What's Wrong with the Reds?

Wednesday, June 22 2005 @ 06:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Pepper Moffatt

She said - "Listen John I love you,
but there's this bloke I fancy
I dont want to two time you,
so it's the end for you and me"

Standings as of June 22nd, 2005

TEAM               W     L     PCT   GB   2WK		
St. Louis         45    26    .634   --   (7-6)
Chicago           36    33    .522   8    (6-6)
Pittsburgh        32    38    .457  12.5  (5-8)
Milwaukee         31    39    .443  13.5  (3-9)
Houston           31    39    .443  13.5 (10-4)
Cincinnati        29    43    .403  16.5  (7-8)
Despite going 5-8 on the week the Pirates gained a spot in the standings due to the weak play of the Brewers. Houston has gone from cellar dweller to middle of the pack with a very strong 10-4 showing. Their success was largely at the expense of the Rockies and Blue Jays, who were each swept in 3 game series.

What's Wrong With the Reds?

In case you missed it the Reds fired manager Dave Miley and pitching coach Don Gullett. It's often stated that the manager is the scapegoat for other things wrong with the team, so I thought I'd look closer and find out what is wrong with the Reds. And here it is:

There is nothing wrong with the Cincinnati Reds

At least there is nothing *new* wrong with the Reds. Consider the following:
2004 record: 76-86
2004 pythag: 67-95
2005 record: 65-97
2005 pythag: 68-94
The 2005 records are just the team's current records scaled to a 162 game season. This team isn't playing any differently than last year's club, except their record isn't massively exceeding their pythagorean expectation like last year's club did.

We can examine this a little deeper by considering the team's position players, starters, and bullpen.

Position Players - Value over Replacement Player (VORP)
PSN04	Name	yr2004	PSN05	yr2005s	yr2005
C	LaRue	21.1	C	18.9	8.4
1B	Casey	66.2	1B	38.7	17.2
2B	Jimenez	35.3	IF	-1.1	-0.5
3B	Freel	26.9	2B	38.5	17.1
SS	Larkin	26.5			
RF	Kearns	6.2	RF	-8.6	-3.8
CF	Griffey	26.4	CF	41.4	18.4
LF	Dunn	64.8	LF	59.0	26.2
OF	Cruz	0.6	OF	9.0	4.0
OF	Pena	23.5	OF	28.1	12.5
IF	Lopez	8.0	SS	54.9	24.4
IF	Castro	0.8			
C	Valenti	3.1	C	9.7	4.3
	Aurilia		IF	10.8	4.8
	Randa		3B	43.0	19.1
TOTAL		309.4		342.2
The 2005s column represents each player's VORP scaled over 162 games.

Much to my surprise, the offense has actually been better this year. Rich Aurilia has been an improvement over Juan Castro, who signed a 2-year deal with the Twins in the off-season. Joe Randa has been terrific at third and allowed the team to play Ryan Freel at second and boot D'Angelo Jimenez down to AA. I don't understand the need to punt Jimenez, but everything I've read in the press suggests that he has "personality issues".

Less surprising is the move to send Kearns down to AAA to give Mo Pena more playing time. Kearns smells a lot like Josh Phelps to me; any deal to acquire him is misguided in this economist's opinion, even if he does like to buy low.

Starting Pitching - Value over Replacement Player (VORP)
PSN		yr2004	yr2005s	yr2005
SP	Wilson	24.6	-25.2	-11.2
SP	Harang	13.1	38.7	17.2
SP	Lidle	0.4		
SP	Acevedo	-7.1		
SP	Clausse	-7.7	14.6	6.5
SP	Ortiz		-10.1	-4.5
SP	Milton		-52.7	-23.4
	TOTAL	23.3	-34.7
Paul Wilson is out for the year with a shoulder injury, which probably explains his poor performance (1-5 record, 7.77 ERA) in the months that he was still on the active roster. Harang and Claussen have improved so much that Wilson, Harang, and Claussen 2005 is almost a wash for Wilson, Harang, and Claussen 2004.

Ramon Ortiz was acquired from the Angels in a salary dump this season (he was acquired for Dustin Moseley). Given his 6.22 ERA I imagine the Reds wish they had kept the 3.5 million dollars and tried to find the next Josh Towers or Bruce Chen instead.

Speaking of bad investments: Eric Milton - 3 years, $25.5 million dollars. Like Named For Hank, they should send their money to the London Food Bank instead. But hey, it's only 3 months into a 3 year contract. There's still plenty of time for him to turn it around, despite my cattyness.

Bullpen - Value over Replacement Player (VORP)
PSN		yr2004	yr2005s	yr2005
RP	Jones	11.1		
RP	Graves	4.3		
RP	Wagner	1.7	-2.7	-1.2
RP	Hancock	1.0		
RP	Norton	0.6		
RP	Rieldin	-4.8		
RP	Van Pop	-6.5		
RP	Mercker		16.0	7.1
RP	Weather		9.9	4.4
RP	Belisle		8.6	3.8
RP	Coffey		5.6	2.5
RP	Stone		2.3	1.0
RP	Keisler		-1.1	-0.5
	TOTAL	7.4	38.5
As much fun as slagging free-agent signings is, the Randa signing wasn't the only move by Dan O'Brien that panned out. Both Kent Mercker and David Weathers have been excellent for the Reds this year. Overall the Reds pen has been much better this year, despite the fact that most of their bullpen payroll is spent on current Met Danny Graves.

Question of the Day

Who is to blame for the current play of the Reds? Or are they playing right around where we should have expected them to?