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18 game capsule, take 9

And…..we’re done.  The Reds conclude another losing season, but with some extra dashes of hope thrown in at the end.  Will these few weeks of excellence carry over into 2010 as a tsunami of momentum?  Are the pieces in place for a pennant run?  Is the new-found spark between Don and Betty Draper just an illusion?  All these answers and more after the jump.

2009 Reds, Capsule 9

Overview:

Wins/Losses: 13 - 5 (PSA), 78 - 84 (YTD)

Strength of Schedule: .489, YTD (15th most difficult in NL; 29th most difficult in ML) [Prev: .490 YTD SOS, 12th most difficult in NL; 26th most difficult in ML]

RPI (ESPN): .487, YTD (11th best in NL; 22nd best in ML)

[Prev: .481 YTD RPI, 14th best in NL; 26th best in ML]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats, YTD): 0.0% [prev: 0.0%]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on ELO concept): 0.0% [prev: 0.0%]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats + PECOTA projections): 0.0% [prev: 0.0%]

Offense:

  • For the period, hitters posted slash rates of .286/.358/.482, compared to league averages of .256/.329/.398.
  • The eight "regulars" as defined by the players with the most plate appearances during this period were: Phillips, Votto, Stubbs, Janish, Rolen, Bruce, Gomes, and Nix.
  • Joey Votto staked a late claim to the MVP award: in the final 18 games, Votto accrued 30 hits, 15 doubles, 4 HR, 14 RBI, and 11 BB.  The slash rates of 469/547/891 are commended, and we-the humble fans-request a full season performance to this effect in 2010.
  • Jay Bruce threw down to the tune of a 1060 OPS.  His job is not guaranteed next year. If, however, Bruce is lucky enough to be given a starting spot...he and Votto hitting anything like this would mask a ton of gaps.
  • Speaking of gaps: Paul Janish, for more or less the final third of the season, has held a regular spot.  His period-by-period OPS levels for periods 7, 8, and 9: 627, 616, 620.  Consistency is admirable, but is not sufficient for a starting job.  This is not the answer.
  • Irrational exuberance abounds with every positive step from the youngsters.  Drew Stubbs hit 3 more taters and put up a PSA OPS of 846.  Juan Francisco only went 9-for-20.
  • Brandon Phillips had a semi-disappointing period, in which the power disappeared, and fell two RBI short of 100.
  • For the year, only three players reached 400 plate appearances.

Pitching:

  • A third consecutive strong showing by the pitchers (PSA ERA of 3.13 vs. league average of 4.08)
  • Most of that above-averageness can be pinned on two guys: Arroyo and Homer.  The former threw 23.3 innings in three starts, and allowed just five runs.
  • The latter gets his own friggin' bullet.  Homer Bailey made four starts, accumulating 26 innings, and only gave up three runs.  He went 3-0, saw opponents hit just .219 off him, and struck out 22 while walking nine.  Has he arrived?
  • The bullpen was kinda awesome too.  Cordero, Burton, Rhodes, and Masset combined for 26.3 innings where 0 earned runs were surrendered.
  • Justin Lehr gave up 8 HR in 16 innings.
  • The defense raised the YTD DER by a couple points in these last 18 games, bringing the rate to .705, good for 3rd best in the NL, and 4th  best in all of baseball.

Other notes:

  • The Reds' offense underperformed league average BABIP for the year (.285 vs. .302).  Similarly, the pitching staff yielded lower than average BABIP as compared to average rates (.279 vs. .290).  I wonder if there are any ballpark effects at work.
  • On an OPS+ basis, the Reds had the 2nd worst offense in the league with a mark of 84.  The Giants were able to "beat" that futility with an 82 team OPS+.  It's worth noting that while these marks are indeed bad, they are skewed by being in the National League.  The entire NL posted an average OPS+ of just 94, and only two teams were over the 100 mark.
  • The Reds pitching was above average (team ERA+ of 105, compared to league average of 101), but in the context of the note above-this is woefully short of being good enough to pick up the bad offense.  The Giants, who ended up 4 games short of the Wild Card team, had a team ERA+ of 120. 
  • In terms of offensive categories where the Reds stood out as a team, there were two: the Reds led the league in sacrifice hits (100, vs. league average of 71), and finished last in the league in intentional walks (37 vs. league average of 48).
  • Pitching-wise, there was no category in which the Reds collectively separated from the pack, save for the esoteric category of balks, in which the Reds only committed one to lead the league (Edinson Volquez in April).
  • As a group, the pitching staff was below average in striking batters out (6.6 K/9 vs. league average of 7.1), in not walking batters (3.6 BB/9 vs. league average of 3.5), and in keeping the ball in the yard (1.2 HR/9 vs. league average of 1.0).  It would appear that looking for a new pitching coach is appropriate.
  • Using the Pythagorean win totals, the Reds sit about 15 games behind divisional pace-setting St. Louis.  I think there are several factors that can chip away at that difference, including an expectation of fewer injuries, fewer Tavares, and greater emergence from Votto/Bruce/Stubbs/Bailey.  That said, I see five crucial variables for next year-the Reds will probably need four of them to be positive for a playoff jackpot: Arroyo/Harang need to be at solid #2/#3 starter level, an improvement at SS, the emergence/acquisition of another power bat, another career-ish year from Rolen, and 1st half Hanigan to show up instead of 2nd half Hanigan. 
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