Is Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati turning into a turf war, on a global scale? We'd rather hear both sides of the tale.
Wednesday night, while Max Scherzer was striking out 20 Tigers, the Reds and Pirates were striking each other. There were six hit batters in the game, four Pirates and two Reds. Reds’ reliever Ross Ohlendorf was ejected after the last of them, when he hit David Freese with a runner on second after the Pirates had taken a 5-4 lead.
This is not something new for these teams. Since the start of the 2012 season, there have been 94 players hit in 56 games between the Reds and Pirates. (Across the majors, there are, on average, .66 batters hit per game—.33 per side.) The six hit batters Wednesday represents an apex, but the teams combined for five hit batters on June 2, 2013, four on April 8 this year, and three on seven other occasions. In fairness, some of this is probably personnel-related. When you employ batters for whom getting hit by pitches is part of their on-base toolkit, like Shin-Soo Choo (hit seven times in Reds-Pirates games in 2013 alone) and Starling Marte (hit 14 times in Reds-Pirates games dating back to August 2012), it’s reasonable to expect things to get plunky. And Pirates games, in particular, feature a lot of HBPs in the box score. Since the start of the 2012 season, Pirates batters have been hit 328 times, the most in the majors and 15 percent more than the second-place Cardinals. Pirates pitchers have hit 293 batters, also the most in the majors, and 9 percent more than the second place White Sox. (The Reds are third at hitting batters and 14th at getting hit.) But six in one game is an awful lot, as is 94 since the start of the 2012.
This has led to discussion of what might be done about this sort of thing. A hard ball, thrown at high speeds, can cause damage to the human body. Per Brooks Baseball, the pitches that hit the six batters on Wednesday night were thrown at 91.7 (Alfredo Simon in the fourth), 94.8 (Juan Nicasio in the fourth), 80.9 (Simon in the sixth), 86.4 (Steve Delabar in the seventh), 92.5 (Jared Hughes in the seventh), and 95.0 (Ohlendorf in the ninth) miles per hour. Nobody appeared to get hurt in the game, but of course, batters aren’t always that lucky. So what can be done?
Willard Hershberger was a backup catcher for the Cincinnati Reds from 1938 to 1940. He played 160 games, mostly as a defensive caddy for Ernie Lombardi, but he also hit well—.312/.351/.381 for his brief career. Hershberger is a historical footnote; from an on-field perspective he’s no more notable than, say, Mitch Meluskey, and nobody expects casual baseball fans 75 years from now to remember Mitch Meluskey.
The Royals may be the most famous prediction PECOTA has gotten wrong recently, but the Reds have seen the opposite issue.
On Tuesday, Baseball Prospectus released PECOTA's preseason projections. In keeping with tradition, the algorithm has again seeminglyundersold the champion Royals, who have nudged aside the White Sox to become the symbol for outpacing expectations. That status is well-earned: over the past three seasons, the Royals have won a majors-leading 44 games more than PECOTA figured they would. Along the way, the Royals have birthed countless thinkpieces and arguments about every facet of their success: whether it's by design; whether it's sustainable; whether it's duplicable; and so on.
At the soul of it is the truth that everyone wants to be the Royals (the postseason version, at least). The transitive property, then, suggests that nobody wants to be the anti-Royals, a role filled in recent years by the Reds. No team has underperformed its PECOTA projections over the last three seasons by more games than the Reds: they won two fewer games than expected in 2013, seven fewer in 2014, and 15 fewer in 2015. Add those failures together, and the Reds have lost 24 games more than PECOTA believed they would—or six more than any other team over the same stretch:
How the Reds have underperformed their projections more than any other team.
On Tuesday, Baseball Prospectus released PECOTA's preseason projections. In keeping with tradition, the algorithm has again seeminglyundersold the champion Royals, who have nudged aside the White Sox to become the symbol for outpacing expectations. That status is well earned: Over the past three seasons, the Royals have won a majors-leading 44 games more than PECOTA figured they would. Along the way, the Royals have birthed countless thinkpieces and arguments about every facet of their success: whether it's by design; whether it's sustainable; whether it's duplicable; and so on.
The Padres and Ian Desmond fit nicely together, while Bronson Arroyo has unfinished business in Cincinnati.
Padres at least keeping tabs on Ian Desmond
Ian Desmond played shortstop last year. The Padres’ projected starting shortstop is Alexi Amarista, producer of a .205 TAv in 357 plate appearances last season. Ian Desmond is available. Which also means that, despite the obviousness of the match, he’s not yet donning San Diego’s new (old) colors.
Everything has a price, including personal shortcomings, in the game of baseball.
This piece isn’t really about domestic violence. Nor is it ultimately about Aroldis Chapman, although the erstwhile Red is one of its central characters. When the Reds traded Chapman to the Yankees for prospects and the privilege of not having to deal with his domestic violence investigation any further, it became clear that the edges of baseball’s free market were brushing up against baseball’s humanity in a way as interesting as it was alarming. So this piece is about the opportunities baseball seeks, and the prices we pay for them.
Your favorite team could trade for Mark Melancon and Todd Frazier. What a time to be alive!
Pirates would move Mark Melancon in the “right deal”
After seeing the Red Sox pay the Padres a king’s ransom for Craig Kimbrel and the Astros do the same to the Phillies for Ken Giles, teams with high-end closers to offer are doubtless intrigued by the possibility of cashing them in for a bevy of prospect talent. The Pirates boast the defending major-league saves leader, Mark Melancon, who capped off 51 Pittsburgh victories in 2015 and is entering his final season of arbitration eligibility. General manager Neal Huntington told reporters Monday that while the team is planning to keep both Melancon and top setup man Tony Watson, the former could be available to teams willing to pay through the nose.
With free agency on the horizon after the coming year, Melancon wouldn’t command the same sort of package that Kimbrel—extension through 2017 with a 2018 club option—or Giles—under team control through 2020—did, but the 30-year-old has the whole “proven closer” thing going for him, and the trade-market supply is rapidly dwindling. Two names are already off the board, and a third, Aroldis Chapman, might be untouchable for all the wrong reasons, with domestic-violence accusations casting a shadow over his character and uncertainty over his availability for part of the 2016 season.
Rant or no rant, it hasn't been a great month for the Reds manager.
Bryan Price went rather out of his mind for a little over five minutes Monday. There’s certainly nothing good to be said about Price in this: his harangue of C. Trent Rosecrans was unprovoked and abusive, ranking somewhere just behind Hal McRae’s violent tantrum some 20 years ago in the all-time ranking of regrettable managerial behavior. Venting about an umpire or a fan base or a dirty slide is one thing; a direct, unwarranted five-minute rebuke of a fellow professional is another. Price’s apology was 10 times too soft for my taste, as was the Reds’ apparent willingness to shrug off the incident without some form of disciplinary action. Still, everyone has ugly moments, and perhaps it’s for the best that everyone appears to be moving on from this one.
Still and all, I think we should have a non-rant-based conversation about Price, who has been employed as an MLB pitching coach or manager for 15 seasons now, almost perfectly continuously. He was the Mariners’ pitching coach from 2001-06, migrated to Arizona from 2007 through early 2009 (when he resigned in support of fired manager Bob Melvin), then took over the Reds pitching staff after that season. He turned around the Reds, although one could also say that the Reds’ scouting and development teams turned around the Reds. In either case, Reds pitchers had a remarkable run from 2010-2013. Price successfully developed Mike Leake as a big-league starter without Leake spending a day in the minors. Homer Bailey made start-stop progress for a time, but eventually broke out, under Price’s tutelage. In 2012, the Reds’ top five starters (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Bailey and Leake) made 161 of their 162 regular-season starts, and only a doubleheader cost them the other game. The team’s bullpen was one of the deepest and most dominant in the league in 2012 and 2013, despite relying somewhat heavily on cast-offs and guys who waited until their late 20s or longer to make good in the big leagues.