Since homering twice in the finale of the series in Pittsburgh, Jay Bruce had been mired in a slump similar to what he experienced last year. The has been batting in the .100’s nearly the whole season. However, I have seen him hit several balls hard that were hit right at fielders and several times in the Cubs series, Ryan Theriot, and Derrek Lee made several great plays on hard hit balls. Hopefully he will bounce back, because let me be clear, if Bruce does not hit well this year, the Reds offense will not be good enough to win consistently. The starting pitching has been struggling mightily, so the hitting needs to start finding some consistency.
The Reds also miss Edinson Volquez a lot. With their starting pitching ranked 11th in the national league in ERA, the starters have lacked any sort of consistency. Harang has been extremely average. Arroyo seems to have one inning bite him each year. Cueto has been erratic and had no consistency thus far. Homer Bailey has been bad with his breaking pitches and has simply had poor control even if it didnt mean walking guys. His pitches have not been where he wants them. They have missed Volquez’s ace-like mentality and his consistency. When Volquez ran out there, the Reds could count on a solid start. Mike Leake has done fine thus far, but he is still young and frankly is overachieving by just being in the majors already.
Aroldis Chapman has been burning it up in AAA. He has turned in two solid starts and would no doubt sell some serious tickets if he came up to the big leagues. He’ll get there before the season is out. It’s only a matter of time.
The Reds have lost 5 in a row, but lets not panic yet. The starting pitching has got to be more effective. But its early a 5-8 record is no reason to be alarmed. Lets wait another month.
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!!
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.
The Reds of 2009 will look a lot different than the Reds of 2008. The team is faster, better defensively and fundamentally, and better overall I believe.
REDS PLAYER TO WATCH: Johnny Cueto. The 22 year old hurler has devastating stuff. Last year in his first full year with the Major League club. He started off brilliantly but as a whole the season was one of highs and lows. He is not far away from being a dominant pitcher every time he takes the hill. Cueto needs to cut down on his pitch count in order to become more efficient, enabling himself to go deeper into the ballgames.
As I watched the Reds play this Spring, it was obvious that the most important key to their offense will be that Willie Taveras and Chris Dickerson will need to get on consistantly at the top of the order so they can use their speed.
2009 should be a very exciting year to watch the Reds find their identity and hopefully in turn win a lot of ballgames. Go Reds
Let me clear up just a few things that I said toward the end of last year on this blog. I was fairly ********** when I wrote some entries last year.
I would like to rescind a couple of statements:
Walt Jocketty is a GOOD GM not a bad one like I said. He did a great job filling holes this offseason.
The Reds have a very strong minor league system now thanks to some good work in this last 5 or 6 years to improve there (Wayne Krivsky actually helped a lot in this department).
The rotation ought to be:
5. Bailey (or Owings would be fine)
I am glad Corey Patterson is long gone!
I am optimistic and do not really think the Reds are the worst directed team in baseball. I like the current ownership and Baker and Jocketty.
The worst directed team, I would say, is the Nationals (Former GM Jim Bowden is a killer to any organization).
Let me be clear: I think the Reds are still away from being a solid year-long contender in the NL Central and in the playoffs. However, the Reds are very much improved, and Walt Jocketty has done a very good jobs of filling holes for the Reds.
Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Bruce, Cueto, Volquez, and even Chris Dickerson comprise one of the best young corp of players in major league baseball.
The Reds have found their leadoff hitter in Willie Taveras, who was non-tendered by the Rockies in the offseason. Taveras can keep constant pressure on the opposing defense by getting on base and using his blazing speed. He will most likely be followed by Chris Dickerson or possible Jerry Hairston Jr. if he wins the left field job. Both of those men have good speed and skills on the basepaths. Taveras and Dickerson would comprise a solid top of the order if and only if they can consistently get on base. Votto will bat third. He is the Reds best hitter and I fully expect him to hit .300 with 25 HR’s and around 100 RBI’s. Phillips will bat fourth and I maintain that he is not an ideal clean-up hitter. However, he is everything else you want in a baseball player: a great teammate, a 30-30 guy, and a defensive juggernaut. Bruce will bat 5th and needs to continue to improve his plate discipline to decrease his strikeouts.
Next will follow Edwin Encarnacion (All I will say is that I’m still hoping he can put it all together). Then in the bottom third of the order will be recently aquired Ramon Hernandez then Alex Gonzalez and the pitchers spot.
For the pitching rotation, Harang’s resurgeance is key as Volquez and Cueto will continue to develop into stars. Arroyo is also steady and will pitch 200 innings with 12-15 wins. I hope Bailey wins the 5th spot. He seems to be now more willing to accept coaching and he has been keeping the ball down in Spring, thanks to improved control on his fastball and curveball. In the bullpen, Fransisco Cordero has had a less than impressive spring. I think he will turn in another steady year though. Bray, Burton, and Arthur Rhodes will comprise the other three main options in the pen.
Cincinnati’s team has moved from one known for tremendous power and lackluster pitching to one with solid pitching and great team speed and defense up the middle. Taveras, Gonzalez, and Phillips definitely help pitchers breath a little more easily this year.
I hope the Reds compete this year, but honestly I think its going to take one more season, and next year the Reds will be a force in the NL Central. Go Reds!
The writer of the blog District Boy is absolutely right. The Cincinnati Reds front office is now definitely the worst in baseball. If they think that Cueto, Volquez, Votto, and Bruce are enough good players to depend on for the future then they are idiots.
Let me just name a few reasons the Reds team and ownership is pathetic:
1-Corey Patterson is still in the majors. He could not play on any other team in the majors. Chris Dickerson needs to be in the bigs NOW because he could be the center fielder of the future.
2-Josh Fogg is still in the rotation.-Darryl Thompson or Ramon Ramirez ought to be in the majors pitching. They have paid their dues in the minors and the management needs to find out if they can pitch in the majors.
3-Walt Jocketty is just not a good GM.
4-Dick Pole is not a good pitching coach. Mark Berry (3rd base coach) and Brook Jacoby (hitting coach) also ought to be fired.
5-Brandon Phillips is great but is the worst cleanup hitter in baseball. He does not come close to comparing to Prince Fielder, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman, Albert Puhols or Josh Hamilton etc.
6- They dropped David Ross who was also awful but was the best catcher they had. Javier Valentin has an awful on base percentage and you cannot even afford to put him in the field becuase he is such a bad defensive catcher. Ross could atleast throw out a decent percentage of base runners
7-The Reds need to build for the future and quit lying to themselves saying they still want to win now because that is just a LIE.
Their lineup the rest of the way ought to look like:
Shut down Harang and hopefully he will come back better next year. Good Lord! I say this just becuase I end every entry this way- Go Reds!-but I say it half heartedly