Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bengals fans, don't slit your wrists just yet......

You know it's been awhile since you've posted when the Reds were still in contention in the last post. But I digress.....

OK, the Bengals lost 34-3 and everyone is already killing them and thinking it's going to be a 2-14 season. But I, for one, saw much to be encouraged about after breaking down the first half. Granted, I went into it looking for the silver lining and watched it two days after they actually played, so I had no emotional attachment.

The Lions took the first drive right down the field with a couple long completions, including a back shoulder fade for Megatron over Leon Hall. Outside of Geno Atkins, who is now officially my second favorite Bengal, no pass rush was evident. Hall has had his issues with larger receivers, and has no shot if he isn't even going to bump at the line. That said, the coverage was softer than Rex Ryan's midsection so I'm not going to kill them for it. It is going to be better across the board.

The Bengals fumble their opening kick and it leads to 7 more quick Lion points. The biggest issue was not the rookie returner who won't be on this team, but the putrid blocking that let three Lions hit him simultaneously. Core special teamers Brandon Johnson, Brian Leonard, and another guy I'm blanking on right now (editors note: Dan Skuta), all missed blocks. This will not happen on the regular, and can be chalked up to the first kickoff return of the season. Again the Lions marched, and if Nate Burleson didn't make the circus catch for a touchdown over Hall, then they were just as lucky that Jahvid Best dropped what could've been a TD in front of Manny Lawson. Lawson looked a little lost, but he's only had a handful of practices. The linebackers will be okay, and have better speed than at anytime last year. I like Thomas Howard too, and they will have nice depth once Rivers returns.

OK, then the Bengals get the ball for the first time and Andy Dalton is picked on his first pro pass. I like Gruden's aggressiveness here. The plan was to double team In-Dom-A-Kin Soo, and Corey Williams just nailed the snap count to beat Nate Livings and hit Dalton as he threw. This was shades of Carson Palmer's last three years (ie-not entirely the QB's fault for those morons amongst us). Give these guys 5 seconds and good things will happen. Now I'm not a huge Livings fan, and believe Clint Boling will be the starter before year's end. But that said, Dalton needs to leave that ball to the outside if he can, but you can't really control it if you're hit. Even short, AJ can make a play if it's to his side.

The Bengals D did a nice job of shutting down the Lions next drive. Again, Atkins was very active and Reggie Nelson shows flashes of real playmaking ability that made him a first round pick. I think the secondary, barring injury, should be pretty good.

The Bengals did a really nice job establishing the run in the next drive, primarily behind Bobbie Williams and a quite impressive Andre Smith. These guys pushed Suh around and Cedric the Entertainer had some nice runs. But the old foe, third and short, reared it's ugly head. I thought Dalton actually made the right read in throwing to a ton of open green field turf, but FB Chris Pressley didn't make the adjustment. Gruden has said it was a messed up route by Coffman that kind of affected coverage, but either way, you throw to the open spot and Dalton did.

It's been a few days since I watched the game, so the rest of the drives kind of blend together but here are some random thoughts. AJ Green is impressive. He snatches the ball at the furthest point from the defender, and he's looking to run with it. He may have run 50 yards sideways on the one slant (which was a nice throw from AD), but holy shit did you see the block Jerome Simpson threw? I'm telling you right now, Chad, TJ, TO, Chris Henry RIP, not even Vern Coles comes back to throw that type of block!! And Simpson just missed a beauty of a TD of his own with that backshoulder fade perfectly thrown by AD.

Dalton made great reads and only missed on two throws, both of which he got hit on. The first by Williams, and the second by some guy wearing 75 who got Andre the Giant with a quick bullrush. Speaking of Andre, I thought he did really well. His footwork is a little sloppy, but he's just massive. He shut out Cliff Avril who was reportedly unblockable in early camp. Signs of life from a guy desperate to shed the "bust" label. He is a huge key to this season.

But back to Dalton, the biggest key. He spread the ball around, hitting just about everyone at least once. I really like the route concepts that Gruden is using. A lot of crossing route, pick plays, and combos that will lead to matchup problems. Yes, AD didn't average a lot, but he just missed two 20 yard TD's that would've helped that a ton. I didn't see any mental errors, and that's huge.

Now he did get dumped on his helmetless head when Bobbie Williams and Cook were abused by Suh. But Dalton got back up and went about his business. The kid's impressive.

So on the sour side, the pass defense was bad. But Carlos Dunlap didn't play, and you won't see these DB's play off that much the rest of the season. They will be okay. The OLB's are brand new, but Who Dey Rey looks pretty darn good at the Mike. Like Coach Zim said this week, this defense can be good. I agree. They did a nice job vs. the run and on the screens. It was the big play that has killed them the last couple of years, and it showed up again last Friday. That is my big concern. Stopping the run consistently and getting the pressure they did late in 2010=surprising success.

The offensive line is not as bad in pass protection as last year, but they aren't great. Outside Whitworth, who better freaking get to Hawaii this season as a ProBowler, the rest of the guys are clearly better at runblocking. But they can be really good at that. And there weren't many penalties, which is a great sign. Outside a phantom hold on a very well executed screen to Brian Leonard, they played clean. If they get back to bullying opponents, like they did in 2009, they will be a lot of fun to watch. Ceddy Ced just needs to learn not to try and do too much, like last year, and fumble at THE WORST TIMES EVER!!

And the skill guys played pretty fast too, especially for a first game together. This team will score some points once they start to click, they have too many weapons not too. As I've said several times, this is the most talented group in the division. Have fun trying to cover freaks like AJ, Simpson and Gresham, and then having the poor man's Wes Welker in Shipley who's becoming great at finding spaces in the seams. They can be scary good given time.

But they have to get TD's and not FG's, and they can't miss chip shot FG's like the Nuge did in Detroit. Redzone offense has been brutal for this team the last couple of years, but I really like the balance and the weapons, and the decision making of the QB. Hopefully they won't self-destruct as often as past years. (At least we won't have the two false starts by 85 a game anymore)!!

Now I'm not saying this team is going 10-6 with a rookie at QB, but I saw nothing in that first half that changes my opinion that this team can go 7-9 or even 8-8 if they clean up a few things. They don't have glaring weaknesses, just several little things that need some attention. Injuries can change everything in the NFL, but if they stay relatively healthy, I'm bullish on the Bungholes this year. Out with the old Delta Bravo's, and up with the new young tiger cubs.

And yeah, homerism acknowledged.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Buy, Sell, Trade? What Walt will be thinking about this month.

Here the Reds sit on July 6th, 43-44 and in 4th place, 4 games back of St. Louis. What should they do? They are in “contention” only because they play in arguably the worst division in baseball. More than half their wins have come against the NL Central, they are below .500 on the road, and nearly half their losses are of the one run variety. Their interleague record is abysmal. Clear signs of weaknesses. They have limped through a very difficult month and are smack in the middle of a stretch against the division leaders that could determine the rest of the season's course.

So make a trade you say? Get some help for SS, LF, CF, 3B! Get some pitchers! Maybe they should, but let's examine those ideas as they pertain to the bottom line, just like real GM's do.

SS is probably the most difficult position in baseball to fill in terms of offensive production, especially without huge sacrifices for defense (see Peralta, Johnny). Jose Reyes is the biggest name rumored on the market, and is in the midst of a career best year. He is a free agent at season’s end, and almost certainly will not sign with the Reds. (His contract will be somewhere around 7 years, $140+M, and no one not named Votto is worth that kind of investment for the Reds). He would be a rental, and he will not come cheaply on the trade market. However, he will be a Type A free agent, and would almost certainly decline arbitration that the Reds would offer. This would mean two draft picks as compensation from the team he signs with. That would help offset the cost of the blue chip prospects you’d have to give up. Still, you’d be on the hook for his remaining roughly $5.5M salary as well, unless the Mets did what the Blue Jays did for the Reds in the Rolen deal and eat salary for a better player package. The Reds have the prospects to make the deal if they want. The rest of the market is pretty underwhelming. JJ Hardy, Jason Bartlett (may not be available anymore), etc.

One intriguing name is prospect Zach Cozart, currently playing the heck out of SS in Louisville. He’d almost certainly be an upgrade offensively, but you’re dealing with an older manager and older GM that prefer veterans. Plus, you’d be starting Cozart’s arbitration clock early (we’ll talk again about this later). While the Reds have been willing to risk Super 2 status with players like Jay Bruce before, it’s a little harder to swallow for more of a “role player” type of guy. As we’re seeing now with the arbitration issues of Votto, Bruce, Cueto, Volquez, etc. eventually you have to pay guys when you commit to a youth movement.

As much as I’d love to see Reyes on this team, the move doesn’t make a ton of sense. I would argue that they really need another middle of the order hitter, although Reyes setting the table might make the current guys better. Still, the Mets sound less and less likely to deal him, so it’s probably moot. Cozart is a better option than Hardy or Bartlett, or anyone else for that matter.

Outfield production has been much maligned, and with reason. Even the great Jay Bruce went from a redhot May to a horrendous June. Add in Drew Stubbs 40% strikeout rate over the last month and a half, and the ups and downs of the Gomes/Heisey/Lewis triumvirate, and you have wildly inconsistent production. Still, is there really an upgrade on the market? Ryan Ludwick, really? I just don’t see it, and it pains me to say that. There is no Matt Holliday in this market. Maybe a Carlos Beltran, but are the Reds going to take that salary? Same with Alex Rios. No way this team is taking on big dollars, and to give up major prospects for these guys is throwing good money after bad. This team would have to be 4 games up to make that kind of move, and then why would they need to. Besides, unless you’re again going after a rental with Type A or B status, you’re going to have to pay upwards of $7M per for even a decent offensive player. All this while Heisey and Lewis still have controllable years ahead of them. That just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Of course, there really aren’t any power hitting OF prospects just lighting up the minors either. Todd Frazier is a Mark DeRosa-type defensively (probably best at 3B) and he does have 15 bombs in AAA, but he’s only hitting around .270 and still hasn’t put everything together at the plate. I’d love to see him get more of a shot in September, but he doesn’t really warrant significant playing time yet (though I do love his 14 steals). Yonder Alonso has played quite a bit in LF, and has the makings of an OPS machine, but the Reds brass continue to keep him back in AAA. If he stays at 1B, he’ll be blocked by Votto until at least 2013, so he remains the Reds best trade chip. Perhaps Dave Sappelt warrants a look, but he’s not a power guy and isn’t stealing bases either. I think he’s a poor mans Chris Heisey. Jeremy Hermida is a journeyman, no better. I’d rather play Lewis.

I just don’t see a move here worth making. Heisey deserves more PT, as does Lewis. Gomes might be an interested guy to sell off if the Reds tank, but the other guys should be here for awhile.

3B probably isn’t even worth talking about. The Reds owe Rolen $4M this year and another $8M next. Even if he can’t hit for power anymore, they will still keep him and play him when/if he’s healthy. I’m not a huge Rolen fan, but it is what it is. I wish they still had Zach Stewart and Josh Reneike…..and Josh Hamilton….sigh.

Catcher is intriguing. The Reds maybe the deepest team in the league at a position they couldn’t find a decent one for a decade or more. Not only are they getting great production offensively from Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez, but they have arguably their best overall prospect in Devin Mesoraco at the position, as well as last year’s 1st round pick Yasmani Grandal (who killed high A and is currently in AA). It may make me a bad fan, but the selling chips here almost make me hope the Reds fall out of contention. Ramon Hernandez could get you something valuable in a trade, especially if he earns Type A status.

The problem with keeping Hernandez is that he’s a free agent after the season, and the Reds will almost certainly be ready for Mesoraco for next season at the latest. That means that in order for the Reds to capitalize on Hernandez’s status (A or possibly B), they’d have to offer arbitration. I think that short of a wink and nod deal not to, he’d accept it for the certain significant raise on a one-year deal. That would be the worst position the Reds could be in. The flip side is that, if the Reds do deal Hernandez, and promote Mesoraco, they start his arbitration clock which could make him a Super 2 player. (That means he’s eligible for arbitration a full year sooner than he’d normally be, which can cost the club millions). Again, the Reds have shown a willingness to err on the side of youth for the right guy, and Mez looks like a bonafide star.

The Reds certainly don’t need to trade FOR a catcher, so this position is only of interest if they decide to sell.

Pitching has been the position hardest hit by injuries this season. The Reds have been rumored to be looking at Starting pitching, but I’m not sure which national writer has his mouth on the crack pipe. The Reds starting pitching has been okay, especially of late, and they still have a ton of young arms. Johnny Cueto is looking like an ace and the Reds have him locked up longterm on a very team friendly contract. Yes, Edinson Volquez has been all over the map, and yes, Bronson Arroyo is a mess physically. Yes, Bailey has been hurt and inconsistently effective. But, they’ve still gotten mostly good stuff out of Leake and Wood. And, there’s almost nothing on the trade market. AND, the best possible addition is sitting on THEIR AAA affiliate in Dontrelle Willis. Let’s be real. Is this team Erik Bedard away from winning the division? Jeremy Guthrie? Didn’t think so.

Now if they could land a big fish, then maybe. Especially one that isn’t coming with a $15-$20M/per price tag (sorry, don’t see King Felix coming here unless this team is going up to $90M+ payroll). Could you land a Brian Matusz or a Jake Arrieta? Or a Michael Pineda or even a Brandon Beachy? Maybe.

A significant longterm upgrade to the rotation would be worth top prospects; anything less than that is a wash at best. And remember that pitchers are generally more susceptible to injuries than position guys.

So maybe they could look to the bullpen. Coco Cordero is a free agent at season’s end (assuming the Reds choose the $1M buyout), and Masset and Chapman and even Ondrusek have been inconsistent. I still don’t see this team looking at a Heath Bell type player. I don’t think they will be in a big hurry to continue to have their highest paid player be the closer. Masset, Chapman and Ondrusek are all locked up longterm and I’m sure the preference would be to see one of those three take the closer’s role next year. (Start getting the Tums ready for when they start throwing balls). Bray is solid as the lefty go to guy, and some combination of LeFishSmith will be there too.

The prospect with the most buzz in the pen has to be Bradley Boxberger, who has recently been promoted to AAA. He could end up being a Craig Kimbrel, out of nowhere, closer option next year. His numbers are freakish. I fully expect to see him in September if not sooner.

Again, I don’t see a major upgrade available that’s worth the prospects and/or money unless this team suddenly gets hot.

So what does all that mean? I’m really not sure. I do think that this team, as it stands, is going to have to win some games before Reds brass can really decide what to do. Right now they are on the razor’s edge. Slide back much further and you almost have to deal at least a couple guys. Move up and maybe you warrant an addition. Where they are now, if you make a big move and the team still slides, it could blow up in Walt’s face.

I know the fanbase is going to start crying for moves, but the only ones worth making right now are internal ones. (Unless you can get King Felix). But talk to me in a week and things might have changed…..


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reds aren't winning the close ones

16 one run losses, not good. Only Minnesota, Oakland, and Florida have more. Know what they have in common? They're all in last place.

While we're talking about odd stats, guess which team has given up the fewest runs in the NL Central. Bet you didn't guess it was the Pirates, and by a wide margin.

The Reds have scored the most in the division. Actually the most in the NL, and 3rd in all of baseball behind only the Red Sox and Yankees. Of course they've given up almost 50 more than the Yankees and 25 more than the Sox.

The Reds currently are 41-39. According to, their expected record based on Runs Scored vs. Runs Against should be three games better. Good enough for 44 wins and first place in the division. While that's not the end of be all of analysis, it does somewhat confirm that this team should be better than it is.

They've had several bad, bad loses this year, that will almost certainly come back to bite them down the stretch. Unless they can get a lot better in the close ones. A lot better.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The speedy Yankees?

Yes, the Yankees are one of the top offensive teams in baseball and yes, they hit a ton of homeruns. But the most impressive stat, at least of late, is that the have 37 steals over the last month (tops in the bigs).

The Reds have not done a great job throwing out baserunners, so keep an eye on that aspect of the series.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Big thanks to Mark Neal

Thanks to Mark for all the mentions of the blog during the interview today during the Reds pregame show on 1410.

Maybe we'll even get a few new followers, who knows. If this is your first time here, welcome. Hopefully you'll find something interesting buried in the dung heap!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

JJ's back and taking aim at Crusty the Clown

Take it away JJ.....

Dusty Baker and His Wisdom of Doom

I think the Reds have played (and lost) enough games this season to be critical of them. We have a big enough pool of results to specifically point out how Dusty Baker is hindering the Reds’ ability to win games. So let’s have a contest and give out the first Annual Dusty Baker Managerial Awards:

  • Let’s say you have the player that is leading the NL in HR’s and RBI’s, also with the 3rd highest BA on the team while your reigning NL MVP is walking every at bat because the person behind him is a corpse and offers no protection, how long does it take you to bat the NL HR and RBI leader 4th to protect your MVP? If your answer was 45 games then you win the Dusty Baker Managerial Award. (the results of the batting order change yielded 3 RBI’s and 1 HR for your NL HR and RBI leader while your reigning MVP hit his first HR in a month in the second game of the order change)

  • Let’s say you have two SS’s, both aren’t hitting, one is approximately 55 years old , has no range and leads the team in errors while the other is 26 years old, has range, and is a defensive standout. How do you handle the starting SS position? If you said play them equally, and even bat the elderly SS 5th on occasion you win the Dusty Baker Managerial Award.

  • Let’s say your team has played two, long extra inning games on the road in the same week and your bullpen is a bit overworked. During close games in the midst of losing 10 of 12 games do you allow just called up rookie pitches to be sacrificed to rest your bullpen and knowingly lose another game or two so your bullpen will be rested for the post season or do you try to frickin’ win the games to stop the bleeding of the losing streak so you will be around for the post season, bullpen be damned because who cares if your bullpen is rested for the post season if you don’t even make it because you knowingly lost games earlier in the season to rest your bullpen? If you answer is knowingly sacrifice rookie pitchers and lose games to rest your bullpen for the post season even though you probably won’t make it because YOU ARE LOSING TOO MANY GAMES EARLY IN THE SEASON you win the Dusty Baker Managerial Award.

  • Let’s say your leadoff hitter is the fastest man on the team, maybe in the league, but is in the midst of striking out 70 times in 140 at bats, never bunts (not sure h knows how), has power and has been known to hit in the clutch on occasion, would you continue to bat him leadoff without him putting balls into play 50% of the time and hitting with no one on base (where he can be clutch) or do you move him down the batting order to 5th or 6th to drive in runs and not hinder your team at the start of every game? If you answered keep him at leadoff you win the Dusty Baker Managerial Award.

  • Let’s say you have a LF veteran who is batting under .200 but had a huge May (in 2010) and now swings a bat like a crazy person swatting at imaginary fairies and has no defensive skills. Would you give him the opportunity to hit himself out of his 1+ year funk while wasting away a decent veteran and a kid with potential who was once the Reds minor league player of the year or would you cut your losses with said LF and platoon the average veteran and young kid with potential to see if he could live up to it? If you answered let the veteran hit himself out of the prolonged slump you win the Dusty Baker Managerial Award.

If your answer on any of the questions above gave you a Dust Baker Managerial Award you’ve earned the right to sit in a major league dugout chewing on a toothpick while continuing to look mystified that your team is losing way too many games early in the season. If your answer on every question earned you a Dusty Baker Managerial Award you ARE Dusty Baker and you should quit wasting your time reading this blog and watch a Little League game to pick up some managerial tips

Monday, May 30, 2011

The REDS the numbers

1. Pitching-
This team has scored more runs than the Boston Red Sox, and continues to be one of the best defensive teams in the game (9.8 UZR/150-and adjusted defensive metric that accounts for range AND fielding percentage). They were mediocre as a staff last year, which was good enough for the division, but relied heavily on young guys like Leake and Wood. This season, the staff finds itself in the bottom third of all staffs, still wihout an ace and now struggling just to find healthy bodies.

2. Injuries-
So much for pitching depth, at least 7 key guys have been or are hurting. This team has seen Homer Bailey on the DL twice, along with rotation mate Cueto, and Aroldis Chapman and Sam Lecure from the pen on the 15 day so far. Jared Burton and Matt Maloney are on the 60 day. Edinson Volquez, still a mess from TJ surgery, has forced Mike Leake back into the rotation despite his own struggles. Even Bronson Arroyo had to get checked out after a bad outing on the last road trip. The bullpen in particular is full of names most fans won't recognize due to injuries. This is hardly the staff the front office envisioned at season's beginning.

3. Starting Pitching-
Overall the numbers aren't too bad. 7k/9, 3bb/9, an xFIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) a full run below their 4.96 ERA. The biggest problem they are having is with the home run. 1.29 per 9 and a HR/FB% of 12.3, both 2nd worst in baseball. You'd expect some of that playing in GABP, but not 29th out of 30 teams. (They were at 10% in 2010). Also pitching the fourth fewest innings so far this season has put tremendous stress on what looked to be a decent bullpen.

4. Bullpen-
Injuries and overuse have made a decent pen put up below average numbers. Nothing as extreme as the starters, but they too are walking too many at 4.33/9 and you'd like to see more k's out of the pen than 7/9. There are several pens giving up more than the Reds .86 Homers/9, but we all know they've come at really bad times. That has led to an xFIP about a half a run higher than their 3.47 ERA. As bad as the Cards pen has been, they're about even with the Reds and that should've been a huge advantage for Cincy.

5. LF-
Much maligned for it's collective lack of production compared (unfairly) with last season, LF has produced 13 homers, 43 runs, 44 rbi and 8 sb, and when Heisey or Lewis play, above average defense. The problem is the .223 avg and .309 OBP, and the fact that you do trade off Gomes streaky power for better all around play with the other two. The bar was set unrealistically high due in large part to Gomes stellar May last year. He isn't as good as the 84 rbi he had last year, but neither are the other two. Still, you could live with a platoon if other positions are stepping up.

6. 3B-
Newsflash: Scott Rolen is old. He can still pick it, but he isn't the middle of the order force this team had in the first half last season. The position's .275 avg isn't terrible, but the .328 OBP isn't very good, and the 3hr and 28 rbi are miserable for a middle order position. This isn't nearly enough to get a pennant, and the Reds are locked in for another $6M for Rolen next year too, and you're lucky to get 120 games out of him.

7. SS-
The Reds knew if they started Paul Janish at SS, he was glove first and bat second (if at all). Still a positional OBP below .300 (.278) is dreadful, especially with no homers and little speed. Again, Janish's glove could play if the rest of the lineup is potent. This one isn't right now. This is probably the #1 position to look at for a trade upgrade. Hello Jose Reyes.

8. CF-
Drew Stubbs still has a lot of room for improvement, but is clearly an everyday major leaguer. You can certainly live with a .250 avg, but the walk rate needs to improve to get the OBP up above .333. He's always going to strikeout a ton (nearly 30% of AB's), but his combination of defense, power and speed will play. I still would have him down in the order rather than leading off, but that's Dusty being Dusty. Perhaps a Reyes trade would fix that.

9. RH hitting-
Votto's power production and rbi's are a little low, but he's still a premier offensive player. Jay Bruce is leading the NL in homers and leading this team with 40 rbi. He's been the only hot bat, and this team is still losing. RH hitting is one big culprit. Outside of Brandon Phillips and his 30 rbi and Stubbs' 23, there's no one on this team with 20! They once again are getting decent production from the Hernandez/Hannigan platoon, but this team needs either 3B or LF to be a run producing position from the Right side of the dish.