Blame the All-Star Break and my annual family vacation (that falls immediately after the ASG) for my prolonged silence. I’m sure you all survived.
Is it just me, or is this West Coast road trip excruciatingly long? And it started off so well, too — with the Reds taking 3 of 4 against the Giants. Then the suddenly-hot Dodgers decided to rain on the Reds’ parade by taking 3 of 4 in a series that saw some pretty great pitching duels. Unfortunately, there’s still 3 games to play against the Padres before the Reds come home.
By the way, the Reds play the Cardinals in that first home series. Wonderful.
Things could be a lot worse, though. The aforementioned division-leading Cardinals got swept over the weekend, so the Reds didn’t lose any additional ground. Although, it makes those close losses against the Dodgers all the more frustrating because of the progress that could’ve been made in the standings. And yes, it’s okay to start talking about the standings now because there are only 56 games left.
Oh, crap! There are only 56 games left?!
Anyone worried? The Reds are 5 games out of first place, with a — let’s-just-call-it-what-it-is — critical 3 game series with the Cardinals coming up at the end of the week. Winning the series would certainly help the Reds’ causes, losing one game would put them right back where they started (or close to it), and getting swept by the Cardinals would be pretty catastrophic for the Reds’ chances at winning the division.
But we’ll worry about that next week.
Are you old enough to remember the Big Red Machine? How would you like to relive every moment from the 1975 World Series?
** SPOILER ALERT: THE REDS WIN **
Are you too young to remember the Big Red Machine and have only heard stories about them? How would you like see what all of the buzz was about by seeing every single out of every single game from the 1975 World Series?
Well, you can with The Cincinnati Reds: 1975 World Series Collector’s Edition DVD Set
Here’s the best part… to commemorate over 100 Major League Baseball Productions Film & Video Archive titles now being available on iTunes, Chris Sabo’s Goggles has been handed a copy to give away to one of you.
I’ve been pretty quiet on on the blog/Facebook/Twitter the past week because, well… because the Reds have been pretty quiet. The buzz of Homer Bailey’s second n0-hitter in the last 10 months has already worn off. So has taking three games of a rain-shortened series against the defending World Champions.
There’s virtually no offense to speak of, and solid pitching outings are being squandered because of it. Jay Bruce’s torrid streak has resulted in his current (and inevitable) average streak. Injuries continue to plague the team, with the returns of Marshall, Broxton, Cueto and Ludwick all up in the air.
The Pirates’ short-lived reign at the top of the division is already over as it appears they’re beginning their second half slide a little early this year. The problem is, that means that the Cardinals are starting to play better and have regained their perch atop the NL Central. All of this means that the Reds are stuck flailing away in 3rd place.
For those of you who think that after the All-Star Break the Reds are just going to flip a switch and start playing consistently good baseball again, you’re kidding yourselves. The All-Star Break serves as a nice opportunity for fans (and players) to take a deep breath and prepare for the grind of the second half, but it doesn’t always mean that things are going to improve.
I’m not exactly sure what the Reds could do to improve the team before the trade deadline. Bullpen help is desperately needed now, but what happens if/when Marshall and Broxton come back in a few weeks? The obvious hole is left field. Preferably someone who can hit in the 2-spot, since the Reds shortstop can’t seem to handle the job.
But is a new leftfielder or reliever really going to push this team over the edge? After 90 games, the Reds are 5 games out of first place. Hardly a big enough deficit to pack it in and think about next year, but when you have two teams ahead of you playing better baseball (just never at the same time as each other), it’s going to be very difficult for the Reds to gain any ground unless one of those teams falls off the map quickly.
WARNING: What you are about to read is not pretty. In fact, it’s downright ugly. The Cincinnati Reds team we all loved so much in April and May is but a distant memory. Are you ready to relive the Reds’ month of June in painstaking detail? This is your last warning.
But first, a refresher for the uninitiated:
1 cheese coney = This isn’t even a snack, let alone a meal. Try harder.
2 cheese coneys = You could do better, but you could also do worse.
3 cheese coneys = Now we’re getting somewhere. Not perfect, but pretty darn close.
4 cheese coneys = How can you complain about four cheese coneys? Simple–you can’t.
Ryan Hanigan is struggling. Apparently he has a sprained ankle, but that only materialized late in the month, so it’s hardly an excuse for his offensive woes. But Devin Mesoraco’s .218 batting average in June wasn’t much better than Hanigan’s .191. The Reds once mighty catching platoon hasn’t been very mighty lately.
This is where it gets tricky. By most measurements, Joey Votto is having another great season. Or is he? He’s racking up errors at an unnerving pace for a former Gold Glove winner, he’s not driving in runs, and his power numbers are average at best. Yes, he gets on base a lot, but I’ve also seen him come up empty in COUNTLESS scoring situations this season. What happened to the Joey Votto that could seemingly pepper hits over the field at will?
Great, now Brandon Phillips isn’t hitting, either. Since getting plunked on the forearm by the Pirates, Phillips has somehow lost the inability to hit. Coincidence? Probably, but when someone who used to hit is no longer hitting, people look for excuses. Fortunately, it hasn’t affected his defense, otherwise he’d be staring down at a heaping mound of cheddar cheese on a singular cheese coney.
Not to sound like a broken record here, but Todd Frazier isn’t exactly knocking the cover off the ball. At least his .253 June average is moderately better than the numbers he put up in May. Still, it’s a far cry from the Frazier we saw in the first half of the 2012 season.
Oh, Zack Cozart, what are we going to do with you? Your very average batting average is not improving, and your defense is consistently pretty good. Will we see improvement from you in the second half, or is this the most we’re ever going to see from you? And you realize that you have no business batting 2nd, right?
Jay Bruce went bananas in June. At one point over 8 games he had 7 hits that were all homers. Stuff like this happens when you’re Jay Bruce. Unfortunately, when stuff like that happens, it’s usually followed by prolonged periods of futility. Maybe that trend will stop now.
June saw Shin-Soo Choo come crashing back to Earth, unfortunately. It would be a shame if the bulk of his production for the Reds came at the early part of the season, because this is a whole different team when the lead-off hitter isn’t getting on base. I mean, how else will Cozart ground into a double play?
Nobody knows when Ryan Ludwick will be back, and honestly, nobody knows how much of an impact he’ll have when he does. Derrick Robinson has done a pretty good job filling in (with Xavier Paul), but now with Chris Heisey back, fighting for playing time is going to be even harder.
LF and CF:
I’m going to remove this category for this month. Most of the bench is in a constant rotation in left field, so there’s not much point in focusing on it as it’s own separate category.
Johnny Cueto is going to be out until at least the first week of August. Which means it’ll be mid-August before he returns to the disabled list for the fourth time this season. To say that it’s been a frustrating season for Cueto would be an understatement. I don’t know what’s worse — the injury, or the way it’s being handled. I realize that muscle injuries can be pesky, but when it continues to be a problem I’m lead to believe that it’s not being treated correctly.
But I’m no doctor, otherwise I’d ask to be called Dr. Chris Sabo’s Goggles, which is just weird.
Meanwhile, Mat Latos has proven to be the Reds’ go-to stud. In fact, I’m going to start the petition to have him be the Opening Day starter in 2014. Spread the word. He’s a had a couple of tough-luck loses, and even more tough-luck no decisions, otherwise more people would be talking about how great he’s been.
You know who else has been (surprisingly) awesome? Mike Leake. He’s done a nice job picking up the slack while Bailey and Arroyo have been stumbling a bit. Without Leake and Latos, this team would be in a lot of trouble. Okay, even more trouble than they’re in now.
Don’t you mean WHAT’S LEFT of the bullpen?
Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton are “slowly progressing,” which is MLB talk for “don’t expect them any time soon.” That’s left the Reds with a patchwork bullpen that has been good and bad, depending on what day it is, but mostly they haven’t been very good.
It seems like only last year that a win was virtually guaranteed once the starter stepped out and the bullpen stepped in. That’s because it was only last year. This year, there’s a lot of finger crossing going on when the bullpen takes over.
Aroldis Chapman’s probably seem much worse than they are. A lot of that has to do with the fact that when he was bad in June, he was REALLY bad. Could it be that he’s not getting much work? Maybe. Could it be that’s less concerned with throwing strikes and more concerned with putting up big numbers on the radar gun? Probably. Whatever the problem is, he needs to get it figured out soon.
June Record: (12-15)
The Reds just endured their first losing month in a long time (I’m too lazy to look up the actual date, but I think it was some time in 2011) so that means the end is near, right? Not necessarily. It’s all about perception. The Reds currently have their 2nd best record through 81 games since 1995. Better than the first 81 games of 2010 when the Reds won the National League Central. Better than the first 81 games of the 2012 season when the Reds won the National League Central. Once again, it’s all about perception.
So, why does it feel like the sky is falling in? I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that 3/5 of the division is playing solid baseball. Guess which 2/5 isn’t so solid (HINT: Both cities border Lake Michigan). With the St. Louis Cardinals playing lights-out baseball up until recently (they’re 2-6 in their last 8 games), and the Pittsburgh Pirates being The Best Team in Baseball (!?) (they’ve won 9 games in a row), it’s hard to gain any ground when the two teams ahead of you in the division don’t lose. Or, at least, don’t lose when you need them to.
The fact of the matter is, the 2013 Reds are not a bad ball club. They’re certainly not playing well right now, but it’s hardly time to give up on them and start focusing on the Bengals.
But if the Reds go through July like they went through June, then it’s probably time to start focusing on the Bengals.
GO REDS! (?)
I work with the #1-ranked pinball player in the world (really, I do), so I know a few things about sports. Here’s a rundown of everything I know right now:
- I know that the Reds haven’t been playing very good baseball lately
- I know that, despite the Reds’ struggles, they’re only 2.5 games out of 1st place
- I know that the bullpen is beat-up
- I know that Aroldis Chapman has lost complete control of his pitches
- I know that there’s still over 80 games of baseball left to be played
- I know that the Cardinals have (finally) started to come back to Earth
- I know that the Pirates haven’t started their annual slide to oblivion yet
- I know that the Pirates may not slide at all this season
- I know that, since 2006, the National League leader in wins and starts is none other than Bronson Arroyo
- I know that Jay Bruce is currently on one of his ridiculous hot-streaks (7 straight hits for homers?!)
- I know that I still don’t care about hockey, despite the Chicago Blackhawks’ victory parade that will roll past my office window on Friday
What do you guys know?
There’s something weird going on in Pittsburgh right now. Pirates fans are taking to the internet in droves to declare that the Pirates and Reds are hated rivals.
This is the part where I beg to differ.
- The Reds and the Cardinals — that’s a rivalry.
- The Reds and the Cubs — that’s a rivalry.
- The Reds and the Indians — while I don’t get excited for those series, many people consider that a rivalry.
Beyond that, any team the Reds play is just a series.
I don’t think you’ll find many people in Cincinnati with an avid hatred for the Milwaukee Brewers, and I doubt that many Reds fans have a major problem with the Pittsburgh Pirates. So why are Pirates fans so insistent on turning this series into some kind of rivalry?
I mean, other than the fact that they live in Pittsburgh and they’re looking for something to do.
While the Reds haven’t had a ton of success in the last 20 years, at least they’ve had at least one season with a winning record, which is more than the Pirates can say. The last couple of years, the Pirates were a pretty solid ballclub in the first half of the season, only to fall apart in the second half. Once again, the Pirates are playing good baseball in the first half, and now we’re supposed to think things will be different this year. Maybe they will.
As of Thursday morning, the Reds are in second place, ahead of the third place Pirates by 1.5 games. If the Pirates were in first place and the Reds were in second, then people would get fired up for the series. But I still wouldn’t call it rivalry (outside of the fact that we play in the same division).
Am I saying the Pirates aren’t a threat to the Reds? Of course not. What I’m saying is that I don’t think Reds fans get all that fired up for a Pirates series. Don’t tell that to the Pirates fans, though, because they think Reds fans are losing sleep over what the third-place team is doing. No, Reds fans are losing sleep over what the first-place team is doing.
Hitting a couple of batters does not a rivalry make. Year-in and year-out competitive play from both teams makes a rivalry.
And complaining about the smoke from the fireworks getting in your eyes. That makes a rivalry, too.
That disastrous series against the Cardinals last weekend seems like an eternity ago. Playing the Cubs tends to make everything better.
While people are complaining about Chapman not entering yesterday’s 14-inning game, I’d prefer to talk about what Sam LeCure did. Or more specifically, what Sam LeCure didn’t do.
In his last 4 appearances, LeCure has thrown 3 innings, and given up 9 hits, 5 earned runs, 2 walks and a homer. And in those 3 innings he’s faced 18 batters. In case you’re wondering, that’s not good. Especially when it comes in the form of blown saves or giving up late-inning leads, which is what he’s been doing of late.
With Sean Marshall hurt, there’s a certain amount of improvisation that needs to be done with the bullpen. Jonathan Broxton was apparently too sore to pitch yesterday, but Dusty somehow convinced him to enter the game. We all know how that went. The truth is, Broxton has been shaky most of the season, so putting him in after the plan was to keep him out of the game — well, that’s got trouble written all over.
We can argue all day about why Chapman wasn’t brought into the game, but stopping the Cubs from scoring runs wasn’t the problem (at the time), it was the lack of Reds’ hits late in the game. Last time I checked, Chapman can’t hit.