With the Cincinnati Reds on break due to the All- Star Game, now is a good time to hand out midterm grades. With the Reds four games under .500 and much closer to last than to first, most of the position players, pitchers and coaches are not on dean's list. Evaluations were based on decisions made, actions, attitudes and of course, results. Its too bad some of these guys cannot go to detention or study tables to pay some penance or at least, get better...
C David Ross: Ross, a right handed hitter, has been much tougher on right handed pitchers (.283/ .424/ .509) than left handed ones (.240/ .350/ .320) which means that he should NOT be platooning with Paul Bako. The odds of Dusty Baker knowing these stats is almost zero, and thus, the platoon continues even though Ross has thoroughly outplayed Bako. Grade: C
C Paul Bako: He was hot early, even hitting over .300 as late as May 14th. Since then, he has plummetted to .217/ .297/ .355. In other words, he might be in a worse slump than Corey Patterson and that says a ton. He gets good marks for his handling of the young pitchers. Grade: D+
C Javier Valentin: He cannot hit for average (.229). He cannot hit for power (.314 slugging with zero home runs). He cannot run, throw or field. What is he doing on this team? Grade: F
1B Joey Votto: Dusty Baker awarded the starting first baseman job to Scott Hatteberg out of Spring Training. Hatteberg's slow start forced a change and Votto has responsed. He is not another Sean Casey- that is a bad comparison. Votto has more speed, range and power than Casey and nobody can be compared to the mayor's personality. Grade: B
2B Brandon Phillips: Phillips can go into serious slumps when he starts to try to inside- out everything to right field. He ended the first half in such a slump. Outside of those stretches, he continues to be a premier second baseman offensively and defensively. (Will he be robbed of the sham known as the Gold Glove again?) Grade: B+
SS Jeff Keppinger: If he was not injured and did not start hitting into a lot of bad luck upon his return from the DL, he would probably be the team's MVP. If Alex Gonzalez was with the team, Keppinger would have put him on the bench. Grade: B
SS Jerry Hairston Jr.: Dusty Baker and ex- GM Wayne Krivsky deserve some credit for finding Hairston, but not a lot because no other team wanted Hairston. They were able to get him because he has been constantly injured in recent years. He continues to show that health is his weakness as he has missed time. When he is able to play and he is not put on the bench, he is one of the Reds' best players. Grade: B+ - not an A only because he missed a lot of the first month and because he landed on the DL.
3B Edwin Encarnacion: My esteemed colleague, Greg Shoemaker, noted that Encarnacion has batted .329 since June 9th with 15 of his 27 hits going for extra bases. He seems to start slow every year and heat up in August. He may be heating up a little early this year and he may have some pretty good numbers by the end of the season. Grade: B-
3B/1B Andy Phillips: Cut by the Reds and then later claimed by the Reds. He has not played much. Odds are that he will be cut again when Ryan Freel and/ or Jolbery Cabrera are removed from the DL Grade: INCOMPLETE
OF Adam Dunn: A Reds beat writer recently wrote that Dunn is having a bad season. If you just look at his batting average, .228, this is an easy conclusion for the untrained. But batting average can be deceiving and its too bad because it is the first stat many look at. Better stats (i.e. stats proven as better indicators of productivity) include on base percentage and slugging. Dunn's OBP is .380, way above the average. Dunn's slugging percentage is .538, among the league leaders. He will probably hit 45 home runs, draw 100 walks, score 100 runs, knock in 100 runs and still anger Reds fans. Finally, all advanced defensive analysis sets have him improving to an ABOVE AVERAGE left fielder. Grade: B - He would have an A if he could hit better with runners in scoring position.
OF Ken Griffey Jr.: In a recent series with the Washington Nationals, Jeff Keppinger was batting (in the midst of his slump) late in the game with the scored tied. The Reds had runners on second and third with one out. The Nationals had a right handed reliever so they had a good matchup against Keppinger, himself a right hander. The reliever threw four straight balls nowhere near the strike zone to load the bases to get to Ken Griffey Jr, a left hander. The right handed reliever stayed in the game and struck out Griffey on five pitches. That tells you how much Griffey's skills have deteriorated and that everyone in baseball knows it except Dusty Baker. Grade: D
OF Jay Bruce: Despite some struggles in June, Bruce has been one of the best players on the team because he can do so many different things for a baseball team. He will eventually live up to the hype of being the #1 overall prospect in baseball. The more he plays, the quicker that time will come. Grade: B
OF Corey Patterson: Reds fans have tried to understand how Patterson continues to see playing time. There have been rumors that Patterson is dating Baker's daughter, that he has pictures of Baker and Madonna, and that he is Baker's illegitimate son. Sadly, the real reason he is playing is because Dusty Baker is the worst manager in the Majors. Patterson is the second worst free-agent signing in Reds history behind only Eric Milton. Grade: F
SP Edison Volquez: If the All- Star keeps up his current pace, he could win the Cy Young Award this season. Odds are that he will hit a wall somewhere around the 175 inning mark and fade fast. Fantasy players should be aware of this. Grade: A
SP Johnny Cueto: He dazzled us, he struggled and got lit up, and then he made adjustments and has impressed us again with his talents. The same will be said of Bruce once he figures out the adjustments. Cueto will be a great one. Grade: B
SP Aaron Harang: (DL) He was Bakerized and thus, his arm is hurt and his team has suffered. If he is even close to previous years' numbers, the Reds are above .500 and close to third place. Grade: D
SP Bronson Arroyo: He has pitched better of late and I believe that will continue. The reasoning? His BABIP (batting average of balls put into play against him) is .362 which is extremely high. This could mean a few things: 1. he has been unlucky 2. he has a poorous defense behind him and 3. he has been hit hard. Such a high average as .362 means that luck probably is a part of it. Grade D+
SP Josh Fogg: His last two outings have been decent, but he has made a living out of brief glimpses of respectibility. His stuff is so marginal that any small mistake is clobbered by just about any hitter. He cannot be counted on at all and his stats (7.94 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 24 Ks in 39.66 IP) back that up. Grade: F
SP Homer Bailey: He is the opposite of Fogg. His last outing was impressive and that contrasted sharply with the rest of his year. But his stuff is not marginal. He was throwing his fastball in the mid 90s and that means everything to Bailey. If he continues to throw at that speed, he can be a #3 starter. Grade: D
Middle Relievers - Jeremy Affeldt, Bill Bray, Gary Majewski and Mike Lincoln: All three have been effective. Only Lincoln is a surprise as the other three are very talented. None have eye- popping numbers. Grade: B
Setup Relievers - Jared Burton and David Weathers: These two have been overworked by Baker. Burton has already experienced some soreness and was shelved for a week. Weathers will be saved when he is traded this month. Both have been outstanding on the mound. Grade: A
Closer - Francisco Cordero: Putting his salary aside (not part of the grading criteria), his contributions have been very solid. He is 19 for 23 in save situations. This is not among the elite closers, but is in the second tier. He has also been a positive influence on the young Latin players namely Cueto and Volquez. Grade B+
Pitching Coach - Dick Pole: He takes a lot of abuse from Reds fans and I am not sure that some of it does not stem from his name. He deserves more credit. The bullpen has improved since last year and if Todd Coffey's stats are subtracted from it, the bullpen could be described as impressive. The preference to listen to instructor Mario Soto by the young Latin pitchers does not bode well for Pole. Neither do the down years by Arroyo and Harang. Grade: C
Hitting Coach - Brook Jacoby: A real mixed bag here... It is hard to blame Jacoby for Griffey's dramatic loss of talent or the struggles of the rookies. It is easy to blame him for Griffey's and Dunn's refusals to beat shifts through bunts and opposite field hitting. It is easy to blame him for the team's awful bunting. But what about the production of Hairston, Keppinger and Phillips? Grade: C
Manager - Dusty Baker: Let us list some actions/ decisions from our first year manager: continuously playing Corey Patterson, ignoring historical matchups of Reds hitters versus opposing pitchers and then lying about it, playing Patterson versus lefties at all (.143/ .189/ .143), pitching Harang in long relief on short rest and then starting him on short rest when he knew that he was already hurting (see last week's Reds Musings), trying to initially exclude the youngsters by giving starting jobs to Hatteberg, Patterson and Belisle, batting Griffey in the third hole, alternatively benching Hairston, Bruce, Keppinger and Encarnacion when Griffey should be on the bench, pinch hitting Griffey against lefties like he did against CC Sabathia when Valentin was available (Griffey is hitting .204/ .320/ .330 versus lefties), bunting way too much early in games, wrongfully platooning the catchers, ignoring stats altogether, and did I mention playing Corey Patterson? Grade: F - He has cost the Reds about six to seven games with all of the above. At this rate, he will pass up Bob Boone and Ray Knight as the worst Reds manager in the last fifty years.