Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Know Thy Wildcard Rival: the Cincinnati Reds 

As I was watching the playoff hunt continue to unfold on my television last night, it occurred to me that the Reds and Phillies are remarkably similar teams. Both are high-scoring teams that have solid-but-suspect pitching and haven’t played good defense. Both teams play in parks well known for being hitters havens. Both teams have/had Eric Milton on their pitching staffs.

Let’s look at a few of the numbers:

Runs Scored / GPA / ISO / Home Runs
Cincinnati: 643 / .268 / .188 / 169
Philadelphia: 673 / .266 / .180 / 188

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.

These two teams are virtually carbon-copies of each other. Both get on base, both hit lots of home runs, both score lots of runs. The Phillies are first in the NL in runs scored and the Reds are fourth. The Reds and Phillies are 1-2 respectively in terms of home runs hit as well. Both teams rely on home runs to produce their runs because both are hitting so badly in “clutch” situations:

BA / RISP (NL rank)
Cincinnati: .259 (12th)
Philadelphia: .253 (15th)
League: .266

What is remarkable about the Reds to me is that Adam Dunn is leading the team in home runs with 38 but he has just 87 RBIs. Just 49 of his RBIs aren’t of himself, i.e., runners on base or situations where he got an RBI without hitting a home run. Ryan Howard has 45 home runs, but he also has 117 RBIs, thirty more than Dunn.

Things start getting really fun when you start looking at the pitching and defense stats. Check them out:

FIP ERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 Slugging Percentage Allowed
Cincinnati: 4.68 / 6.5 / 2.8 / 1.3 / .463
Philadelphia: 4.65 / 6.9 / 3.2 / 1.3 / .465

FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

The Phillies and the Reds are the twelfth and thirteenth best pitching staffs in the NL. The surrender a lot of home runs and they don’t do particularly good jobs of keeping the opposition off the base-paths. Both teams have vastly under-rated pitching staffs, I’d argue however: the Reds Bronson Arroyo has been good but has over-shadowed a solid performance this season from Aaron Harang. Even Eric Milton, my old whipping boy, has improved (although that isn’t saying much: he’s cut his home runs allowed per nine innings from 1.93 in 2004 & 2005 to 1.58 this season. Better, but it still sucks). The Phillies, meanwhile, have pitched better since Cole Hamels took over as the staff ace and Jon Lieber returned. Both pitching staffs are solid and don’t garner enough respect from the critics, although I think the Phillies and Reds are both better than they look.

Things get even more interesting when you look at the DER stats:

DER: (NL rank)
Cincinnati: .681 (13th)
Philadelphia: .679 (14th)
League: .692

DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.

Again, these are amongst the two worst teams in the NL at fielding. The Reds have historically treated fielding as an after-thought, but the Phillies defensive collapse of recent memory has been a major surprise to me.

Finally we come to the ballparks. Both Great American and Citizens Bank have reputations for being home run hitters havens. After much thought, I realize that both reputation are vastly deserved. Check out the numbers:
Great American / Citizens Bank
Home Run: 121 / 119
Runs: 111 / 111
Bat Avg: 105 / 109

(Park Factors basically even out how teams and their foes perform in a stadium and then how they perform on the road. The number 100 is neutral, so above 100 is hitter-friendly and below 100 is pitcher-friendly.)
Both parks are absurdly easy to get home runs, score runs and get hits. In fact, Great American was No. 2 in terms of home runs and runs scored, while Citizens was No. 3.

The bottom-line is that the Reds and Phillies are virtual doppelgangers of one another. It will be interesting to see which team wins the wildcard. I think the Phillies have better balance on offense than the Reds, but I’d also give a slight edge to the Reds pitching. A really interesting idea is the possibility that the Reds could edge past the Cardinals for the NL Central crown and the Phillies could capture the wildcard, setting the stage for two remarkably similar teams to fight for the opportunity to play in the World Series.

Wildcard Watch! The Phillies again lost an opportunity to move up on the Cincinnati Reds with their 8-3 loss to the Mets. Jamie Moyer got shelled pretty badly in the loss. The acquisitions of Moyer and Jeff Conine for the Phillies stretch run have been good ones. Moyer is a nice pitcher to have on the staff: a cagey veteran whose off-speed pitches will drive the opposition nuts. Conine is a good guy to have off the bench, though his best days are clearly behind him. Neither Moyer nor Conine are what you’d call “difference-makers” but they are both solid acquisitions for this team to make.

Wildcard Standings:
1. Cincinnati: 67-65
2. San Diego: 66-65 (0.5)
3. Philadelphia: 65-65 (1.0)
4. San Francisco: 65-66 (2.0)
5. Florida: 64-66 (2.5)
6. Arizona: 64-67 (2.5)
7. Houston: 63-68 (3.5)
8. Atlanta: 61-68 (4.5)
9. Milwaukee: 62-69 (4.5)
10. Colorado: 61-69 (5.0)

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