Archive for Cincinnati Reds
The Reds finished this season with the second best record in baseball, but their World Series hopes came to a crashing halt when they blew a two games-to-none series lead over the eventual World Champion Giants in the NLDS. Their core remains very much intact though, so they’ll look to retool and improve what they already have rather than conduct some kind of rebuild. Should they decide to explore the trade market, they have some pieces who could be of interest to the Yankees.
Stubbs, 28, is a true four-tool player and that’s a problem because the one tool he doesn’t have is the most important: the ability to make contact. He owns a career 29.3% strikeout rate and posted a career-worst 30.5% mark this year, leading to a .213/.277/.333 (64 wRC+) batting line in 544 plate appearances. Look at his various year-to-year graphs and you’ll see that he’s trending the wrong way in basically every significant offensive category. So, after all that, why would the Yankees want him? Because of those four other tools.
Stubbs has stolen 30+ bases in each of his three full seasons and is an above-average defender in center with a strong and accurate arm. Here, look. He’s hit at least 14 homers in his three full seasons with a solid 8.7% walk rate. Oh, and he’s a right-handed batter who mashes southpaws. Despite his miserable overall numbers this year, Stubbs still tagged lefties for a .283/.324/.464 (111 wRC+) line. He’s hit .275/.335/.448 (121 wRC+) against lefties since 2010, which is better than popular free target Scott Hairston (.263/.308/.464, 110 wRC+). Then you’ve got the stolen bases on top of it.
Stubbs has fallen so out of favor with the Reds that there was talk they would non-tender him prior to last week’s deadline, but they decided to hold onto him instead. MLBTR projects him to earn $2.9M next year (less than Hairston figures to get) and he’ll remain under team control through 2015. Stubbs is going to strike out a ton* and that’s just the way it’s going to be, but he can hit lefties while also contributing quite a bit both on the bases and in the field. This is a major buy-low candidate who can help a lot if he’s platooned properly going forward.
* It’s worth noting that while his strikeout rate is getting worse, his contact rate is actually getting better. He still swings and misses a lot, but a big part of his problem is that he’s taking more called strike threes than ever before.
Cincinnati’s other right-handed hitting outfielder, you might remember the 27-year-old Heisey from his three-homer game against the Yankees a few years ago (video). He’s a .259/.315/.438 (102 wRC+) career hitter with a reverse split, though that’s a small sample size issue rather than an accurate representation of his skills. Heisey owns a .214/.272/.376 (71 wRC+) line in 255 plate appearances against southpaws since breaking into the show three years ago. He’s rated as an average defender in the three outfield spots (though again, sample size) and doesn’t offer much speed either. Heisey is under team control through 2016 and should settle in as a right-handed platoon bat if used properly and given the opportunity.
Ryan Hanigan & Devin Mesoraco
The Reds have two starting-caliber catchers, at least in theory. Manager Dusty Baker has been known to distrust young players, so the 24-year-old Mesoraco quickly fell out of favor this year when he didn’t hit (.212/.288/.352, 67 wRC+). Hanigan, 32, continued to serve as the team’s starter with a .274/.365/.338 (87 wRC+) batting line. He rated very well in 2012 catcher defense rankings and has more unintentional walks (92) than strikeouts (90) over the last three years.
Mesoraco is the big hotshot prospect (Baseball America ranked him 16th on their Top 100 List his year) while Hanigan is the reliable and generally underrated veteran. It’s worth noting that Hanigan is signed for just $2.05M next season and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2014 as well. Mesoraco still has five years of team control left. If the Reds decide to commit to one as their starting guy going forward, the Yankees should have interest in acquiring the other regardless of who it is. Both Mesoraco and Hanigan make sense for New York.
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The Yankees now have a need at third base given Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury and New Jersey native Todd Frasier sure would look nice in pinstripes, but he seems entrenched as Cincinnati’s third baseman of at least the present and most likely the future as well. I wouldn’t count on that happening despite the obvious fit.
The Reds are set in the rotation — their five main starters combined for 161 starts last year and now they’re now moving Aroldis Chapman into the rotation — and at most positions, but they are actively seeking a leadoff hitting outfielder. They were in on Denard Span before he was traded to the Nationals and they don’t really have the financial wherewithal to sign Michael Bourn. They’ve been linked to the more affordable Shane Victorino of late and were said to be considering Juan Pierre once upon a time.
The Yankees have a leadoff hitting outfielder to offer in Brett Gardner, but they are short on outfielders in general. They would be able to replace Gardner’s speed and defense by re-signing Ichiro Suzuki though, so he shouldn’t be completely off limits. My trade proposal sucks, but I think the Yankees would be better off in 2013 and 2014 if they could work out a Gardner plus prospect(s) for Stubbs plus one of the catchers trade while then re-signing Ichiro. Depends on the prospect(s) and which catcher of course, plus the team’s willingness to have zero starting outfielders under contract beyond 2013.
For the first time since 2009, the Yankees kick off their Interleague slate with a team other than the Mets as they welcome the Cincinnati Reds to the Bronx tonight for the first time since 2008.
That Yankee team dropped two of three to the Reds at home, while last year’s squad took two of three at Cincinnati last June. The 2011 series at the Great American Ballpark featured what to this day probably remains Ivan Nova’s finest career start (at 8.0 innings, it’s still his longest-ever outing), as well as a huge outing from Reds ace Johnny Cueto (and two homers from Chris Heisey of all people) in the finale, helping Cincinnati stave off a sweep.
The Reds come into this series at 19-18 and in 2nd place in what appears to be a rather weak NL Central, with a zero run differential largely on the strength of their bullpen, which is 4rd in the Majors in ERA and first in FIP. The bullpen’s stellar performance is almost solely the result of the work of Aroldis Chapman, who’s been the best reliever in the game thus far on the season, having yet to allow an earned run and striking out an outrageous 15.9 men per nine, and nearly 50%(!) of all batters he’s faced — both marks are tops among all relievers in MLB. Closer Sean Marshall is also taking care of business, giving the Reds one of the best end-games in the bigs.
Cincinnati’s starting rotation has been slightly below-average in the aggregate (103 ERA-/108 FIP-), although Cueto is once again killing it (1.89 ERA/3.30 FIP), despite a sub-6.0 K/9. My initial thought was that he was presumably getting it done with groundballs, but he’s only at 45%. What he is doing is limiting the damage like few other starters in the game at the moment, as his 84.8% strand rate ranks ninth among all qualified starters in MLB. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but he’s been tough with runners on (92 sOPS+) and even tougher with runners in scoring position (76 sOPS+). Everyone else in the Reds’ rotation has pitched to mostly mediocre results — aside from Bronson Arroyo, for some reason — but the Yankees will of course see both Cueto and Arroyo this weekend.
One aspect that’s been a hallmark of recent Reds teams that has been largely missing from the 2012 squad is a robust offense — the team currently boasts a Seattle Mariners-esque 85 wRC+. Joey Votto (184 wRC+) and Jay Bruce (149 wRC+) are monsters, but outside of those two Cincinnati’s lineup only features two other above-average hitters, second-year third baseman Todd Frazier (170 wRC+) and catcher Ryan Hanigan (101 wRC+) and so the Yankees would do well to avoid Votto and Bruce like the plague and challenge the remainder of a rather unimpressive lineup.
Of course, the Yankees have had their own unique and frustrating brand of offensive challenges in the month of May. Last night’s pathetic 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays — their fourth loss in their last five games, with three of those losses coming at the hands of pitchers they should have absolutely obliterated in Kevin Millwood, Kyle Drabek and rookie Drew Hutchison and all four losses featuring the Yankees scoring two runs or less — put the team in rarefied air, as according to ESPN’s Katie Sharp, it was 9th time in 38 games the Yankees scored 1 run or fewer, something that hasn’t happened to the team since 1984(!). The other mind-blowing stat that followed last night’s game came from Jack Curry, who noted that the Yankees are three for their last 41(!) with runners in scoring position. That’s almost impossibly bad, and stands to correct itself in short order.
Still, despite a heaping amount of offensive ineptitude during May, the Yankees have rather surprisingly actually boasted an above-average offense on the month, with a 105 wRC+. As frustrating as the team has been to watch for much of the past two weeks, we know the talent on the roster is better than this. With the starting pitching continuing to improve — although it’s pretty sad that a 5.07 ERA in May constitutes improvement — once the bats wake up we should see a vastly different Yankee team sooner rather than later.
The Pitching Match-Ups
Friday, May 18, at 7:00 p.m. RHP Bronson Arroyo vs. LHP Andy Pettitte
In 39.2 career innings against the Bombers, Arroyo has been tagged for a .294/.358/.479 line. The one thing working in Arroyo’s favor is that the Yankees haven’t seen him in seven(!) years, so don’t be too surprised if he’s able to take advantage of some classic guy-the-Yankees-have-never-faced-before chicanery. The incredibly slow-throwing (86mph four-seamer, 87mph two-seamer) Arroyo makes judicious use (27%) of his slow 76mph slider and complements it with a sinker (20%). Given sinkerballers’ relative success against the Yankees of recent vintage, along with the fact that Arroyo also has a curveball, changeup and cutter, which means he features six pitches at least 10% of the time, this may also spell trouble for the Bombers. But again, given Arroyo’s weak-ish peripherals (6.7 K/9, 35% GB%, .333 BABIP), it would be pretty disappointing if the Yankee offense can’t get to its onetime Boston nemesis.
Saturday, May 19, at 1:00 p.m. RHP Homer Bailey vs. RHP Ivan Nova
Bailey is a righthander the Yankees have never faced before, which has at times been a death knell for the Yankees. However, Bailey has also occasionally been referred to as Cincinnati’s version of Phil Hughes, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your perspective. Bailey has a 93mph fastball he uses 50% of the time, a 93mph two-seamer he uses 16% of the time, an 87mph slider he uses 17% of the time, an 85mph change (9%) and a 78mph curveball (8%), so aside from the mutual disappointment surrounding the respective developments of the one-time can’t-miss young righthanders, they don’t really have anything in common arsenal-wise aside from live fastballs.
Sunday, May 2o, at 1:00 p.m. RHP Johnny Cueto vs. LHP CC Sabathia
Cueto relies primarily on his 92mph two-seamer (38%), complementing it with an 82mph slider (28%), 92mph four-seamer (17%) and 84mph changeup (16%). Cueto’s repertoire doesn’t exactly scream overpowering, but I’d gather the mix of two-seamer/slider as opposed to the more traditional four-seamer/slider has had something to do with his success. Cueto got roughed up in his previous outing against the Braves, only going four and giving up six runs (five earned). Sabathia himself will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing start in Baltimore, and is facing the Reds for the first time since he was a member of the Brewers in 2008.
Between the Yankees’ significantly superior offensive unit — at least, on paper — along with the fact that the Reds have been even worse during May (88 wRC+) than the Bombers have plus seemingly favorable matchups in both the Friday and Saturday games, the Yankees should probably take two of three from the Reds. Though that may be asking a lot of a team that just dropped three straight winnable games to division rivals.
If they can take the first two obviously there’s a lot to like about their chances for a sweep with Sabathia on the hill on Sunday, although Cueto is just the kind of tough hard-throwing righthander that’s given the Yankees a lot of trouble this season, and I don’t know that I feel confident enough in the current feast-or-famine iteration of the Yankee offense to topple Cueto.
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While the Cubs are more renown for their long and rich history, the Cincinnati Reds have been around for just about as long. During that long span they have one fewer World Series appearance and three more World Series victories. But they have neither the ages-old ballpark nor the infamous curse, and so they’re not paid as much attention as their fellow National League founders. But they’ve had a good deal more success than the Cubs lately, which leaves the Yankees a tougher challenge in their second (third, if we count rivalry weekend) interleague series.
What Have the Reds Done Lately?
Just a week ago the Reds were busy trouncing the Dodgers in a three-game series, outscoring them 16-8. But once interleague started back up the run scoring halted. They scored only four runs this weekend against the Blue Jays, salvaging just one win in the series. They’re now 1-5 during interleague play, losing by a collective score of 27-13.
Reds on Offense
Despite the poor scoring in interleague affairs, the Reds lead the NL in scoring, at 4.78 runs per game. That could make for a high-scoring series, since the Yankees have scored 5.31 runs per game. Despite their NL-leading run scoring, they have produced to the level of an average offense — 100 wRC+ and 100 OPS+. That might be one reason why they’ve struggled during interleague play: of the 10 teams with a wRC+ of 100 or greater, seven are in the AL.
Leading the way on offense is one of the best 3-4 combinations in the game, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Votto is having a spectacular season that seems a bit underreported. That’s probably because he won the MVP award, but it’s not as though his numbers this season are that far off. In fact, his OBP is even higher, though his power is a bit down. But, since power is down across the league it’s not that big a difference (173 wRC+ last year, 162 this year). He already has seven intentional walks this year, after receiving just eight last year. Yet this year they hurt a lot more, because Jay Bruce has broken out in a big way. After a slow April he has put a hurting on baseballs, producing a .379 wOBA (137 wRC+) on the season. The big difference for him has been power. After 21, 22, and 25 homers in his first three seasons, he’s at 17 already in 2011.
The Reds are even more dangerous on offense because of the producers they have elsewhere in the order. Drew Stubbs’s .335 OBP might not look pristine for a leadoff hitter, but he brings some pop (10 HR) and speed (20 SB, 2 CS). If he gets on, chances are he’s headed for second base. That could become a problem when Cervelli is behind the plate. Ramon Hernandez has also put up some quality numbers, a .372 wOBA in part-time duty.
Keeping the Reds afloat is a cadre of players who hit right around league average. Scott Rolen, Miguel Cairo, Jonny Gomes, Chris Heisey, Fred Lewis, Brandon Phillips, and Ryan Hanigan all have more than 120 PA and a wRC+ with 10 of the league average. That covers all but one starting position and some bench spots. Their only weakness comes at shortstop, though it is a glaring hole. Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria have spent time there, and have wRC+ numbers of 41 and 56. That does leave them with two black holes at the bottom of the order, but it also does give them averagish or better production everywhere else.
Reds on the Mound
Monday: RHP Johnny Cueto. The Reds came into the season with more starters than rotation spots, but that strength quickly turned into a weakness after many of them pitched poorly. Cueto actually didn’t start the season in the rotation; he spent the first month on the DL. But since his return he’s been a bright spot for the Reds. In eight starts he’s produced a 1.68 ERA, though he’s not going to keep that up all year. In fact, his numbers closely resemble his career marks, with the exception of his home run rate. He’s getting more grounders, which might play into that. But as we know, when ground ball guys miss they often give up the long ball. His 6.7% home run to fly ball rate is due for a correction, and the Yankees are just the team to do that. Then again, it’s hard to bet against someone who is going so well. He’s gone at least seven innings in each of his last four starts, allowing two runs at most.
Tuesday: LHP Travis Wood. While Cueto has outperformed his peripherals this season, Wood has underperformed his. That’s not to say he’s pitched particularly well: he has a 4.30 FIP against a 3.84 league average, and has a 5.11 ERA overall. Above average walk and home run rates have hurt him, which seemingly plays into the Yankees hands. That goes even more so, because the start is at home. Of the 10 homers Wood has surrendered this year, eight have come at home. But it seems as though every time the Yankees come up against someone like that, he holds them homerless.
Wednesday: RHP Mike Leake. The year did not start off well for Leake, but after being sent down to the minors in May — which is odd, considering his two AAA starts this year are the only minor league innings he’s ever pitched — he’s been on something of a tear. In his five starts back he’s gone 35 IP, 33 H, 9 R, 5 BB, 19 K, including three straight starts in which he has pitched seven or more innings. He’s also allowed just two homers in that span, meaning he’s essentially the anti-Travis Wood.
Bullpen: The Reds bullpen has been pretty middle of the road, with a 3.46 ERA and 4.05 FIP. They do have a number of quality contributors, including lefty, and former first round pick Bill Bray, Logan Ondrusek, and closer Francisco Cordero. Nick Masset can also be a weapon, though his propensity to walk batters has haunted him at times this season. But with those four they can handle most leads, so it would benefit the Yankees greatly to work up Cueto’s pitch count tonight and get into that bullpen early. A wild card here is Aroldis Chapman, whose rehab clock has expired. The Reds could bring him up, but will more likely let him work on his control issues in AAA for a bit.