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.