Sunday, April 1, 2007

Pre-Season, Post-Spring

I posted my 2007 Reds analysis at the end of February, just before spring training began. Here's a look at a couple of changes that could play a significant role as the season progresses.

[The Lineup Change]

It looks like Jerry Narron is going with a slightly different lineup from what I expected (complete with 2007 PECOTA projections):

Ryan Freel (CF) -- .271/.361/.404 32 SB
Adam Dunn (LF) -- .267/.390/.574 40 HR, 94 BB, 151 K
Brandon Phillips (2B) -- .273/.331/.419 13 HR, 16 SB
Ken Griffey Jr. (RF) -- .275/.344/.506 415 PA, 21 HR
Edwin Encarnacion (3B) -- .277/.350/.482 31 2B, 20 HR
Scott Hatteberg (1B) -- .285/.372/.416 41 BB, 31 K
Alex Gonzalez (SS) -- .258/.309/.426 13 HR
Dave Ross (C) -- .240/.324/.459 186 PA, 9 HR

I have no complaints at all about Dunn in the two-hole - it gets Dunn more ABs and puts two of our three most patient hitters at the top of the lineup. Yes, it's going to set up more complaints about Dunn hitting a lot of bases-empty home runs, but his 4.25 pitches per plate appearance are going to wear down a lot of starters. If I had my druthers I'd rather see a Freel (4.02 P/PA) - Hatteberg (4.02 P/PA) - Dunn top of the order. If just one of those guys were to get on in the first inning, we're looking at the opposing team's starter having to use upwards of 20 pitches in just the first inning. The quicker this team can get to the soft underbelly of the bullpen (and all the fastballs that entails) the more runs they'll score.

Popping this lineup into the Baseball Musings Lineup Tool (with the '07 PECOTA numbers) reveals an offense capable of scoring 4.943 runs per game. Running that out over 162 games pushes the total up to 801 runs scored on the season. That's 52 more runs than last year Reds fans.

[Who's On First?]

The Hatteberg/Conine platoon at first should be effective, but will still sit below league average. Conine has a 303/375/487 career line against LHPs which will be paired with Hatteberg's 280/367/424 line against RHPs. Last year's average NL first baseman hit 290/372/507. The upside here is that the Reds have a capable replacement down in AAA. If Joey Votto can keep on slugging his way through the minors he should be called up within a couple of months. PECOTA sees him hitting 284/366/510 with 26 home runs and 16 stolen bases. Two of his top comparables are Brad Hawpe and Travis Hafner. Thank you sir, may I have another?

[Outfield Defense]

Swapping positions between Freel and Griffey is an automatic upgrade. Hands down. No debate. There wasn't a defensive statistic or metric in which Freel did not outperform Griffey in center.

Old-Fangled Statistics
Junior (870 innings): 229 putouts, range factor of 2.43, .979 fielding %, 6 assists
Freel (400 innings): 127 putouts, range factor of 2.95, 1.00 fielding %, 4 assists

New-Fangled Statistics
Junior: zone rating of .764 and reached 28 balls outside his zone
Freel: zone rating of .826 and reached 27 balls outside his zone

In less than half the innings Freel had more than half as many putouts and assists. Freel's fielding percentage was perfect, though I wouldn't expect that to hold up with all the chances he takes diving for balls. He's going to miss a couple. The difference in zone rating (ZR) and balls out of zone (OOZ) are where the most significant differences lay. Zone rating measures the proportion of balls a player reaches in his zone that he converts to an out. Freel trounces Griffey in this category. Equally telling, Freel reached almost the same number of balls outside his "zone" as Griffey, in less than half the innings.

There is no question. Freel will reach more balls than Griffey did. Griffey's lack of range will not significantly affect his play in right since a right fielder's zone is significantly smaller than that of a center fielder. The defensive upgrade, and thus the number of runs saved, can be significant. Our flyball pitchers should be happy with the result.

[Pitching]

I can see nothing bad coming out of the addition of Coutlangus and Burton. I'll take youth and ability over age and experience any day. Releasing Hermanson shows that we're willing to take a chance on talent, but aren't afraid to cut bait when it doesn't pan out. Milton on the DL hides a serious weakness for just a little bit longer and gives some of the young guns a chance to show their ability and knock Milton from the rotation. It probably won't happen, but a fan can dream, right?

[The Last Spot]

The night before opening day there's still an open spot on our roster. We're (stupidly) carrying three (really four with Hatteberg) catchers. Moeller is a black hole on the bench, I don't see what he could possibly add to the team. With 24 spots filled we have only four outfielders (plus Conine) and eleven pitchers. I'd expect the open spot to go to either Santos or Livingston, but wouldn't be surprised to see a sighting of the Joel Pineiro Experiment if Krivsky has managed to pull off another trade.

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It's Opening Day friends and neighbors. Celebrate.

2 comments:

Jocelin said...

The Joel Pineiro Experiment! I am sure everyone gets the reference. Nice work man.

Aaron said...

I don't know what PECOTA is, but if you think Votto is ready to just jump into the lineup and hit 26 home runs and drive in 80+ you're nuts. I agree he has nice potential, but he is still very raw and I don't think you are going to get an instant splash like that.

I like yesterday's lineup where you put Phillips 2nd behind Freel. Call me old fashioned, but I stick the guys with wheels at the top of the lineup and the guys with power in the middle of the lineup. Hatteberg is a nice professional hitter but has no speed and should not be batting 2nd. He is right where he belongs.