Saturday, September 28, 2013

RR Roundtable: The Wild Card edition

It is what it is.
The end of the regular season is near and after a slight hiatus, the Redlegs Review Roundtable is back for a season-ending, pre-Wild Card edition to get you all ramped up for the playoffs. Joining the panel this time around are Jimmi Adair (@Redlegs_Review), Scott Eddy (@scotte97), and the former @RedlegsWriter (@weltmoney).

Among the topics of discussion are Billy Hamilton, all things to do with the Wild Card game coming up on Tuesday, and we also hand out some awards. It should be a fun time. Enjoy!

1) Billy Hamilton is fast. We all know that, so this one is simple. As fast as you can type it, explain why Billy Hamilton should or should not be on the Reds playoff roster.

Scott: To leave Hamilton off the playoff roster would be close to insane. Is there anyone else that the team has at their disposal in play for a last roster spot that could possibly have the impact we've already seen Hamilton capable of? Not a chance. You could say add one more reliever instead, but chances are the guy you'd be adding would only pitch in a blowout situation. Not exactly a game changer - but Hamilton can be.

JimmiHamilton should be on the playoff roster because he adds an asset that no other player can bring: speed. He has already proven that he can have a direct impact on the outcome of a game. So, why would the club fail to find a spot on the roster for him? Plus, it's hard to imagine Cesar Izturis or Jack Hannahan being more valuable than Hamilton at this point.

Jesse: Billy Hamilton should absolutely be on the playoff roster. He has a gift that the Reds can use as a powerful weapon. He has already proven his worth to me with his play in September. He's already utilized his speed to score four runs late in games which have been the go-ahead or tying run in four Reds victories. It's not like the Reds bench is so good that there isn't room for Hamilton. With the way he's been playing, I think you make room for the speedster.

2) It looks like Mat Latos is lined up to start the Wild Card game. Who would you have start the game if you were manager and why? (Update: it's been announced that Johnny Cueto will now start the Wild Card game.)


Jimmi: With all due respect to Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Bronson Arroyo, I think I would have to go with Latos, too. At the end of the day, I'm going to go with the guy that I would be the most upset with if I didn't start. In this case, that guy is Latos. He has been far and away the Reds most reliable and dominant starting pitcher this season. So, he deserves the opportunity to start this game. Although Bailey continues to blossom into an ace-caliber pitcher, he still has his moments of inconsistency. Cueto has only started two games since returning from the disabled list and I don't think he is ready to pitch in game like this just yet. As for Leake and Arroyo, those two guys are always vulnerable for a terrible start, and the Reds can't afford a bad start in this one-game elimination format.

Jesse: Mat Latos. It's simple. In Cueto's absence Latos has established himself as an ace. To me he is the most talented, reliable, and consistent starter the Reds currently have available. I have no doubts about him starting the Wild Card game.

Scott: I think Homer Bailey probably has the best pure stuff of anyone on the rotation, but even now you're not quite sure what to expect from him on a nightly basis (like Fridayfor instance...) so with Cueto not really 100 percent the right choice is probably Latos. His penchant for melting down emotionally is worrisome, but we can only hope he's more mature than he was a year ago.

3) No Reds will be in serious contention for the National League Cy Young or MVP awards, but who are your 2013 Cy Young and MVP awards winners for the Reds?

JesseWith the way the Reds starters have pitched this season, you could pull a random name out of a hat and make a good case for that person. For me, the Reds best pitcher has been Mat Latos though. He leads the Reds in WAR (3.9) and ERA (3.16) and is tied for the lead with 14 wins. He was the one guy that made me feel like we were going to win every fifth day he took the mound. The other guys were very good, but I never felt as confident with them.

Best hitter? I'm going to say Shin-Soo Choo. He came to Cincinnati with enormous expectations and to me he managed to match and even exceed them. He got on base all the time, being second only to Joey Votto in OBP. He scored all the time, leading the team in runs scored. He's hit more home runs than I expected from him. He's second in overall WAR according to Fangraphs and leads the team in Offensive WAR according to ESPN. Other than a few early miscues, his glove was a non-issue and his arm was fantastic.

Mat L"ace"tos
Scott: Cy Young of the Reds should be Latos. He's been the ace of the staff and the workhorse they've needed, especially with Cueto out. The fact that he's worked through injury and still been a horse is all the more impressive. MVP is a harder pick. For me this has been an intensely disappointing season - all too often the team just seems to lack fire. Ever since Rolen retired there seems to be a real lack of leadership. With that said, I will go with BP - he took over the role of cleanup hitter and did exactly what he set out to do, drive in 100 runs while still being the best defensive second baseman in baseball.

Jimmi: Let me begin by saying there are no clear choices for either award. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Entering Friday, three starting pitchers were tied for the team lead in wins (14), and on the offensive side of things, a solid case could be made for Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Shin-Soo Choo to win MVP. With that being said, my vote for Cy Young goes to Mat Latos, because he has been the club's most dependable starter in 2013, and because he is the guy who I believe most fans would want to take the ball in a one-game playoff situation. For MVP, my vote goes to Choo, which is probably not the popular choice, but I believe he is the best choice. Where would this team be without the services of Choo in center field and in the lead-off spot? He ranks second in the league in on-base percentage, second on the team in doubles and batting average, and has been an all-around catalyst for the offense this year. It's not by chance that both Bruce and Phillips have over 100 RBI in the campaign. It's because Choo (and Votto) have been providing them plenty of chances to knock in runs.

4) On the flip side, do you have a proverbial "Cy Yuk" and a L(east)VP for the Reds?

Scott: I don't really have a problem with any of the starters, it's been the best rotation of my lifetime despite being without its ace nearly the entire season. The LVP is definitely Cesar Izturis, hands down. How this guy has been on the roster all season is just beyond me. What does he bring to the table? Anyone? Crickets. That's what I thought. Check out his career and season OPS for a laugh sometime - but only if you haven't eaten yet.

Jimmi: I'm not one who likes to rag on an under-performing player. But for the sake of this question, I'll go with Cesar Izturis for my LVP and Curtis Partch for my Cy Yuk. Izturis has far and away been the least valuable contributor to the team this season as evidenced by his lowly .198 average in 126 at-bats. Meanwhile, Partch has been doomed ever since his major league debut featured surrendering a grand slam to the Cardinals on national television. Overall, he has allowed eight home runs, 16 earned runs, and 30 hits in just 21.1 innings pitched over 13 outings.

Jesse: This is a tough one. All the pitchers were mostly good. I'd say Johnny Cueto, but when he did pitch he pitched well. I just wish he could have pitched more, but injuries are injuries. I'd have to go with Johnathan Broxton I suppose. He was signed to a fairly large contract for a reliever his age and was expected to be a major part of the bullpen. He never really looked right in his 34 appearances. However, he was injured too having been shut down for elbow surgery in late August, so I don't feel 100% right calling him out. I was disappointed though.

The most disappointing hitter was the catcher. Ok, I cheated because that's two players, but it was not pretty. After a solid 2012 where he hit .274/.365/.338, Hanigan's 2013 batting average hovered around the Mendoza line and his OBP took a major dip. Devin Mesoraco got much more playing time in 2013, which was good, and he certainly showed flashes of his ability. Despite those flashes however, there was still a lot left to be desired from the once-top prospect Mesoraco. Perhaps he can have a big postseason.

5) Who are your choices for NL and AL Cy Young and MVP?

"Who's the best? This guy."
Jimmi: I'll be honest, I don't pay nearly as close attention to the rest of the league as I do to the Reds. So, I haven't had the chance to compare and contrast the leading candidates much. But I'm also not completely oblivious to what is going on, either.

AL Cy Young - Max Scherzer (DET)
NL Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
AL MVP - Miguel Cabrera (DET)
NL MVP - Andrew McCutchen (PIT)

Jesse: NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw. Who else?
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt. To heck with convention.
AL Cy Young: Max Scherzer. It's not just the wins, but that helps.
AL MVP: Miguel Cabera. He's just silly good.

Scott: Andrew McCutchen has led the Pirates to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years so that should be good for some hardware. In the AL, Miguel Cabrera is simply the best player of our time and again deserves the award.

6) Who wins the AL, NL, and World Series?

Jesse: AL: Boston
NL: Reds
World Series: Reds!

Scott: It's probably going to be a St. Louis-Boston World Series. And the very thought of that makes me ill and I will choose not to even consider a winner because if that's the case we are all losers.

Jimmi: As much as it pains me to say it, I don't see this Reds team advancing to the World Series, not while Dusty Baker is still at the helm. Maybe it's just the team's collective personality, but they seem entirely too laid back for me at times, playing through games as if they would much rather be somewhere else. And I have got to believe part of that falls back on the persona of the skipper. Hopefully they turn things around here soon, though. Anyways, on to the picks: I think the Dodgers emerge over the Cardinals in the NLCS and the Tigers sneak by Boston in the in the ALCS. In the World Series, I believe the Dodgers push the series to six games, but Detroit's offense is simply too much for LA to handle. The Tigers are crowned world champions.

7) When the offseason begins, where will the Reds have finished the 2013 season? Feel free to be specific.

Scott: The Reds are one and done. They will lose in the one game playoff at PNC Park to close out their season. I don't like being Mr. Negative but this season just never went right from day one when Ludwick went down. Ever since this team has all too often looked listless and has rarely lived up to the level of talent on the roster. To me that starts with the manager but I won't have that discussion here. They definitely have the talent to make a deep run, but aside from that week last month where they took 3 of 4 from the cardinals and swept LA they simply haven't proven they can beat playoff teams. This team is easily, for me, more disappointing than the majority of the "lost decade" teams - we knew those teams were bad from the start. I think we all expected much more from this year's group than has been produced.

Jimmi: It's so hard to figure out this year's Reds squad. There have been weeks when they have looked like the best overall team in the major leagues. And then there have been other weeks where they look very average. My guess is they overcome the debacle that has been this weekend and then redeem themselves in the Wild Card game on Tuesday to advance to the NLDS. As of now, it appears like the Cardinals will be the team they would face if they advance that far. In my opinion, the road likely ends there, unfortunately.

Jesse: Despite all their shortcomings, according to Twitter, the Reds overcome. Although things don't seem as positive as they did in 2012, going into the playoffs as the NL Central Champion, things just somehow seem right for the Reds in 2013. They're not talked about as much, but they've been playing well against good opponents lately. They easily defeat the Pirates in the one-game Wild Card playoff before rolling to a 4-1 series victory in the NLDS over the Braves. Then comes the set up that's movie material. The Reds face their heated rival Cardinals for a chance at playing in the World Series. Strong pitching and just enough hitting gets them past St. Louis, but it's not easy as it takes all seven games to decide the victor. Then comes a repeat of the 1975 World Series, 38 years later. While it does not match the drama of the '75 series, it has the same outcome as the Reds bring home the title for the first time since 1990. Jay Bruce is the MVP and becomes a bonafide baseball superstar.

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