Thursday, August 26, 2010

Because of Chipper Jones, their won't be a triple crown winner this year

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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reds' season in jeopardy

If you believe in curses, this is right at the top of the list.

Monday, August 23, 2010


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.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guest Blogger: A Fan of the Mediocre Reds Reflects on Rooting for a Contending Team

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.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Reds see the light

A "loyal reader" (of something, certainly not this blog) pointed out this, which is awesome. Unfortunately, we will be out of town.

How to become a famous blogger

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.

The Dusty dilemma

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.)

Chapman update

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.

Game 117: platooning the outfield

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.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


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.

Walt Jocketty for executive of the year

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.