2009 Reds / Willy Taveras OBP Watch

How Many Runs Do Taveras and Gonzalez Cost the Reds on Offense?

(Ed: Please welcome Redleg Nation‘s newest contributor.)

Before Wednesday night’s game, the Reds had scored 419 runs in 106 games, or 3.953 runs per game (R/G), which ranks them 15th of the 16 NL teams. Only the San Diego Padres have done worse at scoring runs. Obviously, the Reds play in a hitters park and the Padres play in a pitchers park, and when you look at rate stats that adjust for ballpark factors (like OPS+), the Reds are rated as the worst offense in the National League.

I read (and submit) many e-groans every time I see Willy Taveras and Alex Gonzalez penciled into the #1 and #2 slot in the lineup. “Everyone knows” that this combination is costing the team runs and games over the course of the season, but how many runs are being lost at their expense?

I used the lineup tool at baseballmusings.com to calculate R/G (runs per game) projections based on different Reds lineups. That projection model requires you to input on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage (SLG) for each of the nine spots in the batting order. To test the accuracy of the model, I took batting splits by batting order for the 2009 Reds from baseball-reference.com and compared the projection to the actual number of runs scored so far this year.

The model estimates that the Reds have scored 417.5 runs through 106 games compared to the actual 419 runs scored. That is a really impressive approximation given that I only input two statistics for each spot in the batting order.

At the top of the lineup, the 2009 Reds have had:

#1 .273 OBP, .298 SLG – mostly Willy Taveras
#2 .300 OBP, .363 SLG – better than Gonzalez’s 2009 season, but close to his career numbers

If we replace those stats with the 2009 MLB average for those batting order spots:

#1 .338 OBP, .401 SLG
#2. .343 OBP, .428 SLG

then, the lineup tool estimates that the Reds would have scored 467.2 runs through 106 games, or 4.41 R/G. That production would put them just a touch below the NL average rate of 4.44 R/G.

Now, with major league average #1/#2 hitters, add Scott Rolen at the trade deadline. I took his 2008 & 2009 stats from Toronto (.358 OBP & .452 SLG) and plugged them into the #5 spot. The model estimates that that lineup would score 4.566 runs per game, which would rank 5th best in the National League in 2009.

With Dusty Baker’s job secure according to Bob Castellini, it is on Walt Jocketty to get the players he needs to be at least league average in the #1 and #2 spot, and Dusty Baker’s job to play the best top of the order candidates. Let’s abandon the Willy Taveras experiment in the leadoff spot. Let’s find a solution for the #2 spot (Hanigan, anyone?) With those changes and the addition of Rolen, this team could very well have playoff caliber offense in 2010.

32 thoughts on “How Many Runs Do Taveras and Gonzalez Cost the Reds on Offense?

  1. This is why just about every post lately has been “Fire Everybody”
    This just screams for a “Fire Dusty Baker”, however.

    At least we have some fairly decent statistics backing up the fact that Willy T should not be a leadoff hitter.

  2. Good post Greg D

    Unfortunately there has never really been any decent statistic backing up the notion that Willy should bat leadoff, save for the fact that he’s fast (!) and that he had a fluke year in Colorado of all places.

    Batting Stubbs and Hanigan 1 and 2 in the lineup I feel like would increase our team pretty significantly and that’s without really making any roster moves!

  3. It’ll be interesting to see what Dusty does in CF when Dickerson returns. The interesting thing is that Dusty may have “job security” but there may be more direction by ownership next season in terms of which players he plays. I still think going out and getting Scutaro or buying low on JJ Hardy are smart moves.

  4. Hey, GregD, moving up in the world! Congrats, and well-deserved.

    Good post, good analysis.

    Amazing that, as rough and injury-riddled as the year has been, if we had an average #1 hitter and an average #2 hitter, we’d have an average offense?

    So Willy and Alex (mostly) have moved us from an average offense to 2nd-worst in the NL? 2 guys can do that?? That’s insane!

    By the way… I think Dickerson can post a .340/.400 in his sleep.

    Who can we plug in at SS (or 2B, if Phillips were to work out at SS) who can put up a .340/.430? I’m not sure… but I’d really like to give Drew Sutton a chance there (at 2B).

    If trade, I do think JJ Hardy is worth exploring too — classic case of potential “buy low” as he’s sort of expensive ($4.65M), hitting terribly this year (.226/.297/.366), and ready to be replaced by the Brewers best prospect (Escobar). Unfortunately, I think he only has 1 year left til free agency.

  5. Really, though, we’d be better off finding someone young who has all or most of his 6 cost-controlled years ahead of him to plug in at 2B or SS (depending on where Phillips ends up).

  6. Can someone email this to Dusty? It blows my mind that he continues to put those two 1-2 in the lineup. I hope the job security comment was one of those where they know they are going to can him at the end of the year.

  7. I wouldn’t mind making a play for Hardy, but no way do I want Scutaro. He is in his early 30’s having a career year. That is a buy high situation. There is no way he duplicates this season next year. I believe he is a career .260 hitter.

  8. “Where are we going to find one of those, though?”

    Atlanta.

    Say bye-bye, Brandon Phillips. Payroll issue solved ($17 mil in 2010-’11), shortstop (Yunel Escobar) issue semi-solved, Valaika/Frazier/fill-in take over 2b, Rolen slips into 4-hole . . . lots of things fall into place with one player movement:

    Phillips.

  9. Long-term within the organization, you’ve got Valaika, Frazier and Cozart. Only one of those 3 are in AAA now, and he hasn’t hit as well as he did in past years.

    For next year, I found a 2B free agent whose career numbers are .283 AVG/.348 OBP/.433 SLG. Since moving to the NL West, Orlando Hudson has hit .294/.364/.445.

    I think if you went after Scutaro, you’d be significantly overpaying on his career year. IMHO, he’s last year’s Jerry Hairston, Jr.

  10. Hudson is not a half-bad idea… he and Phillips could make a killer DP combination, I think… And he’ll be 32, which is old but not crazy old…

    But cost-wise, it would be best if Cozart, Frazier, Valaika, or Sutton (don’t forget him!) came up big. I’d be psyched about that.

  11. I have been screaming for Hanigan to be in the number 2 spot of the lineup ALL YEAR LONG.

    The #4 most overpaid player in the MLB, according to Forbes, is Ramon Hernandez. For what we’re paying this guy, and the mediocre work he puts forth, he’s entirely overpaid. Ryan Hanigan on the other hand, has shown all year that he performs well when played regularly. He’s posted great numbers in the 8th spot of the lineup, all to be negated because there isn’t a single person behind him (Pitcher, Taveras, and Gonzalez) that can drive him or get on-base behind him.

    I also agree with David. I think JJ Hardy would RAKE in GABP, and he’s decently young too.

  12. Fantastic post Greg.

    What do the numbers look like when you use Willy Taveras’ numbers (.279/.290) exclusively for the leadoff spot and Alex Gonzalez’ numbers (.243/.287) from 2009 in the #2 spot?

    How many runs over the course of the year would that cost the Reds over the course of the year, as opposed to the league normal (not to mention Dickerson’s higher than normal numbers)?

  13. Great post and staggering numbers that indict Dusty Baker on several counts of failure.

  14. Hudson will cost way too much cash and the Reds’ second-round pick. Not sure he’s worth that at his age, as much as I love the idea of him and Phillips at the keystone.

    I think Hardy’s pretty much a lock to be non-tendered, so he could be expensive on the open market. I don’t hate the idea of signing Adam Everett, if he’s cheap enough. He can keep the spot warm for Cozart or someone else and leave the Reds enough cash to sign a LF.

  15. i posted similar stats using the lineup tool in last night’s game thread. i didn’t plug in the possibility of having better players, i just tinkered with the lineup, and it looked like the reds have probably lost 5 wins just by having the worst hitters at the top of the order.

    sure it’s a bad team, and getting better players would help. but 5 wins is a lot to throw away on lineups.

  16. I’m starting to worry about Hannigan’s offense of late. Has the league figured him out?

  17. al – I see that now in game thread post #68. That’s exactly what I saw and posted a comment on earlier in the year. I flipped Dickerson (when he was batting 7th) for Taveras, and saw a substantial improvement in runs scored.

    Some argue that batting order doesn’t matter. I think the answer lies in how dramatic the change is and what kind of numbers are you moving around. For example, the lineup tool suggests that Rolen 4th/Phillips 5th instead of the current order only improves the expected run production by 1 run over the course of a season. That’s not a statistically significant difference. However, when you put Dickerson and Hanigan’s numbers at the top of the order, and bat Gonzalez and Taveras 7/8, the expected run production improves quite a bit.

    Re: Escobar – I had heard the rumors that he was on the outs with Cox/Atlanta. I haven’t read anything else recently. That would be a nice pickup. As I said in the around the interweb thread, Phillips salary may be the one to go if they can’t/won’t move Arroyo, Harang, or Cordero. It could possibly be easier to trade him when his average salary is $9M per year for two years, than to wait until he has $11M left in his final year.

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  19. Steve @ 14

    What do the numbers look like when you use Willy Taveras’ numbers (.279/.290) exclusively for the leadoff spot and Alex Gonzalez’ numbers (.243/.287) from 2009 in the #2 spot?

    How many runs over the course of the year would that cost the Reds over the course of the year, as opposed to the league normal (not to mention Dickerson’s higher than normal numbers)?

    If WT/A-Gon hit 1/2 with those numbers over 162 games
    = 603 runs

    If league average hitters were batting 1/2
    = 714 runs

    So, a Taveras/Gonzalez lineup at their current stats would cost the team a little over 100 runs over a full season.

    (The Reds actual, current run production is on pace for 640 runs over a 162 game season.)

  20. What do you get if you plug in Taveras’s and Gonzalez’s career averages in the 1 and 2 spots? (There’s an argument that they can’t really be THIS bad – as bad as their 2009 numbers I mean – going forward…)

  21. Willy Taveras
    career – .323/.330
    2009 – .279/.290
    Although Taveras was also this bad in 2008

    Alex Gonzalez
    career – .293/.394
    2009 – .243/.287

    Using their career averages, expected run production would be 671 runs.

  22. #2 hitter in 2010…Jay Bruce? Just give it a thought. The main reason I would want it is because he will get good pitches to hit. A team won’t want to walk him with Votto batting behind him. Then you still maintain some speed in the #2 spot.
    Just an idea

  23. Interesting idea Eddie, but I think that was the philosophy Dusty used for A-Gon too… he’ll see better pitches (and we know how that worked out). Bruce has to get a little bit better in general at the plate before he can hold down the two hole.

  24. I don’t think there’s much to that “getting better pitches to hit” argument.

    I think the main thing is just to get the best OBP’s we can get up in the #1 and #2 holes, and so far, Bruce has had fairly lousy OBP’s.

  25. I would personally like to see this lineup –

    Ryan Hanigan – C
    Brandon Phillips – 2B
    Joey Votto – 1B
    Scott Rolen – 3B
    Jonny Gomes – RF
    Wladamir Balentein – LF
    Drew Sutton – CF
    Paul Janish – SS
    Pitcher

  26. If they could really pull off a Phillips for Escobar deal, I’d be really excited about something along these lines for next year:

    CF – Dickerson/Stubbs
    SS – Escobar
    1B – Votto
    3B – Rolen
    LF – Gomes
    RF – Bruce
    C – Hanigan
    2B – Sutton (with Frazier or Valaika on deck in AAA)
    Pitcher

  27. Greg, fantastic analysis. Thanks for all the hard work.

    Shortstop is the glaring blackhole. Whether it is moving Phillips or an outside solution they have to do something to get us at least league average performance out of the spot, particularly since Dusty seems wedded to backing whomever playe there at the top of the order. Think it is probably our biggest off season priority.

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