Titanic Struggle Recap

Handcuffed, Again

Final R H E
Tampa Bay Rays  (6-5)
 2  6  0
Cincinnati Reds  (3-7)
 1  4  0
W: D. Price (2-0)   L:  J. Cueto (0-2)   S:  G. Balfour (3)
Box Score   |   Play-by-Play    |    Stats    |    Depth Chart    |    FanGraphs Win Probability

The Good

Johnny Cueto had far from his best stuff tonight. No matter. He gave the Reds another superlative performance on sheer guts, fighting his stuff, the Rays and the umpire for 119 pitches before turning it over to the bullpen. This is what an ace does. Brandon Phillips seemed unfazed by David Price, going 2-4, with a single and double after being robbed of an extra base hit in his first at bat of the night. BP also made another wonderful play in the field throwing out a runner going the other way in the 7th. It’s always a mystery how he can not only have enough juice on the ball to beat the runner, but make such an accurate throw while going headlong in the opposite direction–but Brandon makes it look routine. Devin Mesoraco had another extra base hit, showing signs that he just might be able to make a significant offensive contribution this season. Joey got his first dinger of the year, driving Price off the mound in the 9th.

The Bad

D.J. Reyburn. I don’t know whether it’s that much harder to call balls and strikes than we think it is, or whether there are politics at play that keep bad umpires working, but something is really wrong when you cannot get more consistent umpiring than what we witnessed tonight.  The whole affair behind the plate in blue was borderline incompetent.

The Ugly

Hamilton, Bruce, Ludwick and Frazier all went a combined 0-14, with 2 walks. Yes, it’s David Price. And yes, these guys have seen very little of David Price, but it looks as though other than a couple of players, no one can make adjustments as the game goes on. The inconsistent umpiring didn’t help, either.

Not so random thoughts …

Some of this is merely the ugly confluence of injuries and a difficult schedule. And it’s still early. But that doesn’t make it any easier to witness. Just as it seems that players are slowing making their way back (Mesoraco, Broxton), we get word that Mat Latos has pain in the flexor mass–otherwise known as forearm pain. It’s not the elbow, but it’s still a setback–and lord knows the Reds need Mat Latos ASAP.

The second-guessing of Joey Votto’s plate approach continues unabated by our fine TV announcing crew.

My Big Red Smokey Play of the Game: To cap the evening off, even the called strike three that ended the game was off the plate according to FoxTrax.

53 thoughts on “Handcuffed, Again

  1. I agree with pretty much everything here except the Reds needing Latos back ASAP. If they don’t score more runs, it doesn’t matter who they have pitching. Cueto has allowed 5 runs in 21 innings and the Reds are 0-3 when he starts.

    Mesoraco is back and looks great, but unless if they’re expecting Schumaker and Hannahan to come back and be All Stars, this is all the offensive power the Reds are really going to have all year save a trade. It doesn’t look like enough regardless the starting pitcher.

    • The real bright side with Latos coming back is Simon gets back to the bullpen replacing one of the AAA arms we have in there now. Latos coming back strengthens the rotation, and the bullpen.

      Who knows, if Simon has a few good starts maybe he could be traded for a bat

  2. I’ll go.

    I love Votto, no question. And I agree that we shouldn’t question his approach as much as we do. However, situation has to play a role. Against an ace like Price, with no outs and Phillips on second, I think his game plan has to be different than it is with nobody on base.

    It’s time for advanced stats to actually factor into decisions vs. being used to evaluate past performance. If there was a way to simulate scenarios, the league’s best hitter swinging at a strike with BP on second probably leads to a better result than a walk 9 times out of 10. Maybe 10 out of 10 with Votto’s current supporting cast.

    How do we get the advanced stats to validate that?

      • Do you think driving in runners is something easily turned on and off? If what you mean is “I wish he swung at anything close with a RISP,” then say it. As a corollary, that means you’d like Votto to be more like a .260/.320/.500 hitter with RBIs than a .310/.420/.500 type of hitter who lets his teammates have opportunities behind him.

        I see both sides, I really do. You want your best hitter to produce. I get it. But I just really, really wish folks (not you specifically) could understand that not making an out (which Votto does better than anyone in the league) is extremely important all the time. It leads to bigger innings and lowers the variance of runs scored from game to game. If you have a chance to reach base, you do it. Every time. In the long-run, you win out bigtime versus just hacking away at everything.

        Take tonight for example. Even though it didnt work out, the Reds got themselves into a position where a wild pitch, single, error, or a hit could tie/win the game. That’s all because of the patience showed by Bruce/Frazier/Mesoraco. If they would have hacked away, then basically you’re hoping A) contact is made (something like 80% likely) and B) the ball in play drops for a hit (something like 28-35% of the time) and C) that you string enough of those random events together to win. SURE! It happens, but if a pitcher doesn’t give you anything good to hit, walks can put your team in a significantly better position to win than just hacking away at everything close.

        • I understand all that. I just think that if Votto’s not going to function as a middle of the order hitter then he shouldn’t hit in the middle of the order. If he’s going to hit third instead of second he has to be more aggressive. This team will die on the vine if he isn’t.

        • I’m really torn, I am. I love the guy, and I respect his immense talent.

          However, baseball seems to be the one game that encourages the truly talented to be passive rather than aggressive.

          Insane talent should give a guy a huge edge. With Votto, however, it seems like he’s unusually passive…waiting for a 3-2 count, because he knows the pitcher will buckle more often than not, and he’ll end up on first base.

          The metrics say it’s the right thing to do, but are we so sure? If he’s one of the 10 best guys in the league at putting the bat on the ball, why can’t he routinely turn a 2-0 count into a distinct advantage?

          I realize many pitchers concede when they get to 2-0 vs Votto and throw nothing but junk after that, but it wasn’t the case tonight. Price grooved a couple, and Votto just watched. He ended up on first, but we all know what happened after that.

          I’m no longer sure his approach makes the most sense…

        • Y’know the world is upside down, when someone actually says they would rather have Votto have better “advanced stats” than knocking in runs to win the game.

        • Votto career stats with 2-0 count:: 407/.407/.750

          Votto career stats after 2-0 count: 364/.642/.679

          2013 “Passive” Votto stats with 2-0 count: .591/.591/1.136

          2013 “Passive” Votto stats after 2-0 count: 422/.691/.675

          Your subjective memory is failing you.

        • @ jdx19 – Well said.
          I think that those of us, or myself anyways, that are slowly coming around to these ‘advanced stats’ still have a part of our brain saying “the man (Votto) is being paid a QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS to drive in runs, hit HR ‘s and win us ball games – not draw walks!”

          I see both sides also.

          It’s just aggregating that we can’t score a few runs. Really, a few is all we need most games. Even with the injuries the pitching has kept us in most games so far this season.

        • I think I have to take both sides here. JDX19’s points are well-taken, but I see other things as well: Joey seems to strike out a lot for an elite, selective hitter. Simply getting on base, as opposed to driving the ball, may have reduced value on a team with few capable hitters to advance the runner (note I said “may,” because I surmise this, but don’t know it). Joey’s approach, either by design or as a by-product, often seems to have him batting with 2 strikes. He’s very good at this, of course, but he’s good because his approach becomes defensive. In sum, Joey, as he is right now and as he was last season, is a very talented hitter and an important piece of the puzzle, but he is not a hitter who is likely to carry a team, a la George Brett, Big Papi and so on. Bruce is the closest the Reds have to that sort of hitter, and valuable as he is, he has fairly prolonged stretches of abject futility. I’m a big fan of pitching and defense, both of which the Reds have, but even good pitching can be expected to give up 3–sometimes 4–runs a game, and the hitting at this point often can’t produce that or more. OBP is an important stat, but wins is a more important stat.

    • You can’t. Because even some sort of simulation has to have probabilities and weights. What will those be based on? Pure guesses? Nope; past stats.

      There’s no way around it. Predicting the future is hard.

      Ludwick and Bruce are major league hitters. If they can’t be trusted in runner on 1st and 2nd situations, then we have bigger issues.

      I love Votto and sometimes get frustrated with his patience, but my knowledge of math helps me sleep at night. Making an out is bad. If you have 3 balls, it’s enormously more likely to not make an out if you walk than it would be to try and put a ball in play. BABIP stats would suggest good hitters get out somewhere around 65% when they put the ball in play and have a contact rate around 85%. So, yeah. It’s the classic risk/reward scenario. Swinging leads to higher variance with a potential for higher reward, where as taking a walk decreases the variance for the batter following you while increasing the potential for higher reward.

      I think that was very rambly. Oh, well!

      • I hear you…and I know any models used to predict the future would be based on past stats. Makes sense.

        However, your comment about “if you have 3 balls…” skirts the issue a bit. Votto had a 2-0 count and then watched two perfectly good strikes go by. Furthermore, your numbers for good hitters are nice for reference, but Votto isn’t a good hitter; he’s a GREAT hitter. In fact, probably one of the league’s 3-5 best over the last 4 years.

        Wouldn’t you rather take your chances with him than streaky Jay Bruce (in the midst of a chilly one) and/or “major league hitter” Ludwick (nonsensically hitting cleanup while going 0/4 with 4 K’s)?

        • Good reply. Yes, I’d rather Votto be the one to be swinging than anyone else. I can admit that. Although, I think think Votto would provide less value if he stopped being the type of player he is currently. I know 2010 was awesome and all, but it’s possible that will be his best season ever.

          And I wasn’t watching the game until the 9th, so that’s why it seemed like I was skirting. ;)

          I was trying to give Ludwick the benefit-of-the-doubt. I don’t like him as a player, nor a cleanup hitter, but tonight excluded, he’s been one of the better hitters in 2014 thus far.

        • Those were perfectly good strikes, for David Price. They were as close to the edge of the strike zone as you can get without actually being out of it (http://brooksbaseball.baseballprospectus.com/pfxVB/pfx.php?s_type=3&sp_type=1&year=2014&month=4&day=11&pitchSel=456034&game=gid_2014_04_11_tbamlb_cinmlb_1/&prevGame=gid_2014_04_11_tbamlb_cinmlb_1/&prevDate=411&batterX=30)

          . Votto is a much worse hitter when he swings at pitches out of the strike zone. His strike rate more than doubles and his ground ball rate increases. Those pitches were close enough to his cold zone, that the walk was most likely a better result than what would have happened had he swung.

          Admittedly, the home run pitch was only slightly closer to the center of the strike zone, but it was about 2 to 3 mph slower and Votto had gotten to see the earlier pitches.

      • You have framed the conundrum very well. I don’t sleep well for many reasons, but to the degree that baseball is one of them, it is due to the Reds’ current 3-7 record. Having a team with stats champions only matters if the team wins. It is not any one player’s fault, but as a group they are not scoring, regardless of their stats.

    • Votto is on pace this year to hit 16 homers and drive in, what, 40 or 50 runs. I know, I know, runs are meaningless. Brandon is off to a pretty good start, by the way (twice as many hits as Votto last night, for example), in case you hadn’t noticed.

  3. If the Reds had gone out and traded for or signed a legitimate power bat, we wouldn’t be having a discussion about whether or not Joey Votto should be more aggressive.

    In the key at bat of the game, the Reds pinch hit for their starting shortstop, hitting a robust .034, with their backup catcher. This offense stinks, and management didn’t do one thing to improve it.

    • “In the key at bat of the game, the Reds pinch hit for their starting shortstop, hitting a robust .034, with their backup catcher. This offense stinks, and management didn’t do one thing to improve it.”
      *************************************************************************************************

      I think it is a major negative reflection on the team’s front office that the struggling incumbent at SS was essentially handed the job based on an injury abbreviated 12 game (38PA) trial which was his first MLB experience; and despite his marginal offensive performance in two full seasons since, they have yet to bring in any serious potential alternative for a look see or to attempt to push him for PT.

    • Brandon has driven in and scored for more so far this year. Last year Brandon knocked in 103 vs Vottos 73. Brandon scored only 80 vs Votto’s 101, that’s a net of 9 more runs (which is still how W-L are decided).

      • Apparently no power bat wanted to come. It is part of Walt’s job to make a player want to be in Cincinnati.

    • Blaming Jocketty for not signing Sizemore is the absolute worst kind of back seat driving. None of us know all of the dynamics of the situation and if he’d been signed and ended up on the DL the exact same people who are blaming Jocketty now would be whining about what a bad signing it was.

      • I agree it’s backseat driving, but name one move by Jocketty that has panned out lately. This team needs offense, and WJ has been impotent in his efforts(?) to improve the lineup.

  4. We can continue to disect Joey all day, and I happen to be in the camp that says he shouldn’t do anything different but he needs to be in the two hole, but I cannot be worried about him when the combined might of Hamilton, Bruce, Ludwick, and Frazier was a robust 0-14 and our starting SS has to be lifted so the backup catcher can hit for him. I am concerned that our starters will try to be too perfect due to no margin for error and frustration, shellackings, and injuries may follow. In short, TOS.

  5. This offense is really bad and will continue to be. We have no RH power bat. We have no SS depth

  6. Am I wrong or is forearm pain almost always a precursor to Tommy John surgery? I know I’m a glass half empty kind of guy but it seems to me that Latos is on his way to the OR. I’d rather see him get it done immediately so we can have him back for part of 2015.

    • Yeah, when I first read “forearm pain”, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.

      I really hope if that’s the case, they just go ahead and do the surgery right now like you said instead of spening months in the “rehab/setback” cycle before they figure it out.

      A bitter pill to swallow, but if you want a silver lining, it might make him more willing to sign long-term for possibly a little less than what he could have gotten had he not been injured.

      • Excellent point. I’d absolutely offer him a long term deal before the surgery. I think he’ll bounce back from this and be a valuable pitcher.

  7. Whether it had a bearing on the outcome of the game, who knows. MLB should be embarrassed at the skill level of the home plate umpire last night. In particular, Cueto and Ludwick have a legit beefs. Maybe it was just a bad night for D.J. Reyburn but it was appalling and takes away from the game.

    I am happily entering my fourth year at RL and I very seldom complain about umpiring but just had to today.

  8. Current standing…read them and weep. Milwaukee is 6-0 ON THE ROAD. Cincinnati is 1-3 AT HOME.

    NL CENTRAL W L GB STRK
    Milwaukee 8 2 – W7
    Pittsburgh 6 4 2.0 L1
    St. Louis 5 5 3.0 L2
    Chi Cubs 4 6 4.0 W1
    Cincinnati 3 7 5.0 L1

  9. A batter, Votto in this case, helps his team score runs and possibly help the team win by not making outs. His approach is unique to most pro ball players and has made him one of the best hitters in the game. He must rely on and trust in those who hit behind him to either not make outs or drive in runs. Because that trust in his team mates is bares no fruit, I refuse hold him accountable for their failure. Each batter behind him is responsible for his own production, and we should not forget that WJ is the architect of the team.

  10. Joey Votto will be batting… (wait for it…)

    …second in today’s lineup.

    ramsey.mlblogs.com/2014/04/12/votto-batting-second-todays-reds-lineup/

    • Votto batting second? Wow, that’s good news.

      I love Votto and love his skill-set, but he is mis-cast as a #3 hitter. I see him more as a Derek Jeter type, who I seem to recall spent a lot of his career hitting second.

      With Votto’s patience, Billy will have a lot more time to steal (if/when he ever gets on base…)

      Plus, Phillips had a pretty good year last year when given opportunities to drive in runs, so hopefully he can do that again this year. But I’ll be honest, I hope one of either Frazier or Mez can step up and become a true 3 hole hitter……

      Still, very positive move.

      • At least Bryan Price is willing to try something different. I applaud him for that. Dusty would NEVER have done that.
        With the way the Reds have struggled offensively, it is time to shake things up. Maybe getting the hitters in the right combination will help generate more runs.

        Of course, this is all mute if the guys behind Votto don’t produce.

  11. That ump needs to be replaced. There’s no way a guy who is that bad on balls and strikes should be handed home plate duties with two legit Cy Young candidates on the mound. That called first strike to Ludwick with two on and no outs changed the whole inning and thus the game.

    For those who, like our friend THOM! think the Cardinals are infallible, Molina struck out in a tie game in bottom of the 10th with runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs. (Imagine THOM’s! reaction if a Reds hitter didn’t advance the runners in such a situation. MERCY!) Then, Matheney let his closer bat with two outs and the walk-off run on 2nd. Predictably, he failed to get the run in. The fact he then gave up a 3 run homer to lose to the Cubs was less predictable, but almost as fun to watch.

  12. This lineup is one I can get behind. Now JV can walk to his heart’s content and BP can rack up the ribeyes he loves so much. Good to see Bryan Price starting to assert himself a little more.

    • If Billy holds up his end, JV will have a monster year and this may turn out to be one of the best #1 & #2 hitter combos in our lifetime. The daydreaming has commenced.

    • Only thing that concerns me about Votto batting 2 is Phillips batting 3 behind him with his propensity for GIDP. If Votto still walks and doesn’t go on a doubles tear like 2012, BP may lead the league in GIDP!

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