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Red Reposter - Take a Breath, It's the All-Star Break

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Red Reposter's Mid-Season Reflections, produced in association with PBS.  What is that logo supposed to be?  Is that a face?  It looks like a face speeding into the future or moving all Matrixy-like.  That's always given me the creeps.  - 25 -  Games remaining for the Reds against teams that currently stand above the .500 mark, which is the fewest among all contenders.  The have played a relatively weak schedule so far, but fortunately it gets even weaker over the second half.  They have plenty of games remaining against the Pirates, Brewers, and Astros, which bodes very well for their playoff chances.  If you aren't already all-in for this team you should be now.  We are in 1st place at the All-Star break and have the weakest strength-of-schedule going forward.  Next Year is Here!

It is now officially the All-Star break so everyone is putting together their mid-season awards lists.  I'm not going to do that because the Reposter has always striven to a newspaper that sets the trends, not follows them.  That's right, not only do I consider us a newspaper, but also a trend-setter.  The interns always giggle when I say that.  I think they have some kind of inside joke.  We'll see who's laughing though when they finish college and the only job they can get is at Giant Eagle (bazinga!).  Anyway, what I do want to do is look at the one thing that has surprised me the most over the first half.  There is one player's performance that has made me rub my eyes in amazement and I'd like to share it with you.

Best Surprise of the Season:  Brandon Phillips

At the end of April, Dusty Baker felt the need to shake up his lineup.  His clean-up hitter Brandon Phillips was struggling something awful, posting a sub-.650 OPS.  His lead-off man Drew Stubbs was even worse.  Most RRs were shouting for BeeP to be replaced by Scott Rolen in the clean-up spot.  But while most RRs wanted BeeP demoted to the 6th spot or lower, Dusty, always the contrarian, moved BeeP up to the 2nd slot and bumped Orlando Cabrera to lead-off.  I hated this move at its inception, siting BeeP's penchant for rolling into double plays.  Hell, we often called him "GIBP" for this very reason.  Boy, was I wrong.  Not only has he hit like a champion since moving up in the order, but he has only grounded into a double play three times.  He has definitely changed his approach at the plate, spraying the ball all over the field and not trying to pull everything.  His BB rate is up a bit, as well as his BABIP.  But the big surprise for me is that he is avoiding the GIDP.  Hopefully we can retire that ignominious moniker.

And now the news:

  • Joey Votto, All-Star, thinks the sweep in Philly could be a good thing
    "This sweep we endured isn’t a bad thing for us," he said. "It reminds us of what we have to do to beat good teams. You have to play good baseball. We did play some good baseball. We ran into some good pitching in my opinion. I think we should be happy.  I didn’t see the final (Cardinals) score, but worst-case scenario we’re a game up."  The Cards did win yesterday, so the Reds are now a game up at the break.  Anyone who thought that would happen when this season began is a witch.

  • Here's what Dave Golebiewski has to say about Travis Wood after his near-perfecto
    (As an aside, ain't it just totally awesome that our players are getting this kind of national pub?) It surprised me that Woody was getting it done mostly with his fastball, which he threw 71% of the time on Saturday. His changeup is what really gets my goat all excited, and I guess I just forgot that his fastball ain't nothing to sneeze at neither. Dave says Wood, even taking into account his sterling performance, is still likely a 4th starter going forward. As for me, it feels good to be excited again. I feel like he can do this every night. It's a funny thing, being so optimistic even after a 4-game sweep.

  • The Fay gives us yet another reason Travis Wood's performance on Saturday was so darned special
    He's one of only three active pitchers to take a no-hitter into the 9th in one of his first three career starts. Clay Buchholz of course pitched a no-hitter in his second career start, and Wood's nemesis Roy Halladay, who lost a no-hitter with two outs in the top of the 9th in his second start. So do you think he's been strong enough to earn more time in the rotation? After the break, Edinson Volquez and Aaron Harang should both be returning from the DL, pushing two of the youngsters back to AAA. Wood and Matt Maloney are the last two in so I can imagine they will be the first two out, but Mike Leake probably needs to have his innings checked. Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo are not going anywhere.

  • Matt Maloney pitched well on Sunday, giving up 1 run over 6 innings
    'Course, the Reds offense couldn't muster a run in the last 21 innings of the series, so he took a hard-luck loss. "Yeah, we came up short," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We had opportunities to win every ballgame. Boy, whatever could go wrong went wrong. I mean, we got some great pitching out of our young kids and I just hate to lose close one-run ballgames." In fact, the three rookies who took to the bump in the last three games of the series (Leake, Wood, and Maloney) gave up only 2 runs in 23 innings. So what if I'm ignoring the 1/3 inning Leake threw in the 9th on Friday.

  • Dusty finally gave Orlando Cabrera a day off on Sunday notes he's in the throes of a 4-24 slump, but he's been appallingly dreadful for a good month now. Since June 9th, Lando is hitting an embarrassing .195/.235/.230. For the season, his numbers are down to .245/.283/.329. I readily accept that his VP brings something to this team that doesn't show up in his numbers. But can't he do that from the bench a few days a week?

  • When asked if he would consider restructuring his contract like Scott Rolen did
    Bronson Arroyo said, "Psssshhh! No way, brah!" "Not in a million years. Scott’s in a different position than I’m in. He’s in a position where he feels like he’s only got a couple years left in the game. He wanted to retire in this uniform. It’s close to his friends and family. He restructured because he’s made $150 million in the game or whatever it is. I’m not in the same boat." Make no mistake though, he IS in a boat. Fay then speculates that Arroyo could be traded. He's in the final year of his contract and the Reds look like they have a strong surplus of arms. Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Mike Leake, and Matt Maloney have all pitched well, and Aaron Harang and Edinson Volquez will be coming off the DL after the break. Homer Bailey will also return, hopefully within a month or so. Sam LeCure also pitched adequately in his brief stint in the rotation. That counts eight decent arms without Arroyo. But trading their most stable and reliable arm is a really bad idea, not to mention the fact that a pitching surplus can very quickly evaporate.

  • Ask Hal
    Q We’re past the halfway point, so sharpen your pencil and gaze deeply into your crystal ball and tell us who will win the respective divisions and who will win the World Series. — Rob, Vandalia
    A Guess I’m disqualified because I don’t use pencils and I left my crystal ball in an overhead bin on an airliner. But here are my guesses — pure guesses. Tampa Bay (Yankees collapse), Minnesota (Tigers can’t hold on), Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim (getting it together), New York Mets (getting healthier), Cincinnati (team of destiny), San Diego (best pitching). And the World Series winner is ... check back with me in late September.

  • Jack Moore at FanGraphs has been running a series what teams should do as the deadline approaches
    It's no surprise that he suggests the Reds go after Stephen Drew and Dan Haren. It's obvious Jack reads Red Reporter (Hi Jack!). He also says that the budget could be an issue though, as any big acquisition would likely have to be approved by Banana Bob. If Bob really wants to win though he would go all-out.