"What I used to able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life." -- Max, Kicking and Screaming
I try to resist tidy narratives for complex human behavior - this goes for life as much as sports. But it was awfully tempting to watch the six Reds games this week (through increasingly hand-covered eyes) and say things like:
"They're not trying."
"The pressure is getting to them."
"They look REALLY tired."
Of the three, I think only that last one is really true. Or verifiable, anyway. And of course they're tired. Every team plays 162 games, but few teams play a season where 161 of them are meaningful and spent simmering in the kind of race the Reds ran with the Pirates and Cardinals.
Then there's the razor-thin depth the Reds have been sitting on, too boot. In general, the Reds' regulars haven't rested as much as they have in past seasons when they had more garbage time at the end of the season or slightly better bench options.
You throw in bad luck and I think it gets us most of the way back from the precipice of reactionary rage.
Still, that .146 (7 for 48) average with RISP since Monday, along with Dusty's willingness to leave Homer and Bronson in past their expiration dates on Friday and Saturday, gives me some pause. Maybe there are a few very limited lessons to pull out of this week:
- Dusty might not be managing with the urgency the playoffs demand. He didn't during this past series and you could argue that he didn't during the 2012 NLDS - leaving Leake in a bit too long in Game 4 and Latos too long in Game 5. On the other hand, he was really penned-in Cueto's injury last October and, to a degree, the sudden injuries to starters this week.
- This team has a power deficit. The problem this week hasn't been straight-up bad hitting. It's been lack of timely hitting. There's also been a lot of bloops followed by bloops, without blasts. They've been lucky to get two extra base hits in a game this week and have been getting very little power out of anyone aside from Bruce, Votto and Choo most of the year.
- This team might not get out of this slump in time. The bad luck could break at any moment, along with the creaky hitting. Combining the timely hit with the extra hit could mean another sudden offense outburst like we've seen periodically all season. It just might not be Tuesday.
The Reds hit .254/.363/.380 with RISP this season, which is above NL average (.251/.336/.376). There's no reason to think they've suddenly become paralyzed with fear when their teammates are standing on base.
But they do have two guys hitting in the top four spots in the order (BP and Ludwick) who are banged up or slumping -- or both. Meanwhile, Todd Frazier had a pretty good week, battin average aside: .188/.350/.500. Since he's also had some success against Liriano in a small sample (3-9, 2 HR), there's no question he should be hitting 2nd or clean-up:
Moving up Frazier in the order about all the Reds can do, besides resting and performing a series of unholy reverse-jinxing rituals.
That bad week can't hurt you anymore.