Talking Baseball

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Posted by Dave on Sunday, April 25, 2004

Free Jeremy Reed!

Recently, I was watching an episode of The Simpsons. This was the episode in which Mr. Burns lost his power plant due to mismanagement and reacquired it through environmentally sound planning. The majority of the Simpsons were rooting for Burns’ downfall, but Lisa helped to resuscitate Monty’s career. Proud of the renaissance she helped foster, Lisa triumphantly walked into the kitchen, smugly saying: “See?! I told you I’d get Mr. Burns back on his feet.” Marge responded by saying, “Now Lisa, no one likes a gloater…Right Homie?” “Sure Marge.” “See Lisa?”

This scene from The Simpsons would have absolutely no relevance if I didn't feel like Lisa when I defend Jeremy Reed. I wrote an article previously expounding on Jeremy Reed's exploits, wondering where the hype and recognition was for this incredible minor leaguer. In response to the article, everyone was telling me how he belonged in AAA to start the season. “He’s not major-league ready,” they said. “He commits too many baserunning errors,” Baseball America said (they ranked him the 25th best prospect). Even Talking Baseball’s Ben Kabak was amongst the naysayers.

Ahhh, sweet validation. Don't look now, but Jeremy Reed is at it again. See? I told you he was awesome. The same guy who took Double-A by storm last year by posting an absurd .409/.474/.591 line is now lighting it up in the International League. His splits? .373/.393/.591 in 59 ABs with the Charlotte Knights (the White Sox AAA-affiliate). Where has the OBP gone, and why has his average fallen? Well, first and foremost, 59 ABs isn't a large sample-size. He could still be as patient a hitter as he was in AA - he may have not had the chance to exhibit it yet, however. Second, it's forgivable considering he's now in AAA, rather than AA. A mortal man can only expect to improve statistically against increasingly difficult competition for so long.

I'm not writing to gloat about or to expound on Jeremy Reed's success, however - anyone could do that with a reasonably intelligent Google search. No, I'm writing because I'm utterly perplexed why the White Sox haven't unleashed Reed in the Bigs. It's not as if Reed hasn't shown he's extremely capable - a perusal of his statistics and recent exploits will attest to that. So there are two possible reasons as to why the White Sox would refuse to promote Jeremy:

1. They believe that Aaron Rowand is a better option.

2. They want to save Reed for the future.

Let's look at the first reason that the White Sox GM, Kenny Williams, may use to explain Reed's inexplicable absence. Rowand's prior offensive statistics are downright atrocious. His only statistically significant year was 2002, so let's start there. A .298 OBP for any outfielder should be unacceptable and intolerable, but the White Sox continue to sport him in their surprisingly potent lineup. It's surprisingly potent only because it contains Rowand and still manages to generate its share of runs. How bad is a .298 OBP? Well, even the notoriously poor-hitting Jack Wilson has managed to best that OBP in his last two years of service. Rowand's career OBP is even bettered by Omar Vizquel. Hint: That's not good.

Going into this year, Baseball Prospectus had some projections for Reed and Rowand using their PECOTA system.
Reed's projection: .267/.340/.407
Rowand's projection: .252/.319/.413
That may not look like much, but in a lineup chock-full of sluggers (Konerko, Thomas, Lee, and Ordonez), having your table set more frequently could add up to many runs. Reed is regarded as a mediocre outfielder while Rowand is considered above-average, certainly. Is Rowand's excellence in center enough to make up for his inferior play with the stick? I doubt it heavily, but it's possible.

What isn't very possible is a trip to the post-season without Jeremy Reed. Chicago's window of opportunity for making the playoffs is rapidly closing with their aging vets not getting any better. Though they should have won the Central last year, they lost Colon, Everett, Gordon, and Alomar. Plus, the White Sox have to expect some decline from Loaiza. On the bright side, Konerko may show some improvement over last year's abysmal campaign, but he can't turn the tide of many departures. The future looks dim for the White Sox, so they don't have much incentive to store their talent (read: Jeremy Reed) away in AAA to save their arbitration years.

The main competition for the White Sox, the Minnesota Twins, lost some key pieces (Guardado, Pierzynski, Hawkins), but figure to be comparable to last year with their promising replacements (Nathan, Mauer) and with the benefit of a full year from Santana.

In other words, the White Sox need to replace those lost wins somewhere. Perhaps they'll acquire some pitching or a SS who may actually be replacement-level at the deadline, but why? They may have the solution within the organization in Jeremy Reed. Reed hasn't seen his batting average dip below .370 since he moved beyond A-ball, so it's quite possible he could hit comprably at the major-league level. If Reed hit .300 and OBP'd around .350, it'd be a huge step in the right direction for the playoff run. One thing's for sure - Aaron Rowand will not be the one carrying the White Sox to the playoffs.

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