The Reds’ Bright Spot

Say what you will about the Cincinnati Reds, as a team they play air-tight defense. I don’t think much has been made of it, but the Redlegs led the National League in UZR with 52 runs saved last season. Just looking at the team’s current depth chart, they might possibly improve on last year’s mark. This isn’t to say their squeaky clean glovework is going to somehow launch them into contention next year, but hey, when you can find a bright spot for a languishing franchise such as the Reds, it needs to be highlighted.

There are a couple nifty new sets of defensive projections that have recently come out. Jeff Zimmerman of Beyond the Boxscore has cooked some up, and Steve Sommer has some projections that go the extra mile and regresses UZR to a population based on the Fan’s Scouting Report.

                   Jeff  Steve
Joey Votto         2      3
Brandon Phillips   7      7
Scott Rolen        7      8
Paul Janish        4      7
Chris Dickerson    1      8
Jay Bruce          1      4

Be sure to click on the links if you would like to read up on their methods.

There’s not a weak link on this chain. I’m assuming Drew Stubbs will be their center fielder after Willy Taveras‘ replacement level season, but we can’t put anything past Dusty Baker. Stubbs gets glowing reviews from scouts, and his Total Zone stats (found at agree: the numbers have him at +58 in 423 minor league games, including 19 runs in 107 games in AAA last season.

UZR had Stubbs at 8 runs in just 42 games in the big leagues, for what it’s worth. The bottom line is he can go get ‘em.

Paul Janish may be Adam Everett-light, and I mean that as a compliment. I think. He hit for a paltry .275 wOBA and is projected to do the same next year, but in just less than 600 innings on the field he was good for 12 runs as measured by UZR. Small sample, yes, but the fans like him and the Reds like him enough to start him next season.

The Scott-Rolen-for-Edwin-Encarnacion-plus-prospects trade is still a head scratcher to me, but he was consistently -10 on defense where Scott Rolen is still mostly Scott Rolen.

Things might get ugly yet again this summer in Cincinnati, but it won’t be for a lack of fielding.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

19 Responses to “The Reds’ Bright Spot”

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  1. Will Moore says:

    As a Reds fan I agree. The current team is very very good defensively. I believe Stubbs will play CF in 2010 & Willy will ride the pine or play elsewhere. Janish is the real deal with the glove but has no stick. The Reds have a great defense, a deep pen and a solid 1-2-3-4 starters. Now we just need some more offense. – Will M

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    • dan says:

      Gomes looks to be the only below average defender among the starters. If only we could combine what he brings with what Janish brings.

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  2. Terry says:

    J.J. Hardy would’ve went a long way to making the Reds a team worth hoping on….

    The Reds dramatically improved their defense but unfortunately, it came at the expense of a good chunk of offense (and their ’08 offense wasn’t that good). So their dramatic improvement in defense wasn’t as efficacious relative to their RS/RA as it might seem in isolation.

    The Reds only had 2 players produce more than 3 WAR on their entire roster in ’09 (Votto-4.4WAR; Phillips-3.2 WAR).

    I know the Rolen trade is a bit of a head scratcher but he is exactly the type of player they need more of ( guys who can both hit and catch)….

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    • dan says:

      Rolen and Bruce could make that 4 position players worth 3+ WAR in 2010. How many teams with a mid-market budget have more?

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  3. NEPP says:

    Defense or no defense, the Rolen trade was a huge mistake as it kills their budget. Besides, he’s never been a team first guy as he’s shown in every stop of his MLB career. Who hates playing in STL…I mean really.???

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    • dan says:

      His attitude and health are definite concerns but I wouldn’t criticize the deal because of how much he’ll make. I agree that the Reds can’t afford too many players that make that much but 2010 will be the last year Rolen will be paid that much. I don’t think the deal was made so Rolen would be a Red for only 1 1/2 seasons. I’m betting on an extension (2 years maybe) with less $ per year.

      The biggest problem with the deal is that Toronto received Zach Stewart in the deal. Dealing away your #1 starting pitcher prospect is a risky move.

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  4. gnomez says:

    Scotty we miss you. Can’t you and TLR make nice – please?

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  5. LeeTro says:

    The Mariners combined bad hitting, below-average pitching, and the best defense in the UZR era into 85 wins. I doubt the Reds will have a team +85 UZR next year, but if they can get in the 60′s with average pitching and just below-average hitting, they’ll be around that same 85 wins. They did finish with 78 wins this past year, so it’s not a ridiculous jump.

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  6. JG says:

    The Dodgers led baseball in defensive efficiency, but their collective UZR was -.1. The Mets were tied for 11th with Tex in DER, but they had the second lowest UZR, a whopping 80 runs saved behind Texas. I don’t know what those oddities mean, but they’re interesting.

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  7. JG says:

    Whoops, the Mets were 11th, but the Yankees were the ones tied with the Rangers for 5th. UZR has a 62 run difference between the Rangers and Yankees.

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    The Reds are an interesting group. I always thought it was strange that they would hire a manager that strongly prefers veterans to manahe a young club.

    I think you’re right about the defense part. If I am using FIP correctly, the defense saves the P’s about 0.5 R per 9. That’s nice.

    The problem is that their SP’s all have WHIP’s between 1.33 and 1.59. Most of them allow a H/IP and about 2 K per BB. They put a lot of guys on base and don;t generally strike out a bunch of oppossing hitters. Their SP’s might be the 4th best collection within the division.

    I also like their young combo of Votto and Bruce. But, again they may be the 4th or 5th best combom in the division [1] Braun and Fielder, [2] Pujols and anyone, [3] Bourne and Pence (Or Berkman and Lee depending on year), [4] Lee and Ramirez. They’re probably 4th, with Phillips being a very under-rated aspect. I always thought Brandon Phillips would be the “solid” answer to StL’s 2B situation.

    The Reds do seem to have a very nice collection of pieces, but even in a “weak division”, they’re likely the 4th place team in that division.

    As for Scottie … Endy Chavez robbed him of what could have been his “Series Winning Moment” in a series when he was routinely passed over for Scott Speizio. I like Scottie, but you can count on him to miss 30-40 games on the season.

    I always thought the Reds were doomed when one of the first things Dusty influenced was the signing/acquisition of Corey Patterson. DB loved CP in CHI, and evidently still thought he could be the 30-30 guy in the lead-off spot.

    Interesting article, especially from the team defense aspect.

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  9. Lombard says:

    Difference between Cinci and Seattle could be the park. I’d like to know if there was some type of correlation between park factor, team defense and wins. Maybe building a team around feild defensive prowess isn’t a good idea when you’re playing in a band box (and you’re pitchers have a high HR/FB).

    My thought is that the classic pitching/power combo would do you better.

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    • LeeTro says:

      The infield could still be strong defensively, but I would agree that emphasis probably shouldn’t be put on OF defense in such a park. The problem was that the Reds were 23rd in GB% as a staff this year. The bullpen had Herrera and Masset at least 50%, but no one else significantly over 45%, which is definitely a problem in the Great American Smallpark.

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  10. Luke Appling says:

    Why the big difference in rankings for Chris Dickerson? Going from a 1 to an 8 suggests a major difference in opinion. In a limited sample in 2009 his UZR was pretty good.

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    • Steve Sommer says:

      I think part of it is that Jeff’s initial projections were plain old UZR and mine were UZR/150 (my spreadsheet was unfortunately labeled UZR though, so this is not Erik’s fault but mine). For UZR/150 it’s 3 for Jeff and 8 for me. Now the difference comes down to number of games and number of games regressed. Basically by adding in the FSR I add in an additional season’s worth of data, so when I do the regression to average it has less impact than when Jeff does for guys with low major league service time.

      It boils down to for Jeff, Dickerson has 65 games, and for me he’d have 65+125 (@ FSR rate, which for him is good).

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