As the 2014 season stumbles toward a merciful conclusion, Reds fans have at least one race still to root for: Billy Hamilton’s quest for the franchise’s first Rookie of the Year award of this century. Ken Rosenthal lays out the case for why Hamilton is more deserving of the honor than the Mets’ Jacob deGrom for Fox Sports. Rosenthal, who unfortunately does not have a Rookie of the Year vote this year, correctly believes that Hamilton’s exemplary defense and baserunning, as well as the fact that he’s been with the team all year and played in the vast majority of their games, are enough to overcome his less-than-stellar OBP from the leadoff spot and pedestrian stolen base percentage. Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated disagrees, ranking Hamilton third in the race behind deGrom and Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs, and even warns the Kolten Wong of the Cardinals could be close to overtaking Hamilton. It seems as if an awful lot of people believe stolen base percentage is all there is to baserunning, without reference to factors like stretching singles into doubles, going first to third on singles, and scoring from third on relatively shallow fly balls. Hamilton’s stolen base percentage certainly can (and I believe will) be improved upon, but his speed helps the team in plenty of ways that don’t show up clearly in the box score. But then I may be biased.
Speaking of baserunning, nobody reading this needs to be reminded of the ridiculous number of Reds thrown out at the plate this year. Despite that, Bryan Price is standing behind third base coach Steve Smith. C. Trent Rosecrans talked to Price about it, who had this to say:
"I think you probably have to look back and see how many times we've scored on that play to really decide if you guys think it's a good move or not; in the end, I don't really care what you think, I care about the fact that if we're sitting around waiting to score runs, we're going to be less aggressive and we're going to score fewer runs, in my opinion."
Interesting quote there. With the help of some guy named Joel Luckhaupt, Rosecrans identified ten outs at the plate that were primarily on Smith’s shoulders (as in, not cases where the baserunner ignored the stop sign or infield ground balls where the runner was told to go on contact). Of those ten, two were close enough to warrant (unsuccessful) replay challenges. Is that too many? Hard to say, unless somebody is willing to go through that same exercise with every team. It is, however, a reminder that Price is learning on the job this year, too.
As we look ahead to the offseason, the Reds will face some hard question regarding their starting pitching. Much has been and will continue to be written regarding who to keep and who to trade between Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, but I really hope the Reds manage to hang on to Mike Leake. He’s been healthy and fairly consistent, and while he’s never going to be a staff ace, he’ll eat innings like a young Bronson Arroyo – a comparison Leake made himself to Hal McCoy. Also, he may be a budding sabermetrician, telling McCoy that he doesn’t believe pitcher wins and losses should even be kept track of.
A couple of writers from Beyond the Box Score decided to try a little what-if scenario. Their premise was to pretend MLB was adding two new expansion teams, and they simulated the expansion draft just to see what would happen. For their two new teams, they went with WNBA-ish Charlotte Divide and the possibly suggestive Portland Beavers, and even included a dramatic divisional realignment to accommodate those franchises (The Reds would share the National League North with the Mets, Pirates and Phillies). It’s a bit long, but it’s a fun thought experiment and worth a read.
Finally, as we inch closer and closer to Game 162 and the end of the season, you may find yourself wondering, why 162 games? Seems arbitrary. Why not 160, or 164, or any other number? The website Mental Floss wondered the same thing and looked into it. MLB’s official historian John Thorn told the tale of how that came to be, which includes one season when the National League and the American League played a different number of regular season games.