Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fogg Warning in Cincinnati

Today, the Reds signed Josh Fogg to a one year contract worth $1M and tossed him into the mix for a spot in the starting rotation. It's an odd move, as it doesn't improve the Reds in any way, shape, or form.

I'm a big believer in risk/reward acquisitions, but while Fogg at $1M certainly comes with low risk, he also has essentially zero upside. Fogg is as good as he going to get, which isn't good at all. All this move really accomplishes is to clog up the 25 man roster and delay the arrival of impact pitching prospects.

The acquisition of a veteran replacement level pitcher for the backend of the rotation only makes logical sense for three reasons:

1) The veteran lacks the upside of the prospect, but will provide better production in the short run.
2) The veteran will work more innings and deeper into games than the prospect.
3) The veteran serves as a stop gap to give the younger pitchers more time in the minors to develop.

To me, those seem like the only logical reasons to bring in a stop gap veteran pitcher like Fogg. However, in this case, none of those reasons seem to be applicable to the Reds.

1) Improved Production in 2008

Unfortunately, Fogg not only lacks the upside of the Reds pitching prospects (Bailey, Cueto, Volquez, Maloney, etc), but his current baseline production isn't any better than what those prospects would provide in 2008. So, not only does Fogg lack the upside of the prospects, but he doesn't even provide better short run production. So, where's the benefit of bringing him in?

In 2007, Fogg pitched 165.2 innings, posting a 4.94 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. On his career, he hasn't been much better, posting a 4.90 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. In addition, Fogg has a career strikeout rate of 4.83 K/9, which is too low for him to be successful. In the modern era, it's difficult to find many pitchers who have maintained consistent success with a strikeout rate below 5.0 K/9. Fogg's low strikeout rate means that he allows a tremendous amount of contact, leaving him at the mercy of the Reds defense, which is never a good thing.

Fogg's career performance isn't a result of Coors Field or bad luck, rather he's earned every last ounce of his career stats. He's not a good pitcher and he's not a good option for the Reds.

2) Logging More Innings than the Prospect

Given the way the modern game treats its young pitchers, it's sometimes advantageous to bring in a veteran pitcher who can handle a heavier workload. There is a school of thought that the risk of injury to young pitchers increases as they tire. As a pitcher tires, his mechanics can break down, which leads increases the susceptibility injury. Veteran pitchers can handle heavier workloads, which can take the strain off of a team's bullpen.

If you have a staff with a lot of young starting pitchers, then they likely won't work deep into the game very often, which leads to more appearances and innings pitched by the bullpen. So, there are times when it makes sense to add a stopgap veteran pitcher.

However, that really doesn't seem to be the case with Fogg. In 2007 for the Rockies, Fogg pitched 163.2 innings in 29 starts, which works out to only 5.2 innings per start. He went 7.0 or more innings only 7 times and his longest start of the year was 7.1 innings.

While a rookie pitcher will be limited by strict pitch counts, Josh Fogg rarely works any deeper in the game than they would, so the veteran benefit is negligible at best.

3) Allowing for Additional Development Time

It also doesn't make sense that Fogg is in the mix in order to give the prospects more development time. Bailey doesn't have anything left to prove in the minors. Cueto dominated three levels of the minors in 2007. Volquez is 24 years old and has pitched part of three seasons in the majors, so he his development time is in the past and he isn't going to benefit from going back down on the farm. In addition, Matt Maloney is essentially ready for the majors. In essence, our four best pitching prospects are already major league ready, so Fogg is an unnecessary acquisition.

2008 Implications

Overall, there is no logical reason for the Reds to have acquired Josh Fogg. He is a poor bet for the 2008 season and he would likely be outperformed by each of our top 4 pitching prospects. It has taken years for the Reds to develop homegrown pitching, but now is the time to embrace it. All offseason the Reds have been rumored to be acquiring a veteran starting pitcher, while seemingly having no confidence in their pitching prospects.

The future of the Reds will largely be determined by the young pitching prospects, but the Reds need to realize that the future starts now!


  1. Wow. Great blog. I can't wait to read through everything here. Nicely done.

  2. I don't think this acquisition is anywhere near as bad as you paint it to be. Leaving out the prospects, the Reds staff goes three deep before the Fogg signing. Expecting at least 2 of the four prospects you mentioned to be in the majors on opening day is more difficult than you make it out to be. Look at the way the red sox have tried to set up the back end of their rotation to allow for injuries and reduced innings for the young guys. Picking up Fogg helps implement that type of plan,while adding more stability to the rotation, for extremely cheap. His ERA+ of 97 last year, is nothing to scoff at either, and he's a groundball pitcher, which never hurts in GABP. I think Bailey starts the season in the rotation, but outstanding springs aside, I like the idea of Cueto, Volquez, and Maloney splitting time between AAA and the bullpen. Fogg was looking for a multi-year deal in the 5 mil/yr range. Clearly he didn't get this, but at 1 million, the depth and stability he adds to our rotation come at a great value. This deal was made to help the reds develop their young pitchers without having to rush them, and I think it'll go a long way to that end.


  3. Hey Doug,

    Thanks for the comment and the differing point of view.

    Typically, I'm a big believer in the low risk/high reward type acquisition, but there's just no upside with Fogg.

    We're talking about a pitcher with a career ERA of 4.90 and a Whip of 1.46. In addition, his groundball tendencies are slight, strikeout rate is poor, which means that he allows a LOT of contact. A high contact rate will hurt when he swaps the Rockie defense for the Reds. With those kind of numbers, Fogg's no better an option than Tom Shearn, Bobby Livingston, or any other back of the rotation filler.

    I agree that development of our young pitching is key, but as it stands we've got Harang, Arroyo, and Belisle likely to lock down 3/5 of the rotation. So, we've got 2 slots open for some combination of Homer/Cueto/Edinson/Maloney. I don't think it's a stretch to say that we can effectively limit their innings without adding a veteran pitcher like Fogg to the mix.

    In addition, Johnny Cueto pitched a combined ~200 innings last year, so he's ready to handle a substantial workload. We could easily get 400-500 innings out of our top four pitching prospects without causing any damage to any of them. Or, we could add in a Tom Shearn or Bobby Livingston type for spot starts.

    Fogg is going to be a disaster and since Dusty is at the helm, it could get ugly, as he'll probably give him 100+ innings in the rotation. Unfortunately, Fogg will probably post a 5.00+ ERA in those 100+ innings, which will only hurt the Reds.

    The Reds are at a point in the life cycle of the organization where they are better than this. They don't need Josh Fogg. In the past, this type of reclamation project has been necessary, because they couldn't develop their own pitching. However, now that they HAVE developed some pitching, it's time to embrace it, not block it with (at best) league average veteran pitchers.

    Anyway, my $.02.


  4. Hey Anon,

    Thanks for the kind words!! Take your time reading through the blog. Believe me, it took me a long time to write it all, so I would imagine it'll take quite a while to read through it. :)

    Thanks for the comment.


  5. Fogg's road numbers in 2007 and career numbers at gabp are respectable, especially at the price. I'm not expecting a lot and in general agree with your sentiments. It makes you wonder if these bargain acquisitions are more about gambling on catching fire in a bottle for midseason trade bait. In other words, the Reds could be middlin' by the trade deadline but someone amongst Fogg, Affeldt, or Patterson has overachieved and has become a useful trade chip for another Maloney-level prospect. I don't think Krivsky admit to this plan but it's not a bad gamble unless you think it hurts the morale of the prospects to delay them until '09.

  6. Hey Matt,

    As mentioned by TheRedTelephone, it's very likely that the Reds are adding depth. However, I'd say you're right when suggesting that they are trying to catch lightening in a bottle.

    I actually like that strategy a great deal with Jeremy Affeldt, as I think he's got a live arm and good upside. Unfortunately, I just don't see the upside with Fogg. He allows a lot of contact, which will only hurt his chances in front of the Reds defense in Great American Ballpark.

    In 2007, the Rockies had one of the top 2 defenses in the NL. They had a team DER of .702, while the Reds had a DER of .679. So, the Rockies turn balls in play into outs at a much high clip than the Reds. In addition, the Rockies team defense had a +/- rating of +58, while the Reds had a -32.

    In short, Fogg relies on his defense a lot, but the Reds aren't going to be able to help him like the Rockies could. The Rockies were a top two defense, but the Reds are well below average.

    It seems inevitable that a lot of the contact that Fogg allows will be finding holes for hits, which will be bad news for Fogg and the Reds.

    In addition, I just don't think guys like Cueto or Bailey really need much more time in the minors. They are pretty much ready to roll. I just don't see what Fogg provides that Cueto, Bailey, Maloney, Volquez, Shearn, Livingston, Gardner, and everyone else doesn't already provide.

    On the bright side, as you mention, if Fogg does pitch well, he, like Affeldt, could be in line to bring value back to the Reds on his departure. As it stands, his Elias ranking is 57.612, which means he just misses as a type B free agent. If he can have a solid year, then maybe he'll net a compensatory draft pick or bring talent back in trade.

    Personally, I just think he's filler that we don't need. But, time will tell.