2012 Reds / Titanic Struggle Recap

Titanic Struggle Recap: Better Latos than Never

Let’s recap today’s titanic struggle…

FINAL
Cincinnati Reds 5
Pittsburgh Pirates  0
WP: Latos (2-2, 4.93 ERA)
LP: Morton (1-3, 4.61 ERA)

BOXSCORE

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

POSITIVES

 While it took Mat Latos a half-inning to realize the calendar had turned from April to May, in his best game of the year, the 24-year-old from Alexandria, VA, struck out eleven (career high), gave up only two hits, and shut out the Pirates over six innings. More of this, please.

• Drew Stubbs scored three of the Reds five runs and got on base four times. His home run (3) drove in Zack Cozart who was clogging the bases after drawing a walk. Stubbs also had a walk, two singles and a stolen base. Someone ought to look into the question of whether there is a correlation between getting on base and scoring runs.

 Todd Frazier (.389, OPS: 1.365) made a solid case for playing time at Louisville with a home run, a double and another hard hit ball to right field that Jose Tabata stuck out his glove and caught on the run. Maybe most importantly, in the first inning, with the bases loaded and one out, Frazier dove to his right to rob Casey McGehee of an extra base hit, saving 2-3 runs. Marty initially announced that Scott Rolen had made the play. Later, Jeff Brantley described it as Rolenesque.

 JJ Hoover, (0.00 ERA) pitching in his hometown of Pittsburgh, continued to look sharp on the mound. He struck out two. The two runners who reached base on him hit routine ground balls. One reached on an error by SS Zack Cozart. The other, a single by Tabata, trickled over second base and barely into CF. Hoover had great command of both his fastball (94 mph) and breaking ball.

 Aroldis Chapman pitched 1.1 clean innings, with 2 Ks. He’s now thrown 14 2/3 innings without giving up a run. He’s allowed five hits. He has struck out 25 and walked only 4. He’s pitched more than 1 innings five times. Look! Up in the sky!

Reds pitchers struck out the Pirates 17 times.

 Clean-up hitter Brandon Phillips (.215) hit into a double play, but he hit from the right side of the plate.

 Key-situational hitter, Willie Harris (.086) weakly grounded out to 2B, but he hit from the left side of the plate.

• The Reds won the series against the Pirates 2-1 and moved a game back above .500 as they head to Milwaukee for a three-game series.

NEGATIVES

 Errors on routine plays by Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart. Less of this, please.

NOT-SO-RANDOM THOUGHTS

 Going into today’s game, Dusty Baker had a 335-339 record (.497) as manager of the Reds. It’s the identical winning losing percentage he had with the Cubs. Baker has managed 18 full seasons in a league of 16 teams and won one league pennant (2002, SF Giants).

• Friend and fellow Reds fan, Tony Liao, points out that with Chapman’s 10 consecutive scoreless appearances he only has 23 more to go to catch Arthur Rhodes.

 Top game thread comment (lookatthathat): Frazier is having himself a baseball game.

158 thoughts on “Titanic Struggle Recap: Better Latos than Never

  1. Just wondering here…it appears that the Cubs have DFA Blake Dewitt who I think is a left handed hitter, would it be better for the Reds to pick him up and DFA Willie Harris if we “must” have a LH bat on the bench?

  2. @CP: Does moving Mesoraco up in the order make an appreciable difference in the offense?

    Somebody has to hit 8th and that would either be the catcher, Rolen or the LF. Is there big enough “win” there for it to matter? As of today, yes … but by next Friday, maybe not.

    The issue now, I think, is whether we agree that Dusty’s overall patience with players is the proper approach.

    I buy more into a better hitting instruction philosophy but that is more difficult to evaluate because of the less discernible difference it might make over a longer period of time.

  3. @Johnu1: You make a good point—that most of the discussion on these threads is about whether Dusty should be patient or more aggressive. What I believe is the root of this issue is that most here feel he is far too patient with aging veterans and far less patient with young players. I guess we’re just looking for some basic fairness.

  4. @dn4192: I think DeWitt has been DFA twice this year. He was decent a couple of years back, apparently has fallen off the favorites totem. Can’t be worse than Harris but probably isn’t better.

    • @dn4192: I think DeWitt has been DFA twice this year. He was decent a couple of years back, apparently has fallen off the favorites totem. Can’t be worse than Harris but probably isn’t better.

      Dewitt has not impressed this year (only 29 ABS) but last year was not a total disaster – .266/.305/.413/.718. No doubt it’s Dewitt and it isn’t even close. The downside: Blake has mainly been a 2B/3B and some limited work in the corners of the outfield.

      Really it shouldn’t be question between Dewitt and Harris but say, DeWitt vs. Frazier. I’d take Fraz in a New York-minute. Frazier has the “potential” to be special, not so much with Blake Dewitt. God let’s hope that whatever happens it’s not Willie but the smart money says he stays. Baker’s track record.

      • Dewitt has not impressed this year (only 29 ABS) but last year was not a total disaster – .266/.305/.413/.718. No doubt it’s Dewitt and it isn’t even close. The downside: Blake has mainly been a 2B/3B and some limited work in the corners of the outfield. Really it shouldn’t be question between Dewitt and Harris but say, DeWitt vs. Frazier. I’d take Fraz in a New York-minute. Frazier has the “potential” to be special, not so much with Blake Dewitt. God let’s hope that whatever happens it’s not Willie but the smart money says he stays. Baker’s track record.

        Oh no question it’s Frazier, but for whatever reason, Dusty/Walt feel the need for a subpar LH bat off the bench and just wondered if Dewitt might offer a tad more upside over Harris…while small, upside is upside…:D

  5. @Sultan of Swaff: Well, we do know from history that players tend to hit their plateau and not get much better after time unless they do the Vitamin S.

    But they do tend to regress pretty quickly after certain surgeries — and that’s what Rolen is clearly facing. He feels good, I imagine, but it’s clear his bat speed and range of motion are diminished.

    I really think that’s the hardest thing to tell a guy, and if he’s in denial (understandable) he may expect to come out of it soon.

    But I’d bet he doesn’t.

    I understand Dusty’s dilemma, since he’s an old-school baseball loyalist. Most managers are, probably, at his age.

    They all believe that the vets earned it and the kids have to wait their turn.

    Problem is, most MLB franchises are DFA’ing guys who are 26 going on “over the hill.”

  6. @Johnu1: You actually have it backwards. The mistake increases as the date ranges increase. And the mistake will be relatively large compared with all the media/fan focus on who should bat leadoff versus who should bat cleanup, blah, blah, blah. As long as Dusty lumps the top hitters together, the total runs expected doesn’t change much…he could put the 5 best guys’ names in a hat and blindly put together a decent lineup. Of course,fans would go berserk when they see Joey or Jay leading off…

    In comparison, the difference in 2 or 3 spots in the order between a guy with potentially 100-200 extra points in OPS over Rolen, Stubbs, and Ludwick is a pretty large. Also, I guess the question for Dusty would be, if it is a mistake, even a very small one, why would you continue making it?

    I don’t mind Dusty’s patience with players. But this idea that veteran players get their own little fiefdom in regards to spots in the batting lineup is NUTS and is a problem that Dusty continues to create for himself.

  7. @CP: I suppose if we played 162 with me doing the lineup or a computer doing the lineup, the computer would probably win 85 times, mainly because it would not factor in luck.

    I tend to have bad luck.

    All the same, I need access to the same data and my success/failure ratio depends in large part on how I use and manage that data.

    Your use of the word “potentially” is interesting because I’d work with that and the computer wouldn’t.

    But the computer wouldn’t permit those fiefdoms to exist. I might.

  8. @CP: I agree on the relax guys comment. It’s way too long a season to get all torqued about differences of opinion.

    I don’t feel like Mesoraco is being mishandled simply by where he is currently batting. The guy that is most comparable on your list based on the number of games played to date is Rosario, who is backing up Ramon Hernandez in Colorado. He’s batted 6th, 7th, and 9th this year for a good offense. Frankly, the Reds offense IS BETTER than all of the other offenses you mentioned, particularly when you look at the offenses of the catchers rookie years.

    DM is getting about 40% of the AB’s at the catcher position, which amounts to all of 37 AB’s.
    I don’t doubt that he will be moved up in the order once he gets his bearings overall as a defensive as well as offensive player.

    It’s early May. The batting order and the roster will see plenty of change by the time we see the dog days of summer.

  9. I continue thinking it’s a mistake to say Dusty’s main problem is “patience.” Go back to the Taveras fiasco, and you’ll see he named Taveras the team’s leadoff hitter in the off-season. Critics pointed out his low OBP, and Dusty countered by saying his OBP didn’t matter because he stole lots of bases, and insisted Taveras would get better because he was “young” (he was 27 and had played four full seasons). This was on TOP of the Patterson fiasco, from which Dusty apparently learned nothing, and it took how many months for him to realize Taveras probably wasn’t an ideal leadoff hitter? Patience can be a good thing in baseball, but Dusty just seems to operate in his own world – where certain things are “right” and other things are “wrong” and it makes no difference what’s actually happening on the field or how illogical his theories are. It’s like repeatedly sticking your hand in a fire and waiting for it to stop hurting. I don’t think “patience” is the right word for that.

  10. @zippy: Patience with the right guys is a good thing: Albert Pujols. With the wrong guys it is a disaster: Willie Harris. The question is: does Dusty Baker know the difference?

  11. @zippy: On some levels, the Taveras “experiment” was probably a gamble worth taking until the reality of a Baker-Jacoby offense doomed it.

    The Virus only walked once or twice in the first 2 months of the season, kind of defeating his agenda of stealing 100 bases.

    So all this again comes back to an overall philosophy that I see repeating itself with Reds offenses, and manifesting itself in a win-loss-win-loss results line.

    If removing Baker means getting a better hitting instruction plan, then that’s what has to happen.

    Willy Taveras is a symptom.

    Frankly, the ongoing joke about walks clogging the bases … geez, it’s painful since it’s true.

  12. @Johnu1:

    It’s never a good experiment to guarantee the most plate appearances to a guy who rarely gets on base and has almost no power. You experiment with that kind of guy by hitting him 7th or 8th.

  13. @zippy: 1– The Hyperbole attached to your comment about the BRM and Dusty is what causes me to respond by saying “the lengths people go to…” the Idea that there is anyone on this team (votto included) who had the skills of the top three batters on the BRM to get on base makes the comment ridiculous– I could have picked the guy who said Dusty wouldn’t have batted Ruth and Gherig three and four and made the same kind of point: “anyone out there on the field look like Ruth or Gherig”. I don’t think baker is a great manager– not because he’s an idiot, but because I don’t practice the art of Hyperbolic overstatement that is so common on all blogs– I think he’s a good manager, because I think there are far, far more good managers than great managers. I have a high bar for great managers– Torre, Weaver, Larussa (as much as I hate much of what he has brought to baseball) Cox, Leyland — and don’t feel that many who others call great are actually great.
    2. I also am not arrogant enough to think that I know more than guys who have been in Major league dugouts for over 40 years. A guy actually in the dugout, with constant contact with all of the players has a tremendous advantage over we who observe from a distance.
    3. I don’t lose my objectivity either. I evaluate decisions based on a wide range of factors. In the case of managers, I weigh things like talent, like payroll, like alternatives (many of the comments made here are answered in my head with “but what is the alternative”), and because I do that it becomes readily clear that people who are constantly negative never acknowledge the other side of the argument and that indicates a loss of objectivity. Simply put: If you read the game thread from yesterday, you can find almost no positive comments about Dusty and literally a hundred negative. No one holding a big league management position is 100% wrong, but if you read this blog that’s what is garnered.
    4, I also regularly witness a convenient ‘everything’s Dusty’s fault’ mentality. The make up of the roster is the responsibility of the GM, yet regularly on here Baker is ripped for the make up of that roster. By the same token, it is commonly held that Baker doesn’t play young players, and is oft repeated here. Since taking over the following players have either moved into starting spots or significant roles: Cueto, Bailey, Leak, Hannigan, Votto, Cozart, Stubbs, Bruce, Heisey, Masset, Bray, Ondrusek, Chapman, Lecure, and Hoover have all come up during Baker’s regime. How can 15 of 25 players, the majority who made their ML debut or became starters under baker, be starting or playing key roles if Baker never plays kids? Yet, if you read yesterday’s game thread it’s only referenced about twenty times.
    5. As well, I look at stat adjustments across the board. The stats garnered in the eight slot are as different as those garnered in the 1 or 2 hole as parks are different. Everyone will acknowledge park factors, but you won’t acknowledge batting order position as a necessary adjustment factor in evaluating a player.
    6. And finally, while doing all of that, during my comments I never once felt the need to dismiss your thoughts with a personal unrelated justification like spelling. I talked about your points, if you had known what color of shirt I was wearing I am sure you would have brought that up– It’s just as relevant as spelling is to the discussion. Nor did I use the ‘you obviously don’t know what you are talking about so I won’t address anything but you personally” dodge.

  14. @67stats33eyes: I don’t disagree with the logic that says baseball guys know more than fans, but if we intend to follow our baseball team objectively without the benefit of emotion, then let it be Strat-O-Matic. Hyperbole is what fans do. We beef when we fail, cheer when we win and always hope we will go undefeated.

    If the objective of this exercise is to snatch that aspect of fandom away from us bloggers, you will likely fail. Blogs exist for that purpose and civil disagreement is a peculiar common thread.

    I’ve been on other blogs, run off of other blogs because my point of view was a bit too overstated. I hopefully have learned from that.

    All the same, zeal in blogging is what we’re about.

  15. I appreciate seeing both positives and negatives in this entry. The recent typical “Positives: None.” after a loss and “Negatives: None. This was a fun game to watch.” have been getting old.

  16. Rehashing the Taveras fiasco is painful, but instructive.

    Taveras had one good year (2007) leading off in Colorado and one bad year (2008). His high 2007 OBP was due primarily to his batting .320, which was way above his career normal. He hit .258 in more AB in 2008. The obvious tell was in his BABIP for 2007, which was way above his career normal and unsustainable. The Reds signed him based on one year’s worth of data that could have been debunked in five minutes by a stats guy. The organization may have learned its collective lesson from that mistake.

    But Dusty Baker *patiently* ran Taveras out there for 430+ plate appearances (.240/.275/.285) and it only stopped when Taveras got injured. Without the injury, he might have been back leading off for Baker again in 2010. And the worst of it was that Baker never really demoted Taveras from the lead-off spot that entire time.

  17. @Steve Mancuso: Probably less of a disagreement than a point of view when you say his BABIP was unsustainable. The organization could have simply disagreed, which apparently is what they did. But I agree that rehashing that disaster takes us nowhere.

  18. @67stats33eyes:

    The facts are these:

    I made a comment in which I stated my guess as to what Dusty’s lineup would look like if he managed the ’75 Reds. In part, it was meant to be funny (did you REALLY think I believed Dusty would platoon Armbrister and Foster?), but the main point wasn’t REALLY to comment on how Dusty would have managed the ’75 Reds, but to illustrate the silliness of doing things like saying “he’s my leadoff hitter because he’s fast” or “he bats 8th because he’s a catcher”). There was zero reason to single out this comment as “a perfect example of the lengths people will go to hate Dusty.” I don’t really care one way or the other if you want to fight about such things, but you shouldn’t lob grenades and then throw a hissy fit when one comes back your way. My original comment was about DUSTY. Your original comment was about ME. Can you see the difference there?

    • @67stats33eyes:

      The facts are these:

      My original comment was about DUSTY. Your original comment was about ME. Can you see the difference there?

      No, those aren’t the facts. I didn’t name you, didn’t attribute it to you, I simply talked about what you said. That’s not talking about you in anyway shape or form, that’s talking about the comment… and since I wasn’t talking about you, or to you, then it’s not lobbing a grenade at you. By the way an unattributed post that started “a perfect example of the lengths people will go to hate Dusty” was a grenade? Really? That’s a grenade? And because of that which you term a ‘grenade’, you respond with the comments I have previously outlined. And I’m the one who threw the hissy fit? Might want to re-read the post you consider a hissy fit and compare it to your response to this alleged ‘grenade’.

  19. Seems to me that they handled Harris quite deftly.

    He got a month to prove himself. He started only six games because he was struggling. He was given a couple key at-bats to try to boost his confidence. Then he was given a couple bats in mop-up time.

    When nothing worked, he was DFAed. Sounds like just the right amount of patience to me.

    And those of you who predicted that this wouldn’t happen — remember this next time you make a prediction.

    • And those of you who predicted that this wouldn’t happen — remember this next time you make a prediction.

      Yeah right.

  20. @zippy: I was never confused about and I don’t think most of us were. I’m fairly new on this board so I would prefer to not take sides on that.

    I think anything about the BRM beyond humorous illustration was somewhat irrelevant.

  21. @renbutler: Had the Reds not sent Harris back, the outcry would have been pretty brutal. Despite our belief that they do what they want with the team and the fans can want what they want, I do think that sometimes the f.o. is compelled to listen.

    In addition, the guy was just not helping the team in any way. Gotta wonder how that played in the clubhouse.

  22. Gallardo scratched tonight in favor of Marco Estrada, who is a candidate for the Cy Young Award.

  23. @renbutler:

    The team has played 27 games. Harris started 22% of them. He played in 19 games, which is 70%. And he also had an effect on games where he didn’t play, because he was using a roster spot that could have been given to a productive player. If the Reds end up losing the division by a game or two, I hope you remember these 27 games when some of us kept saying “why is Harris here instead of the guy who led the team in HR’s and RBI in spring training?”

  24. @zippy: The Reds were 6-2 in the last eight games he appeared in, and 3-0 in his starts.

    Now, make sure you read the entire post: I’m NOT saying they succeeded because of Harris — he was truly horrible, but he clearly did nothing to prevent the current surge.

    His role was so small that there’s really no way you can pin any one loss, let alone multiple losses, on him.

  25. @renbutler: Kinda makes you wonder why we get so wrapped up in all this, doesn’t it?

    Score 9 in the first inning and go from there.

  26. @renbutler:
    on
    Your analysis of Harris’s effect on the team is way too simplistic. This isn’t a college football team where it makes no difference how far your walk-on fourth-string punter can kick the ball. Dusty has only five position players on the bench. One is the backup catcher, one can’t play the infield, and one is (was) Willie Harris. That has an effect on EVERY game. Does Phillips get more rest if they have a quality backup? Does Dusty double-switch more often if he’s got a quality infielder to insert? Does he pinch hit Heisey now (instead of saving him for later) because he’s got another good bat on the bench if he needs one? Does Rolen play as many games if Frazier is on the team? And so on. Madson hasn’t played a single game this season — does that mean he’s had no effect on the team’s record? Aside from possibly keeping Chapman out of the starting rotation, wouldn’t that money have come in handy? (I’m not complaining about signing Madson; I’m just pointing out that you can’t judge a guy’s impact on the team by looking at win/loss records in games he starts.)

    The fact is, with Willie Harris on the team the Reds are 14 and 13, 2.5 games out of first place, and that’s only because they’ve been beating up on the Cubs, Astros, and Pirates (without their best player). Harris certainly hasn’t been the biggest problem on this team, but he might have cost a few games, and those few games might turn out to be the difference between making the playoffs or not. Regardless, I just don’t see the point in defending a move that never made any sense in the first place.

  27. @zippy: Drum,drum, drum, the constant drumbeat of Baker bashing.

    You bash Baker for the “Taveras fiasco” when it was the GENERAL MANAGER’s (remember him (?), he sets the roster) only “big” signing of the off season.

    Who should have lead off in 2008? Jonny Gomes? Ramon Hernandez? I’m sorry, they were reserves. For “everyday” players we had the likes of Paul Janish (.211 BA) and Adam Rosales (.213 BA). Yeah, it was one helluva roster back in 2009, as well as 2008. People bash Baker for where he batted Phillips in the order. Does anyone remember that only ONE Reds regular batted better than .280 for 2009 (Votto)?

    I quote you: ” Go back to the Taveras fiasco, and you’ll see he named Taveras the team’s leadoff hitter in the off-season. Critics pointed out his low OBP, and Dusty countered by saying his OBP didn’t matter because he stole lots of bases, and insisted Taveras would get better because he was “young” (he was 27 and had played four full seasons). This was on TOP of the Patterson fiasco, from which Dusty apparently learned nothing, and it took how many months for him to realize Taveras probably wasn’t an ideal leadoff hitter?”

    Taveras hit .320 with a .367 OBP in 2007. On the 2009 Reds he was an above average hitter. Face it, the roster BLEW in 2008 and 2009.

    It probably took Dusty 5 minutes to realize that Taveras sucked. The question became, who do you replace him with? The great Paul Janish? The future HOF’r Adam Rosales? The 33 year old Jerry Hairston? The 30 year old Darnell McDonald? Yeah, there was also Chris Dickerson (yawn).

    Please tell me who YOU would have batted leadoff in 2009. And with a roster like that, what would it have mattered?

  28. And Zippy, know that Stubbs started 2008 in A+ ball. How early in 2009 should they have called Stubbs up to take Taveras’s place?

    Cause I’m sure that the general consensus is that Stubbs was a polished hitter in 2009 …

  29. @Steve Mancuso: Instructive? PahLeaze. Only one Reds regular batted .280 in 2009 (Votto).

    The line-up choices in 2008 and 2009 were instructive in only one way: the Reds were a VERY BAD TEAM in those years.

    I’d LOVE to hear how you would have set the line-up in 2009. Take a look at the roster back then. It was just FULL of studs.

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