Hatch Madness! Catch the Fever!
Baseball Prospectus, the Harvard Law Review of baseball
names the Reds as not just a likely candidate to improve this season, but as a pretty obvious selection. I think this is the best reason to be excited for this season. It seems for a few years now that the Reds have been a vanguard pick by a few "in the know" to make the leap. But in the past, they've only gotten a passing mention as a surprise team. But the tone is much different this year. It's not that a few folks think they could surprise, but rather that most everyone expects them to contend. They'd be surprised if they didn't contend. Now, we all know that pre-season projections are very often not worth the megabytes they are printed on, but I still find this remarkable.
NotGraphs, the Cracked Magazine of baseball
lists 15 home run calls that have yet to be discharged by commentators. They range from the esoteric to the ridiculous, but are helpfully categorized as either "Metaphorical" or "Ejaculatory". Here's my fave: "Like a peasant, returning home tired from the fields after hours of labor, will settle his head upon the porcelain bosom of his wife, so does that ball settle in the outfield stands!"
You know, I do feel sorry for Dusty Baker sometimes
especially in regards to questions about the way he fills out the lineup. "Let's not start on the lineup," he says. But the fact is that it is the single most visible aspect of his job, and the one we all think we can do just as good or better than he can. But filling out lineups is a lot like playing Tetris: it's a pretty easy concept to pick up, but very difficult to master. The one indelible truth though is that if everyone is hitting, it doesn't matter in which order they do it. So we need Scott Rolen to be healthy, Ryan Ludwick to not suck, and rookies Cozart and Mesoraco to learn to swim real fast.
But yeah, Dusty is an idiot if he doesn't have Jay Bruce hitting clean up.
Da Briz says the Reds had one of the riskiest off-seasons in baseball
Here's the blurb: "The Reds have Joey Votto in place, but they also had Yonder Alonso, who clearly needed to be dealt after an unsuccessful trial in the outfield. They also had two of the top-ten catching prospects in baseball, which gave them another outstanding trade chip. With Alonso and Yasmani Grandal, they had two pieces that could act as the centerpiece of separate deals. Instead, they went in the same deal for one player. Cashing in both chips at once was a huge a risk. But the trade brought in Mat Latos, who is cost-controllable for the next four years. If there were ever a type of player on whom to take a risk, that's the one. The potential reward is that they'll have a front-of-the-rotation starter at below-market prices for the next four years, and he should contribute to the win-now strategy of the team."
Todd Frazier is making the most of the opportunity afforded him
He's hitting well this spring, with almost as many extra-base hits (seven) as strikeouts (nine). "Dusty (Baker) told me you’ve got to have a hot start," Frazier said. "What I’m trying to do is just produce. Producing is getting runners over, hitting home runs, doing the team things is the main thing. Doing the little things that maybe people don’t see."
I've been a fan of his for a few years now, but this is probably not yet his time. Juan Francisco is out of options and thus is almost assured a roster spot. Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick are also ahead of him on the depth chart. He has options though, so he can start the year in AAA and will probably be the first up in case of injury or ineffectiveness. I think he's going to be a decent major leaguer, but he's going to have to wait a bit longer for that to happen.
Mark Sheldon has a good bio of Clay Zavada
Zavada signed a minor league deal with the Reds this winter is looking to make it on a non-roster invite. He's a good story, and it's worth the read. With Bill Bray sidelined, the Reds need another lefty in the 'pen to start the year. My hope is that Zavada or Ron Mahay or anyone not named Aroldis Chapman earns that spot out of spring training. I dig Zavada's jive though. Check it: "I don't have the best stuff, but you have to be a savage. It's a ruthless game so you have to be ruthless -- not as a person but out on the mound doing your work. You have to be an absolute, ruthless savage. Those guys in the box want to tear your head off."
FanGraphs has some suggestions on how to manage Stephen Strasburg's innings this season
Strasburg missed most of last season due to Tommy John surgery, so the Nationals are probably looking to cap his innings this year at around 160 (or at least, that's what FanGraphs assumes). In many ways, you could substitute Strasburg's name here with Aroldis Chapman and pretty much everything would apply.
If the Reds want El Cubandolero to start this season, and want him to be active for a potential post-season run, they will need to manage his innings properly. Chapman threw 108 innings between AAA and the majors in 2010, but only about 55 last season working exclusively out of the bullpen. Considering the work he did in Cuba, which we really don't know much about (I'm assuming the Reds have a decent idea, though), I would be confident in setting an innings limit for him this year around 150 or so. This is mostly guessing though, so don't call me out.
Of course, it's possible they stash him in the 'pen again this year and this whole thing will be moot. But I hope not. Anyway, a few ways the Reds could spread out Chapman's innings would be to go with a six-man rotation. With the Jeff Francis sitch being what it is, this could be a sensible way to keep some depth around while at the same time keeping Chapman's (and Cueto's and Leake's and so on) innings in check. I dunno, I mean, I'm not thrilled with it, but it's probably something worth talking about in a Reposter.
The Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame has released its ballot of nominees for 2012
Former Reds manager Jack McKeon is among this year's nominees, and so is Hall o' Famer Hal McCoy. Faith and begorrah! Also, Rosie O'Donnell, for her work in A League of Their Own. Raise a Guinness, lads and laddies.