Reds owner Bob Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty wrote a letter to fans explaining their decisions made in trading both Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr., as well as explaining why the team isn’t in contention.
It’s a nice gesture, but there’s one section that has me dumbfounded:
“We had high expectations for the 2008 season. Unfortunately the team has not played up to our expectations and we have sustained injuries to key players within our starting lineup and rotation.”
Ok, the high expectations might just be overvaluing your team, which is understandable. What I don’t see is that injuries have played a major part in the downfall of the Reds. Griffey and Dunn were both healthy. The ‘key’ players they mention? All healthy. The biggest injuries on the team were the pair of stacked injuries to Alex Gonzalez and Jeff Keppinger, and the injury to Aaron Harang. They could mean Ryan Freel or Kent Mercker, I guess.
The problem is that, aside from Harang, who I’ll get to in a minute, the injuries made the team better or at least left them no worse off. Dusty Baker had indicated that he liked Alex Gonzalez over Keppinger in the spring until an injury changed that. Keppinger went down and was eventually replaced by Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jolbert Cabrera, both who have positive VORPs. Freel was barely positive in over two months of play.
If they mean Aaron Harang, then the close of the letter makes less sense. If the team is playing for 2009, Harang is now more risky than he was at the start of this season, largely due to the usage patterns put on him by Baker and his staff. We can safely assume that Harang (if healthy), Bronson Arroyo (since they kept him), Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto will be the first four in next year’s Reds rotation. Even without PECOTA, does anyone think that group is going to be significantly better next year than this year?
And that’s assuming health. Harang will have a big red flag on him and Volquez and Cueto face a Verducci Effect. Volquez pitched 178 2/3 in 2007, but only 34 in the bigs. Cueto went 161 1/3, all in the minors. (My work on the Verducci Effect doesn’t include minor league innings, but I’m giving the more liberal reading here.) At more than 150 innings each now and eight starts to go if they stay on schedule, both would be tapping on the 200 inning door in their first full season in the show.
Jay Bruce has been nice, but he’s not exactly setting the world on fire, putting up a VORP that ranks just behind the aforementioned injured Ryan Freel in almost 200 more at bats. Votto’s been nice, but he’s also 12th in VORP among NL 1B. There’s nothing on the horizon to replace the offense lost by the Dunn trade and you have to take the word of the scouts to think the Bruce is an immediate replacement for even the diminished Griffey that Cincy fans got tired of seeing.
Sending the letter to fans was a nice gesture, but if I was a Reds fan, I’d be worried. While Jocketty has a great record of building winning teams, I hope it was the PR staff that wrote this. Mis-assessing the past isn’t a good indication that they’ll know what to do in the future.