As of this morning, the Reds have completed 10% of their 2015 season. Even with that many games in the books, it is still too early to make accurate predictions about how players will perform at the plate. That said, we can start to look at indicator statistics and try to parse through the tealeaves to see what we might be in for as our guys walk up to the plate.
Since this is all speculation on weak (or poor) data, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve structured this column like we are buying stock in players. We are looking into theÃ‚Â crystal ball and to seeÃ‚Â what the future might hold. Here are the reasons why you should either “sell” or “buy” when it comes toÃ‚Â some of our position players.
Summary: Joey Votto is amazing.
Reason to buy: Everything. Votto swings at only 12.8% of pitches thrown outside the zone and has a swinging strike rate of only 8.20%. He is putting up a wRC+ of 244 and almost a .500 OBP. Many people like to point to Joey VottoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2010 season as the gold standard for Votto, but this year he is striking out less (19.3% in 2010; 13.0% in 2015), walking more (14.0% in 2010, 17.4% in 2015) while hitting for more power (.276 ISO in 2010, .386 in 2015).
Think of it this way, if a WAR is worth $7.5 million (you can see the calculations here), and Joey is making $14 million this year, he has already created $10.5M ofÃ‚Â value in 2015 (1.4 WAR). It possibleÃ‚Â that he willÃ‚Â earn his entire 2015 salary before 15% of the season isÃ‚Â complete.
Reason to sell: YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a Cardinals fan.
Summary: No one believes that Cozart is going to continue to put up a 168 wRC+ (for reference, Joey Votto put up a 172 wRC+ when he won the MVP in 2010). The good news (for the Reds) is that Cozart has already amassed 0.8 WAR (~$6 million on the open market) while only making $2.35M in 2015. The big question: what does this fast start mean?
Reason to sell: While batters are not as beholden to the same BABIP luck dragonsÃ‚Â as pitchers, it is unusual for them to deviate too far from their career BABIP rate. Cozart is up almost 100 points from his 2014 BABIP and 70 points ahead of his career average. Due to all his swinging, his walk rate is down (3.2% 2015, 4.5% career). If his BABIP comes back to Earth, Cozart is going to have a hard to maintain his productivity.
Reason to buy: CozartÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plate discipline stats speak of a different type of hitter than in previous years. He is swinging at more pitches (50.3% of all pitches), both inside the zone (69.9%) and outside the zone (33.0%). The place where he has made the biggest improvement is his contact rate. Compared to last year, Cozart is making more contact inside the zone (96.7% vs 92.9%) and outside the zone (77.1% vs 74.4%). His swinging strike rate is down (5.7%, compared to 6.4% last year)
Summary: He started out 2015 with a dramatic home run, but has cooled off since then. So far, the majority of his numbers are trending the right way. This could be a great year for our hot corner.
Reason to sell: much of ToddÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s value is derived from his .254 ISO, which is about 60 points higher than his career average. This could be due to luck as his HR/FB rate (19.0%) is way above his career average (14.7%). Yet this could also be evidence that Todd is blooming into a superstar as his HR/FB rate over the past three years is: 11.7%/17.0%/19.0%.
Reason to buy: Ã‚Â Frazier has cut down his strikeouts (13.4 K%, 21.1 K% career average) and is walking more (10.4 BB% vs 7.9% career). His BABIP (.237) is also far below his career numberÃ‚Â (.291). Todd is also swinging at fewer strikes (10.9%, 11.9% career). Having already putting up a 122 wRC+, this could be a good year for the ToddFather.
Summary: Jay Bruce had a fast start to the season but is now sitting at 77 wRC+ (last week he was at 122). His numbers are mixed and its hard to see what the future has for Jay.
Reason to sell: JayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plate discipline numbers are a mixed bag. On the one hand, he is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone (30.1% this year, 33.4% last year), but his swinging strike rate continues to climb. In 2012, Jay swung and missed 11.9% of the time, whereas that number is up to 13.8% this year. His contact rate is slightly below where it was last year (this is true both in and outside the zone).
Reason to buy: Jay is only posting a .179 batting average, but his BABIP (.219) is way below his career average (.292). His walk rate is up (13.1%, 8.1% last year).
Summary: It is hard to be very optimistic about Hamilton because his predictive stats indicate he is the same hitter, or perhaps even a bit worse, than last year. Small sample size and all, but he has yet to make the leap we were all hoping for.
Reason to sell: BillyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s swinging strike rate (8.0%) is higher than last year (7.6%) and his contact rates, both in and outside the zone, are lower than last year. His strikeout rate is higher this year (21.7%) compared to last year (19.1%). Even with his 9 stolen bases, his wRC+ is still only 75 (last year: 79).
Reason to buy: His .262 BABIP has to improve at some point. His walk rate is up (10.9%) compared to last year (5.6%). He is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone this year (30.3%) compared to last year (25.9%).
Summary: Our cleanup hitter has zeroÃ‚Â extra base hits in 2015.
Reason to sell: There are three stats that tell the story of BPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2015: His swing rate is up (61.9%), his walk rate is 1.7%, and he does not have an extra base hit. Eventually every hitter gets to an age when they canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fight off a fastball anymore so they start guessing at pitches. This causesÃ‚Â them to start their swing early in an attempt to catch up to fastballs that have passed them by. When BP .321 BABIP comes back to his career norm (.290), this could get ugly.
Reason to buy: PhillipsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ strikeout rate is down (8.1%) compared to last year (10.9). He is also making contact with more balls in the zone this year (92.2%) than last year (87.2%).
Summary: He is on track to put up negative 8.0 Wins Above Replacement. This is not a typo.
Reason to sell: did you read the summary? Joey VottoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ISO (.361) is greater than Marlon ByrdÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s OPS (.340). His negative 12Ã‚Â weighted runs created is terrifying. Much of this is because his contact rate, both in the zone and out of the zone, has simply collapsed. He is down about 5% in both categories and his swing percentage is up 7%. All in all, he is swinging more and hitting less. His 20% swinging strike rate leads the team, and on top of all of this, he has yet to take a walk. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right, 0.00 BB%. He strikes out 31.6% of the time.
Reason to buy: Only if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a visionary. An ideas person. Someone who is great at seeing potential and the intersection of numbers and the eye test. A proven winner. We have a weekly poker game here at RN, I think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d fit right in. The buy-in is only $1,000. How about it, Mr. Jocketty? I think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d do just fine.