Thursday, May 5, 2011

April Review, May Preview....

Well, April has come and gone (and ya I know, a couple games into May) and the Reds are currently sitting at .500 and 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the Central.  Reds are currently in second place and have won five out of ten.  Lets see how we got here....

First off, the Reds had a ridiculous streak end last week.  A streak that I thought was impossible, but then came to find out that it wasn't even the longest ever.  They gave up a run, at home, in the first inning to the opponents in seven straight games.  Seven.  Is that something that I would ever think could happen?  Hell no. 

The Reds got a quality start from Wood today, but before that they haven't had one since last Wednesday, and have only had a handul all year, somewhere around six or seven.  In 30 games, that is horrendous.  Their starters ERA was 15th out of 16 NL teams coming into the game.  Starters record is currently 9-10 with a pseudo loss for Maloney. 

The bullpen, besides Masset and Maloney has pretty much been lights out.  I mean look at these ERA's...
Fisher 0.00
Bray 0.77
Cordero 1.38
Chapman 1.42
Ondrusek 1.50
Those guys have pitched a total of 60 innings, that is amazing.  Imagine where the Reds would be without those guys.  And yes I realize Fisher has only thrown four innings, but still.

We have some seriously struggling hitters.  Gomes and Rolen are instant rally killers.  They have no confidence and no real bat speed.  I like Rolen, but getting him out of the lineup wasn't the worst thing.  Just sucks that Francisco wasn't healthy, or this would be his first real chance to show the organization what he can do.  He'll be back soon, but it'll be too late.

Stubbs is sitting at 36 K's and Bruce at 30.  That is not a good pace, more than one a game for them.  Does anyone in the league have more three pitch strikeouts then Stubbs?  There is no way right?  I mean if any opposing pitcher comes up and isn't sure if he has good stuff or not, faces Stubbs to lead off, and strikes him out without Stubbs even coming close.  Talk about giving a pitcher confidence the rest of the game.  Not to mention he probably already has a lead since the Reds gave them a run in the first, right?  Probably.

Now onto some positives.  Votto and Phillips are carrying the squad.  9 homers, 33 RBI's. .358/.340 averages, and .485/.397 on base percentages.  Those two not only are hitting, but they are both coming through in the clutch for the most part.  Votto has a left a little on the bone so to speak.  He has had a couple more chances to come through, but we are obviously spoiled with him and expect so much.  As far as Stubbs, Bruce, Rolen, and the likes struggling, they have also showed signs of getting hot.  They have had moments.  It's not like they are all completely overmatched.  Although Gomes could be, the jury is still out.

Same with the rotation, although no one has stood out, they all equally have had some strong performances.  Volquez has pitched very well outside of the first inning and is really getting the velocity up there which is good to see after the surgery.  Leake has three wins.  Arroyo has baffled a couple of teams.  Wood has the talent but hasn't been able to put it together and LeCure has filled in ok.  The cavalry is coming though.

Team is showing some resilience.  Three really nice walkoff wins.  A couple extra inning wins.  They have given away a couple of games but for the most part the losses have been lopsided, which somehow helps keep my sanity. 

10-8 record in the division.  5-1 against the Brewers who should be a contender this year.  Ya, 10-8 isn't great, but if you have a winning record in the division you always have a chance.  So that is a decent start there and should only get better. 

Ok, so May is here.  What can we expect?  It's hard to expect negative things, well, for most people.  Some people out there just always expect bad things.  It's the easy way to go.  If bad things happen, well then you knew they would happen so you are right.  And if good things happen, well then you're happy.  Easy way to skate through life, anyway, I expect the Reds to get hot.  Lets look at the reasons why...

1 Obviously the pitching staff is coming back.  Cueto and Bailey return this week and from the looks of what they have been doing in the minors, they are ready to go. Bailey will get it going right off of the bat.  He is too good and he is definitely ready.  He's done messing around.  Cueto will be hard to hit again but he might have his normal control issues and throw five innings to get 100 pitches early on.  It's just what he does.  Volquez just keeps getting better lately and he's ready to hit his stride.  Arroyo is Arroyo and will go 16-10 no matter what so we'll just have to see when he gets wins and when he gets his losses.  Wood is the most inconsistent but he is capable of having good games.  He also has to have a little bit of confidence since the team decided to go with him and move Leake to the bullpen even though he has been struggling.

2 The hitting is too good to slump for too long.  It'll come around and if the pitching gets the job done then average hitting should be enough.  Right now the team has had to score six or seven runs just to be in games, that shouldn't be the case this month.  As Dusty always says, its not exactly hitting, its hitting in RBI situations and getting the runs in, those are the hits that count.

3 Hopefully Dusty is figuring out how to use the pen.  I like Masset, but right now there is no way he should get any crunchtime innings.  It should be Ondrusek, Chapman, Bray, and Cordero, that's it.  The other guys can throw the sixth and seventh if need be.  Cordero has pitched very well, which is easy to predict since it is contract year, figures right?

4 Starting to warm up.  Balls will start flying out of the yard.  Ya it helps the other teams too, but this is their home park, Reds have power hitters, it'll mesh, they'll get going. 

Now some suggestions for what I would do if I was coach...

1 I would start Heisey in left for Gomes.  Better defense, better hitter for average, and having Gomes as an intimidating bench hitter isn't the worse thing right now.  I mean who do we have?  Renteria, Cairo, a catcher?  Just no threat.  Give Heisey his chance.  You now have Fred Lewis to come in late for a defensive replacement or pinch runner, so Heisey isn't needed for that.  Although with those three outfielders, I don't know why you would need a defensive replacement.

2 When Fisher, Masset, or Smith gets hurt or beat around soon, the Reds need to give Willis a shot to take their stressless bullpen spot.  Put him in for non pressure pact situations and see what he can do.  I don't like the idea of trying to make him a starter again, we just don't need it.  Unless the plan is to show him off and trade him which I doubt is their reasoning.

3 Just let Valaika start at third for a week, give him a chance.  Cairo doesn't need to be out there and I don't trust Renteria on defense.  Janish should never come out, and especially not to put Renteria in there.  The D up the middle is so important, don't mess with it.  Valaika can play some D and he has potential as a hitter.  Like I said earlier, I like Rolen but right now he isn't better than anyone else at third.  Sad, but true.

4 Keep Phillips in the cleanup spot and hope Heisey or Lewis can get going in the two spot.  Phillips gives Votto some good protection and he is hot so he can keep rallies going.  Leaving Gomes or Rolen in there will be the Reds downfall. 

5 Play Hernandez more.  I know they are saving his legs and Hanigan is a good defender, but Hanigan just doesn't do it for me at the plate.  He has a huge hole in his swing and he can't reach the outside of the plate.  Teams pitch him outside, get him leaning, throw inside and he has no chance.  I'm not even close to saying move him down for Mesoraco but if Devin keeps raking, maybe, just maybe.  But Hanigan handles the staff well so that really isn't an option. 

Let's look at the schedule for May quick...

Houston at home for one more
Three at Chicago
Three at Houston
Three at home vs. Cards
Two at home vs. Cubs
Two at home vs. Pirates
Ten on the road against Indians, Phillies, Braves
Three at home against the Brewers

Good and bad.  11 games against below .500 Central doormats.  I know the Reds usually struggle against them but the potential to get hot is there.  A nice home series against the Cards could get the Reds going.  That ten game roady is frightening.  We all want wins, but 5-5 through there would be fine with me.  Indians are hot, Phillies will shut the Reds out twice and the Reds always struggle against the Braves.  Hopefully everything is clicking for that trip or it could get ugly.  Just for fun, I'll say the Reds go 16-11 in those games and come out in first place going into June.  Of course I could be way off, but you have to make a prediction right?

Let me know what you all think, I'd love to read some comments.  Need to know what eveyone else is thinking.  Til next time.


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