REDiculous – April 8, 2014

Well, the first week (plus one game) of the 2014 season is in the books, and the Reds are not off to the best of starts. The offense has struggled mightily, and the club has not capitalized on their opportunities. The pitching has been lights out at times, but has also seen its share of struggles. Do I get worried and think of packing it in? Of course not. At REDiculous, we will be watching and cheering on the Reds if they lose every game. Now let’s recap what you need to know about the season so far.

Record and Standings

After dropping the first game of the Cardinals series, the Reds are now 2 – 5 overall, and find themselves in last place in the NL Central at 2.5 games back. Three of the five teams in the division have winning records in this early season, so it will not be a quick turnaround for the Reds as far as the standings are concerned. They can make an immediate jump by winning the last two games against the Cardinals of course, but that would still only put them in third place at best. The key thing to remember—which is hard for fanatics to do—is that it is early! There is a lot of baseball to be played and the skiy is not falling.

The Mets Series

The Reds dropped a couple of close games against New York in winnable games before eking out a 2 – 1 victory in the series finale. Mike Leake gave up a couple of two-run homers to Lucas Duda in a 4 – 3 loss in the opener, then J. J. Hoover had control problems and gave up a walk-off grand slam to Ike Davis in the second game. Temporary starter Alfredo Simon helped the Reds get their second win of the season in game three by pitching like he has always been a part of the rotation.

Simon really shined in his start and helped salvage what could have been an even worse series than it turned out to be. With the offense struggling the way they had been, Simon’s effort allowed the Reds to escape with a victory. Yes, it’s early, but a 1 – 5 record and getting swept feels much worse than a 2 – 4 record and winning the game before hopping on a plane.

Game 1 at St. Louis

The Reds wasted multiple opportunities to manufacture runs early in the game and could not play catch up in the ninth. Billy Hamilton led off with a double that should have been a single for mere mortals to start the game. It was Billy’s first hit of the season after a bad start in the opening series against the Cardinals and then sitting out with a jammed finger against the Mets. Brandon Phillips bunted Hamilton over to third, but he was caught in a rundown trying to score on a fielder’s choice by Joey Votto. The Reds would have a similar opportunity a couple of innings later, but again could not capitalize.

Tony Cingrani struggled with his control and got behind early after Reds-killer Yadier Molina hit a three-run double in the first inning. Cingrani would only pitch four innings, walking four and throwing 88 pitches in that span.

Reliever Trevor Bell continued his early season struggles as he gave up four hits to the six batters he faced. Bell was able to record two outs, bringing his ERA down from infinity to 67.50. One has to assume that when one of the three relievers the Reds currently have on the disabled list is ready to return, Bell will be shuffled down to AAA.

The Reds put up a good effort in the ninth against Trevor Rosenthal, plating a couple of runs to make it 5 – 3, but that is where the score would remain. The Reds continue to get beat up by the Cardinals, likely their biggest rival.

Offensive Struggles

It’s just a little over a week on this young season, but stats for the Reds offense are frightening. The club has managed 18 runs in seven games, and lack of base runners is a large part of that. Check out the batting averages so far:

Billy Hamilton .059 (1 – 17)
Brandon Phillips .259 (7 – 27)
Joey Votto .240 (6 – 25)
Jay Bruce .160 (4 – 25)
Ryan Ludwick .364 (8 – 22)
Todd Frazier .360 (9 – 25)
Zack Cozart .043 (1 – 23)
Brayan Pena .313 (5 – 16)
Chris Heisey .286 (4 – 14)
Tucker Barnhart .250 (2 – 8)
Roger Bernadina .100 (1 – 10)

These stats would have been much worse had we looked at them prior to the last game. Hamilton and Cozart each picked up their first hits of the season, and Pena went 3 – 4. Frazier has hit in every game so far, and Ludwick has also been pretty consistent. Not many have been clutch on the surface, though, and I hope to have a better statistical evaluation of “clutch” opportunities in the next few columns.

As a team, the reds are 27th in the league in runs scored (18); 23rd in batting average (.224); 22nd in on base percentage (.297); and 25th in slugging percentage (.332).

Pitching

This has been the Reds’ strength over the first week. There have been a couple of mistake pitches, but also several instances of getting out of jams and blowing hitters away. ERAs and innings pitched so far:

Johnny Cueto 1.93 14.0
Tony Cingrani 2.45 11.0
Homer Bailey 8.31 4.1
Mike Leake 5.40 6.2
Alfredo Simon 1.29 7.0
——————-
Manny Parra 0.00 4.2
Nick Christiani 0.00 3.2
Curtis Partch 0.00 3.1
Logan Ondrusek 0.00 2.1
Sam LeCure 0.00 1.0
J. J. Hoover 27.00 1.1
Trevor Bell 67.50 0.2

Those last two numbers kill an otherwise dominating bullpen so far. They have bent but not broken for the most part. When Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, and closer Aroldis Chapman return from injury, this bullpen should remain a major strength of the team, but will definitely be more dangerous.

Injury Updates and Roster Moves

Devin Mesoraco was activated and Tucker Barnhart was sent back down. Mesoraco has not played yet, but will probably make his debut tonight. Broxton is expected to be activated today, and as mentioned Bell is a likely candidate to be sent down. Mat Latos is pitching rehab games and should be back soon. Marshall has been throwing live batting practice and working his way back. Chapman has resumed working out and throwing.

Just off the top of my head, I imagine that Latos’ return will move Simon to the bullpen, then the returns of Broxton, Marshall, and Chapman will result in Bell, Christiani, and Partch departing. Just a guess, but the salaries will be the bigger determining factor over performance.

Up Next

Game two against the Cardinals is tonight at 8:15pm. GO REDS!

Written by Rus Livingood

Father. Husband. Son. Friend. Employee. Boss. Sports fan. Cooking enthusiast. Batman enthusiast.

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@ruslivingood

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