Friday, May 4, 2012

Step Back from the Ledge.....Again

Well yesterday was fun. Proof that it ain't over until Marmol goes all Marmol. But dear Lord, again with the negativity even after a win. This team is not there yet, that much is clear. But what is it that we should expect from this team? Are they even any good? To answer those questions, we have to look to the only place we can to help predict what this team might do: last season.
  • Last year, this team scored the 2nd most runs in the National League with 735. So why did they finish under .500? The answer is, they gave up nearly as many runs with 720, good enough for 12th place in the NL. Let's take a look at the offense first.
  • 10 players out of the 2011 Reds top 15 players in number of plate appearances are on the team again this year. Here's what has changed:
    • Shortstop: Paul Janish (who had the 5th most PA on the team) sported a slash line of .214/.259/.262. He has been replaced by Zack Cozart who ANYONE would consider an upgrade. Ninth in plate appearances was Edgar Renteria with a slash line of .251/.306/.348, and he and Janish's plate appearances will almost all be picked up by Cozart. So anything that Cozart does at the plate above the combined .238/.285/.316 slash line that the Reds got from their Shortstops last year is an improvement. Don't forget those SS offensive stats were even boosted slightly by Cozart's .324/.324/.486 in only 11 games played. So we have to ask ourselves: Did we upgrade at shortstop?
    • Left Field: Even though Chris Heisey had more plate appearances than Jonny Gomes last year, Gomes had the most PA as a left fielder. Gomes sported a .211/.336/.399 slash line in 2011 for the Reds. He clearly dragged down the combined LF numbers of .242/.321/.412. In the offseason we went and signed Ryan Ludwick who even with his bad season in 2011 still managed to bat .237/.310/.363. So if Heisey doesn't regress at all, all we have to ask ourselves is: Did we upgrade in left field?
    • Catcher: Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan of course split time at catcher last season. They combined for a .267/.339/.401 slash line at a traditionally weak offensive position. Replacing Ramon Hernandez was perhaps one of the biggest challenges of the offseason. Devon Mesoraco is, as of yet, an unknown entity. We know he has pop, just like Ramon Hernandez did, and so far this season I've seen nothing to show me that we have downgraded at all at Catcher. That leads to our question: Did we upgrade at catcher?
    • Beyond those 3 positions, the team has remained largely the same. Sure, everyone is a year older, but that may be better for some (Jay Bruce) than for others (Scott Rolen, although he seems to be a lot healthier this year). So now that we've looked at this, we have to ask ourselves: Can these guys score as much as the 2011 team did? Ignore what you've seen so far because no ~20 game stretch is ever indicative of an entire season. Simply look at the career norms for these players and ask yourself if they can perform as much as they did last year offensively.
  •   The rotation this year looks a bit different from last year, as does the bullpen. So our pitching (which is the reason we did not compete last year) is the real key to success. Here are the top 5 starting pitchers in innings pitched last season:
    • Bronson Arroyo: Pitched 199 innings in what was the worst year of his Reds career. In those 199 innings he sported a 1.367 WHIP, second only to Edinson Volquez among the top 5 starting pitchers. He also gave up by far the most runs of any Reds pitcher in 2011, with 119. Ditto with hits (227). It looked at the time that Bronson was washed up, he was giving up home runs like it was batting practice. But not all was as it seemed, since we know that Bronson suffered from Mono all season. You can take or leave that diagnosis if you want, and I'm not doctor, but I've always heard that Mono is hard to recover from without rest, and Bronson went out there every 5 days for better or worse. So far in 2012, he looks like a brand new man. So we have to ask ourselves: Will Bronson be better in 2012 than he was in 2011?
    • Mike Leake: Ahhhh Mr. Leake. The true question mark of this blog post. Leake pitched the 2nd most innings for the Reds in 2011 with 167.2. To be honest, he was a solid, reliable pitcher. ERA below 4, decent WHIP at 1.175. But herein lies the question: Will Leake be as good as he was last year? This is probably the toughest question to answer "Yes" to because of how bad he has been so far in 2012. His problem has been just giving up a ton of hits this year, not necessarily control or anything else. He may be a tweak away from returning to form, or batters may have figured him out. It remains to be seen. Of course, if he continues on this path we'll ask ourselves: Can Aroldis Chapman do better than Mike Leake? I think that day might come.
    • Johnny Cueto: Ah yes the "Ace". Johnny was 3rd in innings pitched with 156. He was phenomenal last year. He looks phenomenal so far this year. Last year he missed the first month of the season though. So we have to ask ourselves: Will Cueto be as good as he was last year? If he is, and we get an entire year of what we had last year, that's awesome.
    • Homer Bailey:  Homer gets a bad rap. Maybe it was the lofty expectations heaped upon him from the moment he was drafted, but Homer had a decent year last year. He pitched 132 innings and had the highest SO/BB ratio of any of the starting pitchers with 3.21. That ratio isn't due to an unusually high strikeout rate, but a combination of high strikeouts and low walks. He looks to be continuing his career progression this year, and he has not looked bad at all so far. The question is: will he be as good as or better in 2012 than he was in 2011?
    • Edinson Volquez: Oh boy. Here's the guy we traded for Mat Latos. He clocked 108.2 innings in 2011, and also sported the highest WHIP of any of the starters with 1.574. He was just awful last year, walking a ton of batters and just overall letting the team down. Now, a lot of people look at the Mat Latos trade, and then they look at Edinson Volquez's numbers with San Diego and wonder if we made the right choice. Can't do it that way. We have to look at what we expect to get out of Mat Latos, and compare it to what we got out of Volquez last year and ask ourselves: Will Mat Latos be better in 2012 than Edinson Volquez was in 2011?
    • I'm not going to break down the relief pitching in too much detail, but I can say this: Right now we have the best bullpen in the NL. If we can keep this up, I won't be worried at all. The bullpen wasn't terrible in 2011, but I think its better in 2012. Marshall is better than Cordero I think, Arredondo and Ondrusek continue to get better, Chapman will dominate as long as he is in there, LeCure does what he does and does it well, and maybe Bill Bray and Nick Masset get healthy and look good when they come back. I know I've made jokes on Twitter about Alfredo Simon, but I think he's better than Carlos Fisher at the very least. Bonus: J.J. Hoover!
If we ask ourselves all of these questions, the pieces of the puzzle add up to this: this team is equipped to score as many runs as they did last year, and give up less. The numbers haven't quite added up to that yet this early in the season. But past performance is the only tool we can use to predict future performance, and past performance again tells us: this team will score a ton of runs, and hopefully give up way less. If we score the same amount of runs, and each starting pitcher gives up 10 less runs (Not literally, but a total of 50 less runs from the SP), and the bullpen gives up 20 less runs (combined), it would give us a run differential of +75, and an expected win-loss record of 89-73. Last year 90-72 got the Cardinals the Wild Card.

So what's the lesson here? I'm not sure. I think it's "Don't panic".

1 comment:

  1. not worried at all it sucks that people panic so quickly but at least it makes for good posts like this one