2013 Reds / Reds - General

About last night … and headwinds

No game today. The hated Cardinals arrive in the Queen City tomorrow. Idle hands, devil’s workshop.

I just have to ask:

1. Why were the Reds stuck with Pedro Villarreal as the starter last night?

Johnny Cueto told the Reds last Friday something felt wrong.

Right then and there, the Reds needed to consider there was a real chance he may not make his next start. See, Cueto closely resembles a guy just off the DL for the same injury. It was possible that in four days he’d feel fine. But you know, he might not. The Rockies’ bats were gonna show up regardless.

On Friday, Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker should have looked at the AAA rotation schedule, closed their eyes, and imagined Pedro Villarreal facing the middle of Colorado’s lineup. The specter of the likely damage done to GABP should have provoked sufficient cold sweat to ensure Tony Cingrani, not Villarreal, pitched to Cargo and Tulo in case Cueto couldn’t.

Solution: Tony Cingrani could have either skipped his upcoming Sunday start and throw a bullpen session instead, or pitch only a couple innings for the Bats. If you think that’s somehow difficult, just watch how simple it’ll be to get him lined up for Cueto’s next start. Because barring organization-wide paralysis caused by the trauma of watching those six home runs last night, Tony Cingrani will take the mound Tuesday in the Friendly Confines.

Unless there’s a mitigating factor that I’m missing, it seems like Pedro Villarreal starting last night was awful management. And that’s on General Manager Walt Jocketty, not Dusty Baker.

2. Why didn’t Dusty Baker use the bullpen more pro-actively?

Yet, for whatever reason, Pedro Villarreal did end up taking the ball. Dusty Baker and Bryan Price had to be realistic about that. Only a smart, creative plan would give them a chance to win.

Luckily the entire bullpen was available heading into a day off. Even Sam LeCure had only thrown 24 pitches on Tuesday. Excluding Manny Parra (because … well, yeah), Dusty Baker had six pitchers he could use for an inning each.

If the game is close after three innings, don’t wait for the inevitable Villarreal meltdown. You count your blessings and manage pro-actively. If the Reds get way ahead or slip way behind, you can scrap the plan.

Ironically, the in-case-of-Villarreal-break-the-glass plan had virtue regardless of the score. It meant no rusty arms on Friday. LeCure and Broxton turn the page. Maybe, just maybe, Villarreal somehow guts it out through three.

For the record, the Reds did, in fact, have the lead heading into the fourth inning.

But, instead of a special plan, we got same-old, same-old managing. Dusty Baker watched passively in the fourth as two runners got on base ahead of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. What happened next, you could see coming from at least 476 feet away.

Carlos Gonzalez hit the eleventh longest home run in the history of Great American Ball Park. The one hitter Villarreal retired in the fourth was the Rockies pitcher. Look, you just can’t let Villarreal face Cargo. Not if you had an alternative, or six of them.

Incredibly, that’s not the end of Baker’s mismanagement. With the Reds down only 6-4, he sent Alfredo Simon out in the seventh for a second inning. Simon had thrown 42 pitches on Sunday and had just pitched a tidy sixth inning. Why not Hoover in the seventh and Broxton in the eighth? In the ninth, Chapman if ahead or tied, LeCure if behind.

Instead, an obviously out-of-gas Alfredo Simon gave up three more runs, putting the game out of reach.

Deep breath. Exhale.

Still, there’s plenty of good news as the Reds sail into Holy War this weekend.

Almost nothing of what happened on the field last night is relevant going forward. Sure, Manny Parra might find his way into an important lefty-lefty matchup here or there, but if the Cardinals face any of those pitchers/situations when it counts, something has gone seriously wrong.

Johnny Cueto’s condition doesn’t sound particularly serious this time (caveat: Votto meniscus horror) and he wasn’t going to pitch against St. Louis anyhow. If you want to wring your hands about Joey Votto slumping (did you really think he was going to hit .350?), go for it. But how many times does he need to prove the doubters are silly?

Also on the plus side is the much-needed day off. And all signs point to Brandon Phillips’ return to the lineup tomorrow.

The Reds do have a sparkling 36-24 record. But with the talent comes high expectations, both on the field and off.

Last night was certainly painful to witness, but it was just one lousy game.

Yet, the nagging questions make me wonder if the Reds’ management is generating a headwind that the players may not be able to overcome.

57 thoughts on “About last night … and headwinds

  1. The Reds got hammered like this 3 times last year (against the Nationals, Phillies, and Cardinals). Not to worry.

    • @TC: It was the Padres, not the Nationals. In my old age, my memory is not what it used to be. Had to look it up.

    • @seat101: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/22357285/stephen-strasburg-johnny-cueto-placed-on-dl-with-lat-injuries First result when doing an internet web search for “Johnny Cueto DL” ESPN, NBC, MLB, and the Enquirer also have it up.

      On the bright side, it sounds like a preventative move (for once, Cincinnati makes a preventative DL placement) and Cueto could move off the DL only missing one more start in Chicago, or they might put him in a holding pattern and have Cingrani play against the Brewers as well until the rotation possibly gets reshuffled before they play the Pirates for the first time in Cincinnati.

      That was a horrid abomination of a baseball game I’m glad I didn’t pay money to witness in person, and it hints at the two biggest factors that could keep the Reds from playing for all the marbles (general team mismanagement and bullpen performance and management better predicted with a roll of dice) but all this is going to do is tick off Brandon and Joey and co. even more before they hopefully beat the Cardinals like a drum.

      It’s frustrating as a fan to see the only series the Reds have lost or tied in the last month are where management has easily allowed the perception of them “giving away the game” to persist, but I guess I have to tell myself it is what it is.

  2. Sorry it was the Padres, not the Nationals.

    On April 18th the Cardinals beat the Reds 1-11. The nation panicked. The next night the Reds won 6-3

    On July 30th the Padres beat the Reds 5-11. The nation panicked. The next night the Reds won 7-6.

    On August 20th the Phillies beat the Reds 5-11. The nation panicked. The next night the Reds won 5-4.

    Let me also remind the good folks that the game before last year’s 10 game winning streak, the Reds lost to the Diamondbacks 1-7.

    That is why you’ll see no panic here at the nation this year.

    • Sorry it was the Padres, not the Nationals.

      On April 18th the Cardinals beat the Reds 1-11.The nation panicked.The next night the Reds won 6-3

      On July 30th the Padres beat the Reds 5-11.The nation panicked. The next night the Reds won 7-6.

      On August 20th the Phillies beat the Reds 5-11.The nation panicked.The next night the Reds won 5-4.

      Let me also remind the good folks that the game before last year’s 10 game winning streak, the Reds lost to the Diamondbacks 1-7.

      That is why you’ll see no panic here at the nation this year.

      Some will. See the “headwind that the players may not be able to overcome.” comment.

      People act like managers are never allowed to make a bad decision, ever. EVERYONE makes bad decisions, daily. Yes, even Saint Joe Maddon or Saint Billy Beane (two guys that seem to be held in very high esteem here).

      The thing is, we follow the Reds, so we scrutinize every bad decision the Reds make and assume that other teams simply aren’t this stupid. It’s one part “the grass is always greener” argument, and one part “hindsight is 20/20.”

      It was one game, no need for doom and gloom or talking about management creating obstacles that the players won’t be able to overcome. All teams deal with this, and the Reds have a good, winning team besides. How do you think a team like the Nationals is feeling right about now?

      Keep calm and carry on, folks. The Reds are gonna be fine, no matter how terrible you think Dusty is at managing.

      • @CI3J: You must have a strange definition of ‘panic’ if that’s how you read the post. I suppose that makes it easier to dismiss any reasoned concern, though. Just label it panic and dismiss it.

        • @CI3J: You must have a strange definition of ‘panic’ if that’s how you read the post. I suppose that makes it easier to dismiss any reasoned concern, though. Just label it panic and dismiss it.

          Steve, the truth is, I don’t see much reason to be concerned about the Reds’ management. Yes, they make mistakes, but so do managers of every MLB team. I don’t think the Reds’ management deserves any special distinction as being specifically detrimental to the team’s chance of success.

          Quite the contrary. For all the bad moves they make, they make the good/right moves far more often. Do you really think this team is in the position it’s in in the standings DESPITE moves Dusty and Walt have made? The thing is, good moves don’t make for good headlines and therefore largely go unnoticed.

          • @CI3J: It’s easy to say that “everyone makes mistakes” which is self-evidently true. But it’s equally axiomatic that some people make more than others. I assume you, like most everyone, would prefer working with, and having people working for you, who make fewer rather than more. If true, it seems worthwhile to discuss it.

            Yes, I feel on balance that Walt has been a strongly positive influence on the organization. The Rolen trade, the Choo trade, the Latos trade, the Marshall trade and various extensions have been good moves (that made headlines) that I’ve strongly supported here. On the other hand, we were apparently close to trading for Ben Revere instead of Choo, which would have been a disaster. Jocketty also brought in Taveras, Renteria, Orlando Cabrera and Wilson Valdez, who were all washed up. That’s a serial judgment flaw that led to this year’s iteration, Cesar Izturis. But those are small failures relative to the successes, which are/were huge.

            Still, I’m concerned that the organization is being too complacent with their decision-making — stemming all the way back to the Chapman assignment. The Reds are a strong team and on a glide-path to the post-season. But my concern is that won’t be good enough to beat the Cardinals for the division. A wild card slot is worth 50% of a division title. When Walt was with the Cardinals, he had a knack for making great mid-season moves to help win divisions. And I’m hoping he’ll do the same this year. Allowing the team to be in a situation where Pedro Villarreal started a game for the Reds is a small failure. But again, I’m worried that these small failures will add up to a second-place division finish.

          • @Steve Mancuso:

            Between now and July 31st, what moves would you like WJ to make?? And what moves should WJ make??

            Me? A LF that can bat 4th or 2nd, either one. A good lefty reliever for the bullpen. Christmas in June or July from Uncle Walt. At least that is the hope.

      • @CI3J: I pretty much agree with this. This bullpen is pretty mediocre without Marshall and with Broxton struggling. I can’t fault the Reds for trying to avoid using the entire bullpen, else they wind up with situations like the Cardinals were in last night, when aging LOOGY Randy Choate had to throw 25 pitches in a close game. (Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, by the way, is having a Vottovian year; the AZ announcers were urging fans to stuff the All-Star ballot box.)

        At least Broxton got a mop-up inning to work out some kinks. I think the 8th Inning Role is as dumb as The Closer Role, especially when the 8th Inning Role guy is slumping, but . . .

        The bullpen sets up pretty good for the Cardinal series, with Broxton, Hoover, LeCure and Chapman all fresh, Chapman perpetually so, and Parra not fresh.

        I agree that Cingrani will likely take Cueto’s turn next out, but Ondrusek, Simon and Broxton all have multiple pitches, and I would at least think about giving one of them a start. The Cardinals did it last night with Joe Kelly, who did fairly well in his first time around two turns. It isn’t really Dusty’s style, though.

    • @TC: Panicked? What? I say you’re making that up.

      Who’s panicking here after yesterday? They got beaten like a rented mule. So what?

      That said, I really thought Baker screwed up, and said so before the 4th inning. That said,
      they still may well have lost, even if Ondrusek starts the 4th.

      You want to see panic, come back here Monday if the Cards sweep.

  3. The first round of the MLB draft is today. They have the 27th pick overall. The Pirates have two first rounders, the 9th and 14th overall selections. The Cards have two first round picks, the 19th and the 28th, right after the Reds. I have seen some mock drafts that have 33 picks in the first round and others that say the Reds have a Supplemental pick at #38. At #27, the mock drafts are all over the place with the Reds selection.

    What do the Reds go after in the 1st round??

    Shortstop?? Pitching?? The last few years it has been a pitcher. Corner OF?? Corner INF??

    Names to watch for:
    1. Billy McKinney, OF, 6-3 200, Plano West HS Texas. LH hitter. A Jay Bruce clone.

    2. Aaron Judge, OF, 6-7 240, Fresno St. RH hitter.

    3. Austin Wilson, OF, 6-4 210, Stanford. A 5-tool guy that struggled a little in college this year.

    4. Eric Jagielo, 3B/OF, 6-3 215, Notre Dame.

    5. Hunter Green, LHP, 6-4 180, Warren East HS Kentucky.

    If McKinney or Judge are on the board at #27, the Reds will probably take one of those two.

      • @Big Ed:

        Google McKinney, and you will see what I mean. LH hitter, corner OF, great bat, great arm, and he even looks alot like Bruce. If the Reds can get McKinney at #27 it will be another successful 1st round pick.

        • @WVRedlegs: I’d be shocked if he was there at #27. If he is, I’d think the Reds very well may gobble him up. I think the Reds have shown the last few years that their draft strategy is to take who they feel is the best player available regardless of position or rather they are a HS or collegiate player.

  4. I have been a long time reader and am now a first time commenter on this board. I have read day after day nothing but Dusty Bashing. Even when the Reds win! I know people love to displace blame. And before you jump to conclusions I am by no means a Dusty lover. I feel he has made his fair share of mistakes this year… A few boneheaded misuses of the bullpen have occurred. However, there are times when I believe he gets a lot of heat for things that just don’t add up.

    Blasting Dusty for trying to stretch Villarreal out an extra inning last night is a little bit of a reach and comes off as simply wanting to “Dusty Bash” and not really looking at things for what they were.

    The idea of wanting to pitch 6 relief pitchers in 1 inning of relief is very far fetched for any manager in the big leagues, not just Dusty. At that point in the game the Reds were winning. Even after they pulled him they were 2 runs down and with this offense is not a large task to over come (even though they were ice cold after the first inning). If they followed the one inning approach with all of their relievers like you had suggested is not a great idea. What happens if Super Todd Frazier comes through in the clutch in the later innings and ties it up? What if Bruce hits a bomb? What if Votto does what he did and May and starts seeing the ball better than anyone on the planet? What if BP comes off the bench to give us a miracle shot? What I am getting at is what if the Reds tied it up? Then what? Most relievers only give you one or 2 innings of work on any ball club not just the Redlegs. If we burn them all up early in the game then who could pitch the late innings or extra innings. Then the same people who kill Dusty on here day after day would be screaming that we had no one to go into extra innings.

    Yes, the kid making his debut got ROCKED. There is no denying that. And, yes, Simon is really the only long reliever we have… Maybe Lecure… Possibly Hoover. Everyone else is 1 inning, 2 inning max pitcher. It just doesn’t seem like burning all of our relievers in a set plan is the way to go. Pitch the kid and hope for the best and see what happens.

    I think the loss last night has more to do with an injury… Not everyone can pull a “Cardinals” and have AAA pitcher after AAA pitcher come up and replace veterans and have success. Yes, I agree that they could have skipped Cingrani’s start. They could have a better bullpen. They could have a more potent bench. But those things are on upper management… Not Dusty.

    That’s all I have for now… Let the disagreement with me begin and bring on the Dusty Bashing!!!!

    • @NYredfanatic: A great first post. If you were listening to the radio then you heard Dusty say (and Marty reiterate in top of the 1st) that an off day was to follow and Dusty announcing that he could, and would if need be, make full use of the pen.

      The use of the pen was relatively conservative in light of that statement and the situation. Any time a rookie SP gives away a led with no intervention or aid from the bench whatsoever, I question what they are doing that is so much more important.

    • @NYredfanatic: Another NY Reds fan ! There are a number of us on this blog, including me.

      Hope you keep on posting, this a very high quality blog but needs more balance on certain issues.

      BTW afer watching Walt Weiss for a couple of games, several of us commented on how Dusty is a better game-time manager than him.

  5. What happened next you could see coming from at least 476 feet away.

    Very nice.

    Solid analysis. I was sure Cueto must have hurt himself after Tuesday’s bullpen session, leading to the closed-door meeting in Baker’s office. It was shocking to know they’ve known about this for days.

    Again, you can’t have too much pitching. Which is why I’m glad we didn’t attempt to trade any away when Ludwick went down.

  6. I had precisely the same questions. Since both the loathsome Cardinals and the Pirates lost last night, last night was just one game of 162, but it was a blown chance to gain a game against two division rivals.

    What really gets me was how much of a cluster it was. Why were we stuck with Villarreal? Everybody (*everybody*) knew Cargo, Tulo, and Cuddyer were going to tee up off him. If Cueto came out of the game Sunday saying his back hurt, why did the front office look flat footed yesterday?

    It was just an ugly, ugly game from the guys on the field all the way up to the front office. Hopefully one that will be quickly forgotten.

  7. What bothers me the most about this situation is that they didn’t arrange either Cingrani (or Galaraga) to throw less innings in their respective starts to allow for other options to cover Cueto’s start, if needed. Pedro was put in a bad spot last tnight. That’s mostly on Walt.

  8. 1) Can’t really argue with anything here. If the Reds knew Cueto felt something on Friday, a change should have been made to the AAA schedule, just in case. Of course the other side of the coin is that during the season, everyone is pretty much hurting to some extent. Cueto just coming off the DL recently should have elevated the front-office worry however.

    2) You knew Dusty wasn’t going to be that creative. I support Dusty for the most part but he doesn’t think creatively when it comes to baseball. I think a handful of managers would have handled things exactly the same way, a handful would have brought on Parra, and a select few would have been creative there.

    Yes, deep breaths… One game… My only worry is that if the Reds come out flat against the Cards, they will get their butts handed to them. The Cards are the best team in the division.

      • @CI3J: Didn’t you say the Reds were clearly the best team in the division? And that they’d be in first place by now?

        • @Hank Aarons Teammate:

          I think I did say that, with the caveat of ‘barring injuries’. I think Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto qualify.

          I’m still not too worried, but I’m looking forward to this weekend series. It will tell us a lot about where things stand.

          • @CI3J: I think Cueto was hurt when you said it, and Phillips has missed 4 games. Meanwhile, the Cards lost pitchers since you predicted, I believe.

            I’m not insulting you or anything, you just seemed to agree with LWB, who said the Cards were the best team in the division.

          • @Hank Aarons Teammate:

            Oh, no, I wasn’t really agreeing with that part of it, I still believe that by season’s end the Cards will be looking up at the Reds.

            What I meant was he beat me to my post below about not always responding to all discomfort with some kind of contingency plan. LWB said that in his first point, and if you look at the time stamp on his post and mine below, you can see we were making similar points at almost the exact same time.

  9. Here’s something to consider: yes, the Reds may have known Cueto felt some discomfort after s last start, but why would TNT warrant any special move? LOTS of pitchers feel discomfort during their starts, and in a day or two they are fine.

    I suppose you could make the argument that Cueto is fresh off the DL, but does that mean every time Cueto says ” Hey coach, my back feels a little tight.” the Reds are supposed to re-shuffle their Louisville lineup? Then expect every pitcher in Louisville to have their schedule screwed up several times a year, and usually for nothing.

    ONE TIME the Reds miscalculated. It’s really not something to get up in arms about or make a big deal out of.

    • @CI3J: We’re talking about a guy that’s had the same injury two times (and now three) in about the last 15 games he’s started, maybe fewer. Generally, you’re right, but here, I don’t think so.

    • @CI3J: Actually they have shown a history of miscalculations with not only the diagnosis of injuries, but the roster movements to the DL in a timely manner so that they are not shorthanded. I realize fans tend to overreact on a game by game basis but over the course of a season these miscalculations add up and obviously are exponentially more important in the post-season.

  10. KEEP THE FAITH !!!

    Just this morning, I saw this chicken and he was crowing, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.” As the chicken tried to cross the road, a big red machine ran smack over him. A poof of red feathers sprang up in the air. It was a cardinal in a chicken disguise.
    A cardinal roadkill. I ordered up 3 more of those for this weekend.

  11. RN would have exploded had Dusty thought outside of the box last night and started…oh…. Aroldis Chapman. Let him go 2 innings. But you know, he can’t pitch EVERY DAY

    • @Chris Wilson: Speaking of, on Monday, Chapman pitched one inning to preserve a 3-0 win, and on Sunday and Tuesday, the Reds blew leads in the late 8th inning. It just doesn’t seem right, does it?

      Trade the man.

      • @Hank Aarons Teammate: The use of Chapman this season is consistent with how most managers handle closers in MLB. Is it right? Most analytical-leaning folks would say “no” but the Reds, as an organization, tend to have more of an old-school approach. There are a lot of “baseball people” who would dismiss the majority thinking here at RN, at least when it comes to how Chapman is used in the regular season.

        • @LWBlogger: Yeah, I understand. I’m saying that given that, I’d love to see Jocketty trade Chapman, get a lot from some team that might overvalue him, and stick Lecure or Hoover in the closer role. If the Reds have to use their closer in the way they are, then let’s not overpay or overvalue that. Let’s find ourselves a Grilli, Mujica, etc to do the job.

        • @LWBlogger: And, as an aside, how would the baseball people address the point that 9th inning leads are almost never lost?

        • @LWBlogger: The concept of the “closer” is most definitely NOT old-school. In terms of baseball history, it’s totally Gangnam style.

  12. I just want to say I question your plan of pulling Villarreal out after three innings and using each available bullpen pitcher for one inning each. That leaves absolutely nobody available if the game should happen to go into extra innings. That possibility seems short-sighted to me. I think I’d rather suffer a blowout than lose a game in extras because there is nobody left to pitch.

  13. Chapman is sitting at 26 innings. Had he started last night, even for just two innings, and worked his way up to 6 innings/start by the end of the month, he’d finish the regular season at around 135 innings.

    • @Greg Dafler:

      I like that thought of starting Chapman last night. But do the Reds really go down that road? Do they open that big of a can of worms? No matter what would have happend, it would have been darned if you do, darned if you don’t. That may have temporarily relieved a short term issue but then opened up a much larger longer term issue. Sometimes its better to just step around that cow pie instead of over it. Going over it, sometimes you land short and step in it.

    • @Greg Dafler: This move (even for two) would have turned a negative into a positive. Chapman opens a game and maybe even throws a third pitch. Say he logs 2

      Simon for 2
      LeCure for 2
      Ondrusek for 1
      Broxton for 1
      Hoover to close

      Villareal could even be called up and pitch 2 innings if they were low leverage.

      A creative option would seem to have been much better at increasing the Reds odds to win that game. I felt defeated the moment I heard Villareal was starting.

  14. If the Reds knew about JC that early they should have had Cingarini ready. There are other options (all better than Vilarreal at 1-3 with a 4.03 ERA). Greg Reynolds has been lights out here (6-0/2.65) and Armando Galarraga has pitch 8 seasons in the majors, either of these guys would have fared better than Pedro.

    Another question is why did Baker give Votto the day off? He’s hitting .179 for the last ten games and was 1 for 12 in the Rockies series and 2-11 in the Pitt series. He needs a rest and this would have given him two days off before the Cards series.

  15. If the Reds knew about JC that early they should have had Cingarini ready. There are other options (all better than Vilarreal at 1-3 with a 4.03 ERA). Greg Reynolds has been lights out here (6-0/2.65) and Armando Galarraga has pitch 8 seasons in the majors, either of these guys would have fared better than Pedro.

    Another question is why did Baker give Votto the day off? He’s hitting .179 for the last ten games and was 1 for 12 in the Rockies series and 2-11 in the Pitt series. He needs a rest and this would have given him two days off before the Cards series.

  16. The Reds have the #27 pick tonight in the first round. They do have an extra pick at #38. Not a supplemental pick, but something called a Competitive Balance Round A pick in between round 1 and 2. Only round 1 is tonight.
    The Reds next pick is #67, next to last in round 2. They also have the next to last pick in round 3, #104.
    Draft wisely.

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