2012 was a fantastic year to be a Reds fan.
This feels like a number of columns from the middle of October in that the piece recaps the Reds' terrific season. Personally, I cannot grow tired of retrospective articles when the Reds have the type of season they had in 2012. The depressing days of the 2000s seem so distant now. For instance, eight years ago yesterday, the Reds signed Eric Milton to a three-year, $25 million contract. In 2004, the Reds finished fourth in the NL Central with a 76-86 record. Cincinnati as a team had an ERA over five (good for second-worst in the league) and an ERA+ of 82 (worst in the league).
In contrast, the 2012 Reds won the division with 97 wins. The last time Cincinnati won that many games (1976), I was not even alive. Unlike the 2004 vintage, the 2012 Reds led the NL in ERA+ (127). Only one Cincinnati pitcher posted an ERA+ worse than 85. That was Todd Redmond, and he pitched less than four innings for the team. Over the past calendar year, the Reds extended Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips. Just a couple of weeks ago, the team acquired a valuable leadoff hitter in Shin-Soo Choo. In 2012, the club confirmed that 2010 was no fluke. Thanks, Cincinnati Reds, for a memorable 2012.
I hope that the Stephen Strasburg debacle in Washington does not reverse recent progress in the usage patterns of young pitchers. Maybe we are nurturing developing pitchers too much, but the Strasburg situation is not a symptom of this "problem". Washington's ace was unavailable in the playoffs, because Mike Rizzo was completely inflexible with regards to Strasburg's usage.
By all indications, Rizzo expected the Nationals to contend in 2012. Last offseason, the team traded for Gio Gonzalez and signed Edwin Jackson. These are not the type of moves you expect from a rebuilding club. Yet, Rizzo made no plans to start Strasburg's season a month or two late in order to make the right-hander available in the stretch run. By early June, the strength of the Nationals was clear. Washington was in first place and the team's Pythagorean record matched its performance in the standing. Again, Rizzo had every reason to believe that the Nationals were going to compete for the division title. Yet, once more, Rizzo made no attempt to alter Strasburg's usage. There were no shortened outings, no skipped starts, and no extra days of rest. The problem was not with an innings or pitches limit, but with Mike Rizzo. I think Rizzo has done an admirable job as Washington's general manager, but this was not his strongest moment.
The article basically argues that pitchers should not be coddled at all. Cliff Eastham believes that young pitchers should work as hard as they did forty years ago. He trots out a list of pitchers that won the Rookie of the Year Award and pitched more than 240 innings. There are a couple of problems here. One, basically no one throws 240 innings in today's game. In the past five seasons, five pitchers have pitched that many innings in a season. Roy Halladay (2008, '10) and Justin Verlander ('09, '11) have done it twice. C.C. Sabathia ('08), Felix Hernandez ('10), and James Shields ('11) have each done it once.
Second, Eastham's list is a mixed bag at best. Tom Seaver is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Don Newcombe, Rick Sutcliffe, and Jon Matlack were all good pitchers. However, they all missed considerable time to injury later in their careers. Carl Morton had a short injury-riddled career, and Stan Bahnsen was done as a useful major league player at 29. I realize pitchers get hurt all the time, and perhaps we are overly-cautious with these players. However, if you are going to argue for heavy workloads, you might not want to produce a list where five of the six pitchers failed to pitch 3000 innings.
There are many interesting tidbits on this list from Jayson Stark. Several Reds make an appearance, including Xavier Paul, Ryan Hanigan, Mat Latos, and Todd Frazier. Stark calls Adam Dunn the "Strangest But Truest Player of the Year". I think that is a pretty apt description of the "Human Air Conditioner".
The title tells the story. Fangraphs' Carson Cistulli uses a simple projection system to imagine what a healthy Kal Daniels may have done.
We do not think about ballparks affecting strikeouts and walks in the same way we think about ballparks affecting hits and home runs. However, each major league stadium plays a little differently with regards to bases on balls and punch-outs. Great American Ballpark comes out as about average in both areas, but the list is still worth perusing. By this measure, the most extreme ballpark in the NL Central is PNC Park in Pittsburgh.