“We’ve got guys who are better athletes and create some havoc on the basepaths and do something that is a little of different than we’ve done in the past.”
I think they are determined to make havoc the motto of the 2009 Reds. It begs the question though, given how bad the Reds were at base running last year, couldn't it be said they were pretty good at creating havoc in 2008?
The other question that has been sticking with me through all of this is whether or not the Reds really have that much more team speed this year, or are we just looking at a lot less power? On the surface, it looks like yes, they do. With the addition of Willy Taveras and his 68 SB (at a super 90% rate), the Reds look like they're are primed to burn on the basepaths.
But you know what I see? I see a season in 2008 that is not in line with the rest of Willy's career, when it comes to SB. The three previous seasons he had stolen 34, 33, and 33 bases, never at a rate higher than 78%, which is still excellent, but is not otherworldly like the 90% he pulled in 2008. Do we really expect Taveras to remain freakishly good at stealing bases? Or is it more reasonable to think that he'll fall back to his previous levels of good, but not great, stolen base prowess?
Of course, stolen bases aren't the only way that team speed can be utilized. There are various base advancement opportunities on hits, outs, and wild pitches, etc. Baseball Prospectus tracks all of this with a number they call Equivalent Base Running Runs - essentially the number of runs a player contributes to the team based on the number and quality of the opportunities they had to do so. In 2008, Willy Taveras was 2nd in the league in EqBRR behind Ichiro. Then again, in 2007, he was 104th, three spots behind Adam Dunn. It's hard to say what is a more realistic result for Taveras since the data on BPro only goes back to 2007 (baserunning statistics are a fairly new thing), but I'd be willing to bet that it's closer to the 1.4 runs he had in 2007 than the 11.9 runs he put up in 2008, mainly because I don't think he'll steal as many bases or at the same rate. (It's also worth noting that Corey Patterson was 73rd in 2007, about a half run better than Taveras in 48 fewer opportunities.)
I know it's not all on Taveras to create havoc on the base paths. The Reds also will have more time from Chris Dickerson and Norris Hopper, both of whom should be havoctizing (or is it havoculating?) on the bases more than Dunn or Griffey ever did. And Cherry will probably be out there more as well, though in the time that he played last season, he only added 0.1 runs on the bases, according to BPro. Then again, Ramon Hernandez is worse on the bases than any of the catchers who played last year. Oh, and Joey Votto (-6.6 runs) was the 5th worst baserunner in the big leagues last year. I did not expect that.
Okay, I'm rambling at this point. I think we all know what is going on here. The Reds are clearly going to have less pop in the lineup than they did in 2008, so the only way to sell it to the fans is to pretend there will be a ton more speed. The thing is, all this means is that Dusty Baker will be running at inopportune times even more, and we'll likely see even more outs made on the basepaths as the Reds try to push their team speed down everyone's throat. Man, I'm kinda starting to get depressed about 2009.