18 Games at a Time - Capsule 4

I see you. - Joe Robbins

ESPN talking heads are never wrong. ESPN talking heads presumably still say stuff like 'pitching and defense wins championships'. These facts bode well.

For the third time in four tries, the Reds won 10 out of 18 in these selective endpoint capsules. On one hand, the story could be about the bullpen, as four of the team's eight losses in this stretch were credited to the relief corps. On the other hand, a consistent pattern of inconsistent offense has emerged, and perhaps the story is just how much the gloves and arms are carrying the bats. The absence of left field regulars is a contributing factor, no doubt, but the offense, collectively, on a team featuring Votto, Choo, Bruce, and Phillips, is barely better than average. This is the quintessential pitching & defense ball club.

Paradoxically, then, the team's biggest weakness appears to be in the bullpen. I was trying to think of an appropriate name for the instances in which the bullpen blows a late game lead. Clearly, the pinnacle of bullpens was the 1990 Reds; "the Nasty Boys." So what's the opposite of a nasty boy? A well-behaved woman. And, as we all know from the popular poster/paperweight, a well-behaved woman rarely makes history. And history is pretty much just war and stuff, so well-behaved women rarely make war. And all's fair in love and war, meaning the two subjects are easily substitutable, so well-behaved women rarely make love. And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make, so well-behaved women rarely take love, too. And a love taker is someone who broke Pat Benatar's heart. So, in conclusion, don't think of it as blowing a save. Think of it as preserving Pat Benatar's oh-so-fragile heart.

Let's move on. All stats through Tuesday's games...

2013 Reds, Capsule 4

Overview:

Wins/Losses: 10 - 8

Strength of Schedule: .494 (11th most difficult in NL; 24th most difficult in ML) [Prev: .489, 13th most difficult in NL; 26th most difficult in ML]

RPI (ESPN): .520 (3rd best in NL; 7th best in ML)

[Prev: .519, 5th best in NL; 8th best in ML]

Baseball Prospectus postseason odds: 90.2% [Prev: 82.8%]

Baseball Prospectus division odds: 33.6% [Prev: 34.5%]

Offense:

  • .240/.308/.381 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the team, compares to NL average of .254/.313/.393
  • The regulars, as defined by most plate appearances in the period: Hanigan, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier, Robinson, Choo, Bruce
  • Jay Bruce was the only hitter with an average over .300 or a slugging percentage over .500, slashing .315/.354/.616. Four doubles, six Boss-bombs, 14 driven in.
  • It shouldn't be news in one direction or the other when a player OPS's 741, but that number plus Joey Votto equals a panic-inducing funk. Not really, but if the Reds are going to excel in this upcoming stretch of difficulty, they'll need a big bump from big Joe.
  • I like Todd Frazier's stat line: .288/.373/.492, 3 dubs, 3 dongs, 8 runs, 6 ribbies, 6 walks. It's not spectacular, nor lopsided in any way, but pretty daggone helpful. Which kind of describes Frazier, when he's playing well.
  • Shin-Soo Choo had 14 hits and 14 walks + HBP. That part is fine, despite it meaning a .215 batting average, but there's a serious power outage with him these days (0 homers for the period).
  • Despite missing a few days, Brandon Phillips nearly led the team in RBI, with 13 in 14 games played. He hit .224/.286/.328.
  • The "Struggles" award goes to Derrick Robinson: .216/.275/.324, 2 runs, 2 RBI, 0 stolen base attempts, 2 walks, 11 K's.
  • Speaking of struggling, I find that I can't really ever seem to write about Zack Cozart, for reasons that do not speak well of my character. The problem, in a nutshell, is exemplified in this period's numbers. Coz hit pretty well (702 OPS), but had just 2 walks against 15 strikeouts and grounded into five double plays. He's seems to be easily exploitable. Maybe this says something, maybe it doesn't, but so far this year in "low leverage" situations, as defined by baseball-reference (i.e., the game isn't remotely on the line), Cozart is batting .284 with 14 XBH (including 6 HR) in 134 at-bats. In medium/high leverage situations, Zack is batting .208 with 8 XBH (including 1 HR) in 130 at-bats.

Pitching:

  • Team ERA of 3.48, compared to league average of 3.92
  • Who to start with? Let's do this: K/BB rates for each of the starters this period: Cueto, 9.0; Arroyo, 6.0; Bailey, 4.8; Leake, 4.3; Latos, 4.2. League average: 2.8.
  • I hate being this guy, but Mike Leake now has a 2.64 ERA on the year, which is being heavily deflated by an 81% strand rate. By one measurement, his component ERA is over 4. A sell-high candidate, perhaps.
  • On the other hand, Homer Bailey has a 66% strand rate (average is 73%), and by the components has been the team's 2nd best starting pitcher rate-wise, and possibly ahead of Cueto on volume. Buy low.
  • Aroldis Chapman was not kind to Pat Benatar a single time, bless his heart. 27 batters faced, 2 hits, 3 walks, 13 whiffs.
  • What on earth do you say about JJ Hoover? 7 runs in 6.3 innings, and none of the runs via the long ball. Struck out nine, so the stuff still seems to be there. The .444 BABIP seems unlikely to last forever.
  • I called for Sam LeCure to get more love last time around, and he did, and...wasn't good (5 runs in 5.7 innings). Screw you, karma.
  • The defense is still good, with the DER ticking down from .709 to .708 YTD. With Choo in center, it doesn't seem possible that the Reds have the 3rd best defense in the NL, but what am I gonna do, go against the numbers?

The next 18:

  • 9 games at home, 9 on the road
  • 3 of the 18 against divisional opponents
  • 9 of the 18 against 2012 playoff teams
  • 8 of the 18 against American League teams
  • 5 of the 18 requiring the use of a DH
  • .523 average winning percentage (2013) for the teams in the next 18 games.
  • Survive this stretch, then we'll talk about catching that bird team.
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