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Entries in Cincinnati Reds (36)


Votto's All-Fields Slugging

The 12-year, $251.5 million guarantee that the Reds have given first baseman Joey Votto through his age-39 season has baseball pundits divided. One one hand, Cincinnati is not a huge market, Votto's salary could take up a quarter of the club's expenditures without a payroll boost, and the Reds don't currently have a mega TV contract bringing in big bucks. On the other, Votto's best historical comps among first basemen have aged rather gracefully, Cincy will share in the higher revenue streams from MLB's national TV deals (and perhaps an overall increase in franchise values in the wake of the Dodgers sale), and they're in a better position to get a big local cable TV deal in 2016 with Votto than without him.

Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, one thing's for sure: Votto can clear it. The lefty is one of the game's true all-fields sluggers. Check out the location of Votto's home runs over the 2009-11 seasons:


Votto hit 39 homers to left field, 24 to center and 28 to the pull side. Overall, he has put the ball in play more to the opposite (33.8 percent) and middle (38.4 percent) fields than to right field (27.8 percent) over the past three years.

When it comes to going oppo, Votto is topped only by Ryan Howard among lefty hitters:

Highest slugging percentage to the opposite field by LHB, 2009-11

Ryan Howard .870
Joey Votto .805
Adrian Gonzalez .782
Lance Berkman .733
Brad Hawpe .695
Joe Mauer .678
Adam Dunn .669
Mark Teahen .660
Shin-Soo Choo .648
David Ortiz .622
AVG LHB .430


To center, Votto is also comfortably in the top 10:

Highest slugging percentage to the middle field by LHB, 2009-11

Ryan Howard .731
David Ortiz .687
Jack Cust .684
Carlos Gonzalez .655
Josh Hamilton .612
Joey Votto .600
Jim Thome .599
Prince Fielder .598
Russell Branyan .590
Adam Dunn .586
AVG LHB .437


Votto doesn't stand out quite as much to the pull side, but we're talking in relative terms here.  His .808 slugging percentage to right field is about 60 points above the big league average for lefties.

Left, center or right -- Votto makes loud contact in all directions. Pretty appropriate for a guy who could now buy his own chain of islands.


Sean Marshall's Yakker

With Ryan Madson sadly joining Joakim Soria and Arodys Vizcaino in the Tommy John queue, the Reds figure to name fellow offseason pickup Sean Marshall as the club's closer. While Madson may end up costing Cincy $8.5 million without throwing a pitch ($6 million in 2011, plus a $2.5 million buyout on an $11 million option in 2012) and his loss shifts innings from one of the best in the game to lesser bullpen lights, Marshall is plenty capable of handling high-leverage work. And for that, he can credit his knockout curveball.

Marshall's curveball has limited hitters to a .235 slugging percentage in the two seasons since he was shifted to the 'pen full time, about 60 points below the big league average for relievers. Here's more trivia on the lefty's big-breaking yakker.

- A hanging curveball from Marshall is as rare a sight as Dusty Baker sans toothpick. Take a look at his pitch location with the curve in 2010-11:

Marshall's curveball location, 2010-11Marshall threw just 11% of his curveballs high in the strike zone in 2010-11, well below the 18% average for relievers.  With him keeping the ball down so well, it's no surprise that Marshall has racked up a 55% ground ball rate with the curve.

- Marshall has used his curveball about 40% of the time over the past two years, the second-highest rate among relievers:

PitcherCurveball Pct.
Daniel Schlereth 45.0%
Sean Marshall 40.0%
Jose Veras 34.3%
Collin Balester 31.9%
Yoshinori Tateyama 31.4%
Heath Bell 29.0%
Mark Melancon 28.0%
Fernando Rodriguez 27.6%
Chris Jakubauskas 27.3%
Jeremy Affeldt 26.4%


- His curve isn't reserved just for pitcher's counts, either. Marshall threw a first-pitch curveball 36% of the time in 2010-11, the highest clip among all relievers. As is the case with most first-pitch breakers, hitters didn't offer at many of Marshall's curves (13% swing rate on first-pitch curves, 15% average for relievers).

- Marshall's curve gets much more sweeping action and downward movement than most from lefties. On average, the pitch breaks away from lefty hitters nine inches compared to a pitch thrown without spin, and drops 6.5 inches. The averages for lefty curveballs are 4.3 inches for horizontal break, and 5.3 inches for downward break.

- While Marshall's curve averages 77 mph overall, he varies the speed on the pitch from 73 to 83 mph. He sits in two ranges: 73-76 mph (28% of his curves overall) and 77-80 mph (71%). The slower curves are more effective, holding hitters to a .125 slugging percentage.


Chapman's Starter To-Do List

Considered the best amateur pitching prospect available this side of Stephen Strasburg a few years back, Reds lefty Aroldis Chapman enters a pivotal season in 2012. The Cuban defector armed with triple-digit velocity has whiffed 90 batters out of the bullpen in 63.1 MLB innings, but a total lack of control (46 walks) and a shoulder injury last season leave him lacking innings and polish.

Now, the Reds must decide whether to deploy their $30.5 million investment in the 'pen or take the more patient approach by letting the 24-year-old Chapman develop as a starter. While Cincy's offseason moves -- trading a total of seven youngsters for Mat Latos and Sean Marshall, and signing Ryan Madson -- were made to win now, ESPN's Jim Bowden thinks the Reds should send Chapman to start at Triple-A (Insider subscription required):

In order to develop his off-speed stuff and refine his command, he needs innings. Remember, his 101 mph fastball is supplemented only by an inconsistent slider, which at times can be devastating but he doesn’t have command in the zone. He had a forkball when he pitched in Cuba and a changeup he rarely uses. Therefore, to eventually earn the $30.5 million he’s being paid, starting in Triple-A and getting the innings to refine those secondary pitches could be the best thing for him and the Reds.

Personally, I agree with Bowden. The Reds could let Chapman keep flinging fastballs in the seventh inning, hoping he'd overpower hitters enough to compensate for all of the free passes,  but there's more long-term value in Chapman as a starter. Here's a to-do list for Chapman if he does start 2012 in the Louisville rotation instead of the Cincy bullpen:

Keep his second-half form

Chapman's control was disastrous before his DL trip in mid-May and stint in the minors, locating just 37% of his pitches within the strike zone. The lefty missed wide to the glove side often:

Chapman's pitch location, April and May 2011Upon his recall in late June, however, Chapman put his nasty stuff in the strike zone 46% of the time. Even the pitches that weren't technically in the strike zone were awfully close:

Chapman's pitch location, June-September 2011

Chapman's improved control led to more pitcher's counts and more swings from batters. Before his DL stint, Chapman induced hitters to swing 37% of the time and got strikes 54%. After his recall, opponents swung 46% of the time and Chapman got strikes 62%.

Develop his secondary stuff

Everyone knows that Chapman possesses a killer fastball. His heater, averaging 98.1 mph and registering a record 103.4 mph at its most sizzling, made hitters miss 31% of the time they offered at it. Vinnie Pestano, Tyler Clippard, Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Kimbrel were the only relievers with a higher fastball miss rate.

But that was the only pitch in his arsenal. He threw the fastball about 79% of the time, rarely going to an errant upper-80s slider and low-90s changeup:

PitchPct. ThrownZone Pct.MLB Avg. for RP
Slider 16 41 46
Changeup 5 25 39


Chapman's zone percentage with his fastball improved dramatically after his recall (48% after, 37% before), but it stayed the same with his slider (41% after, 41% before) and declined on his changeup (20% after, 29% before). A dominant, whiff-tastic fastball goes a long way, but he'll need more than one pitch to survive MLB lineups multiple times.

Build up innings 

Between the majors and the minors, Chapman threw all of 63 innings in 2011. It may take a couple of years to fully stretch him out, but it will be worth it if he can eventually post an above-average ERA while tossing 150+ MLB frames. Even if the Reds pull the plug sometime this year, at least the starting experiment will have given him the chance to work on his secondary pitches and become a more well-rounded reliever.

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