Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reds Pre Spring (Rotation)

Let's be honest, February is the worst month of the year when it comes to sports.  Other than the Super Bowl, which is just one game, there are no playoffs in any sport, no tournaments, no majors, nothing.  So I was thinking during this week I would breakdown the Reds.  I'll write four posts on different aspects of the team.  Starting rotation, bullpen, outfield, and infield.  Obviously these things are going to change once spring training starts with injuries, hot players, and Dustyisms.  So here is where I think we stand with the rotation going into February and only three weeks before these players report for Spring Training.

Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey

Travis Wood

Mat Latos, Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Francis

Sam LeCure

Lots and lots of positives for everyone in this rotation.  But yes, you could look negatively at every player also.  Let's see what could happen this year based on their pasts.

At first glance you see Johnny Cueto coming off his best year as a major leaguer.  He had the league lead in ERA for most of the year.  He pitched seven innings almost every game.  He had an uncanny ability to get the big pitch and to get out of jams.  You have to think he's just going to get better.  And why wouldn't you think that?  His heater is explosive, his changeup is knee buckling, and his curve falls off the table.  Thank God the Reds locked him up for three more years.  He is the ace of the staff and he will carry them this year.  What could the negative be?  Well, Johnny seems to get injured every year.  Ya it's only usually a game or two, but the chances of him pitching 35 games doesn't seem too likely.  Also, like I said earlier, he gets out of a lot of jams.  Well, that means he gets into a lot of jams.  Hope that doesn't become more and more of the norm.

You can say mostly the same things about Leake, except for the types of pitches.  Leake had a great year last year.  He came out in the second half after being sent down to Louisville and just dominated.  He is a smart pitcher, he reminds me of Greg Maddux.  The more he gets to know the hitters he faces, he'll be able to handle them even better.  I really don't see how he won't continue to get better since he is such a smart pitcher.  The negative could come from the same type of idea.  Opposing hitters could figure out his pattern if he doesn't make the proper adjustments.  If a hitter starts guessing correctly, Leake can be beat since he isn't overpowering.  He also likes to steal things, sooooooo.

Bronson Arroyo is coming off of an awful season.  He had bouts with Mono and Carpal Tunnel.  He just didn't seem strong.  His fastball was slower, his curveball looked like a hanger almost every pitch.  He has been declining off the field stuff this winter because he said he is dedicating this offseason to getting stronger.  If this is true, he should be able to get back to his oldself.  He doesn't need to be the ace of the staff, just a middle of the rotation guy.  He still hasn't missed a game in five years and he continues to throw over 200 innings a year.  No reason to believe this won't continue.  Negatively though, he could be way on the bad end of the mountain.  If he doesn't get his strength back and opponents don't have to respect his fastball, he could be a major achilles heel to this rotation.  And since he is being paid so handsomely and has a good reputation with the team, it'll be hard for Dusty to take him out of the rotation.

Homer Bailey has improved every year.  Yeah it hasn't been loads and loads of improvement but improvement nonetheless.  He had more strikeouts, innings pitched, and wins then he had in any previous season.  Homer had a handful of games last year that were one inning away from being masterful.  If he can get away from that one bad inning, he could be a very very good pitcher for this rotation.  But, maybe he won't be able to meet the expectations that he has had since 2007.  He hasn't been able to put a full season together or not get injured in any season.  So why would this season be any different.  I think he is going to have a breakout year, but I seem to be in the minority there.

I have never been a Travis Wood fan.  But, if one guy in that Marshall trade could come back to haunt the Reds, it'll be Wood.  Reds can't seem to hit lefties and Wood does have some talent.  It'll be interesting to see how his career unfolds.

First off, I loved the trade to get Latos to the Reds. I didn't like it at first when I saw the names we gave up, but it's just that, names. When you have a chance to get a top of the line starter, who is under control for four years, you just do it, you don't ask questions.  Latos is a strikeout pitcher.  Yeah he pitched in a pitcher friendly park in San Diego, but it's not like he was a flyball pitcher that was lucky to have the big park.  He strikes out guys at a really good rate.  He also knows that he is a couple years away from getting a monster contract, and from what I've heard, his only critique is his lack of motivation at times.  Nothing like millions of dollars to motivate an emotional guy.  But yes, you could say that lack of motivation could hurt him.  What if the team struggles, he gets hurt, or he doesn't like the city?  He shuts it down mentally and goes through the motions?  Well, this could be the biggest failure of a trade in Reds history.

How did you feel when you heard Chapman was going to the starting rotation?  Well, I wasn't so sure how well it would go, but then I started thinking, what if he gets his control figured out?  What if he develops a third pitch?  What if he turns into the next Randy Johnson?  Yes, that is how the optimists will think, however I'm not too optimistic on him.  He only has two pitches and he doesn't have a lot of control.   He can be unhittable, or he can be remarkably wild.  If he faces a patient team, it'll be hard for him to get through seven innnings.  I just don't see it happening for him.  I hope I'm wrong though.

Jeff Francis had a good year or two a few years back.  He hasn't had a good year in a few years.  He lost 16 games last year for the Royals.  I'm not too psyched about this pickup, but it comes with no risk, and no team ever goes through the season with only five starters so he may be needed if Chapman can't answer the bell.

Sam LeCure will be the glue guy if a spot start is needed.  He's a good pitcher, I like the guy, he may become a big part of this season.  I hope he doesn't because if he does, that means a few guys are seriously failing.

How do I think the rotation will shape up going into Opening Day?  I think it'll be Cueto on the hill for Opening Day.  After him will be Latos in the two hole with Arroyo following him.  Bailey will be the fourth starter and Leake the fifth.  The number in the rotation doesn't mean anything, it's more about styles.  Cueto and Latos will bring the power followed by Arroyo's offspeed act.  Bailey comes back with the power and Leake will follow him with his picking apart style.  The scary part of that is we all know that Arroyo is prone to bounce before the third a couple times each year, and so is Bailey.  If they do that back to back, LeCure better be ready.

Well, that may not have given you too much insight but at least we are talking about the Reds.  I think the rotation will be the biggest bright spot on the team this year.  Can't wait for this season to start. 

Johnny Cueto - Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I totally forgot about Edinson Volquez moving on, I guess that shows how much he'll be missed. Edinson had to go, no question about it, but I can almost guarantee you he will put up great numbers for the Padres. He still has great stuff and if he can get it figured out in Petco, he could haunt the Reds. And when he does tear it up, you won't be able to blame Jocketty because like I said before, Volquez had to go, he lost all love from the Reds fans.