The Queen City is excited, and rightfully so, about a relevant September and an extended October for their Boys of Summer. The possibility is real for those Reds fans age 15 and under to witness the first Reds playoff series since they have been alive (excluding the one game play- in game in 1999). And if that was not enough, the future beyond 2010 looks bright for the Cincinnati Reds as their farm system is deep and ready to graduate talent.
So what are the key issues coming down the stretch and heading into the future? Well, here are the ten important questions that need to be addressed and one person’s answers. The questions are in order with the most important question at the end…
1. Will Orlando Cabrera stop Joey Votto from winning the Triple Crown? Answer: It already happened. Cabrera has batted in front of Votto in almost every game that he has played this year despite an Alex Trevino- like .276 on- base percentage. Thus, Votto has not had enough teammates on base when he is at the plate and his RBI total suffers (Stubbs has not helped much either at the top of the lineup). Votto still is only three RBI off the pace (at press time), but Cabrera is coming off of the DL soon and the sabotage will resume. Let us not skip another part of the equation- Votto’s nagging injuries (neck, back) and his increasingly poor reputation with the umps is not helping either.
2. What will the Reds do with Aaron Harang? Answer: Wait until the rosters expand in September and then add him to the roster as a long reliever. He deserves no better- he cannot get Triple- A hitters out right now. He gave up six earned runs, nine hits, in six innings in his most recent rehab start in Louisville. In terms of the future, his option will be declined and he will be a free agent this winter. He better be ready to take a massive salary cut.
3. Will the Reds exercise the option on Bronson Arroyo’s contract and bring him back next year? Answer: His option year will cost the Reds $11 million, but if they decline the option, it will cost them $2 million. He would easily be the most expensive pitcher on the staff next year as Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Matt Maloney and Aroldis Chapman may not make $11 million combined. Notice how many starting pitchers were just named- there is no room at the inn for Arroyo. He is out. On a side note, a great trade for next year would involve one of these young pitchers going to the Marlins for their young left fielder, Logan Morrison. His on- base tools and power would fit in perfectly at the top of the lineup, even though he is a left handed batter.
4. What will the Reds do with the money saved from the expiring contracts of Arroyo, Harang, Arthur Rhodes and Mike Lincoln (roughly $26 million)? Answer: Brandon Phillips’ contract calls for a $4.25 million pay raise. Cueto, Volquez, Bailey, Bill Bray, and most importantly, Votto are all eligible for arbitration this off- season so that should cost around $12 million combined. It could be more if one is signed long- term (hopefully, Votto is first in this line). Rhodes should be re- signed and that may cost $3 million so there is almost $20 million already spent. There is some savings left over; a free agent left fielder may get that if one is not acquired through trade.
5. Is this bullpen still a worry? Answer: Outside of Francisco Cabrera (see below), the bullpen has become a positive. Here is a great sign for the bullpen: Mike Leake, a top ten rookie in the National League is the long man in the bullpen and his demotion there was mainly due to concern over his innings pitched. Besides that, Logan Ondrusek and Jordan Smith keep their pitches low, a necessity at GABP. Rhodes has been dominant. Nick Masset has rebounded well after an awful April. And Aroldis Chapman is on the way. No worries here… almost.
Bonus question: We will take a break at the halfway point, and ask a historical question… do Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn belong in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame? The two lightning rods for fans’ ire probably get a quick, emotional, “No way!” They were the poster boys for losing, uninspiring teams and they were paid generously. But time and some Reds winning seasons will heal those wounds and fans will eventually look closely at what they accomplished and vote them into the Reds Hall. Here are their numbers with a comparison to the most recent Reds Hall inductee, Chris Sabo:
Player AB Hits HRs Runs RBI AVG OBP SLG Seasons
Dunn 3727 920 270 678 646 .247 .380 .520 about 7
Griffey 3353 904 210 533 602 .270 .362 .514 about 8.5
Sabo 3012 812 104 443 373 .270 .328 .447 about 6.5
By the way, Dunn is 3rd all- time in OBP, 2nd is slugging, 4th in home runs, 16th in runs and 17th in RBI. Griffey is 4th in slugging, 7th in home runs, 29th in runs, and 23rd in RBI. Dunn is a lock. Griffey is a good bet.
6. Should Francisco Cabrera remain the team’s closer? Answer: Cordero is walking 5.7 batters per nine innings. He is giving up 8 hits per nine innings. As a result, his WHIP is 1.52 which means that one and a half runners are reaching on him every inning. This is poor for any pitcher, much less a closer who is sent in to protect small leads. Sure, he has 33 saves, but that number defies his statistics and those statistics will catch up with him at some point soon. In other words, he has been lucky to save many of those games. Arthur Rhodes should close Reds games with Aroldis Chapman moving into his setup role.
7. Should the Reds extend Dusty Baker’s contract? Answer: Any loyal reader of this column knows what is coming… absolutely not. Some will say he deserves it because he has the Reds winning. The truth is, he had a lot of young talent dumped on his lap by past and present General Managers. Most major league managers dream of bats like Joey Votto, positive leadership from a veteran like Scott Rolen, and a solid seven man starting rotation (including Chapman and Leake). Baker deserves credit for his master handling of egos, but there are no excuses for low OBP hitters at the top of the lineup, platoon players in the lineup everyday regardless of the opposition’s pitcher (coverage coming soon), and a refusal to bench slumping players (Cordero, Gomes, Stubbs, Cabrera, etc.). He has played against the odds and won many times this season… eventually that will catch up to him.
8. Will Dusty Baker use more platoons in the lineup? Answer: Lately, we have seen some progress in this area of deficiency for Baker. Jay Bruce is sitting more and more against left handed pitchers. Now, Baker needs to move across the outfield and sit Drew Stubbs and Johnny Gomes much more against right handed pitching. Here are the triple slash numbers (batting average/ on base percentage/ slugging percentage) for Gomes, Stubbs and two possible replacements:
Gomes: .254/ .299/ .412 with most of that success coming in April and May
Nix: .281/ .338/ .446
Stubbs: .240/ .308/ .374
Heisey: .404/ .493/ .702
At the very least, Heisey needs to be playing left field instead of Gomes against right handed pitching. How does a major league manager let this rather large discrepancy continue? Baker is a very stubborn individual so Gomes and Stubbs may have to break some legs (or strain an oblique: see Cabrera, Orlando) before common sense finds its way into the Reds lineup.
9. Will Dusty Baker sit Paul Janish on the bench when Orlando Cabrera returns from the Disabled List? Answer: Though it defies all common sense (again), you can bet the house on this. Here are the numbers that Baker chooses to ignore:
Janish: .281/ .358/ .421 with no errors and a 5.01 range factor
Cabrera: .260/ .302/ .339 with 10 errors and a 4.23 range factor
Cabrera versus right handers: .239/ .276/ ..320
Janish versus right handers: .256/ .330/ .410
Out of curiosity:
Juan Castro (2003): .253/ .290/ .388
Anderson Machado (in 56 at bats in 2004): .268/ .379/ .393
Cabrera is plummeting towards Ray Olmedo status (. 228/ .276/ .293 career line). There is no other manager in MLB that would play Cabrera regularly right now. Baker’s negatives- and they are big negatives- are simply being hidden by wins right now.
10 Will the Reds make the playoffs? Answer: Let’s take injuries out of the equation. The Wild Card spot is possible and it appears it will come down to either the Phillies or Braves and the Cardinals or Reds. The NL West is the strongest division in the National League and the Giants have the schedule disadvantage when it comes to the Wild Card. The pick here says the Phillies or Braves will take the Wild Card because both have starting pitching depth and both are getting healthy (outside of Chipper Jones and Chase Utley). So… can the Reds win the NL Central? The teams are both playing weak schedules down the stretch and the teams are evenly matched in just about every category except coaching. After 162 games, the teams will not be separated by more than a couple of games. Though the Big Three- Cordero, Cabrera, and Baker- will blow a few extra games the Reds otherwise would not lose, the Reds already do have a cushion, they have superior depth (particularly with Chapman coming up), and they appear to have karma on their side. The Reds by one game.