On Predicting the 2011 Reds

All baseball fans start the season with the optimal optimism. After all, that is one aspect of the love of the game. Then again, many fans make predictions – some optimist, others realistic, and many just for fun. So, here’s a look at my team – the Cincinnati Reds.

They are the NL Central’s defending champions, as in 2010 they defied the predictions of the pundits – including me. Reds strengths are defense, starting pitching depth, and timely hitting. Joey Votto is for real, and the team surrounds him by a good mix of young and old players. Team speed is good, but not great. As with many teams, who knows which way the bullpen goes, but the latter seems to be in good hands.

Although the team is highly touted by baseball pundits, I have the following concerns for the 2011 season.

  • 2010 did not involve many injuries. Two starting pitchers start 2011 on the DL. Is this an omen for what is to come?
  • In 2010, the Reds led the league in late-inning, come-from-behind wins. Can this be done again? I know Opening Day says YES, but time will tell.
  • Sometimes the stars align with the right players doing the right thing at the right time. Was that 2010?
  • Individually, can Drew Stubbs continue to improve? Can Johnny Gomes produce enough to justify his questionable defense and streaky hitting? Can Scott Rolen productively play 110-120 games?

Every team has questions – plus repeating as division champs isn’t easy. I’m a loyal fan and will root for as many wins as possible – and I’ll settle for less than 162 wins – yet 90 will win the division. Tom Lasorda said each team wins a third of its games, loses a third, with the remaining third being the key to their success.

On paper, the Reds are the class of the NL Central. The games are not on paper, but played on the field over many months. Unfortunately, I see the Reds finishing in third place, but closer to second than fourth.

Logo property of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Club

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On Opening Day 2011

The annual rite of spring is about to begin – the first pitch of the baseball season.

When I was a kid, the start of the season meant many things. One was trying to catch the movie It Happens Every Spring, the story of a chemistry professor accidentally discovering a wood-repelling chemical that he rubbed on a baseball. Sure, the storyline is corny, but it was a simple story about dreams and the love for the great game of summer.

I can also remember hurrying home after school to watch the rest of the Reds Opening Day. After all, that was a time long before big spending and free agency as all fans started the season full of hope and optimism. It was also the days before cable television, so seeing the Reds on TV was a treat that only happened 10-20 times a year. It was also before the days that television revenue was a plus instead of a decision maker. Yes, it was a time when the Reds, as the oldest professional franchise, opened the season for Major League Baseball.

Now that I live in Cincinnati, I understand how the season’s start still has special significance here. Gone is the day that Cincinnati leads the way in the nation, but to Cincinnatians, the season still starts here.

Today, thousands of people dressed in Red will line the streets to watch a city version of a small town parade displaying a stream of organizations forming a float on a trailer or a truck with a few signs and streams, some marching bands, and even motorcycles, fire trucks, and horses. People will gather on Fountain Square for activities, and fill the stadium for the game.

Like any start of the season, Cincinnati is excited today. Given our teams success in 2010, expectations are high. I will save my prediction for the 2011 Reds until next week because today is a special day – Opening Day in Cincinnati – and a tribute to our local history. Enjoy the video because it says a lot.

On the Reds Finale

Sunday night I attended Game 3 of the Reds-Phillies series – my first baseball post-season game ever. Sadly, I saw a very good Phillies team finish the Reds in a three-game sweep.

Game 1: Phillies starting pitching do what top pitchers do – keep good hitters off balance. Ray Halladay’s performance was a notch above outstanding.

Game 2: The Reds did embarrass themselves in game 2. Leading 4-0, committing 4 errors, untimely walks and hit batsmen – actually, that was more than embarrassing. The Reds had a chance to get out of Philadelphia with a split, and let it get away.

Game 3: Cole Hamels did a great job of keeping batters out of sync, noted that the Reds had very few hard-hit balls. Besides being 7-0 against the Reds in his career, Hamels followed Halladay’s lead and did what good pitchers do – take the bat out of the batter’s hands.

From my point of view as a fan,

  • Arroyo and Cueto pitched well enough to win.
  • Besides striking out too many times, Votto and Rolen went 2 for 21 in the series with double digit strikeouts.
  • The number of errors by infielders was disastrous.
  • Phillies didn’t pound the ball, but won with better pitching and defense.

From Cincinnati sportstalk host Lance McAlister.

  • 1: Hits by Joey Votto in 10 ab’s
  • 1: Number of Reds hitters with more than one hit in NLDS (Phillips, 3)
  • 4: Runs scored by Reds in NLDS
  • 7: Errors committed by Reds in NLDS
  • 7: Consecutive playoff losses by Reds (9 consecutive World Series game wins)
  • 8: Strikeouts by Scott Rolen in 11 AB’s
  • 11: Fewest hits EVER in a playoff series
  • 15: Number of times the Reds were shutout this season
  • 19: Number of Reds without playoff experience, number of Phillies with playoff experience
  • 24: Strikeouts by Reds hitters in NLDS (4 walks)
  • .124: Reds batting average in NLDS (11 for 89)
  • 2.52: ERA by Reds pitchers in NLDS

 

I’m proud of the 2010 Reds as they simply lost to a better team whose pitching was awesome. The Reds surprised me and many others to win the NL Central; and they did it fair and square. Simply put, anyone saying the Reds didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs is a baseball moron.

Good luck to the Phillies and their fans. Meanwhile, Reds pitchers and catchers report in 127 days, and Opening Day is 170 days away.

Reds logo is property of the Cincinnati Reds.

On the 2010 Reds

The 2010 Cincinnati Reds surprised many – including myself. Although some may call it a fluke, I simply say nah baby nah because the 162-game marathon allows the cream to surface. 2010 may be a one-year fluke, but that does not matter because fans and players of the 22 teams currently sitting at home would switch places in a heartbeat.

The reasons for the success is simple: offense, pitching, and defense – especially compared to 2009. After the stats, I give my playoff thoughts.

  • Joey Votto hit, and hit very well (37/113/.324) – possible MVP
  • Despite a mid-season slump, Jay Bruce produced (25/70/.280)
  • Scott Rolen remained healthy (20//83/.285)
  • Jonny Gomes overproduction (18/86/.266) made up for Brandon Phillips’ underproduction (18/59/.275)
  • Catchers produced (14/97/.290s)
  • Shortstops produced (9/67/.260s)
  • Drew Stubbs still strikes out too much, but can scoff at his stats (22/77/.255)
  • Branson Arroyo produced 17 wins
  • Aaron Harang didn’t produce, but a team of young pitchers stepped in.
  • After a poor first two months, the bullpen and starting pitching was good.
  • There other stats that are important that I didn’t find as last at-bat wins and running first to third.

Team Records

  • Record: 91-71, 478; (’09 78-84, .478)
  • Home: 49-32 (’09, 40-41)
  • Road: 42-39 (’09, 29-36)
  • East: 17-15, (’09, 16-19)
  • Cent: 49-30 (’09, 42-34)
  • West: 17-19, (’09, 10-22)
  • Place: Div 1st, NL 3rd (’09, 4th, 10th)

Offense

  • Runs: 1st (’09: 11th)
  • AVE: .272; 1st (’09: .247, 15th)
  • AB: 3rd (’09: 11th)
  • AVE w/RISP: .278; 1st (’09: .250, 12th)
  • AVE w/RISP 2 outs: .269, 1st (’09: 223, 11th)

Pitching

  • ERA: 4.01, 7th (’09: 4.18; 7th)
  • WHIP: 1.33, 7th (’09; 1.37; 8th)
  • AVE: .254, 5th (’09; .258; 6th)

Defense

  • ERR: 1st lowest (’09 10th highest)
  • F% .988 (1st) (’08: .985, 6th)
  • DER .7176 (3rd) (’08: .7170 3rd)

Regarding the playoffs, the Reds ended a 15-year absence. Although the Reds are one of the few teams that can keep pace with the Phillies hitting, the Phillies don’t have to face their own pitching. That’s not to discount the Reds starters, but Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels are quite the force in a short series with every other day an off day. As a whole, the Reds struggle against ace pitchers, thus I am wary of a sweep. Stranger things have happened, thus the reason why they play the game.

Reds logo is property of the Cincinnati Reds

On the Reds in September

Going into St. Louis, I told friends that the Reds needed to win one in the series. Although facing the Cardinals top three pitchers, mission accomplished.

Last week I also told co-workers that the trip to Colorado worried me more than the St. Louis series. The Rockies are playing well, tough at home, and in the hunt. The task would be difficult but, I stated that the Reds need to leave Colorado +6 over the Cardinals. Well, the first two games in Denver are demonstrating my unfolding fears.

As a pragmatist, I am a firm believer that it’s not over until it’s over. After all, I remember 1964, which featured the greatest collapse in my lifetime. Yep, the Phillies were 7 ½ up with 12 games left. Going into the final weekend, four teams were in the hunt: the Cardinals, Phillies, Reds, and Giants. The Cardinals not only won the pennant, they eventually beat the Yankees to win the World Series – and the 1964 Phillies are forever known as the ones blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead.

Meanwhile, one of my long-time friends (and self-proclaimed baseball pundit) recently said something worth writing about. My friend is a great guy but, he is a prime example of this trait: if you speak with conviction, people will believe you. However, years has taught be to see right through his bold proclamations.

He said, “It’s too bad the Reds are going to back into winning the division.” Now it’s time to dismantle his statement.

First, no team has won a pennant or a division before clinching. There is also still is plenty of time for anything to happen. In other words, the Reds have not won anything yet.

The Reds have the following:

  • A sizeable, but insurmountable, lead in the NL Central
  • The one of the best records in the NL
  • The best road record in the NL
  • Lead the NL in batting average, runs scored, hits, RBIs, slugging percentage, batting average and runs scored with runners in scoring position, batting average and runs scored with runners in scoring position with two outs, and a few more
  • Lead the NL in fielding percentage, thus the fewest errors
  • Middle of the pack in various pitching categories

There is still time for much to happen. The Reds can make it difficult on the Cardinals every time they win a game.

So I must ask: Do these stats support “backing in”? Plus, always beware of those who proclaim knowing without having the supportive facts.

On My Sports Decade: 2000-2009

The close of 2009 marks the end of the 21st century’s first decade. Instead of developing a debatable list of the decade’s top sports stories, here’s my personal top sporting stories for 2000-2009. The non-prioritized list looks at broad events in my life as a sports fan.

Reds Achieve Mediocrity
As a long-time Reds fan, I’m troubled by the floundering franchise. After starting the decade with a 2nd place divisional finish, the Reds ended the decade with 9-straight losing seasons. Ownership by a local philanthropic legend actually helped the organization as a whole after Marge’s penny-pinching charade, but MLB results were lacking. Although new ownership is local, they are still asking fans to buy more tickets so they can raise payroll. Sorry guys, that strategy doesn’t work

Bengals Rise to Respectability
Marvin Lewis began as coach in 2003 vowing to make a change. After a pathetic 1991-2002 run, the Bengals are at least respectable – look at the season records yourself. After all, I really believe that most fans will hang their hope on competitiveness … a chance at winning – and the Lewis era has achieved that. By the way, the 2005 edition was an awesome offense.

The Rise and Fall in Clifton
Clifton is the part of town containing the University of Cincinnati. Basketball has long been king of the hill, and the Bob Huggins era brought success and excitement. With one big swoop, he was gone, the team dismantled, and forced to start over. Coincidently, the rise of UC football began – and who would have ever imagined the heights they’ve reached. It may be short lived (yet it may not be), nonetheless, it has been exciting run for this season ticket holder!

Continued XU Success
Although Xavier and UC are located only miles apart, in some ways, they are on opposite sides of the world. Nonetheless, their basketball rivalry is intense and exciting. Skip Presser coached the XU to start the decade, yet Thad Mata (Ohio State) and Sean Miller (Arizona) followed. Those 10 years produced 8 NCAA bids, including 2 Elite 8s and a Sweet 16. Wow – good luck Coach Mack.

The Urban Legend Begins
Urban Meyer’s first head coaching job was at my alma mater – Bowling Green. His first year (2001) produced the biggest turnaround that year (from 2-9 to 9-3). His fast-paced style changed the way MAC schools play football. Although he left for Utah after two seasons, my wife and I traveled to Purdue and witnessed the 2003 Falcons score late in the game to beat the Boilermakers – and to think that two weeks later BG had the Buckeyes on the ropes late in the game.

Tiger’s Dominance
Current news aside, Tiger Woods has (without question) risen golf’s popularity. His competiveness and success is unbelievable. What a treat it was for me to attend 2 days of the 2007 Bridgestone Invitational. Yes, he won that one too.

On Cincinnati HS Sports
The Cincinnati parochial high schools are noted for their successful sports teams. Football, basketball (boys and girls), and volleyball lead the way. Teams as St. Xavier, Elder, and Moeller get nation attention and college recruiters flock to the area, yet it was a smaller school (Roger Bacon) that beat LeBron James’ team in the state finals of his junior year.

On Bud Baseball
Despite Bud Selig, baseball continues to be popular. Despite its goofy economic structure, attendance continues to rise. Despite baseball’s double standards, Bud Selig continues to prohibit the Reds from retiring Pete Rose’s number.

On the Olympics
The decade gave us 5 Olympics games (Sydney, Salt Lake City, Athens, Turin, and Bejing) and countless number of heroes and moments. Enough said.

On Cincinnati Sports as of Now

The Cincinnati sports scene has been a hodge-podge of ups and downs. The past 20 years have primarily been a downer for our two main professional teams: the Bengals and the Reds. So the fact that the Reds finished strong and the Bengals are off to a good start does help. On the other hand, our memories aren’t short – so many fans are skeptics.

UC Bearcat football is currently on a roll and has captured the hearts of many in the city. Although Ohio State fans exist, Cincinnati is not a Buckeye hotbed. Although the Bearcats are currently getting high accolades, Coach Brian Kelly admits that the Buckeyes are want his team strives to be – and adds that UC is not there yet.

Fans in this area love college basketball. Sure UC and Xavier lead the way, but UK Wildcats are just down the road to they get their share of coverage – but since I hope they lose every game, I’ve already given them too much space here.

UC basketball during the Huggins era was great; then suddenly, it was gone. The team was essentially dismantled and the struggles ever since are well known. On the plus side, they seem to be turning the corner so fans are starting to get some positive vibes.

Meanwhile, a mere 3 miles away on the Xavier campus, Musketeer basketball has been unbelievably successful through various coaching changes. They are simply a hallmark of consistency and another good season is expected this year. Although hardcore UC and XU fans don’t root for the other, many fans have a have a preference, yet pull for the other in all games but one.

Bottom line – it’s all about being in the wait-and-see mode. After all, by the end of November we’ll feel totally different.