Archive for Reds

Eugenio Suarez Is Always Adjusting

This is Cat Garcia’s second post as part of her September residency. She is a freelance baseball writer whose work has appeared at The Athletic, MLB.com, the Chicago Sun-Times, La Vida Baseball, and Baseball Prospectus, among others. She is a Chicago native and previously worked at Wrigley Field before becoming a full-time freelancer. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBaseballGirl.

The Cincinnati Reds have been surprisingly interesting in 2018. Not interesting in the way your typical contending ball club might be, but interesting in some curious ways. They started off the season with an MLB-worst record of 3-15. They fired their manager, Bryan Price, after four seasons with the club. And in an unexpected move, they acquired struggling former-ace Matt Harvey from the Mets in early May.

In the middle of all of that, there has been a significant — and likely longer-lasting — bright spot. As FanGraphs’ own Jeff Sullivan recently wrote, third baseman Eugenio Suarez has continued to build upon his impressive 2017 breakout season. Suarez’s 133 wRC+ is currently tied for ninth-best in the National League. He’s already hit a career-high 32 home runs this season, and he currently has the 12th-highest ISO in the NL, just two points behind Travis Shaw.

And while his .322 BABIP is his highest since 2015, it isn’t so far off his career norms, and there is reason to believe his healthy batting line isn’t just the result of good batted-ball luck. As Sullivan pointed out in his piece, Suarez is making much harder contact than he has previously. His .373 wOBA is a career-best, while his xwOBA suggests it could even be a bit better.

Suarez told David Laurila earlier in the season that he hadn’t made any adjustments to his swing. But it seems there has been a new development on that front, one that has contributed to Suarez’s success.

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Elegy for ’18 – Cincinnati Reds

The 2018 season wasn’t a great one for either Homer Bailey or Bryan Price.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Four of five NL Central teams were playoff-relevant for at least part of the 2018 season. The exception? The Cincinnati Reds. Despite having begun the season with hopes of emerging from their rebuild, the team will end the year having improved by only a couple of games over their 68-95 record from 2017.

The Setup

Cincinnati’s last period of competitive baseball burnt out quickly, the team’s most recent peak ending after the 2013 season and three playoff appearances in four years. The Reds weren’t exactly overeager to start rebuilding, an August trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Brewers (during one of Broxton’s ever-narrowing periods of effectiveness) representing the only nod to the future in 2014.

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Baseball’s Most Anonymous Great Player

A couple months ago, Kiley McDaniel posted his list of the players with the most trade value in baseball. It’s not quite the same as a list of the best players in baseball, since the former also considers contract status and salary, but, if anything, the former is more important than the latter. The Indians came out looking good — Jose Ramirez placed first, and Francisco Lindor placed second. But today I’m more interested in looking further down. Jose Altuve placed 36th. Blake Snell placed 35th. Rhys Hoskins placed 34th, and Mitch Haniger placed 33rd. Eugenio Suarez placed 32nd. He was one slot behind Gary Sanchez, and two slots behind Shohei Ohtani. Sanchez and Ohtani have only seen their stocks drop.

Within the baseball industry, it’s widely understood how good and valuable Suarez has become. That’s one of the jobs of front-office people — develop a proper understanding of player value, around the whole league. If Suarez were made available in a trade, teams would fall all over themselves to get in front of the line. But what baseball understands isn’t the same as what the average observer understands, and it’s incredibly easy to overlook what Suarez has done. He’s not a flashy player, he was never a hyped prospect, and he’s played for a non-competitive team. As such, my sense is that Suarez is greatly underappreciated. But, before the year, the Reds signed him to a long-term contract extension, in response to a breakout 2017. Suarez has since followed a breakout season with a breakout season.

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Daily Prospect Notes Finale: Arizona Fall League Roster Edition

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Note from Eric: Hey you, this is the last one of these for the year, as the minor-league regular season comes to a close. Thanks for reading. I’ll be taking some time off next week, charging the batteries for the offseason duties that lie ahead for Kiley and me.

D.J. Peters, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 7   FV: 45+
Line: 4-for-7, 2 HR, 2B (double header)

Notes
A comparison of DJ Peters’ 2017 season in the Cal League and his 2018 season at Double-A gives us a good idea of what happens to on-paper production when a hitter is facing better pitching and defenses in a more stable offensive environment.

D.J. Peters’ Production
Year AVG OBP SLG K% BB% BABIP wRC+
2017 .276 .372 .514 32.2% 10.9% .385 137
2018 .228 .314 .451 34.0% 8.1% .305 107

Reports of Peters’ physical abilities haven’t changed, nor is his batted-ball profile different in such a way that one would expect a downtick in production. The 2018 line is, I think, a more accurate distillation of Peters’ abilities. He belongs in a talent bucket with swing-and-miss outfielders like Franchy Cordero, Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Bradley Zimmer, etc. These are slugging center fielders whose contact skills aren’t particularly great. Players like this are historically volatile from one season to the next but dominant if/when things click. They’re often ~1.5 WAR players who have some years in the three-win range. Sometimes they also turn into George Springer.

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What Do You See?

As far as the ordinary rules are concerned, the strikeout on a foul bunt is unusual. Unlike a swing and miss, a foul bunt involves contact, and unlike a foul tip into the glove, a foul bunt isn’t caught. Plus, as players are constantly reminding us these days, bunting is hard, far harder than people think. But baseball is unquestionably better for having this rule in place. Without it, in theory, an at-bat could stretch on forever. In theory, any at-bat could already stretch on forever, but there would be nothing stopping a player from perfecting the skill of the two-strike foul bunt. Plate appearances might go 15, 20, 25, 70 pitches. Or strikeouts would be put off until everyone walked. Without the two-strike foul-bunt rule, baseball could very well collapse. At the very least, it would totally suck to watch.

I know about the two-strike foul-bunt rule. You know about the two-strike foul-bunt rule. It’s one of those rules baseball fans know before they turn 12. The question is, what does a two-strike foul bunt look like? That seems like a weird thing to ask, but after Wednesday’s game between the Brewers and Reds, this is suddenly in the news, and I want to know what all of you think.

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Sunday Notes: A New Red Dabbles in Data, and a New Ray Likes the Simple Life

What kind of pitcher did the Reds get when they acquired Lucas Sims in the deadline deal that sent Adam Duvall to the Braves? By and large, they got a former first-rounder who has had spotty results in his smattering of big-league outings, yet little left to prove at the minor-league level. Blessed with plus stuff, he remains a tantalizing young talent.

The 24-year-old is getting smarter about his craft. Aware that he should “always be looking for that next step to stay ahead of the curve,” Sims has begun dabbling in analytics. He’s not diving in head first, but his toes are definitely in the water.

“I’ve recently gotten into it, but not to the point where I’m getting overwhelmed with it,” Sims explained earlier this summer. “I’m taking a couple of things here and there, basically whatever resonates with me. I’ve started getting into the spin-rate stuff, and which types of pitches are most effective in certain situations.”

The young right-hander had a colorful answer when asked if his four-seam spin rate is above-average.

“Yeah, but I don’t know exactly what it is,” Sims admitted. “I saw that it was green, and he said green is good.”

The ‘he’ in question was Alex Tamin — “one of our analytics guys” — whose official title with the Braves is director of major league operations. Color-coded assessments weren’t all that Tamin passed along. Sims has also begun “looking into effective spin, and trying to make sure I get true spin.”

Just how much further he dives in with his new team remains a question.

“You don’t want to end up getting paralysis by analysis,” Sims told me. “I don’t want it all in front of my face at the same time — I’m not trying to learn a million things at once — but I’m definitely looking forward to getting into it a little more. If something is going to make me better, I’m all for it.”

Sims made his first appearance as a member of the Reds organization last night. Pitching for Triple-A Louisville, he allowed one run over five innings, walking none and punching out six.

———

What style of hitter did the Rays get when they acquired Austin Meadows in the deadline deal that sent Chris Archer to the Pirates? By and large, they got a potential middle-of-the-order bat, albeit not one with a power hitter’s profile. And he’s certainly not a three-true-outcomes guy. The 23-year-old outfielder believes in putting the ball in play, ideally on a line.

“My approach is to be aggressive in the zone,” said Meadows, who was hitting a solid .292/.327/.468 at the time of the trade. “In the first at bat of a game you need to get an idea of how your timing is, and how your swing feels — there’s a lot that goes into it — but for me it’s about moving my bat through the zone on pitches that I can hit. I need an aggressive mindset. I can’t be passive up there.”

His aggressive mindset doesn’t include trying to drive balls out of the ballpark. He said as much when I talked to him in spring training of last year, and not much has changed.

“I’ll always believe in swinging down on the baseball and creating backspin,” said Meadows. “If I do that and hit the ball well, it can go out. I’m not trying to hit the ball out. I know that other guys are — other guys are believers in it — but personally, I try to swing through the ball and hit hard line drives. If it goes out, it goes out.”

Meadows does possess some pop. His gap-to-gap approach has produced five long balls in 165 big-league plate appearances, so it’s not as though he’s Frank Taveras or Jason Tyner. Launch angle is simply not his cup of tea. Nor is compromising what comes naturally.

“I’ve always been the hitter that has good hands and keeps things simple,’ stated the 2013 first-round pick. “I think simplicity keeps you in this game for a long time. Simplicity in anything will last you a long time in life.”

——

Joe Musgrove doesn’t feel that pitching in Pittsburgh is much different than pitching in Houston. Not when it comes to what he’s doing on the mound. The Pirates are “big on fastball usage and throwing the fastball inside,” and that’s always been part of his attack plan. And while new team is less bullish on high heat, they haven’t asked him to move downstairs.

“There isn’t as much analytics stuff on this end as there was with the Astros,” Musgrove shared with me in late June. “But they’re starting to trend that way, and we’ve talked more and more about using fastballs up in the zone. That’s something I learned in Houston, and it’s something I’ll continue to do.”

As you might expect, the 25-year-old right-hander enjoyed his conversations with Astros pitching guru Brent Strom.

“We talked analytics stuff a lot,” said Musgrove, who came to Pittsburgh in last winter’s Gerrit Cole deal. “We talked tunneling, and how the fastball up in the zone provides you that much more protection for the stuff you’re spinning down over the plate. If you emulate those two off that same high-fastball line, one is going to continue riding out and the other is going to break off it. It’s about disguising your pitches.”

Opposing hitters are seeing something new from the former first-round pick (The Blue Jays drafted Musgrove in 2011, and shipped him to Houston a year later). A pitch he threw sparingly in recent seasons is now a primary weapon. Read the rest of this entry »


Braves Add Adam Duvall for the Long-Term(?)

Forget the intro! Let’s just get right to it. The Braves and Reds made a trade. This is what it is:

Braves get:

Reds get:

At first, it doesn’t seem like very much. Sims and Wisler might still have some name value, yes. But their stocks are diminished. And while Duvall has his uses, the Braves’ outfield is currently occupied by Ronald Acuna, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis. Pretty good players, all of them, and we usually don’t grant much attention to additions to a bench. This doesn’t appear to be a move to dwell on for very long.

I’m not going to convince you that this is a major trade. It isn’t. But I can at least try to explain some layers. Firstly, for the Braves, this allows for something of a platoon. Duvall bats righty, and hits well against lefties. Inciarte doesn’t, and doesn’t. And by any metric you look at, Duvall is one of the better defensive left fielders around, so now with a southpaw on the mound, Duvall can handle left, with Acuna sliding over to the middle. The Braves are just improving their versatility, here. They’re addressing a minor weakness.

And then, although Duvall turns 30 in just over a month, he’s still under club control through 2021, with three years of arbitration. His wRC+ is a paltry 82, but his career mark is 96, and according to Baseball Savant’s expected wOBA metric, Duvall this year has been particularly unlucky. Markakis’ contract is up after the year. Duvall could be seen as a longer-term outfield option. This doesn’t lock the Braves into anything, but at the very least it gives them a safety net.

I don’t know how many near-30-year-olds should realistically be considered longer-term options, but Duvall’s defense has held up, which says good things about his current athleticism. And if you ask the Braves, they’re not losing anything here they had a plan for. Tucker is just a guy the Reds can use to plug into their Duvall-shaped vacancy. He’s a fourth outfielder, on his better days. Wisler has a career big-league ERA- of 129. Sims has a career big-league ERA- of 140. They’d all but been erased from the Braves’ organizational blueprint.

From the Reds’ perspective, it’s a trade for pedigree. Sims is 24, and he was once Baseball America’s No. 57 overall prospect. Wisler is 25, and he was once BA’s No. 34 overall prospect. They’ll now join previous top-100 pitching prospects like Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, and Robert Stephenson. To say nothing of other pitching talent the Reds have had better luck developing. Duvall had a place in Cincinnati, but not as a part of any competitive core. They’re hoping that at least one or two more young pitchers will emerge to join Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle.

Neither Sims nor Wisler has been good in the majors. The Reds might not be able to figure out why. But Sims, at least, continues to look pretty good as a Triple-A starter, and Wisler, to his credit, has improved his Triple-A contact rate by eight percentage points. For the Braves, Sims and Wisler have been disappointments. For the Reds, they’re providing a new opportunity. A change of scenery, a blank slate, a potentially whole new set of instructions. It’s a roll of the dice on two interesting arms. It’s conceivable that either or both pitchers could play a big-league role in 2019.

The Reds need to prove they can develop pitching, because they aren’t devoid of talent. It’s the rotation(s) that’s held the Reds out of the race(s), and they want to put that behind them. The Braves are happy to let the Reds experiment, because they ran just about out of patience. A new wave of pitchers is cresting in Atlanta, so they’re not so concerned with the waves that came before. The Reds might’ve spotted a post-hype opportunity. The burden is on them to turn opportunity into value, where another club wasn’t successful.


Sunday Notes: Eugenio Suárez Added Power and Sterling Sharp is a Pitching Ninja

Eugenio Suárez played in the All-Star Game earlier this month, so in some respects he’s not under the radar. But in many ways, he really is. The Cincinnati Reds third baseman is slashing .301/.387/.581, and he leads the National League in both wRC+ and RBIs. Were he playing in a bigger market, those numbers would make him… well, a star. Which he is… in relative anonymity.

Opposing pitchers certainly know who he is, and that’s been especially true this past week. Going into last night, Suárez had homered in five consecutive games, raising his season total to 24. That’s two fewer than last year’s career high, which came in his third season in Cincinnati. Count the Tigers’ former brain trust among those who didn’t see this coming. In December 2014, Detroit traded the then-23-year-old to the Reds for (gulp), Alfredo Simon.

“I don’t think anything has really changed,” Suárez claimed when I asked him about his evolution as a hitter. “I just play baseball like I did before. I’ve always been able to hit, just not for power like last year and this year.”

He attributes the power surge to maturity and hard work in the offseason. Asked to compare his current self to the 17-year-old kid who signed out of Venezuela in 2008, Suárez said the biggest difference is physicality. Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Cincinnati Reds Baseball Operations

Please note, this posting contains two positions.

Position: Data Scientist

Reports to: Manager of Baseball Analytics

Description: The Data Scientist will work with the Manager of Baseball Analytics to implement the department’s research and development efforts within new and existing applications. The Reds envision the person in this position to play a major role in the creation of new baseball analytics concepts with the ultimate goal of enhancing on-field performance.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Design, develop, test, implement and maintain predictive models and metrics utilizing appropriate tools and techniques.
  • Work with the Reds Baseball Analytics and Systems staff to integrate new statistical analyses, models and data visualizations into existing and new applications.
  • Keep up to date on new predictive modeling techniques and evaluate their potential for application to baseball data sets.
  • Collaborate with Major League Operations, Player Development and Sports Science departments to design and implement statistical analyses.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • 3+ years of experience in computational field, such as Statistics, Biostatistics, Data Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Quantitative Social Sciences or Analytics.
  • Strong knowledge of statistical analysis and predictive modeling.
  • Demonstrated experience with statistical software (e.g. R, Python) and database querying (SQL).
  • Ability to communicate effectively with all aspects of Baseball Operations, Scouting and Player Development staffs.
  • Experience with Bayesian statistics. (Preferable, but not required)
  • Understanding of typical baseball data structures.
  • Knowledge of current baseball research, traditional baseball statistics and strategy.

Work Environment:

  • Remote working accommodations are available.
  • Work is normally performed in a typical interior/office work environment.
  • Hours may periodically include nights, weekends and holidays.

Expectations:

  • Adhere to Cincinnati Reds Organization Policies and Procedures.
  • Act as a role model within and outside the Cincinnati Reds Organization.
  • Performs duties as workload necessitates.
  • Demonstrate flexible and efficient time management and ability to prioritize workload.
  • Meet Department productivity standards.

To Apply:
To apply, please visit this site.

Position: Baseball Analytics Developer

Reports to: Manager of Baseball Analytics

Job Purpose: The Analytics Developer will develop and maintain software to assist with the dissemination of analytics information throughout Baseball Operations.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Design, develop, test, implement and maintain software solutions.
  • Work with the Reds Baseball Analytics and Systems staff to integrate new statistical analyses, models and data visualizations into applications.
  • Keep up to date on new software tools and evaluate their potential for internal use.
  • Work closely with Major League staff to convert requirements into usable applications.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • BS degree or equivalent experience in a computational science or technical field with 3 years of development experience.
  • Proficient in web development languages/standards including HTML5, JavaScript and CSS.
  • Demonstrated experience with databases and query development/optimization.
  • Knowledge of UI/UX on web and mobile platforms.
  • Ability to communicate with coaching and baseball operation staffs to understand their software needs.
  • Understanding of typical baseball data structures, knowledge of current baseball research and traditional baseball statistics and strategy.
  • Experience with statistical software in R or Python is a plus.
  • Ability to be a self-starter and manage ones workload to meet deadlines.
  • Demonstrated ability to quickly adapt to a variety of programming environments (frontend, backend, Windows, Linux) and identify the best tools and libraries for new tasks.

Work Environment:

  • Work is normally performed in a typical interior/office work environment.
  • Remote working accommodations are available for strong candidates.
  • Hours may include nights, weekends and holidays.

Expectations:

  • Adhere to Cincinnati Reds Organization Policies and Procedures.
  • Act as a role model within and outside the Cincinnati Reds Organization.
  • Performs duties as workload necessitates.
  • Demonstrate flexible and efficient time management and ability to prioritize workload.
  • Meet Department productivity standards.

To Apply:
To apply, please visit this site.

The Cincinnati Reds are an Equal Opportunity Employer. It is the policy of the Cincinnati Reds to ensure equal employment opportunity without discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion or creed, sex, age, disability, citizenship status, marital status, genetic predisposition or carrier status, sexual orientation or any other characteristic protected by law.


Five Players Who Ought to Be Traded (But Probably Won’t Be)

A Michael Fulmer deal could help the Tigers rebuild their system.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

While the result isn’t always a poor one, the decision to wait for an exact perfect trade is a dangerous game for a rebuilding/retooling team. Greed can sometimes be good, yes, but a player’s trade value can also dissipate with a simple twinge in the forearm.

For every Rich Hill who lands at a new home in exchange for an impressive haul, there’s a Zach Britton or Zack Cozart or Todd Frazier or Tyson Ross whose value declines dramatically — sometimes so dramatically that they become effectively untradable. Even when waiting doesn’t lead to disaster, such as with Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana, teams frequently don’t do that much better by waiting for the most beautiful opportunity for baseball-related extortion. Regression to the mean is real. For a player at the top of his game, there’s a lot more room for bad news than good; chaos may be a ladder, but it’s not a bell curve.

With that in mind, I’ve identified five players who might be most valuable to their clubs right now as a trade piece. None of them are likely to be dealt before the deadline. Nevertheless, their respective clubs might also never have a better opportunity to secure a return on these particular assets.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Profile)

There seems to be a sense almost that, if the Orioles are able to trade Manny Machado for a great package, get an interesting deal for Zach Britton, and procure some token return for Adam Jones, then it’ll be time to fly the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner. In reality, though, that would simply mark the beginning of the Orioles’ chance to build a consistent winner. After D-Day, the allies didn’t call it wrap, shake some hands, and head home to work on the hot rod. (Confession: I don’t actually know what 18-year-olds did for fun in 1944.)

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Scooter Gennett Breaks Out the Old-Fashioned Way

CLEVELAND — As Belgium’s attempt to equalize against France fell short in the World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, this contributor witnessed Scooter Gennett morph from desperately hopeful — wanting the Belgians to show more urgency — to crestfallen in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field. Whatever Gennett’s connection to that small European nation, it was apparently strong enough for him to take their loss somewhat personally.

While he might not have realized it at the time, it represented one of the few opportunities Gennett has had to experience genuine disappointment at a baseball park in recent years. Over the past two seasons, he’s been one of a small collection of players to transform from a marginal, contact-based hitter into a star-level bat. Gennett has never been in a better place as a professional baseball player.

After posting a career-best 27 homers and a 124 wRC+ last season, a campaign which included perhaps the most unlikely four-homer game in major-league history (as documented at SI by current colleague Jay Jaffe), Gennett has been even better this year, to the tune of a 137 wRC+. He’s recorded the 26th-best batting line amongst qualified hitters. He’s currently the 23rd-most valuable position player by WAR.

Gennett has already overcome the odds several times. He advanced to the majors after being selected as a 16th-rounder out of Sarasota (Fla.) High School in the 2009 draft. He is the rare player to enjoy remarkable success after being claimed off waivers (by the Reds last year), which FanGraphs managing editor Carson Cistulli noted last season. You could understand why Gennett, at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, might be asked for ID when he tries to enter a visiting major-league ballpark. He is one of the few physical comps to this author in the major leagues. He does not look like someone capable of hitting for much power.

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Matt Harvey Is Getting It Together

After being traded by the Mets to the Reds on May 8, Matt Harvey more or less fell off the national radar. That tends to happen for guys with ERAs approaching 6.00. As the 29-year-old righty continued to pitch unremarkably, there was little reason for the Mets or their fans to lament the trade — or at least to regard his departure as one of the top-23 or so calamities to befall them during the first half of the 2018 season.

Lately, though, Harvey has been pitching better — if not at the same level of his dominant 2012-15 form, then certainly better than the latter-day palooka who was tagged for a 5.93 ERA and 5.01 FIP in 212.1 innings from the start of 2016 to the point of the trade. On Sunday in Cincinnati, on the heels of two increasingly promising starts, he recorded his best outing yet as a Red, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning against the Brewers and finishing with his longest scoreless appearance since August 28, 2015.

Harvey retired the first 12 batters he faced on just 41 pitches before Travis Shaw slapped a 95 mph fastball through the left side of a shifted infield. He gave up just one other hit, a sixth-inning single to Brad Miller amid a downpour that had begun at the top of the frame. After that hit, the umpires called out the tarps, and the 54-minute rain delay finished Harvey’s day. Over his 5.2 innings, he issued zero walks, a feat he hadn’t accomplished in a start of at least five innings since April 6, 2017 against the Braves. He also struck out six, matching a season high set on June 21 against the Cubs (more on which shortly). His 12 swings and misses represented the highest total he’d produced since June 10, 2016 against the Brewers. Via Brooks Baseball, his four-seam fastball averaged 95.6 mph and reached 97.2, while his slider averaged 89.6 and reached 92.0.

It wasn’t quite vintage Harvey, and it’s worth noting that the Brewers’ lineup lacked Lorenzo Cain (currently on the disabled list for a groin strain), Christian Yelich (sitting for his third straight game due to back tightness), and Jesus Aguilar, three of the team’s top four hitters this year by wRC+. (Eric Thames, the fourth of those, started for Agular.) Still, it was Harvey’s third strong outing in a row against a contender. He allowed two runs in six innings in the aforementioned June 21 outing against the Cubs, and then one run in 6.2 innings against the Braves on June 26. Over the course of those three outings and 18.1 innings, he allowed just 13 hits and three runs while striking out 14 and walking just two (and plunking three). His three outings before that were nothing to write home about (14 runs in 16.1 innings, with five homers, six walks, and 12 strikeouts against the Rockies, Padres and Cardinals), but it does seem as though he’s turned the corner after two-plus seasons of struggling amid injuries.

Read the rest of this entry »


Daily Prospect Notes: 6/27

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Jabari Blash, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 28   Org Rank: NR  FV: 35
Line: 3-for-3, 3 HR, BB

Notes
Blash is no longer rookie-eligible, so while he’s a fun player to watch hit bombs and had a hell of a game last night, he’s on here today as a conduit to discuss what’s going on with some of the Angels hitters in the lowest levels of the minors. This is Trent Deveaux last fall, when he first arrived in the states. His swing was largely the same early this spring, albeit with a stronger, more involved top hand, which helped him drive the ball with more authority. This is what he looks like right now, which bears quite a bit of resemblance to Blash. No offense to Blash, who has had a long pro career and will probably play for another half-decade or so, but I’m not sure I’d proactively alter an ultra-talented 18-year-old’s swing to mimic that of a notoriously frustrating replacement-level player. Deveaux isn’t the only low-level Angels hitting prospect whose swing now looks like this.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Reds Should Find a Place for Billy Hamilton to Run

Back in March, this contributor presented Billy Hamilton with an idea that he described as the “stupidest thing” he had heard in his life. I didn’t think it was so bad and neither did his spring-training clubhouse neighbor, Scooter Gennett. Today, this author thought he’d revisit the subject.

Hamilton is one of the game’s fastest players — he ranks third in sprint speed this season. He is one of the game’s best outfield defenders and most efficient baserunners. But his bat has eroded his value throughout his career and is doing so again this season. The idea I presented to Hamilton basically was this: to artificially increase his on-base percentage — to get Hamilton and his game-changing speed on the bases more often — Hamilton should be employed as a pinch-runner very early in games and then remain in games to take advantage of his outfield defense and speed.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Evolution of Scooter Gennett, Power Hitter

One of my favorite baseball games of the decade was played in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 6th, 2017, between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. That’s the day that Ryan Joseph Gennett hit the 39th, 40th, 41st, and 42nd home runs of his then-five-year-old career, and in so doing became just the 17th player in baseball history to hit four home runs in a single game. Nothing else of any real import happened that night; my delight in its existence is driven entirely by the improbability of Gennett’s accomplishment.

As our own Jay Jaffe noted for Sports Illustrated that week, Gennett was at the time — with the possible exception of Mark Whiten — the most unlikely four-homer player in the long history of the game, and his remarkable power surge appeared then to be one of those strange, miraculous occurrences that baseball occasionally throws at us as further evidence of its unpredictability, like Bartolo Colón throwing 38 consecutive strikes against the Angels, or going deep that one time against the Padres. Nothing, I thought, could be stranger than Scooter Gennett hitting four home runs in one game.

I was wrong. It turns out that hitting for power is kind of Scooter Gennett’s thing these days. In fact, since June 7th, 2017 — the day after his four-homer game — just 27 of the 67 players with as many plate appearances as Gennett’s 635 have a higher isolated slugging percentage than his .220. Since June 7th, 2017, Gennett has a higher ISO than Kris Bryant. Throw in his four-homer day — it did, after all, really happen — and only 16 players top his .239 mark. Gennett’s four-homer game was surprising a year ago. It would be far less surprising now. Scooter Gennett currently has the 10th-highest slugging percentage in baseball (to be fair, his ISO, which strips out the effect of his extremely high BABIP, is significantly lower). One way or another, he should probably be an All-Star. But why? What’s changed?

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Mets and Reds Exchange Horror Stories

Baseball is a game governed partially by design. When you see teams like the Astros or Cubs win the World Series, you can almost convince yourself that people are actually in charge. You can almost believe we have a handle on this. And to an extent, we do; baseball as a sport isn’t entirely random. The most talented players often become the best players. Clubs with enough of the best players often become the best teams. What’s so hard about that? Find and develop good players, and the rest should take care of itself.

But there’s a dirty little open secret. And this isn’t about how baseball games can turn on the flukiest of events. That’s true, also, but I’m referring to player development. What we’re all led to believe is that scouts are out there looking for guys who could be good. Then coaches and experience mold them, and then, eventually, guys become successful. A quality major-league player is a triumph for an entire organization. That performance level, however, can be fleeting. Becoming good in the majors isn’t the end of the story. A player is also supposed to stay good. And there’s surprisingly little people can do about that. Talent gets ripped away, often by injury. Injuries can be cruel and hard to predict, yet in a given year they can shape the landscape of an entire league. They can alter a team’s very direction.

Recently, the Mets designated Matt Harvey for assignment. Tuesday, the Mets traded Harvey to the Reds for Devin Mesoraco. Harvey’s development was a triumph for the Mets, just as Mesoraco’s development was a triumph for the Reds. They represented the best of what could go right for a talented young player in the proper hands. Now they’ve come to represent the nightmares that baseball people have when they fall asleep. Harvey and Mesoraco were two of the best. They weren’t allowed to sustain.

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You Can’t Blame Tanking for the Lack of Competitive Teams

Tanking is a problem. Professional sports like baseball are built on the assumption that both sides are trying to win. Organizations putting forth less than their best efforts hurts the integrity of the sport and provides fans with little reason to engage. That said, the perception of tanking might have overtaken the reality of late. Competitive imbalance is not the same as tanking. Sometimes teams are just bad, even if they are trying not to be.

Tanking concerns are not new. Two years ago, just after the Astros and Cubs had turned their teams around, the Phillies were attempting to dismantle their roster by trading Cole Hamels. The Braves had traded multiple players away from a team that had been competitive. The Brewers, who traded away Carlos Gomez, would soon do the same with Jonathan Lucroy after he rebuilt his trade value.

The Braves, Brewers, and Phillies all sold off whatever assets they could. Two years later, though, those clubs aren’t mired in last place. Rather, they’re a combined 54-37 and projected to win around 80 games each this season in what figures to be a competitive year for each. While the Braves and Phillies could and/or should have done more this offseason to improve their rosters, neither resorted to an extreme level of failure, and the teams are better today than they would have been had they not rebuilt. While accusations of tanking dogged each, none of those clubs descended as far as either the Astros or Cubs. None came close to the NBA-style tank jobs many feared.

One might suspect that I’ve cherry-picked the three clubs mentioned above, purposely selecting teams with surprising early-season success to prop up a point about the relatively innocuous effects of tanking. That’s not what I’ve done, though. Rather, I’ve highlighted the three teams Buster Olney cited by name two years ago — and which Dave Cameron also addressed — in a piece on tanking.

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Sunday Notes: Trey Mancini Kept His Kick

Trey Mancini did some tinkering prior to the start of the season. Hoping to “limit a bit of pre-swing movement,” he decided to lower his leg kick. The Baltimore Orioles outfielder hit that way throughout the offseason, and he continued the experiment in spring training.

Then, about a week and a half before opening day, he returned to doing what feels natural.

“I am who I am,” Mancini told me last weekend. “The leg kick is just something that works for me — there’s a comfortability factor involved — so once I realized what I was trying didn’t feel totally right, I went back to my old one.”

Mancini felt that the lower kick disrupted his timing. Read the rest of this entry »


The Reds’ Slump Has Extended to Joey Votto

Bryan Price finally took the fall on Thursday, but as the manager of a team short on major-league talent, with a rebuilding effort that isn’t yet close to paying off, it was only a matter of time. It’s difficult to see why the Reds waited until now instead of dismissing him last October — after four full seasons, another 18 games shouldn’t have changed the thinking of the Reds’ brass — but one thing that didn’t enhance Price’s chances for survival was the early-season struggles of Joey Votto. On the heels of one of the best seasons of his career, the 34-year-old first baseman is off to an uncharacteristically bad start, one that can’t help but stand out even given the small sample sizes.

Votto is currently hitting just .258/.315/.273, with one extra-base hit and five walks — as many as he had in a single game last August 27 — in 73 plate appearances. That’s from a five-time All-Star who hit .320/.454/.578 last year, with the majors’ best on-base percentage and walk total (135) and the NL’s top wRC+ (165). His SLG and .258 ISO were his highest since 2010.

In fact, before we dig into this year’s dismal numbers, it’s worth noting that Votto may have done more to enhance his Hall of Fame case last year than just about any player. With his second seven-win season in three years (according to Baseball-Reference WAR, which I continue to use for my JAWS system), he surpassed the seven-year peak score of the average Hall of Fame first baseman and put himself in range of surpassing the JAWS standard as well.

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Bryan Price Becomes a Scapegoat

We thought the Reds were going to be pretty awful. FanGraphs’ preseason projections had Cincinnati finishing last in the NL Central with 71 wins, a 2% chance of reaching the postseason, and zero chance of winning the World Series.

The Reds have been even worse than expected to begin he season, entering play Thursday with a 3-15 record, the most losses in the majors and also (along with Kansas City) the fewest wins. The Reds are also the owners of the major’s worst run differential (-46).

So Cincinnati gave us the most traditional of responses Thursday morning, firing manager Bryan Price. In four-plus seasons with the Reds, Price had a 279-387 mark. He recorded one season of 70 wins or better, a 76-win 2014 campaign. The club also removed pitching coach Mack Jenkins. Read the rest of this entry »