Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Series preview: Reds welcome Giants

The Reds, fresh off an off day Monday, welcome San Francisco to town for a three game set at GABP on Tuesday. While the Reds should be fresh, the Giants are coming off a doubleheader sweep over the Mets on Monday. The wins moved SF to 9-7 on the year, three games behind the Dodgers in the West. All the info goodness after the break....

San Francisco isn’t known for its offense, but the Giants are eighth in major league baseball in batting, hitting .257 as a team, even though manager Bruce Bochy is taking heat for playing vets with low upside like Aubrey Huff over highly-touted youngster Brandon Belt. Maybe he’s reading the how-to manual left by an old manager there …

Our Redlegs, meanwhile, rank 27th at .223/.294/.338 right behind the….Mariners, who just happened to make Philip Humber perfect on Saturday.

Basically the Reds need to start hitting. In other news, Dusty Baker calls Humber’s perfect game "impressive."

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.
Mat Latos (0-2, 8.22) vs. Matt Cain (1-0, 1.88)

The Reds will be bringing a championship to GABP on Tuesday, just not the one most of us really care about. 

Just imagine you're wearing the Padres threads, Mat.
Latos enters his start on Tuesday in desperate need of turning things around after a, shall we say, less than auspicious start to his Reds tenure. In his three starts so far as a Red, Latos has been bad (4.2 innings, seven hits, four earned vs. Miami), serviceable (five innings, two earned, three walks, one K at Washington) and ugly (5.2 innings, nine hits, eight earned at St. Louis).

Interestingly, Latos has still been coaxing a decent amount of strikeouts aside from the Washington outing, although the control has a whole needs to be better. There’s been some talk about his velocity being down, but his fastball has actually been a bit quicker than it was on average last season (93.2 this year compared to 93.0 last year), although it still is off his peak of 94.1 set in 2009. What has changed, though, according to PitchFX, is that Latos simply isn’t throwing the fastball as much. He threw the pitch nearly 44 percent of the time last year, compared to 39.7 percent of his pitches in his three starts this season. He’s using the changeup much more – he threw it only 6.4 percent of the time a year ago, while he’s gone to the change on 16.1 percent of his pitches this year.

The good news is that San Francisco is coming to town, and seeing his old NL West foes could be just what the doctor ordered to get Latos back on the right track. The right-hander has been successful against the Giants in his career even though his record doesn’t show it. He’s 2-3 lifetime against the Giants, but with a 2.64 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 58 innings. 

Latos will need a return to form as Matt Cain takes the hill for the Giants. Remarkably, Cain has tossed two straight nine inning shutouts and allowed only four baserunners. He’s 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA against Cincy and the Reds might have some interesting sources for solving the right-hander – Ryan Ludwick (.375, 16 at-bats) and Willie Harris (.308, 13 at-bats) have had the most success against Cain aside from Scott Rolen (.429, 7 at-bats).

Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.
Bronson Arroyo (1-0, 2.91) vs. Barry Zito (1-0, 1.71)

The success of 'Moneyball' has Zito feeling like its 2005.
Don’t look now, but Bronson Arroyo has put together quite a nice start to the season. Conventional wisdom says that Arroyo can’t match the 46 home runs he surrendered last year, and thus far he’s given up just one bomb in 21.2 tidy innings of work. The numbers suggest his good fortune might not last once the weather warms as he’s actually giving up more fly balls so far this year than last season (a whopping 46 percent), but let’s enjoy the ride while it lasts, no? On the other hand, many Reds fans like to forget that he’s not far removed from a pair of solid seasons in 2009-10 when he combined for a 26-22, 3.86 ERA.

Arroyo has fared very admirably against the Giants even though he’s lacked much in the way of run support.  He’s 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA in his last 60 innings against SF. 

Zito is an intriguing case. The former AL Cy Young has been an albatross on the Giants since signing a massive contract before the 2007 season. While Giants fans are hoping he’s recaptured a bit of the magic he had while in Oakland, the numbers say that’s not likely. Over the past six years, Zito has an average WHIP of 1.40. In his first three times out this year, though, the WHIP is a sparkling 0.86 and opponents have hit only .175 against him. Doubters have plenty of merit for their arguments against that lasting, however, as his turns have come against Colorado (who he has owned throughout his career) and two of the weakest offenses in the league in Pittsburgh and the Mets. The Reds could snap him back into reality as Zito has an ERA of 7.47 against the Redlegs in his last three starts against them.

Thursday, 12:35 p.m.
Homer Bailey (1-2, 3.86) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (0-1, 3.38)

Bailey will start this week’s Business Man Special as he looks to build on a solid last outing last time out when he allowed just one earned run and five hits over seven innings of work at Wrigley.

Former lost cause Ryan Vogelsong is slated to take the hill for the Giants for just his third start of the season. He’s coming off a no-decision at New York where he struck out eight over seven innings, allowing three earned runs. You might remember his remarkable season of a year ago when he went 13-7 with a 2.71 in 179.2 innings. Prior to last year, the former Pirate had posted a career ERA of 6.12 while kicking around since 2001. Pitching by the bay apparently does wonders for everyone not named Zito. He’s 2-3 with a 5.40 in his last 38 innings against Cincinnati.

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