Something I don’t talk about often is that I don’t really care for writing about baseball during the season. We all have such a tendency to overweight what most recently happened that we forget it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I prefer the offseason for writing. It’s a better time to reflect.

One of the things we all have to be wary of during the offseason is the power of sample size. Many of us – myself included – were worried about Joey Votto recently. But he’s spent the last couple of weeks being Joey Votto again and it seems reports of his demise have been somewhat exaggerated. So it goes.

We aren’t to the halfway mark in the season yet. Votto raised his OPS 71 points in 47 plate appearances. If I take away what seems – eyeballing it – to be his worst week of the season, he’s hitting .262 with a .372 on-base percentage (I don’t have the energy just now to figure his slugging percentage).

But you can’t DO that, you say! You can’t pretend that bad week didn’t happen. And you are correct. I’m not trying to. I’m just pointing out between that and his hot streak how big of a difference a little bit of being good or bad can make at this point in the season.

There are a ton of statistics out there and almost all of them are still in small sample size territory. I hear a lot about ground ball rates and fly ball rates, but those aren’t especially stable from season to season. Never mind month to month. We look at launch angle and exit velocity (which has only just now crossed the 50% threshold – you can account for half of the change you’ve seen in actual change in performance) and we assume they tell us something useful. And maybe they do. But we don’t KNOW, yet. We need years of data that we need to look at all the different ups and downs of a player’s career. We need to learn what’s normal variation and what’s not. We can see changes, but right now, we don’t know how significant these changes are.

I write these columns with a theoretical outlook on how the Reds are doing in terms of becoming a contender. But most of the time, the answer is I don’t know. I’d take Jose Peraza over Derek Dietrich, not because I haven’t loved watching Dietrich hit – he’s so much fun and one of my favorite recent finds – but because history tells me to bet on a 25-year-old coming out of a slump and not a 29-year-old who’s had the best two months of his life by a lot. That might be the wrong call. I don’t know. None of us do. We can guess. We can use the information at hand to make educated guesses but certainty only comes with time.

I think, right now, this is a pretty good baseball team. I think Joey Votto and Yasiel Puig will finish the year with solid numbers for them. I think the pitching staff is for real. I think Eugenio Suarez is gonna get real MVP votes eventually. I think Luis Castillo is gonna get real Cy Young votes this year.

But I don’t know.

27 Responses

  1. Pete

    Good work Jason, as usual.

    What could cause this collective collapse? I wonder about the aggregate SSS of the team in 2019. Nearly to a man all the hitters numbers are down. Could all these hitters go on tears and get back to their mean? No that would be wonderful, especially if we start tonight. Otherwise:

    Is Joey’s age catching up with him? It is inspiring to see how he has rallied to make himself valuable. Still with little to know power and when he runs, it looks like he has pebbles in his shows – painful to watch. I theorize, his legs will led his demise at some point but hopefully it’s a ways down the road.

    Puig’s bat speed is probably not fast enough to be a productive hitter, Maybe shorting his stroke, using a lighter bat, get his vision checked would get him back up to speed.

    Does Jose Peraza hit the ball hard enough to be an effective MLB player? His fielding is subpar so he has to really contribute offensively to justify his presence. Average EV of 83.7. If his live drive rate isn’t off the charts, I think he has a Billy Hamilton problem.

    Has Jesse Winker caught the home run bug? He hits the ball hard but his K-rate and BB-rate are not trending favorably. Can he stop rolling over on the ball and stop hitting grounders to the right side of the infield. Jesse is a on-dimensional player: he hits for average and can produce a very high OBP but he is not very strong in the field and is painfully slow. Will he ever hit LHP well enough to justify a full-time gig?

    Maybe some or all of these things work out and at the end of the year, the numbers are close to each’s history. Let’s all hope because they’re what we have to work with.

    • Darrin

      Peraza is a solid second baseman, he’s a subpar SS and outfielder.

      • Pete

        The problem being there is a glut of very good second baseman. If he doesn’t make it as a starting shortstop, I believe at best he is a utility player. Utility players make a decent living playing major league baseball. Don’t get me wrong, Jose could turn it around but the odds are stacked against him.

      • doofus

        J Iglesias and Peraza are the best keystone combo on the team.

  2. Klugo

    I’m just beginning to realize that this IS IT. This is the end result of the “reboot”. Senzel and Winker are here. The young pitching staff is mostly in the majors and mostly performing relatively well. Who’s the next man up from the minors that we can really get excited about? Trammell?? Okay. That’s a stretch right now and after that? If the guys in the clubhouse now can’t get it done, outside if FA, I’m afraid this is what we get from the reboot.

    • Dewey Roberts

      I saw a lot of players come through Pensacola. There were a few good pitchers— Mahle, Lorenzen, and Stephenson. There were just very few position players. I have said for years that the Reds were making a huge mistake in their drafts. They drafted pitchers that never when they should have been drafting position players. The starting pitchers for the Reds include only one farm grown pitcher—Mahle. Castillo and DeScalfani both came in trades. The future of the Reds is not much brighter than the past 20 years in my opinion. The 2010-2013 years don’t look like they will be repeated.

  3. matthew hendley

    I remember when they said Scooter wouldn’t maintain his changes to his output either.

    • Seat101

      Well, I was right last year and I was right over the winter, don’t extend him. We save money this year and money for at least one more year by not extending him.

      Maybe he’ll take a pillow contract for next year.

      • matthew hendley

        “We saved money’? Funny, I seem to have failed to have any of this saved money in my bank account.

        Could I be looking in the wrong spot?

    • Joey

      That was a crazy read. I’m surprised that Reds site published this because it kind of shows the disfunction and ineptness of the front office as a whole in this organization. Almost a miracle we got Votto.

      • Doug Gray

        It shows the ineptness of the organization nearly two entire decades ago. Joey Votto was drafted in June of 2002.

      • Matt WI

        When your GM was known as “Leather Pants” in some parts, I think the dysfunction was fairly well established before this article!

    • ToBeDetermined

      Thanks for the link. I would never have come across this story with out your help.

  4. Seat101

    Matt, I’m a fan of the Cincinnati Reds. I don’t hide it. I often say “we” instead of “the Cincinnati Reds”.

    Your inability to understand thi, explains a lot to me.

    • matthew hendley

      You mispronounced Robert Castellini and the various other individuals in the ownership group.

      The Cincinnati Reds are baseball team. Depending on how you look at it they are a organization comprised of 25,40 and 90 baseball players at various levels of control.

      They have an authorization by MLB to spend, without penalty roughly 206 Million dollars this year on fielding a competitive team. They have spent, to count, roughly $134,827,366 including the amount that Matt Kemp is owed after the Mets MiLB salary is reduced. Additionally not counted against the cap, is the deferred money to Bronson Arroyo, 1.3 M and Ken Griffey Jr. 3.5M and the cost of every minor leaguer in the system. 2.29M (this is offset somewhat by MiLB ticket sales, concessions etc.

      Off Point, anyway, the point is that at this moment tonight, when the reds take the field, they will still have $71,172,634 dollars remaining to spend on players. This number, should everyone who is eligible to walk in free agency walk, will clear 130 Million. That is 130 Million dollars a year available. That’s 5 Joey Votto’s, (25M) who incidentally is already paid for in this math.

      Does Bob have the money, doesn’t matter, its his sole purpose to have it, or be able to produce it. A winning team will put butts in seats, and a highly winning team will consistently put butts in seats. A 30$ seat will add up when it is consistently being filled. If he is incompetent it will show through a declaration of bankruptcy or more then likely an announcement to sell the team.

      If he were to as you say make Bob Castillini become we, by reducing prices for seats or providing free hot dogs or some really miniscule effort with the money saved with the non extension of Scooter that could be something. It has happened. Ryan Braun, back when he was a cheater and not a crowd favorite, was suspended for his role in the Bio genesis scandal. His suspended salary was redirected to Free tickets for the fans as an apology. Bob Cs. production for producing the worst team in baseball over the last 5 years? Crickets?

      Its not just scooter, its any player of significant worth. I am not going to celebrate the non extension of proven players from a monetary standpoint, and yes Scooter is a proven player. I could make a reasonable assessment of his future production based off of his numbers to date as well. Its called a similarity score. I would advise looking it up for him.

      But that is a post for another time, I really was not trying to type this much any more, but yea. When it comes to money, reds fan or not, there is no we.

      • Dave

        I agree with a lot of this, but I think you’re too harsh on ownership this year. Who should we have signed?

        Keuchel or another starter? Our rotation (and our pen, for that matter) has/have been great, even without Wood. Harper is a bad deal now, terrible in years 8-13, and can’t sell under armor in Cincinnati, even for 50 mill a year (he wouldn’t have looked here). Machado, maybe, would’ve been the only good add we missed. We’re second in the league (as of a week or so ago) in run differential. Scooter will replace a cooling Dietrich. The team is solid and this isn’t Ken Griffey, Jr. baseball, where you just trade for all the good guys or sign them (MLB the Show). This team, as Jason said, is a decent playoff contender with a bright future.

      • da bear

        You don’t spend up to the penalty point threshold. You spend only as much as is necessary to win. You spend as efficiently as possible regardless. You don’t become successful in any economic sense by overspending, by spending beyond your means, by having your expenditures exceed your revenues.

        The Pittsburgh Pirates have succeeded on the field compared to the Reds the past few years while spending a fraction of the Reds’ budget. They’ve been more efficient.

        The tide is turning for the Reds. Thanks to anti free market rules with respect to younger players the Reds have finally developed or acquired some cost controlled talent that bodes well for the near future. Castillo, Mahle, Garrett, Reed, Stephenson among the pitchers; Senzel, Winker, perhaps Trammel in the field. Add to them shrewd longer term signings such as Suarez & Gray and you have the basis of a team that has potential to compete.

        While the contracts of Votto and R Iglesias aren’t examples of efficiency in spending, both players may still contribute to a winning product.

        Management needs to be smart going forward to augment the base. That means continued bargain basement signings such as J Iglesias, Dietrich, Gennett (pre-arb).

        Most important will be the addition of another solid middle of the lineup bat and another Gray like bang for the buck pitcher to replace Roark next year. They tried to acquire Realmuto. Perhaps Casali is capable on more than a part time basis. A decent hitting outfielder will be a welcome addition.

        This team isn’t far away from contending next year.
        Spending unwisely will undo the opportunity that lies ahead.

      • Lwblogger2

        Ok, yes, Castellini is making money and so is the rest of the ownership group. What we don’t know is how much? Although I think there is probably room for the payroll to go up without taking a “loss” on the ledger, I don’t think it can rise to the $200+ million you are talking about. Forbes does a fair job of crunching and estimating the numbers for each team and I’m just not seeing that much room in the budget.

  5. jreis

    Thanks Jason. I hope your last paragraph is correct. in my opinion though the current core of reds- Votto, Winker, Suarez, Scooter, is just not quite good enough to compete in the nl central. and that is more of a testament to the division rather than a knock on our guys. just so one dimensional. if we ain’t homering we ain’t winning with this group.

    to me Senzel has been such a breath of fresh air and a beacon of hope. I love his athleticism ,concentration level and desire to win. if the guys in the minors like Siri, Trammel, India have these same skill sets, which all indications say that they do, then I think the next core of reds will be very competitive indeed.

  6. Stock

    Puig sucks

    He should be a part time player just like he was in LA. He has had 2.5 months to show us something but he has failed to do so. He is a me first player and that is not good for the team. He should be batting vs. pitchers he matches up with and sitting otherwise. Dave Roberts managed him masterfully in LA. Bell not so much.

    Dietrich should be in the lineup every day a RHP starts for the other team. He has dominated them and I am pretty sure his Road OPS vs. RHP was spectacular while he played for the Marlins.

    Winker should be in the lineup in place of Puig and Dietrich on days they sit. Maybe get more AB than Puig.

    Scooter should be in the lineup vs. RHP when he returns
    Farmer should be in the lineup vs. LHP right now.
    Farmer can spell Votto some days vs LHP and have Gennett start at 2B.

    Those are my 2B

    Peraza and Iglesias should share time at SS. Peraza should get most of the starts.

    Casali should be the #1 catcher. Barnharts Defense has regressed and Casali can hold his own behind the plate.

    Why Casali is not the #1 catcher I don’t know. Why Puig is getting everyday AB I don’t know. What I do know is that Bell is supposed to be a numbers guy. The numbers he is looking at are far different than the ones I am looking at.

    Iglesias complained publically about how Bell was using him in the bullpen early this year. Since then Bell has been using Iglesais like managers treat closers and his ERA is 0.00

    People were critical of Iglesias being upset and telling him to perform. Well used properly the last month he has performed.

  7. Old-school

    Sample size goes for young players too. It’s rare a young player succeeds as a rookie. Eugenio Suarez wasnt very good his first 1000 at bats. But the signs of a breakout in year 3 were there in year 2. His next 1200 at bats, he’s an All star. Milwaukee gave up on Scooter Gennett. His first 1200 at bats mediocre and awful against left handed pitchers. His last 1200 at bats an all star. It’s premature and small sampling to label Jesse Winker this or that. Give him 1500 at bats. As good as Senzel has been, he will be better next year, because he’s playing every day this year.

  8. WVRedlegs

    Just a reminder, as some have mentioned September call ups above. Remember, starting this season (2019), MLB teams will no longer be able to call up as many players on the 40 man roster as they wished like in years past. Teams will be limited to a roster of 28 players in September, but any player called up will have to be on the 40 man roster, too.
    As the rosters stand today, the 3 most likely call ups would seem to be Lucas Sims, Cody Reed, and Phillip Ervin. They all could be on the 25 man roster by the time September 1 rolls around, though. And 3 others could get that September call up. With the new rules that aspect will be interesting to watch unfold late in August.

    • WVRedlegs

      Sorry. I meant to post this in Wesley’s thread story Two Weeks. No mention of September call ups in this comment section. My apologies.

  9. Dave

    Jason, I love the deep understanding of the statistical significance of status at this point (half the change in EV and launch angle). Great read and it drew out a lot of excellent comments. This is what I come to this site for, thanks!

  10. Jeff Gangloff

    I get what you’re saying about Votto – but I think it’s time for us to admit that he’s a different player than what he used to be…and I’m not sure that’s necessarily the worst thing in the world.

    Yes, he did start the year poorly and he has played better as of late, but his decrease in power going back to the beginning of last year is something to raise eyebrows over. He had a career low .419 slugging % last year (down a significant .160 points from the year before) and hes on pace to be even lower this year (.379 as of right now). This is over a 162 game season.

    I think Votto still holds a lot of value as an on base/singles and sometimes doubles kind of offensive player and his skill set ages well, but he’s just not the same player he was a couple years ago.

    That’s not a criticism of Joey – it just kind of is what it is. He’s getting older and it happens. We are lucky he’s a good enough player to add value elsewhere, though.