All right, Redszoners. Time to whip out your red pencils and issue your mid-term grades to the 2011 Reds. For the purposes of this exercise, you'll need to evaluate the Reds' performance in eight classes and then decide upon a cumulative GPA for the team. The eight classes -- catchers, infielders, outfielders, bench, starting pitchers, relief pitchers, manager/coaches and general manager. You can be as tough or laissez-faire as you want in your grading standards, but be prepared to defend your assigned grades against challenges. I'll get the ball rolling....
Catchers: B+. Hanigan and Hernandez might not be All Stars, but together, they make a formidable combo behind the plate. Both excel at controlling the opposition running game, and neither is a defensive or offensive slouch. Small demerits this season for Hanigan's OBP slippage and Hernandez's occasionally questionable game calling.
Infielders: C+. Can't carp too much about the performances of the infielders on the right side of the diamond. Votto is following his MVP year with another strong season, although he's battled through a few slumps and a bit of a power outage. Phillips' defense is golden, but he's no longer close to being a 30-30 player. The power is declining, and baserunning blunders occur too often. It's on the left side of the diamond, where we have fallen. The SS tandem of Janish-Renteria couldn't begin to get the job done on offense, and Rolen is slowing down and declining.
Outfielders: C. Despite his ups and downs, Bruce is emerging as The Force in RF that we all hoped he would be, combining plenty of swat with GG defensive swagger. In CF, Stubbs continues to flash his tools -- the glove, the speed and power -- but his strikeouts and contact issues remain problematic. Heisey, Lewis and Gomes all have displayed some winning attributes and some warts. It's debatable whether they will become fixtures for the future or just temporary or part-time fixes.
Bench: B-. Heisey still delivering fireworks as a pinch-hitter and proving extremely useful and versatile as a defensive sub. Age not slowing down Cairo's bat. Catching tandem working seamlessly. Lewis and Gomes can be counted upon in limited roles. The only bench-player whose contributions appear slim to negligible: Renteria.
Starting Pitchers: C-. Mostly an average bunch across the board except for Cueto, who continues to improve and might yet emerge as our ace. Leake also appears to have a bright future, and is building upon his rookie season, but still has a lot to learn. By contrast, health issues have hindered Bailey's progress, and likewise, Arroyo has not quite been himself all season. Volquez and Wood have regressed, but hopefully, can re-establish some kind of groove in AAA.
Relief Pitchers: B+. All in all, notwithstanding their losing W-L totals, the bullpen has been a plus this season. The setup men -- Masset, Ondrusek and Bray -- have been dominant, although Masset took a month or so, as always, to warm up. Cordero, our closer, has been lights-out in his walk year, except has shown signs of age and/or fatigue of late. Lecure has adapted well to his new long relief role, but injury impaired him for awhile. Arredondo and Chapman seem to have overcome control problems, and begun pitching up to their superior abilities, which bodes well for the future.
Manager/Coaches: D+. It's not been Dusty's year. He has stood by his players as always, but they have not performed up to expectations, and when that has happened, he has been slow on the draw to implement correctional changes. He waited too long to establish a workable platoon in LF or to rectify the gaping offensive shortage at SS. Similarly, he has left starting pitchers in too many games when they were clearly toast. His game strategies have not worked well -- whether in composing lineups or making effective double-switches or calling for bold run-producing plays. He has to hope for a better second-half, or he will become the sacrificial lamb, rightfully or wrongly, for the team's shortfalls. His hitting and pitching coaches also could be on the line, as it's easier and cheaper to change them out than to jettison players.
General Manager: C-. Smart, team-friendly, long-range contracts negotiated with Cueto and Bruce. Not-so-smart contract signed with Arroyo, given his age and value as a MOR starter. Good job assembling bench players and taking flyers on possible breakout retreads (D-Train and Arrendondo). But grade lowered to C- overall for failing to address LF and SS issues that were already apparent in 2010, and also for assuming the team as constituted could repeat in 2011 exactly what it did in 2010, even knowing that stalwarts like Rolen and Arroyo were on the decline.
Team GPA: C. Which, if you ask me, is fully reflected by our current middle-of-the-pack 44-46 W-L record and our standing as the fourth place team in the middling to mediocre NL Central Division.
So now you've seen my grades. Time to show yours and let the world know your grading biases.