A few games ago, Bryan Price’s handling of the Reds bullpen – pulling starter Brandon Finnegan in the third inning for Michael Lorenzen – triggered a tidal wave of acclaim (CBS Sports, Cincinnati Enquirer, FanGraphs, and here at Redleg Nation) directed toward the Reds manager. The basis for applauding Price was his apparent disregard of traditional baseball thinking, namely reverence for the Save statistic. Price announced an intention to put the best pitchers in the toughest situations and ignore the pursuit of individual statistical accomplishments.
“Don’t worry about saves, holds, etc,” Price had said. “Just help us shake hands after the game.”
Tonight, Price made exactly the opposite decision in managing the 5th inning and Scott Feldman, the 34-year-old starting pitcher. Feldman had thrown over 80 pitches through four innings, yet was allowed to bat with two runners on and two outs in a one-run game in the bottom of the 4th. Then Feldman was allowed to pitch the 5th. He walked the bases loaded with one out and Price visited the mound.
A thoroughly modern Bryan Price would have ignored the Win statistic and pulled his fading starter, who had at that point had thrown 100 pitches. Eight *eight* members of the bullpen fully rested, the obvious choice was bring in a better, fresher arm.
Instead, Price stuck with decades of managerial devotion to their starters’ attempts to qualify for a Win and left Feldman in. Dusty Baker would have been proud.
Apparently Price’s “etc.” didn’t include pitcher Wins.
Feldman induced a double play and the bullpen imploded in the 6th and 7th innings. But that the Reds and Price were lucky to get a ground ball hit at an infielder doesn’t matter. Price’s creaky decision making provided powerful evidence of the clear limit of his commitment to modern baseball thinking.
Scott Feldman gave up three runs, four hits and five walks in five innings. He struck out two. Feldman, of course, didn’t get the win.
Don’t ask me to explain the pitcher use in the next two innings. The two best arms in the Reds bullpen watched on as the Reds lost the lead in the 6th inning. Blake Wood and Wandy Peralta squandered the narrow margin. In the 7th, with the Reds now down three runs, Michael Lorenzen gave up four runs. Lorenzen’s pristine ERA of 0.00 ballooned to 5.14. The bullpen was overdue for a night like this.
Cody Reed continues to work his way out of the crowded “need to send him a message” dog house and into the starting rotation. Reed, wearing his new goggles, pitched two clean innings with 2 strikeouts. He’s started the season with 7 shutout innings and 7 strikeouts.
Zack Cozart, the hottest hitter in baseball coming into the game, put the Reds in front with a two-run homer in the second inning to deep left field. Eugenio Suarez, who had singled, scored ahead of Cozart. Joey Votto mashed a 422-foot homer off the batter’s eye against Milone in the third inning to make the score 3-0. Patrick Kivlehan, who got a start in right field, had two hits and was hit by a pitch.
No one was on base for the Votto home run because Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza were in the midst of a brutal display of failure to get on base. Entering the game, the Reds #1 and #2 hitters had recorded 84 plate appearances with just one walk. Tonight, Hamilton and Peraza combined 0-for-8, including several 0ne-pitch at bats. They have identical .289 on-base percentages. If you’re in favor of good at bats that work the count, you won’t find them at the top of the Reds batting order.
Bryan Price passed up at least four opportunities to give Jesse Winker an at bat. Then with a rally kept alive in the 9th, Winker was sent up to hit for Billy Hamilton. He struck out in his first major league at bat.
The Cubs lost again today. They appear to be in free fall that can only be explained by the crushing pressure of trying to keep up with the Reds. Or something like that.
Valuable perspective from our esteemed leader: