Pitching wins baseball. Or so we’ve been told. Over and over again. Every baseball fan has heard a litany of clichés about pitching being the key to success on the baseball diamond. They’re part of the folklore passed from one generation of baseball fans to the next.

“You can’t have too much pitching.”

“Pitching is 75 percent of the game.” 

“Good pitching beats good hitting.”

“Pitching is 90 percent of the game.”

These platitudes have been repeated so often by so many that it seems like they ought to be true. Problem is, like many clichés, they aren’t. Watched pots never boil, really?

Winning a baseball game is equally the product of run production and run prevention. Run production depends on hitting and base running. Run prevention on pitching and fielding.

Bill James was one of the first analysts to rigorously debunk the myth of the overriding importance of pitching’s role. A few years ago, he offered these estimates of the contribution for each factor: Baseball is 42 percent hitting, 8 percent base running, 37 percent pitching and 13 percent fielding.

Notice how James’ run production numbers add up to 50 and the run prevention numbers do, too?

In research published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, Dr. Charles Pavitt crunched data on hitting, pitching and fielding for every major league team over a 48-year period (1951-1998). He found that hitting accounts for more than 45 percent of teams’ winning records, fielding for 25 percent and pitching for 25 percent.

Simply put, there’s no one set formula for a World Series championship. Some teams certainly do win because of their strong pitching. But having the best arms is not an infallible recipe for success. The 2011 Cardinals and 2009 Yankees are often presented as recent examples of teams that won primarily on the strength of their hitting.

Relative Scarcity

In baseball, as in other industries, value is determined by scarcity. That’s basic supply and demand. While labor markets in professional baseball are far from perfectly free, they still essentially follow economic principles. As with economic decision-makers generally, managing scarcity is the basic problem confronting major league front offices.

Evidence is overwhelming that in recent years, productive hitters have become scarce relative to effective pitchers. And that rarity makes them more valuable.

Since the 2009 season, the number of hitters with 30 home runs in a season declined from 30 to just 11. The number who hit at least 20 homers has fallen from 87 to 57.

Using another measure of power (ISO), the number of players with an ISO greater than .190 has fallen over that same time from 64 to 28. ISO takes doubles and triples into account, in addition to home runs. That means the average team has gone from having two of those hitters to one in just six seasons.

Players who hit .300 have also become more uncommon. In 2009, 42 major league hitters batted .300. This season, only 16 did.

On the flip side, quality pitchers are easier to find. Take ERA as a metric. The number of starting pitchers with an ERA below 4.00 has risen from 43 to 65 since 2009. The number with an ERA below 3.50 has grown from 23 to 36 in the same time. You’ll find similar trends in SIERA and FIP.

You want strikeouts? The number of starting pitchers with more than an 18 percent strikeout rate has risen from 28 in the year 2000 (about one per team) to 51 in 2014 (nearly two per team). The same goes for relief pitchers. The number of relievers with strikeout-rates above 22 percent has nearly tripled since 2000.

You want a hard-thrower? They’re practically growing on trees. In 2007, just 33 starters had a fastball velocity of 91 mph or above. In 2014, out of 88 who qualified, there were 55. Average fastball velocity for relievers has increased from 91.1 mph in 2007 to 92.5 mph today. For starting pitchers, those numbers are 89.8 and 91.4 respectively. Baseball America recently found that 52 minor league pitchers threw 100-mph fastballs this year.

Run Environment

Given these trends with individual hitters and pitchers, it’s not a shock that run prevention has begun to dominate run production throughout baseball.

Major league batting average (.251) and on base percentage (.314) in 2014 were the lowest they have been since 1972, the season before the DH was adopted in the AL. Slugging (.386) in 2014 was its lowest since 1981, a decline from .418 since 2009.

ERA overall has fallen from 4.77 in 2000 to 4.32 in 2009 and 3.74 in 2014. Strikeouts per nine innings (7.70) and the ratio of strikeouts-per walks (2.67) were higher in 2014 than they have ever been in the history of baseball. Mike Maffie documented much of this a few weeks ago.

In terms of runs scored per game, the number fell to 4.07 in 2014, its lowest since 1981 and the back-to-back seasonal average of 2013 and 2014 was the lowest for consecutive years since 1975-76.

Here’s a bit of history to give those numbers context: Baseball reacted to scoring reaching a low of 3.42 runs/game in 1968 by shrinking the strike zone and lowering the pitching mound. Scoring jumped to 4.07 runs/game. That number stabilized around 4.30 runs/game until the mid-80s when scoring started to inch upward, reaching 4.72 runs/game in 1987. Baseball adjusted the strike zone again and scoring fell back to 4.15 runs/game in 1988.

Then came PEDs. In 1992, runs/game stood at 4.12. Within five years, it had reached 5.04 runs/game and headed even higher, reaching a peak of 5.14 r/g in the year 2000. Run production didn’t decline significantly until 2008, the season after the Mitchell Report was published.

Factors in addition to a cleaner game have eroded run scoring. Defensive shifts, bullpen depth and specialization, surging fastball velocity and an expanding strike zone have each played an important role.

The Reds Have Too Much Run Prevention

The challenge for a general manager is building the best baseball team possible operating under a budget constraint. That means allocating resources where they have the greatest marginal value.

The Cincinnati Reds haven’t escaped the gravitational pull of the collapsing run environment outlined above. Despite playing half their games in the Great American Small Park, in 2014, the Reds were 28th in runs scored, 29th in on-base-percentage, 20th in isolated power and 29th in wRC+.

Meanwhile, they were among league leaders (8th in MLB) in run prevention, due to their starting pitching but also because of their #1-rated defense.

The platitude “you can’t have enough pitching” is wildly inapplicable when Joey Votto and Jay Bruce get hurt. In isolation, you can’t have enough hitting or defense, either. But teams don’t operate with unlimited resources. Offense and pitching trade off because of resource constraints. You certainly can have too much pitching if payroll limits mean your team has too little hitting.

Given the Reds great defense, it hasn’t proven difficult to find capable starting pitching. The Reds lost Johnny Cueto to injury for most of 2013, in stepped Tony Cingrani. When Bronson Arroyo left and Mat Latos started the 2014 season on the DL, Alfredo Simon did the job. At the end of 2014, when Homer Bailey got hurt, he was replaced capably by Dylan Axelrod and David Holmberg.

The overall trend in baseball doesn’t mean that specific teams might not still need to acquire their own dominant pitching. But it’s crystal clear that the Reds aren’t one of them. They desperately need to upgrade their run scoring relative to run prevention.

Capitalizing on Market Inefficiencies

These fast changing conditions have profound implications for the player market and how the Reds should operate this offseason.

The front office must come to grips with the reality that the value of baseball players has changed radically in the last five years. Productive hitters have become the scarce commodity that effective pitching was ten years ago. The fact that this has happened in the blink of an eye doesn’t make it any less real or crucial. But it does present an opportunity.

Walt Jocketty won seven NL Central division titles with the Cardinals from 1996-2006, NL Championships in 2004 and 2006 and the World Series in 2006. His 2005 team also won 100 games.

In that era, focusing on run prevention and stockpiling pitching was how teams generally won games and championships. Today you have to ask if holding on to every last pitcher is still the way to reach the postseason and win the World Series.

General managers who learned their lessons in the Steroid Era and haven’t changed may still follow the now out-of-date pitching clichés. They may have lost touch with accurate player valuation.

The Reds not only can’t afford to be one of those out-of-step clubs, they need to exploit that market inefficiency. The Reds must take advantage of the rapidly shifting player market and their own relative surplus of starting pitching. They need to identify trading partners who still believe that “pitching is the currency of baseball” and trade run prevention for run production while the exchange rate is favorable.

66 Responses

  1. robcheshire

    Great article Steve. Many thanks for sharing your wisdom all of this past season.

    I pray that Walt has the creativity and imagination to trade both Cueto and Chapman this winter, which should net us a decent LF, some cover at 1B, and some Bullpen pieces.

    • RedMountain

      Frazier can play first. the need is a LF and bullpen

  2. doug dorger

    Great article Steve. The rundown of scoring in recent history is fascinating. I have been clamoring for a consistent bat for a number of years. I don’t really agree with the power hitting left fielder camp. I believe we need a guy who can put the bat on the ball. Our inability to hit SF’s, hit ground balls to 2nd with runners on third and just not strike out has been killing us. Jay, Votto, Mes and Todd should provide plenty of HR’s. I hate to lose any of our pitchers, but it has become an obvious necessity. Let’s get us a 285 hitter. One that K’s less than 100 times a year and I will will start celebrating.

    • Doug Gray

      Sac flies and grounders to second base with a runner on second make up what, 5% of a players trips to the plate a season? Focusing one someone who can do that doesn’t favor the odds of actual run production.

      What the Reds need is someone to get on base. I don’t care if they do it the Adam Dunn way (low AVG, lots of walks) or do it the high average-low walks way, just find someone else to put in the lineup who can get on base 34+% of the time. Phillips, Hamilton, Cozart and the pitcher spot are all low OBP places in the lineup. Who knows what LF will bring. This team needs more run scoring opportunities a lot more than they need someone who can ground out to second base.

    • Vicferrari

      I thought someone pointed out that the Reds were above league avg this season getting runners in, suspect it is just perception of failure when a team does not score from third with < than 2 out, watch the playoffs and observe when the good teams do not score.
      The Reds need guys to get on base and not do dumb things on the base path. Not sure who this is

    • Redgoggles

      How about making a run at Aoki from KC? He fits the decent BA/OBP mold, can hit leadoff and seems to play good D. Always a pest when playing for Milwaukee.

      • lwblogger2

        I’ve always liked him. He doesn’t have much power but could probably hit a few out at GABP. Plays good D and gets on base.

  3. greenmtred

    Great article again, Steve. I do see a problem with assigning percentage values to the different facets of the game–to wit, since teams have all of the facets to some degree, and since they don’t operate in isolation from one another, it is probably impossible to accurately tease out what, say, pitching’s relative importance is. Your point is still valid (except that watched pots really DON’T boil), but this highlights the obstacle facing the Reds and every other team seeking to add offense: There is precious little of it, and it’s unlikely that teams that have enough will part with it.

  4. redsfan06

    Looks like Jocketty is at least one year late in waking up to the trend. His big move last off season was to give a 6 year, $106 million extension to the #3 pitcher on the team who has a career ERA+ of 96. At least we get to keep him until he is 35.

    And, of course, the usual signing of a washed up light hitting ex-Cardinal in Schumaker. To a 2 year deal, no less.

    • lwblogger2

      I don’t think we can poo-poo that deal for Homer quite yet. We’ve got one year to go on. It was a risky deal no doubt. I was in the “Let Homer pitch for the Reds in 2014, make qualifying offer” camp but could see some of the reasons they signed him. While he was the team’s #2, or #3, he certainly pitched like a #2 or even a lot of #1s in 2013. He also was fairly young and hadn’t had injuries the last couple years prior to the deal. We’ll have to wait and see how it works out in the end. I’m not ready to say it was a bad deal yet.

      • redsfan06

        For the Reds sake, I am hoping Homer turns that contract into a good signing….and recognize he still might. My initial evaluation of the contract would be what it does to his trade value. The 6 year extension brought Bailey’s trade value to the same as BP and Votto – zero.

        I realize it does no good to complain about past signings. My reason for bringing it up is to point out that Jocketty has been slow to recognize the player value shift that has come along with the dominance of pitching over hitting. Same reason for mentioning the Schumaker contract.

        It also appears WS is willing to sign away the future for short term gain. At his age, maybe that makes sense. He gets no discount in length or price of contract. Instead, he bargains for favorable payment terms where the early years of the contract are below market with the future years being quite pricey. It worked out okay for Broxton, but I am not sure that is something you can always count on.

    • Doug Gray

      I always hate when people bring up the career of Bailey when trying to crap on his contract. Homer Bailey in the first few years is not the guy who got the contract. The Homer Bailey that threw 420 innings with an above-average ERA+ who was arguably one of the Top 20 pitchers in baseball for those two seasons was. The guy who ranked 12th in innings pitched in the Majors. The guy who ranked 22nd in strikeouts. The guy that ranked 23rd in K/BB. That’s the guy that got the contract. Not the guy from 2008.

      • Thegaffer

        Doug always great insight. But on the Bailey contract, it was widely reported in the spring that Justin Masterson was a great comparable to Homer. When Homer got that contract, the indians went the 1 year arbitration way. Both pitchers returned to previous career marks in 2014 after great 2013 seasons. Masterson will now be lucky to now get 4 million only for 1 year, I am sure the indians are happy with what they did.

      • ohiojimw

        And although it is more symptomatic of all the stats you cited than perhaps a measure on its own, the guy who had the cajones to pitch two hitters inside a calendar year.

      • redsfan06

        His best fWAR rating amongst pitchers was 24th in 2013. He was 40th in 2012. Not much of an argument for being one of the best 20 pitchers.

      • Doug Gray

        That’s if you buy into pitcher WAR, which I don’t (I will use it as a guide, but there’s more going on that is accounted for there). But even if we want to, he was one of the Top 30 guys in fWAR for 2012-2013.

  5. sultanofswaff

    Great article, Steve. The tricky part is having to build a team that can get you to the playoffs, then having enough of the right kinds of players who can get you thru the playoffs. To that end, I still hold onto all my starting pitchers if I’m Walt……..at least until the trade deadline when we could move a SP for a bat and move Stephenson into the rotation.

  6. wvredlegs

    Excellent, solid presentation with facts, not the eye test, of how the game has quickly changed and where it is going. Your very last sentence says it all. There are teams that are top-heavy with offense and short on defense and starting pitching. Some teams even have a surplus of OF’s that can produce runs or get on base, or both. There are trading match ups out there for the Reds. But the Reds have a GM that is way behind the curve on how the game is evolving.
    Those offensive numbers you cited for the 2014 Reds in GABP are astounding. “28th in runs scored, 29th in on-base-percentage, 20th in isolated power and 29th in wRC+.” That is out of 30 teams. And the Reds ownership gave the architect of this mess a new 2 year contract. Incredibly foolish.
    In football, they say that good teams play well on all 3 sides of the ball, offense, defense and special teams. In baseball it is a 4 sided ball, offense, defense, starting pitching, and bullpen. Being good in 2 out 4 of those areas doesn’t bring a team any championships. Teams’ flaws get exposed in the post-season. I’d like to see the Reds become a much more balanced team.
    Jocketty has 1 winter off-season to redeem himself. But, by some of his recent comments, redemption is not something we should look for. One little trade won’t do the trick or stop the hemorrhaging. He needs to pull off a Latos-type trade and a Choo-like trade this winter. (By Latos-type, I am not saying go after a starting pitcher, but a big time player with team control for a few years.)

    • greenmtred

      Who are these good hitting, surplus and available left fielders you invoke?

    • RedMountain

      The team whose OPS, and OBP was about as bad as anyone’s in the majors, is now in the LCS. It is about hitting in the clutch. And the Giants are not much different. Part of the reason the Reds keep signing former Cards is because they win and they ARE relentless.

  7. zaglamir

    Yet another post here that should get a “To: Walt Jocketty, From: Reds Fans” tag and be stuck in the mail. Good one, Steve.

  8. tct

    Standing ovation, Steve. It really is astounding how bad Jocketty has been at understanding the market over the past couple years. You don’t need dominant pitching to win right now. The Pirates made the play in game with a rotation consisting of guys like Volquez, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, and Liriano. They win with really good hitting and depth. They don’t have any 100 million dollar contracts on their team as they spread their resources around. Plus, they have done a really great job buying low on former all stars and top prospects whose value has bottomed out. They paid very little for guys like Volquez, Worley, Liriano, Ike Davis, Travis Snyder, Gaby Sanchez, etc. As much as I hate the pirates, the reds management could learn a lot from them.

    • lwblogger2

      I’d agree with you on the Reds front-office but would stop short of field management. I really wouldn’t want Hurdle or a Hurdle-clone managing my Reds.

    • Doug Gray

      You don’t need dominant starting pitching to win right now… The Nationals, Dodgers and Cardinals finished 1, 3 and 4 in the NL in ERA+. The Pirates were above-average and the Giants were exactly league average. The American League was a not too different. The Orioles finished 4th in the AL in ERA+, the Angels were still above average and the Tigers were below average. Oakland finished 1st and Kansas city finished 3rd. It seems that you still need pretty good pitching to make the playoffs.

      • tct

        The top 4 teams in the NL in runs scored, non Coors field division, were the Dodgers, Nationals, Pirates, and Giants. See the trend? The Cardinals were the only sub par offensive team in the playoffs.

        Secondly, using team ERA doesn’t prove much about the teams pitching talent because ERA measures a team’s pitching plus their defense. The cards, Dodgers, and Pirates were all top ten in MLB in DRS. A team with average pitchers and an elite defense will put up an above average ERA. Your numbers only imply that you need to be an above average run prevention team to make the playoffs, and you can do that without dominant pitching. Average pitching, above average defense, and above average offense can win.

      • tct

        The Orioles are a good example of my point. They were 24th in baseball in FIP. But they were 7th in ERA. Why? Elite defense, best in the AL according to DRS. Look at their personnel: Miguel Gonzales? Bud Norris, Chris Tillman. All solid pitchers, but you wouldn’t call any of those guys dominant. They win with good hitting, elite defense, and average pitching.

      • charlottencredsfan

        This is really the same with the Royals. Great defense (especially the OF but also SS & 1B) and a second to none bullpen. Starting rotation? Okay, but not anything. Offense? Not great but timely (lucky?). I see an SF/KC series with SF wining out because of Bochy. By the way, not the greatest OPS teams in the history of the game.

        Is there anyone that gets more out of his team then Bruce Bochy??

      • Tom Reed

        ‘Average pitching, above average defense, and above average offense….’ That, in general, is a description of the Big Red Machine, although the offense is augmented by three Hall of Famers and Pete Rose.

      • tct

        Yeah, I would say elite offense in the case of the BRM. Possibly elite defense too, as Bench, Concepcion, and Geronimo were elite defenders. There is some debate about Morgan, however, and I’m too young to have an opinion based on the eye test. Strangely enough, as Steve mentions in his article, today’s run scoring environment is very similar to 1975-76. So, yeah, they are a good example of winning with average pitching.

      • Doug Gray

        I see the trend that teams who kept runs off of the board, regardless of how they did it, got into the playoffs. It’s not a surprise that the best teams in terms of wins were also good at scoring. It’s like you need to actually be able to score and keep others from scoring to win.

        Defense matters, no doubt about it. But it’s still a majority of the pitchers ability when it comes to run prevention. At the end of the day, you need to score a lot more than you allow to make the playoffs. It doesn’t matter how you get there, whether its by scoring 750 and allowing 650 or by scoring 650 and allowing 550. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak.

      • tct

        There’s more than one way to skin a cat…..
        That sounds like exactly what I was saying, and what Steve was saying, to start with. You can win with average pitching, provided you hit and play defense. You were the one who brought up team ERA, Doug, and said that you need really good pitching to make the playoffs. So are you now backtracking on that statement, or am I misunderstanding you?

        Run prevention is not the same thing as pitching. Elite defense and average pitching can make a well above average run prevention unit. And what Steve is talking about in the article is the balance in talent between pitching and hitting has swung to the pitching side. There are lots of solid pitchers out there, and you can win with those guys without having to pay the big money to the aces.

    • greenmtred

      The Pirates did make the play-in game, and lost it. The Reds have done the same and better in recent years, and most of us found that unacceptable. All teams have weaknesses, but weak pitching won’t get you far. Pitching and no offense won’t, either, as we saw this year. Advocating trading some pitching to redress the Reds’ imbalance isn’t the same as saying that you don’t need good pitching to go deep in the postseason.

  9. lwblogger2

    I’m not so sure I wouldn’t look to sign a guy like Morse for LF and an option at 1B. Then you trade a pitcher for some of the other pieces. You may not have to part with Cueto if you aren’t looking for that one big return. Morse hits 20-25 HR if he gets 475-500 PA at GABP in my opinion. If you then go on to move one of the other pitchers you can get bullpen help, and depth around the field.

    • charlottencredsfan

      IMO, a perfect fit same as Duda but cheaper. Both these guys, I think, would be monsters at GABP. With Hamilton in CF, fielding isn’t going to be a big issue.

    • VaRedsFan

      Morse is a DL trip waiting to happen. I don’t want any part of him.
      Duda, I’d be more interested in.

  10. Captain Hook

    Theo Epstein has clearly keyed in on the scarcity of hitters.

  11. George Mirones

    Steve has produced a solid analysis of the state of the current game. As a non-decision maker he has that right, as we all do, to give his version. Overall Steve is saying that a team that wins is a balance of “run production and run prevention” skills. Gee who knew? The test is if he were the GM, what he would do besides “analyze”. What type of player would he target? What alphabet number profile would he use as the filter to build his want list? What current player(s) meets those quantifications?
    My take is Steve is saying that trading Cueto is a good thing (“The Reds must take advantage of the rapidly shifting player market and their own relative surplus of starting pitching”) as long as the return has offensive value. I have stated before that to get an offensive “bat on ball” (BABIP .330) 150 game plus player with adequate defensive skills, is the smart move. The idea that Cueto will yield “prospects” is not a good example of maximizing a player’s value. Keep in mind that the “dead line trades” have yielded only one good productive acquisition. Yes it was team with a “Bird” name (Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Sports, ‎Monday‎, ‎October‎ ‎6‎, ‎2014).
    In any review of the losses the Reds earned in 2014 shows that the Reds had 103 quality starts and the bullpen lost 31 of those games. It would seem to me that the off-season addition of one good bat (Cueto for? straight up) and a selective remake of the bull pen, that even with the same terrible offensive years and crippling injuries, would put the Reds in the play offs. I preached against the “one bat” approach at the trade deadline because of what was available and it as too late. Many of you have hope that Votto will be back to full strength and that Bruce will regain his power or improve his swing. Those are a fans hopes. What we all should know is that the bullpen failed and had changes been made there first, as many in RLN often aggressively suggested, the season may have ended differently.
    I am sure many would say that this approach is “standing still” but the needs are bullpen, bench, and then a “bat”.
    Carry on Steve,

    • VaRedsFan

      Right on!! As I mentioned in the Big Bang article…Purge everyone in the bullpen not named Diaz and Chapman.

      But a LF bat is also a major need. I’m OK with the bench of Pena Santiago, and Negron.

  12. droomac

    This si a great synopsis of the state of the game today. Run production is at a premium. I do hope that Walt remembers this going into the offseason.

    I have, however, a bit of a different take on what to do at this point. Given the dearth of offensive help that is likely to be had through trades (more and more GMs are now aware of the changing dynamics of the game), I thinks it’s unwise to try to trade for a full-time LF bat. I just don’t think such a player is available. Rather. I suggest moving Cueto and Chapman for (mostly) hitting prospects and then using the money freed up on a couple of modest FA acquisitions. The best and only sustainable way for a team like the Reds to get offense is to draft or otherwise acquire cost-controlled offensive talent.

    Some folks may categorize this as blowing up the team, but I don’t. I think the team could be better, even in the near term, by moving Cueto and Chapman. A guy like Jed Lowrie would look good in Red. He hits RHP very well and can spot BP at 2B, ensure that Cozart only gets about two-thirds of the starts at SS, and could play 3B (moving Frazier to LF) from time to time. Then, a guy like Colby Rasmus could be a good one year, “rebound,” option for the Reds. Then, use some of the other money to shore up the bullpen with several guys that may blossom/rebound, etc. That leaves the team with more flexibility, lower payroll, and prospects.

  13. al

    The key line of this piece is the last, and particularly “while the exchange rate is favorable.”

    The Reds, or any team, should take value when and wherever they can get it. I don’t know that there’s any evidence that there actually is a market inefficiency regarding pitching.

    Just because the run environment has changed, and there are more good starting pitchers than hitters, doesn’t mean that there is a market inefficiency. In fact, it may mean the opposite, that because there are so many good starting pitchers now, moving one is just selling in a buyers market.

    If there are GMs that are overvaluing pitching, then they should be exploited. If there are GMs that are overvaluing hitting, then they should be exploited. Point being, value is value, and it should be obtained whenever and however it can be.

  14. nicolecushing

    The question is: which Reds pitchers are (likely) over-valued right now.

    The Case Cueto is over-valued: he’s injury-prone. It’s unlikely he’ll have two consecutive years without substantial time on the DL.

    The Case Chapman is over-valued: he’s a luxury item for the Reds right now. They found themselves in too few save situations for him to be of any real use. Keeping him is like keeping frosting around for a cake (when you don’t have the eggs or mix around to even make a cake).

    The Case Simon is over-valued: (probably the most persuasive): 2014 was an absolute fluke (as evidenced by his collapse toward the end of the season). Trade him now while he’s right off of an all-star appearance.

    The boldest move would be to trade all three. I don’t see that happening. I see the Reds keeping Chapman around because he’s a fan favorite. He’s one of the few players who can make the sedate(d?) crowds at GABP rise to their feet. Also, the fact that they traded Broxton during the season leads me to think they won’t get rid of Chapman. Broxton would have been the heir apparent to the closer’s role and I don’t think the Reds would’ve traded him if they didn’t imagine keeping Chapman in the mix. I also think the organization is also so in love with Cueto they’ll balk and trading him. But my hunch is that Simon’s days are numbered. Don’t know if they can get anyone really notable for him, but there’s only one way to find out!

    • droomac

      Simon, in my estimation, isn’t going anywhere because he is so cheap.

    • greenmtred

      You may be right about Simon, but I seem to remember that his “collapse” was followed by some good performances. Lots of good pitchers have rough patches (Kershaw in the playoffs), and Simon is cheap and–eye test here–wasn’t succeeding due to smoke and mirrors. Almost worst case, he doesn’t hack it as a starter next year, but is effective in bolstering our weak bullpen.

    • VaRedsFan

      Simon collapse? Were you watching the games?

  15. WVRedlegs

    From USA Today’s Jorge Ortiz, Who needs elite starters?


    Where did it get Oakland trading offense for 3 starters? Detroit traded for a 3rd Cy Young Award winner. Where did it get them? Cards are still going, but not by virtue of the 2 starters they picked up.
    Very good starters get you through the great 162. But elite bullpens win in the post season.
    I’m biting my tongue, but its an arguement to keep Chapman, and keep him in the bullpen.

    • al

      I think this is just small sample size drek. Jon Lester was awesome in the regular season and then had a bad game against KC. That game went to extra innings because the KC bullpen gave up a ton of runs after James shields had an amazing game.

      Pitching is great, in any combination, but elite starters are the best pitchers in the game. To say that they aren’t necessary in the post-season is nuts.

      • charlottencredsfan

        Shields an amazing game: 5 IP, 5 H, 4ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks? Someone’s standards aren’t very high.

        This postseason appears to be more about the bullpens, with so many late close games and extra-innings to boot, then SP. I think WV has a very good point, not very “nuts” at all.

      • al

        I guess you didn’t watch that game then? He gave up a 2 run HR in the first, but then proceeded to dominate the A’s. Inexplicably, in the 6th inning, after he gave up a bloop and a walk, he got pulled. It was obvious that it was a bad move because the A’s hadn’t touched him for the last 4 innings.

        The guy that replaced him then promptly gave up another HR, so Shields’ line looks bad.

      • charlottencredsfan

        4 ERs in 5 innings = bad outing; slice it anyway you want. I absolutely watched the game and have watched Big Game pitch a lot this year. He looks a little spent to me, at the moment. He had a great second half so a bounce back is likely.

        Let’s face it, for the most part the bullpen is going to have to drag the starters over the finish line in KC. “Amazing” outings, like Shield’s play-in game, are going to make it harder not easier.

        Bottom line: KC starters gave up 6 runs in 5-1/3 (Ventura is a starter), the bullpen guys 1 run in 6-2/3 innings. Hardly giving up a “ton” of runs, wouldn’t you agree? So yes, back to WV’s point: “elite bullpens win the postseason”; at least so far in 2014.

        KC won that game because of the bullpen, not in spite of it.

    • jessecuster44

      But you have to use Chappy more than 50 innings.

  16. hamiltonred

    Steve, have you considered applying for an advisory position to Reds management? Profound piece. Kudos.

  17. ToddAlmighty

    Too late, Walt has been long since left behind. They have Cueto/Latos/Leake/Simon/Bailey/Cingrani, and 14 of their top 20 prospects are pitchers. Of the non-pitchers on that list? The only one who is higher than AA is Tucker Barnhart, who hit .246/.319/.316 in AAA last year and .185/.241/.241 when called up.

    Yet their #1 pick and 4 in 6 rounds were pitchers in 2014.

    In 2013, 9 of their first 12 picks were pitchers.

    In 2012, 4 pitchers in the first 5 rounds.

    It’s led the Reds to this situation where they have no real position help coming up in the minors anytime soon, including not even having an actual backup first baseman anywhere in the entire organization despite missing the starter for 100 games. Wouldn’t be surprised if Walt refuses to trade a starting pitcher this offseason. It’s still clearly what he values most. Need a backup first baseman somewhere in your entire organization? We got Jack for that.

    • Thegaffer

      Agree, the old front office was behind the curve drafting sluggers the previous decade. As a result, we had the most homers and losing records. Now its behind the curve again.

      I still think pitching is key, but I think we can do it without signing ling contracts. They can keep drafting pitchers if they use the old ones to trade for hitters. Also, in GABP keeping the groudballitchers and the high OBP, contact hitters is the way to go. Dont need huge hitters, as even average power can be sucessful here.

    • jessecuster44

      And the players in the Broxton trade were…. pitchers.

  18. jessecuster44

    As long as Big Bob makes decisions with his heart, and Walt makes decisions based on 2004 thinking and fear of losing prospects, this team will never be near the curve, much less ahead of it.

  19. Dale Pearl

    I am inclined to believe that it is the team with the greatest amount of balance and depth that leads to championship teams and dynasties. The strategy that has worked remarkably well for both the Yankees and the Cardinals long term is the amount of balance that they are able to field. Never the best pitcher, seldom the best overall hitter, and tremendous depth off the bench. You build a farm system lopsided to either pitching, hitting, or fielding and you find yourself always relying on a trade to make you competitive.

  20. tct

    Ok, Steve, I gotta ask. You mention a study where some really smart guy found that 45% of wins came from hitting, 25% pitching, and 25% fielding. So what was the other 5% ? Was it “the will to win”? Has Skip Schumaker’s enormous value finally been proven by science?

    • Steve Mancuso

      Ha. It’s probably base-running stuff, although one conclusion of his study is that stolen bases have virtually no effect on wins. The four teams still in the postseason: Royals are first in stolen bases, but the other three teams are 28th, 29th and 30th. Sheesh.

  21. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I am a firm believer that you can have too much pitching. That did in the Braves during the 90’s. And, if I recall correctly (just before my time), the Orioles of the late 60’s-early 70’s never lived up to their potential because of that. The BRM of the 70’s never had that much pitching, and they were considered one of the powerhouse teams of all time. The thing is, none of their pitching was bad, either.

    It is still a team game. You still have to have the best “team”, not the best “defense”, not the best “offense”, not the best “pitching”, but the best “team.

    If anything, for me, I believe defense is overrated. Just look at how the Cards have faired during the last several years. They’ve been to the playoffs 5 of the last 6 years. They have been to 2 WS, won one of those. And, the entire time, people keep knocking them for their defense. Their defense may be bad. However, I will take their “team” anytime, if it wasn’t for me being a Reds fan. For, I am a firm believer that, when it comes to defense:

    – good pitching can make the defense look easy, not only the other way around, and
    – if the players are making to the big league level in the first place, their defense can’t be that bad. Sure, probably not gold glove, but we probably aren’t talking about “knothole beginner kid stumbling over his own feet”, either.

    • lwblogger2

      Kal Daniels and Adam Dunn may beg to differ 😉 … Actually, defensive contribution is very hard to measure and it’s hard to tell how much it really matters in winning and losing. For the most part, I agree with you that MLB players are going to be at least marginally effective fielders. I don’t really disagree that it is sometimes over-valued but I don’t think it should be dismissed. One of the old “Moneyball” general rules was that defense wasn’t of particular value. 6-10 years ago I would have agree. Today’s game has shifted to more low-scoring though and defense is more valuable than it was in a high-scoring environment. How valuable? Well, the numbers crunchers are still working that out.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Oh, I agree that defense can be important. That’s why I said it’s the best “team” that wins. I specified not just “defense”, not just “offense”, not just “pitching”, but the best “team”. I only said “If anything”, I believe defense is over-rated. I mean, we’ve had one of the best defenses in the league the last several years. How far has that carried us?

  22. Eric

    Please please just tell me who the Reds can pick up legitimately……….and who they could legitimately trade for……….I am far far too lazy to address this myself

    • lwblogger2

      Three names were mentioned in this thread: Aoki (Free Agent), Morse (Free Agent), Duda (trade?)

  23. Eric

    I appreciate you helping this lazy individual. I thought that I also noticed Melky Cabrera mentioned by a Reds beat writer