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Thread: So it's the first of May...

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    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    So it's the first of May...

    ...and I'd like to take stock of the team as it stands at this point.

    I know we've had a thousand threads and sixty eleven million posts regarding the Reds' surprising early-season success. I've been both thrilled and terrified by it, but in the greater scheme of things I haven't really allowed it to influence my view of the team for the rest of the season. Until this weekend. Do I think the Reds are going to the postseason? No. But I think they are playing some exciting baseball, I think they are noticeably improving every day, and I think we are at the point now where, contenders or not, it may be time to seriously re-evaluate what we expected of this team this season.

    I would really like to hear, objectively as you can, what you think of the team now in light of last month. Those of you who predicted a 70-win season, those of you who thought the Cards/Astros/[insert team here] were unbeatable for the Reds -- have you changed your minds? Do you think that Krivsky's moves have indicated that he will trade for pitching before the deadline, or are you under the impression that this is still being used strictly as a building year? What do you think has gone into this team being good the last month, and do you think whatever that is is sustainable? Or do you think that the Reds have pulled this off by chance and by virtue of the quality of the teams they've faced on any given day, and that the Reds haven't fundamentally improved enough at all?

    This has all been covered, of course, but it's kind of all over the place. There are a lot of very articulate people on this board and I am very interested to hear everyone's thoughts on the bigger picture of things, especially in light of the fact that the first month of the season is officially over and we face our fellow first-place team tonight.

    For me, on Saturday night, I was able to say for the first time that I am a fan of a good baseball team. I know all the disclaimers, and their implications still cause me a lot of lost sleep. It's only May 1st. The pitching is still not good. The bullpen is horrific. The schedule will get tougher. The walls of Great American Ballpark aren't moving back anytime soon.

    But, for the first time, I can say that this is not a fluke. And I think that anyone who thinks so, and who continues to fully discount them at this point, is mistaken. The Reds are not winning a handful of blow-out games with shows of power hitting, and losing the rest in grand fashion with Little League pitching and comical defense. They are managing catches that they used to miss, they are making the most of the pitching when it's good and trying to compensate with smart hitting when it's not. There's been a good bit of shifting with the team and the lineup this year, especially around the infield (not to mention Griffey's absence in the outfield), but they look like a team out there, and they still look like they're having a tremendous amount of fun, which is really the one thing that has kept me going with this team as they have sucked horribly the last five years. I guess what that all means, in some sense, is that they're being managed well, which frankly is a surprise in and of itself.

    I have been unable to admit all this or talk about it much, out of some bizarre fear that any good words that I may say about the Reds will jinx them. But I don't really care anymore. I feel that they are genuinely good enough, at least today, that I can talk about it. The chances of them going to the playoffs are still very slim, and I don't care. They could lose the next 20 games, and I would probably still be less surprised than I would be if they won the next 5, and I don't care. Right now, they are good, and I love to watch them. I love to hear about them. I love to check the news expecting a loss only to be surprised at yet another win. If they all turn out to be losses soon, so be it. I am so happy about this team right now, this team that is made up of a relatively large portion of homegrown players plus the coolest superstar in baseball.

    And for people who are baffled by their success, it's not too tough to understand when you really look at the team. Not to harp on the most harped-on issue of this board, but anyone off this board who talks to me about Dunn's strikeouts anymore is going to get a slap in the face. He is an extremely patient and valuable hitter and, slump or not, he is still absolutely the jewel of this team. Jason LaRue is weathering his early 30s well and remains, in my opinion, one of the most underrated players around, pulling off more catches and hits than his talent should really allow. FeLo, the baby All-Star, is a kick to watch as a hitter and baserunner even if his defense still leaves a lot to be desired. Brandon Phillips has gotten a lot of attention as of late, obviously, and it's well-deserved, but he's still not even as good as Edwin Encarnacion. That kid is quickly moving to the top of my list of favorite Reds and we're going to have a great time watching him develop. Even Rich Aurilia and Scott Hatteberg are doing what they're on the Reds to do. For all of the jokes we make about scrappy baseball, and discounting for a moment that it's one of the stupidest possible things to focus on with the Reds when their offense has been just fine without it, thank you (FIX THE FREAKING PITCHING), the Reds have been playing just smarter baseball with regards to hitting and baserunning -- yesterday's game was an excellent example of that, loss or not. And Adam Dunn has had at least 1 (one) sacrifice fly this season. Possibly more.

    And then there's the pitching. The bullpen is a mess, plain and simple, Coffey notwithstanding. They've been holding it together well recently, but by the skin of their teeth, and even so there's no hiding how bad it is, possibly the worst in the majors. It would drive me to drink if adulthood hadn't done that already. If the key is the bullpen, as one of my friends is often wont to remind me, then the Reds are screwed, which they probably are anyway. so there's that. And the starting pitching is still not good. But they are certainly pitching to the best of their limited abilites lately, for the most part. Arroyo is on fire, and Harang's performance the other day (among others) indicates that he seems to have mastered something crucial for him -- coming back and pitching well, sometimes stunningly well, after a couple of bad innings. You do that with this offense behind you, and you're going to be ok.

    And that is why I'm so proud of this team. Baseball is not about assembling a perfect team, as my beloved but often woefully misguided Yankees try to believe at times. Every team has strengths and weaknesses. The simplest and the toughest thing to do in baseball is to step back, take stock of both, hone in on improving the weaknesses and capitalizing on the strengths. To grit your teeth through the bad parts and play like hell through the good parts. That is what the Reds are doing, and also what their management seems to be doing for that matter. That is why they are winning. People can try to tell me otherwise, that they're just lucky, and a few days ago I might have agreed with them. But that was before the Reds beat Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte in succession, taking the team to a record 17-win April. The Reds are never that lucky. Of course, the team has also recently parted ways with Tony Womack, so that may be why they are winning too.

    The wheels could well come off tonight. But I sure am enjoying the ride.

    Man, I love baseball.

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  3. #2
    Member smith288's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    What vaticanplum said...

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    Cruisin' for trouble
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    May 1st stock time...

    Sell Austin Kearns stock for pitching, preferably a young starting pitcher. (Kearns/Wagner to Seattle for Soriano/prospect?) and install Denorfia in RF.

    Move Milton to the bullpen (unless he can be traded away) to be the LOOGY.

    Move Griffey to LF, Dunn to 1B and give CF to Freel.

    Stick Phillips in the 2-hole and move Felipe to the 7 spot.

  5. #4
    Member jesusfan's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    I dont agree with moving Lopez to the 7 spot... why?? Phillips is raking right now in the 7th spot with RBI chances gallore.... and Lopez at the 2 hole allows the R-L Freel, Lopez combo... which I love very much! Actually, I wouldnt mind seeing something the Indians used to do with Lofton, Vizquel, and Alomar with 3 speedy guys at the top then the boppers to drive them in.... With Freel, Phillips, Lopez.... and Dunn, Griff, Encarnacion, Kearns to follow....
    "There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great." G.K Charleston

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    GO XAVIER! toledodan's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    my goal at the start of the season was finishing at 500. now going into may i want no less than 85 wins. while 85 wins may not be much to most fans it will allow the front office to make moves to continue the improvement. if we make another move for a starter or front line bullpen help this team can win 90 games. i started a thread a few days ago showing on paper a very winable schedule for may. JUNE will be the telling month for this club. survive june around the top of the standings the front office will make a move to get this team over the hump. its a shame rolen or colon wont be around for us to get like they were a few seasons ago.
    there's nothing like bowling a 300 game! 13 now and retired.


    Ricky henderson has a higher OBP than C. patterson and he's retired. C. Trent 6-14-2008

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Good post VP. I think what we've seen is a combination of good luck in terms of scoring runs when we need them and a genuine improvement. While Arroyo has been nice, as Steel has pointed out elsewhere, he's been as lucky as he's been good. He and Harang are both solid middle rotation starters. Claussen is a full step behind them both.

    In terms of sustainability, while I don't think we're going to win 100 games or score 1,000, I honestly think we could score 900+. With Phillips playing well, this lineup has no holes. Furthermore, the overall approach has been wonderful. We're leading the majors in BB, including 20 by Freel and a solid 12 by EE. We're 3rd in SB and stealing at an 85% clip -- so the station to station offense of the past is gone. This means we're getting through starters earlier and giving ourselves a chance to come back if need be.

    The pitching is borderline yes, but if we can manage just a reasonably bad team ERA instead of a pathetic one, and score those runs, I think 86-88 wins is a distinct possibility. I do think we're going to see the Cards and Astros start to pull ahead, but think we can sustain a .500 record the rest of the way. In any event, I think the real story will be Kearns and EE becoming established, Coffey stepping up, and the Reds being in a position to boost payroll for 2007. We won't need to fill many spots next year, so a reasonable outlay of cash on another legitimate (sub 4.00 ERA) starter puts us in great position to be Wild Card material next season.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

  8. #7
    Viva la Rolen kaldaniels's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick
    Good post VP. I think what we've seen is a combination of good luck in terms of scoring runs when we need them and a genuine improvement. While Arroyo has been nice, as Steel has pointed out elsewhere, he's been as lucky as he's been good. He and Harang are both solid middle rotation starters. Claussen is a full step behind them both.

    In terms of sustainability, while I don't think we're going to win 100 games or score 1,000, I honestly think we could score 900+. With Phillips playing well, this lineup has no holes. Furthermore, the overall approach has been wonderful. We're leading the majors in BB, including 20 by Freel and a solid 12 by EE. We're 3rd in SB and stealing at an 85% clip -- so the station to station offense of the past is gone. This means we're getting through starters earlier and giving ourselves a chance to come back if need be.

    The pitching is borderline yes, but if we can manage just a reasonably bad team ERA instead of a pathetic one, and score those runs, I think 86-88 wins is a distinct possibility. I do think we're going to see the Cards and Astros start to pull ahead, but think we can sustain a .500 record the rest of the way. In any event, I think the real story will be Kearns and EE becoming established, Coffey stepping up, and the Reds being in a position to boost payroll for 2007. We won't need to fill many spots next year, so a reasonable outlay of cash on another legitimate (sub 4.00 ERA) starter puts us in great position to be Wild Card material next season.
    I disagree about Arroyo being lucky. Lucky to me is giving up tons of flyballs to the warning track in DC but just giving up a few runs. Arroyo is off to a hot start yes...but watching his pitches and how he is controlling the count...how do you call him lucky. In a groove yes, lucky no.

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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Like you, vaticanplum, I am thrilled and terrified as well. Thrilled at how well this team has been playing (as a TEAM). Thrilled that for one glorious day our Reds had the BEST RECORD IN BASEBALL! (How exciting is that?) Thrilled that they took two out of three from Houston. I'm proud to wear my Reds cap as I walk around Austin, Texas. (I actually saw two other people wearing Reds gear when I was out yesterday.)
    But I'm terrified as well. Terrified that I'm going to give my heart to this team only to have them break it yet again. Terrified of facing the Cards (albeit for only two games) after coming off such a great series with Houston. Terrified that it's all going to fall apart.
    But in the meantime I sure am enjoying the ride!

  10. #9
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    I'm sorry but I'm not sold yet. It doesn't mean I won't keep going to games or watching them on TV but one good month is not enough to make me believe this team is a contender.

    The offense has been great so far. However, the law of averages says it will come back down to earth somewhat. Like Rick said, we won't score 1,000 runs this year. So if we are on pace to score 1,000 runs and it is obvious that we won't, the offense will eventually start scoring fewer runs. I am glad that the Reds have finally decided that Freel can be an everyday player and put him at the top of the lineup. However, what will happen if/when Jr. comes back? Do you sacrifice Brandon Phillips' defense at 2nd for Freel's offensive game? If you do that does Brandon's attitude go in the dumper? I think it is a blessing Kearns has put up the numbers he has. Not superstar numbers but he has stayed healthy and played good defense while putting up those numbers. I don't think we can expect any more than that out of him. Dunn has been Dunn. A model of consistency at the plate. FeLo has quietly put up good numbers in the two slot. Ed E has lived up to his potential so far after a slow start. He's getting better and better every day. He may not hit .300 for the year but I think he will do just fine. The platoon of Mr. Hat and Aurilia has been working just fine. Valentin and Ross have played well so far and LaRue has done what has been expected of him.

    The pitching has been all right so far. Except for Opening Day and that start against the Marlins, Harang has been a rock. Same for Arroyo. His only poor start was against his opponent tonight and the offense took him off the hook for the loss that game. I think he will do all right but I expect a little rockier road for him the rest of the way. That doesn't mean he's going to stink from here on out but I would expect one out of every three starts from him to be like that first one against the Cards. Lost in the gnashing of teeth over Dave Williams and Eric Milton has been Brandon Claussen. I don't see a lot of improvement in him from last year. He's wildly inconsistent and has a nasty habit of not being able to get a guy out after he is ahead in the count. It seems to me he needs an out pitch. Something he can throw a guy 0-2 or 1-2 and strike him out or get him to ground to an infielder. Dave Williams has done a fine job of impersonating a batting practice pitcher. I don't know what we will get out of Eric Milton this year. That knee job Kremchek did may just do the trick or it may be the beginning of the end for him.

    For all the screaming and crying about the bullpen the first week of the season, they have done pretty well since then. Rick White has pitched a couple of good outings in a row. After a shaky start Belisle has done good work as a long man. Coffey has been outstanding. If you don't let him pitch to the best hitters in baseball Weathers has been outstanding. Hammond has not been as good as expected and Shackleford hasn't pitched a lot. Mercker has been uneven but hasn't hurt the team so far.

    Bottom line is that the pitching has to stay at this level or improve for the Reds to make any noise. The starting rotation is paper thin and cannot be expected to make quality starts every time out. If the Reds are still playing this well come the All Star break, I could become a believer.
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    Member membengal's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Chip...I am not sure that Freel's offensive game is greater than Phillips' at this point. So...figuring in Phillips' glove, not sure he sits for Freel. At all.

    As for the thread, I was an 81-81 predicter, and I will reluctantly stick with that. If they can find some way to crane Dave Williams out of the rotation, keep Milton away, and send Paul Wilson on a snipe hunt while bringing in at least one more quality starting arm, I will up that. As it is now, I am afraid that the strain of how bad the back of the rotation is will eventually take its toll on Harang and Arroyo (and the offense), dragging the team to where I expected them to be to start the year.

    That said, I certainly have more hope than I did one month ago that they can be better than that. For that, I am most grateful to RCast, WK and Narron et al. True hope is a wonderful thing, and too long have I been denied it of late as a Reds fan.

  12. #11
    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    April gave us springtime and the promise of the flowers
    And the feeling that we both shared and the love that we called ours
    We had no time for sadness, that's a road we each had crossed
    We were living a time meant for us, and even when it would rain
    we would laugh it off.

    I've got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet
    I've got pieces of April, but it's a morning in May

    We stood on the crest of summer, beneath an oak that blossemed green
    Feelings as I did in April, not really knowing what it means
    But it must be there that you stand beside me now to make me feel this way
    Just as I did in April, but it's a morning in May.

    I've got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet
    I've got pieces of April, but it's a morning in May

    Pay attention to the open sky

  13. #12
    Titanic Struggles Caveat Emperor's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Quote Originally Posted by vaticanplum
    ...and I'd like to take stock of the team as it stands at this point.
    If the Reds were a stock, I'd be screaming "Sell! Sell!" like a madman on the floor of the exchange.

    The team isn't going to keep scoring 6+ runs per game, Arroyo is going to eventually come back to earth (somewhat -- maybe not a resounding 'thud' like I'd thought/feared), and after that happens you're still faced with the problem of 2 dead arms at the back of the rotation, and only 3 reliable arms in the bullpen.

    Barring some more black magic by Wayne Krivsky (possibly turning Ryan Freel and Javier Valentin into a pitcher that doesn't make my stomach churn), I don't see this team playing .500 ball from here on out.

    But, I've been nothing but wrong so far this season, so maybe I shouldn't be giving stock advice.
    Championships Matter.
    23 Years and Counting...

  14. #13
    Moderator Tommyjohn25's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Quote Originally Posted by Caveat Emperor
    The team isn't going to keep scoring 6+ runs per game.

    I honestly think that they can. This is, top to bottom, the most balanced, talented, and intelligent lineup I've seen the Reds have in years, Maybe even my lifetime. As of right now, there are no holes in it, and the opposing pitchers cannot rest.
    Benzinger backing and calling! And the 1990 world championship series belongs to the Cincinnati Reds!

  15. #14
    Let's ride BRM's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    The fact that the Reds are winning has at least somewhat silenced the "Reds strikeout too much" crowd...even though they are still among the top strikeout teams in baseball. That's one bonus to the hot start.

    Special thanks to CE for bringing the heavy dose of reality to the thread. The Reds are winning with great offense and mediocre to bad pitching. The team ERA of 4.85 ranks 12th in the NL. That's a 0.30 improvement from last year though. Maybe they can jettison a few of the dead arms and bring in some pitchers that can record outs. That's probably what it will take to continue to stay in the race. I can't see them contending late into the year with the current staff.

  16. #15
    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: So it's the first of May...

    Quote Originally Posted by kaldaniels
    I disagree about Arroyo being lucky. Lucky to me is giving up tons of flyballs to the warning track in DC but just giving up a few runs. Arroyo is off to a hot start yes...but watching his pitches and how he is controlling the count...how do you call him lucky. In a groove yes, lucky no.
    DIPS: 3.86
    BABIP: .213

    These stats were from SteelSD in another thread. Pretty much he has been quite hit lucky as the BAPIP would indicate. Bronson has pitched very well so far, but has been very lucky. His ERA will likely rise even if he keeps pitching like the way he has.


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