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Thread: Baby Steps

  1. #1
    SSG, Red Army Choir Guacarock's Avatar
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    Baby Steps

    None of the pundits, and few of us, expected the Reds to be clinging to a tie for first place in the highly competitive NL Central on May 12. Our stay at the top might be fleeting and fragile -- held together by gum and good luck. We don't really want to sacrifice or leverage the future to prolong this sweet runup and pipedream of success.

    At the same time, why let a golden opportunity slip away to redress years of mediocrity? We all know it's a long shot that we'll remain atop the heap come the All-Star break, but even so, we've got to claw and chug, and keep shuffling the decks creatively, so we not only stay competitive, but actually defy gravity and all the negativity surrounding this franchise for the past decade or so.

    Here are four baby steps we can take now to keep winning -- not only this season, but hopefully, for a few years to come. None of these steps involve sacrificing any of our long-range goals or prematurely using the trading chits we have available to us.

    1. Send a strong, performance-based message to our porous bullpen by designating White for assignment, the same way Womack got the heave-ho. Shackelford and Hammond have higher ERAs than White, but they have shown flashes of command and presence, and they are both lefties, while White is a righty, consistently bad, a veteran running on empty, who keeps adding fuel to every fire he's supposed to extinguish. Give him his walking papers now before he does any more damage. Call up Carlos Guevara from Chattanooga to replace White in the bullpen. If Guevara can't hold his ERA under 5 or so, then we keep auditioning other guys from within our minor league system until we find someone who can. Failing at that, we bite the bullet and make a trade at a time when it's more expected, less desperate, and when we might reap more return on investment.

    2. Place Mercker on the DL if he's too sore to pitch. Call up Mike Venafro from Louisville to temporarily fill the LOOGY slot. Venafro might only manage a 4 or 4.50 ERA, but that's still better than Shackelford and Hammond have done to date. Remember, we're only talking baby steps here. When Mercker is eligible to be reactivated, hand him the ball, letting either Venafro or Shackelford return to Louisville, whoever is not getting the job done.

    3. If Milton is ready to come off the DL in another week or two, then by all means, he must be reinserted into the rotation. We have too much money invested in him not to do so. He should replace Williams, whose 7.85 ERA is just not acceptable, even for a 5th starter. Williams can go to the pen or be sent to Louisville to try to work out the kinks preventing him from being a decent starter. I wouldn't cut him completely loose. He's young enough to get a handle on his problems. But he does have obvious issues he needs to address in a less stressful and critical role, whether with the big club or with Louisville.

    4. Finally, DL Freel, giving him some time on account of his tight groin to resolve his groan-worthy lack of plate discipline the past month. Call up Cody Ross, who is hitting .316 with three home runs in his brief injury rehab at Louisville. I know Denorfia has more fans on Redszone, but Ross is the better candidate to fill a part-time bench role for now. Besides, we'll lose Ross if we don't call him up, whereas Denorfia still has options. In an ideal world, Ross will prove just as exciting and valuable as Denorfia. In that case, knowing we can't possibly or legitimately keep them both, we can decide at the appropriate time who stays and who to dangle as trade bait to continue plugging the gaps in our bullpen and/or rotation.

    That's it. Four small, concrete baby steps toward improvement.

    Now, allow me to digress with one quick whine. Which idiot persuaded Narron to cut Josh Hancock in spring training for showing up flabby? Dumb, flabby, totally premature judgment call.

    Hancock has a 2.33 ERA in 15 games pitched for our arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals. Opponents are batting .197 against him. I won't argue that Hancock will go down in history as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time, but with our pen, we sure could use someone like him riding shotgun and protecting Coffey's back.

    That's one of the baby steps where we stumbled. I didn't have a clue in advance that Hancock's ERA would be 2.33 at this stage of the season, but I did project him to be hovering around 4.00 or better. Considering we are carrying four relievers with ERAs at 4.61 or higher, the decision to make an example out of Hancock looks mighty bone-headed. It not only looks dumb in hindsight, it was dumb the day it was rendered.

    The Yankees, the Red Sox, even the Cards can throw money around like drunken sailors to papercoat those kinds of misguided moves. We can't.

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  3. #2
    Member MattyHo4Life's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by Guacarock
    Now, allow me to digress with one quick whine. Which idiot persuaded Narron to cut Josh Hancock in spring training for showing up flabby? Dumb, flabby, totally premature judgment call.

    Hancock has a 2.33 ERA in 15 games pitched for our arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals. Opponents are batting .197 against him. I won't argue that Hancock will go down in history as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time, but with our pen, we sure could use someone like him riding shotgun and protecting Coffey's back.

    That's one of the baby steps where we stumbled. I didn't have a clue in advance that Hancock's ERA would be 2.33 at this stage of the season, but I did project him to be hovering around 4.00 or better. Considering we are carrying four relievers with ERAs at 4.61 or higher, the decision to make an example out of Hancock looks mighty bone-headed. It not only looks dumb in hindsight, it was dumb the day it was rendered.
    I didn't understand this move at the time, and I don't understand it now. If you want to send a message, and make an example of someone like Hancock, then send then down to AAA until he gets his act together. That is what most teams would do. That way you keep them under contract in case you need them, but in the meantime they ae punished by being kept in the minors. By releasing him, yllow him to go anywhere he wants... even a rival.

  4. #3
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Right now, this team is perched on the edge of coming completely apart. They need one starter the caliber of at least a Harang, and two killer relievers. Right now they should be able to make deals for the relievers--teams will deal things like that right now. A starter may have to wait until early July, but I'm not sure that's a certainty. I think with a ton of persistence and caginess, a starter can be had.

    If they don't act soon to at least help the bullpen, this team will be several games out of first on June 1. And all but eliminated by July 1.

    Oh, and good post Guac. I don't agree with all of it, but I like the focussed thinking. (Yes, Hancock indeed would have helped this bullpen).
    Last edited by Falls City Beer; 05-13-2006 at 09:47 AM.

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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by Falls City Beer
    Right now, this team is perched on the edge of coming completely apart. They need one starter the caliber of at least a Harang, and two killer relievers. Right now they should be able to make deals for the relievers--teams will deal things like that right now. A starter may have to wait until early July, but I'm not sure that's a certainty. I think with a ton of persistence and caginess, a starter can be had.

    If they don't act soon to at least help the bullpen, this team will be several games out of first on June 1. And all but eliminated by July 1.

    Oh, and good post Guac. I don't agree with all of it, but I like the focussed thinking. (Yes, Hancock indeed would have helped this bullpen).
    You have some serious problems. I've read most of your posts and while they're at least intelligent they're almost always negative. None of us expected the Reds to be here so why not sit back and enjoy it. If we fall apart we're still building for the future and we're not as far away as we thought.

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    Member MattyHo4Life's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by joshnky
    None of us expected the Reds to be here so why not sit back and enjoy it. If we fall apart we're still building for the future and we're not as far away as we thought.
    How long have the Reds been building for the future? The Reds have a good team now, but like FDB said, a few changes can make this team a playoff threat. It is one thing to play well in the first half, but it is another thing to make the changes necessary to compete the entire season. I don't know why you wouldn't do what you can to win now. The Reds have a good group of young players now. Sure, you can wait a few years on Baily and the others to come around, but what if they don't... look at Wagner. Even if they do, your young players will be close to leaving via Free Agency. If you can win now, then you do it instead of waiting for the future that never seems to come.

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Well stated and well thought out post. I think we'll see some moves when Milton comes back and I'm hoping we'll be getting the Milton of ST and his 1st couple of starts back.

    I also agree with the Freel/Cody Ross deal. I think they DL'd Ross to give themselves some more roster flexibility and, in particular, to get him some playing time on a rehab stint - it gave them 30 days for him to go down there and get some much needed work in.

    This is like watching a symphony this year. Maestro Krivskey is doing some fine directing.

  8. #7
    "Let's Roll" TeamBoone's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by Guacarock
    1. Send a strong, performance-based message to our porous bullpen by designating White for assignment, the same way Womack got the heave-ho. Shackelford and Hammond have higher ERAs than White, but they have shown flashes of command and presence, and they are both lefties, while White is a righty, consistently bad, a veteran running on empty, who keeps adding fuel to every fire he's supposed to extinguish. Give him his walking papers now before he does any more damage. Call up Carlos Guevara from Chattanooga to replace White in the bullpen. If Guevara can't hold his ERA under 5 or so, then we keep auditioning other guys from within our minor league system until we find someone who can. Failing at that, we bite the bullet and make a trade at a time when it's more expected, less desperate, and when we might reap more return on investment.

    2. Place Mercker on the DL if he's too sore to pitch. Call up Mike Venafro from Louisville to temporarily fill the LOOGY slot. Venafro might only manage a 4 or 4.50 ERA, but that's still better than Shackelford and Hammond have done to date. Remember, we're only talking baby steps here. When Mercker is eligible to be reactivated, hand him the ball, letting either Venafro or Shackelford return to Louisville, whoever is not getting the job done.
    Based on this well thought out post, I like your suggested approach. It could very well be a short-term solution at keeping the Reds in contention until WK is able to do something more permanent.

    I have some questions though... they are NOT criticism, just questions as I am a bit ignorant on minor league strategy and rules.

    #1 - Is a pitcher in Chatanooga ready to take on the big leagues? If he was even close, wouldn't he be in Louisville?

    #2 - If the Reds keep "auditioning" pitchers from the minors, including those in Louisville who may or may not stay with the big club long if they fail, doesn't it start their arbitration clock?

    And, if it does start the clock (?), would this really be a smart thing to do, especially since utilization of your outlined approach has the potential to involve several of the Reds minor leaguers?
    "Enjoy this Reds fans, you are watching a legend grow up before your very eyes" ... DoogMinAmo on Adam Dunn

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    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by joshnky
    You have some serious problems. I've read most of your posts and while they're at least intelligent they're almost always negative.
    Obviously FCB isn't one of those guys who sugar coats things and pretends everything is rosy, and that's not a bad thing at all. It can be good to look at things more realistically.

    With that said I think FCB makes good points. If the Reds continue to throw the likes of Williams, Milton, and Claussen out there on most days, and they don't improve, I have trouble seeing the Reds staying at the top of the division. Not to mention we only have 1 reliever who really inspires a great deal of confidence, and that is Coffey. Any other guy run out there and we are generally biting our nails.

  10. #9
    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamBoone
    Based on this well thought out post, I like your suggested approach. It could very well be a short-term solution at keeping the Reds in contention until WK is able to do something more permanent.

    I have some questions though... they are NOT criticism, just questions as I am a bit ignorant on minor league strategy and rules.

    #1 - Is a pitcher in Chatanooga ready to take on the big leagues? If he was even close, wouldn't he be in Louisville?

    #2 - If the Reds keep "auditioning" pitchers from the minors, including those in Louisville who may or may not stay with the big club long if they fail, doesn't it start their arbitration clock?

    And, if it does start the clock (?), would this really be a smart thing to do, especially since utilization of your outlined approach has the potential to involve several of the Reds minor leaguers?
    Sometimes, I think, AAA clubs are as much "spare parts" as they are your top prospects, so you might have a top prospect who is ready to make the jump to the MLB directly from AA, although I'm guessing this might be less so with pitchers. With regards to starting the clock, I think those on the 40 man roster already have the clock started to some degree. That's why many say not to rush Homer Bailey because his clock hasn't started yet since he's not required to be on the 40 man roster yet (but he would be if he game to the ML level). Others can correct if I'm wrong about that.

  11. #10
    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by MattyMo4Life
    I didn't understand this move at the time, and I don't understand it now. If you want to send a message, and make an example of someone like Hancock, then send then down to AAA until he gets his act together. That is what most teams would do. That way you keep them under contract in case you need them, but in the meantime they ae punished by being kept in the minors. By releasing him, yllow him to go anywhere he wants... even a rival.

    I beleive that Handcock was out of options, so they couldn't send him to AAA without him clearing waivers.

    But there was no harm in trying that.

  12. #11
    "Let's Roll" TeamBoone's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by redsmetz
    Sometimes, I think, AAA clubs are as much "spare parts" as they are your top prospects, so you might have a top prospect who is ready to make the jump to the MLB directly from AA, although I'm guessing this might be less so with pitchers. With regards to starting the clock, I think those on the 40 man roster already have the clock started to some degree. That's why many say not to rush Homer Bailey because his clock hasn't started yet since he's not required to be on the 40 man roster yet (but he would be if he game to the ML level). Others can correct if I'm wrong about that.

    Thanks for the info... your comment regarding Louisville players makes sense.

    My interpretation of the bolded statement then is that the pitchers mentioned in the original post are NOT on the 40-man roster, so if they were to be called up, they would have to be added (and someone sent back down to accomodate them) and their clock would then start. Right?

    Thus, bringing up too many would result in the same number of 40-man guys being sent down (or released if they had no options left) and the clock would start for several "new" pitchers... all in one season... which could potentially spell trouble in the future.

    Am I not right? Or do I still misunderstand?
    "Enjoy this Reds fans, you are watching a legend grow up before your very eyes" ... DoogMinAmo on Adam Dunn

  13. #12
    Mon chou Choo vaticanplum's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamBoone
    Thanks for the info... your comment regarding Louisville players makes sense.

    My interpretation of the bolded statement then is that the pitchers mentioned in the original post are NOT on the 40-man roster, so if they were to be called up, they would have to be added (and someone sent back down to accomodate them) and their clock would then start. Right?

    Thus, bringing up too many would result in the same number of 40-man guys being sent down (or released if they had no options left) and the clock would start for several "new" pitchers... all in one season... which could potentially spell trouble in the future.

    Am I not right? Or do I still misunderstand?
    I believe that is correct.

    I disagree with the statement that AAA players are spare parts though, I think ideally they are prospects for the team, but it really depends on (I hate to say it) age. You hit 27-ish and your chances of making the big-league club start to go way down and I don't know how many guys really stick around for long after that. a successful jump from AA to the majors still seems relatively rare to me...Albert Pujols did it, but a stay in AAA is still the norm for most prospects. I could be mistaken though.
    There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

  14. #13
    Member MattyHo4Life's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Kearns
    I beleive that Handcock was out of options, so they couldn't send him to AAA without him clearing waivers.

    But there was no harm in trying that.
    That would explain it then... I didn't realize he was out of options. Although he would have had a good chance at clearing waivers.

  15. #14
    SSG, Red Army Choir Guacarock's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamBoone
    I have some questions though... they are NOT criticism, just questions as I am a bit ignorant on minor league strategy and rules.

    #1 - Is a pitcher in Chatanooga ready to take on the big leagues? If he was even close, wouldn't he be in Louisville?

    #2 - If the Reds keep "auditioning" pitchers from the minors, including those in Louisville who may or may not stay with the big club long if they fail, doesn't it start their arbitration clock?

    And, if it does start the clock (?), would this really be a smart thing to do, especially since utilization of your outlined approach has the potential to involve several of the Reds minor leaguers?
    Good points, TeamBoone. The major risks in the strategy I outlined are exactly the risks you identified. Double A pitchers might not be able to make the jump to the big leagues. We might be starting their arbitration clocks too soon, and also creating undue roster entanglements that could force us to shed some players we don't want to lose.

    Here's why I would still take those calculated risks, even though the gamble might backfire.

    1. Our bullpen is so bad, we simply cannot stand pat. Over the past week alone, strong starts by Arroyo, Ramirez and Williams have been lost or negated by the collapse of the bullpen. This has to be demoralizing to our "horses." It has also undoubtedly contributed to our offense beginning to sputter. When no lead is safe, players will stress out, overreaching to try to pad the scores, fearing that if we don't go into the 9th inning with at least a 4- or 5-run advantage, another defeat could be snatched from the jaws of victory.

    2. One reason why we have a lousy bullpen? Poor construction. Way too much over-reliance on seasoned vets with similar pitching styles, little heat, yet all boasting guaranteed ML contracts that limit our flexibility. Hosting some open auditioning for youngbloods not only can stimulate our prospects to step up their game, but also interjects healthy competition into the process, forcing the vets to get more serious about performing, or risk losing their jobs.

    3. I would be more worried about prematurely promoting pitchers if we were talking about rotational candidates like Homer Bailey. They are the ones we need to coddle, making sure they build the stamina, the complete arsenal of pitches and the right mental makeup to succeed at the major league level. I could be wrong, but I don't think the same pressures apply, at least not to the same degree, to relief pitchers. If they are in the right groove, if they have a specialty pitch or two that's different in style and look from what our other relievers are using, they might be able to make a smooth transition and contribute at an acceptable level. What's acceptable? For this year's bullpen, an ERA under 5.00 works for me. Four of our current relievers -- Coffey, Weathers, Mercker, and Belisle-- meet that standard. Three -- Shackelford, White and Hammond -- currently do not.

    4. Again, since we're talking about relief pitchers and not rotational guys, we shouldn't incur that much extra expense, if any, by starting their arbitration clocks a little early. If they end up becoming closers or ace setup men, we'll have to ante up for their talents. But if they just rise to the level of serviceable middle relievers, they tend to come and go, and not hang around long enough for arbitration to become much of a concern.

    5. Any logjam issues involving the 40-man roster are mitigated by the fact that we have a new GM in place, Krivsky, who has shown he's more than willing to do some heavy-duty pruning, housecleaning and revamping of our talent pool. If we have to add 2 or 3 relievers to the 40-man roster, I'm quite confident that Krivsky can open those spots by trimming other prospects he has deemed less vital to keep.

    6. Finally, I'm proposing we tap and explore what talent we have within our own system before going out on the open trade market. That makes sense to me. We don't have a huge number of trading chits. We'll want to use those chits judiciously. By that, I mean, to acquire something we need, but don't have. I'm not inclined to burn Larue, Freel, or even Kearns on picking up garden-variety relievers. If they are traded, let's get back a starter, a prime positional prospect, or a reliever who might be setup or closer stock. Also, we don't want to be forced into a corner, where we work any trade out of desperation. Kearns could go anywhere tomorrow for a fair return, but not so with Freel and Larue. Neither has been gangbuster of late, although Freel did open the season with a bang.
    Last edited by Guacarock; 05-14-2006 at 02:05 AM.

  16. #15
    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: Baby Steps

    2. Place Mercker on the DL if he's too sore to pitch. Call up Mike Venafro from Louisville to temporarily fill the LOOGY slot. Venafro might only manage a 4 or 4.50 ERA, but that's still better than Shackelford and Hammond have done to date. Remember, we're only talking baby steps here. When Mercker is eligible to be reactivated, hand him the ball, letting either Venafro or Shackelford return to Louisville, whoever is not getting the job done.
    Well, they DL's Mercker today, but called up Mike Burns, which I'm shocked no one has reported yet, or am I missing something. Sounds like Burns did alright down in Louisville fromt he report on the radio.


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