Sunday, March 26, 2006

2005 Retrospective -- Part I (Compilation from 1st Half 2005)

July 05, 2005
You Win One ... You Lose More
Although this season for the Reds has been the most disgusting to watch in recent memory, I would be remiss to not mention that the last-place Cincinnati squad actually won a road game on Monday, July 4th -- the day of American Independence.

Alas, this has been a season of my personal discontent, not to mention the discontent of thousands more in the Tri-State area of Cincinnati / SE Indiana / N Kentucky. To see the Reds win an offensive battle 11-10 on the road against the SF Giants is somewhat heartwarming, but then I realize that it represents only the 32nd win of the season (versus an ugly 50 losses) and only the 8th road win (versus 28 crushing defeats). It only takes some simple math to realize that with an 8-28 road record, these Reds are 24-22 at home. The amazing thing about that home record -- the pitching has been better at GABP (not known for being pitcher-friendly) than at many road venues.

How can this team be this bad? The pitching stats say a lot -- second worst team ERA to only the TB Devil Rays in all of MLB ... even worse than the Rockies! Based on the offensive stats (5th BEST in runs scored, 3rd in HR), why can't they win more games?!? Simply put, they score lots of runs in the meaningless blowout games and then struggle to score (like Sunday's shutout from Roger Clemens) in others. They cannot score when they need runs most and pile them on when only a few runs is enough.

Needless to say, my worst thoughts have come to pass. Dave Miley's departure hasn't changed this team at all -- if anything, I believe they have played more sloppy games since. 3-7 in their last 10 games isn't anything Jerry Narron can be proud to claim. 20 games back of the 1st place Cardinals is depressing. The Reds' season is now just for passing the time (low entertainment value) and listening to Marty preach on the radio about inane subjects (sorry, Marty, but you know it is going to happen).

I remember those late summers well with Marty and Joe talking about anything but baseball in August and September as the Reds drifted out of contention. Now, we are only in the first week of July, and the same thing is happening already with Marty and Steve up in the booth. I'm guessing the fire sale is soon the begin around the All-Star Game as weakened GM Dan O'Brien tries to garner some talent for the future around which the Reds *might* be able to build. My hope is for some talented pitching prospects who can win some games in 2006 and beyond. Pitching in general, especially the starters and middle relievers, has left a lot to be desired.

If Austin Kearns can sit idle down in Louisville while Dunn, Griffey, Pena, can play in Cincinnati, is he implied to be expendable?!? Otherwise, why is he there? An OF is due to be traded ... another IF might be as well (does anyone want a utility guy like Ryan Freel or our new All-Star Felipe Lopez). My bet(s) are on Adam Dunn (the biggest name with some bang for the buck) and probably Sean Casey (I hate to say it, but, if Graves could go, the Mayor can go as well). If Casey is not a catch, then Griffey is once again becoming one. Will the Reds let him go? Well, the teams that let the biggest names go seem to reap the benefits eventually (like the Mariners post-Griffey and/or A-Rod, That's not to say I don't want to keep Dunn, Griffey, or Casey, but I think at least one of them has to go to get enough pitching talent to make a trade worthwhile.

Enough ranting for now. I can tell my interest is waning when I don't cover a single game from the Astros' series this weekend. Losing three out of four tends to do that to someone, especially when I attend Sunday's fiasco in a 9-0 loss that featured a crowd cheering more for Roger Clemens (future HOF'er) than for any of the Reds' players (including Griffey).

Posted by JD Rentz on July 05, 2005 at 01:08 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 27, 2005
Deja Vu in the Battle of Ohio
Anybody else notice the consistency with which the Reds have been losing to the Indians? In a game on Sunday that the Reds could win without a doubt, the offense went silent. Given that CC Sabathia was on the mound, I might have forgiven them, but they seemed to find cracks in his armor early in the game and could not capitalize. Separately, after a series of weaker starts, Aaron Harang bounced back with a positive start, allowing only 3 runs in 6 innings. The final result of 4-3 in this one confirmed the outcome -- the Reds lose the season series at both parks the same way with 1-2 records at each and 2-4 overall.

This time, the bullpen couldn't stop the scoring when David Weathers gave up a run-scoring single to pinch hitter Victor Martinez in the bottom of the 8th. The Cleveland bullpen responded by closing the door on the Reds, with Bob Wickman recording his 21st save and Bob Howry (who worked only a 1/3 of a inning in the top of the 8th) notching the win.

The Reds get a day off after playing more consistent inconsistent baseball. As in the past, they win a few and then lose a few. The pattern continues. Jerry Narron notwithstanding, this team is proving to be not much better than a .500 club (at best) and still stands 30-45, worst in the NL Central and near the bottom of all of MLB.

The Cardinals have the Reds by a 17-game margin (yikes!), and it's not even July yet. For comparison, the divisional leaders in the NL have 47, 44, and 42 wins, respectively (St. Louis, Washington, and San Diego). The 2nd-place clubs aren't too shabby, either, with 38, 41, and 39 wins, respectively (Chicago, Atlanta, and Arizona). The NL East has a division full of teams competing for the wild card with the Mets in last place but with 37 wins (only a game under .500). The wild card race should be exciting down to the finish, with more than a half dozen teams in contention now.

Can the Reds compete for the division? As stated before, the answer is a definite no. The Cardinals are almost gone and 8 1/2 clear of the Cubs. Can the Reds get the wild card? At this point, the chances are slim and none ... and slim might be leaving soon (or has gone already). The wild card leader is Atlanta with 41 wins, and the Reds trail that mark by 11 games. Clearly, this team needs to win ... hmm ... every game in July to get back into contention?!?

When a team is 17 games back in the division, is 11 games back in the wild card, and, relatively speaking, has no pitching depth, there is nowhere to go but down. I wish I was more positive on this one, but I don't see a cloud with a silver lining. The ship was sinking before Miley was fired ... I can only hope that maybe Dan O'Brien gets a "reassignment" as well for botching so many moves this season.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 27, 2005 at 04:46 PM in Ballgames, My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 25, 2005
Too Little, Too Late
Despite winning their last 3 games in a row (two against the Cardinals and the first game of the series versus the Indians), tonight looked more like same old, same old with the Reds. In this one, the Reds went down early and stayed there all the way until the end. If not for a late 9th inning rally, the margin of the loss would have been worse. As it ended, a 12-7 final was all they could muster.

As usual, the pitching staff fell to pieces. The Reds' starter (Luke Hudson) got roughed up in a very bad 3rd inning that saw the Indians score 8 runs. The Reds had been leading (briefly) before that half inning. Given the 9-3 deficit, the Reds never really threatened for the remainder of the game. If not for the 4 runs in the 9th, the 12-3 score would have been the final, but a 12-7 final is not going to make the coach happy either.

All in all, the pitching on this team is atrocious. I don't really agree that Dave Miley was at fault completely for the team's pitching woes considering he didn't get to pick his pitching staff. That is the job of Dan O'Brien.

Clearly, O'Brien is not capable of doing his job or this team would have acquired some better pitchers. No offense, but Eric Milton gives up homers ... GABP is a homer-friendly park. Did anyone put two and two together on that one? Paul Wilson's injury notwithstanding, Harang (in general but not recently) and possibly Ramon Ortiz (ditto) have been the most reliable. Hudson, Claussen, have had moments but clearly nothing consistent. After today, the Reds are dead last in pitching ERA ... it has not been pretty to watch. If not for an offense with the firepower this one has (Dunn, Griffey, Pena, Lopez, etc.), the season record would be even worse.

Like I said before and will say again, let's hope they get their act together for next year. This season is not coming together without pitching help.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 25, 2005 at 11:35 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 22, 2005
Whew...Reds Hold Off Cardinals Rally
The seven-run lead that the Cincinnati Reds built up after three innings on Wednesday afternoon was enough to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals. Thankfully, they had that 7-0 luxury due to some timely hitting by a lineup that featured two RBI each from Rich Aurilia, Ken Griffey Jr., and Adam Dunn. Dunn's two RBI came on two solo HR, not unusual for Dunn given that most of his homers are solo shots. Dunn now has 20 HR on the season.

Rich Aurilia was the clear star of this game, going 3 for 5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored en route to the Reds' victory. Ramon Ortiz pitched a solid 7 innings of work versus his opponent, Mark Mulder, who fared far worse in giving up 7 runs in only 4 innings of work. Mulder falls to 8-5 (1-4 in his last five decisions) while Ortiz lifts his record to 3-5.

Things got interesting in this one after Mulder left the game. The bullpen combination of Reyes, King, and Tavarez allowed only 1 hit combined and held the Reds' offense without another scoring opportunity. Meanwhile, after Ortiz struggled through a bad 5th inning (allowing 3 runs), the Reds' bullpen didn't provide much initial support. Ryan Wagner faced only 3 batters, yielding a HBP, a walk, and an RBI single, while not getting any batters out. He relinquished the mound to David Weathers, who appeared to have induced a double play, but SS Felipe Lopez threw the ball away and allowed Weathers' two inherited runners-on-base to score. However, unlike Wagner, Weathers retired the side in the 8th and came out to close the door in the 9th.

As the Reds started the 9th inning, they clung to only a 7-6 lead, despite having that 7-0 lead earlier in the game. Weathers allowed a runner to reach in the ninth, which prompted Manager Narron to call upon Kent Mercker to close the door. Mercker did just that, striking out Jim Edmonds to preserve the Reds' victory.

The Reds now move on to see the Cleveland Indians for a weekend series to renew the Battle of Ohio after an off-day tomorrow (Thursday). Let us hope that the Reds can continue their improved play. My fingers are still crossed.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 22, 2005 at 05:50 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

Can You Believe This? Reds Starting to Play Again...
OK, this post might be jumping the gun a bit, but I have to admit I am excited again. Is Jerry Narron the cure for this team's ills? Did he light the fire under the players' behinds? Are these guys motivated to win FINALLY?!? All I can hope to answer is YES, YES, and definitely YES. The Reds are playing the role of giant-killers in the series finale versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

After a surprising 11-4 victory last night, the Reds have jumped out 6-0 in the rubber game of the 3-game series this afternoon. Nix that ... now it's 7-0! Man, what got into Rich Aurilia in this one? It must have been his spinach because Mark Mulder is very close to being pulled as the pitcher in this one. Who would have guessed that Jason Marquis in the second game and Mulder today would be rocked so badly?!? Not me ... not the way this offense had been sputtering along.

Well, with a 7-run lead, I am guessing that Ramon Ortiz can rest much easier. So much for the pitching duel I expected ... Ortiz hasn't given up a hit so far, but Mulder hasn't fared anywhere near as well. Although given the offense of the Cardinals, the Reds could use any help they can get.

My fingers are crossed for more offense from the good guys or, if not, no offense from those guys who are visiting. Never know ... maybe I can be right about this team yet. Jerry Narron: Keep it up, whatever you're doing!

Posted by JD Rentz on June 22, 2005 at 01:50 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

A New Manager, A New Pitching Coach, ... and A New Attitude?!?
Faithful readers:

I sit here today assessing the fallout of the events that transpired yesterday. First and foremost, the first day of summer (June 21st) also brought with it the first day of the Jerry Narron era. Dave Miley, as I anticipated in recent weeks, was the scapegoat in a situation that had evolved from bad to worse. Along with Miley's dismissal, long-time pitching coach Don Gullett, a critical member of the 1970's Big Red Machine, lost his job as well. As noted previously, none of this is a real surprise -- the Reds are worst in their division AND the pitching has been awful. I am a bit more surprised that Dan O'Brien is not in this mix as well ... he has not exactly been the "sparkplug" for the new Reds' "machine," but my guess is that his job is not particularly secure in the grand scheme of things.

What does all of this mean for the average Reds' fan? Well, my guess is that last night's game was an immediate response by this team to support the new coach, but, like the Graves' aftermath, immediate success with a new cast probably will not make much of a difference for the season. My belief at the start of this season was that this team could be a legitimate division contender AND make a run at post-season play. Did I think the World Series was a possibility? Not really, but I saw this team as a wild-card fighter. Now, given their awful record, the hole is that much bigger to escape, and I no longer see it happening.

Congratulations to the Reds in winning the first game for Jerry Narron on Monday night with an impressive 11-4 victory over the division-leading Cardinals. Instead of giving these guys the benefit of the doubt, I am going to be the Doubting Thomas until this team can restore my faith in them. I wish sincerely that this team can turn things around. I have doubted Dave Miley's decisions on multiple occasions, and I believe this team has more potential than their record has shown.

As I said once before and will say again, I expect things may still get worse before they get better. Miley was not the only "leader" of this team. Without the leader of years past (i.e. Barry Larkin), I didn't see the same team on the field at the start of this season. Sean Casey and/or Ken Griffey, Jr. -- if you want to be the leader(s) of this team, prove it. There is not much more to say than that. I still believe the All-Star break and the eventual trading deadline both loom large in the minds of Reds' ownership. Turn this team around, and the roster will be safe. Keep playing like losers, the fire sale begins (again).

In my humble opinion (IMHO) ... JDR

Posted by JD Rentz on June 22, 2005 at 01:27 PM in Ballgames, Coaching, My Team(s) Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 16, 2005
And This Series Sweep Belongs to the Red ... Sox!?!
Thank goodness we aren't playing those 1975 World Series games with the 2005 team (the 30th Anniversary of the accomplishment, no less). Given that 1975 and 1976 epitomized the peak of the Big Red Machine, 2005 will go down as the season of our discontent. NOTHING, and I mean nothing, has gone well this season. What on this team can we be happy to have seen so far?!? I have NO idea at this moment.

For as "above average" as the Reds are able to be while playing at home in the GABP, they are horrific while playing any games on the road. Think back to the opening games of the year ... sweep the Mets in three at home and then lose three straight to the Astros on the road. We should have known then what is painfully obvious now ... this team STINKS!

Whatever it was that I was smoking back in early April to think that the Reds were a playoff contender must have drifted into some of my previous posts over the past few weeks. The Danny Graves move (aka fiasco) is going to be regrettable based on what I am reading about his pitching in New York (with the Mets) so far. Before you know it, the "core" of this team is going to bite the dust. I think this much is a given: Griffey, Dunn, Casey, need to WATCH their BACKS. The trading block is inevitable at this juncture, and these three guys have the best chance of bringing a sliver of pitching talent to a team devoid of such skills.

Let's see ... I am not ashamed to admit my bad judgment at this point, given that I thought Ryan Wagner was worthwhile (or NOT). This team is FALLING APART ... how many teams ADD payroll and lose MORE games than the previous year?!? Well, I guess the Cincinnati Reds qualify.

I am so disgusted at this point that the last three games make me want to regurgitate my dinner. This team is playing without energy, without passion, and without commitment. The Reds as an organization need help all around, and the changes are coming any day now (especially for a team that stands an absolutely pathetic 6-24 on the road -- ugh!).

Miley, Allen, and O'Brien (as well as the bench coaches) should be prepared for the fallout ... somebody will get the axe soon. My bet is on Miley (and possibly O'Brien) ... too bad it needs to come to this.

Posted by JD Rentz on June 16, 2005 at 02:41 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

June 13, 2005
Will the REAL Reds Please Stand Up?!?
After a weekend that saw the Reds take an impressive two out of three from the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, one might think that they were turning the corner and playing better. That is, of course, until tonight's titantic struggle was played. With deference to Marty Brenneman and the "King" (Elvis), this game deserved a big "have mercy" from us fans. The final score of 10-3 in favor of the 'Sawks' said it all -- the offense was weak and the pitching was weaker.

From this fan's perspective, the last week of games has been somewhat surreal. Sweeping the Devil Rays was a nice perk, although not a shock realistically. Taking two games from the Orioles proved to be fortuitous given tonight's series opener at Fenway Park in Boston. Winning five of six seemed like a very big positive step in the right direction ... until tonight. The Reds have glaring problems -- they CANNOT win on the road (period) AND the pitching (e.g. Eric Milton) is inconsistent at best.

The 2005 Cincinnati Reds are truly a Jekyll and Hyde entity. The home games are usually the Dr. Jekyll side while the away games are almost always the ugly side of Mr. Hyde. Above .500 at home and abysmally under .400 on the road is proof enough of the home versus away issue without regard for the pitching staff effects. Can Luke Hudson make a difference in the important Tuesday night second game? I have to hope so.

Eric Milton has NOT delivered time and again ... an utter disappointment versus the expectations I (and others) had for him. Matt Clement outpitched him head-to-head in what could have been a matchup of two good pitchers. Clement has become an ace for the Sox ... Milton has become a has-been for the Reds (kind of like poor Paul Wilson). Is Milton nursing any injuries, too?!? I sure hope not ... although the AAA guys look pretty good these days. The last time I saw something like this was in 1989, and most of us remember what happened with the team the next year under new management.

Miley has to be on a very short rope these days. If he is not, I am very surprised. Kansas City changed managers (bye Pena, hello Buddy) ... Tampa Bay is falling apart (Piniella sounds disgruntled) ... Colorado is out-of-control and truly a shell of a once-respectable team trying to rebuild. What excuse does Cincinnati have? I don't think there is an excuse at this point ... other than the lack of pitching talent (is that broken record still playing???).

I hope that Mr. Hyde shows up for the next two games in Boston. A sweep will end the season effectively, while a single win is nothing more than a moral victory. Two wins is what this team needs ... and there are only two more games in which to get them. Let's be blunt -- the Reds need to WIN at least seven of the next nine to make this race anywhere near interesting against the rest of the NL Central.

The ship is sinking, Captain Miley ... what are you going to do next?

Posted by JD Rentz on June 13, 2005 at 11:22 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2005
Reds Win Again ... 4 of Last 5 Signal of Things to Come???
Thursday night, it appeared that the same old Reds were back as they fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opening game of their weekend series by an 8-4 margin. After an impressive sweep of the steady Washington Nationals the previous three days, one had to wonder if the momentum had halted. Friday night's game proved otherwise.

At long last, the Reds' players appear to be playing somewhere near their respective potentials, albeit better late than never. The match-up of starting pitchers Ramon Ortiz and Josh Fogg for the Reds and Pirates, respectively, proved to be an interesting one. Not necessarily stellar but acceptable, the two pitchers had reasonable starts, particularly for Ortiz. Ortiz, going 6 1/3 innings, gave up 3 runs, all earned, on an ugly 10 hits. However, coupled with only 1 walk and 4 strikeouts, this was a quality start deliverd by the Reds' starter. Fogg's line was better through the first 5 innings, although the 3-run sixth inning finally did him in after failing to retire a single batter.

From the sixth inning on, the game looked quite normal ... until the ninth. In the ninth, Dave Miley elected to bring on the closer-of-the-future in Ryan Wagner. Wagner has been pitching well over the entire season despite some shaky outings along the way. Friday night was a shaky effort, although far from anything former closer Danny Graves would have done.

Coming into the game with a two-run lead (5-3), Wagner promptly gave up base hits to both Castillo and Sanchez, leading to both runners being in scoring position (with Sanchez the tying run). Wagner looked as if he could still get out of the inning with the save until Ross, the next batter, reached first on a throwing error by Ryan Freel from second base. In the process, both Castillo and Sanchez scored (earned and unearned, respectively). Then, Wagner beared down and delivered the rest of the inning without fault. With Ross on second, Jack Wilson came on to pinch hit, produced a sacrifice to third, and Ross moved to third base via the out of Wilson. The winning run was 90 feet away with only one man out, but Wagner shined. Matt Lawton grounded weakly, fielded by the catcher and keeping pinch runner Cota on third. With two outs, Wagner fanned Wigginton swinging to end the threat. A collective sigh of relief from the faithful as the Reds came to bat in the home half of the inning.

In the bottom half of the ninth inning, the Pirates brought in Mike Gonzalez to hold the tie until extra innings could be played. The Reds made that point moot. After Valentin struck out swinging, Jason Romano doubled to left. Freel reached on an infield single, allowing Romano to move to third on the play. With runners on the corners and only one out, Felipe Lopez came through with a hard grounder towards shortstop on broken-bat contact. Romano broke towards the plate while the shattered bat fragment (and the ball) headed towards the Pirates' shortstop Sanchez. Sanchez fielded the ball cleanly but failed to get enough on the throw to home to get a sliding Romano, who was safe with the game-winning run.

With the win, the Reds look to take advantage of the home field again tonight with a 7:10 PM start on Saturday. The Reds have struggled with the Pirates within the brief history of GABP, but the tide may finally be turning. Tonight's matchup features Reds' "ace" Eric Milton versus the Pirates' Dave Williams. Williams has the better season mark with a 4-4 record and a 3.83 ERA. Milton came out of the gate poorly but appears to be getting his house in order in recent starts.

Cincinnati fans -- support your team tonight. Oh, and by the way, show up for the game because of the number retirement for #10, Sparky Anderson, who deserves the respect from an organization that let him go without fanfare. Let's show some love for the man who captained the Big Red Machine of the 1970's.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 28, 2005 at 06:56 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2005
Swish Those Swatters ... Reds Crush the Nats!!!
A three-game series sweep by the Reds over the Nationals ... how 'bout that?!?

In a 12-3 dominating performance, the Cincinnati Reds closed out the series this afternoon with a 3-game spectacle versus the Washington National (fka the Montreal Expos). Yes, this isn't exactly like sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals out of town, but it is significant considering that it has hinged on the release of former closer Danny Graves.

Who would have guessed that releasing Graves would inspire this team to greater things?!? Not me ... although I must admit his blasé attitude was his downfall. Giving the single-finger salute didn't help, either. Of course, this would all be moot if he had not blown multiple saves (with subsequent losses) while acting pious about the situation. In any case, his absence doesn't seem so bad so far.

Anyway, I have written WAY too many words today, so I will conclude with this thought:

The season is not over -- every team plays 162 games. The post-season is not determined until those 162 games are played and completed. The team with the best record on June 1st doesn't always (or usually, for that matter) win the division, the pennant, or the championship. Of the last four World Series winners, three were wild-card teams. The moral of the story: Don't give up until the last game is played. Nobody expected the Red Sox to win last season either.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 25, 2005 at 04:07 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (1)

Mr. Miley's Wild Ride
So, if you're the Cincinnati Reds, how do you top your Monday night performance against the Washington Nationals?!?

Well, if you're Dave Miley and the "new look" Reds, you go out the next night (Tuesday, 5/24) and win the unexpected game versus those Nats again. Of course, you don't do it in "conventional" fashion -- that would be too easy. Instead, you play your longest game of the year head-to-head with those D.C. boys and their manager (ex-Red and HOF'er Frank Robinson) ... and manage to win in the end. Needless to say, after 14 innings at the GABP (since I was there myself), I was ready to go home.

After getting to the game a bit late (in the middle of the third inning, after meeting up with my partner in crime), we had to buy seats in the more expensive section down the right field line ($25 each, to be exact ... ouch!). Well, at least I got my money's worth this night: a game that started at 7:05 PM and ended near the midnight hour (sometime around 11:30 as I recall). Not to fail to mention that this was also Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead night ... that was the reason for the "cheap seats" being sold so quickly. But, I will digress...

The game itself was generally an exercise in futility, although I could not tell if both teams' offenses were that weak or the pitching was that good. I would lean towards the former versus the latter since I have watched the Reds' pitching too many times this year already, but even the blind squirrels find nuts once in a while. In any case the game was 3-1 (Reds) after one inning, then 3-2 after six innings, and, after a pair of solid relief innings in the 7th and 8th by Wagner and Mercker, the 9th inning rolled around.

Mercker faced one batter in the 9th -- Nationals 1B Nick Johnson -- who promptly led off with a hit. He was advanced to third after consecutive outs delivered by reliever David Weathers until, unfortunately, he didn't get a called strike three against batter Marlon Byrd (as the moans rang out) and walked him instead. That brought PH Carlos Baerga (the ageless wonder is still playing?!? Was Julio Franco or Ruben Sierra not available to play???) to the plate to face Weathers. Baerga delivered an RBI single before Weathers could get the third out.

That series of unfortunate events in the 9th inning led to the playing of 5 more (!) innings of watching the grass grow. Neither team truly threatened again until the 14th inning, when the Reds led off the inning with a hit by Kearns, a Fielder's Choice allowed LaRue to reach. Then, with LaRue on first, light-hitting Luis Lopez delivered a gapper double that RF Guillen nearly caught but allowed to bounce away. That allowed LaRue to "motor" his way to third base and Lopez was on second. The next batter was the pitcher's spot, but the Reds has depleted the bench and really had no one else (besides possibly Eric Milton) who could be a pinch hitter. Since Randy Kiesler, fresh from AAA Louisville, had pitched the top of the 14th (and the 13th as well), he stayed out to hit for himself. Singlehandledly, Kiesler drove a liner up the middle (past the outstretched glove of SS Carroll), and LaRue scored easily from third base.

The Reds pulled themselves back from the brink and won their first back-to-back games since April 16th and 17th series versus the Astros. Miley became a genius in the same game he could have been the heel. The choice to go *closer-by-committee* has got to stop on this club. Designate Ryan Wagner as your default guy and THEN allow Weathers, Mercker, to set him up. Wagner was not the right guy to use in the 7th inning ... I second-guessed him then, and I still do now. I believe the Reds win in regulation (9 innings) if the sequence is Claussen - Weathers - Mercker - Wagner -- which would have been L - R - L - R sequencing (and which does work most of the time).

Regardless, I am very happy to see another Reds win at the ballpark, and I am encouraged further by a game in progress versus the Nationals in the *finale* today at 12:35 PM in a Business Day Special. The Reds lead 3 to 0 through 3 full innings, with Matt Belisle the *emergency* backup after Aaron Harang was scratched due to flu-like symptoms ... and so far, so good, with Belisle's efforts. Thank Felipe Lopez (2-run HR) and Ryan Freel (scored twice) so far.

Maybe my post-Opening Day / series prediction could still happen?!? You never know, stranger things have happened that could have the Reds seeing the post-season.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 25, 2005 at 10:31 AM in Ballgames, Coaching Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2005
The Battle of Ohio Returns
With an abysmal 14-26 W-L record, not much has gone well lately for my beloved home team. Since I moved to Cincinnati officially in 2004 after being a Reds fan for nearly 20 years, I have been to the ballpark more times than in the previous 5 years combined; however, this season has been a struggle to say the least. Finally, the Reds appear to be shaking things up on a team that needs some help at this stage of the season.

What happened today? Well, in my opinion, some things that should have happened sooner, honestly. Paul Wilson is going to get a rest for his spot in the rotation on Sunday, and Elizardo Ramirez will pitch again on Saturday followed by Ramon Ortiz on Sunday. I find this particular news encouraging, since Ramirez pitched well in his first MLB start last time around. Wilson has pitched horribly after mid-April and needs a rest, if nothing else. Ortiz seems to be gaining momentum as well ... now, if only Milton gets his act together, we might have a real starting four (with Harang tonight) worth having.

Anyway, the Cleveland Indians, that team from up north off I-71, has returned to town. It is hard to say which team is better liked in Ohio these days ... the Reds? ... the Indians? ... the Pirates?!? ... heck, maybe the Cubs?!? After the last series against Chicago, there were more Cubbies' fans than Reds' fans ... it bummed me to see that in GABP for the home team. This series is a battle of teams with less-than-stellar records ... with the 14-26 Reds versus the 17-22 Indians in what are likely to be "Titantic Struggles" (thanks Marty).

I am listening to tonight's game, like I usually do, with Marty and Steve on the play-by-play. There remains no score in the bottom of the 4th (0 - 0) with both Aaron Harang and Kevin Millwood pitching quite well, respectively. So far, only 2 hits for Cleveland and 3 hits for Cincinnati ... the offenses for both teams have been sputtering lately.

Well, enough about what seems like a meaningless game so far, but I would be remiss without discussing the designation for assignment of D'Angelo Jimenez by the Reds and calling up Luis Lopez from AAA. What does this mean? Jimenez is either going to be released or traded in the next 10 days. This is a turning point (not unlike the release of Jimmy Haynes some time ago in a different season). Will the Reds make more moves? I have to hope so, since change would be welcomed if it delivers more wins.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 20, 2005 at 08:33 PM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (2) TrackBack (0)

May 16, 2005
Complacency Strikes Back
Ah, the Reds are back to their .500 winning ways. Win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose a game, etc. As evidenced by the weekend series versus Philadelphia (which took place in the time since my last posting on Thursday), the Reds are acting like a better club with spurts of brilliance (such as Thursday's 7-5 come-from-behind win with Dunn's homer or Saturday's 12-4 clinic with pitching and hitting excellence by multiple players)). However, every quality win is followed by an equally crushing defeat. Friday night's game was a classic "here's what NOT to do when you play a game" game. A 12-2 final score is evidence enough that this team is Jekyll and Hyde game in and game out.

Yesterday's game was more in the style of the late-1990's Reds, with a close game and 1-run outcome. The primary difference between this team and the 1999 Reds (for instance): this team loses too many 1-run games. Actually, they are losing too many games in general, but I hope you get my point. Their record in 1-run games this season is 6 wins, 8 losses. This does not include multiple 2-run (or more) losses where the bullpen simply blew good leads from quality starts. Those 8 losses (such as yesterday's 4-3 loss versus the Phillies) is evidence of complacency in this team. My Reds of 1999 made their mark with comeback, 9th inning rallies that would turn losses into victories. The 1990 club had that ability as well.

Who used to make that happen? Well, for starters, Barry Larkin. The team captain was very good at inspiring his team's to play better than their abilities in some key games. If he himself didn't help win the game, other key contributors did. Don't get me wrong -- the manager(s) had something to do with the team's success as well. "Sweet" Lou Piniella and "Trader" Jack McKeon have done what they do best with teams of limited ability by demanding a lot and receiving more. Piniella *willed* the 1990 Reds to a World Series victory ... he could still be the manager today if the front office had been smarter. McKeon was deemed "too old" and "out of touch" yet he managed to win his own World Series in 2002 with the Marlins after the Reds let him go. Needless to say, the Reds organization has let some quality management slip through it's fingers over the years (Sparky Anderson after 1979 ... then a 1984 championship in Detroit, need I say more).

The current Reds are managed by Dave Miley -- a loyal minor league manager for many, many years who deserved to be given a shot to manage a Major League club. It is not clear to me after two years who I blame more: Miley for his lineup shenanigans (Griffey in the two slot?!? Randa at cleanup?!?) or John Allen, the GM, for not acquiring better pitching talent. No offense, fellow Reds fans, but this team's pitching (in general) stinks.

Allen should be held accountable for some poor acquisitions that have not bolstered this bullpen as hoped (promised). Ben Weber has been a disaster, while David Weathers has been a roller coaster ride. Joe Valentine is now gone (thankfully) while Ricky Stone (Valentine's replacement) is getting himself reacquainted with the Majors. Kent Mercker and Ryan Wagner have been godsends relative to their abilities to get people out, but they cannot do it alone and may get overworked by season's end.

Of course, I haven't mentioned everyone's favorite son, Danny Graves, who has become the darling of Reds baseball. Graves thinks the city of Cincinnati should bow before him for blowing leads on a regular basis while not understanding why any sensible fan might boo him on the occasions when he fails (miserably, I might add). I am a fantasy baseball addict, and Graves is NOT on ANY of my teams this year. In fact, he hasn't been a fantasy regular for me since the 2001 season (pre-starter experiment) when he WAS Mr. Reliable for saves. Blown saves are associated with Graves more than any other pitcher in recent memory. After the days of Franco, Myers, Dibble (and Charlton), Brantley,, maybe I just got spoiled by quality closers on this club. Those guys had their moments (to be sure); however, Graves is a spinning wheel that might land on "no runs, no hits, 1-2-3" one night and "5 runs, blown save, loss" the next. Need I say more?

As I have said before and will say again, the Reds need pitching help from dependable players. After watching Elizando Ramirez pitch yesterday in his first career start, I have a glimmer of hope that this team CAN turn this season around. However, the offense seems to sputter when the relief crew is better and the starters / relievers seem to blow up when the offense clicks.

If this team finds consistency and can avoid complacency, we might see an offseason contender yet. Otherwise, this season WON'T belong to the Reds.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 16, 2005 at 11:42 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

May 12, 2005
Another Day in Paradise
Paul Wilson no longer deserves the status of "ace" for the Cincinnati Reds. Actually, I am not sure he was ever deserving of the ace of this pitching rotation. Yes, Wilson was the best starting pitcher on last year's club; however, who was second?!? Well, it depends on the how you look at the stats, I suppose. Here is an interesting comparison between Wilson and three of his teammates: Aaron Harang (still here), Jose Acevedo (gone), and Cory Lidle (gone).

Paul Wilson 29 63 798 1 4.36 29 192 26 183.2 1.86 6 .647 0 11 1.39
Aaron Harang 28 53 711 1 4.86 28 177 26 161.0 2.36 9 .526 1 10 1.43
Jose Acevedo 39 45 704 0 5.94 27 188 30 157.2 2.60 12 .294 0 5 1.48
Cory Lidle 24 44 656 3 5.32 24 170 24 149.0 2.11 10 .412 1 7 1.44
[stats obtained from]

Now, Wilson had the most starts (29) but the other 3 were close (24+ starts). Wilson's ERA was "best" at 4.36, but this is hardly what an "ace" should have. Lidle had the most complete games (3) while nobody else had more than 1. The most telling statistics, IMHO, are for K/BB ratio and WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched). Wilson had the best WHIP on the staff at 1.39 (respectable); however, he was worst in K/BB ratio at 1.86 versus his peers who all were 2.00 or greater. I would argue that Aaron Harang, as evidenced by his performance this year as well, is the new "ace" of this staff. Why? His record last season was 10-9 compared to Wilson's 11-6; however, this season, here are their stats:

Wilson 32 CIN 8 8 0 0 41.0 60 34 9 15 28 1 4 0 7.46 1.829
Harang 27 CIN 7 7 0 0 44.3 37 17 4 14 34 1 2 0 3.45 1.150
[stats obtained from]

Wilson is now 1-4 after yesterday's loss; Harang is 1-2 but should be better (thanks to Graves and the boys). The disparity in WHIP is glaring: 1.829 for Wilson (ugh) versus 1.15 (stellar) for Harang. K/BB ratio? 28/15 for Wilson (1.87) versus 34/14 for Harang (2.43) -- again, Harang is better. Oh, and for good measure, K/IP? 0.683 for Wilson (ugh again) versus 0.767 for Harang (not much better BUT it's better).

Clearly, Harang has assumed the Reds "ace" moniker for now, despite the Reds (and Dave Miley) betting the farm on Paul Wilson. Why have they done this? The answer is beyond me.

And, oh, btw...the Reds lost yesterday by a final score of 7-2 to the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park. That marks Wilson's fourth consecutive loss, with a line score of:

May. 11 SD L 7-2 5.0 12 5 5 1 1 4 9 6 96 29 26 L(1-4) - 7.46
[stats obtained from]

Need I say much more?!? 5 IP, 12 hits, 4 walks, and 9 K's with 5 ER allowed on 96 pitches. Not exactly the stuff of an ace, I would say. Roto stat translations:

K/IP = 9 / 5 = 1.8 ; K/BB = 9 / 4 = 2.25 ; WHIP = (4 + 12) / 5 = 3.20

Considering he has not had a quality start since a 4/30 no decision at Milwaukee, Paul Wilson should be demoted to long relief, and a new starter (anybody else with more talent at this point) should take his place.

Harang, by comparison, did this in his last outing:

May. 9 SD L 6-5 8.0 3 1 1 0 2 8 9 6 115 29 78 - - 3.45
[stats obtained from]

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

Posted by JD Rentz on May 12, 2005 at 10:23 AM in Ballgames Permalink Comments (0) TrackBack (0)

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