Thursday, May 27, 2010

Game 47: Daniel Ray Herrera stars in "My Left Arm"

According to The Enquirer there were two big at bats in last night's game. The second hitter of the game (after a prone-to-giving-up-big-first-innings Arroyo walked the lead-off guy) who hit into a double play, and Garrett Jones striking out with the bases loaded in the 8th. Arroyo went 7 plus and Massett let two guys on without recording an out to load the bases. In comes Rhodes to shut it down, right? Nope. Daniel Ray Herrera got the call (turns out Rhodes was not available last night). Jones hit the first pitch, a 65 m.p.h. something or other) a mile, but foul. That's cool, though; that's what Herrera does, he gets guys way out in front. Herrera ultimately struck out Jones to preserve the shut-out through eight. Curiously, with the score at 4-0 (Heisey hit a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth) Dusty went to Cordero, who's already over worked. Maybe he warmed him up so thought he'd bring him in anyway.

But I'm burying the lead here. The big news: this was Bark in the Park night and Scout continued his string of attending every Bark in the Park night they've had at GABP. As usual, he had a great time, as did his owners. I'm pretty sure the Reds have won every time he's been, but I'd have to check the archives to be sure. Anyway, I also continued my streak of winning every time I go and don't sit in my seats. I'm now 6-4 on the year.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interleague play and realignment

With interleague play starting this weekend and Bud Selig's new committee for studying the game meeting this year, the schedule has been a hot topic in baseball. A lot of people think it's unfair for some teams to play tougher interleague schedules (pretty much every year) than other teams, when both are competing for the same division crown or the same wild card. Another problem is the length of the playoffs. Another favorite whipping boy is the unbalanced schedule. Here is my solution to all of these "problems."

Realign the leagues and the divisions based on geography and natural rivalries:

American League:

North Division:


East Division:

New York Mets
New York Yankees

Midwest Division:

Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City
St. Louis

National League:

South Division:

Tampa Bay

Mountain Division:


West Division:

Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego
San Francisco


Your own division: 2 three-game series at home and away against each team (48 games).
Other teams in your league: 1 three-game series at home and away (60 games).
Teams in other league: 1 three-game series (alternating home and away each year (45 games).

Total of 153 games. If every team played 2 three-game series per week, with one day off every week (either a Monday or a Thursday), the season would be 25 and 1/2 weeks long. For example, if they started on Monday, April 5, like they did this year, they would be finished on September 30, giving a couple day head-start to the post-season.

Playoffs would remain at three division winners from each league, plus a wild card from each league. With this format, all playoff rounds could be best of 7.

To make it work, both leagues use the designated hitter. We're headed that way anyway.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stat geeks unite

Just as the Reds give up 7 runs in the 9th to lose 10-9 in Atlanta, I offer this bit of analysis by the stat geeks at Baseball Prospectus:

Like Noble Cincinnatus, They Accept First Place Only Reluctantly

Our analysis of team performance, as is traditional, begins with Pythagoras. Currently, the Reds' Pythagorean record is 17-20 (three games worse than their actual record), while their Pythagenpat record has them just fractional games below .500. Their third-order projection is 18-19, which suggests that the Reds have been about a .500-quality team so far. That may be strong enough to hang tough with the Cardinals for a while, but PECOTA saw the Cardinals as a 93-win team before the season, and Redleg fans should hope their home nine can put some additional daylight between them and the Cardinals.

How about individual performances? According to Sean Smith’s batting runs above replacement, recently added to Baseball-Reference, Reds hitting has been 11 runs below average so far this season. The combined efforts of Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan (who has hit a surprising .368/.478/.561 in 69 plate appearances) have given the Reds 17 runs above average, but have been completely swamped by the poor offensive performances of Drew Stubbs, Miguel Cairo, Chris Dickerson, and Orlando Cabrera, who have collectively been 21 runs below average.

The pitching and defense have not been significantly better. The defense ranks 16th (slightly below average) in Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (PADE), a measure of the rate at which the Reds have converted balls in play into outs. So far, the standout pitcher has been rookie phenom and 2009 first-rounder Mike Leake, who has put up a nifty 4-0 record and a 3.09 ERA. The peripherals, though, suggest some caution: Leake has just a 33/20 K/BB ratio in 46 2/3 innings, though he has induced grounders in over half of all plate appearances. His .245 BABIP is tough to accord with the Reds' average defense, particularly in light of his ground-ball tendencies. His 4.23 SIERA is much closer to what we can expect going forward.

Were it not for outcomes on balls in play as miserable as Leake’s have been good, people would be talking about Aaron Harang’s comeback year. The 32-year-old has a 3.75 K/BB ratio and an uncharacteristically high ground-ball percentage despite his 6.02 ERA. The combination has conspired to give Harang a 3.51 SIERA. The rest of the rotation has clustered around league average, with decent efforts from Johnny Cueto (3.94 SIERA) and Homer Bailey (4.26).

Taken together, these elements suggest that the Reds are a slightly pitching-heavy squad with some holes in their lineup and a mix of over- and under-performers in the rotation. If that sounds like the description of a team that goes .500 the rest of the way, it’s because that’s what it is most likely to be. Even that would put the Reds at 84-78, which would be the team’s best finish since 2000 and could give them a chance at the playoffs. If Brandon Phillips can rebound a little bit, and Jay Bruce can complete the Feats of Strength to appease the BABIP gods, no one should be surprised to see meaningful baseball in Cincinnati this September.

After the gut-wrenching sweep in Atlanta, and heading into interleague play, maybe it's better to remove some of the emotion. But let's hope it isn't all gone.

Game 39: end of an era?

The Reds are still in first (even after last night's loss in Atlanta in game 40) but the bigger story from game 39, from a baseball prospective, is Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman blew his fifth save of the year and gave up his 19th run and 7th home run. He hasn't given up more than 19 runs in a season since 2001. We now know that Hoffman will take a couple days off to work on his mechanics. Who knows if he makes it back.

As thrilled as I was at the Reds' win, it was upsetting to see Hoffman get rocked. Anyway, I'm up to 0-4 in my seats and 5-0 everywhere else.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Freel retires

I guess when Rachel gave up on him, Freel decided to retire.

In other news, this is good stuff. First place is fun.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Game 37: first place!

The Reds took two out of three from the Cards this weekend to end up in first place. Rachel and I ended up heading down to the park in spite of some bad weather predicted. We scalped a couple of pretty good seats up under the over hang and stayed dry the whole time. We weren't in our seats so, of course, the Reds won.

It was a great game. On the way over Rachel decided if they won she would go to the Reds shop and replace her old, faded Freel t-shirt with a Rolen t-shirt, especially if he hit a home run. Which he did, in the first inning. Arroyo was great and the Reds got a bunch of timely hits to win 7-2. Here is a fun write-up of the event. Seeing the board change in right field was awesome.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reds/Cards for first place

Every one's asking me if we're going this weekend and, sadly, we don't have tickets. We did have our seats for the Saturday night Civil Rights game, but the Reds contacted me and asked me not to come because of our current 0-4 record in our seats. So we sold the tickets. We may try and go anyway, but it will be in different seats so don't worry Reds' fans.

This series is for first place in the NL Central, with the Cards coming into Cincy a half game up after embarrassing themselves against Houston. The Reds, of course, are on a roll. I guess this weekend we find out if the Reds are good or the Pirates are just awful. I'm hoping for the former. So far this year, the Reds are only 2-4 against the Cards. If they have any hope of winning (a very winnable) division, they have to play well against the Cards. After this weekend your division leaders could be exactly what all the experts predicted: the Nationals, the Reds, and the Padres.

Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American Idol

I haven't posted much on AI this year mostly because this season hasn't been very good. We just saw the best moment of the year, by far: Crystal and Lee doing Falling Slowly from Once.

Game 31 - Dusty's blunder trumped by Lou's

I know now is a bad time to be dumping on Dusty because the Reds are on a bit of a roll, but he did something Sunday afternoon which, in my mind, is unforgivable. Leake was pitching great before the Cubs put up three on him in the top of the seventh. Leake got two quick outs and then Marlon Byrd roped a double in the gap. Then a slow roller down the third base line, which Rolen watched, hoping it would roll foul, put runners on the corners. But still there were two out and only one hard hit ball. Then Leake uncorked a wild pitch allowing the run to score. He then hung one to fellow rookie Tyler Colvin who, in a nano-second, deposited it in the Cubs bullpen for a two-run homer. 3-2 Cubs just like that.

So the Reds have Ramon Hernandez, in the eighth spot, leading off the home half of the 7th. Leake comes out on deck. After the initial shock, I think Dusty just doesn't want Lou to know who the pinch hitter will be. (Because surely there will be a pinch hitter.) Hernandez rips a double off the wall. And here comes Leake. I can't believe my eyes. "It's okay" somebody said, "Leake can bunt." First of all, that is a terrible spot for a bunt. Why give up an out when you've got the tying run already in scoring position. Now it it's the fourth and your pitcher is up, go ahead and bunt. But it's the bottom of the 7th. Okay, so even if you're going to bunt, do it with a pinch hitter. So Leake bunts, and Hernandez gets thrown out at third. (He's the slowest runner on the team (non-Harang category) and maybe the slowest guy in the stadium (non-Harang, non-blogger category).) So Leake's on first, with one out. We get another guy on (first and second) so what does Dusty do? He pinch-runs for Leake. I was beside myself. I told Rachel it wouldn't matter, though, because Phillips was going to hit a three-run homer and all would be forgotten. He didn't, but Votto did. Right after Lou visited the mound and let Dumpster talk Lou into letting him stay in the game.

Best home run I've seen at GABP, non-walk-off category. (Okay, second to Dunn's opening day blast in '05 to tie it against the Mets, followed by Joe Randa's walk-off to win it.)

The Reds won, so I don't have to tell you this: we weren't in our seats, we went with friends. Still winless in our seats; still undefeated elsewhere.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Games 26-28

I didn't make it to Monday night's thrilling 11 inning Reds' win, but I did make it to Tuesday night's loss and Wednesday afternoon's win, again in extra innings. Tuesday night I sat in our seats, where I'm now 0-4 on the season. Wednesday I was in my firm's seats, where I am 2-0. So it's not me, it's the seats, right?

Here is a good link to an article about the Mets' use of their bullpen and managing by the save rule, something I've ranted about before on this blog.

Here is another good link to John Fay advocating for Brandon Phillips in the lead-off role. Again, something we've been talking about on this blog for a long time now. Stubbs struckout three times Wednesday and is now well below the Mendoza line. I think Dusty should stick with him as the every day center fielder, but he's got to be moved down to 7th or 8th in the order. Take some pressure off, but still see if he can cut it in the bigs. But he's killing us in the lead-off spot. Dusty, of course, is talking about moving 0-Cab into that spot, but he just doesn't get on base enough. Here is the latest speculation.

Speaking of BP, the blogosphere is full of stuff about his not running out a potential triple that cost the Reds a run on Tuesday and maybe the game (they lost by one). I'll leave you to ponder this, but will respond to any posted comments about it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Champman update

Here is some more stuff from Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus:

Unlike Strasburg, There Are No Mitigating Factors

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)

Monday's stats: 5 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 8 K

The day after Stephen Strasburg had his worst career start, Chapman followed up with his version. Unlike Strasburg, Chapman wasn't dealing with a tiny strike zone and some cheap hits, he just wasn't on. The fastball was certainly there, as it missed plenty of bats, but his often inconsistent slider was flat all night, forcing him to rely on the fastball and often being forced to groove pitches when behind in the count. He's not nearly as big league ready as Strasburg, and Monday night proved once again that there is still work to be done.

I'm going to the Reds games tonight and tomorrow afternoon so look for some game updates by Thursday at the latest.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Prospects update

Finally some good news on one of the worst Reds' draft picks of recent years, and perhaps another catching prospect? This is from Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus:

Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds (High-A Lynchburg)
Maybe I'm just in a mood where rebounds are attractive to me, as Mesoraco is one of many in this report. The 2007 first-round pick entered the season with career averages of .240/.311/.368, as scouts wondered whatever happened to that high school backstop with average-to-plus tools across the board. He did himself no favors by getting out of shape, but something seems to be finally clicking, as the 21-year-old Pennsylvania native hit his fifth and sixth home runs over the weekend (his career high is nine), upping his triple-slash lines to .310/.398/.620 while gunning down 42 percent of opposing basestealers. It's too early to officially categorize this as a breakthrough, but it's the first good news about the guy in about three years, and the Reds will take it

Neftali Soto, 3B/1B… C?, Reds (High-A Lynchburg)
Soto got a lot of attention in 2008 while batting .326/.353/.500 for Low-A Dayton, but as a player whose bat comprised the majority of his value, his stock took a huge hit after he put up a 644 OPS last season in the Florida State League. Repeating High-A this year, only this time in the Carolina League, Soto's bat is showing some signs of life, as he went 8-for-13 over the weekend with a pair of bombs, but that's not the interesting part. What's interesting is that on Saturday, he caught, giving him four games at backstop on the season. He's big, thick, and slow like a catcher, and his arm is plus, so it makes sense, and if he can show any ability back there, his value increases dramatically.