The Cincinnati Reds made a high money signing on the international market yesterday. Steve touched on it last night here at Redleg Nation. I wrote about it over at my site as well. The team reportedly agreed to terms with Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez for a $6M signing bonus, which turns into somewhere between $11-12M after paying the penalty for going over their allowed amount. It will also keep them from spending more than $300,000 on any single signing in the next two signing periods. But, that isn’t the point of this article.

The point of the article is the Reds seemingly chasing down a bunch of players, or having faith in players who seem to lack any ability to hit the ball over the fence but are very fast. Alfredo Rodriguez fits that profile. Billy Hamilton fits that profile. Jose Peraza fits that profile. It would seem that the Reds plans are to have all three of these players as a part of their future.

Billy Hamilton may have the most power of all three, and that really puts things into perspective on just how little power the group has between them. You obviously don’t have to hit 20 home runs to be valuable, but it’s tough to provide offensive value if you can’t hit 10. Pitchers simply don’t have any reason to fear you without the threat of homers, so they can pound the strikezone against you. It limits the amount of walks you will have, making the player rely entirely on their ability to hit singles in large quantities. Of course, if you are a singles hitter, the outfield can play in and thus makes it easier for them to turn hits into outs as they have less ground to cover.

I started wondering, which players who rely on the ability to hit only singles were over the last three seasons. I decided to head over to Fangraphs and look for all players in the last three seasons who had at least 200 plate appearances in a single season. There were 1057 players in this sample, but I decided to look only at players with an isolated power (SLG-AVG) below .080 to limit things to just about every player who has next-to-no-power. That group is made up of only 105 players, representing just under 10% of all players in baseball.

HALF of that list of players was worth 0.0 WAR or worse. 82 of the 105 players on this list were worth LESS than 1.0 WAR. Seven of the players were worth more than 2.0 WAR and three of those players were elite level defenders, all representing the top three WAR values in the list.

To dive further into the list, HALF of that list posted an on-base percentage under .300 and 66 of them were under .310. 92 of the players had a slugging percentage under .350. Essentially, the large majority of the group of players that were able to make it through the minor leagues with absolutely no power, beating the odds of those who couldn’t, are still incredibly unlikely to be even average big leaguers.

The odds tell us that these types of players struggle to become everyday contributors of value in the Major Leagues. Yet the Cincinnati Reds seem to have a plan that involves three of these players in their lineup at one time. It’s a real struggle to put together the line of thinking here. There’s no problem with having these kinds of players in the organization. But to plan on them being something before they’ve proven that they are the outlier to the sample rather than the rule, seems very confusing. You can’t steal second base or third base, or score a run, if you can’t first get on first base. As a Reds fan, I want them to succeed and hope that the Reds can beat the odds with these kinds of players, but it just doesn’t seem likely. One of these players working out and turning into an average everyday player would significantly beat the odds.

71 Responses

  1. redsfan06

    Watching the Reds struggle to score with BHam, Cozart and BP in the lineup over the last few years makes me question if 1.0 dWAR is really equal to 1.0 oWAR. Maybe it’s just having too many holes in the lineup is difficult to overcome.

    • jdx19

      Let us use a concrete example… BP is at the dish and hits a solo HR. That’s 1 run for the good guys. Now, next inning, BP is in the field and a man is on 2nd base. The batter hits a rope to right-center, but BP gets a quick jump and then skies to snag the liner, saving a run, and ending the inning.

      In both cases, BP’s single play on offense and single play on defense netted the Reds exactly 1 run. Over the course of a season, all the plays on both offense and defense add up, and hopefully the positive outweighs the negative.

      I’m a strong believer in the value of good defense in a vaccum, which is why I never disliked Cozart, as long as he was batting at the bottom of the order! And that’s also why I don’t mind Hamilton, as long as he’s at the bottom of the order! Problem is, you can’t have everyone at the bottom of the order, so a lineup can really only support 2 defense-first type guys in my opinion.

      • streamer88

        I have a theory that it doesn’t stop there. I suspect t’s much more intricate. Because BHam’s range and defensive value negate *some* of the defensive value of a really good defensive RF/LF – why have overlapping range (down the lines is a different story). Same with 3rd baseman/SS, 2B/SS, 2B/1B etc. Also the park size matters too. BHam may be able to cover even MORE ground than CF at GABP. What I mean is in total – the law of diminishing returns applies to defensive value IMHO, whereas it does NOT apply to offensive value. If nine guys take a walk to start the game, you’re up 5-0 with nobody out. If all 9 of your guys are Gold-Glovers, there’s a lot of wasted range in there, or perhaps for each additional excellent defender you see a diminishing return of value. I don’t know to be honest. I do know this: being able to take a walk ages better than stealing bags and diving for line-drives right?

      • lwblogger2

        Oooo, very interesting application of the Law of Diminishing Returns there. Never thought of it in regards to defense in baseball.

      • lwblogger2

        Also makes me wonder if there is a correlation when someone’s defensive metrics fall over a particular season and an adjacent player’s improve over the course of the same season.

      • lwblogger2

        The zones for most metrics shouldn’t allow for that to happen but would be interesting to really look.

      • greenmtred

        There probably is an analytic tool that addresses effective range as opposed to simple range. BHam can get to balls other centerfielders can’t, but at the extreme limit of his range, his response will not be as effective (unless it’s a fly ball) as it would be if he didn’t have to dive to stop it. I can’t see a downside to having 3 outfielders with great range. Well, collisions, maybe.

      • redsfan06

        Neither dWAR or oWAR calculations are as simplified as your two examples. Let’s use a real life concrete example. Suarez or Cozart? Who is the team better off playing at SS? A player that brings some offense or one whose value is almost solely in his defense?

      • greenmtred

        Clear, concise, and cogent, JDX19.

  2. Gaffer

    I think I have the answer . . . It’s kind of reverse Moneyball. Since other teams (who use stats) do not value these players, they are cheaper to get (or fall in the draft). So, the Reds think they are getting a great deal when they get one of these but everyone else is laughing behind their backs. People like Marty add into this by devaluing Votto and other truly valuable players to all who listen.

    The Reds clearly also value something that others do not, the reactions of ill informed fans! They stated last year that the could not trade Aroldis or Toddfather because the fans would not come to the games. Games where we play .360 losing baseball! So basically they are willing to hurt their chances of winning a WS to appease Joe Bob who buys beer and hotdogs in late September.

    • jessecuster44

      This is like signing members of the 2003 Detroit Tigers in fantasy baseball, because they were so bad no one else would touch them.

    • Dewey Roberts

      Anyone who thinks the reboot is actually going to be reboot is not paying attention. This great organization is being completely disassembled before our eyes. Krivsky was fired for doing a better job than this. Here we come NL- we are the 60 game winners!

    • Obc2

      The Reds finished last with Todd and Aroldis, I think they will be there 3 more years. I’m not sure they’re pulling a reverse Moneyball as much as a 76er style tank job. That will enable club to draft top 3 in amateur draft where the big bat prospects reside, while STL and PIT ages.

      Hopefully catcher Stephenson arrives around same time the next few draft picks, big college bats, hit the scene in 2020. Maybe Yorman matures into Alex Rios. Blandino is second baseman, Winker is LF. The club currently has 8-10 arms under age 24 or so, strength in numbers, who will be in prime at that point. Votto is 37 then and pulls a circa 1979 Willie Stargell, Pops!

      • Michael E

        well, that is the ONE upside of being a train-wreck of a rebuild. Bad trades, stupid signings that limit future impact signings, but at least we’ll be able to draft in the top 5 for the next two or three years. If anyone gets good, they can fine him (Major League) and give out a bonus for player voted least valuable.

    • greenmtred

      I thought that finding unrecognized value was one of the main tenets of Moneyball.

      • lwblogger2

        It is indeed. It’s all about finding where the market is overvaluing or undervaluing a certain skill or collection of skills.

  3. zakkwylderulz

    To add to what GAFFER is saying…this is an organization that would rather pay millions for another scoreboard than put that money towards better players. I don’t care if you have the old scoreboard at RIVERFRONT …IF you put A REAL CONTENDING TEAM on the field THE FANS WILL SHOW UP.

    • jessecuster44

      Ah, but if you look at the replay, you’ll see that he could have hit lots harder, but chose not to.

    • Uglystrike

      He will bring “Grit” to the dugout.

  4. WVRedlegs

    If these guys had OBP’s that approached .350, that would be one thing. But they seem content to field guys with .290-.300 OBP’s. And to put such hitters in front of Joey Votto seems mind-numbingly stupid.
    They seem content to build a team that should be playing its home games in Miami, SF, or SD. Not the bandbox at GABP.
    The fans in Cincinnati need to start calling for the heads of Walt Jocketty and Dick Williams. An entirely new front office regime is needed.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The Reds continue to undervalue the ability to take a walk – plate discipline.

      • Bill

        So do the average “fans”. Dunn was constantly bashed and Votto receives the same hate, while everyone loses their mind if BP comes up in trade talks.

      • greenmtred

        Dunn was one-dimensional. Joey isn’t. Of course walks are important and good. So is defense. The Reds of Dunn’s era were pathetic, and it’s clear (to me at least) that really good teams value obp, power, pitching and defense, in no particular order. I agree that the moves the Reds are making now appear to be non-sensical, though.

      • lwblogger2

        @GREENMTRED – The biggest issue with those teams was pitching. They scored plenty of runs.

      • Michael E

        LW is right, pitchign sucked then, but also the Reds were HR or bust team. When they weren’t hitting an HR, they were making outs (and taking some walks, but that doesn’t make up for hitting .200 when not hitting an HR).

      • greenmtred

        LWBlogger: You’re right, of course, and that was my point–really good teams have enough of everything.

      • Michael E

        I want hitters that walk some (doesn’t have to be a lot) but also can fend off pitch after pitch. Make the pitcher work hard every at bat. I saw that every time we played the Cardinals, Giants and other perennially good teams. They’d get our pitcher up to 90 pitches in 5 innings and we’d lose after going through 5 or 6 pitches (when you get that deep, one is bound to be off that night…simple numbers).

        Walks are good, not bad, but walks with a bad hitter aren’t really any better than no walks and a solid hitter. Why can’t we have both? I don’t really care about HRs at all any more. They have no correlation with winning WS titles. Pitching and solid lineups from top to bottom do.

  5. i71_Exile

    I recall that speed was over-valued in Moneyball—it’s been a while since I read it—so maybe the Reds think the pendulum has swung far enough in the other direction that they are getting value for that particular tool?

    Like Steve, I wish these players had OBP to go with their speed. My one silver lining is that they play positions that don’t completely hinder you to have offensive holes: center field, second base, shortstop. That said, they need to stop NOW with the no hit speedsters.

    Frankly, if they could teach Hamilton and Rodriguez to become competent pitch wasters—I have hit hopes for Peraza in this regard—the Reds could field a line-up that pushes high pitch counts on opposing starters.

    • droomac

      I’m guessing that they believe that speed and defense will continue to increase in importance and that, given this future importance, teams are not valuing it as much as they should. Maybe they have some macro-level statistical insights about some kind of gradual shift to this effect and are projecting a few years out from now that guys like Peraza and Rodriguez will be very valuable.

      If this does, in fact, happen and HRs are depressed further in frequency, then the run scoring environment could be similar to that of previous eras in baseball. Growing up in the 1980s, it’s hard to argue with the success that teams like the Cardinals had with this kind of approach. They had some burners and some boppers, and it worked well for them.

      • Doug Gray

        Slap hitting works better on turf, which was everywhere in the 80’s. It doesn’t work so well on grass, which is nearly everywhere now.

        You’ve got to actually be able to put the ball into the outfield these days without the help of carpet laid on top of concrete.

      • ohiojimw

        On artificial turf, balls hit on the ground or hop not only got thru the infield quicker, the OF also had to adjust (play deeper) because little liners that barely made it thru the infield on the fly could bounce/ roll thru the gaps for extra base hits. This in turn created more of a no man’s land between IF and OF for top spin bloopers to drop in safely.

      • droomac

        Oh, I know. . . I’m just trying to think of a possible thought process. However, it is certainly possible that there is no broader thought process and that they are simply enamored with speed for no really supportable reason.

      • ohiojimw

        Droo… A couple of careers ago, I was in a position to create shall we say, statistical points of interest, based my firm’s production data. I don’t think any of them that saw the light of day beyond my boss (the CEO) and I ever reflected anything that wasn’t congruent with the boss’s notion of what was going on. 🙂

      • preacherj

        Bingo. Major differences in playing surfaces and park configurations have to be taken into consideration for evaluation purposes. It also greatly affects how a Team plays defense, sacrifices, bunts, hit and runs, etc. Speed is much more a neccesity on turf.

      • ohiojimw

        The open source statistical analysis measures strongly infer things moving in an opposite directions to what the Reds apparently believe. It is scary to think they might be betting the ranch on some proprietary measures which fly in the face of the bulk of available analysis.

      • droomac

        Yeah, I don’t know what the numbers say. I’m just trying to think what they might be thinking. Then again, if this is their plan and everyone else is wrong, then this could well work out. I’m not betting on everyone else being wrong and the Reds being the one lone organization who figured everything out.

      • lwblogger2

        What a very, very succinct way to state that.

      • ohiojimw

        LW, if you are referring to my “statistical points interest” remarks, thanks. Sounds like maybe you’ve been there too. 🙂

        I ended up racking servers and switches and laying on their OSes because it was the clearest path to the best $$$ with least “politics”.

  6. james garrett

    Odd signing to say the least.The Reds play half their games in a hitter friendly park which should mean we build our team around power hitters not slap hitters.Not sure what the thought process is or even if their is one but it is kind of normal for our front office to do these kind of things.

  7. Moses

    This article (along with others), Doug, is why you need to be working for the Reds. Who cares if you’re not an expert in MySQL, or whatever that program is. You know the right questions to ask, and that seems to be what’s missing here. Please, apply for that job!

    • lwblogger2

      I’m not Doug but I did actually apply. I’m in IT and have a strong mathematical and baseball background. I am also very familiar with AWS offerings and infrastructure, upon which MLBAM has built StatCast. All of that data is already out in AWS. I sent my resume along with a cover letter stating the above along with a ton of other reasons that I would be a benefit to the front-office. So far the response has been… crickets. There are a lot of posters here as well as a couple of the writers that I think would be a great fit for a front-office in some capacity. Not going to happen with the Reds though. They tend to hire people they are already familiar with. It’s the “Good ol’ boys” network in action.

      • mel reed

        If only your Uncle had been Dave Bristol’s barber. Then you might have had a shot at the job.

      • lwblogger2

        🙂 Didn’t just send it out of the blue either. I responded to a job posting.

  8. Redgoggles

    Maybe they’re targeting good bunters?

    • WVRedlegs

      Silver linings. A nice glass-is-half-full perspective. AlRod already has the MLB caliber defense. You see it as the Reds coaches see some things they can have him correct or make adjustments on that will make him more of an offensive threat at the ML level. Or at least a more selective hitter. They’ve bet a chunk of change on it, but the reward would be much higher if it comes to fruitition.

  9. lwblogger2

    It pains me to think that they are thinking “The Royals have fast, singles hitters! Lots of contact! Few strikeouts! That’s what we need!”

    They seem to be forgetting that the Royals also have Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer, Perez, Morales, and that Cain hits for some power too (34 doubles, 16 HR, .477 SLG)!!

    • Michael E

      The Royals are built on doubles and not striking out frequently. They are merely so-so power team (at least HR wise). Basically, they DO put the bat on the ball, even on tough pitches and keep the at bat alive until they get a mistake.

      The Reds of the past 10, 20 years? Swing out of their shoes on any breaking ball in the dirt and take hitters pitches for strikes like they’re fooled.

      I’d be fine with ZERO HRs if we’d have a lineup full of .280 hitters and averaged 40 doubles between the 8 of them. We’d have a good offensive team…speed or no speed, assuming reasonably decent walk rates on top of that (average 50 walks per year between maybe)?

      • Steve Mancuso

        Royals were sixth in the AL in runs scored.

      • Michael E

        Right. Thanks for adding to my thoughts. They were a good scoring team, just not close to the top scoring teams. They were much less reliant on HRs than the teams above them and that is a big difference when top SPs are neutering the all-or-nothing HR approach of teams like the Blue Jays.

      • lwblogger2

        For the most part yes but the Royals have guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark too. Moustakas, Perez, and Morales all hit over 20 HR. Hosmer hit 18, Cain 16. Gordon only had 13 but it was in ~400 PA. Infante and Escobar were really the only guys with very little power and neither of them hit .220 and .257 respectively. Neither had an OBP over .300. Neither were very valuable. The guys who hit some HR were just good hitters. Good hitters tend to have at least a little pop.

        The Reds swing at a lot of bad pitches and yes that’s a huge problem. That said, the Royals are far from a bunch of light hitters.

      • Michael E

        Never said they were light hitters. I just pointed out they weren’t HR hitters either. The stats your provided are proving my point. Average HR team that relies more on solid hitting approach to manufacture a few runs here and there (rallies as it were) versus a team (much like the Reds of the past twenty years) that rely heavily on HRs to be a winning team.

        One plays much better in the playoffs than the other. The 1990 Reds team was alot like the Royals. Lots of solid hitters that could put the ball in play, but no big sluggers (outside Davis, who wasn’t quite the slugger he had been a few years earlier).

      • lwblogger2

        My main point was that good hitters usually have at least some pop and most also have decent plate discipline. Being over reliant on the HR ball is certainly a problem, especially when it comes with high strikeout totals. I think we’re in full agreement there.

      • Michael E

        LW, yeah, I think we’re in a basic agreement. I get a little flustered on this board. I still see some saying “well, hitters park, so go get o power hitters”. It’s like, hello, haven’t you seen that fail, over and over, enough to know you don’t need power hitters in a hitters park. you need GOOD hitters, so they can score runs in a hitters park AND when they’re on the road.

        We need to try something different and my one-track mind focus is on hitters that make the pitcher work to get them out. Foul balls, taking balls just off the plate, more fouls, then hit or out, but make them work.

  10. Matt WI

    The second to last paragraph of this post starts with a Freudian slip that pretty much nails what the Reds seem to be doing to their offense.

  11. Ryan

    Don’t want to be clogging the bases!!

  12. WVRedlegs

    Doug, supposing for a moment, that BP is not traded (or released) and Cozart shows in spring training he is back to holding down the SS position. Would you start out Peraza at 2B and Alfredo Rodriguez at SS together at AAA Louisville to get a jump on them playing together and start to gel as a lethal double-play combo? This looks like the Reds middle INF of the very near future now. With that kind of glove, would that be too high a level to start him out at? Certainly he would have to earn it with his play in spring training.
    And do you move Blandino over to 3B at AA and start to groom him more for that position if Peraza is going to be at 2B?

    • CP

      I think starting Rodriguez at AAA is incredibly reckless. He didn’t hit in the Cuban leagues, and nothing suggests he is ready to hit AAA pitching. Start him at A or A+ and let him figure things out. Yeah, you can still be pretty aggressive with him, but at least give him a chance. Also, I’d keep Blandino and Peraza as SS’s until the decision is basically made for them.

      In addition, there is no chance am I ever moving Blandino over to 3B in the minor leagues, unless his bat progresses. People are way too scared of competition, prospects being blocked. You want to seriously diminish Blandino’s prospect status? Move him to 3B.

    • ohiojimw

      Suarez is on 3B and doesn’t look to be going anywhere the way they are stockpiling middle IF prospects/ suspects. Then they also have Jagielo who figures to be at 3B in either AA or AAA.

      If Cozart is healthy enough and as long as BP is not traded, it figures to be those 2 up the middle.

      It makes a certain amount of sense to keep Peraza on the MLB squad and swing him around in a rotation of sorts with BP and Cozart, keeping the older guy fresh and giving Peraza a chance to grow into MLB.

      However spots are going to be tight on the 25 man. They may well need 3 catchers for a while given Meso’s situation; and they have to keep Cave on the 25 man or send him back. Plus they figure to want Duvall and Schebler both around for a LF platoon.

      Going to be a very interesting spring

      • Matt WI

        Going to be a very interesting spring Marty B is going to need a prescription of Xanax to get through this season 🙂

      • CP

        We’re all going to need anti-depressants to get through listening to the Brennamans for another year.

      • TR

        If the Brennamans get too negative, I’ll just hit the mute button and watch the action.

  13. Michael E

    I wasn’t going to take any drugs, ever, for depression, but Doug just put me over the edge. Time to see the doc for something powerful, or a valium pump?

    Thanks Doug and thanks to the Reds front office, for sapping my off-season enthusiasm for a killer rebuild. It looks like a dumpster fire with another dumpster on fire inside the dumpster on fire.

    • lwblogger2

      And two people adding more garbage (fuel)!

  14. Anthony

    Jake cave, the rule 5 pick up will be the big hitter atop the lineup. Everybody forgets about him.

    Cave, peraza, votto.

    • Michael E

      There is a chance and we can’t sleep on Schebler or even Duvall, who hit well (not great but as good as any of our own Reds outside of Votto).

  15. davidmp2

    WAR for position players has six components: (1) Batting Runs; (2) Baserunning Runs; (3) Runs added or lost due to Grounding into Double Plays in DP situations; (4) Fielding Runs; (5) Positional Adjustment Runs; and (6) Replacement level Runs (based on playing time). While these players may give back quite a bit of batting runs, they should excel in all other phases.

    When you consider positional adjustment (SS = +7 Runs and 2B = + 3 Runs) as well as positional scarcity*, It makes quite a bit of sense to acquire as many 2B/SS prospects as possible.

    *From 2005-2015 only 12 SS and 20 2B compiled a wRC+ > 100 and just 11 SS and 21 2B had an aggregate oWAR greater than 5.