Titanic Struggle Recap

I miss those one-run games

Final R H E
Cincinnati Reds  (1-4)
 3  7  1
New York Metropolitans  (2-3)
 6  6  0
W: Torres (1-0)   L:  Hoover (1-1)  HR: Ludwick (1), Phillips (1)
Box Score   |   Play-by-Play    |    Photos    |    Depth Chart    |    FanGraphs Win Probability 

The Good

Johnny Cueto threw another great game, giving up five hits and three walks over seven innings. He also struck out nine Mets. It’s only two starts, but Cueto has struck out 17 batters in 14 innings. He was victimized by a Curtis Granderson home run on a cutter that didn’t cut. Jeff Brantley said it was a similar pitch to the one Yadier Molina hit out against Cueto on Opening Day. Another hard-luck no-win for Cueto. Games like this reinforce why Wins are a terrible statistic to judge starting pitchers.

Brandon Phillips hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning, putting a broad smile on Johnny Cueto’s face, at least for a while. BP turned on Dillon Gee’s final pitch and smashed it over the left field fence. Eric Young would have needed to be twenty feet tall to rob Phillips today.

Tucker Barnhart got his first two Major League hits. He’ll likely return to Louisville on Monday, when Devin Mesoraco rejoins the team.

Ryan Ludwick hit a screaming, line-drive homer down the left-field line to lead off the fifth inning.

Chris Heisey started the eighth inning rally with a hustle double.

The Ninth

J.J. Hoover began the ninth inning by walking the first batter he faced. Bad start. Then Joey Votto fielded a bunt and instead of making a safe play at first base, threw to second and failed to get the runner. It was a risky play for Votto, who was moving away from second base to field the ball and couldn’t get his feet set. Then Hoover walked the bases loaded as another batter tried to give up an out. Pinch hitter Ike Davis hit Hoover’s second pitch into deep, deep right field.

The Reds lead-off spot remains hitless five games into the season. Roger Bernadina went 0-for-3 today, after Billy Hamilton was scratched due to a jammed middle finger from his head-first slide into second base. Hamilton did enter the game for defensive purposes in the ninth inning. His finger looked pretty bad, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sit out again. Here’s a vote for letting Chris Heisey play CF tomorrow.

The Ugly

chart

Not so random thoughts …

Manager Bryan Price had the option of leaving Sam LeCure in to pitch the ninth inning. LeCure, in his first appearance of the season, had thrown only eleven pitches in the eighth. Price chose to go with Hoover, who had successfully closed a few games in 2013. What the grand slam loss tells us about Price’s ability to manage? Absolutely nothing. Zero. Nil. Nada.

And please, let’s not judge J.J. Hoover’s ability to be a closer based on this one game. Aroldis Chapman blows saves every year. Hoover has been an excellent pitcher for the Reds and isn’t new to the ninth inning. It looked like he was overthrowing today. Chapman is a better pitcher than Hoover, no doubt. He’s a better pitcher than everyone. Sure, the Reds will be better when Chapman is there to take the ball in the ninth, seventh or first. But Hoover is more than capable of closing. Today just wasn’t his day. One inning, folks.

Jonathan Broxton will join the team in St. Louis sometime during the next series and may be activated as early as Tuesday.

Again, it’s way too early to pass judgment, but so far, Todd Frazier (.389/.476/.722) looks much quicker to the plate with his new swing.

Top Game Thread comments …

Kyle Farmer: Cannot walk the leadoff guy in the ninth in a one run game.

CharlotteNCRedsFan: This bullpen scares me more than anything else. Can’t believe I just said that.

Sergeant2: Nothing to do now but regroup and come out battling tomorrow. Go Reds!

79 thoughts on “I miss those one-run games

  1. JJ Hoover pouting his way off the mound at 25 lbs overweight was sad and funny at the same time. So is this lineup.

    Votto going to 2nd with that ball was bonehead-caliber. Does he have a significant other in NY that is distracting him? That’s two nights in a row that his head wasn’t in the right place.

    This team needs more speed. If you can’t get on base and you can’t advance runners, stealing, going 1st to 3rd and the potential of scoring from first base should at least be part of the skills that the hitters DO have. This is the most one-dimensional offense in baseball.

    • Not disagreeing with you on Votto, nor trying to defend him. But he has always been over-confident in his ability to make that play at second base. I’ve probably seen that exact thing ten times. That doesn’t make it right in any way. But I don’t ascribe anything specific about today. If he hadn’t been moving toward home plate, he could have thrown the runner out.

      • Watching it happen live, I actually screamed “DON’TGO TO 2ND!” before he even got to the ball – it was that obvious he wasn’t going to be able to get Tejada. I’m surprised it was as close as it was, but the moment he was called out I knew it was going to be challenged and reversed.

      • I think I’ve seen Votto do that more than 10 times. This time it was especially ill-advised, fast runner and his momentum going away from the direction of the throw.

      • Yeah, we’ve all seen Joey try that same play before. In this event, it looked to me as though a good throw might have gotten the runner.

  2. Just got back from the game. It was cold and windy and there was so much garbage on the field I’m amazed the ump never stopped play to get it cleaned up. The only thing worse than losing in that fashion was hearing the sheer ELATION of Mets fans as we were leaving the park. I swear there were grown men in tears hugging each other as if they had just won the World Series.

    Joey actually made another really iffy defensive play. I think it was in the 6th or 7th inning there was a tapper that dribbled by the mound. Cueto broke for it on contact and dove, missing the ball by about a foot. Joey came charging off first base just as Cueto dove and got to the ball just ahead of BP only to turn back around to first base and see, of course, there was no one there to throw the ball to. Not sure what he was thinking. Clearly Cueto wasn’t going to get to the ball or the bag and the ball was going so slowly that BP was obviously going to get to it. If he had just stayed on first they probably could have made the out. Ended up not mattering, but I remember scratching my head at the time wondering what he was thinking.

    Another thought, literally everyone in the lineup today, including Cueto, hit the ball VERY hard off Gee. Our BABIP so far this season is insanely low – like .220 low. Everyone was hitting laser line drives to the warning track but just right at fielders. That luck is going to turn around at some point. But man this season is already getting hard to watch…

  3. “Cannot walk the leadoff guy in the ninth in a one run game.” Yes. And you also cannot walk a guy trying to bunt and give you an out.

  4. My guess is we’re going to find out how serious Price is about accountability sooner rather than later!

  5. I wanted to see LeCure in the 9th, but I thought Hoover would be OK. Yes he was overthrowing but that’s the challenge in that situation – to not overthrow. There’s a good chance he would have settled down if Votto had taken the out at first.

    • I simply do not understand the reasoning behind pulling LeCure after the 8th, especially after he said that he was going to use the bullpen for more than one inning. It was LeCure’s first game of the year, he’s been very effective in the 8th.

      Hoover had a terrible, horrible, bad day…but every pitcher has them at times.

      Can’t blame this one on the weak bullpen, these were pitchers that the Reds would have been using anyway.

      I’m not making a call on Bryan Price, but thus far, I’ve been less than impressed with his handling of the bullpen.

      • LeCure pitched very effectively in the 8th – why not leave him out there to start the 9th? First game Sam’s been in this season so he was very well rested. And is it just me or do others think everytime Price pulls a lever something gets broken. Cutting BP slack in the opener after his TOOTBLAN – installing Bell in the 7th with only a one run deficit – bringing Hoover in today when it looked like it was Sam’s game to lose for Cueto. And Price still looks like a statue. How I miss the days of Pete and sweet Lou.

      • The bullpen does lack some important pieces right now, though. And I expect that Chapman would have pitched the ninth were he not on the DL. I have to disagree with Steve–Chapman may be the best thrower, but he is far from being the best pitcher. That said, the outcome would likely have been different had he pitched the ninth. Closer may be an overrated position, but it does not seem reasonable to say that any mlb pitcher could close effectively.

        • Pitcher … thrower … whatever. Chapman does the best job of recording outs when he throws the ball from the pitcher’s mound, by far, of any Reds player. Second best over the past three seasons? J.J. Hoover.

        • I didn’t know that, Steve. But, as I expect you would quickly point out: Very small sample size, and very different expectations for a guy pitching 1 inning versus a guy pitching multiple innings. He can just throw for one inning and usually get away with it.

      • My only thought on why Price may have pulled LeCure is that today (Sunday) we have a pitcher starting who is normally a reliever making the start because of the Latos injury. He may be wanting to save as much of the bullpen as possible. Price obviously thought Hoover could get it done, as did many of us. If LeCure goes 2 innings to get the save he is not available for Sunday, a day when the bullpen may be heavily used. That would be my thought process of it.

  6. Absolute horrible decision to take LeCure out of the game, that’s 2 games now Price has lost due to bad bullpen management, especially concerning Sam’s use. Votto with a really bad play in the 9th, dumb move. GET THE OUT. Hoover was not good. Reds better turn this around, it could get ugly. Cards, Rays and Pirates, wow.

    • Josh, been saying season since the start of the season that this could get out of hand rapidly with how the schedule is stacked against the Reds in April. We may be talking about fishing as early as May 1st. Let’s hope not.

  7. Somewhere Dusty is probably smiling. I can’t really question Price for trying Hoover since the bullpen is so limited. But darn it, lots of the same issues as last year already. If this season does in fact go south then Castillini and Jockety are the ones most responsible.

  8. My biggest problem with Price today is that he specifically said he didn’t use Lecure in the first four games because he was waiting for a save situation (which I thought was dumb) and then today he has a save situation and he takes him out. That’s old school Dusty double talk right there. Inexcusable.

  9. There was nothing wrong with Price’s decision to use Hoover. There was a chance LeCure’s spot was going to come up to bat in the 9th so Price had to get someone up in case he had to pinch hit. He’s already said that once he gets someone up, he would rather use them then just sit them back down. Hoover has only pitched once this year and he needs work too – he’s also been very good in the closer role in the past. This early in the season, it’s smart to use guys as sparingly as possible and cycle through your healthy relievers, especially in a situation where you can actually use the guys you want to use in the spots you want to use them. It’s not like he brought in Trevor Bell.

    My only managerial knock on Price today was insisting on bunting in the 8th after Heisey led off with a double. Pure, old school Dusty-ball. There was no risk of a double play and I would have much rather seen Bernadina swing away in that spot.

    • Normally I would agree with you on the bunting situation, but I keep having to remind myself that the next hitter is our leadoff guy. That’s the saddest part of it all, you would hope that a position that should be the pinnacle of OBP could get a guy to third without having to resort to the sacrifice, but hence we have our problem. I miss Choo.

  10. Lecure is the best pitcher in the pen right now by far. You use your best in that situation.

    • Bottom of the Mets order? No reason to think Hoover wasn’t a perfectly good option there – again, especially given Price’s statements about not wanting to get guys up and then not use them, which I think in the long run is a smart philosophy that will keep the pen fresher. I would have been fine leaving LeCure in and the only other guy I would have been ok with was Hoover. There was nothing wrong with that move.

  11. He had just said he didn’t use Lecure in the first four games because he was saving him for a save. If Lecure had pitched in the Cardinals series too I would have understood a little more. It was the wrong decision. I wouldn’t trust Hoover at all. That’s just me.

    • You wouldn’t trust Hoover at all? Why not? Hoover has been very good and has saved games. I actually don’t know the last time LeCure was used in a closing role. Not that I’m not confident he could do it, but Hoover has been held up as the guy who should be closing if Chapman was moved to the rotation for the last 2 years. If you can’t trust Hoover to face the bottom of the METS lineup in a 1 run game, I don’t know when you would use him. Hoover is a very good pitcher.

        • I know he’s done it, but it’s never been a normal role for him. Again, I’m sure he could do it, especially against the bottom of a weak lineup, but I just don’t see the dust up over bringing Hoover in. 9 times out of 10 Hoover gets through that inning without a hiccup and no one bats an eyelash at the managerial decision. He just had a really bad day.

      • Read that last line again. I don’t fault Price either but Everyday JJ is a long ways from being an established set-up man, let alone closer. But I do side with you and really thought bringing Sam in to face the middle of the Met lineup was inspiring. DB would never used his best available reliever in the eighth – just no way.

        What do you guys say, let’s give Price and Hamilton one more game?

        • Charlotte, last season you were always the one to steady the ship – and as you are no doubt saying, maybe everyone should simply remember (myself included) – that the Reds have only played 5 games. The best teams go through rough times – maybe the Reds turn simply came early.

        • Pete Rose already asked, but: “Hey Charlotte, is that you ?”

          If Sam was Dusty’s 8th inning guy for a game, Dusty would have brought him in regardless of who was up. But yes Price has already shown himself to be way different from Dusty in his use of the pen, such as bringing in Parra to pitch a full inning against the Cardinals with two RHed hitters leading off. Over the course of the season, I believe his handling of the bullpen will be a strength.

      • Hoover is a decent pitcher. Very good is stretching it. I don’t care that Hoover has closed. Lecure is better.

        • I guess agree to disagree. In all honesty, were you upset to see Hoover come in in the 9th? I didn’t have a second thought about it until after the lead off walk. I really thought it made perfect sense given Price’s statements about bullpen management up until now and thought it was a perfectly logical move. Again, 90% of the time that move works out fine and we’re not even talking about it.

        • I do agree, though, that LeCure is a better pitcher. And he’s also the best long reliever we have in the bullpen even at full strength. But if you can’t trust Hoover in that spot it means that you believe we have ONE viable relief pitcher right now and that’s an awfully tough spot to put Price in to gain your support.

        • Yes I was upset when Hoover came in because the manager just told us today that he was saving Lecure for save situations (which is supposedly why he didn’t use him in the Cardinals game on Thursday. I trust Parra way more than Hoover.

        • Price said he was holding LeCure for the save situation in THAT game, not ANY save situation. I think it was an out of context quote, anyway. But if you would prefer Parra over Hoover then we are just on different wavelengths.

        • Eric’s point is well-taken, though: If Hoover can’t be trusted to pitch to the bottom of the Mets’ lineup, why is he even on the team? These things happen, and as bad as it was, it isn’t all on JJ: If Joey makes a good throw and gets the out, the situation changes. If more Reds’ liners fell in, the situation changes. It’s discouraging now, and it’s only 5 games. I’ll wait awhile longer–quite awhile longer–before I cancel my mlb.tv subscription.

        • Pinson, glad to see you back. Now let’s get this 2014 version of the Reds going before its too late (like in 2 weeks). In response to your comment, LeCure should have pitched the 7th in place of Bell on Thursday. Perhaps the results would have been different – and a lot more to Red’s fans liking. As we all already know, these games count as this isn’t the exhibition season anymore. And LeCure has started games so he can go for more then 1 inning, especially when rested. Old time baseball had relievers closing THE FINAL 3 INNINGS when a team had the lead. Now I like Hoover, but lets not get into too set of a pattern. We needed outs in the 9th and LeCure was locating in the 8th – so stay with him (don’t fix what’s not broken). Same old story though – as walks are often lethal. So what killed the Reds Thursday and Saturday – WALKS – as walks seem to kill a team’s chances every time – just like the Reds clearly demonstrated this PAST week. Now let’s get the new week going right before its too late – as it will definitely be challenging and tough sledding to be sure (would love to see the Reds take today’s game then return the favor to the Cards and leave St Louis 4-5 as anything worse could be catastrophic).

  12. It’s always tough when you lose tough games early in the season…seems like everyone is hyperfocused. Really, it’s just been a bad few games that has seen things not go the Reds way. The bullpen is a mess and that is to be expected given the injuries. The pen, as it stands, is just not very good. And this won’t be last time the Reds cough up a win.

    The team is going to have to score runs to get through this pretty tough opening stretch. Until the pen get it’s guys back, the offense is going to have to cover for them. I hope by Memorial Day, the Reds are somewhere around .500. Honestly, that may be the best we can hope for. Then we’ll see if there is enough talent here to make a run for the post-season. I’m not convinced there is based on last year and the “keep the same team together” attitude from the front office. I miss Choo.

    • There certainly still seems to be the disturbing trend of only being able to score runs via the long ball. All but 2 runs so far this year have been scored on home runs. I love what I’m seeing from Frazier and I think Joey is going to have a monster year, but that just can’t be the primary way you produce runs.

    • Teams can lose their way in April rendering their at one time promising season futile. Hope this 2014 version of the Reds doesn’t meet the same fate.

  13. If we don’t get some pop in the offense to get runners in who are in scoring position, it could be wait till next year by Memorial Day.

  14. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Reds play as many games as possible to start the season, in Arizona, California and Florida. So far you couldn’t ask for crappier weather to play baseball in.

  15. On the bright side, Cueto hasn’t missed a beat.Two seven inning starts, three total earned runs allowed.He also found some K magic.

    Just some bad luck on the W-L though. He allowed 3 runs in 14 innings, 0-1… Felix Hernandez allows 3 runs in 14.1 innings, 2-0.

    • Cueto didn’t get touched for a hit until after 60 pitches. Yeah, I think he’s back. The one thing I’ve always been concerned about is a pitcher trying to be too fine when his team has established they left the bats in the clubhouse when it’s his turn to pitch. It has to be frustrating to think that if you give up a solo shot you just gave up the game.

    • Yea, and Cueto’s almost 0-2 with an ERA under 2.00. Let’s go talk to Steve Carlton about that one.

  16. The last 4 home runs (of 9 career total) Hoover has allowed have been Grand Salamis. All of them have been in the last calendar year, three of them since late August of 2013.

    I think he walks too many and gives up too many long flies in leverage situations to be pitching at the end of games at this point in his career.

    • Ohio Jim – bulls eye my dear Red’s fan. Hope Price is simply feeling his way as he’s been a major disappointment so far. Instead of 1-4 Reds should be 3-2 (Thursday and Saturday should have been Ws – that’s on Price). So sad.

      • Oh come on…We lost the 3rd Cards game because Homer was awful all day and we lost yesterday because Hoover had a very bad day. Neither of those were on Price. You don’t KNOW that LeCure would have come in and had a clean inning yesterday and given how weak our current bullpen is you can’t let Homer off the hook for not being able to hold onto a 3-0 lead and getting through more than 5 innings. You just gave that guy $100 million. Price is in a HORRIBLE spot right now with the pitching staff due to injuries – that’s what’s losing games. That and an inept offense, especially up front. And give Price credit, it only took him 3 days to start making changes to the top of the lineup to try and help that. Dusty wouldn’t be doing that yet. Heisey could earn himself a starting spot for a while with a good game today.

  17. I’m not heavily invested in this year’s team. They lost their second best hitter from a team that wasn’t good enough to win the series, and are starting in his stead a rookie everyone agrees will have trouble getting on base. It is going to take magic for this team to put together a run, and even then the Cards seem to have their number anyways.

    And if it turns out the Reds are out of this race early, and Jocketty doesn’t start making smart moves, then Jocketty should be shown the door, with prejudice.

    • It pains me to say it; but right now this team shows plenty signs of being on the edge of slipping into early oblivion.
      Even with the pitching they have and allowing for an early return of Latos and Chapman (which may actually be more important to the pen than the rotation because it will return Simon to the pen), I don’t see them having the offensive pieces to dig themselves out of much of a hole.

        • Oblivion is a process. You wake up one day and find yourself there and wonder why. Sort of like the frog put in the pan of cold water on the stove under low heat that fails to realize the impending peril and ends up well done.

          Maybe a cross sport reference works, last season the Columbus Blue Jackets were arguably a top 5 team in the league over the last six weeks of the strike abbreviated season but found themselves on the outside looking in because they were a bottom 2 or three team over the first six weeks. That was an exciting oblivion but in the end, the result was the same.

      • But good point about Simon’s return to the pen. He was especially missed in that 7-6 loss to the Cardinals.

    • I agree. Too many runners left in scoring position and the GM did little in the off-season to fix it. If the Reds finish back of the Cards, Pirates, and even the Brewers, then it’s time for the owner to make changes in the front office.

  18. I feel like I’m on both sides of the “Can anyone decent close” debate. It’s not easy to come in with that 1 run lead to protect in the 9th, especially on the road. (Right, also not easy in the 8th inning, and LeCure had the tougher job yesterday.) Hoover was overthrowing because he felt the pressure, we’ve all seen that sort of thing a 1,000 times. On the other hand, I’ve noticed that Hoover comes back well from bad outings and I’d expect him to have an about average measure of success if he were a regular closer. He’d adjust.

    In any case the “Hoover as closer” discussion is not too relevant as Broxton will be coming back soon and I believe Price will mainly use him to close. If Broxton is healthy he might be OK, it remains to be seen.

    • I would rather have Lecure than Broxton too. Look, I like what Price has had to say about using the bullpen I just think he went away from it yesterday. There was no reason to take Lecure out yesterday. He said through the 8th. Leave him in.

      • LeCure’s biggest talent is being an elite long reliever. The last thing in the world I woudl want would be for Price to start thinking of LeCure as a 9th inning guy. Because let’s be honest, even in situations when LeCure could easily be counted on to pitch the 8th and 9th (like yesterday) you’re still going to pinch hit for a reliever 100% of the time late in a close game, which means that there are plenty of times you’re still going to be relegating a late inning reliever to one inning of work based on what happens on offense. I’d much rather have LeCure be the floating reliever who can be brought in WHENEVER in high leverage situations and especially in situations where the starting pitcher is imploding early and we know we need 3-4 innings of relief. That’s going to happen with Cingrani and Leake and occasionally with Homer – possibly with Cueto if he can’t nip the injury bug.

        • “I’d much rather have LeCure be the floating reliever who can be brought in WHENEVER in high leverage situations and especially in situations where the starting pitcher is imploding early and we know we need 3-4 innings of relief.”

          This is exactly correct! Just like the 7th inning of a one run game and LeCure hasn’t made an appearance dueing the 1st 3 games, but no, Bryan summons Bell from the bullpen. Just like bases loaded and no outs in the 7th inning of a one run game and LeCure hasn’t pitched at all during the 1st 3 games, but no, Bryan summons Ondrusek from the bullpen.

          LeCure was loose and pitching effectively. He pitched a very efficient inning in the 8th. The problem with replacing LeCure with Hoover to start the 9th inning, is there is no one left to bail out Hoover if he gets in trouble. If LeCure starts the 9th inning and gets in trouble, Hoover is ready and waiting to bail him out.

        • I don’t disagree with you Shichi, but I’d argue that facing the bottom of the Mets lineup in a clean inning isn’t a particularly high leverage situation. But that argument has been done to death in this thread. I agree that LeCure should have been used in the Cards series and I don’t know why we went with Ondrusek there or why we stuck with Bell Friday. I still think possibly LeCure wasn’t quite right when they got him up on Opening Day. But who knows. Price is still getting his legs under him, but I don’t blame him for those losses. They were all on the players for not executing.

  19. I still don’t get the general love for Hoover on this site, especially from some of the mods who are usually very cognizant of advanced metrics. Hoover isn’t terrible by any stretch, but his ERA doesn’t say that much about the numbers he’s going to put up over the long run.

    Here’s his ERA/FIP/xFIP for the last two seasons.

    2.09/3.19/4.40
    2.86/3.47/3.97

    He is an extreme flyball pitcher (career 29% ground ball rate) who walks a lot of people (career 3.86 BB/9). Does that sound like a good mix to you? He’s had abnormally high strand rates both of the last two seasons, low BABIPs, and low HR/FB rates. Every single one of those things would tell you that he is due for regression.

    This is not the guy I want being put into the closer role.

    Give me LeCure any day.

    3.14/2.90/3.40
    2.66/2.97/3.32

    More ground balls, fewer walks, just as many Ks, and no red flags that would make you think that he’s anything but what he’s done so far.

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