2012 Post-season / Reds - General

Game Change

Haven’t we come too far in 2012 to make a mistake like this?  It’s been so gobsmacking wonderful all summer.  Tell me we’re not doing this.

No, I’m not talking about Drew Stubbs batting second in the playoffs or Todd Frazier riding the pine. Or Wilson Valdez playing at all—worthy discussion topics though they be.

Everybody wants to talk about the Reds’ offense.  Joey’s left knee and the power outage it portends.  Jay’s state of mind.  Is he about to go off on another hot streak, or is he all slumpy again?  You can argue the starters need their rest—or need to play and get their hitting muscles greased for October.  It all depends upon your viewpoint.  Did the Phillies blow it last year by resting guys too long and losing their mojo?  Davey Johnson says he’s resting his guys as soon as he clinches.  Anybody care besides St. Louis fans, and the Dodger and Brewer fans who now hate him?

Are we missing something here?  I, for one, fear the Reds are about to make a mistake with the playoff rotation that, while it may not go down as famously as Merkle’s Boner back in 1908, may nevertheless be remembered for a long time to come in Cincinnati.

Bronson Arroyo will almost certainly start Game 2 in a few days.  Are we okay with that?  Dusty Baker loves the idea of bookending the hard throwing Cueto and Latos around Bronson’s slow stuff.  The rotation was set up to make this happen a few days ago.  The boys in the radio booth think this is a fait accompli.

Done deal, yeah?

Arroyo pitching in spacious AT&T Park sounds good, should that matchup happen.  Does Latos pitching in SF sound better? He’s been absolutely nails against the Giants in his career.  What if Cueto is needed to pitch a Game 5?  Do we want Arroyo pitching Game 1 of the next series or Latos?  Right now, Mat Latos is the best pitcher in the rotation. His 2.52 ERA over his past 17 starts suggests that perhaps something better than being the #3 guy in the rotation is in order here.  In a 7 game series, should a rainout occur and the Reds elect to pitch Cueto in Game 7 on short rest, Arroyo could conceivably pitch twice while Latos only toes the rubber once.

Again, are we okay with this?

I’ve heard people argue that Homer Bailey’s home/road splits make it imperative that he pitch a Game 2 on the road.  But, Bailey is the #4 pitcher in this rotation.  He barely beat out Mike Leake for that honor.  If Bailey has to pitch in GABP the opening series, well, that’s a bullet the Reds are going to have to bite.  No way he starts ahead of Mat.  Latos can be downright dominating.  He looked overpowering on Clinch Night. In fact, Latos career numbers look good against anybody the Reds will likely face from the NL in the post-season, with the exception of St. Louis.  But he’s only pitched 29 innings against the Cardinals lifetime.   Small sample size?

I find the fascination with the Reds offense, well, fascinating.  I think Doc Halladay’s historic game against the Reds two years ago is responsible for some of the angst that has landed fans on the psychiatric couch when the discussion turns to offense in October.  This is a team that wins when (a) it pitches well, and (b) hits home runs.  The Reds can’t control where they will be playing.  Miller Park gives up the most HRs in the majors.  The Reds hitters would like to be swinging there.  But, they’re more likely to be swinging in AT&T ballpark, which gives up the fewest.  And the ballparks of both leaders for the Wild Card rank as the 9th and 10th toughest to hit HRs in.

So be prepared to pitch.

From an organizational standpoint, Bronson probably deserves the second spot in the rotation.  Arroyo is having his best season since he arrived in Cincinnati in 2006.  The Reds are big on rewarding veterans.  The kids can wait their turn.  It’s just that the Kid is pitching better than everybody else right now.  You can make one helluva argument he should start Game 1.

Cincinnati is going back to the playoffs.  Are the Reds about to forget what got them there?

21 thoughts on “Game Change

  1. Why not have Latos in Game 1, Bronson 2, Cueto 3? If Cueto has another rough start, this makes a lot of sense. Latos or Arroyo can pitch the Game 5 if needed, and Latos, who wrecked it in SF (I was there. He was dominant) would be in a great spot to put the Reds up 1 in SF. The Reds won’t leave SF with any worse than a split, I think.

  2. @RichmondRed: I agree with the logic, but how do you think an almost 20 game winner with a lower ERA for the whole season aka Cueto would feel about that?

  3. Regarding the theory that there is virtue in alternating hard throwers and slow throwers — I once heard Cal Ripken asked about this idea. He thought it was completely stupid and rejected it out of hand. He said you prepare for one game at a time and there was zero carry over based on the speed of a pitcher from one game to the next. I’m not saying he’s right (obviously, I have no idea). But it’s certainly not the case that everyone agrees with the “alternating style” theory.

    I’d pitch Latos in Game One and Cueto in Game Two.

    • I’d pitch Latos in Game One and Cueto in Game Two.

      What more does Johnny Cueto have to accomplish to be worthy of starting the first game of the playoffs? They’ve been advertising him all year as their ace, opening day starter, stopper, or go-to guy. He can still win 20 games, is a Cy Young candidate, and is having the best season by a Reds pitcher in ~20 years. I’m surprised there’s any question about who should start game 1.

      Mat Latos, he got off to a slow start in April. It must have been a big change, getting used to playing for the Reds and facing the high expectations placed upon him, and excessive pressure to perform. Starting game one of the playoffs is the most anticipated and highest pressure opportunity of the season (who really cares if they win opening day?). Should they circumvent Cueto to gamble on Latos? I don’t think so, regardless of how well he’s pitched recently.

    • Regarding the theory that there is virtue in alternating hard throwers and slow throwers — I once heard Cal Ripken asked about this idea. He thought it was completely stupid and rejected it out of hand. He said you prepare for one game at a time and there was zero carry over based on the speed of a pitcher from one game to the next. I’m not saying he’s right (obviously, I have no idea). But it’s certainly not the case that everyone agrees with the “alternating style” theory. I’d pitch Latos in Game One and Cueto in Game Two.

      I wonder what Hank Aaron thinks about the alternating styles theory

  4. If the Reds are playing the WC team then I like the Arroyo sandwich even more since the WC team will be without their ace for at least two games and it likely puts Cueto opening at home against the WC #1 and then puts Homer against their likely #4.

    • @rightsaidred:

      If the Reds are playing the WC team then I like the Arroyo sandwich even more since the WC team will be without their ace for at least two games and it likely puts Cueto opening at home against the WC #1 and then puts Homer against their likely #4.

      It’s not a given that the WC team will be without their ace for 2 games. They’re not changing anything about their rotation until they clinch, and they may not even have the chance to do that. Their ace might be needed on the final day of the year just to clinch a wild card spot in the first place.

  5. “From an organizational standpoint, Bronson probably deserves the second spot in the rotation” – probably the most important sentence in the whole article.

    What got the Reds here? Pitching and defense, not big bats and big run production. I think the Reds will be fine if they have to play in a pitchers park.

    Arroyo is one of two Reds starters who has pitched in the playoffs, and he pitched reasonably well in his start in 2010. Many of his numbers are nearly identical to Mat Latos’ (3.63 ERA vs 3.60, 19 quality starts vs 17 QS, 13 wins vs 12, both with a 1.19 WHIP, both with 24 homeruns… just they have radically different pitching styles and have ended with remarkably similar numbers.

    I think you can argue for any order of Cueto, Arroyo, Latos, and Bailey but I’m fine with the one Bryan Price and the Reds chose. I think some fans are overly anxious to prematurely write Homer Bailey’s home start off as a loss based on home/road splits. After how well Dusty and Bryan Price managed the rotation and pitching staff I’m fine with accepting their judgment going into the playoffs.

  6. MLB screwed up our order. It would be really nice to have Latos and Cueto in GABP and the other two in SF. In a 5 game series with only 1 pitcher getting to pitch twice if it goes the whole way, I would rather have arroyo in SF and Latos at GABP. In the NLCS, they will definitely need to change it if we start at home. I am not a big fan of the fly ball guys pitching in our little park if we can help it.

  7. Looks like rain coming into Cincinnati this evening. Weather channel says it will be 100% rain at 7PM just in time for the start of the game. This one could be delayed an hour or so.
    If the reds open the playoffs in SF, Latos should go in game #1 and Bailey in game #2. Cueto in #3 and Arroyo in game #4. Pitch to your strengths and use every advantage you can get. Now if they open in ATL or StL, just flip-flop Cueto and Latos in games #1 and #3. Bailey should start on the road.

  8. As hard as I try, I just can’t make myself care very much about this. We *knew* Dusty was gonna play it this way. Whatever order they go in, they’re gonna go, and we need to win. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

    Unless it turns out to be a big deal, in which case, well… I’ll have something to say about that, I reckon.

  9. I recently made a spreadsheet of every reds game I’ve ever attended and discovered that I haven’t witnessed a win since the 1995 NLDS. I don’t remember it because I was 5. I remember my dad telling me how many more opportunities I would have to see playoff baseball as we were walking out of riverfront stadium after game 163 in 1999 and it still haunts me. This is terribly selfish but I have tickets for game 4 of the NLDS this year and would really like to avoid seeing Homer Bailey pitch that game.

  10. Isn’t this why the Reds acquired Latos in the first place? To be a number 1? To ride him thru the playoffs and pitch twice in a series? Couple that with the fact that he’s a Giants killer. You gotta go with your best and try to get a lead especially if you open on the road. How do you not pitch Latos and Cueto and try to take the commanding lead on the road?

    • I don’t think Mat Latos has surpassed Johnny Cueto as the Reds’ ace, and as I’ve said most of Latos’ overall numbers are nearly identical to Bronson Arroyo’s. From the posts here you’d think Latos was the Cy Young Award candidate. The Reds have been searching for a front line ace for over a decade and they might have finally found one in Johnny Cueto, and I think they should give him the respect he deserves.

      I thought the Reds acquired Latos to improve their rotation in the playoffs – as a result he’s in their playoff rotation.

      I don’t think which spot in the rotation Latos fills changes which team he’ll face in each series. For the NLDS Cueto is likely to start both the 1st and 5th game, if the series goes that long. The NLCS and World Series are 7 game series.

      Regarding Bailey – To me it doesn’t make sense building the rotation around allowing the 4th starter, Bailey, to pitch on the road. He’s better on the road this year but he’s still won some home games. How would you respond to another team doing that, starting the 4th best pitcher in hopes of benefiting from home-road splits – we’d probably laugh at them. How would you respond if Bailey pitched badly and LOST his road start after arranging the NLDS rotation to give him that chance? It seems to make sense to build the rotation around the best pitchers (Cueto, Latos, and Arroyo) and go from there.

  11. How the rotation is set and what it should be will never meet. Dusty is a players manager,there is no way Cueto doesn’t start game 1 and 5 with Bronson going second, Latos 3rd and Bailey 4th. Personally I believe this dooms us to losing to the Giants in 4 games. I believe the best choice without question at this point is Latos-Bailey-Cueto-Bronson-Latos. I don’t care about hard or soft. I look at how the pitchers have done this season and especially down the stretch and to NOT start Latos is just a bad baseball move anyway you look at it.

  12. I think there is less advantage with Arroyo in between Latos and Cueto. In a 5 game series all the starters are going to throw once except possibly the game 1.They should seriously look at starting Bailey on the road if they want any advantage.
    Latos seems better suited for the top spot, if they start Bailey game 2, then could still do their Cueto Arroyo Latos should it come down to that and it would be on consecuitive days where the advantage might come into play as opposed to broken up over a travel day.

    The number 4 is more strategic in a 7 game series as they would only start once. The biggest advantage the reds can get is the top seed, they need the advantage in the 7 game series. I do not know why they are not prioritizing winning every game.

  13. I saw maybe Bailey’s best start of the season at GABP at the one game I went to in Cincinnati this year… He was absolutely lights out. He very much has the ability to pitch well at home and I’m comfortable with starting him game 4. I’d prefer to simply see Cueto and Latos pitch 1-2 (in either order) and let Arroyo pitch game 3. Cueto is simply too good to drop to game 3, and Latos had his best start of the season at AT&T Park (plus, he’s our hottest pitcher). In the end, I’ll trust whatever Dusty and Price decide to do, as it has gotten us to this point.

    • the fact that you use two spaces after sentences is killing me.. but you dont even do it on all the sentences, you just seem to randomly hit space twice

      Back in middle school we were required to take typing classes where you got points off for not putting two spaces after each sentence.

      I saw maybe Bailey’s best start of the season at GABP at the one game I went to in Cincinnati this year… He was absolutely lights out. He very much has the ability to pitch well at home and I’m comfortable with starting him game 4. I’d prefer to simply see Cueto and Latos pitch 1-2 (in either order) and let Arroyo pitch game 3. Cueto is simply too good to drop to game 3, and Latos had his best start of the season at AT&T Park (plus, he’s our hottest pitcher). In the end, I’ll trust whatever Dusty and Price decide to do, as it has gotten us to this point.

      I agree. Dusty and Price have continually made good decisions with the pitching staff and I’m fine with whatever decision they make going into the playoffs.

      Something else to factor in, the Cueto-Arroyo-Latos-Bailey rotation might not carry over into the NLCS. If Cueto starts games 1 and 5 of a 5 game NLDS Latos would probably start the first game of the NLCS (rather than Arroyo or Bailey). They’re trying to portray Cueto and Latos as a 1-2 punch of aces – I think they were looking to their best interests not only for the NLDS, but for the NLCS and World Series also when arranging the rotation.

  14. the fact that you use two spaces after sentences is killing me.. but you dont even do it on all the sentences, you just seem to randomly hit space twice

  15. If Bronson carves up a hungry Brewers squad tonight,I will feel much better about him starting game 2……….my gut says Latos is the better option.Nice problems to have,great time to be a REDS FAN!!!

  16. The pitchers will have to pitch well, certainly. To say that the concerns about the offensive struggles are “fascinating” is crazy. Marcum “threw a gem” tonight. How many pitchers–good ones, bad ones, mediocre ones, rookies, September call-ups, Astros pitchers–have to throw gems against us before everyone admits that the offense has been struggling for at least a month now? Don’t get me wrong, this season has been so awesome to watch and I believe this team has a chance to beat anyone in the playoffs, but the offense is going to have to step up or the order of the starting rotation is not going to matter one bit. Who is hitting consistently right now? Votto…and…well, that’s about it. On the road in SF or ATL I don’t trust this offense to get a single run in the first 7 or 8 innings, which means the pitchers will have to be lights out. It’s true that I would trust Latos to throw a shutout more than Cueto or Bronson right now, but it will be very tough for any of them. This article even says that the Reds win when they pitch well and hit home runs. Who is going to hit the home runs? No one but Jay Bruce, and if Jay (who I will love forever because of 2010, etc etc) is not in one of his once-or-twice-a-season hot streaks, it’s just no one. Again, awesome season, I really hope that Dusty makes a full and speedy recovery, it definitely puts everything in perspective, but the offense will have to catch fire or they’ll be going home having lost 2 hard-fought games in which they scored a run or two and gave up three or more, and they will lose. Really hope I’m wrong.

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