18 Games at a Time - Capsule 1

 

We’re together again!

 

If you’re new to the site, this is a recurring feature in which I break the season into 18 game capsules, hoping to pull meaning from these semi-arbitrary segments of baseball.

 

One of the "pros" of doing this is that players who have dreadful starts to their season tend be weighed down throughout the year in terms of their year-to-date statistics, even as the season reaches the back nine.  The bite size season nuggets allow for "fresh starts", theoretically allowing for trends to emerge, which we could then perform math on so as to impress our friends.  In truth, the only people who care are already at this site.

 

The "cons" are that parsing data via selective endpoints often can produce misleading conclusions, especially in the clumsy hands of one prone to misleading, conclusive statements, such as yours truly.  The other known con is that this feature tends to "outkick the coverage", which is a fancy football-ish way of saying that the Reds of recent vintage tend to stop being interesting before the season ends.

 

To the numbers!

2010 Reds, Capsule 1

Overview:

Wins/Losses: 7 - 11

Strength of Schedule: .487 (11th most difficult in NL; 20th most difficult in ML)

RPI (ESPN): .462 (14th best in NL; 27th best in ML)

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats, YTD): 4.5%

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats + PECOTA projections): 5.3%

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats + ELO methodology): 5.3%

 

Offense:

  • .238/.305/.388 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the team, compares to NL average of .256/.331/.408
  • Of the regular eight, only two player broke the 700 OPS barrier for the period (Votto - 884, Rolen - 879)
  • The two best hitting performances for the period were turned in by bench players: Ryan Hanigan hit .462 with a bit of power thrown in, while Paul Janish led the team with a .706 slugging percentage, inciting the steroid suspicions league-wide.  For those scoring at home, Janish had 12 total bases in 17 at-bats, while Orlando Cabrera had 25 total bases in 63 at-bats.
  • Some of you may know I'm not local to the Cincinnati area.  I see the Reds on TV maybe half a dozen times a year.  The games I saw this past go-around would have led me to believe that the team was the most hack-tastic group of free-swingers in the league.  To my surprise, this was not true: the Reds walked in 8.6% of plate appearances, compared to the league average of 9.3%.  Certainly below average, but not drastically so.  The sub-par rate is explained by two players: Jonny Gomes (5.6%) and Orlando Cabrera (4.3%).  Every other regular is north of 10%.  Furthermore, the Reds averaged 3.81 pitches seen per plate appearance over the period, which is within shouting distance of the ML average 3.87 P/PA.  If the NL average is compared, the Reds are basically average.
  • Looking component by component, it is difficult to pinpoint the true cause of the team's offensive struggles.  The team's walk rate is just below average, the team's contact rate is just below average, the team's isolated power is about average, et cetera.  What is well below average is the team's BABIP (.281 to league average of .300).  This may be bad luck to a degree.  It may also be that the team-as a whole-doesn't hit the ball very hard.
  • To build upon the last point, I suspect that part of the offensive struggles is due to the fact that as a team, the offense does no particular thing well.  I suppose that the performing a little bit below average at every aspect of the game leads to a really bad result.
  • To make your heart sink a little bit, the team's "expected" runs per game output based on the various components was 4.0 for the period, compared to the 4.6 R/G they did score.  Yes, the team scored more runs than expected...
  • Most of the regulars were bad, but not so bad that you'd call them out about it.  Drew Stubbs, however, was pretty bad-overmatched to the tune of 21 strikeouts in 53 at-bats.  This might be acceptable if he was bringing the pop, but he's hit just two extra base-hits to date.  I would normally point out his .279 on-base percentage and Dusty's proclivity towards putting Stubbs in the lead-off spot, but Stubbs's OBP was 5th highest out of the regulars, signifying that progress has indeed been made.

Pitching:

  • The starters have had their win-loss record documented to excruciating detail (1-7 as a group), but lost in the hand-wringing over that is that the group has been awful: 18 starts, 103 innings, 75 earned runs (6.55 ERA).  Mike Leake's the only of the group with an ERA below 5, but he won't last long in that category if his K/BB ratio doesn't improve from its current standing of 1.0.
  • The best starting pitcher overall has likely been Bronson Arroyo, who has been suffering from an extraordinarily high percentage of his allowed baserunners eventually crossing the plate.  In fact, Arroyo's WHIP of 1.39 leads the starters by a comfortable margin.  To hammer home the previous point, however, Arroyo's WHIP is worse than league average (1.38).
  • After graduating college, most individuals tend to have a recurring dream where they forget to attend a particular class, finally showing up with just a couple weeks to go in the semester.  I expect this is more or less how Nick Masset feels, as he awoke this morning with an ERA over 12.00, despite being a generally talented pitcher.  He'll do better-a lot better-but he'll carry around a high ERA all year long.
  • With relievers, small sample sizes are basically the name of the game, so I write the following with caution: Francisco Cordero may be on borrowed time.  For a closer to have a WHIP that is no better than the league average is ominous.
  • Danny Herrera was the only pitcher to throw more than one inning without surrendering a home run.
  • The team defense was a great story last year, as it was surprisingly among the league's best all year long.  According to the Defense Efficiency Rate, things have taken a turn for the worse, with a current DER of .672 (13th best NL; 26th best ML).

The next 18:

  • 9 games at home, 9 on the road
  • 14 of the 18 against divisional opponents
  • 5 of the 18 against 2009 playoff teams
  • .494 average winning percentage (2010) for the teams in the next 18 games.
  • With series against the Pirates, Astros, and Cubs coming up, the Reds will have ample opportunity to correct the poor start and position themselves as an upper tier team in the division.  If they do not, I expect Dusty's seat to start to heat up.  That or apathy will settle over the city.  Either one.
  • Even more crucial will be Aaron Harang's performance, as he is scheduled to pitch four times between now and the next release of one of these capsules.  If he doesn't pitch well in one of his first two starts, I don't expect him to make the final two.
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