Titanic Struggle Recap

Glimpse of a bright future in a haze of absurdity

It’s impossible to imagine an outcome more befitting the game after Bryan Price’s dim-witted press conference this afternoon. Price was asked whether he was considering making a change at the top of the batting order. Billy Hamilton, after all, is the worst hitter in the Reds lineup and he receives the most plate appearances.

“I don’t really even think about it.” (Zach Buchanan)

That’s quite a statement from the manager of a major league ball club. He doesn’t think about his lineup, so positive is Price that he’s got it right.

“I don’t entertain that thought because he (Billy Hamilton) is influencing our offense in a positive way. I think there is room for him certainly to improve, but he’s not undercutting in any way our ability to score runs.” (Buchanan)

What’s the opposite of thoughtful? Of circumspect? Price can’t (or won’t) conceive how his choice of leadoff hitter could be hindering the Reds offense. He won’t entertain the 15 years of new thinking about how to score runs, that the Reds might have a better leadoff hitter than Hamilton. Price is dug in.

The Reds manager, of course, channeled vintage Dusty Baker before he finished.

“(Hamilton) creates a certain sense of panic when he’s on base, even if it’s at a 30-percent rate.” “When he does get on base, he tends to score.” (Buchanan)

Panic. Chaos. Whatever. I suppose if a major league manager wants to stick his head in the sand and ignore a decade-plus in the development of baseball strategy, that’s his prerogative. If he wants to believe that a fast runner causes other professional baseball players to “panic” well, it’s a free country.

Wonder if it’s crossed his mind that the actual reason Billy Hamilton “tends to score” is because Zack Cozart, Joey Votto and Adam Duvall hit behind him?

Believe it or not, none of that is the most inane thing Price said on the subject.

He said he’ll move Hamilton from the leadoff spot “when we’re struggling to score runs.” (Jeff Wallner)

That right there is a frontal assault on logic and reasoning. Any time the Reds lose a game, they could have used more runs. With the pitching they have, they shouldn’t be satisfied scoring a bushel of runs. They should be relentlessly figuring out how to score a second bushel. Get this, the Reds have lost 21 – twenty-one! – games this season when they’ve scored at least 5 runs. Does Bryan Price just shrug off those games because they didn’t “struggle to score runs” ??

Look, the Reds biggest problem this year, by far, has been their pitching. But I’m pretty, pretty sure that major league managers have enough time, and really should consider it part of their job, to be thinking about both run prevention and run production. It isn’t either-or. Bryan Price should be THINKING ABOUT HIS LINEUP every single day. What a dim way to approach winning games, if true. To be satisfied and stop figuring out ways to improve.

Meanwhile, Price’s leadoff hitter tonight: Bunted foul into a strikeout, hit a soft fly ball to short left field, popped up another bunt out to the pitcher, and hit a routine ground ball to second base. Billy Hamilton didn’t lose the game tonight. But he sure didn’t win it, either.

I’m so ready for this era of braindead baseball to be over.

Cincinnati Reds 0  Pittsburgh Pirates 1 || Box || Play Log || Statcast

Ah, but there’s the glorious future. Luis Castillo was crazy dominant tonight. He struck out 9 and walked only 1. Castillo gave up three hits. The sole blemish was a home run by Gerrit Cole, who lined a 95-mph Castillo fastball into the left field bleachers. Otherwise, the Pirates barely hit a ball hard all night. When Luis Castillo masters his slider, he’ll be an ace. Castillo’s future is bright, bright, bright.

The Reds bats were largely silent against Cole and two innings of Pirate relief pitching. Scott Schebler had two shift-busting line drives to left field. That’s about it. The Reds didn’t draw a single walk.

Adam Duvall really has the thing down where he throws out base runners at home plate. He fired a strike in the fourth inning to nail Josh Bell, preserving a 0-0 score. Duvall has been outstanding in left field for the better part of two seasons. He leads the majors in OF assists. Jose Peraza had the second-best defensive play tonight. He was playing shortstop for Zack Cozart and dove on a ball hit over the middle. He grabbed it fully extended, got up and threw out Andrew McCutchen at first base. If Peraza could develop to play a league-average shortstop (he doesn’t yet), it would provide a big old piece of the puzzle for the Reds.

Never heard of the Avett Brothers. They were playing a concert at GABP after the game. Judging from the long line of people waiting to get in the park as the Reds game ended, I’m guessing they have more hits than the Reds had tonight.

Sorry this recap was so late. It was one of those rare nights when it wasn’t easy for anyone here at RN to do it. As you can tell, I went to the game and stayed until the last 100-mph Filipe Rivero fastball. The drive home isn’t short. And I had a thing or two to get off my chest.

65 thoughts on “Glimpse of a bright future in a haze of absurdity

  1. The man is an idiot and a buffoon. If the Reds keep him on another year, they will get exactly what they deserve. More losing.
    Price has the all time worst record for any manager in the history of the Reds.

    • I remember when some folks here said that “anybody” would be better than Dusty Baker.

      • I said this before, and I’ll say it again: Price is Dusty Baker without the people skills or passion.

        • Probably the best description I’ve seen of Price. We clamored for anyone but Dusty and they gave us the poor man’s Dusty.

  2. For what it’s worth, as soon as I saw Zach Buchanan’s tweet in my timeline quoting Price re: Hamilton, my reaction — after I finished slapping my forehead with my palm, that is — was to think, “I look forward to reading what Steve has to say about this.” You didn’t disappoint. (Wish I could say the same about Price.)

      • He’s the manager until he’s not so right now, yes he is. In another month that may have changed (hopefully). I was never a Price basher but have become less and less enamored with his decisions and rationale for those decisions. The comments on Billy leading off have sealed the deal for me.

  3. Thank you Steve for all of your efforts- I truly understand your need to get a few things off your chest. Bryan Price should not be long for the Reds and hopefully that will be the case. I would LOVE to see Philip Ervin in centerfield for an extended part of September and see what happens. Billy is amazing no doubt though his bat is a huge doubt, so Ervin should really be given a chance. Seems some of the rookie pitchers are figuring it out and will hopefully progress, the others need opportunities elsewhere. This off-season, if completed well should lead the Reds to be very competitive next year, even without Nick Senzel. Scheduler and Duvall have proven themselves though I might trade one or both of them. If this has been a season of sorting, me thinks the fog is lifting in a very good way. Be well and good night.

  4. Thanks Steve. I read that before the game and while I wasn’t shocked I was still actually saddened by that comment. That’s the definition of stubbornness or by someone who doesn’t care about his job.

    • I could tell they have a big following. About the 6th inning, people started arriving to the game and going to their seats. The lower bowl really filled up. And when the game was over, there was a huge line of people waiting to get in. Just a gap in my music appreciation to not be familiar.

      • A few weeks ago, Thom was reading a promo for The Avett Brothers upcoming concert with all their “chart topping hits”. My initial thought was: name one!

    • Agreed. The Avett Brothers put on a good show. I was happy to see Castillo pitch lights out, and then get to stick around for the show. A neat experience.

      • Yup. That was a dream match up for me… the Reds and the Avetts. My first game in Cincy in over a decade last night. Beautiful night, great pitching, and great music.

  5. Steve, nice recap and very nice rant.

    It’s the lack of optimization, the experimenting and squeezing out of every possible edge, that seems so wasteful.

    The Reds knew that this would be a non-contention year, why not try things (basic things other teams are doing) that may net the extra couple of wins needed when the Next Good Team arrives?

    It’s not just the lineup, it’s platooning, and why is Ervin sitting on the bench after being called up? Certainly could give Duvall a break, unless Bryan Price doesn’t know his status for next year, in which case…shame on Dick Williams for allowing Price to manage games in a way counter to the long-term interests of the Reds.

    • Your first sentence is the perfect summary of the situation. That kind of passion should be at the top of the list of requirements for the Reds next manager.

  6. While I agree that batting Billy lead off appears old school stupid and frustrating on it’s face, I’m going to again reference the Patrick Jeter RLN article concluding that line-ups simply don’t matter. That’s new school thinking. Could it be that Brian Price doesn’t think about batting Billy lead off is because he agrees with RLN that line-ups don’t matter?

    The problem with Billy is that he has to bat somewhere and he’s a terrible hitter. He’s going to make lots of outs. They can be at the top where he gets the opportunity to make an extra out a game more often than not or they can be at the bottom, but he’s going to make his rally-killing outs somewhere.

    At this point I can honestly say that I don’t care one iota about what the Reds do with their line-up. The season is lost and the Reds are playing for draft position as a team (lose, lose, lose) and personal stats otherwise. Tonight I enjoyed reading the nicknames on the back of the players’ jerseys. Life’s to short to waste worrying about things we can’t control—like who Brian Price chooses to bat lead off or who Dick Williams decides to manage the team.

    • Don’t confuse the claim that lineups don’t matter much with the claim they don’t matter at all. I don’t think anyone says they don’t matter at all. If they matter even a little bit, and it’s obviously something in the manager’s control, the manager should give thought to it and optimize the outcome the best he can.

      Price’s reasoning and thought process is more important than wins-losses at this point, to be sure. It also isn’t the case that Billy Hamilton has to bat somewhere. But that’s a different topic.

      Kind of a long comment with detailed thought to conclude with the “life’s too short” stuff. It’s just a hobby.

      • Now Steve, we both know that the only intellectually consistent post with a “life’s to short” conclusion is silence. Where’s the fun in that?

        I should have chosen a better close. 🙂

        I DO care about other aspects of the Reds–like the state of the rebuild, what talent might be there when they draft, and who is going to be traded this off-season–I’m just no longer concerned with the tactics that lead to wins and losses, especially when those tactics have very limited impact. That ship has sailed this year. I agree that we can use the Billy Hamilton, permanent lead-off hitter data point as a bludgeon to demand Price’s ouster, but given the state of the Reds, it may be a specious point. Their starting pitching is so poor that they have no chance to win consistently with it, no matter where Billy bats of even if he rides the bench. In my opinion, Billy best helps the Reds by what he brings back in a trade from some team that overvalues what he does on defense and the base paths and has a spare pitcher who has an out pitch and can go more than five innings at a time.

  7. Luis Castillo now has a record of 2-7 providing a good example of why a pitcher’s record can be so misleading.

    I guess we have to accept the fact that Billy will be our lead off hitter unless the Reds sign Usain Bolt. I suspect Hall of Fame voters put a great deal of emphasis on RBIs. Poor Votto. Throughout his career he has had lead off hitters such as Billy Hamilton, Drew Stubbs, and Corey Patterson. For example, in 2008 Votto had 84 RBIs with Patterson as the lead off checking in with a whopping .238 OBP. I think 2008 may have been the year of the famous “clogging the bath paths” quote.

    • Can you imagine the panic Usain Bolt would cause? So worth playing him even if he only gets on 20% of the time!

      • Unfortunately ….no pitchers panic when Hamilton is in the batters box.
        When was your last open letter? Time for another ….to replace Price..these young pitchers finally showing something. Winker needs to play when healthy. Move forward.

  8. Sick of Price and his inability to make a logical choice. You would think that the man is trying to get fired by the way he coaches. Sick of watching Jenkins run out to the mound with no clue written all over his face. Sick of Dick Williams and the bumbling Castellinis. Sick of watching Hamilton trying to hit. Really Billy trying to bunt now! He makes pitchers look better bunting than him. His IQ must be very low. To have the speed he has and not figure out how to bunt while coming through the minors. Will be shocked not to see him leading off tomorrow and Ervin on the bench today.

    • Maybe time for you to find another team to root for or sport to follow. Life’s too short to be that upset about so many things. I don’t think Billy IQ has anything to do with his ability, or inability, to bunt successfully.

      • Time for you to mind your own business. You know nothing about me so stick to your own sheep.

  9. Who do you think should bat leadoff? Clearly it can’t be Ervin, he hits in the minors what Hamilton hits at the MLB level. Hamilton has the better glove. Winker? Who would sit? Easy to complain but I don’t know if I read one solution. The teams that win, win because of pitching. Who hit leadoff for the Reds in 2010-2013 when they were very good?

    • Take your pick. Anyone would be better. Suarez. Votto. Cozart. Schebler. Gennett. Any of these would be better.

    • Winker would be my top choice when he is not on the DL, but that would require putting him in the line-up. Suarez would be next, Cozart is having such a good year hard to go wrong with him

  10. I really enjoy reading theredlegnation. The writers don’t “sugar coat” our predicament. We must be truthful with ourselves if we ever want to get better. This article written by Steve Mancuso is dead on correct. Everything begins with our management. Unfortunately the Red’s management largely does not know talent…..that goes for player’s or coaches. This lack of knowledge will lead us to “flounder” for many years and at this point I don’t see any “silver bullets.” The Red’s need new ownership with new goals and expectations.

    • I don’t know about silver bullets but I see silver linings in the form of Castillo, Iglesias, Lorenzen, Mahle, Herget, Senzel, Suarez, Winker, Romano, even Stephenson.

  11. I am just grateful that it appears we have two and maybe three pitchers who are ready to be part of the 2018 starting staff. Castillo looks to be an ace. Romano is now getting better and better and Stephenson is really looking good his past few starts. I’m pumped for next year.

    And today Mahle! Mahle might get beat around some today but as he’s moved through the minors, he’s shown an ability to learn, adapt and improve.

  12. After 1920 ABs, Hamilton is what his stats say he is. It’s ludicrous to anticipate substantial improvement in his bunting, OBP, & ability to face lefties. The only hope was to platoon him & demand he work on his bunting & pitch recognition vs LHP (ing) to get back into the everyday lineup. Billy’s approach to hitting hasn’t changed because he doesn’t have to change it.

    • Correct.

      Notice how Peraza’s approach changed after he was dropped for Gennett.

    • Great point.Price has Billy’s back.His job and lead off spot are secure for at least another year.

  13. Sadly when Price says he doesn’t think about his lineup you begin to understand what the Reds need more then starting pitching.I don’t want to believe him but that is the only explanation possible isn’t it?I mean he knew Billy only got on base 30% of the time and that doesn’t make a difference to him then he is what he is.

  14. Remember Norris Hopper? No where near as fast as Hamilton, but the man could get a bunt hit anytime he chose to. Maybe the Reds should hire him as an instructor.
    On Price, let’s hope he is just a place holder for what was anticipated as a lost season.
    I believe last night it was Hamilton AND Peraza in front of Votto. You would think Price would being trying to win games in order to save his job.

    • I wonder if it’s a coincidence that the Reds had their worst two on-base guys bat at the top of the order….and the Reds scored 0 runs. Hmmm

      • And yet, there was Votto striking out with runners on second and third and two outs. These things happen, of course, and Joey is a great hitter, of course, but that wasn’t the fault of Hamilton or Peraza. The Reds have been a good offensive team this year and are in last place because of abysmal pitching. It’s always tempting to look for scapegoats, particularly if the scapegoat is one player, but the solution to our collective angst involves improvement from or replacement of a number of pitchers, and numerous targets are less satisfying than single ones.

  15. Billy’s only real value in a lineup is as a ++Defender that can steal bases. Ideally, he would be a late inning defensive replacement / running sub. A better lineup:

    1) Suarez, 3B
    2) Cozart, SS
    3) Votto, 1B
    4) Duvall, LF
    5) Schebler, CF
    6) Winker, RF
    7) Gennett / Peraza
    8) Barnhart

    Gennett / Peraza: Late inning Pinch Hitter / Double Switch Candidate
    Hamilton: Late inning defensive replacement / baserunner

    • I would really like to see Schebler in CF for evaluation and use Hamilton as you described or even leave him in CF when playing in parks with a huge OF. I think Schbebler is better than Choo in CF and the Reds did that for an entire year to get his bat in the lineup

    • +100 on the role that Billy should play. “Late inning defensive replacement / baserunner.” That would maximize his value–his speed and defense in game-winning situations. And he can be a sub when someone needs a night off.

      • Late inning defensive replacements only catch balls hit in the late innings. Inconveniently, sinking line drives to center are often hit in early innings, as happened a few games ago when Billy caught two of them and, probably saved two runs in the process.

  16. Great headline and the words that followed were in that category as well. I don’t always agree with Steve but I can always count on clear, concise thoughts based upon logic, unlike Reds management.

  17. I can’t stand price he is terrible and I agree with whoever said he is dusty baker except no ppl skills or compassion ….. I didn’t care for dustys managing but at least I felt like he was a good guy and cool to his players and what not price is a dork.

  18. Price is Captain Vanilla. Rarely changes even when change is obvious. I would certainly slot Schebler after Duvall. Scooter’s had a nice year but come on. I’m with Sactchmo.

  19. Unbelievable stubbornness in the face of decades of statistics. I was hoping that last Monday would see a change in the managers seat. Is it too much to ask that perhaps this Monday it will happen. Twice last twice Schebler got a hit and t\ thought now lets get him around and ten oh no our next three batters are Barnhart, the pitcher and Billy.

    • Barnhart, pitcher, Billy, and then Peraza! The four lightest hitting players in the line up sequenced together. What could go wrong with that? Rally killers.

      • Note that that exact sequence could happen if the lineup was constructed properly (Peraza, Bham Barnhart Pitcher) or (peraza Barnhart Pticher Bham then top of lineup) which is why the NL scores less runs than the AL, but that if the lineup was constructed so would very slightly decrease the chance of it happening throughout the course of the season.

        • Yes. At some point if you have that many “holes” in your line up they’re going to have to be sequenced closer together leaving for an easy inning or rally killer. And I don’t think Barnhart is the issue. He hits well enough for a catcher (you’d like to see a little more pop, but his defense and presence behind the plate more than makes up for it, in my book).

          But it’s for that very reason I’ve been saying all season that the Reds offense will suffer if it has both Hamilton and Peraza in the line up. Neither gets on base, neither hits with any power, neither hits the ball hard when it is in play. It’s a bad redundancy to have in the line up, especially when grouped together.

          I think it’s a pretty easy problem to solve if we had a manager that actually thought about such things. Hamilton has pretty drastic splits. Verse RH pitching Hamilton gets on base at a .322 rate (compared to a .241 rate against LH pitching). He also hits for more power (.345 vs .286 SLG) and better average (.258 vs .221) against RH pitching. So, drop the switch hitting and play Hamilton primarily against RH pitching. Ervin offers a nice platoon option as he’s a RH hitter who could slot in against lefties.

          Then on the days Hamilton sits, play Peraza at SS, which also works as Peraza has better split numbers against LH pitchers than he does against RH pitchers, though it’s no where near as drastic. Still, Peraza sports a .315 OBP against LH, (.294 against RH) which is much closer to league average than either is currently.

          In this scenario you could bat Peraza/Hamilton 8th to avoid such an extremely poor grouping, and 1-7 would be pretty good as a group. Plus it would allow Peraza and Hamilton to play to their strengths as hitters.

    • I’m pretty sure that Tucker’s OBP is considerably better than Schebler’s or Duvall’s.

  20. So I know nothing is black and white, but I’ll speak in these terms to make a point.

    Bryan Price has to go, totally agree. But not for his lineup. Here’s why: It’s going to be very difficult to find a person familiar enough with the game (former player, long time scout or coach) who doesn’t think like Dusty, Bryan, Larussa, DeShields, etc. What makes them qualified to coach often is what makes us scream at them for their lack of Sabermetric-ism. Joe Maddon is an anomaly, and gets paid as such.

    Now the world is shades of gray, I know. But their search to replace BP, just as it was DB, is going to be filled with a bunch of grown men who when things get tight (either because of a Penant race or job is on the line) are gonna revert to batting BHam lead off and bunting him over if possible.

    I wish them luck finding the next Joe Maddon (everyone else is looking for him too).

    • I’ve asked multiple times on here who someone thinks might be a good candidate to manage this team in a different way than we have seen. No one has suggested anyone. That makes me wonder if what you said above is reality and whomever might replace Price will be little, or no, different when it comes to managing the lineup. Again, it may have made no difference in the end but the search for Dusty’s replacement started and ended with Price. They didn’t even bother to interview any other candidates. That is a sad commentary on Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini that for a position as important as the leader of your 25 man roster, you stop after interviewing one candidate.

      • I absolutely love Dave Martinez but good luck to the Reds getting him. He’s currently the Cubs’ bench coach. Not sure he wants to be a manager, especially for the Reds. Bench coach is a far less stressful position and he doesn’t really need the money. He also loves working with Maddon. Reds also would need to negotiate with the Cubs for the rights to negotiate with Martinez, assuming Martinez is under contract and doesn’t have a clause that says he can negotiate with another club for a Managerial position.

  21. Bryan Price is not the problem and blaming him for the Reds record is a cheap and easy to moan and groan. Also trying to argue that the lineup has anything to do with the Reds record is ridiculous. Going into last night’s game the Reds were 13-11 in August. The opposition scored 5 or more runs 14 times proving the hitting is OK. The Reds are 5th in MLB in batting stats. The offense is good. The Reds are dead last in pitching in major league baseball. That’s the problem. I wish Hamilton had a better OBP. The Reds decision going forward is “do they stay with Hamilton long term or look for another answer in CF”? His speed and defense is a definite asset. Finding a better defensive center fielder will be difficult. My view is they should look for a replacement in the off season. Leaving Hamilton at leadoff for the rest of the season will confirm he won’t hit or walk enough to justify holding down a starting position let alone the lead off spot. Bryan Price is surely working in unison with the front office on who they want to see pitching and playing. Dick Williams and his comrades in arms are evaluating the current talent in the organization. Some tough decisions will need to be made. Do the Reds consider trading Hamilton, Schebler, Duval, Winker, Gennett for pitching? Do they move Suarez to SS or Senzel to 2B? Mesoraco is a question mark for next year. Will he ever return to the 2 month star in 2014? Is Bailey going to be OK? These and other questions should be on the minds of the Reds front office and Reds fans. Whining about Billy Hamilton leading off is like worrying about where to move the sofa (leadoff) when there is no roof (pitching) on the house.

    • You must not be married Playtown because its really important to some where the sofa is moved too.

    • Bryan Price is a problem. He’s woefully behind the times in baseball strategy, and as one of the more vocal mouthpieces of the Reds, he makes the organization look stupid. His lineup construction, unwillingness to play rookies in rebuilding years, stubborn use of the closer role, and overuse of the sacrifice bunt – prevents the Reds from winning more games.

      He is not THE problem. But he is A problem. The sooner he is replaced by a more innovative manager the better.

  22. The thing I’m concerned with is the current Castillo, Romano, and Stephenson. What I’m concerned with is their “getting injured”. I’m talking about “pitchers” “going into their second season with us” and/or “the season after they have shown success with us” since Price has gotten here, for example. I was thinking before the season, “It’s Finnegan’s turn this season.” After all, he was coming off a pretty good season for starting the entire season, his first full season in the big leagues. A month or two later, there’s Finnegan going to the DL. Disco after his first successful season with us, we haven’t heard from him since. Most every pitcher we had in 2011. Marshall. Cingrani, after showing good success for a significant part of 2013, we haven’t seen much success from him since. Definitely not a 100% correlation, but a definite positive correlation, I believe significant enough to be concerned.

    I can’t help thinking (hoping I’m entirely wrong) that at least 2 of the 3 (Castillo, Romano, and Stephenson) are going to be on the DL for significant time at some point in time next season.

    • The haters will say you can’t judge anything like this based off an injury. Those people don’t understand epidemiology, where you don’t look at one case but you definitely consider trends of injuries and diseases. Oh, every team goes through times like that? Give me one other team who has had the rash of these timeframes of injuries that the Reds have had. Maybe one other team this year. Maybe a different team last year, and yet a different team the year before that. But, with the Reds, besides 2010 and 2012, it’s seemed like the Reds have had problems with this every year since with at least a couple of significant pitchers.

      • The bottom line crawl during nearly every game is filled with pitchers and position players going on the DL. Slight, but only slight exaggeration. I think we have to get used to the fragility of pitchers who throw 95-plus. Maybe the Reds suffer more of these than average. Maybe they suffer more than any other team, but nobody who makes that claim has documented it. Now you’re asking us to document that it isn’t true, Steve, which seems reasonable. But the burden of proof is always on the prosecution.

  23. Castillo just continues to impress. In addition to his wicked stuff, his composure is amazing, especially for a guy who leap-frogged AAA. The word idiot is thrown around too loosely. Price isn’t an idiot; he’s a guy that personifies the Peter Principle: terrific pitching coach, terrible manager. Before he took the head job you never saw him get angry. We were fortunate not to. When he feels he’s getting cornered he lashes out at the interviewer, saying ridiculous things. Seems to be a problem outside of baseball, too.

  24. Billy is still trying to bunt guess he and Price agree not to think about it.

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