Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Better Times Ahead for Reds?

by: Jack Ward
Staff Writer

Well, it’s bad time for the Reds. As of Tuesday they have fallen to 49-61. That’s not good. And even worse they are in the middle of a brutal ten game western road trip. So far, so bad. They are 1-4 with one more against the Padres and four this weekend at LA. It could get ugly.

On the bright side, the Reds rookie pitching had been very good on the road trip until Tuesday night. Michael Lorenzen blew up again giving up 7 runs in an inning and a third. Besides that the Reds have only given up 2.6 runs per game on the road trip. David Holmberg has a 3.06 ERA in his three starts. Look at the last starts on the current road trip. Anthony Desclafani went six innings and gave up three runs. Rasiel Inglesias six and one, Keyvius Sampson six and one, David Holmberg six and 2 thirds and gave up two runs. They could be 4-1 on the trip. So I am very encouraged by the young pitching. The bullpen has been great also. Burke Badenhop and Pedro Villarreal especially have been outstanding.

These young starters need to focus on keeping their pitch counts down so that they can get into the 7th inning. That will come with more confidence. The hall of famer Bob Feller didn’t believe in “nibbling” He wanted the batters to hit the ball. He only bore down with men on base. With no one on base his philosophy was “let ‘em hit it. Even the best hitter will make an out seventy percent of the time.”

Joey Votto is only 2 for 18 with 8 strikeouts on the current road trip and Todd Frazier has slumped since the All Star break, but he may have broken out with Tuesday night’s three hit game including home run number 28. Players slump from time to time. That’s baseball.

I will take my chances next year with Joey Votto at first, Jay Bruce in right, Todd Frazier at third and Brandon Phillips at second any day. As I have said before Billy Hamilton will be okay. He has too much talent. He may not hit .330 but I believe he will hit between .260 and 290 and steal around 80-100 bases and should score 100 plus runs every year.

Is Marlon Byrd coming back? I think he should. The Reds might as well bring him back, he won’t cost that much and he has been great for the Reds. His contract kicks in for next year automatically if he get 500 or so plate appearances. I’m not sure of the exact number. But he will be close to that.

Zack Cozart or Eugenio Suarez at short shores up that position and the only question for next year is will Devin Mesoraco be back at catcher or will he convert to an outfielder/first baseman. That is an option the Reds are considering with Devin’s hip problems. Brayan Pena and Tucker Barnhart have done a good job handling pitchers and decent enough with the bat.

The Reds should keep Aroldis Chapman no matter what he costs. You don’t get talent like that very often. Wait a minute, as a matter of fact you never get that kind of talent but once in a lifetime! Chapman is one of a kind, never to be seen again. And the way the Reds work the crowd when he comes into a game is something you have to experience. It’s like a rock star.

JJ Hoover has shown he can handle the set up job for Chapman. So (barring injury) next year two things will determine the Reds success.

Number one: The Reds young starting pitching must do the job. The Cardinals always seem to come up with great young pitchers. That’s been the driving force behind the Cardinals. I would take the Reds starting eight over the Cardinals any day. But the starting pitching for the Cardinals has been awesome. The Reds seem to be building that way and with former Cardinal architect Walt Jocketty running the show you can see why the Reds are building some good young arms.

Number two: The Reds have the toughest division in baseball. The Cardinals are the Cardinals. The Pirates everyone thinks will stay very good. The Cubs are on the brink of establishing something special. Hopefully it will be awhile before the Brewers contend again. So to compete the Reds have to be a lot better out of the gate than they were this year. It will take 90 or more wins for the division title. The Reds have gone 26-22 in the Central division. That’s good enough to win. The problem has been they don’t win their games against Arizona, San Diego, Colorado and other weaker teams. And you can’t be 21-36 on the road and win the division. What’s the old formula for winning in any professional sport? Play .500 on the road, win at home and beat the teams you ought to beat.

Let’s keep the faith, still lots to see this year. Will the Reds finish strong or will they limp through the rest of the season? I hope they become spoilers to the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs. The Reds have six games each left with the Pirates, Cubs and Cardinals.

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