According to Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter) the Reds have signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal. I like this. The Reds need a lefty and the D-Train may still have something. Because he's been on the Blue Sox recently, however, I can tell you this is definitely a long shot.
Joey Votto won the N.L. most valuable player award today from the BBWAA. Remarkably, he got 31 of the 32 first place votes, with Pujols getting the other and finishing second. The two had remarkably similar years, with Votto winning the Hank Aaron award as the league's best hitter and Pujols winning the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards for firstbasemen. Their stats were very similar, too. (The links are to their baseball-reference.com pages.)
I think three things helped Votto win it, one, the Reds won the division. Take Pujols off the Cards and they still don't win. Take Votto off the Reds and no way the Reds win. That's the definition of "valuable." Two, Votto was terrific in the clutch. Predicting clutch hitting has mostly been debunked by the stat heads, but that doesn't mean particular clutch hitting shouldn't be rewarded. Can you say Votto is a clutch hitter? Not really. Can you say he came through in the clutch this year? Big time.
Finally, I think this was considered a "down" year for Pujols, even though he led the league in rbi for the first time in his career. After all he hit only .312, his worst season for batting average in his career.
The best thing to happen to Votto this year? Perhaps getting snubbed for the All-Star game. That made him a household name only half way through his historic season.
As you know, Felix Hernandez, he of the 13-12 record, won the A.L. Cy Young over, among others, CC Sabathia. The award was announced yesterday. Twitter was a flitter all afternoon with the announcement of a sea change in the awarding of awards. Praise (or laments, depending on your point of view) for the process overshaddowed Hernandez's actual award.
I had to travel about six hours in the car today, which meant listening to the likes of Kevin Kennedy discuss how the win has been devalued by the sabermetric community. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have never heard a stathead say that a win is bad. In fact, in my experience, statheads value only the win. They spend considerable time and effort, and a lot of brain power, sifting through data with one goal in mind: trying to determine how teams win. The idea (and someone can correct me if I'm wrong) is to crunch as much data as possible to put that data into useful information. Because games are won by a team's players' actions on the field, this information typically takes the form of statistics on players. They use the statistics (information) to evaluate the players to come as close as possible to explaining past ourcomes or predicting future ones.
This in no way devalues the win. In fact, the statheads are saying only, "let's get as much information as possible to evaluate our players." And why evaluate the players? To help determine how teams win games.
The Cy Young is given to the best pitcher in each league each season. All of the information available points to one clear conclusion: there are better ways to evaluate a pitcher's performance than his won/loss record. Does this devalue the win? Of course not. The premise is only that you can't tell who pitched the best by comparing pitchers' won/loss records. While a pitcher certainly contributes to the win (or loss), he doesn't completlely control the outcome of the game. The only thing devalued is the use of a pitcher's win total to determine how well he pitched.
Statheads measure things like a player's contribution to a win with advanced statistics like WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player). WARP puts a number value on a player's overall performance, or his contribution to the team's wins. Is it perfect? Of course not. But it's more information instead of less. But more importantly, it's statistically relevant. Let's put it another way; people argue a pitcher, "pitched to the score" meaning he didn't mind giving up more runs or only threw fastballs with a big lead. But the statheads ask if that is, in fact, true, and then set about to prove or disprove it. (It's mostly been disproved, like the idea of clutch hitting.) WARP is a Baseball Prospectus stat. It (and its many variations) are used in almost every discussion on the BP website ranking players against eachother (including hall of fame discussions, etc.). Is that devaluing a win? No. It's emphasizing wins over more traditional statistics.
Take the MVP for example. If you want to know which player was the most valuable to his team, do you want to know how many rbi's he hit or how many wins he contributed? Of course, you would prefer to know how many wins. Using "advanced statistics" then really means, "using more, and more accurate, information." When an old-school commentator (like Kevin Kennedy) says something like such-and-such player was "clutch" what he's really saying is, "I'm ignoring information that is readily available, through the tremendous effort and hard work of others, to assist in my evaluation of a player." If a pitcher had more control over which team actually won a game, it would be the perfect stat. But there are too many other factors involved to measure pitcher performance that are better than simply asking who won. Most fans only care who won, and that's fine. But in giving out an individual award for pitching excellence, "who won" is not enough information.
By the way, baseball already has an award that, "values wins." It's a team award and it's called the division championship.
Nothwithstanding this brilliant blog post, Reds fans should root for the Yankees to get Cliff Lee. Why? The Rangers' fall back plan if they don't re-sign Lee is to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation as their "ace." They would then need a closer. They could try playoff workhorse Alexi Ogando, but would more likely look outside the organization. And that might be the only legitimate chance for the Reds to trade Francisco Cordero. Unloading his contract would make improving the team elsewhere a lot easier.
Of course, that would throw the Reds between the same rock and a hard place the Rangers are in. The Reds would then have to decide whether to groom the Cuban Missile for the rotation or succumb to temptation and use him in the closer role, like the Rangers did with Feliz.
But not for the reason you might think (that the Yankees get all of the good free agents). But because their fall back position is Carl Crawford. And if that happens, the Yankees will have to trade Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson.
Gardner would be a great fit for the Reds. According to some experts, he's the best left fielder in baseball. Gardner hit .277 last year with a .383 on-base percentage and 47 stolen bases. He would be a great lead-off option, and could even yield to Gomes against tough lefties. The best part: He made barely over the minimum last year and is not yet arbitration eligible.
There's a lot of buzz out there about the Reds (and a ton of other teams) trying to trade for Justin Upton. Gardner is not as good, but the Reds wouldn't have to give up the farm to get him the way they would for Upton.
Arroyo for Gardner? (Remember, this whole idea is premised on the fact the Yankees did not get Lee. Arroyo's above-average 200 innings would plsy well in New York.) How about Volquez for Gardner? He's got more upside than Arroyo and a smaller contract, although he is arbitration eligible. The Yanks might take a chance on him. Downside there for the Reds, however, is they gave up Hamilton to get Volquez and Gardner is not Hamilton. I'd let the Yanks choose: reliable high-priced 3d starter, or riskier, cheaper, potential number 2?
Dusty lost the Manager of the Year in the National League to San Diego Padres manager Bud Black by one point. Each voter names a first, second, and third place manager. Dusty got only 13 first place votes to 16 for Black, but was named on 27 ballots to Black's 25.
Black no doubt won the award because no one expected the Pads to do anything this year and they finished one game out, being eliminated on the last day of the season. But his team had a 6 1/2 game lead in late August, lost ten in a row down the stretch, and finished up 14-17 in the last month or so. In his favor, the manager has the most day-to-day impact with bullpen use, and Bud's bullpen was the league's best. There may still be some anti-Baker bias out there, as well, as a lot of national writers are down on him for his perceived overuse of young pitchers in Chicago. Of course, that had nothing to do with this season, but impressions are what they are.
I am very disappointed for Dusty. I think his fingerprints were all over the Reds' division crown. To me, the fact the Reds made the playoffs carried the day on a close vote. But if you think I'm disappointed now, wait until Joey Votto gets robbed on Monday.
The Reds re-signed Ramon Hernandez on a one-year, $3 mil. deal. I'm surprised by this, not on the Reds end, but on Ramon's end. I would have expected him to wait for a multi-year deal rather than sign so quickly with the Reds. Catchers seem to be in demand this off-season.
But as a fan I'm thrilled. The Reds catchers led the league in hitting last year at .296. Hernandez hit .311 after the all-star break. Although they both bat right-handed, they formed a language platoon, with Hanigan generally catching the English-speaking starters and Hernandez catching the Spanish-speaking starters.
With Mesoraco coming off a great year and the Reds using their top pick on a catcher in June, Hernandez is not the future for the Reds. But this is a great signing for 2011. And don't forget Hernandez filled in very well for Votto when Votto was hurt in 2009. The Reds don't have a great back-up option at first, and now they don't need one.
Hanigan will be the starter with Hernandez as the back-up, but I expect them to split the time pretty evenly. I'll pick Hanigan for Opening Day, mostly because I expect Arroyo to be the starting pitcher. The fact Hernandez came back so quickly tells me the Reds had a fun clubhouse last year. Hernandez wants to be part of that again. So do I.
According to reports the Reds are about to sign Arroyo to a two-year extension covering 2011 to 2013. We said last week that picking up Arroyo's option was a no-brainer, but I'm not so sure about an extension. If the Reds plans go well, they won't need Arroyo past July of this year, let alone in 2013. But if they can get a team-friendly deal, without a no-trade clause, that wouldn't be so bad. Arroyo has certtainly proven his durability. But as we've pointed out in the past, why would Arroyo sign a team-friendly deal after being burned in Boston? And if they can't get a team-friendly deal, then they shouldn't sign him in the first place.
Here is what I propose: see if they can trade Arroyo to the Mets for Jose Reyes. I know that sounds crazy, but it might work. The Mets absolutely need a guy like Arroyo as a 3rd or 4th starter that can eat innings at an above-average (barely) rate. They both have similar salaries for this year (and only this year unless the extension is inked) so the money is a wash. The Mets need to re-stock their farm system and could certainly use a catcher, so I would include one of Yasmani Grandal or Devin Mesoraco (the Mets' choice), and throw in one more player. Perhaps Paul Janish, who could hold down short for the Mets until prospect Wilmer Flores is ready. If not Janish, the Reds have some other shortstop prospects, one of which they could throw in. Or, the Reds could include another innings-eating pitcher, like Sam LeCure or Matt Maloney. (I would be sad to see one of those guys traded because I just started a Twitter account (@bigzbluesox) and follow them both.)
This trade would be risky for the Reds. They would be giving up good young players for a one-year rental of Reyes (I doubt they could sign him long-term). But to have a legitimate lead-off guy that can play short and steal bases would mean a ton to the line-up in 2011 and make the Reds the favorite to repeat in the Central.
I said back in August that he deserved it, but that making the playoffs would seal the deal. Just about every move he made this year paid off. Let's wait and see what additional awards the Reds might receive. I think Votto is more likely to win than Dusty, but we'll see.
The Reds exercised options on Arroyo as we predicted they would. This was a no-brainer, even at $11 mil. Whether or not the Reds keep him or trade him, he was worth the $11 mil. coming off the year he had.
They also kept Gomes at a little under $2 mil. Ironically, this is more than they paid him last year, and I see him having a reduced role in 2011. But I still think he's worth that salary, even as a platoon guy or a veteran bench player. I'm formulating a post on what the Reds should do with Gomes and the left field spot which will be up during the hot stove season.
The Reds also declined the option on Harang, instead opting for a $2 mil. buyout. This one hurts. I think Harang still has some use, but not at $12 mil. They could try and bring him back on a minor league deal or a non-roster invite to Spring Training, but I don't think I'd even offer him the $2 mil. as a salary. I think we have seen the last of Harang in a Reds uniform.
Less obviously, the Reds declined on Cabrera at around $4 mil., offering him the $1 mil. buyout. That means a couple of things, some good some bad. The good, maybe Dusty is moving away from his preference for veterans. (Although Dusty might not have had a say in it, but I doubt that.) Also the good, Cabrera didn't earn $4 mil. last year and I don't really think he will in 2011 either. His veteran leadership was important to this team, but his performance wasn't better than that of Paul Janish. Dusty can provide the leadership; the Reds need a shortstop that can field and hit consistently. Cabrerra on a much smaller deal, with Janish, might make a decent tandem for next year, but I think the Reds should move on and look for an upgrade at the position. But they will miss him.
Last off-season, Walt Jocketty extended Scott Rolen by two years and lowered his 2010 salary from about $11 mil. to $6 mil. deferring the other $5 mil. Rolen also got about $6 mil. per year for 2011 and 2012. Jocketty used the extra money from the Rolen deal to sign Jonny Gomes (to a minor league deal) and Orlando Cabrera without increasing the 2010 payroll.
After the Reds' season ended, they announced they would pick-up Arroyo's option for about $12 mil. To me, this was a no-brainer. Arroyo is worth that and then some. But whether or not the Reds need him might be another story. One option would be to trade him. I think the Reds are counting on him to be in the rotation for 2011. They have plenty of candidates, but Arroyo, at a minimum, will start 35 times and throw 200 plus decent innings.
Another option, however, would be to give Arroyo the Rolen treatment. Offer him two more years (through 2013) in exchange for a reduction in his 2010 salary (with a deferred payment to make up the difference). If Arroyo wants to stay here, he might go for that. Two problems with this, however. While the Reds almost certainly could use Arroyo in 2011, they may not need him in 2012 and beyond. The second problem, you can't trade him. For him to agree to this arrangement, he would almost certainly insist on a no-trade clause. He signed a multi-year deal with the Red Sox without testing the market because he wanted to stay in Boston. The Red Sox promptly traded him to the Reds (for WMP). I'm not sure the Reds want to be in a position where they are paying Arroyo close to market value and can't trade him in 2012 or 2013.
The best (and therefore heartless) option is to start him in the 2011 rotation with the idea that by the All-Star break the Reds won't need him. At that point, they should have at least five of Volquez, Cueto, Leake, Wood, Chapman, Bailey, and Maloney ready for the rotation. If fact, the Reds could do with Arroyo and Chapman what they did this year with Leake and Volquez, essentially using both to fill one spot in the rotation. The Reds could then trade Arroyo at the deadline. This might actually work better for Arroyo, too, becoming a free agent and finally testing the market next off-season.
Reds fans haven't seen their team win a playoff game since the 1995 Division Series and have lost seven straight postseason games. That drought doesn't seem likely to continue much longer, as they'll bring a young rotation loaded with power arms to the table in 2011. Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Edinson Volquez and Homer Bailey -- the last of whom threw two impressive innings of relief last night -- form the backbone of a pitching staff that should be among the best in the league. With many of their divisional rivals in transition, the Reds will head into the offseason as the early favorite to repeat in the NL Central, needing primarily to find a high-OBP hitter for the top of the lineup.
Tomorrow we have the Bengals game in the afternoon and the Reds playoff game at night. Will this be the greatest live sports day for me ever? I don't know, but it got me thinking about other playoff games I've been to.
The most famous game I ever attended in person was a 1977 playoff game between the Bert Jones led Baltimore Colts and Kenny Stabler's Oakland Raiders. The game ended in the second overtime on a touchdown pass from Stabler to Dave Casper. Casper had already caught a long pass leading to a game-tying field goal in regulation. I have seen the recap of the game on "NFL's Greatest Games" on numerous occasions. Until the first grade, I lived less than a mile from the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. But when we moved to Michigan, I bought a Raiders sweatshirt at Sears and was a Raiders fan for most of my childhood. (Yet another reason to hate the Steelers.) I think I was the only fan in the stands cheering at the end.
Probably the second most famous game I saw in person was a 1984 NFL playoff game at RFK stadium where the Bears upset the Redskins. It was truly the coming out party for the 1985 team that was a Monday night loss to the Dolphins away from perfection. (Unless, like me, you count the Super Bowl Shuffle as a far cry from perfection.)
I've seen a couple of NFL playoff games in Indianapolis (I honestly think it's two, but it might be three) but they all ended the same way: in the first quarter with the Colts destroying the Broncos.
I've only been to one baseball playoff game, game 3 of the 1985 NLCS between the Cardinals and the Dodgers. Unfortunately, that was not the "go crazy folks" game, but the Cards did win.
I guess the ultimate live sports event for me was the 1982 Illinois High School football state semi-final playoff game which I attended as a player. But we lost.
I don't remember the whole story (because I really didn't care at the time) but I believe the rift between Scott Rolen and Tony LaRussa started in the '06 playoffs when LaRussa sat Rolen in favor of a lefty because he had been struggling. Rolen, as a regular player, felt slighted by LaRussa's meddling (that's me editorializing). The relationship was never really repaired and the Cards traded Rolen.
During Game 2 last night, the announcers mentioned that Rolen had 20 homers during the season, but that 17 had come before (some date, July?) and he only had three homers since. My first thought was, "wow, why is he still in the clean-up spot?" My second thought: Dusty! That's the difference between LaRussa and Dusty. Dusty sticks with his guys, sometimes to a fault (see C-Pat, T-Virus) but sometimes, his faith is rewarded. Where would the Reds be this year if Dusty had given up on Bruce and Stubbs when they struggled? Or benched O-Cab or BP when they struggled? I'm not sure, but not in the playoffs. LaRussa has won a lot of games, but with LaRussa, it's about him; what can he do to win the game? With Dusty, it's about his players; what can he do to help his players succeed? You can legitimately argue about whose approach is better, but for me, this year, I'll take Dusty's.
What can you say about Game 2? I'm very proud of the way the team bounced back from Game 1 and took a quick lead. And very disappointed the team lost the way they did. Most games the Reds lost they got beat. They rarely beat themselves this year and Game 2 had to hurt. BP had a tremendous playoff game (a triple shy of the cycle) . . . on offense. Defense, not so much. Rolen has struggled on offense and defense. Bruce homered, and then missed the liner that changed the game. Starting pitching was great, the bullpen faltered. But it was really the defense that cost the Reds the game. The team has been very solid on defense all year, so this was out of character. I can't help but remember back to last year when Matt Holiday blew a catch in left to lose game three for the Cardinals against the sweeping Dodgers. That error effectively ended the series; the Reds have one more chance tomorrow night at home.
My favorite moment from Game 2 came during a pitching change. The camera showed Heisey, Stubbs, and Bruce talking in the outfield. That one shot showed the youth and future of the franchise, but also the inexperience. I really felt buoyed by the shot and reassured that this year was not a fluke. The Reds are contenders and will continue to be.
Here is what Christina Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus had to say, in part, about the Reds game yesterday:
[T]he Reds shouldn't feel too badly about their place in history. Operating from an obvious initial disadvantage as far as the two rotations in their NLDS are concerned, damned and doomed to face baseball's best starting pitcher, they played their unhappy part and lost just the one ballgame for all that. You can talk about the virtue of short-term memory when it comes to closers, but the entire Reds team may as well walk away from Wednesday night's game and remember they could have lost this 12-11 in the bottom of the ninth, or 12-0. That they lost 4-0 and will forever be associated with history, with Don Larsen, should simply be ditched in the nearest dumpster and forgotten.
Instead, the Reds can take away a few positives while looking for ways to keep themselves in this series. Hooking Edinson Volquez might have been hard on him, but against Halladay—or Roy Oswalt, and perhaps Cole Hamels as well—demands aggressive action early in-game. The fact that Travis Wood shut down the Phillies across four separate innings should be taken as suggestive, not just about who starts a fourth or fifth game if the Reds get that far, but also for how Dusty Baker should skipper the series from here on out—with desperation. Down 1-0 with a day off until Game Two, and yet another before Game Three, there is no such thing as a strategic picture.
Not a great start for the Reds, but I think yesterday's no-hitter said a lot more about Roy Halladay than the Reds' offense. If you were watching on a wide screen you saw that TBS had the strike zone box on the entire time. I think I recall one pitch that Halladay through where the entire ball was in the box. Just about every pitch was a curve out of the zone low, or on one of the lines on the outside of the box, often sneaking in at that last second. Amazing.
Could it have been worse? Certainly. I think this loss will be much easier to take than say a blown save in the ninth by Cordero or Chapman. Picture a 4-2 Reds lead and Ryan Howard going yard on a three-run homer to walk off with game one. That would be about as bad as it could get. Or the Reds not hitting and the Phils scoring 6, 7, or more runs. The bullpen actually shut down the Phils.
This was just one loss.
The only debatable thing from the Reds stand point was whether Volquez should have started in the first place. Based on yesterday, you would have to conclude that perhaps Wood should have gotten the start, but that's Monday morning quarterbacking. I think Volquez is a bit of a head case, and Arroyo, who's a solid pitcher, might have done better in a game one scenario. But here is another way to look at it: when Volquez is on he's really tough to hit. Maybe Dusty figured with Halladay out of the gate the Reds' only chance was a superior performance and Volquez seemed the most likely to provide one. I don't think you can fault Dusty for starting Volquez.
I loved the quick hook on Volquez. I said yesterday Dusty has to manage every game as a must-win and he didn't hesitate to pull Volquez. No way he does that in the regular season. (By the way, how tough was Wood? He really looked good.) And then Dusty didn't hesitate to pinch hit for Wood in the sixth. There was some grumbling where we were watching about removing Wood there, but Dusty had to pinch hit down four in the sixth. Although an interesting irony is that Wood came the closest to actually getting a hit off Halladay with his liner to right in his only at bat.
This was an historic effort by Halladay and a game that will never be forgotten. But if the Reds can beat Little Roy Friday, they take the advantage in the series. The defining characteristic of this team had been its ability to bounce back. We've gone over this before, but the team has consistently battled back from adversity and come out on top. Don't count out Dusty and the boys just yet.
The Reds are out wit their 25-man roster for the NLDS with one exception. We still don't know if it's Edmonds or Juan Francisco for that final spot. It will be Edmonds if he's healthy enough to play.
No real surprises. The Reds did keep all five starters on the roster (with Wood and Bailey in the pen). They might have considered leaving one off (probably Bailey because he's not a lefty) but I can't argue with the idea that their presence will allow Dusty a quick hook, if necessary.
I'm sure guys like Valaika, Maloney, and Jordan Smith, who made real contributions to this team, are disappointed, but this looks like the best 25 guys.
Matt Swartz at Baseball Prospectus previewed the game one starting pitching match-ups for the playoffs. Here is what he said about the Reds/Phils match-up:
Phillies vs. Reds Roy Halladay: 2.44 ERA, 2.93 SIERA* Halladay leads the major leagues with a 2.93 SIERA, though his 2.44 ERA is even below that mark. No pitcher other than Lee walked fewer batters than Halladay, who only walked 3.0 percent. Halladay also struck out 22 percent of hitters he faced, and kept 53 percent of all balls in play on the ground. Doc led the league in outs recorded (three times innings pitched). With only 3.59 pitches per hitter, He was able to average 7.6 innings pitched per start. With a Phillies bullpen that is among the weakest in the playoffs outside of closer Brad Lidge and setup man Ryan Madson, getting two of their five NLDS games pitched by a guy that made it through at least seven innings in all but five of his 33 starts is a major advantage.
Edinson Volquez: 4.31 ERA, 3.68 SIERA Volquez came back from Tommy John surgery strong, striking out 24.4 percent of the 275 hitters he faced, up from 21.6 in 2009 and similar to his 24.8 percent strikeout rate of 2008. Volquez’s swinging-strike rate jumped from 11.0 percent in 2008 and 10.0 in 2009 to 13.0 percent in 2010, despite the similar strikeout rate. He remains wild, walking 12.7 percent of hitters, above his 11 percent number in 2008, but below his 14.7 percent of 2009. What is quite different about the 2010 version of Volquez is his ground ball rate went up from about 47 percent in 2008 and 2009 to 57 percent in 2010. This included only 170 balls in play, but it is definitely a spike worth noting and should be worth checking if he can induce worm-beaters out of the bats of Phillies hitters. Volquez and Travis Wood are probably the best starters on the Reds, and although Wood appears to be relegated to the bullpen despite a lefty-heavy Phillies lineup, Volquez’s ability to dominate gives the Reds a fair shot in Games One and Four against Halladay.
*SIERA is a rate stat created by BP to measure pitching era after factoring out park effects, defense, and luck.
Last Wednesday, we went to the last regular season home game for the Tampa Bay Rays. The team was wearing this hat for the game. (I had to buy one, even though it took us all over the Bay area to find my size.) Here is the story behind the plaid, and here is an update for the playoffs. No word on whether the Rays will be wearing the hats.
My [stuff] doesn't work in the play-offs. My job is to get us to the play-offs. What happens after that is [freaking] luck.
-Billy Beane, A's GM, as quoted in Moneyball
It's no surprise the Reds are a big underdog against the Phillies. This says more about the Phillies than the Reds, however, because the Phillies would be favored against any other team in the playoffs. With Hallady, Oswalt, and Hamels, in a five-game series, it would be difficult to pick against them. Then you throw in they have a strong line-up and a ton of post-season experience and it's impossible to pick against them.
But anything can happen in the playoffs as Billy Beane so eloquently stated it. Espcecially in a short series. If the ultimate goal is to win the World Series the Reds are probably better off drawing the Phils in a five-game rather than seven-game series. If they just want to go as far as possible, they would have been better off drawing any other team.
The key for the series will be for Dusty to manage every game as a must-win. Don't hold anything back. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Starting pitcher for every game: Johnny Wholestaff. That's a lot of cliches, but the Reds have to put pressure on the Phillies. They can't wait around for something to happen. Imagine this, the Reds squeak out a win against Halladay (they beat him in June albeit at GABP) in game one and Arroyo's off-speed crap has the Phillies out of whack in game two. All of a sudden the Phillies are feeling the pressure. But if the Reds sit back and let Halladay and Oswalt steam roll them in games one and two, they'll have a monumental task in beating Hamels with the great change-up and curve. The Reds are a fastball hitting team and they need to do some damage against Halladay and Oswalt early on when they're seeing fastballs.
And Dusty can't be afraid to throw the entire bench and the entire bullpen out there every night to gain favorable match-ups when he can. The Reds have depth and they need to use it. They have four lefties in the pen, so Howard, Utley, et al. should never see a righty from the seventh inning on.
I can't in good conscious pick the Reds to win it, but I think this team is fearless. If they're able to score early on Halladay and Oswalt, and somehow get into the Phillies' pen in games one and two, they'll have a phighting chance.
I'm watching the 30 for 30 documentary on espn called Four Days in October, and they just showed the part of game 6, eighth inning, of the 2004 ALCS where A-Rod slapped the ball out of Arroyo's hand and, eventually, was called out. That's a good omen, right? Not to mention, that series proved anything can happen in the post-season.
A while back, I posted that I won the regular season in the League of Nations, but I ended up only third after the playoffs, losing in the semi-final and winning the third-place round at the end. I took the regular season as a "championship" because I had yet to win a fantasy baseball championship.
But I pulled out the Colonial League championship. I had a half point lead late Sunday, which was extended to two points with a win by Jonathan Sanchez in the last game against the Padres (I was rooting for the Padres so the Reds could avoid the Phillies). The win broke a four-way tie for third in wins and gave me another one and a half points and the Championship.
I never made it to the N.L. for my pre-season predictions, but it's only fair to go back and look at the picks I made for the A.L. We'll start with the Central, where I predicted the Twins would win and a dog fight for second between Detroit and Chicago. I said Detroit would take second, but it was the White Sox (no relation). I correctly picked the Indians fourth and the Royals fifth. Then there's the West, where the division went as follows: Rangers, Oakland, Angels Mariners. I picked it Mariners, Angels, Rangers, Oakland. So that leaves the East to see if I go essentially one for three or two for three. I picked the Red Sox to win it and the Rays for the wild card. The Rays made it, but not the Red Sox. Never bet against Notre Dame football or the New York Yankees, right? I had the Yankees third, and the Orioles and Jays fourth and fifth, but in the wrong order.
Rachel and I have been in our ticket group since GABP opened up in 2003. Every year, I try to pick the last game of the season in our ticket draft on the theory that you never know. Usually, the game is meaningless, but a fun day for us to say goodbye to baseball for the season. This year, the game was also meaningless, but for an entirely different reason.
We got up around 5:30 to catch an early flight from Tampa to Cincy and made the game with no problem. Rachel commented that the game was just like Opening Day, cold, Harang pitching, and the Reds in first place. To top it off, the Reds won 3-2 on a Jay Bruce home run, his 25th of the year. It seems like all 25 have been in the last couple of weeks. That guy is on fire heading into the playoffs.
On opening day, I bet a guy $100.00 Harang would end up over .500 this year. Going into yesterday, he was 6-7. I was thrilled when he got the start and beside myself when he cruised through the first two innings and had a two-run lead. But the wheels fell off in the third and he left with a blister. A huge disappointment for him (and me). I was happy that he got a nice ovation upon leaving the game, which might be his last as a Red.
My main hope for the Reds this year was a winning season. One step at a time, right? but to win 91 games and the division is a huge accomplishment. But to do so without mortgaging the future really bodes well for the franchise. Anything in the playoffs is icing on the cake, but I'll leave it at that. Look for my playoff preview later this week. For now, I just want to enjoy the great season.
See you at the pep rally today at 3:30 on Fountain Square?
Somehow I added a win to the Braves. If the Braves lose tomorrow and the Padres win, the Braves will be out. S.F. and S.D. will both be in; one as a wild card and one as the division winner decided by a tie-breaker not a playoff. The Reds would play the division winner, the Phils would play the wild card. I think if the Braves win and the Padres win, the Giants and Pads will play another game for the division and the Braves would win the wild card.
In the Colonial League there are four teams within one point of first and six teams within four points of first. To contrast, the bgal has been over since Fathers' Day. The Legends are tied for third (one point out) in the Colonial, the Blue Sox are tied for fifth in the bgal, and the East Dillon Lions look like they'll take third in the League of Nations (after finishing first in the regular season).
With last night's loss, the Reds will open the NLDS on the road. The only hope to avoid Philly now is if the Braves lose the next two, the Padres split the next two, forcing a tie with Atlanta, and the Padres win the playoff game. The Reds would then open at S.F.
The Reds are in the playoffs, which is more than we could have hoped for before the season started. Once again, congratulations on a great season to the Reds.
But what now? Worst case scenario is we draw the Phillies, who already have home field advantage. That would mean Wednesday and Thursday nights in Philadelphia with the Reds back in Cincy on Sunday night. There's a real possibility Sunday night's game would be an elimination game. (The Cards won the division last year and were swept in the division series with only one game, game three, at home.)
So how do we avoid this scenario? Here you go: The Reds sweep the Brewers and end up with 92 wins. The Padres sweep the Giants and they both end up with 91 wins. (If the Giants win one, the Padres are out, and the Giants hold the tie-breaker, 4-3 head-to-head, against the Reds for the second seed.) If that happened, the Giants and Padres would play once more for the West division, but the Reds would get the second seed (by virtue of the half game advantage over the winner, who would be 92-71 versus the Reds' 92-70). The loser would be out for the wild card, if the Braves win one more game. If the Braves get swept, then SD and SF would use a tie-breaker to determine the division winner/wild card, and because each of them would be 91-71, the Reds would get the second seed. The Phils would play the wild card, and the Reds (with home field advantage) would play the division winner.
So, we need the Reds, Padres, and Phillies to sweep this weekend to avoid the Phillies in the NLDS.
Another scenario, the Padres lose the division to the Giants, but grab the wild card from the Braves (right now, they're two back). This would put the Phillies against the Padres, and the Reds would play the Giants (without home field advantage) regardless of what the Reds do this weekend. For that to happen, the Padres would have to win two of three and the Braves would have to get swept, leading to a tie for the wild card and a one-game playoff, which the Padres would have to win.
My friend, who shares our tickets, told me a great story (great story, not great happening) about his ending up in the ER instead of celebrating with Jay Bruce, et al. on Tuesday night. He got hit on the head by a foul ball and had to leave the game. (He's going to be all right -- or at least no worse off.) That got me thinking, I would like people to put in the comments where they were and what they were doing when the Reds clinched.
Rachel and I were in our room in the rental house in Florida listening on the I-Phone via the MLB At Bat app. We also had espn on (with the sound off) which was showing the Yanks clinching a spot in the playoffs. Suddenly, the screen split and espn showed GABP erupting. Then my espn ScoreCenter app buzzed (meaning a score in the Reds game). The I-Phone has a short delay, but we knew something good happened, and then we heard Marty's call. We've known for a while now the Reds were going to win, and we knew for about three seconds that they just won, but it was still a great moment.
Rachel and I have invested a ton of money, time, and emotion in these Reds, following them at home and away and just about every night on t.v. when we couldn't be at the park. It's taken over our entire summer (that and the foot). I think we both felt extremely proud of the team and happy they won, but also relieved and validated that we didn't waste all that money, time, and emotion. Without a doubt, this has been our favorite team. Once again, congratulations to Dusty and the boys on a great season.
On the day after the Reds clinched the division, we went to the Trop the day after the Rays clinched a playoff birth. They're still fighting it out with the Yanks to see who wins the division (and home field) and who gets the Wild Card (and Cliff Lee).
Interestingly, it was the Rays last home game of the year and the team gave away 20,000 tickets for free. But this was our only chance at a game at the Trop, so we went in for decent seats. My mother-in-law was with us (we're actually in Fla. celebrating her 75th birthday) and she doesn't get up and down stairs super great so we got handicap tickets. (You can check out my facebook page for the view from our seats -- and the cool hat I got.) We were on the top row of the lower section, but up higher than the section, so we could see over everyone, even when they stood up, which they did a lot. Plus, we had extra room and pretty comfortable seats.
The game was pretty ho-hum, with the Orioles winning 2-0. The Rays couldn't get to Kevin Millwood at all, in spite of playing their regular line-up in the hangover game (except Longoria, who is hurt). They got a couple of chances late, but couldn't break through against the Orioles pen. The Orioles have been really good the last couple of months, and last night was no exception.
The crowd was crazy last night with the horns and the cowbells. They literally cheered every strike. The venue was odd to say the least. The roof of the dome seemed really low, and I could definitely see where balls could get stuck in the cat walks although none did last night. It didn't really have a big-league feel to it, but the crowd was very enthusiastic. That place will be nuts during the playoffs.
Loyal readers of this blog know that I predicted on September 15 that the Reds would clinch on September 28. Last night I was actually rooting for the Cardinals (for the first time in a long time), because I didn't want to back into the clincher and I wanted the fans to enjoy it at home. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there or see it on t.v., but we did get to hear Marty's call via the I-Phone. What a great moment.
And what a great season. A real gift, from Dusty, to the boys, to the front office. Hopefully, the Reds can pull out home field advantage. The main goal (besides home field) is to get that second seed so the Reds don't have to face the Phightin's in the first round. But more on that later. For now, let's just enjoy the division championship.
But not for spring training this time, just vacation. I'm blogging between the beach and the pool on the rented house's wireless (which I got working this morning with an assist from the firm's re-set desk). The Reds' magic number stands at one. Who'd a thunk it. They could clinch it tonight, but that would be anti-climactic because all of the guys are at home. Ideally, the Cards win tonight and the Reds clinch tomorrow against the 'Stros. I'm not sure the fans deserve a home field celebration, there hasn't been a ton of support, but the players and Dusty certainly do.
Wednesday night we will be heading to the Trop to see the Rays play the Orioles. They will probably have clinched at least a playoff spot by then. Look for a full report on that game.
I'm hoping to use this week to give you some fantasy updates, look back on my pre-season predictions, and maybe provide some playoff previews. So stay tuned.
Is it too early to start blogging about the playoffs? I don't want to jinx anything, but I also think it's bad luck to be superstitious, so I'm going to go ahead (just like everyone else outside of Cincy) and assume the Reds are in. The Reds have basically won the division because they've stayed relatively healthy and had depth to fall back on when they weren't. Just about every game they've thrown a starter out there who one would have to believe has a decent chance to win. But that's not the type of team that typically does well in the playoffs. Conventional wisdom says you need an ace and good second to win playoff series against other playoff caliber teams. The Reds depth doesn't mean much (or so the thinking goes).
Along those lines, here is an interesting blurb from Christina Kahrl over at Baseball Prospectus about the Reds rotation and who should pitch in the playoffs:
Tough Choice to Make: Picking a post-season rotation. Even if we set Mike Leake aside as a likely shutdown, and Aaron Harang because of his problems with both health and performance, but keep Volquez in the mix thanks to the presence of pitchers on the 60-day DL who he could slot in for, take a look and consider the numbers of the other fistful of choices:
So who does Dusty run with? Bailey seems like the easy guy to delete from the rotation, but what order do you line up the other four? Travis Wood has a pair of good games against the Rockies, and a complete-game shutout against the Phillies; he missed the Braves and had a bad day against the Giants. Cueto had a pair of quality starts against the Phillies, and didn't have a good game against any of the other potential playoff opponents. Arroyo has never won a game in Coors, he's 0-4 in San Francisco, he missed the Phillies, and he took a beating by the Pads back in April. Volquez had good games against the Braves and Rockies. Other than leaning toward Wood and Cueto against the Phillies, with Arroyo and Volquez at home on short leashes if that's their matchup, I'm not sure there's a happy pattern to pick from there. Leading with Wood against the Braves makes sense because of Atlanta's losing record against lefties, I suppose. But a quick glance at the options doesn't suggest an easy bunch of picks, and Arroyo's utility as an innings eater doesn't mean as much in must-win games against better lineups.
I was in Detroit on Tuesday and Wednesday for work (no, I'm not a full-time blogger) and was fortunate enough to have time to check-out Comerica Park for a Tigers/Royals game. Both teams are long ago out of the race, but the Tigers still managed to draw over 25,000 fans. Pretty impressive.
The park was about two blocks from our hotel in what looks like a pretty cool arts district. Ford Field was right across the street. We were able to pay a scalper $20 for two decent tickets in the mezzanine level just beyond first base.
What sticks out about the park is how big the outfield is, and that's after they moved the left field fence way in and installed bullpens. It's 420 to center. We saw numerous line shots to the outfield that died in an outfielder's glove. We did manage to see Miguel Cabrera hit one out in dead center. You talk about a no-doubter.
The park itself seemed very fan friendly with lots of stuff for the kids and tons of different food booths. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling super great so I didn't try any of the local fare. But the game itself saw very few interruptions between innings like you see more and more of these days. Overall, a great experience.
Oh, the Tigers lost 9-6. It was 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth with Cabrera due up. Leyland pinch hit for him since the game was already "over" but the game ended with the bases loaded and the winning run up. Cabrera's spot was on deck. But the guy didn't get to make two outs in the same inning.
This blog post gets to the heart of what has been so frustrating recently attending games at GABP. I'm not saying the blogger is wrong in the last paragraph of the post. But I am saying Dusty deserves credit for getting this team in the position it's in. The Reds have already recorded a winning season, and the rest is gravy. We should be enjoying it, especially at the park, not dealing with the boo birds every time a reliever throws a ball. And, no, I'm not exaggerating.
Game 146, a 7-5 Reds win, ended exactly the opposite of game 145. In 145, the Reds had the bases loaded with 2 out, down 2. Drew Stubbs, the runner at first, got a huge jump on a line-drive gap shot hit by Ramon Hernandez and would have scored the winning run but for the nice play by Justin Upton to snag the ball and end the game.
Game 146 ended with the Reds holding a two-run lead. With two out and a runner on, Adam LaRoche drove a towering fly ball to right, which Jay Bruce somehow grabbed in the corner for the final out. I guess had it gone out it would have only been a tying home run (assuming it would have gone out -- I'm not convinced but others were) and not the go-ahead run, but Bruce certainly saved the game in the same vein that Upton saved the game the night before. Exciting stuff, and this time thrilling to be on the winning end.
The win gave the Reds an 8 game lead, which they promptly gave back yesterday (the Cards also won). I don't see how the Reds only get one run off of Rodrigo Lopez, even if they didn't play all of the regulars.
The Reds now start a very difficult 9-game road trip in Houston. With the magic number at ten, they could certainly clinch on the road, but I think it will be at home after the trip but before the last series. Stay tuned.
Scout made it last night to keep his streak alive (and even made the jumbotron). Unfortunately, he didn't help the Reds who fell prey to a great pitching performance by Daniel Hudson of the D'Backs. The Reds got to the bullpen in the 9th, but only for one run. Hernandez hit a gapper with two out and the bases loaded (no question Stubbs would have scored from first) but Justin Upton made a nice play to track it down and end the game. Hernandez hit it about as hard as he could have on a line, but to no avail.
But the Cards lost too, so the magic number is 12. Look for the Reds to clinch on the 28th.
Scout has been to every Bark in the Park since they started them at GABP. I think that's five in a row. But his streak is in jeopardy. He's been struggling overall with some health problems and is very lethargic from his medication. And now he has an ulcer on his eye which has required he wear the dreaded cone. (See photo.) Last night, we decided not to put him on the D/L, but to make him a game-time decision.
He's had some great nights at the park, including getting a ball from Jayson Werth (Jay Bruce threw him one, too, but it went way over his head and he couldn't get it), getting on Kiss-Cam, and being on the front page of the Enquirer's sports page the morning after a game. I hope he won't miss this important opportunity to see a great run by his Reds, who have a winning team for the first time since the year he was born.
Here is the latest from prospect guru Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus on two recent Reds draftees:
Catcher: Devin Mesoraco, Reds At the start of the year, many thought Mesoraco had entered into bust territory. A first-round pick in 2007, Mesoraco began the year with career averages of .240/.311/.368 and scouting reports that bemoaned a lack of conditioning. This spring, he showed up in camp looking more like a linebacker than a baseball player, and the results were clear, as he slugged a whopping .302/.377/.587 across three levels, and scouts believe in the transformation. Suddenly on the brink of the big leagues, Mesoraco is yet another reason to be optimistic about the Reds' short-term and long-term future.
Relief Pitcher: Donnie Joseph, Reds A third-round pick last year out of the University of Houston, Joseph was seen as one of those college relievers who could move quickly, and he didn't disappoint. He traveled across three levels in the Cincinnati system, finished the year at Double-A, and struck out 103 over just 65 innings in the process. He doesn't throw anywhere near as hard as Aroldis Chapman, but his 93-95 mph heat is plenty for a lefty, and the key to his success for many is a slider than went from solid to downright filthy. If the Reds do the right thing and return Chapman to starting for his long-term development, they'll still have a power southpaw out of the bullpen in Joseph
Today, the Reds traded for Willie Bloomquist. As the link points out, Bloomquist won't be post-season eligible, but he can play almost every position. No word yet on who will be cut from the 40-man. Presumably, the 40-man problem was why the Reds hadn't already called up another outfielder from Louisville.
Few experts were picking the Reds to win the division this year. I think there was one guy for the New York Times that did. I wanted to pick them, but really thought a good goal for this season would be to have a winning record. The Reds haven't had a winning record since 2000, when they went 85-77, Jr.'s last super star season.
With the win last night, the Reds clinch a non-losing record of at least .500. No doubt they'll win again (hopefully today) and will finish with a winning record. To me, the division championship is enough for Dusty to come back as manager. With the young talent the Reds have, I don't think just a winning record would have been enough.
This is a cool site. They do computer simulations of every remaining game (like a thousand times) and publish the results. They predict the Reds to go about 11-9 the rest of the way and give the Reds between a 96% and 97% chance of making the playoffs. I've cited a similar feature at Baseball Prospectus, but that's a pay site. You can get this for free.
Pete Rose and I have a checkered past. I hated him as a kid, mostly because I was an Oriole fan (and an American League guy). Probably the height of my hatred was in 1980 when he caught the ricochet of the foul ball off of Bob Boone's glove in the World Series and then spiked the ball. Everyone says Pete played the game the right way, but he was one of the original hot dogs in baseball.
In about 1982, however, I decided that Pete would likely break the all-time hits record and set out to collect all of his baseball cards. Right now, I have way more than 100 different Pete Rose cards, and every regular issue card but his rookie and second-year cards. I also have some pretty cool first day covers (popular in stamp collecting) from September 10 and 11, 1985, from Chicago where Pete tied the record and Cincinnati when he broke it. They're autographed. I paid $8 for them when they came out, but have no idea what they might be worth now. So I had a lot invested in Pete making the Hall of Fame and being one of the all-time greats. (What I should have done is started collecting Nolan Ryan cards, but that's another story.)
The Reds are honoring Pete tonight on the 25th anniversary of his record breaking hit, number 4192. (He ended up with 4256.) The Reds got an exemption from MLB to allow Pete to be recognized. If Pete had told the truth right away, these types of appearances would have been common place for him. (His last such appearance was for the Master Card sponsored All-Century team.) But baseball was never going to let Pete back into a clubhouse. What Pete really wanted (wants?) was to be a manager. Or, more cynically, a paycheck from a major league team. That's why he didn't tell the truth. He doesn't care about the recognition; he wants the paycheck.
I looked through the books and my current record stands at 16-11, a .593 winning percentage, which is a hair better than the Reds' overall record. That includes one game without Rachel. I can't remember if she's been to a game this year without me.
Since witnessing O-Cab hit a walk-off 10th inning home run on May 5 against the Mets, our record is 15-7, a .682 pace.
We're taking a break from the Reds tonight to head down to Lexington to cheer on the UK Wildcats. Thanks to a loyal reader and fellow blogger for the tickets. Go Cats!
The Reds blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth last night, only to win it on a error in the 12th. It was an absolute must win, so we won't argue with how they got it. They got it. And, let's face it, it was a home game against the Pirates.
The Missile is certainly cruising along with another 10 pitch 1-2-3 inning. He really looks solid. But his performance lead me to create a new rule. You're not allowed to complain about Dusty's managing if you don't know Chapman's name. The guy behind us first complained that Dusty left the starter in too long (it was actually Cordero in the closer rule) and then wondered why Dusty took out "what's his name?" meaning Chapman. (For the record, Dusty pinch hit for Chapman in the bottom of the eleventh.)
Some of the band wagoners are becoming annoying, too. You can always tell them by their negativity and their volume. Apparently, it's important for them to tell everyone how smart they are. (Incidentally, that's what blogs are for.)
The Reds trimmed their magic number over the Cards to 17 last night with the win and a Cards loss to the Braves. With 21 to go, their playoff odds still look pretty solid.
I'm at a complete loss for what to write about. I know, I just shouldn't write. But I feel like the Reds are at a critical juncture and I should have some good insight for my loyal readers.
I do know this: the Reds need a win or two in the next two days.
About two weeks ago I was writing about the Reds being the only team in the league with six outfielders and the only team in a while to be platooning the entire outfield. They're now down to three, and all three seem to be struggling a bit.
The pitching (non-Harang category) has been good not great. It's the offense that has struggled (see above re: the outfield). The bullpen in particular has been stellar save for the Missile's issues on Monday. With Cordero throwing strikes and Masset throwing lights out, I like where we sit, especially with Rhodes and Chapman in the pen. That's a solid late-innings relief corps.
Let's hope Pittsburgh and the D'Backs at home can help the Reds whittle that magic number, which is now down to 20.
I guess I'll cry the cry of the truly desparate and ask you, the readers, for ideas for me to write about. Let me know in the comments section.
My first foray into fantasy baseball (unless you count the team I had back in 1988 for one season) was in an A.L only keeper league (the bgal) in 2006. I named that team the Blue Sox and came in second. But for a stupid roster move with Ryan Garko, I could have had second. The next season I came in second.
I'm now in three leagues, the bgal, the Colonial League (N.L. only re-draft league), and the League of Nations, a Yahoo! head-to-head, mixed league.
We just wrapped up the regular season in the League of Nations and I finished in first by 5 games. I now have a bye for the first round of the playoffs (the quarter finals). Next week, I'll play in the semis and, if I win, a two-week final for the championship. But finishing in first for the regular season is cool. I'm treating it like a real team would a division crown with a playoff nod.
By the way, I'm in first in the Colnial League by about six points. If I can hold on, I may have two championships in one season.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm in seventh in the bgal.
The new Busch Stadium was really nice. I felt a bit nostalgic going to the stadium. I'd been to a lot of games at the old Busch, but it had been several years since I'd been to a game there (like about twenty?). In fact, one of my clearest memories from the old Busch was a double-header that my family went to when we first moved to the area back in 1978. My brother got a home run ball that Mike Schmidt hit into the upper deck. Of course, there were other great moments.
We did not have great seats and they were expensive. The more road games we go to the more I realize how great we have it at GABP.
Unfortunately, the Reds lost. It was the second straight game that Arroyo lost 3-2. The loss evened our road record to 3-3.
We didn't go Saturday, which the Reds won 6-1. We thought about trying to go Sunday, but came home instead. Good thing; the Reds lost again 4-2.
The Reds survived the series, winning one and only dropping one in the standings. They still have a seven run lead. Everyone but me seems convinced the Reds are going to win. The media, even the St. Louis media, are writing off the Cards. This commentary from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is particularly good and worth reading.
If the Reds survive the four-game series in Colorado, I may relax some, but I'd like to see that magic number in the teens (it's 21 right now) sooner rather than later.
We paid for playoff tickets the other day, so we now have a financial interest in the pennant race. (Although if the Reds blew it, it would certainly save me a ton of money.) After 133 games, the Reds sit at 78-55, 23 games over .500 (a .586 mark) and a remarkable 8 games ahead of the second-place Cards. Using the standard "if we go .500 the rest of the way" line, the Reds would finish 93-69. (A 15-14 to finish; I gave them the benefit of the doubt.) To tie and force a playoff with the Reds, the Cards would have to finish up 24-7, an unlikely .774 pace. The Reds' magic number sits at 23.
Might it be time to start thinking about things like home field advantage rather than whether or not we win the division? The answer to that is, "check back next Friday when the Reds come home to play Pittsburgh." With three in St. Louis this weekend and four more in Colorado next week, the Reds can put it away. Or, they can make it a race again. But I don't think they can lose it. Everyone assumed the three game sweep of the Reds by the Cards last month would be it for the Reds, but they bounced back. So even a tough road trip won't count us out. But a winning trip probably seals the deal.
My favorite comedian is Steve Martin, and I've been known to throw out a quote or two in my day. On one of his records (Wild and Crazy guy, I think) he does this bit about his mood watch, which really doesn't go anywhere. Later, I heckler yells out, "What's your mood watch say?" and Steve chuckles and says, "yeah, I remember when I had my first beer." A great response to the heckler.
Last night, we enjoyed another great appearance by the Cuban Missile. (I somehow avoided another Cuban Missile blog post title.) He came in in the 8th, and pitched another one, two, three inning, this time needing 10 pitches, but he did get two k's. The Reds got 6 in the bottom half of the inning, so Chapman got his first big league win for his trouble.
Of course, the crowd went crazy when Chapman came in and most people were standing up. A guy behind us got a little overzealous when someone behind him suggested he have a seat. After the guy carried on a bit too long, Rachel came out with the, "yeah, I remember my first baseball game." Hilarious ... to us. The guy wasn't as amused. But hey, we're all Reds fans and it was a big win so everyone got along in the end.
As alert reader Scutch pointed out in the comments section of my recent post on Chipper Jones ruining the Triple Crown race, Tony Gwynn did in fact win the batting title in 1996 when he came up short on the required number of at bats, but still won after adding o'fers for the required number. Here is a detailed explanation of the rule.
I know, game 132 will always be known for Aroldis Champman's major league debut. And this post should have been titled something like, "Cuban Missile launches." But it was our anniversary and Gomes hit a home run for us; so that's what I'll remember most.
On to the game. What a great night at the ballpark. I took a wrong turn on the way home from a deposition ("Why are we entering Tennessee?") so I was a little late and missed the first inning. Fortunately, Rachel had snagged a scorecard and kept perfect records so that I didn't miss anything in the book.
Only about 19,000 folks in attendance last night, which was a bit disappointing, but the folks there were certainly not disappointed. Harang was good not great while in there, but threw too many pitches and had to leave after four. LeCure set the stage with three good innings and the offense cranked it up. In the eighth, the Reds had an 8-3 lead and they went to Chapman. The crowd went crazy. You'll recall Rachel and I drove to Toledo to see his professional debut, and now we would see his major league debut. 8 pitches, 7 strikes, one strike out, no base runners. A perfect inning, 'nuf said.
What was so great, though, was his demeanor. He seemed completely unfazed by any of it. We took a flip video of his first pitch and I'll get that up as soon as I can.
I'm a little behind on my blog posts and keeping up with games we've attended. Sorry. (I had to buy a new score book for last night's game, which I will get to. I know you want to read about the launching of the Cuban Missle.)
On Saturday night, we had some friends come up for the game. We didn't have our seats, so I got the best available (non-diamond club division) seats, which turned out to be in the upper deck. The seats weren't too bad and on the plus side they were only $14.00. But no one up there pays attention to the game. It was pretty annoying. Anyway, Arroyo pitched well, but not well enough to win.
On Sunday, our friend was singing the National Anthem (which was great by the way), so we had planned to go for a long time. It was brutally hot. After Rhodes gave up two in the top of the eighth to tie it on a two-run homer by Fukudome, Fukudome gave back the lead in the bottom half with a throwing error that allowed the go ahead run to score. The Reds scored one more, giving the Reds the 7-5 win and the series win.
The best thing at the park came on the Fan Fortune game. You'll recall that yours truly participated in this game not too far back. The clue was #10. You get R-E-D-S, already, so the guy had:
S _ _ R _ _ _ _ DERS _ _
You get to pick three more letters (ahead of time). I don't remember what other letters he picked, but two were P and N. So he had:
SP _ R _ _ _ NDERS _ N
His guess? Of course, Sports Anderson.
Oh, and we went to Morton's Sunday night for a pre-anniversary dinner (we had Reds thickets for the acutal night of) and saw Gomesey eating in the bar. He promised to hit a home run for us for our anniversary.
The national media are all of a sudden obsessed with the idea that Pujols or Votto is going to win the triple crown this year. It's not going to happen. Pujols (who hit his 400th tonight) leads the league in homers with 34 and rbi's with 92. Votto is tied for second in homers (with Adam Dunn) at 31 and is second with 90 rbi's. Votto also "leads the league" in hitting at .326, and Pujols is 3rd at .319. Carlos Gonzalez is second at .320.
But All-star Omar Infante is hitting .347. You'll recall Infante made the All-star team (over Votto among others) even though he wasn't even an everyday player. But now with Chipper Jones injured, he is playing everyday. To qualify for the batting title, you have to have 3.1 plate appearances for every game your team plays. Right now, Infante has 347 PA's. If his team plays 162 games, he'll need 502. That's 155 plate appearances over the last 35 Braves games, or 4.8 per game. Since playing everyday (or at least in August) he's averaging about 4.6 per game. But here's the rub; even if he doesn't reach the total he can still win it. Rather than not qualify, they give him an o'fer for every plate appearance he missed. If he gets close, a few o'fers (say 10) won't kill his average. By the way, he's hitting .362 in August.
The Reds enter play tonight with a 3 1/2 game lead over the Cards. Doesn't seem like much with almost a quarter of the season (a hair more than a quarter for the Cards) left to play. You think, surely a mere 3 1/2 game lead is not much with that many games left. But let's take a look.
The Reds have only 38 games left. Let's suppose for a minute they play .500 ball. That would leave them with a record of 91-71. For the Cards to tie, they would have to go 24-17, a .585 clip, well above their current .554 clip. And that's to tie.
If the Reds were to finish up at their current season winning percentage of .581, they would go 22-9, and finish 94-68. To tie under those circumstances, the Cards would have to finish 27-14, a .659 clip.
Since the All-Star break, the Reds are 23-11, or a .676 winning percentage. If they keep that up, they'll finish 98-64. Then to tie, the Cards would have to finish 31-10, a .756 clip.
Speaking of the .500 ball scenario, certainly it's possible the Cards could heat up, and there's no guarantee the Reds play .500, but I like the Reds' chances. First, they're hot. Since being swept before the All-Star game by Philly, the Reds have lost only one series (the three-game sweep by the Cards) and tied one, a four-game split with Washington. They've won the other nine series. Plus, they're equally good on the road, being ten games over .500 at home and on the road.
And the Reds' schedule has to be described as easy. After a tough three-game series starting tonight with contending (and pitching-rich) San Fran, the Reds have only ten more games against teams that are currently above .500. They have three away against the Cards (over Labor Day weekend -- we have tickets to the Friday night game), three at San Diego (the tail-end of a nine-game road trip leading up to the season's last home stand), and four games at Colorado following the St. Louis series.
That leaves fifteen home games against the Cubs, Astros, Brewers, and Pirates (the Reds are 34-21 against the division), four home games against the Diamondbacks (whom the Reds just swept) and 6 road games against the Astros and Brewers. Twelve of the final fifteen games are against the Astros and Brewers.
Here are the two keys: take care of business at home against the Cubs and Brewers, and don't blow it on the road at St. Louis and Colorado. If the Reds are still in the lead after the seven-game Cards/Rockies road trip, they should be home free.
Dave and I moved to the Cincinnati area in August 2002 in the final days of Riverfront Stadium. During the off-season, an attorney with whom I worked invited us to join a group buying season tickets in the new stadium, Great American Ball Park. The good news--the tickets were awesome club seats close to the visitors dugout. The bad news--they were pricey. (But nothing compared to the equivalent seats in other stadiums. See my recent FB status.)
And so began our love affair with the Cincinnati Reds. Dave had been a longtime Cardinals fan, having gone to high school and college in the St. Louis area, but had always been a local sports fan. At our first game against the Cardinals, Dave went ballistic heckling Tony LaRussa. It was official. Dave had a new team. Me--I enjoyed the experience of going to the baseball game--drinking beer, eating ballpark food, and talking with friends for three hours in the sun. We called GABP my favorite bar with an outdoor patio.
Each season, we went to more games. Gradually, I learned enough about baseball to be trusted with the scorebook during restroom breaks. We began to travel to see the team. And all this time, the Reds were not good. The 2003 season, our first in GABP, the Reds were 69-93. As of last night's win against Arizona, the Reds have won 70 games, and there are 41 games remaining. In 2007, we traveled to the West Coast to see Cincinnati get pummeled by Los Angeles and San Diego. The Reds were 1-5 on that road trip. Luckily, we saw the win, which was not an easy one with Harang balking in the tying run in the 8th (that's not a typo) and Junior homering in the 12th inning for the win. Through it all--the losses on Opening Day, losing an eight-run lead in the 9th inning to the Cardinals, Janish pitching--we loved our mediocre Reds.
And I grew to despise the negative fans. You know the ones. The longtime Cincinnati Reds fans who know everything about baseball, call in to radio shows to complain, and demand Dusty Baker's firing at every perceived mistake, but don't actually go to the games.
Now, for the first time in my brief history as a fan, the Reds are a contending team--first place in the NL Central. With last night's win, the Reds have extended their lead over the Cardinals to 3.5 games. My feelings about this development are mixed. Sure, I'm thrilled that the Reds are doing well and that the players are getting the attention that they deserve. But every game is stressful. Before, win or lose, I had a great time at the ballpark. Now, if the team wins, good, but if they lose, devastating. Getting swept by the Cardinals last week was heartbreaking. More than that, the sweep brought out those negative fans who quickly wrote off this amazing team. Every negative comment on the Internet feels like a personal affront. I stay up late to watch the West Coast games and check scores in the middle of the night. My favorite iPhone app is the MLB one, as I am constantly checking the scores and standings. What was a fun hobby has now become an obsession.
Do I want the Reds to make the playoffs? Of course. Will I have a heart attack if they do? Likely. Regardless of what happens, I will continue to root for the Reds, and I hope that those other fans will too.
When I first discovered Baseball Prospectus, I was in awe. But over time it got a little boring (and a little pretentious). I still read it, but when my favorite baseball writer, Joe Sheehan, left it fell down the list of my favorite sites. My new favorite baseball blog became HardballTalk at NBC sports. And my favorite writer on the site is Craig Calcaterra, also an attorney (who apparently lives in Columbus). Just today, I discovered that he has his own blog in addition to writing for HardballTalk. Earlier this month, he posted this, which I've been searching for for over a year.
We've discussed Walt Jocketty's Dusty dilemma in this space already, but yesterday the Enquirer reported the Reds have offered Dusty an extension. Neither side offered any details. I suspect it was only a one-year offer which, undoubtedly, Dusty would be unhappy with. But he has the smarts not to say so. He doesn't want his contract to become a distraction, and I think that's another reason to keep him. You can just tell by watching him that he wants it badly this year. I don't know if it's the couple of years of losing, the attacks on him personally by the media, his hatred for Tony LaRussa, or his contract status. But he really seems to want it.
I think he's had a great year, and the team is responding. With the help of Bryan Price, even the pitching seems to be in order. I don't think Jockety has any choice but to offer Dusty an extension (which he's done now), but one year won't do it. A one-year offer seems like the Reds saying, "we know Dusty won't take it, but hey we offered." I think a two-year deal, at a small increase in pay is the only way to go. (Can managers have mutual options? Maybe one year with a mutual option would work for the p.r. department.)
John Fay is reporting the Reds will call-up Aroldis Chapman on September 1. Because the Reds have a couple of guys on the 60-day D/L, Chapman will be eligible for the playoffs. Normally, that cut-off is 8/31, but adjustments can be made for injuries. Plus, by waiting until the rosters expand on 9/1, the Reds don't have to make a corresponding demotion. Dusty thinks a demotion for one of his guys right now would send the wrong message since everyone is pitching well. I tend to agree, but what I don't know is if waiting until 9/1 saves the Reds money toward arbitration for Chapman, etc. I would also understand that, but for some reason GM's are afraid to tell the truth on that topic (see Mike Rizzo of the Washington Nationals re: Strasberg).
Chapman has been lights out in relief, and I think this is the perfect way to use him. Get his feet wet in the bigs in a non-pressure role (if any of those exist in a playoff race). If he responds, you've got a heck of an option out of the pen. If he doesn't respond, it's not irreparable.
Sorry this is late, but we went last Saturday night for the second of three wins against the Marlins and the second of now five straight wins for the Reds. On Friday night, the Reds faced a righty, Josh Johnson, who is not just any righty, but one of the top three or four pitchers in the league. The Reds started Nix, Edmonds, and Bruce in the outfield, presumably to get as many lefties in there as possible against Johnson. On Saturday night, they started Heisey, Stubbs, and Gomes, presumably to get as many righties in there against lefty, Sean West (certainly no Josh Johnson). In both instances, the Reds came away with the 'w'.
I haven't researched it, but I would wager that no other N.L. team is carrying 6 outfielders and, therefore, couldn't platoon the entire outfield, but that is what the Reds did over the weekend. On Sunday, Gomes started instead of Nix in left against righty, Anibel Sanchez, so it's not a strict platoon. On Tuesday, Stubbs played instead of Edmonds, and on Wednesday, it was Gomes instead of Nix. (Stubbs played center, but Edmonds filled in for Votto at first.)
This configuration leaves only Janish and Cairo as back-up infielders. Rumors have Heisey taking grounders at second base, but that seems to be only in case of an emergency. As mentioned, Edmonds has also played a little at first for Votto. But I like this configuration. Dusty's got a bunch of options, and one of the main reasons the Reds are winning is that everyone has contributed, especially Cairo, Janish, and Heisey. This way, everyone stays fresh and no one gets stale. We'll keep following this, although something will have to give when O-Cab comes back. Right now, I don't see an obvious cut or demotion for O-Cab.
Today at Baseball Prospectus, Christina Kahrl writes about five "regulars" that could make the difference for their clubs making the playoffs. Here is her number 5:
5. The Reds' Bullpen
I know, I'm fudging here, but a bullpen is an everyday regular of a sort, and if the Reds are going to parlay a deep rotation and equally deep lineup into a division title, it's the bullpen that has sort of snuck into the picture as a key element. I touched on this yesterday in Transaction Action, but the Reds' bullpen might qualify as the team's secret weapon. Although it ranks a decidedly mediocre 16th in the majors in WXRL, and 12th in ARP, but since July 1 it is tops in ARP and seventh in WXRL. Far from merely relying on even greater feats from the flammable Francisco Cordero or tireless Arthur Rhodes, they're getting good work from Nick Masset since an initially ugly month, and the mid-season additions of Logan Ondrusek, Bill Bray, and Jordan Smith have finally supplied Dusty Baker with a multiplicity of options to protect leads with. If the Reds keep up with the Cardinals all the way down to the wire, Walt Jocketty's in-season assembly of a better bullpen will rank as one of the most underreported front office feats of the season.
By the way, BP (as of this morning) gives the Reds just over a 55% chance to make the playoffs, about a 34% chance to win the division and a 21+% chance of winning the wild card.
Should Jocketty be the executive of the year? Let's take a look. Starting back last season when he traded good prospects for Rolen, a move that was widely criticized, Jocketty has been on quite a roll. First, the team really responded to Rolen last year, finishing strong with him in the line-up (which wasn't everyday because of injuries). But Reds fans have seen the non-contending-great-finish routine before, so count us as still skeptical after the late-season run. Jocketty then restructured Rolen's deal, knocking him down from about $11 mil to $6 mil for 2010 (and $5 mil signing business paid over 3 years at no interest). To agree, Rolen got two more years at $6.5 mil for 2011 and 2012, each. The extra money allowed Jocketty to sign Orlando Cabrerra. O-Cab's stats have not been great, but by all accounts he is a leader on the team (and played pretty good defense). For awhile, he was our best clutch hitter. At least by batting average, that moniker now belongs to Jonny Gomes, who Jocketty signed to a minor league deal in the off-season.
The pitching staff has also been great, mostly due to solid depth (see Travis Wood). The staff has survived injuries without missing a beat. And the team bench has been awesome. Cairo has played very well as a back-up infielder and injury-replacement starter. That's critical with an older, fragile Scott Rolen. Janish is also filling-in well for O-Cab (currently on the D/L).
So far, the Aroldis Chapman signing hasn't helped the Reds this year, but he still may be called-up late to improve the bullpen. At one point, he had 11 straight scoreless appearances out of the Louisville bullpen. If he could do what David Price did for the Rays (or at least close to that) in 2008, he'll be a great signing. But even if he doesn't help this year, this was a good signing and should help a lot down the road.
The guys Jocketty went and got (Rolen, O-Cab, Cairo) have done well, and the guys he's stuck with (Bruce, Stubbs, Gomes, Nix, etc.) have either done well or haven't hurt yet (Bruce is showing signs and Stubbs has at least helped in the field, on the base paths, and with the home run). Starting Leake in the bigs looks good right now (although he has struggled of late -- we'll see him tonight, so look for a re-cap of that game soon). And not calling on Chapman so far looks like the right call, as well.
So is he executive of the year? I think this is a no-brainer, but making the playoffs would seal the deal.
It's not getting any easier for Jocketty, however, as everyone knows this is Dusty's last year on a three-year pretty lucrative deal (about $10.5 mil) that he signed before Jocketty was the GM. So Dusty, theoretically at least, is not Jocketty's guy. And the Reds really have no business over paying a manager like Dusty. Any "extra" money should go to players.
But there's no denying that Dusty has done a good job this year. Assuming the Reds make the playoffs (I'm not, but for purposes of this post) the Reds can't let Dusty just go after having a great year. And they can't just do a one-year renewal, can they? That doesn't seem adequate for a "name" manager coming off of a playoff season. On the other hand, can the Reds really afford another three-year deal (with, presumably, at least a small raise) with Dusty? I think Jocketty is in a real box here. The best thing might be to get a one-year renewal done right away, before either side knows one way or the other if the Reds are going to make the playoffs. This keeps Dusty here in the event the Reds do make the playoffs, but isn't irreparable if they don't. The Reds can survive another year, or just fire him and pay-off the contract. This would also give Jocketty the off-season to see who might be available that could replace Dusty. I think Jocketty's in a real box here, and how he handles this situation will be critical to the future of the club, and, if successful, will cement his legacy for 2010. Count me among those that want Dusty to stay.
Last night's game ended with a thud in the top of the tenth when Cordero blew it. Cordero got two outs in the top of the ninth but just barely. (You'll recall that Brooks Conrad hit the grand slam walk-off (assist to Nix) that beat Cordero in Atlanta on May 20.) After the great catch, Heisey singled in the bottom of the ninth but couldn't get past second. So Cordero came out for the top of the tenth, a move that I applauded. No reason not to let him pitch the tenth (accept as outlined below).
In the tenth, Cordero got Infante to ground out, but then walked the eight hitter, Melky Cabrera. He struck out Matt Diaz (in the pitcher's spot) and then, inexplicably walked Prado to get to rookie sensation Jayson Heyward. (If you were at the game and saw Heyward you would not want to pitch to him.) Heyward, who had already doubled to left twice, predictably doubled to left. That was basically the game.
You'll recall that Cordero blew a save in Oakland where he gave up a home run to Kouzmanoff on the first pitch of the ninth inning (an opposite field shot down the right field line that barely went out). That wasn't so bad; people sometimes hit the ball. But then, after the Reds scored four in the tenth, Cordero came out and walked the first two guys he faced and was pulled. 27 walks in 47 innings (against only 40 k's) has lead to a 4.02 era. He does have 27 saves in 33 chances, but that stat really belongs to Dusty for continuing to trot Cordero out there. I think it's time to give Rhodes a few save chances. Where is it written you have to go 7-8-9 with your relievers every game. Let Cordero pitch some in the 7th and 8th until he stops walking guys. Then he can close again.
I used the fact that Rachel is on crutches to get four pretty good seats in the handicap section at GABP last night to see the Reds (oh yeah, and Strasburg). I'm no scout, so I'll let other sites provide the details, but it look like he had the hitters off balance, hitting 80 m.p.h. about as frequently as 98 m.p.h. I didn't check every pitch, but I didn't see 100 m.p.h. Still, the Reds managed 3 runs against him, tied for the most he's given up this season.
That was in sharp contrast to Arroyo's 89 m.p.h. fastball. Arroyo was on early, but ended up giving up 7 thanks to some poor relief pitching.
In the meantime, the Cards won again (are they ever going to lose?) and the Reds slipped to 1.5 games back. Time to make a move? They did sign Russ Springer and Izzy, but I'm not sure that's the answer. Should be an exciting few days before the trade deadline.
Right before first pitch on Saturday night my phone lit up; calls and texts about my ugly mug on t.v. I guess we made it on the tube right after Chris Sabo's induction ceremony.
But the big news of the night was Volquez. He's back, and in a big way. He's always struggled with consistency so I won't get too excited, but boy did he look good. And boy do the Reds need him. Including yesterday, the Reds have lost three of theit last five by a score of 1-0. And Saturday, even though they scored 8 runs, they only got 5 hits. One single and four home runs. The two Stubbs hit were of the Pretty Good American Small Park variety.
The big take-away from the game? Volquez must not have any friends. No friend would have let him go out there with that hair.
After the break, what will the Reds' rotation look like? That's a good question. I thought going after Cliff Lee was an absolute no-brainer, even though the Reds have depth in the rotation. Seattle apparently insisted on a top position player prospect with one year or less of major league experience. You have to think that Justin Smoak, the guy they got from Texas, is a better bet than Yonder Alonso, so the Reds just didn't have exactly what the M's wanted.
Without Lee, the Reds are left with more quantity than quality. Right now, Arroyo, Cueto, Leake, and Wood are all pitching well and I don't see any of them getting bumped from the rotation. So after the break when Volquez is ready, you have to assume he takes Harang's spot, which is currently occupied by Maloney, who has also pitched pretty well.
With Lee gone, Ted Lilly is in the rumors. But I think the Reds should sit tight. Lee was so good and the situation was perfect for a trade. But no other available pitcher will be enough to justify good prospects from the Reds. Should they try a modified six-man rotation? Why not? Let Arroyo throw every fifth day, but then rotate Cueto, who tired at the end of last season, Leake, Maloney, and Wood, all of whom need to watch their innings, and Volquez, who's coming off Tommy John. A fresh staff during the dog days will also help the bullpen. And if one guy slips up, move him to said pen.
This link should be read by all Reds fans. I like Dusty, but his biggest problem is he gives up too many outs, either by sacrificing too often or letting the pitchers bat late in games. (Although I don't blame the guy for leaving Wood in when he had a perfect game going.)
The East Dillon Lions are comfortably in first place in the League of Nations, a Yahoo! mixed, 12-team, head-to-head league. We start a catcher, one of each infielder, three outfielders, and one utility player. So nine guys. Of those nine, seven of mine are in the all-star game. Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Pedroia (D/L), Longoria, Furcal, Eithier, and Swisher. No wonder I'm winning. As far as pitching my all-stars include Papelbon, Thornton (we use holds among other pitching categories), Lester, and Price, who is starting for the A.L.
(By the way, I'm watching the game as I type this. I can't believe Charlie Manuel has Ryan Howard as his DH and batting clean-up with the first three pitchers for the A.L. being left-handers. Howard is practically a platoon player, and probably shouldn't be on the team in the first place. Maybe I'm still mad about the Votto snub, but this is criminal. By the way, how stupid are the Phillies? Their GM traded Cliff Lee in the off-season for no good reason, and here is what their manager recently said.)
The Legends are also leading the Colonial League by eleven roto points. The Colonial is a ten-team, N.L. only, re-draft roto league. Surprisingly, my first place team only has six all-stars, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Jason Heyward, Chris Young, Jonathan Broxton, and Tim Lincecum. I drafted a bunch of young guys with up-side and for the most part their paying off. (Blue Sock Evan Longoria, see below, just doubled.)
The Blue Sox in the bgal, a ten-team, A.L. only, keeper league, are not fairing as well. I'm in 7th, 11 roto points out of the money. I don't want to get caught where I did last year, out of the money at tied for fourth and no good draft picks. I've had a couple of big injuries (Beckett, Choo, Harden) but it's mostly that every pitcher I throw out there gives up a ton of runs. My offense is probably good enough to get me in the money, but last place in era isn't going to cut it. As we speak, I'm negotiating a trade of Ian Kinsler (too expensive to keep next year) for another decent keeper pitcher. If this trade goes through, it will signal that I'm rebuilding for next year. As far as all-stars, I've got Kinsler and Longoria and Hughes and Buchholz, although I just traded for Buchholz in June, so I haven't had him all year. Rios got snubbed, and Choo would have made the team had he not gotten hurt.