[5/5]

The Reds have been a bad, bad team for large chunks of the past two seasons. They finished with the second-worst record in baseball this year.

Injuries indeed played a substantial role. That factor exonerates the manager, who can only play the healthy bodies available to him. The failure to do a better job making the roster more injury-proof lies squarely at the feet of the front office and ownership. Other organizations were hit by similar or greater misfortune. The Cardinals managed 100 wins under worse luck with shoulders, ankles, elbows and quads. Their talent pool was deeper.

As Reds fans move from cheering to reckoning, we hope and expect change with a sense of urgency. A different future can take a number of forms, based on how the organization decides to get there. Let’s take a look at the options.

The Manager

At the close of the 2015 season, many frustrated fans were calling for firing manager Bryan Price. Yet, CEO Bob Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty decided to bring Price back. The Reds manager will be in the final year of his 3-year contract in 2016.

Then Reds then looked their fans straight in the eye and said part of their reason for bringing Price back was that the team didn’t quit on him. Low bars aside, and with all due disrespect, the Reds were 18-43 from August on. How exactly would quitting have looked worse? Did hustling on ground ball outs save Price’s job?

The Reds have said they will be taking a hard look at Price’s coaching staff. File that under token gestures.

Given how far away the Reds were from a competitive, deep roster, whether Bryan Price is the manager of the Reds next year is trivial compared to who the general manager is and the organization’s approach to talent evaluation. Good players are substantially more important than having a good manager. Compare Randal Grichuk (.276/.329/.548; wRC+ 137) to Brennan Boesch (.146/.191/.202; wRC+ 3) as first outfielders off the bench.

Without changing the organization’s culture, a new field manager wouldn’t matter much. The Reds hired a comfortable insider last time and seemed poised to do it again with Barry Larkin. But unless Larkin planned to bat lead-off and pitch more than a few innings in relief, his hiring wouldn’t generate much change.

The General Manager

According to Castellini, Walt Jocketty’s job was never in jeopardy. Of course, that’s what you say to reporters whether or not it’s the truth. But in this case, despite the team’s record the past two seasons and the powerful case for change, it’s not hard to imagine Castellini keeping on with his friend from back in day.

Unlike last offseason, this year there hasn’t even been a hint of a shake-up in the front office staff. Not that it would matter. Last time, Jocketty replaced one failed, old-school GM with another. Jocketty and his lieutenants are straight outta Jurassic Park, where the dinosaurs devoured the scientists.

The Cardinals fired Walt Jocketty nearly ten years ago for resisting the influence of analytics. He’s still at it. Still looking for RBI guys. Still going on about hitting with runners in scoring position. Still stockpiling pitchers in an age of hitting scarcity. Still setting out narrow roles for bench players then filling them by scouring the ever-shrinking pool of former Cardinals who played for him. Strategies from 1995.

Last offseason, more than a decade after the publication of Moneyball, Jocketty finally talked about bringing in hitters with better plate discipline. Yet he acquired Marlon Byrd, Brennan Boesch and Chris Dominguez.

It’s all part of an archaic, myopic process. When you begin with valuations from a bygone era, it’s no surprise you’re unable to make smart trades or free agent signings for players with the right skills. When you don’t really believe in the value of OBP, you won’t pay the price for it. You might talk about it, but when it’s time to make a deal the Reds end up saying other clubs or players are asking too much or not offering enough. The front office can’t find a match because its general manager’s instinct is to use the pitcher-hitter exchange rate from ten years ago.

The Players

In bringing back Jocketty and his staff, along with Bryan Price, ownership is exhibiting breathtaking contentment. But the fans, who can vote with their wallets from one season to the next, won’t tolerate complacency. So some other part of the organization will have to give. If changes aren’t made in the front office or the manager’s desk, that leaves the roster of players.

It’s easier to fire the coach than fire the team. That’s the cliché. The Reds will turn that idea upside down and backward this offseason.

Prepare to see more of your favorite players wearing other uniforms. But unlike Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, who were obvious candidates for deadline moves, the next wave of Reds to be shipped off will be victims of the need to show change to the fans.

The front office will call press conferences to announce these trades with the seriousness of a heart attack. We hate to do this, but something had to be done. One more time they’ll roll out the mantras of accountability and relentlessness. Of course it will ring hollow when ownership doesn’t apply those principles throughout the organization.

Jay Bruce is the most likely player to be traded to “change the clubhouse.” That will make the Bruce-haters and certain announcers smile. But with the same crowd in charge of finding his replacement, there’s little chance that Jay Bruce’s painful departure will be more than symbolic. Gorilla dust.

The Owner

The accelerating pace of change in baseball means that every year the Reds fail to modernize their thinking they fall further behind.

This will not change until Bob Castellini wants it to change. Read that again.

If the Reds owner does decide to make the real and necessary fixes, he’ll needs to reverse direction and head forward into the future. Castellini needs to take the bold steps to transform the way the club thinks before they look at how the club plays.

Bill DeWitt Jr. demanded the Cardinals adopt modern baseball in 2003. There are similar narratives more recently in Pittsburgh and the North Side of Chicago. Without new vision and leadership from Bob Castellini the Reds will continue to fall further behind in the division. While every major league organization has a unique way of getting things done, this kind of leadership – re-setting what is valued and rewarded – must come from the top.

It should be obvious by now that the Reds need a new general manager, one who is well versed in sabermetrics and up-to-date in thinking about baseball. Second, more resources, including hiring full-time qualified staff, must be invested in the team’s analytics department. Getting smart is cheap compared to staying ignorant. Third, the Reds need people who can communicate the analytics department findings to the manager, coaching staff and players.

From top-to-bottom, the Reds must hire and operate on the principle of being open to new ideas. That’s one of the most important qualities for decision makers in general, but it is especially vital in a time of revolutionary advances in information availability. It’s ironic that the Reds apparently came the closest to firing the one guy – Bryan Price – who does seem a little bit open to new thinking.

The right path to the future is out there. Modernizing a major league baseball organization means using the right metrics and data, implemented by the proper system and people. The data and insights must be easy to collect, merge, break down and share. They must be packaged in a way that is easily understood by non-experts.

But each part of that equation is hard. Changing the culture takes time. It’s not easy to convince a manager not to use small sample sizes when setting the batting order or playing time. Or that he should use relief pitchers based on the game situation, not what inning it is.

“Four years ago, we were known as a free-swinging, aggressive offensive organization,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs general manager. “We wanted to turn that around. But that’s like turning around an ocean liner in the sea. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a little bit at a time. Now, we have the right approach.”

The fact that the process is so gradual means it’s important for the Reds to get started as soon as possible. Christopher Lloyd isn’t showing up with a flux capacitor. Fortunately, there is a non-fictional solution. Bob Castellini just has to choose it.

Postscript

Late last night, after I’d finished this post, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted:

This rumor is more confirmation that the Reds ownership is missing the point. Houston and Chicago jump-started their rebuilding processes by bringing in modern front offices. That’s the lesson to learn from those two examples. Front office changes were arguably the most important part of the Astros and Cubs resurrection.

An alternative to dumping all the players is to first implement a radical upgrade in the front office including the analytics department. Build the organization on the St. Louis Cardinals model. The Cardinals didn’t go through a scorched-earth rebuild because they had a strong player evaluation system to create roster depth. Since 2008, the fewest wins they’ve had in a season was 86.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a group less well suited to build the Reds from the ground up than Walt Jocketty and his old-school, former-GM office mates.

Here’s an idea: Start the retooling by hiring someone from the Houston or Chicago or St. Louis organization to be the Reds general manager.

Success isn’t the automatic outcome of mindlessly burning through the player roster.

The key is to get smart first.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 107 Comments

  1. Yes to all. Great series of articles. Thank you. Now it is on the Owner….then the GM. And, no signs there to inspire confidence is there?

  2. I agreed a 100 % with this article ! Until Bob Castellini decides to change the culture by , firing Walt Jocketty. And get a GM with Theo Epstein ability, the Reds will keep losing..

  3. Good read. I’m with you on a macro level about valuing analytics and how the front office has proven they do not act on their words. That has to change. However, success isn’t the automatic outcome of completely blowing up the team either. I’m not sure the day after the Cubs got swept out of the NLCS after posting an all time record for low batting average proves Theo Epstein’s blow it up, build around hitting first model is the right one. On top of taking 5 years to implement, they were exposed as the free swinging, high strikeout team he was seeking to replace. Maybe there’s an argument that some of these guys will adapt, but the early returns are not good. Their core players are no better offensively than our core players, especially after subtracting free agent to be Dexter Fowler from the mix. I’m with Jocketty in that pitching is more valuable. To me it’s what gets you through the playoffs.

    I could go either way on Jay Bruce. As a 29 year old #6 hitter, he would be more than serviceable. Even better would be if we could find a platoon partner for those 150 ABs vs. lefties (.666 OPS). If the media demands a scalp, then you make acquiring Chapman a package deal. Huge $ savings, and we likely land a cost controlled starting outfielder in the process.

    • I see your point on the Cubs, but my gut tells me that after posting the record they did, beating the Cardinals in October and making the NLCS, its hard to be exposed as anything other than a young, inexperienced team. I see that teaming winning multiple championships.

      • *team

      • “they were exposed as the free swinging, high strikeout team he was seeking to replace.”

        THANK YOU. Exactly. Bryant and Rizzo are the ONLY two Cubs hitters that SHOULD be solid contact hitters in a year or two. The rest of those “star prospects” are just what we’d expect to see in the Reds lineup. Schwarber looks good, but I Suspect he’ll be one of those good hitters that get worse each year trying to hit massive HRs. It’s just a hunch given his approach and swing.

        Pitching ALWAYS beats hitting and until the Cubs get real pitching, they won’t be able to win a series against strong pitching teams. Maybe they will, but going hard on hitting is costing them in the playoffs. Lester is hardly an ace and beyond him (and Arrieta) was a dung heap.

        The plus for the Cubs is the hitting will be fairly cheap for a few years (until arbitration raises) so they can overpay pitching now. They also have a huge advantage in that they can carry a payroll over $200 million and turn a profit.

    • “Maybe there’s an argument that some of these guys will adapt, but the early returns are not good.”

      I don’t understand your rationale here. This statement is based on 4 games? Anything can happen in a 4 game sample. Billy Hatcher can hit .750, Scott Brosius can win World Series MVP. Yeah, the Cubs got swept…but a team full of rookies, carried by rookies, won 97 games in the best division in baseball.

      I think you’re trying to say that blowing up the team/organization doesn’t automatically lead to success, but got sidetracked in some weird alternate argument. The Cubs may never win the WS, but the Cubs rebuild has set them up to compete for the next 5 years. Very few teams accomplish this, because it is really, really difficult to do. The Reds really haven’t been in a position to compete for a WS title consistently since the BRM.

      • Ugh, I knew I’d have to quantify my statement about the early returns. It’s not based on a 4 game sample size, but rather the fact that the Cubs lead the NL in strikeouts, with nearly 200 more than the 2nd worst team. That’s a problem.

      • The Cubs hitting wasn’t strong up and down the lineup. Only Rizzo and Bryant stood out and Bryant might not get past being a 150+ K per year hitter. Schwarber could be very good, but I doubt he maintains a good average. The rest? Not very impressive. As I predicted, Soler doesn’t look like much and Baez is already finished. They’ll have a solid lineup for a few years…and on the cheap, but nothing close to the Blue Jays of 2015 and the Cubs pitching is too far away. If either Lester or Arrieta take a step back in 2016, the Cubs might struggle to make the playoffs at all.

    • The Cubs were within earshot of 100 wins a full season earlier than anyone really expected them to be good.

      Using a 4 game sample size against Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matz is a poor way to do evaluation. A 4 game sweep doesn’t disprove anything about Epstein’s roadmap to success. The fact of the matter is this: he has a team capable of winning a championship. They didn’t, this year, but the team is capable and will be into the future, barring Bryant, Schwarber, and Rizzo forgetting how to play baseball.

      • Ok, they made it into the playoffs, so yes, they had a chance to win a championship. Barring a slew of devastating injuries, it’s safe to say the Reds would’ve very well been in the same category without having to blow up the team. I guess that puts me in the camp of retool rather than rebuild. Young talent tends to come together quicker than the front offices sometimes anticipate. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think that could be true of the Reds by mid 2016 when you’ll have Winker, Stephenson, Iglesias, Finnegan, etc. all making significant contributions.

      • I think Schwarber is a guy they need to make a really tough decision about. It has been said all along he was questionable as a receiver behind the plate; and, his frayed edges in the OF certainly came into play at least twice in the NLDS.

        Given all the talent they have with many of them becoming costly at or near the same time, maybe they should sell high on Schwarber (into the AL where he can DH) for a top flight starting pitcher instead of trying their hand in the FA market. It would be doing essentially what the Reds did with Josh Hamilton with just a different set of player issues.

        • Should have added above that the choice could come down to Schwarber or Rizzo since 1B is the place Schwarber might be the least liability defensively

      • Okay, but you do realize the Mets aren’t going anywhere and the Nationals pitching should be just a tick below the Mets? The Cubs will never beat either in a playoff series given their K prone hitting and mediocre pitching.

  4. Reds make coaching changes…..Pico, Bell, Tinsley gone. Riggins new Pitching Coach

    • Sacrificial moves to “appease” fans IMO. Does anyone think that Price was brought back due to money owed on contract only? Mattingly is available today apparently.

      • No, I don’t think so.

        I think Mattingly is a worse tactical manager than Price, and perhaps arguably even worse than Dusty. No manager has done less with more than Mattingly. Name recognition and a big roster goes a long way, I guess.

        • Agree. The way Mattingly mismanaged the talent he has is pretty impressive.

        • He benched Joc Pederson after posting a…wait for it… .370 OBP over six weeks or so after the ASB (at least I think that’s close) because it was mainly based on walks. He was getting on base but struggling hitting. That’s what happens to rookies.

          So, Mattingly replaces him with a worse defender and a worse hitter. Sounds logical.

          It’d be like Price replacing Votto with Pena at 1st base after his pre-ASB slump.

    • And by at least a few accounts, Jay Bell was a proponent of analytics and defensive shifts.

  5. Riggins spent 29 years in the Cardinal organization

    • Riggleman to be bench coach.
      Billy Hatcher to 3rd base coach and outfielders.
      Freddy Benavides to 1st base coach and infielders.
      Tony Jaramillo, hitting coach at Louisville, promoted to asst. hitting coach.

      • Look at these changes in terms of the cognitive bias information presented yesterday. Basically they just kicked two guys out of the club and circled the wagons a little bit more tightly.

        • excuse my math, I guess actually 3 guys got shown the door, for what small difference that makes.

        • Yeah. None of this even gives a glimmer of hope.

          The only thing I’m hopeful of is the fact that Riggins shares a last name with ‘Tim Riggins’ from Friday Night Lights the TV series, and that kid knew how to W-I-N.

          • It’s digging pretty deeply in search of a glimmer; but, last week John Fay wrote that they needed to get Price out from behind his desk and into a hands on situation working with the young pitchers. Fay even went so far as suggesting that Riggleman could run the mundane day to day pre game manager’s stuff to open the way up for Price to do this.

            So, if I am looking for a glimmer, 1) maybe they actually took some advice from the outside and/ or 2) Price may get back to doing what he clearly knows how to do, develop pitching.

      • It appears that Riggleman, as the bench coach, will be the manager in waiting if the Reds are floundering by July.

        • Yep, and to sum up an old manager of mine “Well, that ain’t good”

  6. Great series.
    The Reds front office is clueless. They want a Houston/Chicago type of rebuild? That means several years of finishing last in the division for several years of top line draft picks. That is no way to go.
    Leadership: A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way (John C. Maxwell).
    Jocketty has admitted that he has never had to re-build a team before. He doesn’t know the way. They have no one to show them the way. The Reds are definitely void of key leadership. This could get even more uglier than it already has. This is a very pivotal off-season for the Reds that they cannot afford not to get it right. The Reds lineup does need some shaking out.
    BP is the first that should go. Opens up a spot for Suarez.
    Chapman should be next. IMO this opens up opportunity for Lorenzen and Finnegan at back of bullpen. This also gives the Reds an opportunity to bring in a veteran starter.
    Bring in a couple of quality relivers via trade or free agency and build a shut down bullpen with these two and Lorenzen and Finnegan. The Reds have a host of relievers to choose the remaining three bullpen guys from, Hoover, Jumbo, Villareal, Cingrani, Moscot and others.
    Address the LF and leadoff situation(s) via from outside the organization, trade or FA.
    Is the BHam our guy in CF for 2016 question has to be answered.
    Now the Jay Bruce situation can be addressed, when more pressing needs have been taken care of. How does Bruce fit into a revamped lineup? This is a question that should be answered before they trade him off. Jay Bruce batting 6th in a revamped
    lineup might have more value to the Reds than trading him away does.

    • At this point, when it comes to Bruce, I am thinking a trade may be the right thing to do. They should move him if they don’t feel they can compete before 2018. They should also move him if they honestly feel they need to use his salary elsewhere.

      I’m a huge Jay Bruce fan and would hate to see him go but it might be best for him and the Reds. This organization has clearly soured on him. He’s a guy who a change of scenery may do a lot for too. Get him somewhere that he can relax and play ball.

      • I can’t wrap my head around all this love for Bruce. He hits with some power but with that BA he needs to be in that 38 HR area. The Reds have way more than enough 240 hitters. I understand his glove is above average but he is too expensive for what little he produces.

      • I have soured on Bruce for many years. He just keeps getting worse. The icing on the cake is his listless attitude. He and BP look like they’d rather be starting an early offseason vacation than winning. I never see either look fired up and they play the same way…an easy style, not really loafing, but hardly “getting after it”. That kind of “style” needs cleansed from the clubhouse. We need guys that look and act like they’d rat out their own mother to win a playoff series.

        • See, the attitude thing to me is very overblown in baseball. There are a ton of guys who are scrappy hustlers and they don’t have skills. There are some great players who aren’t exactly scrappy hustlers. Some are even borderline lazy. Give me the talent over the hustle any day. Sure, both would be great but if I have to pick one, give me the talent.

          I’m ok with trading Bruce mostly because I don’t expect the Reds to be competitive before his contract is up. For the same reason I’d also try to move BP if he’d be willing to move.

  7. this article says what reds fans have been saying all season and one can only hope that the owner does in fact wake up and make the changes needed. if he refuses to then the commissioner needs to step in and invoke the best interest of baseball clause and make him sell the team to somebody who will. price can’t help the injuries but he can stop making the stupid moves he does with the team he has. that means not managing like dusty baker way and keep sending the pitcher back out for that 1 more inning he does not have. how many times will he watch the guy go back out only to give up the tying or go ahead runs plus leave guys on base to score when the reliever comes in? it happens every game! how many more times are we going to see guys like skippy playing everyday and batting ,220 or worse?. he is the guy who like dusty benches the hot hitter to give a cold guy on the bench a chance to get luke warm. he is the guy who sends bruce out there every day in the first 2 months of the season to strike out instead of benching him for more than a day. they may not have the talent to replace him but seeing someone new fail would be nice for a change.

  8. I’ll commit a fallacy here for the sake of argument: what I hear in these posts is a call for an algorithm, not a general manger. The algorithm, once installed, can draft and evaluate players, even make managerial decisions. I follow baseball to see humans make decisions and perform in their roles. But in this model, it looks like humans input data and follow models . Am I missing something?

    • yes,missing is that humans develop, define, manage, evaluate, and as necessary change or even “fire” the algorhythms. Plus a human makes the final decision to turn the algorhythm’s advice into actions.

    • Humans who explicitly ignore available information when making a decision are, in fact, bad at making decisions.

      No one is calling for an algorithm; we are calling for a front office (GM, mostly) that uses all available information to make a sound decision. Not only using all available information, but is open to progress. I don’t see many successful electronics companies making CRT-type TVs nowadays. Times and industries change, even ones as deeply entrenched in tradition as baseball. Through data collection and a widespread interest in analysis, we now understand more about the game of baseball than in any other time during its existence. For a GM to ignore all that is ignorant and harmful to the team.

      It is not possible to defend decisions like Gregg, Marquis, and Boesch. There is no information that suggests they would be productive players. None at all. Yet, our GM signed ’em all! If he would simply take all available information into account and dismiss his personal feelings it is likely we’d have avoiding those disasters.

      • Well said JDX…

      • Ok. So could someone walk me through how one can incorporate “data” into the inevitably flawed (or, as some might say, human and interesting) qualitative assessments? Where and/or what is the human function here?

      • I think analytics is overrated and won’t lead to any success without lots of other positive factors or luck. That said, I do agree you make decisions based on many pieces of information and not sticking blindly to one piece (i.e. Bruce’s division clinching HR blinding you to his mediocre play). Jocketty is a solid trader, but the rest of the franchise seems to get a little worse each season (developement, drafting, free agents).

        I would love to see a turnover of the entire F.O. Finding an impressive modern GM that isn’t blindly devoted to analytics (recipe for disaster), but does use all available computing power along with the eyes of proven scouts and evaluators.

  9. I’m not a big Walt Jocketty fan, but I do take issue with the idea that he’s not good at making trades. He’s been pretty good in that realm with the Reds.

    • He’s not terrible at trades, that is true. I think most will agree with you on that, Doug. However, that is not enough to make a GM successful.

      I agree with the sentiment Steve pointed out in article 4 of this series; taking the best available package in a trade is far easier than signing good veterans or making good amateur/minor league decisions.

      • Certainly. I’m not suggesting I think we should keep him around. Just that the idea that he’s unable to make smart trades doesn’t hold a ton of water.

        I hated the Marlon Byrd trade, but it turned out better than I thought it would. DeSclafani? Suarez? Incredible trades. The Cueto trade? Looks really strong right about now.

        • My speculation is that Cody Reed coming out of spring training is going to make it very, very hard on Price and Jocketty not to include him on the 25 man roster. Reed will have a phenominal spring and will be in the mix for the starting rotation. This will make it easier to move Lorenzen and Finnegan to the bullpen, after trading Chapman.

    • This “Walt is great at trades” narrative has become way overblown. He’s made some good trades. But what about the trades he hasn’t made. The Reds had three 90+ win teams from 2010-2013. What great trades did Walt make to help those teams down the stretch? The ghost of Jim Edmonds in 2010. Broxton in 2012 for a team that already had a great bullpen. And absolutely nothing in 2013.

      What about last year when Votto went down and the Reds were still in the race? He did nothing and let Brayan Pena become the everyday first baseman. If you are really trying to win, you can’t let that happen. And if you don’t think you can win anyway, then go ahead and trade some of your own chips. But they stood pat.

      What about the opportunity cost of hanging on to Cueto so long? Not trading Chapman at the deadline. Refusing to even take offers on Frazier when his value was the highest it will ever be? Walt has made some nice trades when he has actually pulled the trigger. But he has let too many opportunities pass him by, and failed to pull off a trade when the team really needed it.

      • I agree about WJ and the inaction. Also agree about not listening on Frazier.

        The contracts of BP, Votto, Bruce, and Bailey look like low hanging fruit; but the two most problematic contract/ performance issues the Reds face immediately are Frazier and Cozart. Both are 2nd year arb guys at the age of 30 with the added complication that Cozart’s physical capabilities are in question even as he approaches the normal age of beginning decline at a “skill” position.

        • I know it is about the money but after watching 3 quarters of a season of Suarez misplay SS Cozart and his declining years is still a whole lot better option at SS. I am going to give myself 2 outs here 1 is Cozart comes back healthy and 2 you have to listen to any trade offers out there. I doubt with Cozarts lack of hitting and coming off a major injury arbitration is going to hurt too much.

      • Brilliant stuff, TCT. Exactly how I feel.

      • There’s a difference in what you’re saying and what was said by either myself in the comments or in the article.

        We don’t know what Walt was or wasn’t able to/allowed to do. We only know what he has done. Steve said that he hasn’t been able to make smart trades. We can actually look at the trades that he has made and decide if that is true or not.

        • Yes – Money issues or an owner’s veto may have prevented some trades from being made. But in the end, Walt didn’t get things done. Part of being a good GM is getting the owner to come around to your way of thinking. In some cases, this is impossible. However, do you think 2013 Bob C said “Ryan Ludwick will be just fine in August, don’t trade for anyone.”? Walt could have very easily acquired Marlon Byrd, but he chose not to. That is an epic failure.

        • I don’t know what Walt said or was told in 2013.

          And it really has nothing to do with making smart trades. The implication is that the trades he has made weren’t smart.

        • I am with Doug on this. Making uneducated guesses on phantom missed trades isn’t really fair. I was a proponent of trading Cueto earlier, but I think he did well given Cueto’s injury history and his last contract year. The Latos and Simon trades were steals. Just getting rid of both, knowing Latos was struggling with arm strength/injury and Simon was a career gas can only having a flash in the pan first half of 2014, was nothing short of brilliant by Jocketty. Yet many on RLN were moaning about the “bad” trades. I look back and laugh at the silly rantings on this board last winter.

      • I get some of the inaction sentiment, but acting like Jocketty punted on trading a few players for an all-star team is way past “over the top”.

        Stick with what Walt HAS DONE, not what we dreamed might could have been. In that regard, Walt’s trading has been better than I could have imagined. Do I wish he’d have done more? Sure. Could he have screwed us for 5 more years with terrible trades? YOU BET. Thank goodness he didn’t.

        • … Walt has underachieved. He had two teams in prime position to make a deep run, then stood fairly pat at the 2012 and 2013 deadlines.

          Thank goodness he hasn’t done worse? Seriously? Just another “At least we’re not horrible” broken record that so many Cincinnati sports fans play loud @ 78 RPM. Come on.

    • Discussed this yesterday in the other thread—most of his trades are production for prospects. Really don’t know the outcome of the majority of his trades to date.

      The biggest ones that I can recall is the equivalent of Josh Hamilton via Volquez, Alonso, Grandal for Latos what ended up being Disco. Simon for Suarez.

      There may be many more I’m not thinking of, but these are the only 2 productive 40 Man roster that I can recall.

      • That’s how most trades are done, unless you are the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox (or any high revenue team that can trade good players for good players). So to be fair, the trades were done as expected. Yes they might not look so good in 4 or 5 years, but so far we haven’t given up ANYTHING worth a darn, outside of Cueto and he’ll be a free agent in a few days or a couple of weeks. It’s pretty obvious, even if KC wins the WS (doubtful) that Cueto wasn’t much of an addition for them.

    • He’s not bad with trades but he’s awful at FA signings. Is it that tough to find a LF and put together a bullpen? I guess so for Walt.

      • Yep, we all know Walt is poor at filling out a roster via free agency. The love affair of two year deals only magnifies mistakes, and they are many. Thankfully the trading offsets that in the big picture, but yes, the Reds merely tread water with Walt and ever year we age (players and contracts) and lose a good player to end of contract and lose another to production decline. The lack of drafting and development success are the real back-breakers.

    • Walt has been VERY good at trading. The problem some have is he hasn’t brought in all hitting in trades. Pitching still wins. This gets proven each and every post-season, yet some still acting like hitting is hard to find and the key to the whole thing. It’s old school “good pitching beats good hitting” and that will NEVER change, no matter how many servers you install for analytics.

      • I will agree that hitting is hard to find…FOR THE REDS, but not in general. More teams still struggle on the pitching side than do teams on the hitting side. I’d take the Mets future (no really good young hitters, but stud pitchers) over any hitting-rich franchise…any day of the week.

  10. Steve, I completely agree with your current series of articles outlining the reds need to modernize and revamp their front office..I don’t think it will happen for a couple of years, when w. j. decides to retire. Then we will really be behind the curve. They need to trade Chapman at the winter meetings. Perhaps if we tell B. P. that Suarez will be our everyday second baseman , B. P. would waive his no trade clause. IMO, we should roll the dice on Bruce, and if he has a decent first half, decide if he should be traded. If we trade him now, we’ll get little in return due to his poor performance at the plate last year. The reds definitely need to make major changes in their bullpen. I’ll always be a fan, but it sucks when they are this bad.

  11. Hmm, I wonder if 51 year-old Larkin could post a better OBP from the leadoff spot than Billy? I’m mostly joking.

    • I’d wager if Larkin shortened up to foul off pitches and play for a walk every time he got to 2 strikes against him, he could probably out OBP Hamilton until his legs gave out from having to run after he got on 😉

  12. My speculation is that Cody Reed coming out of spring training is going to make it very, very hard on Price and Jocketty not to include him on the 25 man roster. Reed will have a phenominal spring and will be in the mix for the starting rotation. This will make it easier to move Lorenzen and Finnegan to the bullpen, after trading Chapman.

  13. As we know, change for the Reds must originate from the principal owner. Castellini had an ownership interest in the Cardinals before he took over the Reds so he’s aware of how they operate in St. Louis. It appears his friendship with Jocketty is the stumbling block in getting the front office modernized. As stated above, it might take a year or two for Jocketty to retire, but by then, when a young GM does take over, the Reds will be further behind the rest of the division.

  14. Fire the pitching coach? Fire the bench coach? Does this seem like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

    • He’s very clearly changing the clubhouse culture… Yes, I’m being sarcastic.

    • I think a new tarp will do wonders. Maybe bring back the old Braves tarp from the 80s (grew up in Atlanta and those sub 1000 attendance games), that had a picture of the Morton Salt girl (umbrella, spilling salt) with caption “When it rains, it pours”

      That should sufficiently turn this plodding mess of a franchise around.

  15. Isn’t this delightful – Bob C is now this decade’s version of the 1991-2010 Mike Brown. Things may just get worse before they get better.

    • A lot of truth in that statement.

    • Meh, Brown was a cheapskate, Bob C has double payroll in short order. Granted Linder had us in the bottom 8 teams or so when he left, but Bob isn’t cheap like Brown, just not quite figuring out how to hire the RIGHT people and get out of the way and enjoy the rewards of a REAL contender with solid hitting, pitching and farm system all co-existing to maintain an annual contender.

      • Mike Brown had his head in the sand just as much as Bob C does right now.

        And where is this solid hitting that you speak of?

  16. Kicking a few off the bus and adding a few in their place won’t get us anywhere as long as Walt is driving.Riggleman as bench coach just means he won’t have to walk to far when Price gets canned early next year.Must be nice to trade 4 of your starters away,build the worst bullpen in the majors and then fire your pitching coach as if he is to blame.Ray Charles could see right through all of this goofy stuff.Every owner in the league must be laughing while they check to see how many games they have got with us next year.

  17. http://grantland.com/the-triangle/confessions-of-a-former-diehard/

    Most people who read this site probably don’t need this but I loved this article and how it describes the pain of missing out being far worse than the pain of actually enduring the losses and frustrations.

    One day we will thank Walt for putting us all through this misery and making our future WS titles that much sweeter! (at least I think that is what the article is telling me)

    • If it means one step back to take two steps forward, I am all on board. I don’t like keeping a turd pile ahead of other turd piles at the expense of ever getting rid of the turd pile. You know, managing to meander, year after year, between .400 and .475, never contending, but never being so bad as to be able to get really good, really fast? Granted, it’s harder in baseball than in basketball, football or even hockey, but being in “no mans land”, steering a rudderless, forgettable ship (signing vets, eeking out a few more wins than the really bad teams), is no answer.

  18. Another very well written piece which represents the culmination of a week long artillery bombardment on our fortified front office in their old school bunkers. I feel like I’m Francis Scott Key watching the assault on Fort McHenry. Unfortunately, that makes you the British… and destined for defeat. Here’s hoping you re-write metaphorical history.

  19. I’m in agreement with this series when it comes to the Reds needing a culture change from top to bottom. Clearly the way that they value players isn’t working because they had the 14th highest payroll and the 29th highest win total. That is the message that ownership needs to get. The players that the Reds’ GM thinks are worth money aren’t, because they don’t produce wins.

    The thing that stands out to me however is this idea of teams needing to value hitting over pitching. I don’t know where it came from and it just doesn’t make any sense. The Reds scored 7 fewer runs than the Cardinals this year and lost more than 30 more games. Why? Because their pitching stunk.

    But this series has made repeated reference to teams needing to value hitters more because pitching is so available. If it’s so available, why was it so hard for the Reds to get any? I feel like the idea must be related to the lower run-scoring environment of the last 5 years or so, but if so, I don’t think it holds up logically.

    • Completely agree. Generating a run differential that correlates with wins can be done with either improved production or prevention (ideally both). I wonder what is more efficient to generate from a draft pick / farm system / $1 million / etc — a pitcher generated WAR or a hitter/fielder/runner generated WAR? How much room for bust/error/waste is there for each? Clearly a mid-market franchise (you’d hope) is burning the midnight oil attempting to decipher this down to the cent.

    • This may be a bit of an old-school approach but here is my thinking on pitching. You get as much of it as you can as cheaply as you can. You then very carefully target a few key free-agents and you don’t go too long on a deal even if you have to bump to a higher AAV because of it. You never pay big $$ to a closer, not even Chapman.

      My reasoning for the above is that the attrition rate is so much higher for pitchers. Pitchers tend to go down with serious injuries more than position players do and they tend to be out longer than position players in general.

      Now, the old adage that you can’t have too much pitching might not be true, especially if you forgo hitting. That said, my view is you still need as many good arms as you can get and I still weigh pitching slightly over hitting because of the depth required.

      • There’s probably analytics out there that proves or disproves this. That work has probably even already been done. A GM wouldn’t even have to try too hard to find out.

      • I think the point about injuries is a good one. While value = value, it does seem clear that pitchers suffer more season-long injuries than position players on average, so it might make sense for a team to try acquire a few more arms than hitters in anticipation that some of the pitchers will be hurt.

  20. I’m terribly disappointed by the Reds season and even more disappointed that Jocketty is still the architect for this team. Rather they need to be more data-driven or not isn’t even necessarily at the root of this. What has always worked in baseball is going out to the organizations that were putting together winning teams in generally the same market that your team fit. Then you’d hire some of their resources (assistant GMs, scouts, ops guys, analysts) to implement some of what was working for that winning team. If analytics is the method, the owner doesn’t even need to care. Your new hire(s) start implementing what has worked for their former team. All the owner should look at is results. Yes, analytics may be what is getting teams there but the method can be completely abstracted as far as the owner is concerned.

    • I find some irony here in that when the Castellini acquired ownership of the Reds, he essentially did what you described. He set out to model his org on the successful org where he had established his bona fides as a minority owner (the Cards). When the Cards had “an internal power struggle” and WJ ended up on the outside looking in, Mr C brought him to Cincy to aid in establishing the Reds org in that selected image.

      Should RC have known there was an emerging sea change at the core of the power struggle and anticipated that the architect of the previous Cardinals success, WJ, would be on the wrong side of the change 5 years later?

      I think you pay your money and take your chances. However by this point, it should be apparent to them that what they have been doing no longer works.

      • Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Castellini got it right when he brought Jocketty in. I will say though that Krivsky did an alright job as well and came from MIN where they were playing well and getting a lot of wins out of a low budget. So, he was bringing in the right people at the time. The last 2-3 years, I think it’s pretty easy to see that this isn’t working anymore. Yes, injuries have played a big part but they’ve also shown a complete lack of depth which exposes the GM’s shortcomings. It’s now time to look at what organizations are doing well and then trying to entice some of their resources to work for the Reds.

  21. St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Chicago are light years ahead of us now. Changes need to be made with the GM then down. You can shuffle the old deck chairs (coaches) and hope for better results but I’m not holding my breath.

  22. I like the point LWBLOGGER 2 makes about the owner doesn’t even need to care as long as you get the desired results.Their are blueprints for success in every business including MLB.Pick one and lets go.

  23. I have generally liked your writing and contributions, Mr. Mancuso, and but I only half-agree with this. From your series, I draw two main points: 1) that the Reds need finally get with the times and become a new school administration in terms of player analysis, and 2) Walt Jocketty’s tenure as GM has been, especially lately, inexcusably bad.

    I agree with the first point, obviously. The Reds are clearly behind the times; probably one of the worst three or four teams in the majors on this point. And this has manifested itself in obtaining and developing hitters who cannot control the strike zone, which is obvious and frustrating.

    But I do not think that Jocketty deserves the derision you have placed on him, here. (And, I am using “Jocketty” here, but some of the things I am going to say applies to ownership, too). There are a few glaring criticisms I agree with. He frustratingly fills his bench with high-character, past-their-prime guys. This is a strategy I have never been able to get behind — I’d rather have my bench filled with young AAAA guys who are cheaper and more likely to contribute defensively than with the Skip Schumakers of the world — but it is a strategy which may or not have produced some positives over the past several years (clubhouse chemistry, player development, etc.). For every two Boesch like failures, you end up with a Cairo, or a Brayan Pena, who are more valuable than their statistics suggest, I’d speculate. And the strategy works statistically, too, sometimes; the Reds were first or second in PH WAR from 2009 through 2011; and one year this very site touted the Reds as having statistcially one of the best benches in franchise history.

    But he has been VERY shrewd with trades; the best Reds GM since Howsam. The Simon and Latos trades are already huge wins; the Leake and Cueto trades seem terrific, too. And he had the guts to make the Rolen trade; one I was sharply critical of at the time, but which without I do not think we would have had 2010 or 2012. Other than the Marshall trade, I cannot think of a bad trade of consequence in his tenure.

    And while I did not like the Byrd trade, I understood it. The Reds strategy last year was criticized by many — but I thought it was sound — you have a potentially competitive team that you can blow up if things are not working. They took another shot, it did not work, and we are rebuilding. He will not telegraph it, but he will trade Chapman this winter, and potentially Bruce and Phillips, too.

    Jocketty has many strengths. He is a good manager of people. He has the trust of ownership, even if ownership is too impatient sometimes. He plays his hand close to the vest. The Reds have had more success under his reign than they have had since the mid-90s, when they had the highest payroll in baseball.

    • Agree completely.

    • Appreciate your thoughtful comment. I did acknowledge the many good trades for (pitching) prospects and the few good free agent pickups. The Rolen trade – which was six years ago – was one I defended at the time. That was a one-off move because Rolen was a former player from Jocketty’s past teams that was still pretty good. That kind of trade can no longer be repeated because of the aging of those players. Otherwise, there are serious questions about Jocketty’s ability to improve the Reds other than pitching prospects.

      I wouldn’t characterize trading starting pitchers for pitching prospects as particularly shrewd. Every other team seems to be able to do that. For three seasons – since the Choo trade – he has been unable to improve the Reds in any other way through trade and his free agent judgment has been a disaster, as you acknowledge.

      Other than acquiring pitching prospects for veteran players, I have zero confidence in Jocketty’s ability to put together a successful team now. He is really behind the times when it comes to player evaluation, especially hitters. He’s exactly the wrong kind of GM to rebuild the Reds. The thought that he will be trading and picking up the Reds hitters of the future terrifies me.

      • He certainly leans towards pitching, that’s for sure. We all say the Latos trade was a win but recall that was Latos trade #2. In Latos trade #1 we gave up Yonder and Yasmani — two hitters that (with hindsight) turned out pretty well and in the moment I wonder if someone like Theo or Beane would have valued their projection differently. Why didn’t we tell Yasmani (in addition to Yonder) to pick up left field like the Cubs are doing with Schwarber?

        He mortgaged the Reds’ future a bit with that trade. Had Cueto not gotten hurt, we beat San Fran, go on to win the Series, are we having this discussion right now? Was Cueto’s injury and our inability to close San Fran Jockey’s fault? Ugh – it hurts too much to keep typing – I’ll stop.

        • I agree his value as a “trader” are overvalued. Latos also involved Volquez, whom was acquired for Rule 5 player Josh Hamilton. So essentially you gave up 3 hitters, & 2 pitchers for Disco.
          Simon for Suarez looks good this year.
          Rolen was good for the club at the time, but was that a wise trade in hindsight, strictly looking at production?
          The remainder are prospective, unless someone can tell me who on Reds 40 man roster is contributing from WJ’s trading savy?

        • Grandal was blocked by Mes and then got busted for PEDs. Yonder was blocked by Votto and is barely above league average as an offensive position. I’m not convinced that either could have played left and we’ll see how Schwarber does out there for Chicago. He hasn’t looked so good so far (obviously tiny sample size). I don’t trust Beane’s judgement anymore after he gift wrapped Addison Russell to the stupid Cubs for a rental on Samardzija. Ugh. Reds fans will get to watch the fruit of that trade for a long time.

          We received two good years from Latos (4.3 and 3.8 WAR) at a time when the Reds were “all in”. Most people felt that Walt overpaid at the time, but were jazzed about the trade as Latos was an elite talent and was primed to help carry the Reds in the postseason. Sigh. That didn’t work out so well.

      • Steve: The thought occurs to me that, by stockpiling pitching, Walt is capitalizing on a currently undervalued commodity, one of the tenets of Billy Ball, as I understand it. Any thoughts?

    • I’m sorry but when did the Reds ever have the highest payroll in MLB? No year that I can find. http://www.baseballchronology.com/Baseball/Years/1994/Payroll.asp

  24. I’m going to work this under this post as related to back to the future… there is a really great read on Bronson Arroyo over at deadspin. Beware, some of the content is NSFW, sort of crass if you’re not into that kind of talk (btw, sorry about that to whoever in IT is watching my history… but you know you liked the article too).

    It’s called the Pitcher Who Couldn’t Lose. It made me like Arroyo even so much more than ever. He and Joey can be on any team of mine, any time.

    • Actually, it likely is an algorithm which is “watching” your surfing habits and reporting to a human when it determines they might need closer attention. 🙂

  25. What an excellent read. Thanks Steve.

  26. We will have Walt for one more year and I hope he doesn’t do to much at all because it will probably make things worse for the next guy.I hope he just rolls the dice again for the third year in a row then blames it on injuries or Price or the stars were out of line when we lose 90+ again.

  27. I would rather have the Royals organizational approach than I would either Houston or Chicago. I believe it will be a fun series.

  28. The Reds problem is the failure to draft and develop talent. The best teams have all stocked minor league systems. The Reds get an F in this. The team will remain a regular loser until this is fixed. It will take years. The Reds will fire 2-3 managers not counting Price before they get to the post season again. There is a good deal of hard work ahead. Everyone will need patience. There is no other choice. Jocketty will be gone after next season.

    • Over the long term I basically agree with you about their weakness at developing talent since the generation ending with Frazier and Cozart moved up.
      However by design or luck or combination of the two, with the depth of young apparently talented pitching the Reds have come into, with an astute move or two and some luck, they could contend within 2 to 3 years and continue to until the pitching becomes too expensive to hold onto. Hopefully this will happen and the org will use the borrowed time to put its overall development issues straight.

  29. Perhaps this has been stated before and I missed it, but does anybody else see the Mets’ success as reinforcing — in Walt’s mind — the idea that the game is still all about pitching? A deep rotation like the Mets have is great, but a little offense would still be nice. That team didn’t really take off until Cespedes got there.

    Just ask the Dodgers and Blue Jays what happens when you don’t have starting pitching depth, especially when you’re the Dodgers and your top two are Kershaw and Greinke….. Until the Reds’ rotation goes four or five deep, the front office better wake up and smell the offense.

  30. Post is spot on. I only hope Mr. Castellini reads it. The Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates will not be caught without a culture change in Redsland, and trading a few players will not produce that change.

  31. I wouldn’t necessarily say that “making the roster more injury-proof lies squarely at the feet of the front office and ownership”. There can be several parties responsible for injuries. Players running too hard causing a muscle strain, how can that be the cause of the FO and owners? Who treats the injuries? Not the FO and owners. Sometimes, accidents that cause injuries simply happen. Plenty of questions abound with our training/medical staff. I am still considering taking bets that Homer won’t be ready by opening day, as in actually dressed and will be a member of the regular pitching rotation, whether #1 man or #5.

    Now, what the FO and owners do have control of is what was mentioned the “talent pool”. Like with the Cards, they are simply a deeper team, deeper organization. That when they do have an injury occur, they have some higher quality players who can step in than we do, most likely players they developed themselves so cheaper. I would have to assume they have better “contract management” and don’t get themselves hindered in poor contracts.

    That’s where I believe we’ve done a poor job. I can still accept a contract like Votto’s. But, BP’s extension didn’t help. Bruce’s contract didn’t help. Homer’s was simply stupid. And, Walt caving to Baker twice after Baker goes running to the papers to complain about the FO was stupid.

    Part of that is why I don’t believe the Reds did themselves any favors by letting Krivsky and Obrien go. I believe they had the right idea, from building in the minors.

  32. Just for fun, a good read about something that many already know is the right way to play baseball, call it old school or not. The difference between SUCCESS and the ones that still wait to even sniff on a World Series ring. The Giants-Royals way opposed to the “modern thinkers” yet eliminated teams. Here ya go.

    http://m.mlb.com/news/article/155929270/free-swinging-royals-stray-from-moneyball

    • Btw, Joey Votto´s fan club, please take the chill pill. Probably won´t like it. Marty B sure will. 🙂

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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