounder. Brewers losing their fan base – so sad as they are some really nice folks.

    • Any fan base would be having issues right now in the Brewers case. Look no further than Redlegnation for a team that hasn’t even sniffed first all season until now, much less a team like the Crew that has been in charge most of the way. Milwaukee was due for a streak, but I think they’ll hang around. All of this sure makes it interesting to see which GM strikes hardest on the rest of the division at the deadline.

      • Reds really need to stay healthy. Its paramount. The Cardinals have definitely lost a few and if they lose Molina for any length of time they too will be stymied. As they like to say, last man standing, folks.

  15. Great run these past two weeks. Check that… amazing. Fingers crossed and lucky rabbit’s foot (who decided that, by the way?) rubbed for BP and Billy. And, Walt is probably having heart issues too, so let’s think about him.

  16. A poor grasp on the situation. I love Simon. Big Pasta is the man. He should be an All Star. However, when people assert that he is “elite” and should be getting an arbitration raise north of $10 million next year, these contentions need to be corrected. Facts are facts. Simon is not elite. He is having a good year and benefiting from some luck, run support and amazing defense.

  17. Talking about defense, props need to be given to Pena for his ability to play 1st base. I have more confidence with Pena making the play on a grounder than I did when Votto was in there. Votto is extremely good at digging out throws and he has saved the other infielders from errors but his fielding the past couple of years has been bad (I’m guessing some of that has to do with his bad leg)

    • I think it has more to do with Votto just being a below-average fielder of sharp ground balls hit right at him and Votto possessing a somewhat inaccurate throwing arm.

      His GG year was likely a fluke where variance (hiding his flaws by sheer luck) made him seems like a better fielder.

      I agree, he seems to be extremely good at digging balls in the dirt, which is a big part of 1B.

  18. Speaking of analytics and Marty Brennaman’s head exploding:

    Does anyone know if the Reds are still doing analytics-driven field positioning? I haven’t noticed many strong shifts, but don’t know if they’ve given up or just been less extreme/more accurate?

    Not related to tonight, just noticing how the defense has been so strong and wondering what ever happened on that front.

  19. Yes that is the concern, that Simon commands top dollars by being rated highly based on old school metrics. Reds already have looming salary issues it would be a shame to lose Simon because of over valuation by the arbiters or our own GM.

    • First, I am no arbitrator but I would imagine that wins are basically irrelevant in arbitration awards. Too dependent on things outside of the player’s control and would be unfair to good pitchers on bad teams.
      Second, when a player is in his second, third, or fourth year for super two’s, of arbitration his previous year’s salary has an impact on his next year’s salary. A guy doesn’t go from 1.5 million in his second year to ten mil in his third.
      Lastly, a player’s arbitration award is not based solely on the previous year’s stats. A player who has had four mediocre seasons before having a really good one will not make as much as a player that has had five really good ones in a row. The player’s entire career is taking into account. Simon had 17 starts at the major league level coming into this year. He is not going to get the same arbitration award as an elite starting pitcher no matter what he does. He is in line for a nice raise if he keeps this up, but it’s hard to see it being more than 6 million.

  20. To John Walsh and Steve: Could you take a look at my long post above, which points out that in earlier eras of baseball, where strikeouts were much fewer, ERA and FIP are out of whack (FIP is consistently higher). I give the 1940 Reds rotation (and Bucky Walters for 1939-40 as examples.

    I’m not trying to debunk FIP or any of its variants, just trying to understand their limitations as metrics, and the scientifically proven claims that are made for them.

    • I don’t think anyone is touting FIP or xFIP as having been “scientifically proven” to show anything specific; just that those measures are more useful to measure both a pitchers past performance and likely future performance than is ERA.

      Steve’s example of not using unearned runs in ERA is a great way to explain it. They are trying to make ERA better by excluding runs scoring due to something out of the pitcher’s control (the error). FIP, and other stats, have similar treatments and just take it farther. Isolate everything we can that the pitcher doesn’t control and we arrive closer (even if not exact) to the right answer.

      • Good and clear statement. But given that for example Bucky Walters had a high FIP his whole career, because his K/BB ratio was low his whole career, then his entire great career, measured by ERA, WHIP (and wins, but let’s leave those out of the debate) is a myth based on useless measures ? His 1939 MVP Award was a huge mistake ? The two complete game wins in the 1940 World Series were just lucky, as he walked as many hitters as he struck out ? How is his contribution to the Reds 1940 World Championship team to be gauged ?

        Suggestion: for hitters, we gauge approximate success with BA/OBP/Slugging Pct. Why not the same criteria for pitchers, where it’s BA/OBP/Slugging Pct against ?
        For a pitcher like Walters, those numbers show his greatness.

        I found that in an era where K/BB is overall low, the connection between FIP and ERA is lost. But Steve’s statement addresses this: “If xFIP/FIP/SIERA weren’t artificially put into the same scale as ERA so more people can relate to them, there wouldn’t be so much confusion.” Hurrah. So forget about the connection between ERA and FIP.

        Steve does say that: “I wouldn’t call xFIP/FIP/SIERA predictive, although it is a better predictor.” A better predictor of themselves ? Are they a better predictor of anything else ? If so what is the evidence ?

        John made a stronger statement: “Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA SHOULD HAVE looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”

    • Amen. I’m working again and don’t have the time (got to be up and at ‘em by 0600 US eastern) to hang in with this so I won’t say much more.

      However I suspect that each generation which has developed or evolved an individual metric or set of metrics was convinced their work comprised “advanced” theory when compared to what went before.

      I’ve not had the time to really do the Sabre course on EDx. In the lessons I was able to work through, at one point the instructor spoke about the PhD effect as he called it wherein what seems like valid logic and methodology is applied to a valid data set yet creates logically correct outcomes which are in fact wrong because over time it is realized they simply do not capture and describe reality.. We all need to be on alert for such occurrences in both our own analyses and those of others.

      • Right on, Jim. Any metric, or highly sophisticated statistical model of something complex, abstracts from reality. In abstracting from reality, the connection can be lost.

  21. Hey just got on and had not read through the thread, but anybody think Simon should be an All-Star?, gotta be a Cy Yound Candidate with those 12 wins and sub 3 ERA right?

    • Heh. :)

      Should have said “Hey, just got on and do you think Miami will trade Stanton for Simon straight up? I mean, Stanton is batting .000/.000/.000 in his last 4 at-bats! How can they say no to Simon? He’s 12-3!”

  22. I think this huge debate about all these stats and what designates an elite pitcher are looking a little beyond the mark. I feel the points are valid and I do not argue against them. But can’t we just sit back and enjoy the win streak and the fact that we’re 2.5 games out of first? The Reds won tonight and we’ve won five straight! Let us rejoice in the good news! We’re all rooting for the same team here.

    • I second that. Except for the good news part, since the news is mixed. Injuries. Votto, BP and BH really can’t be replaced if they’re gone past the All Star break. Well, replaced, but not on par.

  23. Yep. I got caught up in that debate, but only because I was so charged up by the Reds winning again. That’s what matters.

  24. Lots of condenscending tones an personal insults on this thread. Doesn’t feel real good to be called ‘ignorant’, but since I’m often ‘not on the right side’ of my baseball knowledge, and don’t really feel like being talked down to, I think I shall be taking a bit of a break from RLN. Go Reds.

    • Amen, Preacher. That seemed to get way too personal way too quick. Don’t like seeing that on my favorite baseball board. Yes, I know I’m as guilty as anyone of it at times.

    • The very first part of the argument was a snarky broadside at advanced metrics.

      “I agree with you. I don’t care what his Alphabet Soup Numbers say, the guy has been an absolute stud for the Reds.”

      Starting a fight, then playing the victim when you lose badly is unseemly.

    • Sad to see this. Preacher has been one of my favorite commenters since I started reading the board in 2010. Doesn’t seem right that on a board where we’re all fans of the same team that people feel the need to degrade others to the point where they don’t feel comfortable commenting. Whether you’re a “numbers guy” or “an old school guy” you’re all guys pulling for the same team. And yes, if someone called me “ignorant” I would consider it an insult. But what do I know…I’m not even a guy at all!

      • Yup, when I was much younger and a bit of a hothead if you called me ignorant, it would be on. Like so many things in life, it is ironic that most times the one shouting “ignorant” is the one who actually is.

        Preach you better not go anywhere or I’ll come a looking for you.

        • “Ignorant” is most definitely an insult, and only the ignorant would think that it’s not.

    • I’d rather not see ya go Preach. It’s not like we always agree but the debate is always a good one when we don’t and we do agree more often than not. I think things getting personal is an exception to the general rule here and that most debates are civil and about the idea presented and not the person presenting it. Give it another shot?

  25. I remember the last Reds 5-game series sweep. I was at Riverfront for Tony Perez poster day for the 5th game of the series. Santo Alcala pitched and won. I think it was against the Padres. We had good seats down in the green section that day. I was ten years old. It was 1976. Middle of the summer.

  26. I just looked it up on Baseball Reference. I had it right. The 5th game was a Sunday (August 1st), and the Reds beat the Pads 5-4. We beat Randy Jones. That’s nuts that I can remember that like it was yesterday.

    • Was he ever, he owned the Machine or at least that’s what my faulty memory recalls.

  27. The loss took him to 18-5. Good Lord. I remember an SI cover that suggested he might win 30. Also — the game was a full nine innings and took 2:01. You don’t see that any more. Rose, Morgan, Griffey, Foster, and Geronimo were all batting over .300 at the start of the game. I don’t think any of the current, Reds starters are hitting .300. That team was, well, we all know that team was the best there ever was.

    • Great comment….I have the 75 Series on DVD. If anyone has watched it, you would see such a huge difference in the pace of the game. Pitcher makes a pitch every 10 seconds, batters stay in the box. They even used the same baseball for an ENTIRE inning!

      • Yeah, you didn’t used to take a ball out of play unless it was hit out of play or had a pretty significant defect. A ball hits the dirt now and it’s replaced.

  28. It is 2:30am and I couldn’t get any sleep tonight so here I am reading about Advanced Metrics. “Elite “ pitchers, BP sore thumb, and people asserting that they can’t be wrong about what they believe and a pitching staff that is all but dead, and, of course, the Big Red Machine.
    Let’s see
    1. Simon is having a good first half and has been invaluable. Projecting that he will continue at his current pace would be difficult and estimating what he might make next year is even more difficult because for all we know he could implode and just be an asterisk on the season., So right or wrong, wait, after all it is not your money and the Reds have enough to do what the hell they please.
    2. Advanced metrics fascinate me and being a numbers guy (among other things) in a previous life I have been drawn to them. Do I feel better with them? Do I know more than I did? And it reminds me of a racing form. There were times in that previous life that too much information created such a division between my folks that I found it was best just to submit a report and if anyone wanted to see the numbers they certainly could look. It was always listed under back ground data or other information. It has its place with other data but many people believe that it is the only data that makes sense. If the data isn’t understood by folks (the many) and perceived to be another tool by “know it all’s” then it becomes just so many numbers. It is like a buffet, take what you like. Is it worth a word fight over the color of the grapes?
    3. I have often expressed this thought but the Big Red Machine has caused more angst in the last 20 years than they did when they were just owning the Baseball world. Reds fans were spoiled beyond belief and anything after that could never live up to those results. The NFL is designed with parity in mind, MLB has just recently discovered the word. Look at the NL Central. Can you try to imagine today’s communication technology and “The Big Red Machine” together at the same time? Geez!!
    4. Final comment, I am getting sleepy. The discussions that take place on this site use to take place at the corner bar, in the bleachers, or at your sister’s house with her geek husband along with a supply of alcohol. Thank goodness for the “net” I feel that many a life has been saved by Al Gore’s invention. 

    In the end, this counts more than anything, REDS WIN, REDS WIN. This is what creates revenue The finished product is what people pay for. The Reds have 162 products to sell every year. Some of them aren’t to good (the sweep by the Padres) but some of them are just heaven (the current winning streak). Hang in there folks the party will get interesting after the All Star Game.

    • The Big Red Machine did have a way of spoiling the fan base. For the first ten years of its life, the Reds played over .700 ball at Riverfront Stadium. That’s ten straight years of having a 70% chance of seeing the Reds win a game.

      That was a wonderful team in a different era. I am still enjoying this year’s team
      They have overcome a number of early injuries to key players and are playing well. Here’s to wishing the recent injuries are not serious or long lasting and to a sweep of the Cubs.

  29. Simon ranked 44th among all NL starters in WAR, 43rd in FIP, and 40th in xFIP. Let’s not pretend he’s one of the elite pitchers in the league, okay?

    He’s 12 & 3 with a 2.70 ERA before the All-Star break. That’s all I need to know. Okay?

  30. One question. If pitching metrics say a pitcher is “lucky” when balls put into play are caught above a certain percentage, how does a pitcher effectively “making” a batter hit the ball to where the defense is positioned based upon the batter’s predictors impact these metrics? Kinda worded awkwardly, but hopefully you can see where I’m coming from. We now have defensive positioning based upon a batter’s tendencies. If the defense is set up to take that into account, if a catcher sets up and calls pitches to take that into account, and if a pitcher throws pitches to bring about the batter hitting said pitches right at the defense prepared specifically for that batter, then was that luck or skill? Not trying to reignite an argument, just wondering…..

    • No one is saying it’s all luck or all skill. All anyone’s saying is that over hundreds of thousands of innings of baseball played over decades, the numbers even out and balls fall in for hits about 30% of the time. With skill and a good defense you can get that number down a bit, but no one has ever been able to keep it as low as Alfredo Simon has so far over the course of a year so it’s fair to say he’s been lucky up to this point. And hey, luck is part of baseball. That’s why it’s fun to watch. If there was no luck involved we could just run all of these games through a simulator 10,000 times each and decide who won the World Series in March.

      • Yet, if we believe baseball to be both an inborn talent (ability to throw hard) and a learned skill (controlling where you want the ball to go and what you want it to do along the way), then it seems that a pitcher who can make the ball go where he wants it to go and do the things he wants it to do and get batters to swing at the pitches he wants them to swing at is more than just “lucky” when the ball is hit towards a fielder who then records an out. I fully understand that if you put a 90 mph fastball down the middle of the plate there will be many batters who can deposit that pitch over the outfield wall. Yet, none of those batters are able to do it every single time. Therefore, there is an amount of luck involved that the batter fouled off that pitch when Pitcher A threw it but deposited it over the outfield fence when Pitcher B threw it. But if Pitcher A and Pitcher B both pitch to a batter and Pitcher A is able to constantly get him out because he strategically places his pitches where the batter nearly always grounds out to 2nd base and the defense plays the batter to do that, and Pitcher B doesn’t “pitch” him that way and the batter gets many more hits from Pitcher B, then isn’t Pitcher A a better pitcher, with better stats than Pitcher B?

        • You’re just describing two pitchers with different levels of talent. I really don’t understand what your’e getting at. Pitching isn’t all about strikeouts. Clearly part of being a good pitcher is being able to pitch to contact and still get outs (See: Cueto, Johnny). None of what your’e describing gets to the heart of BABIP, which I assume is what you’re talking about. A guy with a good GB% and a low HR/FB will have a lower BABIP and will probably sustain it, but only to a point. Again, Cueto is the perfect example. We all know he’s a very good ground ball pitcher (over 50% the past few seasons). That’s not a fluke. When he first came to Cincinnati that number was at 38%. Playing in GABP that gave him a HR/9 of 1.50 and he ended the 2008 season with a 4.81 ERA. Not good on any front. So he went about learning how to control his pitches to induce more ground balls. He’s become one of the best in the business at doing it and, not coincidentally, has gotten his career BABIP down to .276. And that’s about the bottom range for an elite pitcher to be able to sustain. Consider that Greg Maddux had a career BABIP of .281. Nolan Ryan, arguably the best pitcher ever, managed to get it down to .265. Those guys are able to do that because they’re very good pitchers, but any one of them would have considered Simon’s current rate of .232 to be very very lucky.

        • Actually he changed his delivery and that was the remedy. Over time his control and his willingness to use a greater mixture of pitches have made him nearly unparalleled in the world of MLB. Without injury, I expect JC to get better because of a desire to learn and adapt. Very much like BHam and great players in general.

          More then any luck, Simon is an extremely smart pitcher and this point has been missing from the conversation. Of course great stuff doesn’t hurt and he has that. Greatest in the league? No but not any worse than the next level.

          Simon & Cueto are MENSA when it comes to pitching. If Homer gets this, he will be better then both of them. Yes, better then his xFIP even.

        • “Actually he changed his delivery and that was the remedy.” You’re talking about Cueto? Because that’s exactly what I was saying. He was a straight hurler when he was signed and has learned to be a very controlled pitcher. His dominance this year has been because he finally seems to have mastered his cutter. As for Simon, I’m thrilled at the performances he’s been able to give us, but I just think you’re a little too high on him. Let’s see if he can even pitch a full season before we start throwing superlatives around. Cueto has earned his status by consistently delivering over a number of years. Simon has won 12 games with the help of solid run support and an uber elite defense.

        • A big part of where that improvement shows up for Cueto is his strikeout percentage. Look at how much it has jumped this season:

          2009 – 17.8%
          2010 – 17.7%
          2011 – 16.5%
          2012 – 19.1%
          2013 – 21.3%
          2014 – 25.1%

        • Eric, we are are basically on the same page. I’m high on Simon from what I see on the field. Just like BHam. There are many good “eye” guys that post here and it is impressive how often their evaluations are correct. Yes, I’m very high on Simon, just like Billy. At Alfredo’s age, it could end at any moment and I realize this but the guy is the real deal. He is not doing it with smoke and mirrors. People can disagree and I’m very fine with that but I trust these eyes. This are the opinions of solely the writer and could be wrong; however, I would not post them if I thought I was. As always, enjoy our give and take.

        • I asked you this last night. Can you be specific about what it is that your eye sees that makes Simon a different pitcher this year than he was in 2011 as a starter for Baltimore?

        • I recall reading an account suggesting that Greg Maddox was good at predicting where a given batter would hit a particular pitch and, by extension, good at throwing pitches that achieved the desired result. I’m not sure whether stats would bear that out, but suspect (considering Maddox) that they would. I’m also not sure how many other pitchers–even good ones–have that kind of control and analytical ability.

        • Control, pitch selection, movement, tenacity,and most important of all: poise. He doesn’t get ruffled after he throws a pitch, he realizes that pitch he will never get back (good or bad), you move on to the next one. Which many times will separate the poor & good from the very good or great.

      • NOTE: This reply will seem to be out of place….because it is. I was attempting to reply to Eric below. But there was no “reply” button attached to his (at this time) latest reply…. I didn’t say it was all luck or all skill. Certainly both are to be considered. I was merely wondering how advanced metrics take into account advances in strategies. The shift, for example, has been around for decades. But as more and more teams make use of advanced metrics and mountains of data on batter tendencies, and then design defenses and pitching strategies for specific batters and specific situations, it makes me wonder what impact these changes to the game will have and whether or not the advanced metrics can, should, or already have taken those things into account. I don’t think what I’m questioning is that hard of a concept to grasp.

        • Well if you’re asking whether defensive shifts (or I guess more accurate defensive shifts based on improved scouting) have effected BABIP as a whole then Steve answered the question below. And yes, a pitcher who can hit to contact and induce ground balls or weak fly balls is an objectively better pitcher than one who can’t, and odds are his BABIP will be lower than average because of those skills. Having a good scouting report and well aligned defense is going to help.

      • Green Mountain, during his (Maddux) prime years he consistently outperformed the more advanced statistics by a very large degree. If any one ask me what I think of a particular pitcher, and I haven’t seen that pitcher, the first thing I want to know is WHIP. If the WHIP is less that 1.10 in nearly all cases that pitcher is a great to very good pitcher. Because in general, the less people to reach base the less runs that are allowed. You have to have unreal stuff to overcome a poor WHIP.

        Greg Maddux wasn’t the greatest pitcher I ever saw but he probably was the smartest. That along with a cool head lead to a great career. IMO, of course.

    • That’s a good question/point. Defensive shifting has caused BABIP to decline across the board. Only a tiny part of that is controlled by the pitcher.

      • Steve, any idea how much of that is controlled by the pitcher? Obviously it helps to have good defenders in the right place. Certainly batters adapt to changes in defenses and pitching strategies aimed to get them out. It would seem there would be a minimum of 5 factors which go into the result of a pitch thrown to a batter: 1) the ability of a pitcher to put the ball where he wants it 2) the ability of the batter to do what he wants to with that pitch 3) the ability of the defense to play the ball, and be properly positioned to do so 4) the confines and conditions of that ballpark being played in and the weather and time of day 5) the way the umpire is calling the game. Is this an over-simplification?

        • Little is controlled by the pitcher. Where the infielders play matters substantially more. Even then, the decrease in BABIP has been small overall, but something. There’s new research out (keep in mind that shifts are relatively new, so the research on them is just starting) that hitters have been relatively ineffective at adjusting against the shift. Either they aren’t trying or they just can’t. For one thing, the shifts are almost entirely on the infield, and most hitters aren’t trying to hit ground balls.

          Across MLB, the percentage of balls that are put in play safely for hits is 29%. That’s a bit lower than it used to be, which was around 30%. Shifting is part of that. Fastball velocity increasing is part of it. Bullpen specialization contributes, too. The best pitchers (Kershaw, for example) might be able to lower that to 27 or 28%.

          That’s why it’s so important for pitchers to prevent balls from being put into play (more strikeouts) and reduce the damage when they are (fewer walks). That’s what’s behind the theory that xFIP is a better measure of the pitcher. It basically says you can tell how good a pitcher is by their walks and strikeouts.

  31. Boy, this thread sure got contentious. Without diving into any of the specific exchanges, I’ll just say that there doesn’t seem to be a more heated debate between the pure SABR followers and the eye test crowd around here than over pitching, and that should make sense. Numbers rule baseball because of its ENORMOUS sample size. Most advanced statistics don’t do a thing to accurately evaluate a player until thousands of innings’ worth of data have been accrued. For a position player, that happens over the course of a year or two. For a starting pitcher it takes longer, clearly. Alfredo Simon has played in 18 games for the Cincinnati Reds this year for a total of 116 innings, so more like the equivalent of 13 games. Imagine if we were trying to evaluate Billy Hamilton after 13 games. In April he had a wRC+ of 67. Over the past month it’s been closer to 140. In April, Brayan Pena had a wRC+ of 120. In June it was 10 (TEN!). Those are the kinds of swings baseball players make over a month’s worth of games and none of us are that shocked to see it. But with a pitcher we seem to forget that the sample size gets greatly reduced over a similar amount of time. Without sample size, no metric advanced or otherwise means a thing. Simon has performed well so far this year. I don’t expect him to continue this kind of dominance. I will be happily surprised if he does. But as someone said in a recent thread, regardless of ERA, Alfredo Simon is not by any definition a “star” so I’m not too upset that he’s not in the “All Star” Game. This is a game that Derek Jeter is starting, after all. The very idea that you would name a season’s best players based on less than half a season’s worth of production tells you all you need to know about the “honor.”

    • Interesting stuff, Eric. Pitching inspires a lot more debate than hitting partly because – as pitchers say – once they let the ball go, they can’t control what happens. The batter on the other hand can see the pitch after it’s thrown and his swing has a direct impact on the outcome.

      My suggestion is to go for symmetry – evaluate a pitcher the same way you evaluate a hitter (OPS and such). There’s luck involved in the short run, but in the long run you get just as good a measure of a pitcher as a hitter.

      The lack of symmetry in certain saber notions shows up most dramatically in Ks. On the one hand, Ks are treated as unimportant for a hitter. On the other hand, they’re of primary importance for a pitcher. No one has ever logically explained that to me. A K is a single outcome in which the pitcher and hitter both participate, and it’s either significant (relative to other kinds of outs) or it’s not.

      • Oooh, good point about how strikeouts are handled between hitters and pitchers when it comes to metrics… Ok, I haven’t really thought of it that way. As a SABR member with some traditional tendencies and thinking, I think you may have come up with the base of my next research project. Thanks!!

    • I agree with everything you said, and will only note (though it certainly doesn’t decrease the validity of your point) that starting pitchers get a lot more reps in a game than do hitters or fielders (catchers excepted). And also, the ASG seems to feature the most famous–as opposed to the best–players.

  32. My two and half cents worth. First My fear of Simon is will he run out of gas in August and September but he has been a great boost for first half but come playoff time he may well be in the pen as long man just a guess.

    Next Pena is not all that bad at first base, plug him in there and keep rolling, don’t give away the Farm just for a gone next year quick fix at first.

    Next Hamilton is lean and looks like he be easy to break, may need special attention rest of year to make sure he keeps loose and get plenty of rest and not out on town or across the river when games are over or on days off.

    Next Cozy, his bat may not be so great at times, but i tell you all he is as solid as they come at short, I watched Davey, and Barry play many games there and for defense he is as good as they were.

    Next Team Chemistry, thanks to MLB Network, MLB.Com, ESPN, RedLegs Nation, and all the other Reds Message Boards the one thing that seems to have worked all season is Team Chemistry, people offering to come in and try First Base, is just an example. They all seem to get along well, and work well as a team. That can get a team through hard times and be the little thing needed to play and win in October.

    Next Bullpen, seems for now they are all back on track for most part. If this keeps up as well as starters holding up and offense keeps up its recent pace, and the injuries don’t get too bad, 90 plus wins can happen. Or if things fall back to how things were in April get ready for Football season.

    Guess that’s it for now…..

    • Price has said that Simon has a bit of a rubber arm. I guess we’ll find that out as he starts to go into uncharted territory as far as innings pitched and pitches thrown. I suspect he’ll regress some but I’m hoping the regression isn’t particularly dramatic but is more subtle.

  33. No one has answered my question about how the performance of a pitcher with a low K/BB ratio who has had unquestioned success over his career (i.e. the batters consistently make outs – they have low BA, low OBP, and low slugging pct.) – is more accurately represented by FIP or variants than by those numbers. Bucky Walters is my example but you could find many more, especially from the old days when batters didn’t strike out much.

    The whole idea that you can reduce what a pitcher can “control” by considering only 4 outcomes – K, BB, HR, ball in play – is cool but it’s just an interesting abstraction.
    The “ball in play” outcome abstracts from reality to the point of losing touch with it.

    The idea that a pitcher can’t control whether a batter hits a pop up or a screaming line drive that hits off the top of the wall for a double begs all kinds of questions. So if the ball were hit one foot higher then the pitcher had “control” but not so if it stays in the park ?

    And who says the pitcher has “control” when the batter strikes out by swinging at a pitch in the dirt ? The pitcher doesn’t control whether the batter swings. If you really want to talk about control, all the pitcher can control is the velocity and trajectory of his pitch. If you want to reduce to what the pitcher can “control”, then measure that and forget about the rest.

    “BABIP is .300 over the years.” So what ? BABIP is different for different pitchers over the course of their careers. Some pitchers are good at keeping the hitter from hitting the ball off the barrel of the bat. Others aren’t, for numerous reasons. The FIP abstraction – taken as a measure of what the pitcher can control – is based on an assumption that the pitcher can’t “control” whether the batter hits the ball off the barrel. No he can’t control it, but his pitch has an influence over whether that happens, the same as the quality of a pitch outside of the strike zone has an influence over whether the batter chases and misses a pitch outside of the strike zone.

    • “”BABIP is .300 over the years.” So what ? BABIP is different for different pitchers over the course of their careers.”

      Of course and batting averages have probably been some medium number over the years. Doesn’t have a thing in the world to do with individual results, except when thrown together you get roughly the same medium number.

      Like life, is there only one road to success? Why would pitching or hitting be any different? Just strikes me as common sense and I don’t need a spreedsheet as proof.

      Smartest folks in the world are skeptics. Billy James seems to know this.

      • In the 1960s, when I was as heavy duty a saber guy as there is, I read about Bill James’ ideas and was thrilled. He’s brilliant and is always re-thinking things, like good scientists do.

        • “A natural skeptic, James had decided never to believe something (that ballplayers peak in their early thirties) simply because he’d been told it was so.” Taken from The New Yorker magazine. I’d guess this applies to written word as well.

          Most heavy-duty stats guys do not resemble this, to me. Least skeptical people I have the privilege of knowing. For the most part, the “eye test” oriented guys are open minded and realize that their much to be learned. Stats are a good and very helpful tool but they do not, and can not, tell the whole story. We just don’t except everything they hear as fact, especially when it contradicts our own observations.. Skeptical, you might say.

          I don’t want to hash out worn out arguments so that’s all I have. For clarity, these are my opinions and not necessarily facts.

        • Sabermetrics as a field was born out of skepticism that old fashioned notions about baseball were wrong. That’s why the leading book was subtitled: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong. It busted up conventional wisdom. So your assumption that “stats guys” aren’t skeptics is inaccurate. It’s just they are skeptical about things you take for a given, like that your eyes can evaluate how Alfredo Simon is pitching.

          Can any field become too calcified in its own dogma? Sure. But if you spent time reading the mountains of research being churned out every day by FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus etc. you’d know that no one is resting on their dogma in this field. Everything is constantly being questioned and tested.

          The example you point to, James and baseball players’ peak time, exactly proves my point. Conventional wisdom (scouts, players, GMs) from those who were running the game was that players peaked in their early thirties. That’s what their experience *and eyes* told them. Turns out, when James collected “heavy duty stats” on it, that players peak around age 27.

        • And Aristotle thought the sun revolved around the Earth because that’s what his eyes told him and he didn’t have any better way to analyze what he thought he was seeing.

        • EricNYC: True that Aristotle wasn’t much of an astronomer. If he’d combined his observations of the stars with math, he’d have done better.

        • Yes, Steve you are right about the Sabre guys original purpose but unfortunately in many cases they have become what they fought to disapprove – they became their opponent. In many cases, they are now the “old school” guys on the block and argue that way. Happens all the time and most certainly isn’t limited to sports. Once you have everything figured out, you are doomed.

        • Since you don’t read a word they write, how would you know what they have become?

      • Yes, great point. Median numbers have applications, but may have little relevance to specific individuals.

    • I’m not sure why FIP is an “abstraction” any more than ERA. They are both theories about how to measure a pitcher. One theory says you can measure a pitcher by looking at the walks and strikeouts he gives up. The other says you can measure a pitcher by looking at the number of earned runs he gives up. There’s no difference in the level of abstraction. They both are based on tangible stats that have been collected for decades.

    • The limited amount of control over balls put in play by pitchers is easy to demonstrate this way. The batting average on balls put in play across the league is about 29 percent. The batting average on balls put in play by the best pitchers in the game, when measured over a decent sample size is about 27 or 28 percent. You can make up all the scenarios you want about preventing the squaring up of the bat, etc. It matters a percent or two at the most. The rest is fielding and luck.

      • “The batting average on balls put in play by the best pitchers in the game, when measured over a decent sample size is about 27 or 28 percent.” This is really interesting. What time period does this figure cover ?

        • See my post above. Maddux had a career BABIP of .281 and is considered the ultimate master of deceptive pitching and pitching to contact. He only had a career K/9 of 6.06, so he was getting his outs by making people put the ball in play and it still didn’t drop that number all that much.

        • Don’t know how else to reply to EricNYC below. Since I invoked Maddux, I will ask: Do you believe that he wasn’t elite? He had a low strikeout rate, after all.

        • Of course Maddux was elite. Top 10 all time easily (ranked 4th in all time WAR for pitchers). But I think a lot of Maddux’s value was in his durability and consistency. He topped 200 innings 18 (EIGHTEEN!) times in his career and 3 other times he was over 190. Only his rookie season was he below 194. That’s almost unbelievable. It would appear that he had a bit of luck in his career but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. I think anyone who pitches that many innings over his career is bound to run into some good luck here and there.

        • Have a look at the 1991-1997 seasons. I think he would be in HOF on these seasons alone.

  34. Of course they’re both abstractions. And I have not said that ERA is a better abstraction than FIP. It has its own problems. I’ve pointed out problems with the FIP abstraction.
    FIP is based on a flawed notion of what a pitcher “controls”.

    “They both are based on tangible stats that have been collected for decades.” Yes and the further back you go, the less relevant FIP becomes, as strikeouts are more rare and yet some pitchers have great success over a career without them.

    How about measuring pitchers in the same way as you measure hitters – OPS and all the refinements.

    BTW I think FIP is a promising abstraction once it gets fleshed out – as it already has to some degree – with ground ball rates, line drive rates, etc. Keep the research going, I say. Maybe Bucky Walters was great because he had an astounding ground ball rate, and a very low line drive rate.

    • I didn’t address your questions about historical applications of FIP because I didn’t know the answer, but I think it’s an interesting issue.

      SIERA is the development in fleshing out FIP in the ways you mention. It adds variables like ground ball rates, acknowledging that pitchers control that to a degree and puts more emphasis on the role strikeouts (as a proxy for fastball velocity) play.

      • Thanks I’ll look into SIERA. As I said, I think it’s a promising direction, just in need of refinement.

        • A couple months ago I started digging into SIERA. I ended up not bothering because, a lot like OPS+ versus wRC+, it seemed like at any given moment a guy’s SIERA was almost identical to his xFIP. I think the SABR guys are starting to hit a wall in terms of ways to make these stats more accurate. After all, there really are only so many things that can happen on any given baseball play.

      • To Pinson and Steve, I’m a much bigger fan of SIERA for that reason. K/BB are clearly important factors, but they’re not the only aspects of a pitchers game.

        To Pinson’s point above, if I’m reading it correctly, perhaps that’s why (x)FIP sometimes predict less accurately. Also how does it compare for same pitchers but other years. Would be interesting to see if SIERA was more accurate.

        • xFIP is more accurate than FIP because it normalizes home runs across fly ball percentages. Turns out that fly ball rates are a better predictor of home runs than past home run rates. That’s why your quote about FIP being unreliable from game to game is right. That’s because it counts home runs. So if a pitcher happens to give up a home run or two in a specific game, it really throws the FIP (and ERA) out of whack. Over time, of course, it averages out.

          xFIP and SIERA solve that problem, so don’t group them in with the “game-to-game” issues of FIP, at least not the same ones.

        • I thought xFIP just adjusted for park and league? Thought that HR’s still had a massive impact on it. The HR’s are what have Cueto’s FIP so high, but his xFIP is a tick lower because of how many of those have come in GABP. Maybe I misunderstand. Honestly, I’m still not quite clear on how exactly parks and leagues are factored in mathematically to any stat.

  35. All I know is that in season full of injuries and sizable pile of bad luck, I’ll take some good luck in the form of Simon’s performance.

    Is it possible he could continue to outperform certain metrics? Sure, players do it all the time (see Cueto). Now, I would need to see a sustained strech of success for the rest of this season and into to next year before putting him in that category.

    But for now, I will enjoy the ride!

  36. Steve, I know we can’t do this all day, but it’s fun and the only way to clarify differences in viewpoint. Above, in reply to an excellent comment by Eric NYC about the difficulty of evaluating pitching performance, I add two cents and then suggest they be evaluated based on the same outcomes as hitters.

    I don’t understand the asymmetry where when a K happens, it’s a big deal for a pitcher but the same as any other out (pretty much) for the hitter.

    • My stab at this: For hitters, there isn’t much difference in the way an out is made, assuming it’s an out. Obviously, there are some important differences, like when a run can be driven in with a ground ball or fly out, or a runner advanced.

      But clearly there is a preference for a hitter putting the ball in play as opposed to a strikeout. You can’t get a hit without putting it in play.

      So for a pitcher, you try to prevent balls from being put in play. For hitters, you try to put the ball in play.

      So does it matter if a hitter strikes out 180 times as opposed to 100? Yes, if during those extra 80 strikeouts he could have done something like advance or score a runner. And presumably there are times in there where that’s likely.

      • Your assumption is that pitchers have unlimited bullets, and that fatigue/efficiency does not factor into the decision.

  37. The game thread just published, along with today’s lineup. It’s interesting, to say the least. Let’s move the discussion over there and put our attention back on the surging Reds!

  38. I sure wished people spent as much time talking about the changes Simon has made to his repertoire as this stat debate. After arriving from Baltimore, his pitch selection was as messed up as anyone I’ve ever seen, yet how did he get to this level?

    *crickets*

    My background is coaching and I watch the game like a scout—I’m a million times more interested in figuring out the how and why……… been waiting 8 years for a discussion on pitch sequencing, you know? The stats are useful in revealing best practices, but they don’t say a thing about the preparation and adjustments players and coaches have to make all the time, yet nearly all of the oxygen on this site is used up on other things. Could it be that no one cares???

    • God Bless you. We come from the same background. You have nailed Simon to a tee. Being in the Mid-Atlantic, I have watched a ton of Oriole games. Simon might be Bryan Price’s greatest accomplishment.

      An example of pitch selection: I have noticed that many times when Bailey gets frustrated the next pitch will be the hardest he throws in the game. Good? Not necessarily because it normally goes right down the pipe. On the other hand, Cueto and Simon as examples will do the exact opposite. They seem to gain composure rather then loose it. The most important tool anyone possesses is their mind.

      During game threads, please bring your observations up. I live for that stuff.

      • About whereabouts are you? I was stationed in the USAF at Ft. Meade and also played a lot of ball in that part of the country.

  39. I don’t post here normally (long-time reader), but wanted to weigh in on this discussion. First, I’ll admit I’m an old school purist from a numbers perspective. I pitched in college and minors, and coached for a number of years as well, so I’d like to think I know a little about pitching.

    I can tell you personally that pitchers can and do change their approach based on a variety of factors. I had some years with mediocre defensive teams, and I knew the strikeout was the best option, which resulted in an increased K rate (due to trying to miss bats) and fewer innings pitched due to elevated pitch counts. It also led to more arm pain and fatigue as sliders and splitters were strikeout pitches that are far tougher on the arm. My senior year in college we had an elite defensive team, so I pitched to contact with more subtle movement (cutters, two-seamers) that led to missing batter’s sweet spots. More balls were put in play, but fewer of them were squared up. I pitched more innings, had a slightly lower ERA, and had more decisions because I was in the game longer.

    Simon’s improvement in numbers and old-school metrics (W/L, ERA, WHIP) may well follow that common trend…he knows he has a MLB-best caliber defense behind him, so the K isn’t always needed. You get batters out not simply by missing bats via the K. More mature and experience pitchers also learn to let the batter get himself out. Perhaps that’s the transition SImon has made.

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