18 Games at a Time - Capsule 3

The latest stretch of 18 games can be termed successful, a missed opportunity, and a little bit lucky all at the same time.  On the one hand, the Reds continued their winning ways, and maintained their status as division leaders.  On the other hand, there were games that could very well been recorded as wins that weren’t, and you just wonder if we’ll look back four months from now with a bitter sense of what might have been.  Still, on the third hand, the Reds did win 11 of 18 despite injuries of varying magnitude to Joey Votto, Ryan Hanigan, and Homer Bailey.

We are now entering the long middle stretch of the 2010 season, and the Reds have done exactly what they’ve needed to do to this point.  Are they for real?  I, for one, don’t think I know.  The story on this team has changed almost overnight: from good defense and promising pitching to the offensive juggernaut that holds on for the ride.  There’s something unsettling about the sudden change in script, but so far I like how the movie has unfolded.  Sometimes you think go to the theater intending to see Iron Man 2, but mistakenly buy tickets to Sex and the City 2, but hooray for serendipity because Sex and the City 2 turned out to be a delightful film.

Knowing that sometimes the sun goes round the moon (isn’t this world a crazy place?), here’s hoping the Reds can save the best for last.

Now that Kim Cattrall and Vanessa Williams have you in the mood for some baseball analysis, let’s do this thing…after the jump.

2010 Reds, Capsule 3

Overview:

Wins/Losses: 11 - 7 (PSA), 31-23 (YTD)

Strength of Schedule: .493, YTD (14th most difficult in NL; 23rd most difficult in ML) [Prev: .490 YTD SOS, 11th most difficult in NL; 21st most difficult in ML]

RPI (ESPN): .513, YTD (6th best in NL; 9th best in ML)

[Prev: .508 YTD RPI, 8th best in NL; 15th best in ML]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats, YTD): 37.2% [prev: 24.9%]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on ELO concept): 42.8% [prev: 30.6%]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats + PECOTA projections): 55.9% [prev: 22.8%]

Offense:

  • .313/.385/.537 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the team, compared to NL average of .254/.325/.393
  • For the third straight 18-game capsule, the eight regulars (defined by the players with the most plate appearances) remain the same.  This is a positive development.
  • The team scored 108 runs over this 18 game stretch, which is a neat and clean 6.0 runs per game.  The component stats, however, suggest that team should have scored over 6.7 runs per game.  Not clutch enough, perhaps.
  • You don't score that many runs without getting contributions from, like, everybody.  And indeed, 7 of the 8 regulars had OPS's above 800, with three (Votto, Rolen, and Gomes) topping 1000.
  • Who was the unlucky starter not to reach an 800 OPS?  O-Cab, the usual lead-off hitter who had the second most plate appearances over the last 18 games, ripped off a 672 OPS for the period.  For the record, this hot stretch raised his YTD OPS to 665, so just get off his back, man.
  • Even the bench kicked some ass: Laynce Nix, Miguel Cairo, and Chris Heisey each had OPS levels north of 1000, and combined for 83 plate appearances over the period.
  • Drew Sutton hit a grand slam, then went back to Louisville, where he could focus more on the art of hitting rather than its slick commercial value.
  • The other 15 NL teams averaged about 13.5 HR in the last 18 games.  The Reds hit 31.  Scott Rolen had 7 of them, and drove in 22 runs.  I suppose this creates quite the effective yin/yang situation to the Reds' much lauded "senior leadership duo".
  • Chris Heisey, nascent superstar and official favorite player of this humble corner of the blog, eschewed all singles, labeling them "pedestrian".  His four hits in 16 at-bats were all cause for traveling at least 180 feet.  One double, one triple, two home runs...two runs batted in??!?  This smells like the stuff of conspiracy.

 

Pitching:

  • Overall, the pitchers were roughly average: pitching to an ERA of 4.24 for the period, compared to the league rate of 3.96.
  • The starters, also, were generally average: Arroyo, Cueto, Harang, Bailey, and LeCure were all within a relatively narrow ERA band ranging from 3.98 (LeCure) to 4.79 (Bailey).  The other three were basically carbon copies of each other at 4.13, 4.18, and 4.24.  It doesn't matter who was who.  These starters went 9-2 as a group.
  • Did I say all the starters?  Eff that noise, brah, I left out Mike Leake (Mike Leake!).  Leake threw 19.3 innings over three starts and allowed two earned runs (0.93 ERA).  5 walks, 12 strikeouts...0 homers.  To be sure, there were elements of luck involved, since Leake was remarkably hittable (hitters batted .293 against him, worst among the starters for the period), and his expected ERA wasn't any better than the rest of the staff.  Luck has a way of getting you back, however, as Leake posted zero wins despite the subterranean ERA.
  • Oh, Leake went 4-for-7 with a double during his three starts.  Mike Leake!  His YTD OPS of 838 exceeds that of Hernandez, Phillips, Cabrera, Stubbs, and Bruce. 
  • So far, we've chronicled an explosive offense and an efficient rotation.  Unfortunately, the bullpen did not escape our gaze.  As a group, here's the pen's pitching line for the period: 2 wins, 5 losses, 48 innings, 59 hits allowed, 30 earned runs given up (5.63 ERA), 27 walks, 32 K's.  For those scoring at home, that's a WHIP of 1.79.
  • The only ‘penner worth talking about was the immortal Arthur Rhodes, who threw a scoreless 7.7 innings.  In fact, the pen's ERA for the stretch jumps to 6.70 if you take Rhodes's numbers out.
  • The defense slipped a bit, with the DER falling from .691 to .687.  This rate is good for 10th best in the NL and 20th best overall.

 

The next 18:

  • 10 games at home, 8 on the road
  • 0 of the 18 against divisional opponents
  • 3 of the 18 against 2009 playoff teams
  • 8 of the 18 against American League teams, five of which will require a Designated Hitter.
  • .490 average winning percentage (2010) for the teams in the next 18 games.
  • One of the reasons this team has been difficult to get a handle on is that they've played a dreadful schedule.  Not their fault, they play the games that they're given, etc.  Still, the RPI stat ranks the Reds behind the Mets right now.  Doesn't mean much, except to say that the Reds have won the games they're supposed to.  Over the next couple weeks, the Reds play a mediocre group, and are helped by playing the decent teams at GABP.  For me, I'm withholding judgment on this team until the All-Star break, which will be preceded by a 14 game stretch against the Phillies, Cubs, Mets, and Phillies.  Most of that on the road.
  • Given the above, I'm very curious to see what Walt does between now and the end of the month.  If the Reds continue to play well, I think he has to address the pen and the shortstop position before that stretch of games.
  • On a similar note, I've heard inferences that the Reds may soon have a surplus of pitching and might dangle some of it in the near future.  I don't see it, for two primary reasons: 1) As we've noted, the Reds don't have a surplus of pitching, but have an imbalanced talent distribution.  To the best of my knowledge, the current CBA does allow for starting pitchers to be shifted to a relief role.  Despite Jocketty's insistence to the contrary, I would love to see A-Chap break in as a reliever, with a permanent move to the rotation for 2011.  2) Most of the Reds starters are young and developing.  Even if the team is in contention into the last week of the year, some of these guys will need to be rested or treated with caution.  Having seven or eight useful starting pitchers can allow for a couple creative trips to the DL over the next few months.
  • Has Chris Heisey ever played shortstop before? 
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