Saturday, March 21, 2009

Batter up: Cincinnati Reds

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a team which you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things about each team. Any wagering or fantasy baseball advice is for recreational use only. At bat: The Cincinnati Reds.
  1. Some would-be Mistress Cleo is probably trying to tell you that Cincinnati can make a run at its first playoff berth since 1995. Do not listen. The Reds (74-88 last season) are at least one year and two starting pitchers away.
  2. Toronto's own Joey Votto is probably not long for first base. The top Reds hitting prospect, 22-year-old Yonder Alonso, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2008 draft, will be mashing with authority before too long and first base is his only position (saying he plays it might be a stretch; most first basemen just kind of stand there and catch the ball). Votto will probably end up in left field, but you'll probably hear breathless speculation of some big trade going down with his hometown Blue Jays (or not).

    Alonso is in down in Double-A, probably not for long. (At the same age, Votto played in the same league and on-based .408 and slugged .547.)
  3. FanGraphs rates the Reds as the 24th-best organization in baseball, leavening it by saying they are closer to 15th than 30th. The guts of a good young team are in place, but they lack depth and need to figure out what mix a team needs to win at Great American Ball Park, which is hell on pitchers.
  4. Many tears were shed in fantasy baseball circles when 22-year-old phenom Jay Bruce was consigned to rightfield when the Reds picked up Willy Taveras ("apparently their taste for quality in centre was ruined by Corey Patterson," Baseball Prospectus 2009, p. 163). Bruce would be worth more in centre than at a corner spot.

    Bruce's OPS-plused 96 as a 21-year-old rookie. Those who produce an average performance despite being so young are usually going to be good sooner rather than later.
  5. The Reds' pitching is better than that 13th-best ERA (4.55) in the National League indicates. Maybe you and your friends should see how well you could do with bad fielding and a launching pad for a home ballpark (Great American Ballpark comes by its nickname, the Gap, quite honestly).

    Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, at ages 23 and 25, are blossoming. Homer Bailey is still thrower rather than a pitcher. The Beep says batters hit .391 off him on two-strike counts, more than double the league average of .185, suggesting he needs to try something different beyond rearing back and trying to hum the ball past hitters (it works in Little League, not so much in the majors). If Bailey ever learns that (most likely with another team, albeit), the Reds could have a decent rotation for the first time in forever.
  6. The best description of Reds manager Dusty Baker's approach to run production from BTF commenter: "Unclog the bases with home runs, but don't risk clogging them with walks in the first place."
  7. The Reds bullpen produced a tidy 3.81 ERA in 2008, no mean feat in their ballpark. Give them some starting pitching, some fielding and a few more bats, and they'll be close to turning the corner.
  8. Every preview should contain something on the economy. Ohio's jobless rate is at a 25-year high. It might be notable that the Reds, who were a powerhouse in the 1960s and '70s, nosedived during the recession of the early '80s. Or it could be a coincidence.

    Major League Baseball is vulnerable like every other industry, but it's cushioned itself better than other ball-and-stick leagues. This is mostly due to MLB Advanced Media (BAM, for short) and the creation of the MLB Network, which thus far is proving a greater success than the NFL's lame counterpart.
  9. Shortstop used to be a given for the Reds. For 35 years, 1970 to 2004, their starter was either Dave Concepción or Barry Larkin, save a for few weeks in 1986 and when Larkin was fighting injuries in the second half of his career.

    Alex Gonzalez is probably the guy for the Reds, bearing in mind he's 32, coming off microfracture surgery and hasn't played since '07.
  10. This might be indicative of the chasm between ballplayers and the game's literary chroniclers. All three beat writers who cover the Reds are lefties, but their presumptive starting rotation consists of five right-handers: Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Aaron Harang (who's being shopped) and either novelty act Micah Owings or prospect-turned-suspect Homer Bailey.
  11. Lefty screwballer Danny Ray Herrera is a feel-good story, since he's trying to stick in the majors as a 5-foot-8, 145-lb. pitcher. (Some sources list him as "Daniel Ray," which is a little too serial-killerish). Herrera could be the Reds' equivalent to the Jays' Jesse Carlson. He also attended Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, which is famous for some book-, movie or TV show-related reason.
  12. Jonny Gomes, who's trying to catch on with the Reds as a lefty-masher, has that "I fear to watch, yet I cannot look away" quality about him. He has power and speed, but a seeming lack of a baseball brain that has kept him from finding a spot in the field or controlling the strike zone. He's struck out 413 times in 1,264 career at-bats, meaning he's a lifetime .327 whiffer, as opposed
  13. Venerable southern Ohio baseball scribe Hal McCoy has his critics, but you have to love that he calls relief pitchers "bullpenners." That one has to catch on, as part of a global movement to invent new position names for sports in order to confuse the Chinese -- "corner infielders" for first and third basemen, the LOOGY (Lefty for Only One Guy), the "combo forward" in basketball, using d-man for defenceman in hockey.

  14. Aug. 24 marks the 20th anniversary of Pete Rose's banishment from baseball for gambling. He should be in the Hall of Fame, you know.
    Barry Larkin will be on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2010. Former Jay Robbie Alomar was a better player, but ultimately, Larkin, a one-team player who never made waves, is more electable and yes, it sucks to use political jargon while talking about sports.
  15. Joe Posnanski has a book coming out about the 1975 Reds, the greatest National League team since World War II. For some reason he doesn't like to talk about it, though (kidding, Poz).
  16. The Reds' projected 2011 starting outfield is probably Bruce, Votto and centrefielder Drew Stubbs, who might have some Gold Gloves in his future. How much Stubbs will hit remains open to question.
  17. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is a Ty Wigginton-type of player: He hits 20-25 home runs a season, but never when it matters. The Reds have a hot prospect at third base, Neftali Soto, so their fans will not have Encarnacion to kick around much longer.
  18. Right-hander Dallas Buck bears tracking down on the farm. He's coming off Tommy John surgery and unlike the player he was acquired for, Adam Dunn, it's presumed he actually likes baseball.
  19. Remember the name: Minor League Ball is all over a righty pitcher named Juan Carlos Sulbaran, whom the Reds drafted in the 30th round last season.
  20. David Wells pitched for the Reds during the 1995 stretch drive, when the team still had its famed facial-hair ban. This was in the first season after the '94-95 strike when interest in baseball was at an all-time low, so almost no one was paying attention during the only time of his career when David Wells was clean-shaven. It's almost better to not try and find a photo.
  21. Cincinnati never won more than 85 games in a season during Ken Griffey Jr.'s run in his hometown. It never won less than 88 during Ken Griffey's time with the team (not counting the '81 strike-shortened season, when the Reds had the game's best record but missed the playoffs).
  22. The Reds are more famous for hitters (Rose, Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench) than pitchers, so maybe it's not surprising that the greatest Opening Day start in franchise history was authored by the obscure Frank Pastore (lifetime record: 48-58, 3.72 ERA). On April 9, 1980, he hucked a three-hit, no-walk shutout to beat Atlanta 9-0.
  23. A favourite piece of trivia is that every team in the National League played in the post-season at least once in the '80s except the Pirates and Reds; the Pirates beat the Reds in the 1979 playoffs and won the World Series and the Reds beat the Pirates in the 1990 playoffs and won the World Series.
  24. The late, great George Carlin once wondered, "If the Cincinnati Reds were the first professional baseball team, who did they play?"
  25. The bottom line is the Reds have a better GM, Walt Jocketty, than the two who preceded him, Dave Krivsky and Jim Bowden. They should get better in time.

1 comment:

louise said...

The Cincinnati Reds should be always competitive enough to keep pace with the others. I really like them; they’ve always been my favourite teams in MLB.
Just read about them here: