Bob Hunter at the Columbus Dispatch says it is
He says Harang has had as many excuses as games lost the past few years, and he's grown weary of the charade.
"If you really want to believe, it might be possible to buy this junk. Harang got out the first nine batters against the Cubs, four on strikeouts. He was hitting 92, 93 mph on the radar gun and looked like the guy who posted 16-win seasons for the Reds in 2006 and 2007. But when we step back and take it all in, this looks more like the Harang who went 6-14 and 6-17 the past two seasons than the 2006-07 model. It's understandable that Baker and the Reds don't want to see that. They want the old Harang to magically reappear - probably need him to become a contender - and the season is just five games old. It's just that this "he pitched great" stuff is a lie. In the big leagues, "great" isn't defined by a pitcher who throws lots of good pitches but consistently loses games on an occasional mistake. That defines "average" or worse. If there's a detectable pattern to the failures - and this sure looks like a pattern - that isn't bad luck, it's who you are."
Harang's performance the past few years has been well-chronicled in these here parts of the internet. Hunter seems to think we are all being duped by a team that so badly wants to believe that Harang is still the same guy he was in '06-'07. He's the same old ace, he's just had some terrible luck. Hunter says that's BS. Take one look at Harang's record and you can see what kind of pitcher he is. 30 losses the past two seasons is not the work of an ace, but rather a below-average washed-up whiner who can't stop making excuses for himself.
But the truth lies somewhere in between. Is Harang washed up? Far from it. We all know wins and losses for pitchers are a stupid way of measuring success, even if Bob Hunter doesn't. Harang's FIP last year was a sturdy 4.14. He averaged around 3.70 from '05-'07. It's been well-documented around here that Harang had the worst DER in the league last year, suffering inexplicably from a defense that went to sleep every time he took the mound. In contrast, Bronson Arroyo had one of the best DERs in the league, pitching in front of the same guys. Not to mention the complete lack of run support he's gotten. Is Harang making excuses for his performance? Well yeah, but they are perfectly legitimate. Is he the ace he used to be? Well no, but that doesn't mean he's chopped liver.
Jay Bruce has been slumping hard through the first week of the season
"This is a real test for him," said Baker. "He apologized for showing anger on the field. That's OK, as long as you don't hurt yourself. He just needs to stay positive and keep his strength. He's swinging at good pitches." I can totally understand Bruce's frustration. Aside from Aaron Harang, Bruce is probably the unluckiest player on the team, if not the big leagues. Bruce is only hitting .053/.100/.053 with a single and a walk in 20 PAs. Those are pathetic numbers. What isn't pathetic though is his strong line drive rate, which is a robust 33.3%. He's put the ball in play in 15 of those 20 PAs and only come away with one measly hit. He's hitting the ball very well, but it just happens to be right at the bad guys. That kind of luck is bound to change eventually. Baker seems aware of Bruce's situation, but the signs of frustration are starting to surface. "You get tired of hearing, `Hang with 'em, hang with 'em,' " Baker said. "We're about running out of things to say to him."
Mike Leake had never walked 7 batters in a game until yesterday
He loaded the bases in the first inning without recording an out, but got out of the jam without a scratch. "The first inning? A bad situation to put myself in," he said. "I found a way to get out of it pretty quick. I was like, ‘What am I doing here? I gotta take a breath and realize I have to make pitches,’ and get myself out of it slowly but surely." Also, Dusty Baker sees a lot of himself in Drew Stubbs. Stubbs believes he's kind of a power hitter, as he has been since he was a kid. I guess Baker doesn't believe him. "What you hope, though, is that he (Stubbs) doesn’t get confused, like I did for a couple of years, thinking I was a power hitter," said Baker. "That was until I got a letter from (former pitcher) Joe Black who told me, ‘Remember, you are a hitter, no a slugger.'"
In case you missed it
the Reds had to make some roster moves to make room for Mike Leake's debut. Juan Francisco was sent to AAA to make room on the 25-man roster and reliever Pedro Viola was DFA'd to make room on the 40-man. I liked Viola, but he's no big loss. If someone claims him off the waiver wire then I will wish him all the best, but we'll see. I think chances are good he stays in the organization.
Doug at RML has his reactions to Leake and Chapman making their debuts yesterday
Here's what he says about Chapman: "I watched the game on Milb.tv (best deal in baseball). The guy can flat out bring the heat. He hit 100 or 101 MPH a total of 5 times throughout the game. His final line had him with 9 strikeouts and just 1 walk in 4.2 innings. Chapman struggled with his offspeed stuff most of the game, but his fastball was just way too much for these guys. They expanded the zone trying to catch up to it and it just didn’t work for them. He didn’t finish a few of his offspeed pitches and it was pretty obvious what was coming when he didn’t. Something to watch for next time out for Chapman."
Q What do YOU think of Dusty Baker as a manager? — Kyle, Dayton
A Amazing. I’m not often asked that question. I get loads of comments criticizing him, but nobody asks my opinion. Thanks. Here it is. Baker is the best manager I’ve ever covered in dealing with the media. He is accessible, forthright, honest and ever willing to answer any question. As for the aspects of managing, in my humble opinion, a bad manager can mess up a good team, but a good manager can’t make a bad team better. You need players. Period. Baker is NOT a bad manager and the Reds are NOT a good team. Baker’s hands are tied — or at least one hand is tied behind his back.
This is a few days old
but here is what Dave from OMGReds has to say about his experience on Opening Night: "Surrounded by Reds bloggers in the Sun/Moon deck is a pretty outstanding way to watch a game too. And there was definitely a healthy amount of second-guessing Dusty’s decision to go with Logan Ondrusek in the 7th (see John Fay’s post for good details). I’ll say this … it was about as good a time as you could have at a game where Orlando Cabrera provides the majority of your team’s offense." I didn't get to talk Dave all that much unfortunately, but he seems like a hell of a guy.
Jay Bruce makes a kid's Wish come true
Tyler Roope, a 12-year-old kid with spinal muscular atrophy, got to meet Bruce and Reds on Friday. He got to tour the clubhouse and play catch with Jay. "When they revealed that he got his wish, he could not contain the smile on his face," Jim Roope (the father) said. "I saw the same smile (Friday) putting that uniform on him and when Jay walked out and they made eye contact. I think those are the three biggest smiles I’ve seen on his face, ever." "It means everything to me," Bruce said. "It’s such a humbling experience to see something like that and to hopefully make a bright spot in their day and in their life. For them to get enjoyment out of this stuff is really special to me."
Definitely a good story.