The Cincinnati Reds' midterm report card was mailed home this past week. Let's go to the mailbox...
Manager, Dusty Baker: F... His inexplicable insistance to play Willy Taveras and bat him first merits a pink slip. This move alone has probably cost the Reds multiple games this year and it is not going to change any time soon. Baker is a stubborn man who has consistently done this in the past with such notables as Neifi Perez and Corey Patterson. He is who is he is and nobody is going to change that. It is frustrating to watch his lineups flounder and it will lead him onto the same road to the Managerial Graveyard that Ray Knight and Bob Boone took out of here.
General Manager, Walt Jocketty: C... Although Dusty Baker pushed for the Taveras signing, it was ultimately Jocketty's decision to sign the man who has cost the Reds so dearly. The second biggest mistake he made was not signing or trading for a right handed bat, but there was not much on the market. On the plus side, he did grab Johnny Gomes and Lance Nix for the bench- two solid moves. Re-signing David Weathers and bringing in Arthur Rhodes were good moves. The Ramon Hernandez addition has been a big improvement over last year's catchers.
Chris Buckley, Scouting Director: C... The Reds' draft in June was conservative. In the first round, there were plenty of high- ceiling, high school pitchers available, but the Reds were scared of their price tags and went with Mike Leake, a college pitcher, who should have been drafted about 12 to 15 picks later. That has been Buckley's strategy for most of the past few years. The lone exception was the 2007 pick of high school catcher Devin Mesoraco who has been nothing short of a disappointment. Outside of Leake, the best two picks amongst the Reds 51 selections were second- round pick Billy Hamilton from Taylorsville HS (MS) who is generally regarded as the best athelte in the state of Mississippi and Cal State Fullerton outfielder Josh Fellhauer (7th round) who can just plain hit.
Ramon Hernandez, C/ 1B: C... Filled in admirably at first base when Joey Votto was on the DL, but has been outplayed in almost every facet of the game by his backup.
Ryan Hanigan, C: A... With a line of .338/ .429/ .407, he deserves to play a lot more, but that will not happen with his present manager (do the Assistant Coaches say anything to Baker about his lineups or are they just as oblivious?). His defense behind the plate is the best Reds fans have seen in a long, long time.
Joey Votto, 1B: A-... If he had not missed over 30 games with stress disorder, his grade would have probably been an A+. He is easily the Reds' best player and is one of their best hitters of this lost decade. It is too bad so few teammates are on base when he is hitting. I wonder if there is another three- hole hitter in MLB who hits with less people on base than Joey Votto.
Brandon Phillips, 2B: A- ... At seond base, Phillips is an elite player. If he played any corner position, he would be an average player. He would be a better hitter if he pulled the ball more and got rid of his inside- out swing that creates flyballs to RF. He is one of the worst outside- pitch hitters I've ever seen.
Jerry Hairston, U: D... His specialty, on- base percentage, is now his albatross. A .307 OBP, while easily beating Taveras' OBP, does not cut it if you do not have power. I would sure like to see him steal more bases.
Paul Janish, SS: D... Janish is a great fielder- as good as Alex Gonzalez, but he cannot hit major league pitching. He shows no sign of getting better either.
Alex Gonzalez, SS: F... The Reds signed Gonzalez to a three- year, $15 million contract in winter of 2006- 2007 and have almost nothing to show for it. He had 393 at bats in 2007, none in 2008, and 182 unproductive at bats this year. His pre- injury stat line of .214/ .256/ .302 would find him cut on most MLB teams, but it found him batting second for Dusty Baker! Unbelieveable.
Edwin Encarnacion: 3B, F... This grade may change the most in the season's second half. Look for Encarnacion to be the second most productive Red over the next three months now that he's fully healthy. It would be nice if his manager batted him fourth or fifth instead of seventh or eighth. Unbelieveable.
Adam Rosales, U: F... He has won the hearts of Reds fans, but he is really is not even a major league sub. His numbers are worse than Taveras': .198/ .285/ .282.
Drew Sutton, U: I... He has not had enough at bats with the Reds yet, but his patience at the plate has been impressive. He better be careful with that patience, that will get him buried on the bench on this club. Unbeliveable.
Laynce Nix, OF: C... Nix is a great bench player, but not a starter. The league has begun to catch up to him and his numbers have recently declined. He should never, ever, face a left handed pitcher.
Jonny Gomes, OF: B-... He is very similar to Nix. He is not quite as good on defense, but is an good platoon player from the right hand side.
Chris Dickerson, OF: B-... He plays superior defense to Taveras, runs the bases as well as Taveras (except he needs to get dirty on pick off throws!), has more power than Taveras, and reaches base far more often than Taveras. As a result, Dusty Baker plays Taveras. Unbelieveable.
Jay Bruce, OF: C+ ... Sure, his offensive numbers are disappointing and he will now be out of the lineup until September, but his defense has progressed such that he is one of the better defensive outfielders in the league and his power numbers are still alive and kicking.
Willy Taveras, OF: F- ... What is worse than his .243/ .285/ .294 line from the leadoff spot? How about another year of it? He is signed through 2010! His defense has been just as bad as his hitting- how can a centerfielder be tied for third on a team in errors? He consistently gets terrible breaks on balls hit behind him. Finally, he has only stolen 17 bases this year is just 22 attempts. Why is he not running? Watch his running habits- he rarely steals within five pitches on getting on base. He has a negative value and is not a major leaguer.
Aaron Harang, SP: C- ... He has never been the same since Baker used him in extended relief in San Diego last season. He has been inconsistent, but not as inconsistent as...
Bronson Arroyo, SP: C ... His numbers (5.07 E.R.A., 1.45 WHIP, 21 HRs allowed in 119 innings) are somewhat misleading. He has had a few outings in which he was awful, but at the same time, he is on a 16- inning scoreless streak that could signal another second- half surge for Arroyo.
Edison Volquez, SP: D ... The Verducci Effect is real. I noted that Volqez qualified for it after last year. Hopefully, you fantasy players listened and stayed away from him at your drafts. If you did not pay attention, here is that rule again: A major league pitcher who is under 25 should not throw 30 more innings than the previous season's total (unless there was an injury). If he does so, cue the D.L. for the following season.
Micah Owings, SP: C+ ... I'm not sure Owings will ever get more than a C+. He is just not that good. He is a major league #5 starter who can hit.
Johnny Cueto, SP: B+ ... His two most recent starts have been terrible and have ruined some great first half numbers. At the same time, he had been one of the luckiest pitchers in the Majors up to that time at stranding runners on base. That eventually catches up to people, just ask Jimmy Haynes.
Homer Bailey, SP: C- ... The big reason he was having so much success in Triple- A recently was his newly found pitch, the split fingered fastball. So why is he not throwing it much here? Is it because hitters here will lay off of the pitch? If so, his recent success will be mixed in with poor outings and he will only be a back- end rotation thrower. Better control of his fastball is the other key.
The Bullpen: A- ... The strength of this team is led by overpaid All- Star Francisco Cordero and the dominant Arthur Rhodes. David Weathers has not been nearly as bad as some may think (3.26 E.R.A, 1.22 WHIP, 14 BB, 19 K in 30.3 innings). He has just blown up in some close games. Nick Masset has been a pleasant surprise and youngsters Josh Roenicke, Daniel Ray Herrera, Robert Manuel and Carlos Fisher have helped and should contribute for years (especially Herrera). Jared Burton has been the big disappointment here.
Overall: C- ... It could have been a lot better. The season seems to be slowly slipping away here in July. It feels like an inevitable breakup with a girlfriend- you know the bad news is coming, but you want to avoid it. As the Trade Deadline approaches over the next two weeks, the Reds should certainly be sellers and not buyers. They do not match up with the Brewers and Cardinals and still will not match up after adding a bat. If they added a bat, got some positive consistency from the starting pitching, fired a manager, and cut a centerfielder then hope would still shine, but that is not going to happen.