Sunday, April 21, 2013

RR Roundtable: The first act in The Tony Cingrani Experience and other mid-April musings

This week's most buzzed about Reds storyline was
easily the first start for Tony Cingrani.
Redlegs Review staffers reconvene this week for the RR Roundtable to discuss some of the hottest topics in the land of the Redlegs. It's been an eventful week, with the club snapping a five-game losing skid by responding with four straight wins, a continued nagging of the injury bug and the much anticipated debut of Tony Cingrani. This week we debate whether Cingrani has seen the last of minor league life, how worried we should or shouldn't be about Joey Votto and Jay Bruce's lack of early season power and we let our true feelings known about the WOO phenomenon at Great American Ballpark. Joining the roundtable this week is moderator Scott Eddy (@scotte97), Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review), Sara Frey (@somegoodideas), Jon Davis (@I_Bleed_RedsRed) and Matt Bollmann. Let's get to it, shall we?

1) Tony Cingrani made his much anticipated first major league start on Thursday and didn’t disappoint, striking out eight in five innings to lead to a win over Miami. The eight punch outs were the most by any Red making their first start since the man Cingrani replaced, Johnny Cueto, in 2008. What’s the chances that Cingrani goes the way of Cueto and makes himself stick in the rotation and doesn’t go back to Louisville – even after Cueto returns?

Scott: I’d say it’s 50/50. I love Cingrani’s stuff and think he could be a very good middle-of-the-rotation starter for a long time. I’m just not sure if his secondary stuff is good enough quite yet at this point to consistently post solid innings every five days. I think he’ll be a good stop-gap if Cueto (hopefully) only misses a couple of weeks, but he may not be a better option than say, Mike Leake at this point. The changeup is close, but he needs to get a stronger breaking ball – and that’s something that can definitely happen, but it may take time. Plus, as encouraging as Thursday’s outing was, for all intents and purposes it was against a AAAA lineup. 

Jimmi: I would say those chances are pretty slim. Cingrani would have to be really, really good in Cueto's absence in order to stick. Additionally, Mike Leake would have to be really, really bad. I just don't see Leake pitching poor enough to warrant swapping him in the rotation with Cingrani. At this point, Leake probably remains the best option to plug into the fifth spot in the rotation. He has experience and he has proven to be a rather dependable starting pitcher in the major leagues. However, I fully expect Cingrani to be a fixture in the starting five in due time.

Jon: It all depends on whether Leake pitches more like his last start or the starts prior to that. I say that
If Cingrani sticks, it would likely be at Mike Leake's expense.
because I have a good idea what Cingrani is going to do. When we look at the upcoming schedule they will face the same opponent until May eighth and tenth, when Leake would face Atlanta and Cingrani would face Milwaukee. To make this easy let’s assume Cueto is back by then, which is quite possible. Both pitchers would get the Cubs twice, once home and once away, and a game in Washington. I personally think that Cingrani will out pitch Leake over the next few weeks, so the only question is can he out do Leake enough to force the Reds hand. If I had to guess I would say no, but still feel like Cingrani would be the better option. When Cueto is ready to return I see the numbers like this: Cingrani 3.52 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 23 innings, 32 K and Leake  4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 38 innings, 28 K. If these are the kind of numbers we see then I am sure the Reds will stick with Leake.

Sara: Cingrani was good enough for the team on Thursday, but as others point out, he's no better than what we've got in the rotation right now. Unless someone really falls apart after Cueto's return, Cingrani will continue to get some good experience in Louisville.  

Matt: I don't know that we can put a percentage chance on it right now due to the fact that we will have to see how the likes of Mike Leake and Manny Parra fare. I think if Mike Leake or Manny Parra struggle during the time that Cueto is out and Cingrani is here we could see Cingrani stay. I'm a huge fan of Cingrani and personally think that he should have made the team out of spring. My opinion I guess in this case could be slightly biased.

2) The interwebz blew up this week with complaints about Dusty Baker’s handling of the bullpen in the early-going, giving too much work to JJ Hoover and not enough to Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman. Are these fans being too tough on the skipper – or is there merit to their complaints?

Matt: The fire Dusty tweets and comments honestly get on my nerves. The reason some of those guys were overused early had to do with some guys that were hurting. Honestly, if you watch any baseball game, the decisions the manager makes are going to be questioned. With the track record of success that Dusty has had with this team two of the last three years, it's hard to argue with the job he has done.

Scott: I’ll admit, sometimes Dusty drives me crazy. There’s been a few of those times early this year. Last Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh had me screaming a bit (I was fortunate enough to witness that debacle in person) – it was fairly predictable that Broxton wouldn’t be sharp after going nearly a week without pitching, and then when Dusty decided to get Chapman warming once the game was already out of hand – well, don’t get me started. If there’s one fault that Dusty seemingly cannot shake it is his fixation on putting guys in roles and letting them stay there – and potentially sink themselves and the team along the way. Just because a guy has a set role (say, eighth inning setup man) on Opening Day, doesn’t mean that’s all he can do from Game 1 to 162.

Jimmi: Look, I firmly believe fans will always find something to complain about. Some of it is warranted and some of it is not. When a manager pulls the right strings, he is lauded by the fan base. Conversely, when he pulls the wrong strings he is darn near tarred and feathered. Sure, Dusty has made some questionable decisions with the bullpen this season, but I don't think the amount of heat he routinely receives is justified. Should he have kept calling on a struggling J.J. Hoover to pitch? Probably not. Should he have a shorter leash with his pitchers when they get into trouble? Probably. But for the most part, I believe Dusty makes more right moves than wrong ones.

Jon: There is merit to the complaint. It was a bad move to let Broxton and Chapman sit so long, but at the same time they, at least the ones I saw complaining, are being too hard on him. He is making decisions without the benefit of hindsight and we don't even know how it would have worked out had he made the "right choice." It is easy for me to sit on my couch and throw food at the TV, insisting that he is doing something wrong but personally I always go back to "hey we won 97 last year" and that was without a leadoff hitter.

3) Through the first 16 games, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce had combined for just one home run – a solo blast by Votto last Sunday vs. the Pirates (note, he hit No. 2 on Saturday). Time to hit the panic button – or should we be more encouraged by the recent offensive surge despite the lack of power numbers from two of the team’s key lineup cogs?

Joey Votto knew this topic was coming
...and homered Saturday.
Jimmi: I'm actually doing the opposite of hitting the panic button. I've been pleased to see some of the other guys step up and produce well beyond expectations. It's a long season -- 162 games to be exact. We aren't even through 20, yet. I have faith Bruce and Votto will turn it on at some point. For Bruce, that could come at anytime. He is one of the streakiest athletes I have ever seen in any sport and at any level. For Votto, we all know what he is capable of. Sure, the power numbers aren't quite there, but it's still early and he has plenty of season left to put his power on display. 

Scott: Bruce is what he is – an incredibly streaky player who will have stretches where he’s so hot that it makes up for his ridiculously cold spells in the long run. He’ll heat up before long, and besides, he was batting .294 after Thursday’s game, so he hasn’t been awful. I have been nervous about Joey since his knee injury and that nervousness only grows. He’s still getting on-base (.526!), but if pitchers don’t start seeing him being able to drive the ball with regularity again, he’s not going to be getting walks at this currently outrageous clip that he’s on now for much longer. Anyone who has watched him this season can notice the difference in him and it’s quite worrisome at this point.

Sara: Even Bruce knows he is capable of streaks and slumps. No big deal, there. I still think Joey Votto is capable of being, well, Votto, but he's definitely not there yet. It is obvious he is frustrated with himself, which means we'll hear reports of him working harder (even by Votto standards) to get back to old form. I don't look for this to become a big issue, he'll work it out. 

Jon: I will never hit the panic button in April! That being said I'm a little worried, on a scale of one to ten I would go with two. Listen folks these are two of the best hitters in the National League. By the end of the year, Bruce will have his 35+ homers and Joey will have his Votto-esque numbers, say .335/.495/.588 with 31hr and 122 RBI's. Let’s all take a deep breath and just remember if everyone is hot at the same time then they would all be cold at the same time.

4) If you’ve been at the games or watched on TV, you may have realized that the now infamous “Woo” has made appearances again this season. How do you feel about all the Woo-ing – good for the atmosphere at GABP, or an abomination?

Scott: Awful. So, so, so, sooooo bad. May the ‘woo’ die a painful, but hopefully quick death and be eternally forgotten ASAP. 

Sara: Someone needs to make it stop. It's terrible, even on MLB.TV

Jon: I have no idea what is going on in regards to this topic. Are we talking woo like from Ric Flair? If so why and when? Also what is the problem with the woo? Is the woo missing a hoo? Did Cindy Lou Who not get you the proper Woo? Ok so that last one may have been unnecessary but as you can tell I have no idea what's going on? And I think I may prefer it that way in regards to the Woo. 

Scott: I'd be OK with the Ric Flair woo, actually. But the woo'ers at GABP aren't stylin' and profilin' in quite the same way as the Nature Boy....

Matt: It depends on when the woo is used. If it's interwoven throughout the game at random times, it seems pointless. If you let out a woo when something good happens, oh well. In my opinion, it's better than the wave. With the wave, it becomes a distraction to fans who watch the wave come around. Pay attention to the game, people! 

Jimmi: It's terrible. It's embarrassing. It's annoying. For those who engage in the "wooing," all I ask is why? 

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