I am just a blogger and don’t complain to be an expert on managing and assembling a major league ball club, but I’d like to make a few observations about the Reds 20 games into the season.
The starting pitching literally could not be worse. They rank last in the NL with a 6.11 ERA with the second place team having a 5.40 ERA. That is a lot worse than even second to worse! So far the Reds best starting pitcher has been Mike Leake as he has the only win that a Reds starter has this season. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are making 20+ million this season, and a Reds club without those two would have some $$$$ to spend on what Jocketty sees fit. Since Arroyo and Harang have not been great anyway I dont think the Reds would lose ANYTHING if they were traded and young pitchers were brought up.
I think a lot of Walt Jocketty and I think with $20 million he can do a lot. If Harang and Arroyo departed, the Reds rotation would look something like the following:
1. Johnny Cueto
2. Mike Leake (pictured)
3. Aroldis Chapman
4. Homer Bailey
5. Travis Wood
Cueto and Bailey havent been great thus far but I do not worry about them because they are still improving and have electric stuff as long as their focus and concentration is high. You cannot coach the type of talent that they were born with. Mike Leake looks like he is in the majors to stay barring a turn for the worst. Aroldis Chapman….well we know about him. My opinion is that he is ready. Finally Travis Wood showed in Spring Training that he was ready for the bigs. He almost won the 5th starters spot but just lost out to Mike Leake.
This is different from Reds fire selling as they have done occasionally in the past. ALL of these players that would be coming up are READY for the big leagues. The Reds also have Matt Maloney who is major league ready when he gets an opportunity.
Walt Jocketty can take a lesson from teams like the Marlins. The Marlins have opted to stick with young pitching for years. Guys like Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Ricky Nolasco have been given the vote of confidence by their managers and their organization and though at times they have struggled, they comprise a pretty good staff down in Miami. Youngster Josh Johnson is the ace of the staff and the Marlins brought him up early but he learned from struggles and is now a dominant pitcher.
Cueto needs to keep improving. He seems to ride an emotional rollercoaster while he is on the mound. He will occasionally lose confidence and concentration and will begin to overthrow. For Johnny, CONSISTENCY is the name of the game
Homer Bailey…unfortunately he was way too overhyped 2 years ago. Still though he has added a cut fastball and looked to be figuring things out last year when he finished 6-1 and was the national league pitcher of the month for september. When he walks guys and cannot throw strikes, he gets into trouble and works a high pitch count. Early this year, he has been plagued by leaving ball over the plate where hitters can drive the ball. When he can locate his pitches, he if awfully tough so for him the key if LOCATION.
I would really like to see Walt Jocketty have $20 million to improve the club. And a rotation of Cuetto, Leake, Chapman, Bailey, and Wood would be awfully exciting. Up and down but really intriguing. Not to mention Chapman would sell some serious tickets. We’ll see. For the foreseeable future Arroyo and Harang are here. Hopefully they will be effective and the Reds will be able to win!
So far in Spring Training, I have heard nothing but good things from Reds camp. Most importantly everyone in the organization seems to be on-board with where the organization is going. And honestly I couldn’t agree more with them.
Walt Jocketty’s adding Rolen at the trade deadline last year raised some eyebrows since the team stood at well under .500. However, his addition has proved to be a good one and manager Dusty Baker has said that Rolen has had an immeasurable effect on the young players.
Veteran pitchers Arroyo and Harang also know that this is their last chance in Cincinnati. Arroyo admitted earlier in Spring Training that this may be his last chance to be on a winning team there in the Queen City. Should the Reds be out of contention come the July 31st trade deadline, Harang and Arroyo both could be on the move.
All Reds fans and I hope that that situation never arises, but for the first time, I would be all right with moving Harang or Arroyo because of the Reds incredible pitching depth, and losing 20-24 million in salary cap would allow Walt Jocketty to improve the team in any way he wanted. I do not think the Reds would miss a beat with their young pitchers that might replace them.
I have ranked the Reds pitching depth below:
1. Edinson Volquez (will probably miss most or all of 2010 with Tommy John)
2. Bronson Arroyo
3. Aaron Harang
4. Johnny Cueto (potential is limitless; he has ace-like skills)
5. Homer Bailey (same story great potential. Looking to build on strong 2009 finish)
5. Aroldis Chapman (yet another potential ace)
6. Micah Owings
7. Matt Maloney (maybe actually has the inside track on 5th starters spot to open 2010)
8. Mike Leake
9. Travis Wood
10. Justin Lehr
11. Mike Lincoln (I definitely would rather see him in the bullpen than in the rotation)
By simply looking at the following list, you can se why Reds fans are excited. I believe the Reds are a team on the rise and have a great chance of finding some sustained success in the future simply because of the enormous potential in their pitchers alone.
I’m excited. Go Reds!!
The NL Central has no sure fire winner in 2010. However, the Cardinals appear to be the most talented team followed by the Brewers. The Reds though have potential to play themselves into contention as well.
Here is how I see the division shaking out.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Let’s be honest. The Pirates are the consensus pick for last. Yes they have a budding all star in Andrew McCutchen who had a great rookie season last year, but they have a rotation that features Ross Ohenlendorf and Cub reject Kevin Hart.
That is simply not good enough to contend. Pedro Alvarez, the team’s top prospect, will probably get some time to play at third this season, so the two interesting things for this team will be monitoring the development of future studs Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
5. Houston Astros
The Astros sill have some very good players on their team. Having been perennial contendors over the last 5-6 years, the team still has the likes of ace Roy Oswalt, sweet-swinging Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee. Hunter Pence will also look to take another step forward in 2010. The ‘Stros will be able to hit but in looking at their roster from top to bottom, they simply have too many holes to compete.
Roy Oswalt could be a blue chip summer trading piece if the team is out of contention and he could bring back good prospects in return.
4. Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans think that the departure of Milton Bradley will be a form of addition by subtraction, and it will. However that will not simply return there team to 2008 form.
They have not adjusted to the loss of Rich Harden, and with Ted Lilly out atleast a month, there rotation is set to start out Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny, and who knows who else.
The back end of that rotation is simply not up to standards and Lou Piniella will have his work cut out for him closing out games as well. Carlos Marmol was atrocious last year with his control. Too many holes=not enough wins.
3. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have perhaps the most potential in the division, but I believe they will still be a year away from putting everything together. However, I do think this is a year where the Reds will hang around and make some noise in the division. The signing of Cuban-phenom has energized the Reds base and at Spring Training all eyes will be glued on the Cuban lefty. Whether he starts in the majors or not, the Reds just may not be able to click totally this year. The loss of Edinson Volquez until mid-summer at the earliest hurts, but the Reds have plenty of young pitchers waiting in the wings. Contending or not, I think the Reds will unload Harang before 2011 so this is his last hoorah in a Reds uniform. That will allow the Reds to unload 12 million of payroll and make room for them to make key additions to what should be a solid team down the road. The Reds front office is unified in the direction is wants to go, and Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Cueto, Bailey, and Chapman give them the horses to get there.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
Braun and Fielder. Braun and Fielder. Braun and Fielder. Alcides Escobar and Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers have a great mix of established stars and young athletes coming up through the system. They get the nod for the two spot because they just simply have fewer noticable holes than the Reds or Cubs. Casey McGeehee another Cub reject will look to build on his strong rookie season, and Ricky Weeks is still looking to breakout. I think he will, and Gallardo will be a star, leading to a 2nd place National League Central finish.
1. Champion-St. Louis Cardinals
A full year with Matt Holliday and another year with one of the best hitters ever will equal a NL Central title for the Cards in 2010. Also the Cards have one of the best one two punches on the mound in baseball if both Wainwright and Carpenter stay healthy. They were both stellar last year down the stretch. Expect youngster Colby Rasmus to hit lefties better than he did last season and be a strong complement in the lineup to the power of Holliday and Pujols. Too much offense and a great rotation with the best pitching coach in the game will help the Cards overpower the rest of the NL Central.
No one really knows whether the Reds are buyers or sellers yet, but we are under the 72 hour mark until the trade deadline. The Reds main trade bait would be Harang, Arroyo, and Weathers or Rhodes in the bullpen.
The Reds need to keep the bullpen intact as that has been the major strength of the Reds club. Rhodes is sitting on a comfortable 2.08 era and Weathers on a 3.15 era (by the way, Paul Janish has a 49.50 era in his two relief appearances this year).
Arroyo is still a nice pitcher for anyones rotation and because of the nature of how he throws, he will be able to pitch effectively for many years to come. His fastball is complemented by a variety of off speed breaking balls. Harang on the other hand is a shadow of the 16 win pitcher he was 3 and 4 years ago. His fastball velocity is down from 93-94 mph to 89-90 miles per hour. His leg drive is also noticably weaker than it was when he was younger in his career. Since he is no longer able to throw the ball by people, he has to be able to locate his pitches better which he has often struggled with.
However Aaron Harang would still be good for a contending club and could serve as a solid third or forth starter. The Reds could trade Harang and still make an improvement to the club this year.
A good fit for Harang would be the New York Yankees who need starting pitching badly (esp. with Chien-Ming Wang out for the year).
As opposed to trading Harang for a variety of single A prospects, I think it would be smarter for Walt Jocketty to try and get one or two players in AAA who are almost ready for the major leagues. Ian Kennedy who is pitching for the Yankees AAA team and has made a few major league starts would be that tyle of player, a guy who could play this year if need be.
The Reds have explored adding Toronto Blue Jay Scott Rolen. Rolen has had a resurgence this year after battling injuries since leaving the St. Louis Cardinals. He has batted around .300 for most this year and has shown increased pop in his bat.
A Rolen package would also probably include Edwin Encarnacion but beyond that it is not known what else would be involved.
Also another package has been rumored to have been talked about with the Yankees.
Neither the Reds nor the Yankees have said if there is any truth to the rumor but the Yankees have discussed aquiring David Weathers and Aaron Harang for youngster Phillip Hughes. It seems odd that the Yankees would consider giving up their great young prospect Hughes which is why I’m unsure if this rumor has any truth to it.
The Reds are on their longest homestand of the year. The Reds really need to hang an 8-2 or better record if they are going to continue to climb back in the NL Central race that is staying tight. Go Reds!!!
If the Reds are going to continue to play good baseball and put more wins on the board there are four small keys to the Reds success that aren’t necessarily just hitting the ball well.
1. Pitch well and Pitch Efficiently- Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez have been pitching well along with Aaron Harang. Volquez and Cueto have cut down on their pitch counts so far this year which has allowed them to go deeper into ballgames. The Reds lead the National League with six shutouts already. The Reds last had over twelce shutouts in 2003.
The Reds offense has been lethargic at points this year so continuing to dominate teams with good starting pitching and then with Arthur Rhodes and Coco Cordero will be key. Cordero is 9 for 9 in save opportunities this year.
2. Turn the Lineup Over- At the beginning of the season the Reds 7,8,9 hitters were not getting on base and not able to flip the lineup to get back to the likes of Taveras, Votto, and Phillips at the top of the order.
It is important to be able to clear the pitcher when the fifth or sixth man in the order leads off the inning. One or two batters need to get on so the pitcher does not have to lead off the next inning as an automatic out. Taveras or Hairston are by far better leading off an inning and giving the Reds a chance to score.
3. Use the Run Game- Willie Taveras is getting the job done at the top of the Reds order, and he is followed up by Chris Dickerson or Jerry Hairston Jr. All three can run the base paths well. When these guys get on, they can create scoring chances with their legs if they can get to second and get themselves into scoring position. Taveras has 6 SB’s so far this season and may want ot run a little more. The Reds are 9th in the National League in stolen bases so far, so Taveras and others could run a little more. Especially with Votto batting behind them, as he is batting over .400 with runners in scoring position this year.
4. Take the Fight to the Other Team-The Reds have a very good record when scoring first this year and have not lost when they have gotten a three run or more lead. The pitching staff also needs to continue to attack hitters. They have given up 115 walks so far this season and need to put more hitters away when they get ahead as that number is 7th best in the NL. When runners get on the Reds need to get ’em over and get ’em in. That is a cliched phrase but with less power than Reds teams past, playing a more aggressive strategic game is important.
There are few pitching staffs in baseball better top to bottom than the Cincinnati Reds. As a 12 man pitching staff, there is no doubt in my mind that the Reds have one of the best staffs in the NL. Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker both share the belief that teams may have a better one or two than the Reds top men, but few teams are better from one to twelve.
The Reds starting rotation has depth like the Reds haven’t had in years. I will bet anyone Aaron Harang will return to the Harang of 2, 3 and 4 years ago. The sky is the limit for Volquez and Cueto and Arroyo is one of the more underappreciated pitchers in the league. And Micah Owings, having won the 5th starters spot has great talent and just has to find consistency for a whole season which is easier said than done.
The Reds have depth as well in the bullpen. Two good lefties are down there for Dusty Baker: Arthur Rhodes and Bill Bray. Rhodes was a nice signing by the Reds this offseason to give the Reds plenty of options. Also in the pen is bright young star, Jared Burton and David Weathers. Burton is the guy who will get the ball in the eighth inning to get the ball to Fransisco Cordero to lock it down in the ninth. Burton finished last year with a 3.22 ERA after bursting on to the scene the year before with a 2.51 ERA. An interesting stat is that when Burton came in in the 8th inning last year and the Reds had the lead, the Reds lost only once. Cordero saved all but 2 games last year when Burton came in before him.
The wild card of the staff is Cueto though. He showed flairs of greatness last year like when he started the season off with a 10 K performance. Keeping pitch counts down and attacking the hitters when he gets ahead will be keys to his success. Go Reds! Its Skyline time! Feel free to comment
As Spring Training continues to progress and now near its conclusion, most roster spots for the Reds have been determined with the exception of a couple of backup roles. The most pressing question remaining is who will be the fifth starter in the Reds rotation: Homer Bailey or Micah Owings.
Owings was aquired from Arizona in the Adam Dunn deal. He was shut down at the end of last season due to a minor shoulder ailment. The Reds were out of the playoff race when Owings arrived and did not want to risk further injury just to have Owings pitch a couple of games. This spring Owings has been impressive, posting a 1.52 ERA and having a 2.5:1 K/BB ratio. Owings is also one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball and Dusty Baker has said that he would not hesitate to have Owings pinch hit at any time (let me be clear though: I dont think Owings should be converted to an outfielder like some Reds fans have suggested).
However, Owings has some stiff competition for the fifth spot. New confidence, and a willingness to accept coaching has led to Homer Bailey’s putting together a great spring as well. Most Reds fans thought Bailey would be etched in stone in the Reds rotation at this point but he has had many struggles. This Spring however has been a good one. Bailey has posted a 2.61 ERA while striking out 20 and only walking four. Poor control had been Bailey’s nemesis in his first two broken seasons in the majors.
Bailey made what will probably be his final spring start April 1st and was good allowing only 2 earned runs and striking out 8 in 6 innings.
So Dusty Baker’s options are this:
1-Owings gets the spot and Bailey goes to the bullpen for long relief and is the replacement for anyone in the rotation who might get hurt.
2-Owings gets the spot and Bailey gets sent down yet again (I do not want this to happen)
3-Bailey wins the spot and Owings is either sent down or possibly (but I doubt it) sent to long relief.
While I would love to see Bailey in the rotation. I would opt for option one if I was the Reds. Bailey gets major league experience and Owings has his chance to continue to strive to reach his potential and both pitchers are put to good use. What will Dusty do? I think he will give the spot to Owings. It should be interesting to see. Please comment because I would love to know what other Reds fans are hoping for and when the decision is made, I would love to hear your reactions.
Go Reds! Its Skyline Time!