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coachw513
10-01-2007, 09:56 AM
Pretty much nails it all on the head IMHO...


Action expected during off-season

Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler

We're here at the season's final game, Cub Appreciation Day, for the perilous task of judging theReds and saying where they stand.

To do so definitively, there are simply too few abiding truths beyond the obvious, which would consist, of course - see last year, and the one before, etc. - of questionable chemistry and pathetic pitching in every department. How do you get a handle on a team that played so pitifully for one manager in the first half of the schedule and so unevenly for another in the second?

And regarding the more successful of the skippers, whose rehiring, yay or nay, leads the organization's list of immediate to-do's . . . how do you fairly assess a guy who, for the most part, did all a fellow could, then folded at the finish without his five best outfielders?

To make this thing a little more manageable, let's break it down man for man. We did learn, at least ...

that Aaron Harang is a good place to start;

that Bronson Arroyo will be fine with a few runs;

that Homer Bailey is probably next in line, but only for lack of alternatives;

that, going by Bailey's precedent, Johnny Cueto may not be as ready as we'd like to think (but who, then, is?);

that if you're counting on Matt Belisle, you need starting pitching;

that Joey Votto and Great American Ball Park could make beautiful music together;

that Brandon Phillips is a ballplayer to build around;

that Edwin Encarnacion is too good to give up on;

that we'll never arrive at a consensus on Adam Dunn;

that Ken Griffey Jr. will probably never be better than he was this year, and will never cost less;

that Josh Hamilton is a fetching story, a fabulous find and a tantalizing talent who must still prove his staying power;

that Norris Hopper is a sheer delight;

that Ryan Freel can't play every day;

that David Ross probably shouldn't;

that Scott Hatteberg is a whole lot like Sean Casey, less a few slaps on the back;

that Jay Bruce ought to be here;

that Jeff Keppinger can hit, for sure, and also play shortstop;

that Alex Gonzalez can play it better, if he's focused;

that Jorge Cantu warrants a long look;

that Jared Burton offers hope where it's desperately needed;

that Gary Majewski might never be for Cincinnati what he was for Washington;

that Bill Bray might;

that Eddie Guardado still has some outs left in his elbow;

that Mike Stanton is probably finished, though, unfortunately, his contract isn't;

that Todd Coffey cannot remain in the game with another season like this one;

that Mackanin can manage;

that Wayne Krivsky is a brilliant bargain hunter who must now master the bigger game;

and that Bob Castellini's words alone mean very little.

It's Krivsky and Castellini who will have to decide, very soon, whether to reward Mackanin for saving the franchise from 100 defeats. And whether to pick up the option on Dunn's contract, and Guardado's, and Hatteberg's. And whether to make a commitment toward the kind of payroll that will close the gap between the Reds and the team that filled Great American for the last series of the season.

And how to come up with at least two good pitchers, preferably three.

Among the countless uncertainties, we do know that if the managerial decision were the manager's, he'd make it in favor of himself. "Bob Castellini told me that this is a very important decision for us, and I respect that," the interim said Sunday, after the Reds had broken their seven-game losing streak but completed the same in seasons.

"I've learned that I belong here, in my opinion. Not necessarily with this team, but I belong in the major leagues, much the same as you would talk about a guy like Joey Votto who comes up and feels like he can play in the big leagues and after he gets his feet wet says, 'You know what? I can do this.' "

And he's quite right. But so can Tony La Russa. So can Bob Brenly . . .

There is, then - in that and each of the club's critical concerns - no cocksure solution for what the Reds must do between now and next year, other than this:

Something!

The only conclusion we can categorically draw from the 2007 season is that there can't be another one like it.

Johnny Footstool
10-01-2007, 11:53 AM
He lost some credibility when he mentioned "questionable chemistry" in the second paragraph. He even mentioned it before the teams' true weakness -- poor pitching.

Some other points:

"Counting on Matt Belisle" is not a bad thing if you're just counting on him to be a fourth or fifth starter.

Eddie Guardado should be squeezing those last few outs from his elbow while wearing a different uniform in 2008.

We'll arrive at a consensus on Adam Dunn when and if he no longer wears a Reds uniform. Kind of like Paul O'Neill and Eric Davis.

Kc61
10-01-2007, 12:07 PM
He lost some credibility when he mentioned "questionable chemistry" in the second paragraph. He even mentioned it before the teams' true weakness -- poor pitching.

Some other points:

"Counting on Matt Belisle" is not a bad thing if you're just counting on him to be a fourth or fifth starter.

Eddie Guardado should be squeezing those last few outs from his elbow while wearing a different uniform in 2008.

We'll arrive at a consensus on Adam Dunn when and if he no longer wears a Reds uniform. Kind of like Paul O'Neill and Eric Davis.

I prefer Wheeler's ideas, frankly.

On chemistry, he has a fair point. For example, it's hard to beat lefties if your best offensive players are almost all left handed.

On Belisle, maybe he can be a fifth starter, but if you think a 5.32 ERA fourth starter is a good idea, I go with Lonnie.

On Guardado, if he's healthy, for one year, I'd take him any day and reduce the number of "tryout camp" guys the Reds will have next year.

M2
10-01-2007, 12:31 PM
On chemistry, he has a fair point. For example, it's hard to beat lefties if your best offensive players are almost all left handed.

Well, except for Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion, who were 2nd and 4th on the team in RC.


On Belisle, maybe he can be a fifth starter, but if you think a 5.32 ERA fourth starter is a good idea, I go with Lonnie.

The point of investing innings in inexperienced pitchers is to reap the benefits as they improve in future seasons. Obviously not all of them do improve, but Belisle's roughly where Aaron Harang was after 2004 in terms of career innings and Belisle's 2007 garnered an 89 ERA+ as compared to an 82 for Harang in '04.

It's a fairly reasonable expectation that Belisle can be a league average starter in 2008. He might not, but teams like the Reds need to see this process through. When you don't have money to throw at your rotation, time and patience is what you can invest.

15fan
10-01-2007, 12:32 PM
I prefer Wheeler's ideas, frankly.

On chemistry, he has a fair point. For example, it's hard to beat lefties if your best offensive players are almost all left handed.


No love for Brandon Phillips and Ed Encarnacion, eh?

Kc61
10-01-2007, 12:42 PM
The Reds OPS'd .790 againts righty pitching this year, 3rd in the league.

The Reds OPS'd .732 against lefty pitching, 14th in the league.

I like Phillips and EE as well as anyone, but the team needs a power hitting righty bat. I know this is tough because we all like Votto, Bruce, Griffey, Dunn and Hamilton. But they are all left handed.

Unless the Reds are going to get an offensive minded catcher who hits from the right side, the lineup will either have to change or remain unbalanced.

Johnny Footstool
10-01-2007, 12:45 PM
On chemistry, he has a fair point. For example, it's hard to beat lefties if your best offensive players are almost all left handed.

That's really lineup/roster construction. Team chemistry usually refers to the "intangible" attitudes of the players on winning teams.


On Belisle, maybe he can be a fifth starter, but if you think a 5.32 ERA fourth starter is a good idea, I go with Lonnie.

If you look past his ERA, Belisle's peripheral numbers suggest he'll be a fine back-end starter next season. He had a decent K/9, an excellent K/BB, and was pretty unlucky in terms of BABIP.


On Guardado, if he's healthy, for one year, I'd take him any day and reduce the number of "tryout camp" guys the Reds will have next year.

The odds on him being healthy and effective are very, very long.

Kc61
10-01-2007, 12:56 PM
That's really lineup/roster construction. Team chemistry usually refers to the "intangible" attitudes of the players on winning teams.



If you look past his ERA, Belisle's peripheral numbers suggest he'll be a fine back-end starter next season. He had a decent K/9, an excellent K/BB, and was pretty unlucky in terms of BABIP.



The odds on him being healthy and effective are very, very long.

Well, if chemistry means intangibles, attitudes, etc., I don't have any problem with the club there.

The only way Belisle will become good enough to be a fourth starter is to start mixing pitches better and deceiving hitters more. IMO his very high BAA and hits against numbers are a function of simply being too easy to hit. I haven't given up on him yet, he seemed to do somewhat better after his trip to AAA, but the jury is definitely out.

Since the Reds staff has about 6 or 7 openings right now, for a one year deal, I'd rather take a shot on Guardado than most veteran relievers. The big risk is his health. But this is a very high-end reliever and if healthy, he will get outs.

joshnky
10-01-2007, 01:03 PM
I like Phillips and EE as well as anyone, but the team needs a power hitting righty bat.

I here this time and again but could another possible solution be to work with the hitters to improve their success against lefties? Its not like every hitter succombs to the lefty-lefty matchup. Some, including Dunn prior to this year, are consistent regardless of who they're facing. Isn't this why you hire a hitting coach?

Kc61
10-01-2007, 01:31 PM
I here this time and again but could another possible solution be to work with the hitters to improve their success against lefties? Its not like every hitter succombs to the lefty-lefty matchup. Some, including Dunn prior to this year, are consistent regardless of who they're facing. Isn't this why you hire a hitting coach?

You hear this time and again because it is true. There is no substitute for lefty/righty balance in a lineup. Some lefty hitters do ok against lefty pitching, but it's not the same as having a righty power bat that eats lefties alive.

When you look at the OPS differential, which I posted earlier, you see the impact on the Reds.

I don't think Phillips and EE are enough. Phillips is a plus because he plays second base, normally not a power position.

But EE has to hit for more power -- and do better against lefty pitching -- to fill the necessary righty bat role at third base. Right now he is at best a sixth place type hitter (seventh on some teams), not a true middle-of-the-order guy. He could improve, of course.

I know people don't want to hear this, they are too excited about all the lefty bats. So am I. But realistically, the Reds need another righty power guy, even he replaces an existing favorite.

M2
10-01-2007, 01:38 PM
The Reds OPS'd .790 againts righty pitching this year, 3rd in the league.

The Reds OPS'd .732 against lefty pitching, 14th in the league.

I like Phillips and EE as well as anyone, but the team needs a power hitting righty bat. I know this is tough because we all like Votto, Bruce, Griffey, Dunn and Hamilton. But they are all left handed.

Unless the Reds are going to get an offensive minded catcher who hits from the right side, the lineup will either have to change or remain unbalanced.

Dunn hits LHPs just fine. And once again, the Reds already have one power-hitting RH bat and one emerging power RH bat. At most, what the team needs is an effective RH-hitting bench player or two. The club could also use a catcher upgrade and that could help the lineup vs. lefties.

At most, it looks like the Reds have four LH bats in the starting lineup. That is hardly an overstack. Shopping for a RH power bat in positions the team already has covered strikes me as a bad idea, though I won't complain if the Reds deal two OFs and then bring back a quality CF (who could hit from whatever side of the plate for all I care).

RedsManRick
10-01-2007, 02:45 PM
FWIW, Ross had the worst BABIP in baseball for guys with at least 200 PA. There's part of your vL problem. Javy has never shown an ability to hit them and kept getting ABs later in the season.

Dunn has a career .842 OPS vL. Yes, he has a major platoon split, but he still hits lefties well enough and should regress to the mean in that department.

Josh Hamilton was utterly destroyed by lefties to the tune of a sub .600 OPS. While I'd want to give him a chance to prove that wrong, Hopper and/or Freel represent a reasonable platoon opportunity.

Conine was very mediocre against lefties, particularly for a corner IF at .774 (yes, worse than Dunn). Cantu and/or Votto represents a likely upgrade there.

Griffey clocked in at .735. That's not likely to get any better. Again, perhaps Freel and/or Hopper represent a good platoon opportunity. I wonder if Cantu can play OF...

Roy Tucker
10-01-2007, 02:49 PM
Not to be sacreligious, but I'll take Scott Hatteberg over Sean Casey.

I don't quite get why they didn't flip Hatteberg at the trading deadline. Once Votto came up, Scott was persona non grata.

Kc61
10-01-2007, 03:00 PM
Dunn hits LHPs just fine.

At most, it looks like the Reds have four LH bats in the starting lineup. That is hardly an overstack. Shopping for a RH power bat in positions the team already has covered strikes me as a bad idea, though I won't complain if the Reds deal two OFs and then bring back a quality CF (who could hit from whatever side of the plate for all I care).

I think the Reds have a heavy overstack. It's not the number of lefty hitters. It's the quality of the various hitters.

Two of the four righty bats are shorstop and catcher. Gonzo did ok actually, but looking at career norms, I don't think these are plus positions offensively.

Phillips is a plus. But EE is not a plus offensive third baseman right now. Sorry.

The guts of the offense is Hamilton, Dunn, Griffey/Bruce, Votto/Hatteberg, and Phillips. This is out of balance, even if you include EE. If Cantu comes up big, that helps things. (But of course, everyone says play Votto against all pitching so how many ABs does Cantu get?)

Maybe the Reds can live with this, obviously pitching is the greater need, but the Reds will struggle against lefties well into the future with this group.

Chip R
10-01-2007, 03:01 PM
Not to be sacreligious, but I'll take Scott Hatteberg over Sean Casey.

I don't quite get why they didn't flip Hatteberg at the trading deadline. Once Votto came up, Scott was persona non grata.


Probably risk aversive. If they had stayed on the same path after Narron was fired, they might have just said, screw it, and traded Hat and gone with Votto. But since they improved, they felt they were back in it and couldn't risk going with a rookie. There were also questions about Votto's defense. And, perhaps, they didn't want to give Votto any more service time than was necessary.

M2
10-01-2007, 03:26 PM
Two of the four righty bats are shorstop and catcher. Gonzo did ok actually, but looking at career norms, I don't think these are plus positions.

And I agree with you, but that just means you need to upgrade SS and catcher (catcher would be my primary target). Better performance vs. LHPs would be a side effect.


Phillips is a plus. But EE is not a plus offensive third baseman right now. Sorry.

For 3Bs with 400 PAs, Edwin ranked 13th of 27 qualifiers in OPS and 13th of 33 in 2006. Only three players in their 20s ranked ahead of him both seasons - Miguel Cabrera, David Wright and Garrett Atkins. If you think the Reds can get one of those three (or Ryan Zimmerman), then go for it. Otherwise I suggest you learn to be happy with a good thing.


The guts of the offense is Hamilton, Dunn, Griffey/Bruce, Votto/Hatteberg, and Phillips. This is out of balance, even if you include EE. If Cantu comes up big, that helps things. (But of course, everyone says play Votto against all pitching so how many ABs does Cantu get?)

If Votto hits LHPs then who cares if Cantu plays? If he doesn't then he won't face so many LHPs. Hopper does fine against LHPs, so your "guts" could be 4 RHBs out of 6 hitters instead of 2 without too much trouble. Plus, downgrading the offense against RHPs (which you face 70% of the time) is a real bad plan to fix the situation against LHPs.


Maybe the Reds can live with this, obviously pitching is the greater need, but the Reds will struggle against lefties well into the future with this group.

Dunn, Jr., Phillips, Encarnacion and Ross were all regulars on the team that LED the NL in OPS vs. LHPs in 2006. Enough with the drama already. A few minor modifications, better production from a few guys (which we can reasonably expect) and this won't be much of an issue.

Johnny Footstool
10-01-2007, 03:37 PM
EE is not a plus offensive third baseman right now. Sorry.


He was for 4 out of 6 months this season. And he was fantastic in August and September.

Heath
10-01-2007, 04:17 PM
I'm going to miss Lonnie Wheeler column's like this when the Post closes it's doors.

Sorry John Fay. The Post kicked the Enquirer's rump when it came to baseball coverage, especially after a night game.

Highlifeman21
10-01-2007, 04:21 PM
Lonnie had me until

that Norris Hopper is a sheer delight;

and was partially right with

that Jeff Keppinger can hit, for sure, and also play shortstop;
but I'm not so convinced on


that Mackanin can manage;
but I think he's right with

that Homer Bailey is probably next in line, but only for lack of alternatives;

that, going by Bailey's precedent, Johnny Cueto may not be as ready as we'd like to think (but who, then, is?);

that if you're counting on Matt Belisle, you need starting pitching;

-----
It's a shame Reds Nation can't agree on Adam Dunn.

Cedric
10-01-2007, 04:24 PM
Lonnie had me until

and was partially right with

but I'm not so convinced on

but I think he's right with


-----
It's a shame Reds Nation can't agree on Adam Dunn.

The guy hits .329 with a .371 obp and he's not fun to watch with his style? How Norris Hopper became the whipping boy for some is beyond me.

He did a fine job in his role this season.

Highlifeman21
10-01-2007, 04:29 PM
The guy hits .329 with a .371 obp and he's not fun to watch with his style? How Norris Hopper became the whipping boy for some is beyond me.

He did a fine job in his role this season.

As long as Hopper is nothing more than at best a 4th OF option for us, I'm fine with that. He should only start on a consistent basis if Dunn, Hamilton or Griffey are hurt for an extended period of time. They were, and he did, and he made the most of his opportunity. Good for him.

My main concern were the interesting and scenic routes Hopper took to balls in the OF. For a guy with speed, he sure likes to make things harder for himself out there.

TeamBoone
10-01-2007, 08:55 PM
Just curious as to whether or not Adam Dunn could actually be a switch hitter... he is right handed after all. I wonder if he's ever tried batting right handed... food for thought.

KronoRed
10-01-2007, 10:24 PM
Adam has been pretty good vs lefties in his career, I wouldn't mess with what works.

Kc61
10-01-2007, 10:32 PM
He was for 4 out of 6 months this season. And he was fantastic in August and September.

EE had 42 extra base hits in over 500 at bats this year. OPS below .800.

Maybe he'll do better next year, but those are not the stats of a legit righty power hitter.

Kc61
10-01-2007, 10:44 PM
And I agree with you, but that just means you need to upgrade SS and catcher (catcher would be my primary target). Better performance vs. LHPs would be a side effect.



For 3Bs with 400 PAs, Edwin ranked 13th of 27 qualifiers in OPS and 13th of 33 in 2006. Only three players in their 20s ranked ahead of him both seasons - Miguel Cabrera, David Wright and Garrett Atkins.


If Votto hits LHPs then who cares if Cantu plays? If he doesn't then he won't face so many LHPs. Hopper does fine against LHPs, so your "guts" could be 4 RHBs out of 6 hitters instead of 2 without too much trouble. Plus, downgrading the offense against RHPs (which you face 70% of the time) is a real bad plan to fix the situation against LHPs.



Dunn, Jr., Phillips, Encarnacion and Ross were all regulars on the team that LED the NL in OPS vs. LHPs in 2006. Enough with the drama already. A few minor modifications, better production from a few guys (which we can reasonably expect) and this won't be much of an issue.


No drama involved. Just the league's 14th "best" OPS against lefties.

If you think the Reds can steadily beat lefties like Rich Hill and Ted Lilly or stand up to late innings lefty relievers with the current squad, we disagree.

Maybe the Reds should shell out for a good righty hitting catcher, that might be a place to start, although not easy to find.

M2
10-02-2007, 01:01 AM
No drama involved. Just the league's 14th "best" OPS against lefties.

And 1st in the league in 2006, which only serves to remind the "truth" probably lies somewhere in the middle and that small changes can reap large gains in this area.


If you think the Reds can steadily beat lefties like Rich Hill and Ted Lilly or stand up to late innings lefty relievers with the current squad, we disagree.

I've already said, I'm for making changes, particularly at catcher. I'd also look to trade Jr. What I wouldn't be doing is shopping for a RH power bat to supplant a quality LH hitter already on the roster (with the caveat being that I would trade two OFs if I liked the trade return and then, obviously, I'd be looking for another OF).

Kc61
10-02-2007, 01:59 AM
And 1st in the league in 2006, which only serves to remind the "truth" probably lies somewhere in the middle and that small changes can reap large gains in this area.


I would trade two OFs if I liked the trade return and then, obviously, I'd be looking for another OF).

Reds vs. lefties in 2006 not very relevant to today. Reds had two more significant righty hitters then, Aurilia and (for much of year) Kearns. Also Ross had career year -- I'm not willing to gamble on a repeat.

Wonder if Greg Vaughn is available.

Ron Madden
10-02-2007, 03:48 AM
Maybe the Reds played by "The Book" too much in 2007.

Giving too many AB's to inferior right-hand hitters vs LHP.

There is no good reason that Griffey, Dunn and Hamilton shouldn't start everyday when healthy, and neighther of them should have to hit behind Jeff Conine or Alex Gonzales in the batting order, let alone be pinch hit for with Juan Castro. (JMHO)