Series Preview

We will not go quietly into the night

Good morning.

The Milwaukee Brewers are in first place, seven games ahead of the Reds.

And we have a message for them.

Run Production

The Brewers Death Star is fully operational. And when they take time off from destroying planets, they can mash the baseball.

Among National League teams that don’t play their home games a mile above sea level, the Brewers are first in runs scored, first in power, third in weighted runs created and fourth in on-base-percentage. The Reds rank in the bottom half of the league in all those categories.

Milwaukee’s line-up is loaded with primary weapons. Carlos Gomez and Jonathan LuCroy rank third and fourth in WAR in the NL. Khris Davis and Ryan Braun are in the NL top ten in ISO (power). Two other players, Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds have double-digit home runs. Scooter Gennett, their lead-off hitter, has an on-base-percentage of .351.

1. Scooter Gennett (L) 2B
2. Ryan Braun (R) RF
3. Jonathan Lucroy (R) C
4. Carlos Gomez (R) CF
5. Aramis Ramirez (R) 3B
6. Khris Davis (R) LF
7. Lyle Overbay (L) 1B
8. Jean Segura (R) SS
9.

Run Prevention

The Reds have an advantage overall in starting pitching. In ERA, SIERA, K% and Swinging Strike Percentage, the Brewers rotation is well below average in the National League. The Reds are in the top half. But the match-ups for this series are pretty close, with a slight edge to the Reds.

Probable Pitching Match-ups

The Reds miss Wily Peralta (good) and Marco Estrada (too bad) in this series. The Brewers miss Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto.

Friday, 7:10 p.m.

Friday

A fairly even match-up of two veteran pitchers, Kyle Loshe and Alfredo Simon have strong ERAs that aren’t fully supported by advanced pitching metrics. Lohse has kept his strikeout rate respectable, although it’s below NL average. His control has been outstanding.

Lohse and Simon faced each other on May 4. Lohse gave up two runs on eight hits and a walk and struck out two in 6.1 innings. Simon gave up three runs in seven innings, and didn’t strike out a single Brewer. The Reds came back to score two runs against the Milwaukee bullpen and won in the tenth inning on a walk-off double by Todd Frazier that scored Chris Heisey, who had walked with two outs.

Saturday, 4:10 p.m.

Saturday

Matt Garza has been OK for the Brewers, but I’m sure they’d hoped for a starter with below-league-average ERA when they signed him to a $50 million/4 year contract this off-season. Homer Bailey is coming off his best start of the season, having shut out the Giants on three hits last Sunday. He threw 107 pitches over nine innings. After an April with a 6.15 ERA (.416 BABIP) he’s enjoyed two months of declining ERA, with a 3.35 mark (.279 BABIP) in his June starts.

Garza and Bailey squared off on June 13 in Milwaukee. Aided by four Brewer errors (this was the game that Garza threw the ball into the stands after fielding a sacrifice bunt), the Reds took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh. But the Brewers scored four runs off of Bailey and three hits off Sam LeCure. The Reds won in the top of the ninth when Billy Hamilton knocked in Zack Cozart, who had singled to start the inning.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m.

Sunday

Yovani Gallardo has been battling a decline in strikeout rate and swinging strikes. He barely misses any bats. But because of improved control, he has kept his ERA and ERA-forecaster stats within reason. Mat Latos will be making just his fifth start of the season, so his numbers really don’t mean much yet.

This is the third time Cincinnati will face Gallardo in 2014. The Reds beat him in May. In June, Gallardo and Latos were locked in an excellent pitching duel. It was Latos’ debut for the season and he shut the Brewers out for six innings, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, the Reds bullpen. Logan Ondrusek (who, of course, walked the first batter he faced), Manny Parra and J.J. Hoover gave up four runs in three innings in a game the Reds lost 4-2.

Bullpen

Francisco Rodriguez, who seemed on the verge of being washed up as a closer at the age of 30 in 2012, leads the major leagues in saves, with 27. His conversion rate is 90%, which is a little bit above league average. Aroldis Chapman owns a conversion rate of 89%. Will Smith (RH) and Zack Duke (LH, yes that Zack Duke) have been strong in the set-up role. Other members of the Brewers bull-pen have been mediocre, at best.

Conclusion

Happy Independence Day.

The Reds have won five out of seven games against Milwaukee this year. In both series, the Reds were close to sweeping the Brewers, so they know their opponent’s weaknesses. To win this weekend, the Reds will have to amass and deploy every weapon they can find, including crop dusters and mushy Canadian quad muscles.

Gentlemen, let’s plow the road.

14 thoughts on “We will not go quietly into the night

  1. Nice “Independence Day” reference.
    We will not go quietly into the night! We will not parish without a fight! We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today, we celebrate our independence day!

  2. “All of the offensive clubs have somebody [Joey Votto] in the lineup that sort of sets the example for what you’re after,” [Don] Long said. “He’ll certainly have many at-bats that start off 0-2 or 1-2 and end up with him on base. To have somebody in the lineup setting that example tells guys, ‘What does it look like?’ I think he’s one part of that.”

    This is the hitting coach Bryan Price hand picked for his staff. Never in 4 decades would such a quote have been uttered by anyone on the staff over the past several seasons. This is what Bryan Price brought to the Cincinnati Reds.

    Apparently Votto will remain active and in the lineup at least for the weekend series with the Brew Crew. The only weapon Votto has available right now is his OBP, his ability to work the count and get on base. He has no speed. He has no power. He can’t turn on the ball and pull it to right field. All he can do is get on base and work the count. As long as Votto is ion the lineup with such limited offensive capability, Bryan simply must utilize Votto in the #2 hole…please.

    Neftali is still biding his time in AAA and tearing the cover off the ball with regular playing time. Last night Neftali had two doubles and 1-BB in 4 PA raising his triple slash to .326/.381/.483 since getting regular playing time after being optioned to AAA. Felix Perez has also been activated off the DL and has is slashing .298/.352/.516 as a LH OF capable of playing all 3 OF positions. If Votto goes to the DL, Neftali deserves a shot at 1B with regular playing time and Perez deserves a chance as a utility LH OF after the release of Bernadina. Of course, Perez would require a move on the 40-man roster (thank-you for your service Logan Ondrusek).

    • Not sold on Soto. He’s raised his slash line vs AAA pitching – so what?. He has looked clueless vs Regular Season ML pitching, and not sure that will change. Hope I am wrong. It is disheartening to think that the Reds may yet again hope to catch lightning in a bottle from a AAA or AA player – it hasn’t worked in the past, and it isn’t a winning strategy.

      With this starting pitching staff, one more quality bat would make a huge difference. Be bold. Grab the brass ring. Make a deal for a hitter. You have to give something to get something. All of WJ’s in-season moves for a contending Reds team have been timid. I understand not wanting to make a bad trade, but timid moves don’t win championships.

    • Jesse, I fully appreciate your point regarding Neftali. The one caveat I would mention is his playing time and utilization against major league pitching. Neftali may not be an answer at 1B for 2014, but he is certainly the best internal option available, if he is utilized with regulatr playing time. Despite the recent run against the Giants, I still do not see the Reds contending in 2014. The collapse against the Friars just reenforces the gain a little lose a little play we’ve seen from the Reds in 2014. Injuries have taken their toll, but I just don’t see an extended, consistent run in the 2nd half of the season. I hope I’m wrong.

      Trading for a marginal bat will not provide the offensive benefit the Reds need and trading for a premier bat will require more in prospects than the Reds can afford for a run in 2014 that I don’t see materializing. Now 2015 is another story entirely. For the remainder of 2014, play the hand we’re dealt and prepare for 2015. Get Votto 100% healthy. If that means sitting and resting him the remainder of 2014 and rehabbing over the off season, so be it. Get Frazier and Mesoraco accustomed to shouldering the offensive load along wth Bruce for the remainder of 2014. Get Hamilton fully adapted to getting on base and running with efficiency from the leadoff position. Get a couple of starting pitchers signed to extentions. If the Reds manage that run to put them in serious contention, great, but don’t mortgage the future to do it. WJ may very well not be running the show after this season, so I would wait till the off season for any significant moves to bolster the major league roster at this point.

      • Couple of comments here. First off what Soto is has done in the last 6 weeks to two months a AAA is head and shoulders above anything Frazier was doing at the end of his similar extended AAA run. In 2012 Frazier had shown a few signs off the bench but it wasn’t until Votto went down long term and Frazier started seeing everyday action that he really made his mark. So never say never again.

        Secondly, In the little ~1 week run the Reds put on, they moved themselves into WC position, even if it was ever so briefly. Right now off the three game losing streak, they are -3 games with 3 teams to get over (2 in their own division and thus the Reds fate very much in their own hands) and a 1.5 game cushion to the next team behind them. So, while a team might not bet the farm on WC shot to the degree they would a shot at the division, I don’t think they just walk away from it either by posturing like they are playing for next year. .

        • BTW, the 3rd team the Reds would have to get over for a WC spot as of today is the Nats who the Reds play 3 times at GABP at the end of July. And that next team behind them in the WC, the Marlins are in town two series after the Nats. So the Reds are very much in the thick of the WC race.

      • I completely agree that Soto may be the best internal option available, and that maybe he will provide a serviceable bat – like Xavier Paul last year. Which is a big problem.

        I disagree with the idea of playing for 2015. Cueto, Simon, Leake, Bailey, and Latos appear to be in top form THIS season. You can’t predict the future, and I just don’t believe that the stars will align for the same performance from the Reds starters next year. Take advantage of this opportunity. Trade for a very good bat. If that costs Chapman and two good prospects, I say do it – 2015 be darned. I’d rather see a big move (risk) made now than fingers crossed that Votto can stay healthy enough to lead the team to the play-in game(play it safe – which is what appears the Reds are willing to do).

        Now if you’re talking about a team that is “gain a little – lose a little,” that’s a question of chemistry and leadership, and you can throw the last paragraph out the window. I wouldn’t go all-in on a roster full of head-cases. The 2010-2014 Reds have certainly had their share of moments where they haven’t appeared driven or focused, and the SD series was the latest gaffe. If you want to see change there, you need to move some major pieces – Bruce, Votto, BP, Cueto, Bailey – the players who have been here for all of that time. I’m not sure how well that would be received, but it might be necessary to change the dynamic.

        I say: take advantage of this team’s strengths right now. Change the chemistry this offseason if necessary, but only after going for it this year. We all saw what happened last year when management hoped that Ludwick could come back healthy – an outcome nobody liked. What Big Bob and WJ haven’t done in the time the Reds have been contenders is make a big addition midseason, and I believe that this team’s window is closing. The pitching prospects in the minors are just that: Prospects. Time to make a move, rest Votto for two weeks, and play for this year.

  3. With the immediacy of the current schedule and need for a serious run of victories combined with Votto’s season-lasting injury, Bryan has little to no wiggle room in putting the best team on the field in the best position to win.

    Votto will be limited in his offensive capability to a contributing role player in the lineup and that role will be getting on base. Votto will not be driving in runs or advancing base runners this season. He will hit very few doubles and probably no home runs the rest of the season. His hits will be almost exclusively to LF. Phillips has regressed on OBP & SLG for the past 4 seasons; he is NOT a middle or top of the order hitter at this point in his career. Unlike previous teams, the 2014 Reds have real alternatives for top of the order and middle of the order hitters. Hamilton (#1)and Votto (#2) have to hit at the top of the lineup. If the Reds are going to win, that’s the only place in the lineup where they can maximize their offensive contributions. Frazier (#3), Bruce (#4) & Mesoraco (#5) have to hit in the middle of the lineup where they can get on base and drive in runs by the boatload. Ludwick, Phillips & Cozart can clean up the bases from the bottom of the lineup with their aggressive, all-or-nothing approach at the plate. The 3-4-5 hitters will be getting on base enough to provide ample opportunities for the bottom of the order to drive in runs without killing rallies.

    Lineup construction might not have much offensive impact, but the margin of error for the Reds is so small now, that every advantage must be maximized if the Reds have any chance at a post season run.

    • Agree 100%. But it might take until September to see the lineup you suggest, if we see it at all.

      What would help more than proper lineup construction would be a LFer who can hit for both OBP and slugging pct.

  4. “In ERA, SIERA, K% and Swinging Strike Percentage, the Brewers rotation is well below average in the National League.” This is not surprising. The Cardinals and Reds have excellent starting rotations. Current stats don’t show how strong the Reds rotation is, because Latos has been out. (A lot of bad outings by Cingrani, pitching with a bad shoulder, are part of those stats.)

    In short, we will not go quietly into the night, and neither will the Cardinals.

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