Archive for April, 2007


Two Wins in A Row – Reds Batting Slump Over?

After two wins in a row where they’ve scored 17 runs and had 25 hits, perhaps Cincinnati is getting their offensive production on track.  Edwin Encarnacion had five hits over those two days – it’s like a light bulb is on for him now.  Curiously, only two of those 25 hits were home runs.  I think that’s a good thing.  It’s telling that while the Reds (12-13)have held teams to three runs or fewer in 15 of their 25 games, they’ve scored three runs or fewer in 12 of their 25 games.  You just hope the pitching holds up as the bats heat up. 

Adam Dunn moved out of a sixth place tie with Eric Davis for career Reds home runs with his home run yesterday, his 204th in a Cincinnati uniform.  George Foster is fifth with 244.  Johnny Bench leads all Reds career players with 389 dingers. 

Transactions

  • LHP Rheal Cormier was designated for assignment and RHP Brad Salmon was brought up from AAA Louisville.  Salmon did not allow an earned run in the Spring and can maybe breathe some life in a bullpen that has been shakier than Samuel L. Jackson as”Gator” in the movie Jungle Fever.   
  • OF Chris Denorfia was traded to Oakland for two players to be named later and some cold hard cashola.  Considering that Denorfia never really had much playing time in the bigs for the Reds, is coming off Tommy John elbow surgery and how hard Oakland was jonesing for him (they gave up two players AND cash?) you wonder what Billy Beane sees in him.  Seems like a Red Herring to me, but Beane has written the book on finding diamonds in the rough.  It’s hard to see Denorfia cutting into the outfield lineup for the Reds in the foreseeable future with Josh Hamilton going bonkers in his rookie year and Freel signed to a deal this year.  Let’s keep an eye on Denorfia in the next couple years to see what we were missing.

Tribute – Yesterday was a sad day for the family of former Reds player Josh Hancock and the Cardinals organization.  It’s always a shock when someone so young (Hancock was 29) passes away so soon.  He hit a parked car on the side of the road.  It’s something I always worry about when I see stalled or broken down cars on the highway – it could happen to any of us.  My wife was the person who told me about it but she gave me an incredible shock when she said Josh Hamilton had died – a few hurried keyboard strokes later I corrected her about the last name. 



Reds Painfully Bad At Plate

The Reds are now officially the worst National League team with regard to batting average.  Uncle Milty is 0-4; he’s not pitching all that badly, but the Reds are hitting so poorly it’s very hard to tell.   At least Milton is pitching predictably.  When he’s out there, you’re going to get six innings, one bad inning and he’ll give up about 3-4 runs per outing.  Cincinnati is struggling to score two runs a game right now – not even Harang or Arroyo can pitch well enough to win those game.  

I would have never guessed that the Reds would struggle so badly at the plate.  The bats you count on have been slumping a bit or injured (Dunn, Phillips, Griffey), Alex Gonzalez and Josh Hamilton have been great surprises.  Edwin Encarnacion has been unbelievably bad.  It may be that their offensive lineup is very similar to their middle relief:  a lot of mediocrity and nobody is pulling it together enough at the plate (mound) to stop the bleeding.  It’s too early to mail in the season, but, like Brittany Spears and marriage, boy is this getting to be pretty predictable. I pray that Griff get’s healthy and people like Ross and Hatteberg pull it together.  Otherwise, this is going to be a long season.   Cincinnati is now 4.5 games out of first behind the Milwaukee Brewers.  I will now take my cyanide capsule.  We lost to the flipping Pirates tonight, for goodness sakes. 



Witch Doctor Called In – 8th Inning is Cursed for Reds

One key hit by Mr. Pooholes off Kirk Saarloos last night really put a damper on yet another great pitching effort by Bronson Arroyo.  Someobody throw the guy a bone and help him get his first win.  He’s done all he can do. It’s becoming apparent why we could so readily get a lot of these relievers.  They’re all mediocre. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  Josh Hamilton is awesome.  He hit a homer last night and made a stellar defensive catch in center.  Ryan Freel and Edwin Encarnacion need to start looking over their shoulder.  (Edwin is most likely going to see less playing time.  David Ross had better pray Freel doesn’t learn how to catch.)

One way to obscure your concerns about a closer in the bullpen is to blow a lead or tie game in the 8th inning.  The Reds have become masters of this lately, particularly when Bronson Arroyo is pitching.  I’m convinced that someone has put a curse on the Reds bullpen and the 8th inning.  We need to find out who put this curse on and get it removed.  Maybe the Reds can have tiki statue night (Brady Bunch reference there) to get things back on track. 

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Aaron Harang Opens Up A Can Against Cardinals

The Reds got a typical starting pitching performance (i.e. a great one) but the story of the game was that the slumbering Cincinnati bats had a pot of hot coffee poured in their crotch.  In short, they were boldly awakened, screaming and putting their hands on their crotch (something you never see done by a baseball player, save Jim Thome).  Griffey hit his first home run of the season.  Alex Gonzales went crazy at the plate.  Harang hit a sac-fly to bring in a run.  Even David Ross had two hits. 

At one point of the game I was worried that the weather would prevent it from being official.  I heard of the threat of rain and checked the radar.  A HUGE line of thunderstorms was heading straight for St. Louis – and it was only the top of the fifth.  That was when Cincinnati poured on five runs.  Once the lead was secure, I wanted the Reds to get some outs so they could pitch the bottom of the inning and make the game official.  I started to wonder if there was ever such a thing as an intentional strikeout. 

The rain held off, however and the start of the road trip did what I hoped it would – the Reds woke out of their hitting funk. 

One final note – I’ve been ripping Griffey for his start this year, blaming his woes at the plate and field on his grousing about the move to right field.  It came out today though that Griff has been struggling with diverticulitis, a very painful intestinal condition that I’ve seen in my own family.  Here’s to a quick recovery and to my apology for ripping you so much Junior while you’ve been playing through pain. 



Matt Belisle and Reds Waste Big Crowd, Beautiful Day

What’s a good cure for a desperate team, a team whose manager lost his mind in a recent press conference because of their poor play?  Apparently it’s the Cincinnati Reds.  They lost the weekend series with the Phillies today, a 9-3 butt whipping. 

I keep asking myself – If I could change one thing on this Reds team to make it better, what would that one thing be?  I can’t decide on a closer or better plate discipline.

The Reds lost their fourth of five games and are reeling.  The offense and bullpen have been miserable.  They’re 28th in the majors in batting average and 22nd in OBP.  Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion are both in a major offensive funk he past six games.  David Ross is off the charts in his struggles.  Griffey is homer-less and role players like Jeff Conine and Scott Hatteberg have had to make major contributions to salvage wins.  This team looks anemic and lost at the plate at times.  (One of the bright spots has been Josh Hamilton who has an eye-popping 1,223 OPS.)

Up next is a 9-game road trip against St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Houston.  These next 11 days are going to be huge.  Perhaps a road trip will help this team bond a bit and get their collective schtuff together.  It certainly will be a telling sign about what this team is made of.



The Cole Hamels Show

If you’re going to lose, go for the gusto.  That wind storm you felt yesterday was from the whiffs of the Cincinnati bats as they struck out 15 times to the Phillies’ Cole Hamels.  Adam Dunn and Brandon Phillips struck out three times each.  David Ross, who must have broken 15 mirrors this summer, continued his woeful slump at the plate by hitting into a triple play.  I’m sure he was thinking, “Okay David.  What’s the worst that can happen here?  A strikeout?”  Think again.  You wonder if Ross is injured or if it’s all in his head.  He was one of the best hitters for Cincinnati last year.  He’s really got to shake out of it.

Among the many tirades I’ve heard from Thom Brennaman this year, discipline at the plate has been the most frequent.  The Reds are often hacks at the plate.  I wonder if the Great American Ballpark has anything to do with that?  What I know for sure is that balls fly out of that park quicker than in a Ron Jeremy movie.  In short, I’m saying there is a strong incentive to swing for the fences when Cincinnati plays at home.

Eric Milton was again a bridesmaid – he gave up just two earned runs in six innings pitched.  That ain’t half bad.  Milton’s record is (0-3) but he’s not getting a lot of run support in his starts. 



Reds Rebound

As bad as the previous two collapses and subsequent crushing losses hurt, last night’s 2-1 win over the Phillies felt almost as good.  Hatteberg’s huge HR during the Reds final out was exciting and somewhat unexpected; what a time for the Reds’ bats to wake up.  The winning run was ugly but it’s what counts.  Valentin wasn’t half-assing it home from third on the winning hit, but the pulled-in left fielder came very close to throwing him out at the plate.  I wish Valentin hadn’t started celebrating until he crossed home plate but the way the previous two games had gone you can hardly blame him.   

Reds starters continue to pitch incredibly well.  They also continue to get a no decision (or worse; a loss).  The bullpen has been the unraveling point with defense a close second.  The Phillies only run yesterday came on two errors on the same play.  I have continually harped in this blog about errors by this Cincinnati team for the past two years.   There are some who argue that errors don’t make that much of a difference but I can’t see how that is true.  If an error doesn’t lead to a run on that specific play, it leads to pressure on your pitcher who may in turn give up a huge hit or run in subsequent at bats that inning. 

Up tonight:  Eric Milton.  Let the roller coaster ride begin.



Reds Bullpen Implodes for Second Night in a Row; Arroyo Still Winless

Oh boy.

 It would be one thing if one or maybe two people in the bullpen were tanking (a couple weeks in the season, no less, when they should still be fresh).  But it seems like EVERYBODY has been soiled in some way by hitting batters, giving up fat pitches in the middle of the plate, not having an out pitch to strike out or at least get a weak out in the field.  There are too many holes in the ship right now to plug them all.  Narron doesn’t have enough fingers.  Todd Coffey led the charge and Saarloos and Weathers jumped in the pool with him. 

Is this is a short term anomaly?  History doesn’t suggest it.  You stack a bullpen with a lot of middle relievers and no definitive closer (nobody with that closer mentality or “stuff,”) and this is what you will occasionally get.  Hopefully they can right the ship but right now nobody can believe that a lead is safe.

It’s a damn shame too.  Arroyo and Harang pitched great the past two nights.  They also pitched deep into the game.  Since they both were in the top 5 in innings pitched last year, at some point this season they need to cut back on their innings.  If I were them though I’d probably pull a knife on Narron if he tried to pull me out of the game and put in the bullpen in its current state.  “You can’t cut me, Jerry!  I need a win, damn it!  They’re just going to screw it up!”

Get your crap together bullpen!  Somebody step up and get their minds right.

Josh Hamliton is incredible.  I don’t know what more to say about it.  It’s a joy to watch him play.

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Powerful Motivator for The Reds: Deep Bench

It’s pretty clear that the move to put both Freel and Hamilton in the lineup has sparked the offense for the Reds.  Both last night and tonight (where both Hamilton and Freel homered) it has really sparked the the team’s bats and ability to produce runs.  A casualty of this has been Edwin Encarnacion, who has had some struggles this year.  You’d hope this competitive balance and deep pool of people that can play multiple positions would get some other struggling players (Encarnacion, Castro) to raise their game.  You can’t deny that the style of play Hamilton and Freel brings ignites their team and the fans.  The hottest players are getting playing time right now.  That’s exactly how it should be.

The Reds need to take advantage of the great pitching they’ve been getting with some supporting runs.  I guess a counter argument is that the whole league has been struggling offensively (i.e. everybody’s been getting good pitching without run support).  It feels to me like this pitching staff (top four pitchers and bullpen) is for real, but the numbers will bear it out in time.



Ryan Freel Picks Up Four Hits in Reds Blowout Win

Not too shabby.  The Reds offense scored eleven runs yesterday en route to an 11-5 beatdown over the Brewers.  Ryan Freel got it done and he went four for five with with three runs and an RBI.  Josh Hamilton had another solid game and he went two for four with two runs.  I have to admit, while I was optmistics about Hamilton, I thought he’d make a good but not great reserve outfielder.  He’s proven that at least for now, he deserves to be in the starting lineup.

Brandon Phillips drove in three and Kid, Jr. drove in two to finish up the hitting starts.  Matt Belisle was knocked around but the hitters picked him up.  Give some props to the pen though because four relievers combined for 3 2/3 innings of no hit, no walk ball (not perfect because there was a HBP in there).  Mike Stanton picked up the win.

Next up are the Astros who roll into town for two games.  Aaron Harang will get the start against some guy I’ve never heard of, so I like our chances.

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