Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reds round table: Chapman, spring observations, bobbleheads

This week marks the fourth installment of the Redlegs Review round table. In this edition, RR staffers Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review), Scott Eddy (@scotte97), Jesse Welte (@RedlegsWriter), Dan Howard (@DaHermit16), and Sara Frey (@somegoodideas) offer up their thoughts on five recent topics.

These topics include the possibility of a global World Series, concerns for the upcoming season, whether Aroldis Chapman should start or close, spring training surprises and disappointments, and which bobblehead giveaway is most desirable.

- Bud Selig recently made comments that he envisions a "true World Series" coming into existence someday, where the MLB Champion would play the champion of a foreign league such as Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League. What are your thoughts on this?

Jimmi: I believe there is a better chance that Selig lifts the ban on Pete Rose as oppose to having the World Series champ play a foreign champ. Although the idea is novel, I just don't see this sort of arrangement coming to fruition. There are just too many hoops to jump through. Additionally, I think it may water down the accomplishment of winning the MLB crown.

Jesse: This is a neat idea to me. It would be interesting to see the World Series winner play a champion from another country, but I don't think this will happen in my lifetime. I don't foresee MLB teams wanting to participate in an event like this, due to injury concerns and workloads on pitchers. I would doubt that MLB would have much to gain from this in the American market, but it could definitely expand its ever-growing presence internationally. The logistics would be tricky too. How would the competitors be decided? Would the World Series champion always play the winner of some sort of foreign bracket or would they all just be part of some larger bracket overall? That's a lot of extra games and travel of which I'd bet most MLB owners and GMs would not be in favor.

Sara: I don't see this happening. As the past week has shown us, the majority of international talent ends up playing in the MLB. Proposing this would reveal international stars as "sell-outs" to some fans in their nations.

Dan: It would be an interesting concept. I agree that it would water down the MLB championship. Logistically, it could be a nightmare. When and where would the series be played? Would it be a home and home series? Let’s say the Boston Red Sox face the Yomiuri Giants in November for the title. There’s a 13 hour time difference between the two cities, factor in the travel involved, not to mention weather, and it could take weeks to play a multiple game series. A home and home two game series could take at least a week, in the middle of football season. Mr. Selig needs to think long and hard about this.

Scott: This seems like something you might see in a futuristic movie somewhere. And not a very good one at that. The chances of this happening are somewhere between slim and none perhaps mostly because the player's union isn't going to want to sign up for extra games anytime soon. 

- Everyone says the spring training record means nothing, which is true, but this year the record is horrid. Be honest. Does it bother you at all, and what is the biggest concern you have about this year's team, if any at all?

Jimmi: Their dismal record doesn't faze me at all. Now, if Dusty was playing the regulars all game long on an everyday basis, yeah, I would be a bit bothered. The biggest concern I have about this team is whether they're making the right decision by putting Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation. I know it's the right decision, per se, but will it turn out to be the best decision? That is the question, folks. If effective, there is no denying Chapman is better served in the rotation. However, it's still a risk to tinker with something that was working just fine before. Two additional concerns I have with this team is the long-term health of Joey Votto's knee and whether Todd Frazier can build on last season's success.

Jesse: Does it bother me? Yes, a tiny bit because I don't like seeing a record that bad, but I understand it's just spring training. A lot of our young pitchers have taken a beating early on leading to more losses than wins, but most of the regulars are actually faring pretty well. With cuts starting to be made, we'll see the team improve on their record I'm sure. The biggest concern I have this year is with the pitching, namely the starting rotation. Last year was a freak occurrence where 161 starts were made by the five regular starters. That's not going to happen again. If it does, I will give away my copy of 100 Things Every Reds Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die. My guess is that there will be some regression from the pitching staff as a whole. Hopefully, though, it's not so much that the improved offense cannot overcome it and lead the Reds to another NL Central title.

Sara: I'm not paying attention to the record. I'm hoping the rotation gets sorted out and that guys coming off injuries or poor Septembers are back in good shape.

Dan: Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, the Reds haven’t fielded their Opening Day lineup for a while. The true test will be during the final week of Spring Training when the roster will be set. Even then a losing record during Spring Training does not mean a failed season. Sure we’d all love to see the Reds start fast, similar to 1990, but that year was the exception. The Reds have always started slow. Remember, baseball season is a marathon not a sprint.

Scott: It is a little concerning, but I would be concerned anyway simply because of Joey Votto. I'm very nervous about him returning to his pre-injury state and watching him a bit in the WBC reinforced that concern - he looked just as timid on the base paths as he did last Fall. This team simply cannot be a playoff force without a healthy Votto, despite what some might say.

- There continues to be a great difference in opinion regarding how the Reds should use Aroldis Chapman. Dusty Baker and many players seem to favor using Chapman as the closer. GM Walt Jocketty and Reds pitching coach Bryan Price want him to start. Where do you stand and why?

Jimmi: Anyone who honestly refutes the premise that Chapman is more valuable as a starter than a reliever is ignorant. There is no question that more innings pitched is more valuable. However, given the fact that the Reds already had a reliable starting five carrying over from 2012, coupled with the dominance Chapman displayed as closer, in addition to Cincy already being a contender the way things were, I would have kept him at closer. The Reds bullpen was lights out last season and it was mainly because The Cuban Missile was at the backend. Now, I'm definitely anxious to see Chapman in a starting role. I think he could emerge as an elite starter, but it's a risk I don't believe the team needs to make at the moment. Time will tell whether it is a good move or not.

Jesse: The more I hear about it, the more I want to say he should be kept at closer. To that point, I also think closers are severely overrated. I am not trying to take away from anything Aroldis Chapman did in 2012 because he was incredible, but it's not like he was unblemished. He did blow five saves to go with his 38 completed ones. Francisco Cordero in his four years with the Reds blew six, four, eight, and six saves, while finishing 34, 39, 40, and 37 of them, respectively. There's not much difference in numbers there. They just weren't as flashy as Chapman's were with his triple-digit fastballs. I know, I know. Cordero isn't Chapman, and numbers aren't everything, but you still can't deny them. I think a healthy Reds bullpen has plenty of depth and is more than capable of closing games without Chapman back there, which is why I think moving a guy, who has drawn comparisons to Randy Johnson, to the rotation immediately is the correct decision.

Sara: I don't see how it would be helpful to sacrifice one of the team's strongest areas in hopes of strengthening another. This is a risk I'm not willing to take. We can find/groom other starting pitchers if need be, but we won't come across another closer like Chapman.

Dan: Ya gotta do what da boss wants. If Jocketty wants Chapman to close, so be it. I don’t like it personally, but lets see what happens.

Scott: I've always been in the use Chapman as a starter camp. I think his highest ceiling is there and the Reds are missing out if they don't try him as a starter. That said, I think the time for it was a year or two ago. His greatest value to the team this year is as closer because the transition will likely take a year considering innings limits and everything else. For a team in win now mode, the move is a little questionable.

- Shin-Soo Choo has made a great impression with his new franchise this spring. His manager and teammates have praised his work ethic and versatility, among other things. Aside from Choo, who else has impressed you this preseason? On the contrary, which players are you disappointed with?

Jesse: If we are talking strictly spring performance, I have to go with Devin Mesoraco. He is raking so far. As of Thursday morning, he was hitting .471 with two home runs and nine RBI in 11 games. He's by far outperforming Miguel Olivo (and everyone else on the team) and should be settling comfortably into the Reds dugout on April 1st. I'm also impressed with the battle being put up by Cesar Izturis, Jason Donald, and Emmanuel Burriss for the last bench spot. They're all pretty close in numbers, but I think Izturis will win out in the end. As far as disappoinments go, Ryan Ludwick comes to mind with a .148 average, no homers and just one RBI to go with 10 strikeouts in 27 at-bats as of Thursday morning. That is stinky.

Sara: I'm not a negative Nancy, but I'm not wowed by anyone or anything yet, nor am I panicking or writing hate mail. 

Jimmi: I've been really impressed with Devin Mesoraco thus far. The promising young catcher has busted out of the gates in 2013 after a putrid rookie campaign in 2012. He looks as if he is going to fend off Miguel Olivo for the backup catcher role entering Opening Day. One other area that I am seeing good things from this preseason is the play of the bullpen. Jonathan Broxton (0.00 ERA), Sean Marshall (1.80 ERA), Logan Ondrusek (1.80 ERA), J.J. Hoover (2.70), and Sam LeCure (3.00) have combined to allow only six earned runs in 27 innings pitched, which gives those guys a cumulative 2.00 ERA. A few guys who I am disappointed with include Johnny Cueto, Billy Hamilton, and Ryan Ludwick. Cueto has surrendered 10 runs, 14 hits, and five walks in 15 innings of work. Hamilton has just two hits in 18 at-bats (.111 BA) to go along with eight strikeouts. Ludwick is batting .138 (4-29) with no homers, 10 strikeouts, and only one walk. The silver lining for these guys is that none of these stats go on the back of their baseball cards. 

- Okay, serious question guys. The Reds are going to give away five different bobbleheads this season: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman, and Mat Latos. Which one do you covet the most and why?

Jesse: Oh man. This is a tough one. I don't know if there are pictures of all the prototypes out yet, but I seem to remember seeing one of Aroldis Chapman pitching an actual fireball. I would like that one, UNLESS the Mat Latos one comes fully tatted up. It would be a must have at that point. The best part is you don't have to covet just one. You can have them all if you're lucky enough!

Jimmi: You really can't go wrong with any of them. But I would go with Phillips because I don't have one of him in my bobblehead collection yet. I do, however, have Sean Casey, Joey Votto, and Edinson Volquez sitting on my bookshelf at the moment. I figure there will be plenty of opportunities to grab a bobblehead of Frazier, Chapman, and Latos in future seasons.

Sara: Brandon Phillips. That grin will surely take up the whole bobblehead!

Dan: How about bobbleheads for blog writers!

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