2010 Post-Season / 2010 Reds

NLDS Preview: Starting Pitching

The National League Division Series matchups are set, and it’s time for Redleg Nation to begin our series of previews of what is sure to be a fun series against the Philadelphia Phillies. We’ll start with the pitchers.

Game One matchup: Roy Halladay vs. Edinson Volquez

What can you say about Roy Halladay? He’s the best starter in the league, and should be a unanimous choice for the Cy Young Award. For the season, Halladay posted outstanding numbers across the board: 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 165 ERA+, 7.9 K/9 (his highest in nine years), 7th All-Star Game appearance).

Are you scared yet?

In two starts vs. the Reds in 2010, Halladay was 0-1 with a 2.12 ERA. Back on June 30, Halladay took the loss in a 4-3 Reds win, going 8 innings and giving up all four runs on thirteen hits. Just when the Reds thought he might be human, however, Halladay tossed nine shutout innings against Cincinnati in that remarkable game where Travis Wood almost spun a perfect game.

Regardless of the opponent, Halladay is the favorite. Dusty Baker has chosen Edinson Volquez for that task. It was a surprising choice, to say the least. Sure, Volquez won 17 games a couple of seasons ago, and when he is on his game, Volquez’s stuff is as electric as anyone you’ll every see.

However, Volquez has been a mixed bag since returning from Tommy John surgery in mid-season, posting a 4-3 record with a 4.31 ERA. There is no question that Volquez has gotten increasingly better as he has gotten a few starts under his belt, and you have to believe that is why Dusty is entrusting him in this key spot. In his last four starts (since returning from a brief stint in A-ball), Volquez posted an ERA of 1.95 and held opponents to an OPS of 441. His control in that time has been markedly better, as well; hopefully that’s a result of Cincinnati fixing some perceived mechanical flaw, as they claimed.

Certainly, Volquez will have to have good command if he hopes to compete with Roy Halladay. If the Reds can just get six good innings from Edinson, I’ll be very, very happy.

Advantage: Philadelphia

—–

Game Two matchup: Roy Oswalt vs. Bronson Arroyo

Since coming to Philadelphia in a mid-season trade, Roy Oswalt has been nothing short of brilliant. In thirteen starts, Oswalt is 7-1 with an ERA of 1.74 and an ERA+ of (an almost unbelievable) 232. As if those numbers weren’t absurd enough, Oswalt has been a Reds-killer for years; in his career, he’s 23-3 against Cincinnati with a 2.81 ERA. Ouch.

Want a silver lining? Well, 2010 was the year that the Reds finally broke the Oswalt jinx. In two starts, Oswalt went 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA. Of course, while this version of the Reds finally showed an ability to hit Oswalt, let’s not discount the fact that Oswalt has never faced the Reds with Philly’s mighty lineup behind him.

The Reds will send Bronson Arroyo to the mound to face Oswalt. Many of us assumed that Arroyo would be the Game One starter, mostly because of his veteranniness (and Dusty loves that veteranny goodness). He’ll go in Game Two, and he’s certainly the Reds’ most interesting starter. Arroyo went 17-10 this year with a 3.88 ERA, posting his sixth straight season of 200+ innings pitched. It’s a good season, and one that will likely earn Arroyo another year in Cincinnati (I expect the Reds to pick up his contract option for 2011). Arroyo didn’t face Philly this season, and for his career, he is 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA over 8 games (7 starts).

What should we expect from Arroyo? I never know what to expect. Over the last two seasons, Arroyo’s K/9 ratio has dropped precipitously, yet his ERA’s have gotten better and he’s been just as effective as ever. I have no idea whatsoever how he keeps on doing it. I just know that it’s fun to watch.

Arroyo shouldn’t be fazed by the bright lights of October, since he’s the only Reds starter who has been there before (and he has the World Series ring to show for it). I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pitch a gem on Friday evening.

Advantage: Philadelphia (but it’s closer than you’d think for reasons I can’t explain)

—–

Game Three matchup: Cole Hamels vs. Johnny Cueto

After a disappointing 2009, Hamels bounced back nicely to post a 12-11 record with a 3.06 ERA and an ERA+ of 132. He’s as tough a third starter as you’ll find, and he has had success in the playoffs as well. Hamels is the only lefty starter that either team is likely to send to the mound in this series.

He’s only pitched once against the Reds in 2010, back in July during that awful pre-All-Star Break series in Philadelphia. On July 11, Hamels went 8 innings to get the victory in a 1-0 game, giving up no runs (obviously) on six hits over 7.2 innings.

In his career against Cincinnati, Hamels has started seven games, going 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA. (Gulp.)

Johnny Cueto has been the best starter for the Reds this year, going 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA, and an ERA+ of 110. Cueto took a huge step forward this year (remember, he’s still only 24 years old), and he’s going to be fun to watch for years to come.

In two starts vs. Philly this year, Cueto posted a 1-0 record with a 1.20 ERA. Back on June 28, Cueto got the win, going 8 innings and giving up just one run on six hits. On July 8, Cueto got a no-decision against Philadelphia, but he pitched seven strong innings, giving up just four hits and one run.

One interesting note: Cueto has been a substantially better pitcher at Great American Ballpark this year, and his Game Three start will be at home. This season, Cueto is 6-3 over 15 starts at home, with an ERA of 3.20. On the road, Cueto is 6-4 with a 4.10 ERA in sixteen starts. Most surprising: Cueto has given up more than twice as many homers on the road as he has given up at homer-happy GAB (13 on the road, 6 at home).

Advantage: PUSH (yes, perhaps that’s a bit optimistic)

So there you have it. When it comes to the starting pitchers, even a charitable assessment would state that the Phillies have the stronger group. Later, we’ll break down the rosters further to see how the teams compare.

44 thoughts on “NLDS Preview: Starting Pitching

  1. Nice analysis.

    I’m excited to see how these guys do on the big stage against the Phillies tough lineup. I wish we had some left handed starting pitching to throw against them.

    With the off days spread throughout the series, the Reds starters really are looking at getting through 6 innings, maybe not even that many with Travis Wood and Homer Bailey waiting to go out there.

    I hope Baker uses the bullpen (and pinch hitters) more aggressively because of the schedule.

  2. I’m surprised you haven’t linked it yet, but Baker signed his extension.

  3. So, just so I have this straight… Wood pitched against Philly once, taking a no-no into the 9th, and allowed 1 hit, no walks, and no runs, while striking out 8, and he is NOT going to pitch? Interesting.

  4. I think Game 2 is a wash. If we’re just looking at the pitching matchups, anyway. Oswalt isn’t a different pitcher just because he’s in a different uniform, and the Reds have done very well against him lately.

  5. Oswalt’s last four starts against the Reds (since 5/26/10):

    W L ERA G IP H ER HR BB SO
    0 4 6.65 4 23 30 17 5 7 18

    I like those numbers.

  6. Count me with David that I am surprised Wood is not pitching given all the LH hitters Philadelphia has. I wish there was a stonger explanation than just “he is a rookie”.

    Smart move having Cueto pitch in GAB though.

    • Count me with David that I am surprised Wood is not pitching given all the LH hitters Philadelphia has. I wish there was a stonger explanation than just “he is a rookie”. Smart move having Cueto pitch in GAB though.

      How about that the Phils are a better hitting team against lefties than righties?

    • Count me with David that I am surprised Wood is not pitching given all the LH hitters Philadelphia has.I wish there was a stonger explanation than just “he is a rookie”

      How about he’s 23 and thrown over 200 innings?

  7. @David: But don’t worry, he can come in for some suberb relief if the bad Bronson shows up. Then he’ll be qualifed to pitch in the playoffs next time around… because there will always be a next time.

  8. I am kind of surprised about Wood not getting a start. I think that Hernandez/Hanigan will be key, given the fact that Cueto and Volquez can get rattled easily. It will be up to them to go out to the mound and calm them down.

  9. @Chris Garber: Chris, I don’t see it. I mean, Oswalt is not 2 points better in ERA or whatever post trade (his peripherals are very close), but even in his not great Astro time, he is better than Arroyo. I’m not putting much stock in the vs Reds numbers, same as I don’t really care that Hamels is 6-0 with a 1 ERA vs the Reds lifetime. Playoffs are different.

    The Phils have the pitching advantage in all three games—but we knew that, and they’d have such an advantage against any team they play, except perhaps Cain vs Oswalt in a game 2. Anything can happen. The Reds just need to string together a few good games.

  10. I might be overthinking this, but Volquez against Halladay makes sense to me. Flip a coin and if Volquez has his stuff that day, he has as good a chance as anyone on our staff to win it. If he doesn’t, we concede the first game and have our #1 and #2 guys against their #2 and #3.

    The Phillies have an obvious pitching advantage, as Dave says, no matter who they play. But we can all see none of them are gimmies. This is why they play the games.

    • Jared:

      I might be overthinking this, but Volquez against Halladay makes sense to me. Flip a coin and if Volquez has his stuff that day, he has as good a chance as anyone on our staff to win it. If he doesn’t, we concede the first game and have our #1 and #2 guys against their #2 and #3.

      This makes complete sense to me.
      I said roughly the same thing the other day about why I liked Volquez pitching game 1. You’re not going to beat Halladay by being solid, you need to be brilliant. Volquez is our best chance at a brilliant performance, even if he’s also our best chance for a terrible performance.

      Volquez in game 1 sets up an Oswalt- Arroyo matchup in game 2. Having the Phillies behind him does not make Oswalt a better pitcher against us. Good Bronson can beat him.

      If we win one in Philly, we’re in good shape. And I like pitching Cueto at home for Game 3.

      BTW Volquez pitched 7 shutout innings in Philly in 2008.

  11. Hamels scares me most of the 3 starters for some reason. I believe we have Oswalt’s number now and I feel the Reds will be focused on beating him.

    Halladay will be making his first post-season start on Wednesday. I think if the Reds can score an early run, we’ll be ok in that game.

    But it seems to me that Hamels has always caused the Reds fit. Perhaps I am just imagining that. I said it somewhere else before, but if the Reds can just take 1 of the first 2, I’ll be extremely happy. GABP should be rocking if the series comes back tied.

  12. @Chris Wilson: I agree, Hamels is the new Oswalt in terms of being a Reds killer.

    My best hope for that game is that Bruce seems to be hitting lefties really well, and that Phillips, who can be a lefty-killer, seems to have healed.

  13. I know it comes down to starting pitching in the post season, but if the Reds bats show up and the Reds get 10+ hits in any game. I like their chances better than anyone in the post season, stats don’t lie.

    I also think that the “kids” will be ready for the big time games, the ones that count. Rolen and O-Cab will make sure these boys are ready bc they don’t have many more years to get another ring and they know what it takes…

    BELIEVE PEOPLE!

    They have the right tools in place to make a deep run, and I really do like their chances bc it has been too long to just give up now. Their not called the come back kids for nothing!

    GO REDS!

  14. @Dave Lowenthal: Why no stock in the head-to-head numbers? Sample size, sure. But Earl Weaver said those were the only numbers he really paid attention to.

    Also, “playoffs are different?” How so?

    • Al:

      Finally, someone else noticed!From Fox Sports breakdown of the series:“The Phillie lineup has been notably less effective against right-handed pitching this season, and against Cincy they’ll likely be facing all right-handed starters.”http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/breaking-down-the-MLB-divisional-series

      I noticed when studying the Phillies hitting stats that as a team they’ve hit lefties better. For one thing, their big LHed boopers, Utley and Howard, haven’t had such good years (by their standards) and have not hit righties that much harder than they’ve hit lefties.

      • @pinson343:

        Al:
        I noticed when studying the Phillies hitting stats that as a team they’ve hit lefties better. For one thing, their big LHed boopers, Utley and Howard, haven’t had such good years (by their standards) and have not hit righties that much harder than they’ve hit lefties.

        How about this:
        2010 Phils vs lefty starters .260/.330/.411
        vs righty starters .260/.333/.414
        Their line vs power pitchers: .219/.329/.341

  15. To me the key factor here that most people look past because you can’t put a number to it is EXPERIENCE. No matter what you say, playing in the playoffs is light years different then the regular season and multiplied in a 5 games series. Right now, I think going into the playoffs the Phils are the team to beat on both sides. They have come in playing well and have incredible talent on both sides. Their issue will be health. Their key players all have suffered from game missing injuries and could impact their play. Nothing is 100%, but we really need game 1 as it will then change the whole series, a loss there and i fear a sweep by the Phils.

    • but we really need game 1 as it will then change the whole series, a loss there and i fear a sweep by the Phils.
      Reply

      Personally, I think game 2 is the key. I would love to take game 1, but they’ve been there done that and we are going to be jacked up and facing the presumptive Cy Young Young winner. But if we can settle in and take game 2, we will have shifted home field advantage and can come home with the momenum. Believe!

  16. “Hamels scares me most of the 3 starters for some reason.”

    How about: He’s a lefty, and the ‘weakest’ of the rest of the rotation we are likely to face. That’s been the recipe for tough games for the Reds for years.

    Also, I like Jared’s logic for the starters. If we get the best Volkie is capable of, he matches up best with Halladay. If not, then we still have our 1 and 2 up next.

    What is also very interesting is that both parks are hitter friendly.

    We all were hoping for meaningful baseball come September. Now we have meaningful baseball in October. This is the first year my son is able to really begin to appreciate baseball. I am so thrilled to be sharing this with him. When I was his age, I began playing baseball myself. It was 1975. It was easy to appreciate being a Reds fan at 8. I only hope this is his opportunity as well.

  17. @dn4192: Why did the Braves win only 1 WS in 14 tries if playoff experience is so valuable?

    The Rays were never in the post-season and then went to the WS their first time, and lost to a Phils team that also had very little playoff experience. How did the Sox lose to the Rays

    Personally, I think these guys have played in enough big games that the experience factor is negligible.

  18. When do we usually find out who wins MVP? Like in a few weeks or after the WS?

  19. We have to face the reality that the Phillies pitching will likely keep the Reds offense from getting on a roll. The exception would be in the event we can get into their bullpen in the 6th or 7th innings — tough against those starters.

    We need to take advantage of the opportunities we get and hope that we can get a key big hit — like Bruce’s home run off of Halladay to win the game in GABP.

    Our pitching will have to keep the score low, because we’re going to win games 3-2, 2-1, 4-3 etc.

    I believe the Reds can do it, but they’ll have to play their best. People have been underestimating us all year.

  20. I think most everyone here needs to have a few terms dropped on them, so…

    Sample Size

    AND

    Random Variation

    The Phillies are the favorites because they are the best team in the NL and their top three starters are exceptional. That said, the Reds were to hitting what the Phillies were to pitching this year, so this shouldn’t be a cake walk or anything. If I were to bet, I’d probably bet on the Phillies, but I’ll be rooting for the Reds. One thing I will not be doing is worrying about how they are bad when they face weak left-handers or how the Phillies have Reds killers or something silly like that.

  21. I’ll be honest, I feel like Billy Beane in Moneyball right now; as nerve wracking as the regular season was for me, I really believe the playoffs are a crapshoot. Even if we are three-and-out, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

  22. @Steve: I think we’ll have a chance to get into their bullpen in games 2 and 3 if the Reds are patient.

    The problem with Halladay is he pounds the strikezone so much that you can’t really afford to be patient cause you’ll be hitting 1-2 all night. That’s why he can throw 250 innings in a year. He threw about 14 pitches per inning, where Bronson and Oswalt threw about 15, and Cueto about 17.

    Really, in game 1, baring a meltdown of some sort, Volquez and the pen are just going to have to dominate for us to win.

  23. I know Arroyo has been solid for a long time, but realistically going by match-ups, he is 4th in the line for match-ups against the Phils. I think the best match-ups goes 1. Wood, 2. Volquez, 3. Cueto, 4. Arroyo.

    Bronson just hasn’t been that good against LH and the Phils best hitters are all LH.

    Interesting enough, Wood gets left off the roster when he is the best match-up against them and nearly pitched a perfect game against them…all because he is a rookie.

  24. @Chris Garber: No one gets a day off in playoffs. I don’t know who played when, but let’s just say no one on the JV squad will be playing for the Reds in these games.

  25. @dn4192: The proof of this is….well, actually, there is no proof whatsoever. How in the world did the Reds win in 1990…in a sweep? Against a team in the WS for its 3rd straight year?

  26. Experience doesn’t hurt, but it never helped the Braves. It didn’t hurt the Marlins or the Angels.

    Phillies have a shot to go down as a big club, if they were to go and win it all, going to three straight series, that puts them up with a bunch of classic clubs. I hope they choke on it as that fathead Bill Conlin is already saying this club is better than the Big Red Machine (and them’s fighting words to me). I’d like to see the Reds sweep them into the dustbin just for this alone.

    I do kind of see this years Reds having some parallels with that Angels club that won it all a few years back. That club was good at moving runners along with a solid lineup and really only one guy that had a huge year in Troy Glaus. They had some vets that had been in the bigs for a while, but no one with any real playoff experience. Their starters didn’t look eye popping on paper with Jared Washburn being their main guy and a rookie John Lackey being the key guys, but their bullpen was very good if unheralded (including late Sept call up K-Rod) and their closer being the dicest of the lot. Then again…they got Dusty in SF.

    But that was old Dusty, he is scarred but smarter now. :mrgreen:

  27. @Steve: If you normalize for schedule strength I’d guess there’s a 10 game difference there…at least. 10 games is huge. Let’s face it: the Phillies are a better team than the Reds. They played in a better division and they also played a tough interleague schedule.

    And it means little more than the Phils are the favorites, and it’s still a crapshoot. They can be taken down. It’s not likely as in it’s less then 50% chance, that’s all.

  28. It may not win the NLDS but I think every Reds player should read 3 Nights In August because I think it would help the psychology of a short series.

    Interesting breakdown of Cueto’s road performance this year:
    1st 3 starts- 1-0 5.40 ERA 15 IP

    Next 9 starts- 5-1 1.99 ERA 58 2/3 IP(8 of the 13 runs were in 1 start).

    Last 4 starts- 0-3 10.47 ERA 16 1/3 IP

    He allowed 8 runs in 1 start at St Louis and in another start at Milwaukee; in his other 14 road starts 2.69 ERA

  29. I watched the espn baseball tonite Reds-Phils breakdown, and it was a lot more positive than I thought. Rather than just “Phils win in 3” they gave the Reds some credit.

    Garciaparra likes the Reds offense and their all-around strength (defense, bullpen, etc.) and said that as underdogs they’re “a very dangerous team.”

    Kruk, who of course is a big Phils fan, said that Volquez and Cueto are pitchers who could give the Phils trouble, in that (when they’re on) they throw pitches that look like strikes but aren’t. He feels the Phils are prone to chasing, especially with runners in scoring position.

    Bobby V. said the Reds and Phils have the 2 weakest closers of any of the playoff teams, and it’s going to come down to who can get that last out.

    One statement that they all agreed with surprised me: “The Phils are the best team, but the Reds play the best.” They were referring to the whole NL. I don’t think of the Reds as playing consistently as well as that, because of the base running blunders, defensive gaffes (Gomes in LF air mailing throws), etc.

    But we don’t watch the other NL teams every day, and apparently, relative to them, the Reds play an aggressive but tight game.

    Finally they said that hands down the Reds have the best defensive IF in the NL. The left side of our IF might be better (again in relative terms) than we give it credit for.

  30. @Dave Lowenthal:

    If you’re right and the Phils are effectively 10 games better than the Reds, September alone would account for 90% of this differential (Phils 21-6, Reds 12-15). I think it’s relevant to point out that the Reds entered September up by 7 games and never led by less than 5, while the Phils were 3 games back on Sept. 1 and had to approach each game with more urgency then the Reds did. While I don’t disagree that the Phils are better in theory and should be favored, I just doubt that the true difference between the teams is more than a few games.

    As a side note, the 1990 Reds were up by 5.5 games going into September, went 14-15 that month and never led by less than 3.5. They did OK after that despite their meager 91 wins.

  31. @GeorgeFoster: I had the same thought. In September/October, the Phillies played one makeup game against Denver, and 6 against the Braves. Granted, they went 6-1 in those games, but the other 23 were against teams 10 games out of first (or more). Against the scrubs, they were 17-6.

    In the same stretch, the Reds played 10 games against teams in contention (STL, DEN, SD). They went 2-8. Against the rest, 12-8.

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