Titanic Struggle Recap

Recap: That old, familiar bullpen feeling

Cole Hamels’ major league debut for the Phillies was an afternoon game against the Reds in May 2006. The lineup he faced that day was Freel, Lopez, Griffey, Dunn, Kearns, Encarnacion, Phillips and Valentin. Hamels pitched five shutout innings. The Reds pitching staff of Elizardo Ramirez, Chris Hammond, Matt Belisle, Brian Shackelford and Rick White gave up eight runs.

Ten years later, he’s still dominating the Reds.

The Reds missed an opportunity to sweep the Texas Rangers, the team with the best record by far in the American League. With a win, they also would have had a winning road trip. They head back to Cincinnati for Pete-apalooza and four games against the last-place San Diego Padres before the Cubbies come to town.

Cincinnati 4  Texas 6  |  FanGraphs  | All my Ex-Leadoff Hitters Live in Texas

One Bad Inning Dan Straily pitched five excellent innings and one awful one. Facing the top of the Rangers order in the fourth, he walked Shin-Soo Choo, hit Rougned Odor and walked Nomar Mazara – his only two walks. The Rangers ended up scoring four runs. Otherwise, Straily faced the minimum. He struck out three.

Bash Brothers Jay Bruce (double) and Adam Duvall (single) combined in the sixth inning for the Reds first and only run off Cole Hamels. Duvall and Bruce rank first and second respectively in the National League in power hitting.

Suarez Strikes Eugenio Suarez drilled a three-run homer in the eighth inning to bring the Reds within one. Bruce, who had doubled, and Duvall, who had walked (his second BB in the game!), were on base. You can have all the fast guys. I’ll take the ones who hit three-run bombs.

Bullpen Artists J.J. Hoover pitched the seventh. He served up a home run on a grooved fastball to Ian Desmond. It was the 15th time the Reds have given up a home run to the first batter. Make that 16. Tony Cingrani pitch the eighth and surrendered a home run to Shin-Soo Choo on a 96 mph fastball. Micheal Lorenzen, who was activated today and tweeted “go time” didn’t get in the game.

Ongoing Lineup Stupidity 255 major league players have had at least 150 plate appearances this year. Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips rank in the bottom 20 percent of that group in terms of run creation. They were batting second and third in Bryan Price’s lineup. Since it’s Price’s 54th birthday, we’ll add that lineups don’t matter much and leave it there. We won’t mention that Hamilton and Phillips got the last two at bats, with the tying run at the plate. See, when you bat higher in the order you get more chances.

34 thoughts on “Recap: That old, familiar bullpen feeling

  1. Hamilton batted three times with people on base tonight. I believe they were all in scoring position. Made three outs. No reason to bat your weakest hitters in two of the most important spots.

    Poor Phillips looks lost. Swinging at more pitches than he ever has in his career and not making hard enough contact. wRC+ down to 77. Ouch. The decline that halted with a rebound season last year may be back on.

    • Nick, I agree with you that Hamilton and Phillips are not good two and three hitters. But when Votto is out Price’s options are limited. Duvall and Bruce are having excellent power years as Steve points out above, but given the set of players available tonight who would you bat in front of Duvall and Bruce other than Cozart? For sure not De Jesus Jr. or Barnhart.

      • You’re exactly right that options are limited. With the group they had tonight, I go Cozart, Bruce, Duvall, and Suarez as my 1-4. Those are my top four OPS guys in that lineup, and I want them to get the most plate appearances in the game. Nothing is perfect, but I think that would give the team the best chance to win tonight.

        Having said that, batting order typically effects very little, especially in one game, but I’d much rather have Bruce and Duvall get that extra plate appearance tonight as opposed to Hamilton and Phillips.

        • Suárez seems to fit more as a 2-hole hitter than Bruce so swap those 2, or just move Bruce and Duvall down a slot to move Suárez up, but other than that, I pretty much agree.

        • since batting orders really don’t matter per Steve and since this is a lost season you want Hamilton taking more swings so he can figure it out for 2017. Philips no excuse. He should be the pinch hitter or late inning fielding replacement at this point.

          • I said the batting order doesn’t matter much, not that it doesn’t matter.

        • 2 and 4 spots should be your best hitter, with the 2 leaning more toward best OBP and 4 leaning toward best power for true lineup optimization. Then 1, 3 and 5 are your next best. Interesting that your article also cited the same book I was about to cite as my source on lineup optimization.

  2. Price said he wasn’t going to blame the bullpen for the loss tonight; but, it was his preseason bullpen “A” team which gave up the two runs which provided the final margin.

    Was he really saving Lorenzen to pitch the 9th in a tie or closing situation in his first appearance back? If so that says more than Price’s words

    • At this point I think Ohlendorf and Cingrani are still the closer committee. Lorenzen should have to prove that he deserves it first, at least with a few (2-4) good outings.

      • I know he is on paternity leave now, but why hasn’t Wood gotten a chance at closer? Considering he has the best FIP and best reliever ERA on the team, it seems odd that Cingrani and Ohlendorf continue to be the favorites, especially Ross since he won’t be on next good Reds. Maybe I missed it and he has, but before Iglesias and Lorenzen returned he was best, or least worst, option for closer. Even those two, he looks like 7th inning maybe?

        Of course, now that Lorenzen and Iglesias are here, it hopefully doesnt matter. Maybe have Wood close until either prove capable? Although, maybe its good Wood was not Price’s top guy, or else he wouldn’t have pitched much as closer!

  3. Three times on base tonight and only 1K for Duvall. I had the feeling that even though Duvall Ked on a breaking pitch his fist AB, Hammels did not like the swing he had on it because he certainly gave him nothing to hit on the next AB.

    It looks to me like things are moving to a new phase with Duvall. Pitchers are challenging him; and, they are only really going after him if they break on top in the count. This is where Duvall has to show he can take a walk if they won’t throw him a strike.

  4. It seems like every time Billy gets it going at the bottom of the lineup, Price moves him up and he seems to struggle. Keep him where he’s performing better

    • Hamilton, CF
      Votto, 1B
      Bruce, RF
      Duvall, LF
      Cozart, SS
      Suarez, 3B
      Phillips, 2B
      Barnhart, C

      That should be our lineup right now.

      • I would be pretty happy with the Reds rolling that lineup out there. It’s probably the best for the players they have to work with.

  5. Peraza needs to get his run at second for awhile. The Reds need to see what he can do. Hamilton is another hole in the line-up. But if not him, then Who? My only line-up suggestion would be to lead Votto off, (ala the Cards with Carpenter).

    • BH is not a strong hitter, but he is definitely improved–gets on base more often than Suarez, for example. Lineups matter a little, so he probably shouldn’t bat anywhere but near the bottom of the order, but the options are limited just now.

    • I am also a supporter of Votto leading off. You give your best hitter the most at-bats, and you maximize the relative effect of Votto’s most prevalent skill…walking.

      For his career, Votto gets on base 42% of the time…think about how cool that would be to have a 1st inning where Bruce, Duvall, Suarez (or whoever) bat with a man on base. It would happen 40+ percent of the time!

      Batting Votto 3rd is the worst, because walking with 2 outs has relatively little effect on run expectancy, since essentially you are relying on your 4 hitter (Phillips in this case) to not get out… Phillips gets out over 70% of the time.

      For example:

      Votto walks, batting 3rd, with 2 outs, followed by BP (or any .300 wOBA hitter):
      Begin RE: 0.152
      End RE: 0.153
      Delta RE: 0.001

      Votto walks, batting 2nd, with 1 out, followed by BP (or any .300 wOBA hitter):
      Begin RE: 0.326
      End RE: 0.406
      Delta RE: 0.080

      Votto walks, batting 1st, with 0 out, followed by Bruce (or any .350 wOBA hitter):
      Begin RE: 0.544
      End RE: 0.857
      Delta RE: 0.313

      The tables used for RE have been advanced into a smoothed empirical model by Jonah Pemstein at FG. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/introducing-the-batter-specific-run-expectancy-tool/

      Using this we can actually see a true RE based on the player’s skill rather than “league average.” You can see the effect of this borne out in the first example… Votto’s RE with the bases empty and 2 out is nearly exact to Phillips’ RE with a man on first and 2 out.

      Huh… this was a big long. Sorry. Sorta just happened.

  6. I was thinking last night that if we could just get to Bruce and Duval maybe we would have a chance, then I remembered we had Hamilton and Philipps hitting in front of them. Maybe Billy will bunt his way on? Not even an attempt.

  7. Overall, I like more what I’m seeing from Billy but he needs to bat at the bottom of the order. Phillips is getting veteran treatment, he needs to sit more and def not hit 3rd or 4th. Lineup order has been strange at times, not sure the thinking that goes into it. Really starting to dislike moving Bruce, but I get why so many want to. Big fan of Cozart, but he’s gonna be a solid addition to a contender I think and I’ve already gave opinion about Phillips.

  8. At this point I don’t see how they can feel like they can run out Hamilton, Peraza, Winker, and Barnhart out there next year from a power standpoint? Obviously they can’t count on Mesoraco? If they move Bruce then Duvall can play RF and they could try to find another Duvall-lite to play some 3B and platoon with Schebler in LF?

    If I was the Reds I would call KC about Cozart! Their SS Escobar (.572 OPS) is terrible offensively and they’re 25th in runs scored. They don’t walk much and play excellent D so Zack would fit right in. Personally I would be interested in Yordano Ventura. He’s a headcase but he’s 25 and throws 99 mph! He might grow up and quit plucking people when he has to bat too? The plus is they’re obviously selling low on him right now!

    • They love Alcides Escobar in KC. EskyMagic. I highly doubt they’d view Cozart as an upgrade.

      Also, Winker has shown the ability to hit for above average power. He hasn’t this year, but perhaps his wrist has been bothering him all year. Also, he actually decreased his strike outs in his first stint in AAA from AA. That’s a fantastic sign for his future ability as a MLB hitter. The power will come. Young guys don’t always develop their true game power in their early 20s.

    • Ramirez throws 97 (don’t know if he’s a head case). It takes more than that.

  9. Not a lot to talk about when the bullpen serves up two gopher balls to make the offense’s comeback attempt futile. Even at 5-4 it would have been a much different game in the top of the ninth, despite having BHam and Phillips in front of the heavy hitters.

    Straily is starting to look like a solid middle reliever to me. He’s generally very good for one pass through the line up; but seems to struggle on the second time through, His struggles generally seem to be control based for whatever reason.

    Eugenio…. If Suarez sticks with the Reds, I believe it will be at 2B. The shorter throw (to 1B) should result in fewer throwing errors; and also allow him to focus on just getting in front of the ball corralling it. This scheme puts Peraza at SS and ?? at 3B till Senzel comes along. Seeing as how Duvall has demonstrated he can play LF, I suppose he could come into 3B to keep the seat warm for Senzel and then move back to the OF when Senzel arrives..

    • I agree with Suarez at 2b and that’s a good point on Straily too. Personally I hope they keep Bruce but they’re prob targeting Duvall for RF if he goes? Schebler def doesn’t have the arm for RF?

    • I agree that Suarez is the long term 2B, and I actually think I’ve mentioned that here before. Peraza at SS, Senzel at 3B (with perhaps Duvall or Eric Jagielo holding down the spot for a couple years if Senzel isn’t ready). Winker, Duvall and (take your pick) in the outfield, Mesoraco/Okey/T. Stephenson catching, depending on how far down the road we are talking, this could make a very good offense.

      As for your reasoning behind Suarez’s move to 2B, I don’t think throwing has generally been his problem. Most of the errors he has made have been fielding the ball. But in any case, we have the same end result.

  10. Choo has a career OPS 214(!) points lower hitting lefties vs. right handed pitching. So, of course it was one of the Reds’ leftys that serves up a dinger.

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