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Chip R
05-06-2009, 02:51 PM
From Baseball Prospectus

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8834

May 6, 2009
On the Beat

A Red Scare?

by John Perrotto

There's something that has stuck with Dusty Baker since his playing days with the Dodgers from the mid-1970s to early-1980s, when Al Campanis was their general manager. "Al used to always say that you don't make any judgments about teams or players until you've gone around the league one time in a season," said Baker, now the manager of the Reds.

With today's major league schedule forced to accommodate interleague play and significantly more games inside the division than outside, it can take a long time to get around the league. It will be August 7, when they meet the Giants for the first time this season, that the Reds will have finally faced every team in the National League. "It used to be that you had been around the league by the end of May, but it's been a long time since I played," the 59-year-old Baker said with a smile. "That's what Al meant. You really can't make any judgments until you're a couple of months into the season."

That's one of the reasons that Baker is trying not to get too excited that his team seems to have landed in a parallel universe where its weakness has suddenly become its strength. The Reds are fifth in the major leagues in runs allowed with an average of 4.1 per game. To put that into context, consider that the Reds have had eight straight losing seasons since 2001. In those seasons, they never finished higher than 20th in the majors in runs allowed, with rankings (in chronological order) of 23rd, 21st, 27th, 27th, 28th, 20th, 27th, and 23rd.

After so many years of bad pitching, it's understandable that Baker is being somewhat cautious, but right-hander Bronson Arroyo has a hard time containing his enthusiasm. "I feel this is definitely the best pitching staff since I've been here," said Arroyo, who joined the Reds in 2006 when he was acquired from the Red Sox in a spring training trade. "You can feel the confidence continue to build. It's just breeding, because one guy pitches well, then the next guy pitches well, and it keeps going on down the line. Everyone who takes the mound feels like he is going to get the job done."

Leading the way in the rotation have been Johnny Cueto, who is seventh in the major leagues with 1.5 SNLVAR (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=SNLVAR), and Aaron Harang, who ranks 21st with 1.1. Cueto had shown flashes of dominance early in his rookie season last year, and then struggled and finished with 2.6 SNLVAR. However, the 23-year-old has stepped to the forefront this season, and along with 25-year-old Edinson Volquez, who was 17th in the majors last season with 5.7 SNLVAR, they give Cincinnati hopes of having two co-aces for the long term. "After getting a taste of being in the major leagues last year, it made me want to work harder so I could win more games, and stay in games longer so I could help the team more," Cueto said. "I feel like I've improved from last year."

Baker is impressed by how much more poise Cueto has shown this season. "When he gets behind in the count or gets into trouble, he just takes a step back, takes a deep breath, and gets out of it," Baker said. "He's really matured, and he's pitching great. We saw Volquez do that last year, and now Cueto is following."

The Reds, though, need to get their offense in sync with their pitching; they're 27th in the majors in runs scored with 3.8 per game. Despite playing in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark, the Reds were 23rd in the majors in runs scored in 2006, 15th in 2007, and 23rd 2008, after having finished fourth in 2005.

It's safe to assume that the Reds would have a record better than 14-12 if they were scoring more runs. First baseman Joey Votto has carried the load to this point with a .332 EqA (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=EqA), building on his .290 mark as a rookie last season. "If we can hold them down as a pitching staff a while longer until we score more runs, we'll be fine," Arroyo said. "We've got a lot of good hitters. Eventually, we're going to bust out and start scoring eight or nine runs a game."

If the Reds did that, they'd be the greatest scoring team in baseball history, which is extremely unlikely. Arroyo, though, was dealing in semantics rather than statistics. Baker isn't expecting that kind of offensive output, but he is a self-professed hitting guy who sees more runs on the horizon. "We're going to hit," he said. "I'm not worried about that. We're going to hit. The question to me is if we can keep pitching like this. If we do, then we have a chance to have a pretty darn good team."

D-Man
05-06-2009, 04:24 PM
It's pretty hard to lose when your pitching staff gives up zero runs.

Four shutouts in one week--when was the last time that happened???

The pitching has gotten help, though. The early returns on the defense are good, and the improvement hasn't solely been in the outfield.

westofyou
05-06-2009, 04:28 PM
It's pretty hard to lose when your pitching staff gives up zero runs.

Four shutouts in one week--when was the last time that happened???

The pitching has gotten help, though. The early returns on the defense are good, and the improvement hasn't solely been in the outfield.

***For only the third time in the live-ball era, the Redlegs have posted 4 team shutouts over a 6-game span...the starting pitchers in those shutouts were Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Volquez again...starters in the previous 2 instances were Elmer Riddle, Johnny Vander Meer, Joe Beggs and Vander Meer in 1943, followed in 1970 by Gary Nolan, Jim McGlothlin, Jim Merritt and Nolan.

redsmetz
05-06-2009, 05:47 PM
***For only the third time in the live-ball era, the Redlegs have posted 4 team shutouts over a 6-game span...the starting pitchers in those shutouts were Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Volquez again...starters in the previous 2 instances were Elmer Riddle, Johnny Vander Meer, Joe Beggs and Vander Meer in 1943, followed in 1970 by Gary Nolan, Jim McGlothlin, Jim Merritt and Nolan.

That Aaron Harang is such a slacker. :)

Chip R
05-06-2009, 05:58 PM
That Aaron Harang is such a slacker. :)


I know. Let's bring back Milton.

Rounding Third
05-06-2009, 06:06 PM
That Aaron Harang is such a slacker. :)

He can't hit either! :thumbdown

RichRed
05-06-2009, 06:13 PM
Harang did throw one of the Reds' 6 shutouts, and a CG to boot, so I say we keep him...for one more week.

PuffyPig
05-06-2009, 06:30 PM
That Aaron Harang is such a slacker. :)

Considering he has the only real shut out by a Reds starter this year. The rest are team ones.

ochre
05-06-2009, 07:32 PM
we should find out soon. Mother's day is coming up and I think they're playing the Cardinals...

redsmetz
05-06-2009, 07:43 PM
Considering he has the only real shut out by a Reds starter this year. The rest are team ones.

I had forgotten that he did have one of the six for season when I made my wise crack. He completely missed the groupthink though.

_Sir_Charles_
05-06-2009, 07:48 PM
I had forgotten that he did have one of the six for season when I made my wise crack. He completely missed the groupthink though.

Aaron's a leader...not a follower. Just look at his approach at the plate. If that swing isn't unique and going against the grain...I don't know what is. :O)