Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Reds same as 2010 Reds...only better...

The new 2011 version of the Reds are the same as the old 2010 Reds. Well…not exactly, but at least on paper, it looks that way. However, when you take a step back and consider some of the intangibles, you begin to see that this club should be better than last year, even if most of the names remain the same.

Last year, going into spring training, the biggest needs for the Reds were:
o A leadoff hitter
o A shortstop who could bat higher than his weight
o An extra outfielder who can be relied on to fill-in and platoon without worrying about too much drop-off in offensive production

This year, going into spring training, the biggest needs for the Reds are:
o A leadoff hitter
o A shortstop who can bat higher than his weight
o An extra outfielder who can be relied on to fill-in and platoon without worrying about too much drop-off in offensive production

Here’s a quick rundown of what you really need to know about the offseason transactions that took place:

OUT: Aaron Harang, Laynce Nix, Orlando Cabrera, Arthur Rhodes
IN: Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria, Fred Lewis, Jeremy Hermida

There were a few other things, but really, those were the major moves. And really, I think it may have been just enough to put the Reds in the postseason again. More importantly than who left and who came in, (with the exception of Harang, who has been on the decline for a few years anyway), is the maturity and improvement of the core group of young players on the team. Paul Janish showed enough improvement to take over at shortstop full-time. Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and of course, NL MVP Joey Votto all showed improvement as well. So by doing nothing more than letting these guys play and get more experience, the Reds have improved…assuming that improvement continues or at least doesn’t drop off. The pitching also seems to be better for the same reasons, only not so much for improvements in performance so much as simply the production and early maturity of so many talented rookies. Mike Leake, Travis Wood, Aroldis Chapman, Logan Ondrusek, and Jordan Smith; all rookies, and all pitched well enough to claim a stake into at least being allowed to fight for a roster spot again this year.

Overall, this year’s team is the same as last year’s team…but then again, it’s not…and I think that’s a good thing. I’ll save my actual predictions until the end of spring training after I’ve been able to evaluate the teams a little more, but as I said before, I think the Reds can make into the postseason again.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Return of Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey

Assuming the Reds do not trade away any of their pitchers, the impending return of Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey to the Reds poses an interesting problem. If they come back healthy, what do the Reds do with them? A few years ago, this wouldn’t have been an issue. The Reds didn’t really have too many viable options because none of their prospects were really ready, so necessity would have dictated that they immediately return to the rotation. That’s not the case anymore. Now the Reds have a group of young talented guns who are able to step up, and they have proven, thus far, that that are ready to stay in the rotation.

You also have to take into account that Aaron Harang’s numbers have been more indicative of a No. 3 or 4 starter than that of an ace for the last 2 and a half seasons or so. And even though Homer Bailey had a very nice second half last season, in the 50 innings he pitched this year before going on the disabled list, he was simply awful, giving up 41 walks and posting an ERA of 5.51.

So, what should the Reds do? We already know they want to keep Mike Leake’s innings to a restrictive number, and Ediinson Volquez, while not sharp at all his last two outings, did flash some brilliance in his first start upon his return. Bronson Arroyo has been steady and dependable, Johnny Cueto is having a fantastic year, and both Travis Wood and Mike Leake have been doing a fine job as well.

I’m hoping Volquez returns to form, and if that happens, perhaps Harang takes a spot start from Leake and we re-evaluate. But where does that leave Homer Bailey? Maybe the better question should be: Which two Reds starters are best capable of going from starter to bullpen?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A different perspective: What if nothing changes? (Part1)

As the trading deadline approaches, everyone speculate on who the Reds should get and why. I’d like to do something a little different and speculate on what should happen if nothing happens.

Let’s assume everything stays as-is. We know this team has some pretty good offense, they rank among the top in the league in most of the major offensive categories. But they also have some not-so-good offensive peculiarities: They lead the league in shutouts, that is, they’ve been shutout 12 times already, and though they have so far been able to come from behind and win a lot of close games, it’s also a little alarming that they HAVE to come from behind so often and have had so many close games. So, what do they need to do to improve with what they have now? Some would argue that they should continue on like they have been all year. If it’s working, don’t mess with it. But I think there are a few things they could and should do to make their offense a little better.

First, Cabrera is not a top-of-the-order hitter. Well, maybe he was at one time, but he’s not this year. He should be moved down in the order…way down. His backup, Janish, is known for his strong glove and weak bat, but in limited use this year, he’s actually doing well at the plate. I wouldn’t say he should replace Cabrera on the depth chart, but I’d definitely give him more playing time than he’s been getting.

Second, we aren’t really getting the offensive production we need from the centerfield position. Stubbs is getting most of the playing time, and though he has speed and a bit more power, his .230-ish average and .300-ish OBP really hurts. I’d like to see Heisey get more playing time. He’s unproven at the MLB level, but after almost 90 at-bats so far he’s hitting .277 with an OBP of .358. I say switch the depth chart and put him as the starting centerfielder and use Stubbs as the backup and stop-gap for those defensive substitutions and pinch hit double switches when you’re bringing in the relief pitchers.

Here’s the batting order & lineup I’d use:

CF Heisey
2B Phillips
1B Votto
3B Rolen
LF Gomes
RF Bruce
C Hanigan/Hernandez
SS Cabrera

Gomes’ spot in the batting order is fairly interchangeable with Hanigan/Hernandez depending on who’s catching for the Reds at the time and who the opposing pitcher is, but I think I’d leave the rest of it alone for the most part. It gives our #3 thru #6 hitters protection on both sides, and our leadoff spot has protection behind him.

I’d use Stubbs and Janish for as many pinch hit and spot start opportunities as I could. We also have Cairo & Nix on the bench and in the September call-ups, have some talented guys who might help, (Y. Alonso and J. Francisco).

I’ll break down the pitching next time…

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Rambles

  • I think the Reds should let Arroyo & Harang go at the end of the season (assuming they can’t move them via trade). That should clear up about 20 million from the payroll. With that, they should DEFINATELY lock up Votto long-term and I think there's about 12 total, (give or take a couple), who will be arbitration-eligible. I like Arroyo as a solid #2 or #3 rotation guy, but for the salary he’ll be making and what we've got remaining to fill the rotation with, I think the Reds could use the money more than his arm. If they can keep the rest of the team fairly intact, we should be contending again next year, and if they upgrade at SS and CF, I’m thinking we’re a lock to win the division. If that does happen, I also think we can live with a rotation from 5 of the following: Cueto, Volquez, Leake, Wood, Bailey, Maloney, Chapman. I’d like to see Arroyo in there, but I really don’t think the Reds will raise the payroll high enough to make that happen.

  • I’m starting to think that Jay Bruce is going to wind up being one of those guys who had “star” and “unlimited potential” written all over him, but then never really live up to the expectations. This was the guy who at one time was rated the #1 prospect, hit for a .333 average and .374 OBP in AAA, but in almost 3 years at the MLB level has a career average of only .247 and a .316 OBP. Last year everyone was hoping for a breakout season, as they were/are this season, and as I fear they may be next year…etc…etc…

  • Dusty is a pretty good manager, and in fact, I think he’s done a pretty good job for the Reds so far, but he has a few tendencies that drive me crazy. A couple, in particular, are that he focuses on one or two guys and no matter how badly they perform, he’ll stick with them, to the detriment of the team, (ala Corey Patterson ‘08, Willie Taveras ‘09, and this year Orlando Cabrera). The other thing is that he seems to equate someone having speed as someone who should be hitting leadoff or #2. What good is a guy who can steal bases batting at the top of the order if they can’t hit .250 or can’t produce an OBP much above .300.

  • I’m really kind of excited to see what catching prospect, and former Reds top draft pick out of high school, Devin Mesoraco is doing offensively this year. His combined numbers from high-A and AA this year: .319 AVG – 20 HR – 53 RBI - .387 OBP

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trading Deadline Thoughts & Wishes

As the trading deadline draws nearer, here are a few thoughts on what the Reds need, and what I think they should do.

Needs: This is an easy one, because it’s almost the same as what they needed going in to the season from an offensive standpoint; a true leadoff hitter who can cause some havoc on the basepaths; a power threat as insurance & protection for the middle of the lineup; and lastly, some middle relief pitching.

The middle relief pitching could be already shored up, but only if a few things fall into place. Chapman needs gets his control problems taken care of, and if he does, he could be a 5 thru 7 inning relief guy and spot starter. It could be a good way to ease him into the big leagues and prepare him for a possible rotation spot next year. Of course, it could also blow up in their faces and he could hurt more than help if he can’t control his stuff. The addition of Jason Isringhausen and Russ Springer could turn out to be really nice if they can get close to what they used to be just a few years ago. I have a better feeling about Isringhausen than I do Springer, but only time will tell. With these three situations, I don’t see them being any worse than where we are right now, and I don’t see any really good alternatives with anyone any other team trade-wise.

I do see what I think could be a really good opportunity via trade for a solid leadoff guy though. I went looking thru the list of possible free agents at the end of the season and noticed that Scott Podsednik could be a free agent at the end of the season. There is a club option and a buyout clause, but I have to think the Reds could work something out for the Royals leftfielder/centerfielder. He’s quietly having a really good year and would fit in very nicely between Gomes and Bruce in the Reds outfield.

I don’t see a good option for some power protection in the middle of the lineup, but I do think that the addition of Podsednik would take care of this in an indirect way. If this were to happen, hopefully Dusty would be smart enough to bat him leadoff, put Phillips in the 2-spot and throw Cabrera down towards the number 8-spot where he obviously belongs. I think this batting order would be great: Podsednik, Phillips, Votto, Rolen, Gomes, Bruce, Hanigan, SS, P. Now, you can take the 4 thru 6 hitters and mix them however you think, but what an improvement a real leadoff hitter can make…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 Prequel Review

The returning “Who’s Who’
At the beginning of the 2010 season, expectations and hopes were high for Reds fans. In many publications the Reds were often mentioned as “the dark horse” team to be on the lookout for a possible surprise contender. And for good reason: The Reds have a very young and very talented core group of players in many of the key positions with a sprinkle of seasoned vets. The infield has Joey Votto at 1B and Brandon Phillips at 2B. Votto had a very solid first full year last year, and Phillips, though not as young and new, is still a younger guy with some solid seasons behind him on both the offensive and defensive sides. On the hot corner, all-star Scott Rolen was expected to provide leadership and balance in a style that’s been missing for way too long. In the outfield, the team’s ‘great potential’ guy, Jay Bruce, was hoping to have a break-out season and bring to fruition all the potential that’s been talked about since his minor league days. The catcher position seemed to be in capable, albeit mediocre, hands behind Hernandez and Hanigan. The starting rotation, Cueto, Volquez, and Bailey were expected to solidly anchor the pitching staff behind veteran pitchers Harang and Arroyo. Ageless Arthur Rhodes and closer Francisco Cordova figured to be the 1-2 combination to close out the majority of games.

The missing links
The missing pieces to the puzzle were fairly obvious: On the field, the Reds badly needed a proven center fielder, left fielder, shortstop, and middle relievers. At the plate, the Reds needed a reliable leadoff hitter, a threat on the basepaths, and some power in the middle of the lineup to protect Votto, Bruce, & Rolen. In addition, Volquez was beginning the year rehabbing from surgery and not expected to return until around the All-Star break, so someone would need to fill in the 5th spot in the rotation.

Plugging the holes
The additions to the club were surprisingly good, surprisingly bad, a little puzzling, and in some cases, non-existent. Orlando Cabrera, and aging, but consistent shortstop was brought in to fill the void in the infield. This was a little bit of a gamble, as he is getting a little older, losing a little range, and though you can count on him to hit around .280 and drive in about 60-70 runs, his best years are really behind him. His OBP isn’t exactly stellar-leadoff quality, and he won’t strike fear into the opposing team’s catcher while on the basepaths any more than anyone else on the team. However, he’s a steady veteran presence and an offensive upgrade at SS over the alternative, which is Paul Janish; a weak hitting, but slick fielding utility player/shortstop in the making.
The next addition was surprisingly good, puzzling, and a bit of a risky out-of-the-norm move for the Reds: Aroldis Chapman. By now, the story is well documented, the big question would be how much, if any, contribution would he be able to provide the club at the highest level.
For all the other needs, the Reds decided to go with what they had last year, and/or count on the minor league affiliates to produce and provide. Gomes, Stubbs, Dickerson, and Nix all returned and figured to fight or platoon for the left and center field positions, and in the bullpen, Wood, Owings, Leake, Masset, Herrera, Bray, Lincoln, Fisher, & Maloney all figured to battle for spots to fill in for relief spots and the 5th starter in the absence of Volquez.

Out of the gate
After the spring training shake-out, the Reds looked very much at the beginning of the 2010 season as they did at the end of last season with a few very noticeable exceptions: Orlando Cabrera was the starting shortstop, Leake…a rookie who would skip the minors altogether…won the 5th starting spot; and the team seemed to have a bit of a swagger and attitude that had been missing for a while. Everyone seemed to think they could and would be in contention for the post season this year.

First half impressions
At the All-Star break, Cincinnati is in first place in the division and has been battling the Cardinals in a see-saw battle to stay there for several weeks. Votto is proving to be a bona-fide stud at the plate in almost every category; Gomes is providing stability in the outfield and at the plate; Rolen seems to be on pace to have his best, or one of his best, years offensively. Bruce, though not hitting with as much power, is more consistent at the plate, and defensively, the Reds are much more solid than they have been in a while. The starting rotation seems to be a strong point; Leake is proving that he not only belongs in the rotation, but has the poise and command of a seasoned vet. The Reds aren’t going out and blowing away everyone, but they are winning by hard fought, close scores – often coming from behind to win games in the late innings.
If the Reds can make a couple acquisitions, avoid injuries, and keep the same intensity they have shown thus far, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them playing in the post-season this year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Welcome to Rob's Reds Ramblings. I am a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, and a general baseball nut. I grew up in Cincinnati, and though I moved away when I was 18, I have always loved, followed, and defended my beloved Reds everywhere I ever went. I have been told throughout the years that I should have been a sports writer for the team, but my career took me elsewhere. However, I have discovered the world of blogging, so now I will finally take a stab at writing about my Reds. I hope you enjoy reading what I have to write even more than I enjoy writing what you read.