Thursday news and notes Doug Gray October 24, 2013 42 Comments Earlier this week Baseball America released their draft report cards for the NL Central and you can read about the Reds here if you are a Baseball America subscriber. Baseball Prospectus put up another entry from “Dollar Sign on the Muscle”, which is a book about scouting in baseball. You should go give it a read, it is fantastic. MLB.com is coming out with some cool new stuff now that they have Jim Callis to pair up with Jonathan Mayo to cover prospects. Earlier this week Mayo wrote an article about who will have more impact between Billy Hamilton and Delino DeShields Jr. Callis and Mayo state their respective case in a video within the article. Mayo makes his case for Hamilton because of the havoc he can create on the basepaths and what he will provide for the hitters behind him, not only with run scoring opportunities but with helping provide them with more fastballs to see when he is on the bases. Go give the entire article a read and watch the video. Walt Jocketty was on 700 WLW yesterday and talked about the Reds and he covered a whole bunch of different things from the hiring of Price to Brandon Phillips to Joey Votto….. go give it a listen, there is some really interesting things in there that make you just sit back and go “hmm” and make you want to try and read between the lines on some players. Speaking of podcasts, Redleg Nation Radio recorded a new episode with Chad Dotson and Joel Luckhaupt. They discussed the hiring of Bryan Price and the future of Brandon Phillips among other things. Go give it a listen or a download for listening to later. That is all for today. 42 Responses Alan Horn October 24, 2013 Pretty good stuff. I agree on Votto, Dusty, Phillips & Choo. Votto(and I have said this before) is not paid the big bucks to to profile as a # 2 hitter. His number one job is to drive in runs. Dusty needed to exert more discipline and require more out of the players. He certainly need to reign Phillips in. I still think Phillips can be a asset to the Reds. I think we will lose value if he is traded. He needs to shut his mouth and just play and produce. Running off at the mouth is a cancer from Little League on up. It will destroy a team. If it is at your teammates, it destroys from within. If it is at the opposition, it fires them up. No way anyone comes out a winner with a loose mouth. Sign Choo if at all possible. The owner is on board with that. Maybe Choo will give the Reds a break with deferred money or something of that nature. By mid season(if he signs with us), I would expect him to be moved to LF with Hamilton in CF. In the interim I would sign (preferable because you don’t give up any players) or trade for another outfielder to help pick up the slack. If you trade Phillips, you have to fill 2 offensive voids. You have to hope Cozart, Frazer , Mesoraco, Hannigan and Ludwick bring more to the table offensively than they did this past season. I think we can expect at least some of that group to be better with the bat. Two years from now, hopefully Winker and Ervin are ready. Rodriguez is a longer shot to me, but he is starting to show improvement. Nick October 24, 2013 Votto is paid to help the Reds produce runs. He was the best run producer on the team. Why is there such a preference for the people knocking in runs as opposed to the people scoring them? Votto OFTEN moved runners along so that Phillips and Bruce could knock them in from second or third. Also, Votto doesn’t get nearly as many pitches to hit as others in the lineup. Why would another team give him anything good to hit when they can face a guy with a 310 OBP behind him? I am NOT saying that Votto had as good a year as he has had previously, but he did have a good year and produced runs. If RBI’s are the expectation, that is a poor expectation. The offense was hurt this year because of what others did in the lineup, not Votto. Alan Horn October 24, 2013 Walt and the Red’s brass do not agree. He did have a decent year and I agree the offense was more hurt by others in the lineup, but to say Votto was not at least part of the problem is not correct. 75 RBIs and 25 HRs are not what is expected of Votto. The hitting in general was the Red’s problem last season. Too many one run and low scoring games were lost. MK October 24, 2013 All that you say Nick is true. But the person you describe is the #1 or #2 hitter in the line-up not # 3. In addition you do not pay your #1 or #2 $20 million a year. However his slugging pct. was much worse and you can say the people around him were worse but maybe the people around him were worse because he has around them. Why worry about throwing a fastball to #2 if you don’t have to worry about #3 driving them in? He was paid to knock in Choo, which is why they got Choo. His defense was so fundamentally unsound it was almost embarrassing. So yeah statistically Votto had a successful year on paper. Did he successfully fill the roll the Reds were paying him for, No. Nick October 24, 2013 Again, agree on the defense. And MK you are right that his slugging percentage was down…but it led the entire team. He did have a down year by his standards, but he was the best hitter on the team. I’m just not comfortable blaming the best hitter on the team for offensive woes when we had had 3 or 4 spots in the lineup not contributing much at all. Votto is a top 5 hitter in the league. That’s why he makes so much money (By the way he will only make 12 million this coming year). His defense was part of that contract, but he failed this year in that regard. As far the number 2 person in the lineup, you could throw whatever you wanted to the guys in that spot this year. I don’t think Joey Votto’s lack of RBI’s was the reason Cozart, Frazier, or others in the 2 spot didn’t hit. Put Votto in the 2 spot if that’s what you want. MK October 25, 2013 Again, I don’t pay $20 million to a number 2 guy in the order. As far as Choo, he will not be a $17 million lead off hitter for the Reds as the can not afford it. Votto might have put up some good offensive stats but they were not in the categories the Reds were paying him to put up. If he had the same numbers with 35 doubles and 30 home runs, he would have had 90 RBI and no one would be saying a word. The goal was for Votto to knock in Choo and the #4 hitter to knock in Votto. As it was Choo was knocked in by Phillips or Bruce and the other would hit into a double play way to many times. Doug Gray October 26, 2013 If the #2 hitter had any ability to get on base at all, Votto would have driven in Choo a bunch more, but instead Choo was back in the dugout after a DP or still standing at first base because the #2 hitters were terrible. Votto then moved Choo over when he got on base which left someone else to drive in the run. Jimmer October 24, 2013 Choo will get $17 mil and he’s a #1 hitter. Trout’s worth $20 mil and he hits leadoff. Doug Gray October 25, 2013 Trout, nor Choo should be hitting leadoff. It is a complete waste of their power. Jim t October 24, 2013 My issue with Joey wasn’t with his bat. His fielding fell off from gold glove standard and his base running reminded me of a little leaguer at times. Just seemed like his concentration and decision making were way off this year. Nick October 24, 2013 Couldn’t agree more, Jim. His fielding was unacceptable. Needs to improve greatly next season. I just hope that Joey doesn’t start basing his offensive contributions on RBI’s and home runs. The Cardinals led the league in runs scored and didn’t have a guy hit more than 24 home runs. The Reds brass needs to get with the times and understand how runs are actually produced. This is not 1973. Alan Horn October 24, 2013 Nor is it 75 or 76. DaveCT October 24, 2013 I think the point being lost is that between Cozart (.284 OBP) and BP (.310 OBP) in the #2 hole, Votto became the #2 hitter in effect and whether by design or not. It is very tricky to argue for Votto to loosen his approach when it can just as easily be said he produced very effectively, if not more so, than if he’d had more RBI’s and less walks/runs scored. Votto’s approach is arguably considered state of the art and I would argue he will never had the elite power of a Pujos or the like. Thus we have the 103 and 109 RBI’s behind him, likely because of him, and a guy who needs to re-set his defensive focus. Question (I see very few games): how much did the team’s defense as a whole (where it counts) suffer without Rolen, Stubbs, and Hanigan this year? Jimmer October 24, 2013 Defense didn’t miss them much. Fangraphs had them 2nd in team defense in 2012, they were 4th this year. Nearly identical scores. http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2013&month=0&season1=2013&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0 Jim Delaney October 24, 2013 Reds lineup has issues but the key to me with Votto is, there were a lot of games this season when the game was tied, one run down or one run lead and he seemed far more willing to accept a walk in the middle or late innings then looking for a pitch to drive that might tie game, give team a lead, etc. Overall his season is good in all of baseball terms but in terms of what the REDS needed him to be and what a 3 hole hitter needs to be playing home games in GABP the season was a disappointment. Also, his defense this season was very lackluster and his lack of power/rbi production may have impacted his defense. Hopefully he gets off to a better power start next season. Alan Horn October 24, 2013 Jim, I think you hit the nail on the head. The approach of going out of the way to take a walk in the 3 hole is not what you want out of a 3 hole hitter. I’m not talking about swinging at anything, but being aggressive versus defensive as a hitter. It’s a mentality. I don’t think it was as present in Votto prior to this season. Votto’s mentality (this past season) is what you want out of a leadoff hitter, #2 or #8 hitter. The 3 hitters most depended on for driving in the runs are the 3, 4 and 5 hitters. 4 and 5 both drove home 100 runs. #3 had 75. Votto’s stats this past season was very much Shaun Casey like(not bad but not great either). The foremost thing for the hitter in those 3 slots is not to go to the plate trying to force a walk, but with the intention of advancing or driving the runners in. You take a walk if they don’t give you anything to hit. I think Votto is a great player. He just wasn’t up to par for him this past season. I read where he admits that himself. He certainly can’t be blamed for the lack of offense this past season, although he had at least a small part in it. Jimmer October 24, 2013 He was on base more than any other player in the history of the franchise. He was not even remotely one bit part of the problem. BTW it’s SEAN Casey. Kevin October 25, 2013 It’s very difficult to hit a baseball hard. It’s exponentially more difficult to hit a ball outside of the strike zone hard. So either you’re 2001 chemically-perfected Barry Bonds and can hit the one pitch you see in the K-zone per at bat…Every. Single. Time. Or you’re the rest of humanity. Joey Votto is not Barry Bonds. If you get over that, then you’ll appreciate how awesome Joey Votto is at what he does do, and not how poor he is at what he doesn’t do (being Barry Bonds). I also think that we’ll see his power numbers go up in 2014, as he’s one full season removed from knee surgery. It takes a good while to fully recover from that, especially when you’re not enhancing your recovery. David October 25, 2013 Here is a video that talks about the Reds prospects in Arizona. http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=31174881&topic_id=7617858 It talks about how Lorenzen is converting to starter, and has given up on being a hitter. Callis talks highly of LaMarre, and how he thinks he can be a 4th OF. Talks a little about Yorman. Coltholt October 25, 2013 What seems to be missed here is the fault that lies with dusty and his lineups. The idea that your best hitter has to hit third is dated. With the construction of the team in 2013, votto should have been the two hole hitter. When you have the two nl leaders in OBP, why would you put a guy with a .300 OBP between them. Bruce should be hitting third behind him. That leaves a more non traditional four hitter with ludwick or Phillips, but that was done repeatedly anyway. As mentioned above, votto was still a top five hitter in the NL. The conversation on votto should be more about lineup construction, not a superstar changing their approach at the plate following a season that they set the team record in reaching base. MK October 25, 2013 If Philips bats second and Ludwick 4th as was the plan then the line-up argument is mute. Injuries happen. My biggest fault was Dusty was not who hit 2nd but how they hit. Get Choo on, bunt him over then let the next two drive him in. If they walk Votto and Ludwick or whoever can give you the same numbers as ’12, they won’t be pitching around Votto very long. Problem was Choo got on, #2 would swing away, make an out, Votto would walk and Phillips would hit into a double play way to many times. Tim October 25, 2013 Anyone else have a feeling a trade is coming to bring a big bat??! Homer, Phillips, Cueto someone is getting traded. Kevin October 25, 2013 General thoughts… 1) Donate to Doug’s site. Click that button on the right. It’s expensive to operate a well-run website, and anything you give will help keep the site going at its best. 2) I think the only way they trade Phillips is if they are ready to pull the trigger on re-signing Choo. 3) I also think there’s only one reason the organization would publicly leak Phillips trade rumors, and that’s as a way to rein him in. Check his ego and say “we know you like playing here, but we can get rid of you at any time, so cut the b.s.”. But it’s very risky, and not a strategy I endorse, as he’s always had a bit of a NFL WR personality to him, and those go hand in hand with demanding a trade, which obviously seriously deflates trade value. 3) The fact that Baker was fired even though he was a Castellini guy, and (faulty) arguments could be made for not canning a manager that took you to 3 of the last 4 post-seasons after missing 15…and the Phillips trade rumors leaks…makes me think the whole episode with C. Trent went over like a lead balloon with ownership. It was a window into the way both Phillips and Baker operate and it wasn’t pretty. Baker sat idly by, hands off, letting Brandon be Brandon. Not to say that wasn’t the right approach for that situation, but it does epitomize Baker’s philosophy. Read between the lines in Arroyo’s quote about Price holding people accountable and that should add a lot of context to where the “player’s manager” philosophy can go very wrong. I think the whole episode was terrible imagery for such a well-run organization and I bet that wasn’t lost on Castellini at all, especially after the Cincinnati Magazine article. Alan Horn October 25, 2013 I agree on number 2. I’m not sure we can get adequate value if we trade Phiillipys. Alan Horn October 25, 2013 I meant I agreed on 3 not 2. doctor October 25, 2013 Regarding Votto “production”, if you roughly apply same “standards” to Red Sox, who led majors in scoring, i dont think Red Sox have any issues with thier #3 hitter having only 84 rbi, even though Dustin had two good speedy on-base guys ahead of him. And is Napoli in need of “approach” change with 92 rbi? i dont think that is the case. RobL October 25, 2013 Regarding Votto’s approach, he is getting a terrible rep and undeservedly so. If actually takes very few strikes. He just tends to foul off those pitches. On fangraphs, there was an article about Votto’s game that he drew 5 walks. If you go over to it, just click on his name and select the article about passivity. He only took 3 called strikes in the whole game, and 2 of those were leading off an inning when he was in fact operating as a leadoff man (and one of those strikes was a borderline call on a 3-1 count). Votto does swing at most strikes throw. And that is all he should be swinging at, regardless of salary. Phillips got caught up in being a “run producer” and swung at everything. Now people say how bad of a season he had. And it seems that people want Votto to do the same thing. His salary doesn’t make him anymore effective on pitches outside the zone. Votto’s biggest problem (other than defense) was that he failed to come through in a lot of big moments (although that might change if Gomez doesn’t steal that homerun). And I’m not talking about walks. This year, he just didn’t seem to thrive in big moments. But I chalk it up to randomness. Sometimes the ball doesn’t find the hole. Votto is one of the hardest workers in baseball, he’ll try to improve in the offseason and drive every strike thrown. Just don’t expect him to go outside the strike zone. People made the same complaint about Ted Williams, but many consider him the best pure hitter ever for a reason. RobL October 25, 2013 To follow up, I made my statement about Votto being “unclutch” this year without actually looking anything up. So I thought, maybe I showed check myself, since I have often found that my views were not supported by fact. This year, in high leverage situations, Votto had a .238 batting average. His obp is still great because he walked over a quarter of the time, but when the ball was put in play, he made a lot of outs. For his career, Votto has a .380 batting average in those situations including this year. So he does not have a history of this. The law of baseball averages made him due for a season like this. Kevin October 25, 2013 Good points all around, RobL. There are two camps of baseball people. Camp Clutch: Those that believe there is a clutch-hitting skill (defined as hitting better in high leverage situations than you do in low leverage situations). This discounts those hitters that hit .350 in the clutch, but also hit .350 when it “doesn’t matter”. Since they are .350 hitters, and are raking regardless of context. Camp Random: Those that do not believe clutch hitting is a skill Those in Camp Random, as evidence of their argument, show that from year to year, this “skill” is subject to a tremendous amount of noise, that would make you believe it’s not a skill at all, just random fluctuations around the true hitting ability of the player, and these fluctuations get magnified by the small sample size of “clutch moments”. In other words, if it was a skill, you’d expect a player with that skill to have that skill every year, since they are Tough.As.Nails and have a Will.To.Win like few others in the game. And such character traits should not go away from one season to the next. Those in Camp Clutch believe it to be a skill, and therefore should believe it to be something ingrained in a person’s innate ability. So how is it that those in Camp Clutch think Joey Votto is not clutch because he had one bad season in clutch situations? Perhaps he suddenly lost his clutch ability? But if you believe that he suddenly lost it, then you believe that the clutch skill is something that doesn’t repeat from year to year. So I’d think you’d be pretty amenable to the alternative hypothesis, which is that it’s not a skill at all, but random noise. What say you Camp Clutch members? Alan Horn October 25, 2013 I agree with that RobL. Everyone has a off season if they play very long. There is a difference in a off season and a bad season. A good or great season is better than either and is what is hoped for(as least it should be). If Votto doesn’t bounce backr next season, then I might worry. I fully expect him to put up better numbers. Votto, Walt and the Reds brass have all been quoted as feeling the same way. Billy October 25, 2013 You scouts might have some insight on this. I’ve looked at spray charts for Votto from 2013 and prior years. In 2013, Votto rarely found the gap in right center. He hit significantly fewer fly balls to the right side and many more ground balls. In the past, he rarely grounded to first base, but did so far more frequently in 2013. All of those things sound to me like his swing plane on pulled pitches was a bit off and he wasn’t lofting the ball enough. I’m not a scout though, so I’m curious if anyone else observed what I think the data is suggesting. Alan Horn October 25, 2013 It was a down year for Votto for whatever reason. He even admits that himself. I think he will bounce back next season. The first step to fixing something is admitting it needs fixing. Kevin October 25, 2013 He modified his approach prior to 2012 to pull the ball less. It was a strategy that would sacrifice homeruns but increase the output of the rest of his game. The approach worked prior to his knee injury as he was on fire and on pace to break the MLB doubles record. I think some of his power numbers were still down a bit in 2013 because of the long recovery it takes for knee injuries. Billy October 25, 2013 It’s not just that though. Take a look at the comparison between 2013 and 2012 that I outlined in this post on redreporter: Billy October 25, 2013 http://www.redreporter.com/2013/10/18/4852318/joey-vottos-production OK… I can’t figure out the html, but there’s the address. :-) Nick October 25, 2013 Excellent link, Billy. The only legitimate concern with Votto is that his slugging went down which may have been a result of his knee. He was indeed a superstar this year. How about other parts of our lineup stop making so many outs. Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that the two teams (Red Sox and Tigers) that scored the most runs in the majors also had the highest OBP’s by a large margin. Nick October 25, 2013 Just look at the top five guys (in OBP at least 130 games) on each of these teams. Which group would you rather face? Red Sox David Ortiz 395 OBP 564 SLG Daniel Nava 385 OBP 445 SLG Dustin Pedroia 372 OBP 415 SLG Mike Napoli 360 OBP 482 SLG Cardinals Matt Carpenter 392 OBP 481 SLG Matt Holiday 389 OBP 490 SLG Allen Craig 373 OBP 457 SLG Yadier Molina 359 OBP 477 SLG John Jay 351 OBP 370 SLG Reds Joey Votto 435 OBP 491 SLG Choo 423 OBP 462 SLG Jay Bruce 329 OBP 478 SLG Todd Frazier 314 OBP 407 SLG Brandon Phillips 310 OBP 396 SLG The Red Sox and Tigers led their leagues in runs. Nick October 25, 2013 Whoops forgot the fifth Red Sox player… Jacoby Ellsbury 355 OBP 426 SLG MK October 25, 2013 Boston David October 26, 2013 O wonder who the hitting coach will be? Josh October 27, 2013 The Reds will never succeed in the postseason until we change our approach at the plate. We have to many free swingers and hackers that have no plate discipline or pitch recognition. We are losing Choo and gain what? We have no RH # 4 and honestly nothing else. Look at the Cards and the Red Sox, 2 superior lineups. Watching St Louis win ANOTHER world series will be hilarious. Doug Gray October 27, 2013 The Reds do need more offense, but there are teams that win the World Series without an elite offense.