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The Runs of August

Don’t look now but your Cincinnati Reds have scored 5.2 runs/game in August.

Yes, it’s partly about facing mediocre pitching. Yes, it’s partly a product of improbable home runs. Yes, it’s just six games.

But remember the last two weeks of July when the Reds hit .191/.242/.287 and scored an average of 2.1 runs/game?

With Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto sidelined by injuries, it was inevitable that the Reds’ offense would take a step back. Sure, you can complain that Votto (.255/.390/.409, 127 wRC+) hasn’t been himself most of the 2014 season and that BP (.272/.308/.392, 92 wRC+) hadn’t found a way to escape the gravitational pull of aging. The issue nonetheless was the steep drop-off to the replacements.

But it’s not just that Bryan Price has had to write the names Schumaker, Santiago, Negron, Pena and Heisey too many times on the lineup card. A couple of his still-functioning Big Berthas – Jay Bruce (.094/.216/.125) and Todd Frazier (.180/.222/.240) – cratered for two weeks. His lead-off hitter produced .167/.163/.271 over that stretch. So there was plenty of blame to go around, not just the weak bench.

On the final day of July, the Reds seemed destined for a 1-0 loss in Miami, their eleventh in thirteen games. Zack Cozart had just been nailed easily at the plate for the third out of the eighth inning. Then miraculously, after a 6-plus minute video review and a follow-on two-run single by Ryan Ludwick, the Reds came back from the dead and departed to win 3-1.

Cue the runs, and hope, of August.

Of course, the Reds can count on starting pitching. With so much attention focused on the roller-coaster offense, not enough credit is paid to the steady, strong rotation. And there are cautionary positive signs with the hitting beyond improbable home runs. Jay Bruce has batted .296/.345/.407 in August. Todd Frazier doubled last night. Devin Mesoraco has five hits in three games and continues to pound line drives.

With all the twists, turns and tongue-lashings this season has provided, it’s anyone’s guess what the next ten games will offer. But each one is important. After the Reds finish with Cleveland tonight they play Miami and Boston at home, then Colorado on the road. Three teams with losing records and less-than-elite pitching.

After that, strap in. The Reds face the revamped Cardinals rotation in St. Louis and come home for four games against Wild Card rival Atlanta. After three with the Cubs, Bryan Price’s team heads up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh. That finishes August. And it’s about that time when Phillips and Votto may return for the stretch drive.

The Reds start September with three games on the road against the first-place Baltimore Orioles. Then they dive headlong into hand-to-hand combat with the three NL Central teams currently looking down at them. They’ll need every high caliber gun they can find.

18 thoughts on “The Runs of August

  1. Another great article. With how good the starting pitching is you really cannot count out the Reds until the season is over.

  2. I have this sneaking suspicion that if the Reds keep pace for those next 10 days, that Big Bob relents and goes out and gets a hired gun by the time that St. Louis series is upon us. I hope its a Dirty Harry or Josey Wales type of hired gun that carries a big gun. A .44 Magnum caliber bat. Then Big Bob can look at the rest of the NL Central and say, “I know what you’re thinking, punks. You’re thinking “did he fire six shots or only five?” Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this pennant excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun (bat) in the world and will blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punks?”
    Time maybe for Bob to earn that “Big” in front of his name.

  3. Do you really think Votto will come back this year? I have been assuming that he would, but after reading the John Fay article about his injury and the platelet treatments and what have you, I have serious doubts that he will.

    Unless he suffers a serious setback, I think BP will be back sooner than expected. He may provide more of an emotional lift than an actual offensive upswing, but his defense and spark will certainly be welcome. If the Reds could make it to the post season, he might start to get his timing back by then and be able to produce a few key hits.

    If the Reds are going to have any post season aspirations it will have to be the pitching that carries them there. Some on here have written them off multiple times, but only 4 games out with almost two months to go, anything can happen.

    • On another injury front, Ondrusek might be ready middle of next week. If so, who do you send out to make room? Hoover? Outside of him, I can’t think of a player I’d trust less than Ondrusek. Reading Price’s words, he sure has a soft spot for the big guy.

    • Michael writes,” but only 4 games out with almost two months to go, anything can happen” Agree that the pitching will make or break the season. Votto coming back and being productive is the same as a thirsty person dreaming of an oasis.

  4. After reading the most recent “Down on the farm” report and not seeing the progression of “bat” types along with mixed pitching results, and with a general decline in MLB offensive numbers I really think that the acquisition of Hamels from Philly would do more for the Reds long term (through 2018) that a rental bat.

  5. Steve writes “Jay Bruce has batted .296/.345/.407 in August.” As you would say “a small sample size” (6 days). Also as you put it ” less-than-elite pitching”. The idea that Votto may be returning and making valuable contributions in September is certainly positive but based on what you have posted before, more than unlikely (see Fays article). You are correct that the future August schedule offers the Reds a chance but it has to be better than .500 baseball. September is the whole season.

  6. This gets me all excited! I want to keep it in check, because whenever I get up, I am let down. That’s the beauty in sports. I will recycle the trite chant from the world cup and apply it the Redlegs. I believe that we will win!

    Is there a date when they think Votto and BP will be ready, or is it just at the end of the month?

  7. Steve: Excellent summary, as we have come to expect. Chris Welsh (actually, I think that it was George Grande and seconded by Chris) said something to the effect that Pena is certainly a candidate for team MVP, and I have to agree: He seemed to have regressed to his norm, only to pick it up again when the Reds really needed it, and has willingly played first (and pretty well, at that) and seems to be an upbeat and straight-ahead type of teammate when the whole works could have gone south.

    • Team MVP is SuperTodd (at least among position players), but I wouldn’t argue against Pena as a close runner-up!

  8. I feel like I should quote Gene Hackman in Hoosiers: “This is your team” The Reds are who is on this team. No one knows when Phillips will be effective this season and I do not expect anything from Votto. If this team plays well they will win, if not they will lose. The Cards, Brewers, Pirates and Braves are treading water, some more effectively than others. Some will step up and some will fall away. Let me add the Giants. Even if the Reds do not win the division, they will be the WC until the end. If Votto and Phillips are back and effective great; if not then too bad.

  9. As long as we are dreaming…. just imagine Votto coming back in September and hitting a game winning ground rule double that sends us to the playoffs. Cueto -Latos -Leake -Bailey sweep the playoffs with shutouts and we face off against Oakland in the World Series. We are given no chance by the press but in the end we Sweep Oakland in 4 with fantastic pitching and improbably hitting. Diaz-Broxton-Chapman provide automatic outs for the entire playoffs and they get labeled Nasty Boys version 2.0

    Just a dream… but dreams can make a person smile often times more than reality.

  10. The Reds got to get back to 7 over .500 as that is where they were at the break. They play themselves back to .500 since the break, then it’s on. Until they get there, they are way back. This is one season where you can think of 4-5 games that they let slip through. For as bad has things have gone this year, they really are only 3 games off the pace. They got to make up that ground first though.

    Kris Negron is playing like a player that doesn’t want to go back to AAA. Don’t know or think he will keep it going, but this is the guy’s shot really. He does well in this run, the Reds or someone else might give him a shot at making a club.

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