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March 2, 2010

Team Health Reports

Cincinnati Reds

by Michael R. Lewis

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Team Health Reports

The Summary: It'd be easy to blame Dusty Baker for the pitching injuries... so I will. Dusty didn't learn from the damage he did in Chicago, continuing to press Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. They broke down, with Volquez out for the year, while Aaron Harang, a "big workhorse," seemed to struggle after last year's Dusty-induced issues. Look, Dusty isn't to blame for everything, and his friends often pop up to defend him, especially after my quotes in this recent article. The rest of the problem appears to be a curse on the shortstop position, a series of injuries in the outfield, and just a general breakdown in the second half of everything that could go wrong going wrong. It's amazing how the Cincy medical staff was pretty highly rated before Baker came to town. Now it's consistently at the bottom. They did bring in Paul Lessard from the Red Sox to replace the exiting Mark Mann, so we'll have to see if that's a sign they're taking this seriously.

The Facts
Days Lost:
Dollars Lost: $8,953,353.26
Injury Cost: $19,253,250.00

The Cost:Cincinnati lost almost $9 million dollars last year due to injury and has lost $32.1 million total over the last three years. Compared to the rest of the league, the Reds were almost $5 million under the league average for dollars lost. Cincinnati went into the offseason reportedly with very little to spend. It took a restructuring of Scott Rolen's contract for them to even be able to afford the $4 million they gave to Orlando Cabrera and Jonny Gomes. So even with the savings, it is unlikely Cincinnati would have been spenders in the market. Despite not spending big in free agency, Cincinnati still made the biggest splash of the offseason by bringing in Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman for $30.2 million, so maybe that $5 million did go to good use.

The Big Risk:Homer Bailey is the Reds' big risk, despite not having a history of injuries (other than a bothersome groin). A number of things go into this ranking, including his age, increase in workload, and his mechanics. Bailey was recently named in Tom Verducci's "10 for '10: Young aces most at risk of Verducci Effect." The 23-year old finished 40th in baseball in Pitcher Abuse Points with 27780 in only 20 major-league starts. Bailey's innings jumped from 147 2/3 innings pitched in 2008 to 203 innings in 2009. He was one of the game's top pitchers in his final nine starts of 2009, and the Reds leaned on him heavily during those starts. The La Grange, Texas native averaged 112 pitches per start during that time, furthering the thought that Baker likes to ride his top horses.

The Comeback:For the Reds to go anywhere in 2010, they will need a strong comeback from Jay Bruce. Bruce finished the season with a .223/.303/.470 line during his sophomore season, but a BABIP of .222 brought his numbers down severely. Bruce finished 2009 with a much better .266 EqA and a WARP1 of 1.8. The Reds will be looking for a number of things from Bruce in 2010. Bruce's fractured wrist could very well be a fluke type of injury; after Bruce came back from the DL in September, fans got a glimpse of the Jay Bruce they had been hoping for. In 19 games after coming back, Bruce posted a .326/.426/.652 slash line. The Reds will be looking for more of the same in 2010.

The Trend:Would it surprise you if I said it was negative? As easy as it would be to blame this on Dusty Baker, it's not his fault completely. The team has taken on a lot of risk over the past couple years, but it's actually taken on even more this year. Scott Rolen came in and missed time after a concussion, but like Chipper Jones, he's bound to miss time and there's no clear backup.

The Ratings

Red lightC Ramon Hernandez: Hernandez is an older catcher at 33 and his knees have become even older, as he spent significant time last year on the DL last year after knee surgery. Hernandez does, however, move into the low red because of his playing time split with backup Ryan Hannigan.
Red light2B Brandon Phillips: Phillips has always been one who plays well through injury, but he seems to always pick up nagging chronic injuries. Last year, Phillips played through a slight fracture in his finger, and in 2008, Phillips' season ended prematurely due to a fractured hand.
Red light3B Scott Rolen: It doesn't seem like it was that long ago when Rolen was one of the game's best third basemen. He can still pick it with the rest of them, but chronic problems with back and shoulder injuries have put Rolen into the red. With no clear backup, this could a problem for Cincinnati when Rolen inevitably hits the trainer's table.
Red lightRF Jay Bruce: See the Comeback.
Red lightSP Homer Bailey: See the Big Risk.
Red lightSP Johnny Cueto: Could this be a case of Volquez Part II or maybe Zambrano Part II? Cueto showed definite signs of wearing down toward the end of the season. It doesn't help that Dusty is watching over him.
Yellow light1B Joey Votto: Votto's inclusion with the yellow lights is completely based on the time he missed last year, which wasn't a physical issue. He's much less risky than this rating.
Yellow lightLF Chris Dickerson: Dickerson is only yellow if he gets full playing time, and with the signing of Gomes, that isn't likely.
Yellow lightCF Drew Stubbs: Stubbs has had trouble staying healthy in the minors. The position adjustment also hurts him.
Yellow lightSP Bronson Arroyo: Arroyo has pitched 200 or more innings the last five years, and the workload looks to be catching up with him. He's an innings eater at best.
Yellow lightSP Aaron Harang: Harang just hasn't been the same since that fateful day in San Diego in 2008. Is this another case of Dusty striking again?
Yellow lightSP Matt Maloney: Maloney is in the yellow only if he stays in the rotation, which is unlikely with Chapman and many others gunning for his job.
Yellow lightCL Fransisco Cordero: Cordero is fine when healthy, but the team adjustment throws him a bit more than it should.
Green lightSS Orlando Cabrera
Green lightRP Nick Masset

Related Content:  Jay Bruce,  Year Of The Injury,  Flamethrower

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


Michael: Thanks for yet another fine analysis, but I continue to think you and Will are too forgiving of Baker for his failings with handling his pitching staff. Is Joe Torre as bad? Yes, I think so- the Yankees were fortunate Torre did not damage the career of Mariano Rivera, as he did those of other “favorite” relievers of his, and Jonathan Broxton is in Torre's crosshairs. But let's look at Dusty. Three years ago at the start of the '08 season he had a starting staff of Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. Pretty impressive talent. He has succeeded in breaking every one of them, Harang in the notorious 60+ pitch stint after a two hour rain delay in ’08, Arroyo with innecessary overuse, Volquez and Cueto by staggering excesses in violation of the Verducci effect in '08 and '09. Now, he has a young pitcher in whom the Reds have invested $30+ million, and who could reach the majors by mid-season. It’s Dusty’s walk year. Any confusion as to what is likely to happen to Aroldis Chapman?

Mar 02, 2010 11:40 AM
rating: 1
Richard Bergstrom

I'm not sure the Torre comparisons are completely fair. Sure, Torre burned bullpen arms but in general, the key starters and Rivera have been quite healthy. If bullpen talent is pretty fungible, is it necessarily a crime to burn through them?

But yeah, Baker's criminal. I think the only reason he developed the perception as being a good manager is that he had Bonds to lead his Giants teams into the playoffs so many years, then had a similar game changer in Sammy Sosa during his late peak.

Mar 02, 2010 19:06 PM
rating: 1

Why doesn't Walt Jockety do something about it? Like fire Dusty.

Mar 02, 2010 20:30 PM
rating: 1

Peter, that's crazy. In one of Cueto's and Volquez's starts in two years did one of them exceed 120 pitches. Dusty consistently pulls/pulled them after 100-110 pitches. Are pitchers now UNABLE to pitch? Is the 100 pitch just a round number or some talisman of injury?

RE: Harang's 60 pitch outing, in which he was brilliant, the mistake Harang and Baker made was not skipping him for his next rotation spot.

Last season, Harang benefited from poor defense AND poor hitting from the other nine players on the field and FIP was 3 something. If he gets any luck at all, he will win 15 games this year with an ERA around 4.00

Dusty has done a fine job with his pitcher's health...and in Volquez's case, perhaps, you'd like to read about his pitching winter ball and the WBC. He literally pitched from March 08 to May 09 with no break and Dusty had little to do with that

Mar 06, 2010 11:58 AM
rating: 1
Fresh Hops

Bruce hit well enough in September to allay some fears about his wrist injury sapping power in 2010, but did we ever find out more about the location of the break and how likely it is to be a concern this season?

Mar 02, 2010 11:47 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Working on that. Problem is that Bruce himself doesn't know the details, I've been told. Most people, let alone players, don't really care about the details.

Mar 02, 2010 14:45 PM
Joe D.

It is easy to blame Baker, indeed, and it's largely correct to do so, but...

...rarely do people ask, "Where the hell has the entire Reds front office been throughout all of this?" The decision to sign him in the first place was bad enough, but what came after is truly unforgivable.

They had no doubt seen the carnage in Chicago. And *whether we blame Dusty for that or not*, why weren't they proactive in establishing some general guidelines he had to follow...just in case? "Hey Dusty, we have a couple of rules here. You can manage the pitching staff as you see fit, except we absolutely can't X, Y, or Z. Otherwise, it's all yours and we have complete faith in you."

Sure, hindsight, 20/20, and all that but it really is not as though there weren't literally millions of baseball fans and analysts who saw this all coming a mile away.

Mar 02, 2010 14:44 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Yes, but let's remember ... there have been three GMs during the Baker era. (Hold on ... let me double check that ...no, just two - Krivsky, who hired Baker, and now Jocketty.) While we can say "where the heck were they?" it's Baker that is the constant. New ATC this year completes things - if he burns someone out (and I sincerely hope he does not) then there's only two variables, the pitcher and Baker.

I don't think the rules work. You hire Baker to be your manager, you know what you're getting. Either you want him or you don't and there's plenty of options.

Mar 02, 2010 15:04 PM
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Is this not a perfect allegorical discussion of climate change? Picture BP as Gore, the Reds pitching staff playing the role of Earth, and Dusty as the cigar smoking, H4 driving gasoline lobbyist. Assume dependent variables B and C strongly correlates with independent variable A.

B is awful, miserable, career destroying, earth-shatteringly terrible, and C is trying to squeeze out a win on a team with no chance of making the playoffs, drowning islanders and polar bears.

Isn't the rational response action to decrease A, pitches thrown (fossil fuels consumed), until such time as we are smart enough to fully understand the effects, such that we learn how to milk the last PAP out of young guns without breaking them (climatic calamity)? If the GMs aren't aware enough to can DB, Reds fans have a responsibility to railroad Baker out of town.

Mar 02, 2010 17:39 PM
rating: -6
Richard Bergstrom

You lost me at H4...

Mar 02, 2010 19:08 PM
rating: 0

I try to be polite as a rule, but honestly that's the dumbest thing I've ever read on this site. I hope you were joking with that comparison.

Minus me, mark me inappropriate, but that's just absurd.

Mar 03, 2010 06:40 AM
rating: 2

Will, what article are you referring to at the start of your article, the one with the defenders? There's no link there.

Mar 02, 2010 20:15 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Sorry -- it was on Fanhouse, by Jeff Fletcher. Not sure what happened to the link. Probably my fault!

Mar 03, 2010 00:06 AM

Sorry: Michael, was who I was asking.

Mar 02, 2010 20:18 PM
rating: 0

Yeah that's supposed to be Will's comments from this article

Mar 02, 2010 20:53 PM
rating: 1
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

And to be clear - I added the reference to the article without thinking "Hey, Michael wrote this ..." I'm a clod.

Mar 03, 2010 00:07 AM
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