Friday, April 4, 2014

Premature observations from first three games

The opening series of the year was about as entertaining as you could hope for between two rivals like the Reds and Cardinals. It featured superb pitching, diving catches, long home runs, opposing player interactions with fans, and three games decided by just one run.

Unfortunately, the Reds wound up on the losing side of the scoreboard in two out of three of the contests. But the good news is that tonight will mark game No. 4 in the 162-game schedule the Reds will play during the 2014 regular season. This means there's plenty of opportunities for redemption.

In the meantime, here are some random, way-too-early, perhaps knee-jerk observations from the small sample size we have of this Reds club so far:

+ You don't have to be a baseball whiz to see how bad Billy Hamilton looked at the plate in the St. Louis series. The switch-hitting youngster appeared "out of his league" for lack of a better term. In 13 plate appearances, Hamilton did not record a single hit, struck out six times, and walked only once. It's about the worst possible way one could have imagined him to begin the year. However, it's also important to note that he went up against one of the best pitching rotations in baseball. Hamilton is a lot better than his opening series performance suggests. But I'm not sure he's primed to have the kind of success the Reds need him to have atop the batting order either. It'll be interesting to see how much slack the Reds give Hamilton if he continues to struggle. It'd be one thing to allow a young player to go through growing pains if a team doesn't have another option or isn't vying for a playoff spot. But the Reds aren't one of those rebuilding teams. They need the Mississippi native to produce right now.

+ How dominant was the pitching from both sides in the first two games of the season? Johnny Cueto set the bar high with his outing on Opening Day. But Tony Cingrani followed with an even more impressive start on Opening Night. Obviously, pitchers tend to have an advantage over hitters this time of the season in regards to timing and such. But it's hard to ignore how bad Cueto and Cingrani made the Cardinals offense appear.

+ It only seemed appropriate that Homer Bailey would get roughed up in his first start since signing the largest contract for a pitcher in franchise history. The right-hander allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks in a soggy affair on Thursday. He exited the game with one out in the fourth inning and put the bullpen in an extremely tough spot. This is the kind of start that we have come to expect out of Bailey every now and then. There's no denying he has stuff to throw a no-hitter on any given night. But he's also shown a vulnerability to getting knocked around quite a bit too. Given his track record, I expect he'll rebound with a quality start next time he toes the rubber.

+ It's only been three games, but Todd Frazier and Joey Votto are off to great starts. Cincinnati will need both to hit well if it wants any shot at taking down the Cardinals for the NL Central title.

+ Yadier Molina is still a Reds killer. Reds fans can despise the Gold Glove catcher all they want. But the fact is that he just flat out gets it done when his team needs him the most.

+ Trevor Bell's ERA is infinity right now. The right-hander surrendered three runs on one hit and two walks in his relief outing Thursday. He did not retire a batter. Thus, his ERA is astronomical.

+ The exaggerated defensive shift the Reds applied for Matt Adams didn't seem to work much. The left-hander made 'em pay with four hits down the third base line throughout the series. The shift may have not worked against Adams. But the Reds shouldn't abandon their use of spray charts when it comes to defensive alignments. Odds are that history and statistical percentages will pay off in the long run.

+ Next up for the Redlegs is three games against the winless Mets. Anything less than winning two out of three would be a disappointment.

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