2016 Reds

We Aren’t in Their Heads

Cody Reed was sent down. You are, I’m sure, aware. People have been griping about his performance since he came up, and it’s easy to understand why. He hasn’t been good. But there’s also been a lot of psychoanalyzing of Reed as there often is of many players in many different fanbases. And it drives me nuts.

There is an assumption on the part of many that all baseball players are the same. “I’ve seen this before. X just needs to do what Y did.”

Anybody out there a parent? Remember when your kids were little and people came out of the woodwork with parenting advice and you tried it and found it didn’t work at all? Yeah, that’s because your kid was different from their kid. Ballplayers, like children, are human and thus unique individuals.

No doubt they all have drive. But that’s not everything. Some ballplayers are stubborn and some are easy to coach. Some are introverted and some are extroverted. Some can’t get better until they fail and some need to be totally ready before they’re promoted.

And very few – if there is anyone at all – know what is the magical combination for an individual player. we can look at the tools a player has: a 96 mph fastball, great power, blazing speed, a great eye at the plate, and on and on, and we can tell ourselves we know what he is capable of.

But we do not. A friend said to me recently that a lot of pitchers are like wild horses. And it’s true. You never know what they’re going to do. If they’ll tame themselves or run away or run off a cliff.

I am a big fan of the statement, “I don’t know.” And I wish people would use it more often because none of us know for sure what a player is capable of. All of us are limited to some extent by what’s in our heads and even we may not fully understand how.

Maybe Cody Reed can be a great pitcher. Maybe he can’t. Maybe he needs to fail at the MLB level and maybe he doesn’t. I have opinions about it, but I don’t know. Sure, I can think of pitchers like him. Some that have become great and some that haven’t. But they weren’t him. They were all someone else.

32 thoughts on “We Aren’t in Their Heads

  1. I generally agree with your sentiments, Jason. Though I’ll offer this corollary: Let’s hope that Cody’s coaches (like the parents in your analogy) know how to help Cody better than us strangers.

    I think he has a lot of potential to be a really good pitcher at the MLB level. And there are identifiable things he can work on, such as better location of his pitches and mastering his change-up that could help bring him success. Of course, how he works on and approaches those goals is up to him and his coaches. Hope they get it fixed…

  2. From the time of the Cueto deal with K.C. last year, Cody Reed was called the star of the trio of lefties obtained. It was a little too much too soon for Reed. He needs to mature at AAA without being rushed. Now I wish Ted Power was still his pitching coach at Louisville.

  3. I just hope that Cody Reed keeps doing what he’s doing. He’s 23 and pitching in the majors. His xFIP is 4.29, 4th on the team among guys with more than 1 start, and totally respectable. Disco is right ahead of him at 3.99.

    xFIP controls for things like a lot of ground balls getting through, hits coming at inopportune times, and a lot of deep flys going out rather than staying in. These are all things that pitchers basically have no control over, and in a small sample (say 47 innings, which is all he’s pitched) they can get totally out of whack.

    Reed’s BABIP against is .362. Over time it would go down towards .300.

    Reed’s strand rate is 52%. Over time that will go up towards 75%.

    Reed’s HR/FB rate is 28%. Over time that will go down towards 12%.

    And that’s true for all pitchers. Those numbers are basically baseball constants (for this era). Over time, almost all pitcher’s stats in those three categories will move towards those numbers.

    Reeds are almost comically bad, and I’m sure it’s very frustrating for him. That is why his ERA is a full 3 runs(!) higher than his xFIP. But he has a great arm and two very good pitches.

    Of course he can get better, and my bet is that he will, but the story here really is that there’s no story here. Baseball is a game of high variance. That means that doing the same thing can get very very different results. JJ Hoover is a great example.

    • If you’re throwing belt high fastballs and the batter is sitting on a belt high fastball then I would assume that MLB hitters would be able to have a HR/FB rate over 12%. Hitters in the Home Run derby hit homeruns at a very high rate based on the fact that they are getting pitches that are very suitable for hitting over the fence. Perhaps we should be open to the possibility that he is just throwing pitches that are very suitable for hitting over the fence, in which case it’s not bad luck at all.

      • No one said there isn’t the possibility of anything. But if I were offered the over/under bet for Reed’s HR/FB at 28%, it would be a no brainer to take the under.

        Also, I wonder if you aren’t conflating two different issues. Pitcher’s do have a decent amount of control over how many FB and GB they give up. So a pitcher who pitches up in the zone is going to give up more FB than a pitcher who lives at the knees.

        But HR/FB is a different thing. It only takes balls that have already been hit in the air, and looks at the number that go over the fence. What research has shown is that this is largely out of the pitcher’s control, because there are so many other factors at play, like the batter’s swing, the weather, the park, etc.

        So you are correct in saying that if Reed pitches at the belt he will give up more HR than a pitcher who pitches around the knees more, but that’s because Reed will give up more FBs. That still doesn’t explain the insane number of FB that are leaving the park.

        Again, JJ Hoover is a great example. In his first season with the Reds he was an EXTREME flyball pitcher, with only a 24% GB rate. But somehow only 5% of his flyballs went out of the park. He was the king of the warning track out that year, and he ended up with a 2.05 ERA with a 4.40 xFIP.

        Two years later he had a 29% GB rate, but 15% of his flyballs became HRs and he ended up with a 4.88 ERA and a 3.99 xFiP. He was basically the same pitcher, but went from extremely fortunate on flyballs to a little unfortunate, and that was the difference between being the closer of the future and the total goat.

      • If you had a pitcher throwing 93-95mph in a home run derby, there would be far, far fewer homers than happen now when a player gets a 70mph pitch.

        Reed’s HR/FB% may not come down to average levels, because it has been shown that pitchers actually do have some control over it, but they won’t maintain 28% or higher.

        If they did, it would be akin to saying “the average hitter Reed has faced is the most efficient home run hitter in MLB history.” Jim Thome is the career leader at 27% and change, IIRC. That, of course, is silly.

    • I want to know the average exit velocity of balls hit against Cody Reed and how it compares to league average. The ear test told me that Mr. Reed got hit LOUDLY.

      I’m not convinced that his BABIP is statistical variance. Rockets make their own holes.

        • That’s very surprising. My eye test saw more of what Bob and I-71_Exile saw and that is a young pitcher getting hit hard. Perhaps he has indeed been more unlucky than I believed him to be.

        • Thanks for the info. There could have been some confirmation bias creeping into my memory.

  4. That is an astute observation mine isn’t nearly as profound. It was obvious that getting his backside kicked every time he took the mound wasn’t what Reed needed because he wasn’t improving. I do hope maybe a couple of successful outings will help. I feel very strongly it is in him because when he makes a pitch it is a thing of beauty now if he can start stringing them together!

  5. I hate the Cardinals. However, one of the reasons why they’re so successful is that they allow all new pitchers to work out of the bullpen, first. Then, after their confidence has been bolstered and their manager knows their strengths and weaknesses as a result of real Major League pitching, the projected starters actually move into that role.

    • Which recent-ish pitchers have they done this with? I remember Carlos Martinez but can’t recall which others.

      • Wainwright, Martinez, Reyes (this year), Wacha, Garcia (maybe a reach here as it was a full year prior to him making his real debut) and Lynn all have.

        • Thanks! I now remember all those guys except Garcia, probably for the reason you noted.

    • Perhaps not all but certainly a good number of them. You might be onto something here. Not sure if it is confidence boosting or if it is just a better way to get a young pitcher’s feet wet as far as pitching to MLB hitters. It may make the adjustment period for the hitters more difficult too. Who knows really? I do know one thing it does. It generally will give a young pitcher a shorter amount of time to get back on the hill after getting roughed up in an outing instead of waiting for that 5th day.

  6. A month or so ago I heard Bryan Price say on radio they had looked at the video and detected a physical flaw with Reed. Per Price, he wasn’t staying on top of the ball with his grip and this was leading to the flat trajectory of his fastball and slider.

    After Sunday’s debacle, I read quotes from Price talking about the same flat trajectory on Reed’s pitches and adding that Reed was not now the same pitcher who had dominated earlier in the season at AA and AAA.

    As Jason said, we don’t know what was going on in Reed’s head. However, apparently the physical issue of the grip wasn’t being effectively corrected; and, thus Reed finds himself back in Louisville to figure out how to get that done.

    • Let’s hope that is at least part of the problem. That sort of thing is much easier to fix (and monitor) than what’s in someone’s head. I’d like to see Reed develop an offspeed pitch with more difference in velocity than the slider offers, but I’m still optimistic about his future with the Reds.

  7. Good comments on Reed. What bothers me is the Reds brain trust thought he was ready. Clearly he needs more seasoning. He was hit hard in 8 of his 10 starts which is not what one expects from a future “ace”. He is still a thrower with little command. He rarely threw to the target and missed the strike none by more than a bit. Hopefully he does not become the latest poster boy for great potential…unfulfilled.

    • Agree, he had less than 150 innings pitched above single A. Not sure what the rush was for a kid who starts off next season 23 years old.
      I get the argument about letting develop at the big league level, but why burn his clock when he is not ready and you got other guys to develop?

  8. I am glad Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz didn’t pitch in Cincinnati. They would have been headcases that got run out of town.

    • ???
      like who Cueto??? Mike Leake???? Bailey might actual qualify as a headcase if any of them were and it took him about 5 seasons and he never got run out of town.
      The one guy that might be the best case for your point that people want to run out of town is Cingrami- but I do not think that was your point

  9. The “Call Reed up asap” crowd was right! The “Send Reed down asap” crowd was also right! It happens sometimes! We had to deal with Simon, Melville, Daniel Smith, etc. etc so why not take a shot with the hot new prospect at AAA! Then he got beat up so badly with the Reds that you felt bad for him and no stat rearranging can change that absolute fact! He’s only got 2 pitches and they’re both approximately the same speed. Not too many pitchers have succeeded in the big leagues that way.

    He’s only 23 and has talent so plenty of time to regroup and make it back next year!!

    • I do not think Daniel Smith pitched for the team you are probably confusing him with Jon-John Lamscot as they all kinda blur together for me as well

  10. Five years ago Cody Reed graduated high school and was throwing mid 80’s. He went to Northeast Mississippi Community College and as recently as 2013 was pitching against teams like Mississippi Delta, Pearl River, and was the losing pitcher against LSU Eunice,( no, not THAT LSU). He was drafted by the Royals in the second round and went to the Pioneer League and that juggernaut Idaho Falls. In 2014 he pitched for the low A Lexington Legends and went 3-9 with an ERA of 5.46. In 2015 he went to high A Wilmington for the Royals and did well and then quickly promoted to the AA Northwest Arkansas and then quickly traded to the Cincinnati Reds and sent to Pensacola. Then to Louisville in 2016 and we know the rest. What the Reds did to this kid is a joke. He was pitching for a community college 3 years ago, logged 67 innings at high A, 79 innings at AA and 64 innings at AAA. Reed then fails in the big leagues at age 23 throwing 47 innings……yet Phil Ervin….their top pick from the draft 3 years ago is still hitting .235 in AA as a 24 year old????? Bob Steve has thrown almost 600 innings for the Reds. Give Cody Reed some time. The Front office threw him under the bus hoping we would be Dwight Gooden and take the scrutiny off them. Let the kid develop and pitch and get some confidence in the minors.

    • Pretty much agree, not sure what they saw in rushing him up, could see putting him in the pen for situations if they were contending and needed an extra arm. Could see if he were a guy like Sampson who is running out of time to be considered a prospect, but this is not the case. The way they are handling Stephenson seems well played, makes it a little easier that he is just getting by.But Reed with less than 15o innings above A ball made no sense.
      I am sure if that is throwing him under the bus but it might be my perception of what that means. You mentioned Ervin, outside of the BA aren’t the number pretty solid?

  11. It usually takes 1,000 innings (minors and majors) for a major league pitcher to be really effective, if they are going to stay in the majors. Reed has a total of 372, combined.

    Smoltz had 440 something in the minors and Glavine 540 in the minors before they came to the majors and they still got lit up their first year with the big club.

    Bottom-line, with a little patience I’ll take Cody Reed over Elmer Dessens.

  12. Reed’s command is not there. His pitches also come in flat and high in the strike zone. It’s no wonder he looks like he’s throwing BP.

  13. Love this article. Particularly the part about the parenting thing. I have two boys a 2 year old and a 1 year old basically totally opposites. So when someone gives me advice I just laugh because your right everyone is different. Same goes for baseball players.

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