March 30, 2014

My Prediction For The 2014 Cincinnati Reds

So here we go.  First let me tell you, if you want the house line, read house men like Fay and Rosecrans.  I’m here to tell you what I really believe will happen.

Going into spring training, the strength of the 2014 Cincinnati Reds would be their pitching.  An impressive starting staff along with a stout bullpen that featured what could be the most dominant closer in all of baseball.

Well if you have been following the spring at all, you know that has all gone awry.  Topped with the horrendous injury to Aroldis Chapman and on down the line.  Latos has a knee and elbow problem.  Bailey has a groin injury.  Leake had an abdominal muscle issue.  Cingrani has had back problems in the past and is reportedly battling a ‘dead arm’. Johnny Cueto had a problem in the scapula area.  Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton have been missing all spring with injuries.  Brett Marshall has an injured tendon in a finger on the throwing hand.

Scared yet?  Cueto has been deemed the healthiest of the group.  He will be handed the ball on opening day.  What does it say when Johnny Cueto may be the healthiest guy in your rotation?  What are the odds that Johnny Cueto will pitch wire to wire without injury?  I’m not painting gloom and doom here.  I am simply reporting what the team posts as player injuries.

As for the position players, Choo is gone.  That is 300+ times of reaching base at the top of the lineup.  That is very difficult to replace.  BUT… I have a really good feeling about Billy Hamilton.  I’ve had this feeling even before his productive spring.  On my old BBRC site, I yelled for him to be called up last July!  That was of course scoffed at.  The Reds had a black hole in LF.  Dusty was playing musical chairs out there.  Why not give Billy a shot?  Choo could have moved to LF.  Billy inserted in CF.  It would have given Billy big league exposure but more importantly it may have helped the team and kept them out of the wildcard game.

Dusty used Billy sparingly after his September call-up.  Dusty was notorious for being anti-young guy.  Anyway, the rest is painful history.

I hope people don’t try to hold Billy Hamilton in comparison to Shin Soo Choo.  They are very different players.  Choo was not nearly as bad as billed in CF.  He was more than adequate.  But Billy will be a defensive upgrade in CF.

Billy has shown in the spring that he CLEARLY understands his role.  His job is to get on base any way and every way he can.  When Hamilton is on base, he is electric, he is disruptive and he can create havoc.  Expect him to have some freshman struggles, especially the second time through.  But I expect Billy Hamilton to be a true asset for the 2014 Cincinnati Reds.  Every time this kid has been promoted, he has struggled a minute then adjusted.  Well he is now at the top of the heap.  He will adjust and I am excited about one, Billy Hamilton!

Brandon Phillips is a pivotal guy in this lineup.  My feelings about Brandon Phillips are well documented.  Brandon presents himself as a ‘me first’ guy.  Brandon Phillips wastes a lot of AB’s by not adapting to the situation.  Brandon Phillips will try to turn a routine play into a ‘Web Gem’ when routine would do fine.

Brandon spoke out in Cincinnati Magazine around the 2013 All Star break.  His comments were ill timed and beyond divisive.  He spoke out about teammate Joey Votto and owner Bob Castellini.  Despite what the ‘house men’ would tell you, that interview hurt the ball club.

By all accounts, the Reds made every effort to dump Phillips.  They simply had no takers.  They didn’t want his salary.  They didn’t want his baggage.

All that said, Brandon Phillips is a true Cincinnati Red.  He is a fan favorite.  He spends lots of time with the fans and the community as a whole.  His ego gets in his own way once in awhile, but I don’t think for a minute that Brandon Phillips is an evil guy.

The fact that he doesn’t speak to Fay and Rosecrans is a plus in my book.  If I were in his position, I wouldn’t talk to them either.  But I digress.

Brandon Phillips knows how to hit the ball behind the runner.  I have seen him do it time and again.  Dusty Baker treated the #2 slot in the batting order like a red headed step child.  The 2013 Reds sported the worst #2 slot numbers in all of baseball.  Not only is it not a spot to hide a weak bat, it is CRITICAL in creating scoring opportunities.

Don’t bother to check the stat sheet for the effectiveness of a number two hitter.  You will miss a lot.  In fact, while stats can be a useful tool they are not the be all, end all that some would want you to believe.  Those who are ruled by stats are fooled by stats!

First of all, the #2 hitter must be patient.  Not only does he have to give a guy like Billy Hamilton a chance to steal a base, he must protect him to do so.  Often the #2 hitter must look for a pitch away and hit the ball to the right side, behind the runner.

If Billy Hamilton is on first base, subsequently steals second, and Brandon Phillips grounds out 4-3, that is a highly successful AB!  The stat sheet shows nothing for that.  Billy Hamilton is now standing on third base with one out.  It is absolutely incumbent upon Joey Votto to plate that run.  Anything less is unacceptable.

Brandon Phillips MUST think and perform like a number two hitter for the Reds to succeed.  He has to evaluate the situation, work the count and deliver the bare minimum without fail.  The #2 slot is a thinking man’s spot.

Again, Dusty Baker totally disrespected the #2 slot.  I think it can be one of the most important spots in the order.  I prefer a right handed batter there.  He has to be able to handle the bat and hit behind the runners.

That brings us to Joey Votto.  The internet and phone lines burned up last season with people bitching about Joey Votto.  The focus was on his RBI total.  RBIs (yes I still say RBIs), is a stat of opportunity.  I just told you that Joey Votto had the worst #2 slot in all of baseball hitting batting ahead of him all season long.

All Joey Votto did was reach base more than any Red in the history of the franchise!  While Joey Votto did not hit with the same pop we seen from him in previous years, he did reach base at a record pace.

People went as far as to suggest that Votto should swing at pitches out of the strike zone.  That is monumentally absurd!  If you are one who wants Votto to swing at pitches out of the zone, don’t look at Votto, look at the guy behind him in the order. 

When you go to the plate in a baseball game, priority one is to not make an out.  Joey Votto did his part.  Again, not the Votto of old, but far too good for people to point fingers at him.

The cleanup spot is of great concern to me.  Yes I know Brandon Phillips drove in 100 runs there last year.  Choo and Votto reached base over 600 times, Phillips probably should have driven in 200!

But Bryan Price has essentially tabbed Ryan Ludwick in that slot.  I personally do not like Ludwick in that spot.  I don’t even want Ludwick to start and at his price tag, I don’t think he should even be on the team.  This was a horrid signing by Walt Jocketty.   Due to some money shuffling by Jocketty, Ryan Ludwick will earn $12 MIL this year as a Cincinnati Red.

Earning that kind of dough, Ludwick will be given every opportunity and more to play LF on a daily basis.  He is a defensive liability.  How long will price let him go if he is not productive?  I would be tempted to platoon Ludwick with Roger Bernadina right from the get go.

Having to watch Ludwick play LF will be bad enough, watching him do it while batting cleanup could be downright painful.

I think that Jay Bruce became the player that we all thought he could be in 2013.  And I still don’t think he has reached his potential.  He is only 26 years old, soon to be 27.  I think we will see more of what we saw last year with Bruce, plus a bit more.  A healthy Jay Bruce will be a big boost for the 2014 Reds.

Devin Mesoraco’s time has come.  I’m not sure that I was personally ready for that.  His defense leaves a lot to be desired.  A lot of balls get through Mesoraco due to his poor mechanics behind the plate.  Ryan Hanigan’s bat had all but disappeared.  But Hanigan’s handling of the pitching staff was brilliant.  He was a coach on the field.  Mesoraco’s bat should be an upgrade, when he is healthy.  The time had probably come to find out about Mesoraco, but I don’t see him as the guaranteed success that I hear others speak of.  He will be starting the 2014 season on the DL with a strained oblique.  Unfortunately, that is an injury that can follow you through an entire season.

Zack Cozart is a steady glove.  He will make the plays that he is supposed to make.  When Baker finally got him out of the two hole, he began to show some signs of life at the plate.  Zack Cozart will do more to help the 2014 Reds than hurt them.

Todd Frazier is a positive energy guy.  He is for the most part adequate in the field.  He will never be mistaken for Brooks Robinson.  At the plate, he has tremendous holes in his swing.  There are lots of pitches in the zone that he cannot hit.  Word is that several people have worked hard with Todd on this very thing.  He has some pop.  If he can learn to make adjustments at the plate, he could still become a better hitter.

The Reds have been lacking a right hand bat for years.  Jocketty has been unable to find one.  Third base and left field would be the logical places to upgrade.

All of this boils down to what in terms of the 2014 Reds?

They have rookie manager in Bryan Price.  I was not at all impressed with the way that Bryan Price used his guys in spring training.  This team’s glaring weakness has been their approach at the plate and situational hitting.  If they worked on this in the spring, it did not show in their games.  Price rarely if ever batted the guys in the order that he has said he intends to use them.

Price had an inordinate number of injuries to deal with during this spring training.  It would be nice to think that you can hit a button on opening day and everything falls into place.  They have a very tough schedule the first month of the season.  They will be facing that schedule with a beat up roster and a rookie manager.  If he can have them near the .500 mark or better coming out of those games, the Reds may fare okay.

The Reds went to spring training with question marks.  The goal was to erase most if not all of them.  The truth is, they broke training camp with more question marks than they started with.

I will nonetheless try to stay optimistic about the Reds chances in 2014.  Given all the adversity, I will say that the Reds will win 85 games which will put them at about 3rd place in the NL Central and missing the playoffs.

85 is a tricky number.  They only need to stumble a little to lose 5 more and be a sub .500 ball club.  Or, they could string together some good stuff like the 2012 Reds, win five extra games and be a 90 win team.  THAT would push them into the playoffs.

A lot of the Reds success will just depend on how soon they can kick these injuries and display the strength of the team, which should be pitching. 

If you load me with truth serum, I would tell you that if they miss the 85, it will be on the short side.

Regardless, enjoy the season and root on those Cincinnati Reds!

About the author:
Danny Palmer is a Sports Enthusiast/Critic
Host of Reds Line on WICW Radio in Longboat Key, FL
"If you are looking for political correctness, click away now!"
March 26, 2014

Jesus Price!  Set A Lineup!

As opening day is quickly approaching, the time is upon us to discuss the expectations of the 2014 Cincinnati Reds.

When I look at the sum of the spring under new manager Bryan Price,
frankly I'm not impressed.  This is Wednesday, opening day will come
Monday.  It is time to set the lineup.  Tell each player what is expected
of them, give them time to settle into their respective roes and gel.  This
has the appearance of a minor league camp. a low minor league camp.

If you have a WELL established team, roles and the final days of the
spring are less important.  This team is far from well established.  They need direction.

Horrible situational hitting was prevelant under Dusty Baker.  It is incumbent upon Bryan Price and his staff to correct it.

Again, put each player in the spot you expect to use him.  Tell him what you expect of him, and tell him to work on it!
March 27, 2014

Reds Break Camp In AZ

The Reds played split squad games on their final day in Arizona.  I watched one on TV (Brewers), while listening to the other (Diamondbacks).

The Brewer game was about all minor league players.  The Diamondback game had a smattering of regulars.

Of note, Billy Hamilton collected three more hits.  Of what I managed to watch and hear from Arizona, Billy Hamilton and Roger Bernadina would be my players of the spring.  Both were very impressive.

In case you did not see the results, the Reds won both games convincingly, beating Arizona 9-1 and Milwaukee 8-2. 

With scheduled stops in Pensacola and Louisville, the Reds are headed back to Cincinnati in preparation for Monday's opener vs. the Cardinals.

Unfortunately, I believe the Reds are finishing spring training with more questions than answers. 

I will be posting my prediction for the 2014 Reds prior to Sunday night's Reds Line.  I will tell you where I think they will finish and why.
March 26, 2014

Replay Failure!

Watching the Reds vs. White Sox.  Some interesing notes in this game.

In what would be Brett Marshall's final tune-up, he was dismal.  Truthfuly,
he didn't show enough to make the ball club, let alone be the emergency
starter in the ailing rotation.

Along with control issues, he didn't fool anybody today.  5 Innings, 7 runs on 12 hits.  Again, I would have invited Aaron
Harang for a look see.  Harang has signed with the Braves.

People get confused.  They want no part of Harang.  We are not looking
for vintage Aaron Harang here.  We are hopefully not expecting him to
be in the rotation very long.  He would be a STOP GAP until guys get healthy.

But as usual, Walt Jocketty is seemingly asleep at the switch.  When
Johnny Cuteo is the healthiest pitcher on your staff, you have MAJOR

We saw two examples of the replay being used in this game today.  BOTH were epic failures.

Robin Ventura challenged a safe call at second base on a play in which Chicago second baseman Leury Garcia dropped the ball while transferring it from his glove to his hand attempting to turn a double play.  The replay showed that the ball was dropped on the exchange.  However on a replay call that took less then 30 seconds, the umpires upheld their original 'safe' call.

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton threw Reds runner, Jason Bourgeois out at third base.  But Reds manager, Bryan Price thought Bourgeois might have beaten the tag of third baseman Marcus Semien.

Replay in fact showed that the throw beat Bourgeois, but the tag was late.  However, again in less than thirty seconds the umpires chose to uphold their original call of 'out'.

Are we going to have makeup calls with replays?  Are we more interested in the speed of the replay than getting it right?  If so, what is the point of having replay at all?


My EXTREME dissatiisfaction with the Reds training in Arizona is well documented.  I have cited the reasons time and again.

The Reds opted to leave their fan base.  Now they are trying to give tickets away for April ball games. 

Training in Florida allows the fans to reach the team and become excited early on.

While the Reds have tried some cutesy things to increase attendance in Goodyear this spring.  Oveall attendance will still be dismal compared to the clubs who train in Florida.

The Reds are sending the message that the fans come last.  They have lost the family concept.

The Reds have announced this week that they will be serving QUAIL and huge assortment of craft beers at the ball park.  Nothing says a ball game more than a nice plate of quail!

How about we put a quality ball club on the field.  If the players play hard every inning of every game, Reds fans will show up.  They will be happy with a Hudy and a hot dog!


I continue to see comedic decions when it comes to official scoring in
Major League Baseball.  As we have noticed in recent years, anything
and everything is scored a hit.  Take fielding percentages/records and
flush them down the toilet.  The game is not scored remotely the same as it was 20 years ago.

March 29, 2014

Louisville Update

The Reds and Bats did indeed get to play.  It turned out to be more of a controlled scrimmage.

I think it showed Bryan Price thinking outside the box.  He got Leake some valuable work.  Twice after Leake retired the side, Price left him out there to go on.  In fact the Reds scored their only run in a 4-out inning.

With all the juggling, the official scorebook was eventually just tossed.  But it seemed like Leake must have gotten about 7 good innings of work.

I know the Reds want to promote their farm teams, but they might want to question the wisdom of concluding the spring this way.

The Cardinals had the day off today.  That allows them to have a full workout at GABP on Sunday.  The Reds having played today would need the permission of their players to work out on Sunday according to the collective bargaining agreement.

The game was stopped after 7 innings or so with the scoreboard showing a 1-1 tie.
March 29, 2014

Final Spring Game Doubtful

As of 1pm ET, the game slated to be played between the Reds and their AAA affiliate, Louisville Bats is in serious jeopardy.

Foul weather has again likely erased yet another spring game.

So the Reds played a split squad game on Thursday.  Neither lineup resembled what should take the field on opening day.

Friday's game in Pensacola was washed out.  Now Saturday's game in Louisville appears that it will be gone.

Some language in the MLB/MLBPA collective bargaining agreement prevents the Reds from having a workout on Sunday.

So when was the last time the Reds full squad played together?  As I said before, I think that Bryan Price should have had his opening day lineup on the field in full dress rehearsal for about the last ten games of the spring.

This clearly didn't happen.  I think this was a grievous error by a rookie manager.
March 31, 2014

Predictions from Reds Fans Around The Country

David D. - Toledo, Ohio
84 wins

John S. - New York City
82 wins

Doug B. - Marysville, Ohio
89 wins

Don R. - Hebron, Ohio
81 wins

Lilly P. - Urbana, Ohio
82 wins

Shelly R. - Owensboro, Kentucky
80 wins

Mark D. - Rising Sun, Indiana
82 wins

Trevor L. - Cincinnati, Ohio
81 wins

Scott A. - Jamestown, Ohio
86 wins

Richard B. - Ripley, Ohio
83 wins

Peggy M. - Indianapolis, Indiana
87 wins

Mike V. - Bellefontaine, Ohio
86 wins

Mike S. - Maineville, Ohio
91 wins

John K. - Buffalo, New York
94 wins

Jared R. - Manhattan, Kansas
93 wins

David S. - Dayton, Ohio,
86 wins

Izzie D. - Wheeling, West Virginia
90 wins

Carol S. - Springfield, Ohio
85 wins

Joseph W. - Sidney, Ohio
78 wins

Lisa A. - Springfield, Ohio
96 wins

Jack P. - Pensacola, Florida
90 wins

Corkie S. - Springfield, Ohio
83 wins

Vicki S. - Springfield, Ohio
93 wins

Gretchen S. - Bowling Green, Ohio
95 wins

Ella S. - Bowling Green, Ohio
90 wins

Chris J. - Louisville, Kentucky
79 wins

Duane R. - Marion, Ohio
95 wins

Karalee L. - Springfield, Ohio
100 Wins

Jason L. - Springfield, Ohio
108 Wins

Byron L. - Springfield, Ohio
75 Wins

Roger S. - Enon, Ohio
89 wins

Contest is now closed.  GOOD LUCK!

March 28, 2014

Pensacola A Washout

The first Major League Baseball game to have been played in Pensacola, FL since 1958 has fallen victim to the weather.

The Cincinnati Reds were to have faced their Pensacola AA team, the Blue Wahoos, Friday evening.

The last time a Major League team played in Pensacola was April 3, 1958. The Chicago White Sox played the St. Louis Cardinals. That date will stand for now.

That leaves but one more game on the exhibition schedule.  The Reds are scheduled to face their AAA team in Louisville at 4:00pm Saturday.

Longtime Louisville broadcaster, Jim Kelch will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Reds then head home to Cincinnati where they will tee it up for real at Great American Ball Park on Monday.  First pitch is scheduled for 4:10pm ET.

Weather is supposed to be cloudy with temperatures in the upper 60's.
March 31, 2014

Opening Day!

Opening Day in Cincinnati is like no other.  I was disappointed years ago when MLB stripped the Reds of the honor of being the opener for all of baseball.

Spring brings new hope.  While the Reds roster is marred with injuries, considering what happened to Aroldis Chapman, it could have been much worse.

While I have some issues with the Reds as far as training in Arizona, refusing to add that critical RH bat and pushing promotions ad nauseam, I still love this franchise.

I think Bob Castellini is a phenomenal owner who truly wants to win.

Support the ball club any way and every way you can.

Go Redlegs! 

Play Ball!
March 31, 2014

Cards Spoil The Party

Opening Day in Cincinnati is a special day of celebration.  The St. Louis Cardinals had plans of their own.  It was a pitcher's duel, Johnny Cueto was great, Adam Wainwright was better.  In the end it was a Yadier Molina home run that spelled the difference, allowing the Cardinals to shutout the Reds 1-0.  It was the first time the Reds have been shutout on Opening Day, since 1953.

It is game one of 162.  There is no need to overreact, that's for sure.  But there are red flags that cannot be ignored.  Billy Hamilton struck out only twice during the entire spring.  Today he was clearly overmatched and struck out four times.  It will have the naysayers quickly reminding us that you can't steal first base.

I didn't like what I saw out of Billy, but I would be quick to point out that Adam Wainwright made a lot of Reds hitters appear overmatched.  The Reds collected a grand total of three hits all day, two from Todd Frazier and another from Brandon Phillips.

Despite the lack of punch by the Reds offense, the Cardinals committed three errors setting the table for the Reds in the 8h inning.  Brandon Phillips led the inning off with a walk.  Joey Votto reached on an error by the Cardinal second baseman, Wong.  Runners at first and third with no outs.

Jay Bruce went deep into the count before slapping a two hopper to first base on a drawn in infield.  Phillips breaking for the plate, got caught in a run down.  After the out, Chris Welsh says "Brandon had to go when he saw it was on the ground."  No Chris!  Brandon didn't have to go anywhere.  Against the drawn in infield and no outs, Brandon has to see the ball get through!

They (Cards) were not going to turn a double play, Brandon should have still been on third base!    With one out, maybe you try to play 'go on contact'.  With no outs in the home 8th inning of a 1-0 ball game, being the runner on 3rd base, you make absolutely SURE that you do NOT make an out.

Ludwick followed it with what would have been a lead pipe double play.  The first baseman, Adams dropped the throw to first.  Phillips would have and should have scored had he not been erased.

On top of it all, we had seen the Reds put a runner on 3rd base with less than two outs numerous times throughout the spring.  I was raising thunder about it then, only to have people say, "It's only practice."  I said it then, I'll say it again.  You work hard on your weaknesses in spring training.  Apparently Bryan Price sided with the 'only practice' crowd.  It cost them in the very first game of the season.

The Cardinals followed Wainwright with 4 pitchers from the pen who kept the shutout intact.  Para and Ondrusek combined for two shutout innings for the Reds.

So we have the Red Flag of the Billy Hamilton Golden Sombrero.  We also have the anemic offense and low baseball IQ rear it's ugly head.  The latter two is an act that we have seen far too often.

One of the most alarming things in the game was the number of called third strikes taken by Reds hitters.  When you have two strikes, you should be absolutely in the 'protect the plate' mode.  If that means shortening your swing, opening your stance or whatever it takes to protect.  You are in a strike zone plus situation.  That means anything that is a strike as well as anything that is close.

The called third strikes may have well been the most disturbing thing about today's game.  The most dismal part of this ball club during the Dusty Baker era was the approach at the plate and situational hitting.  It has been a glaring issue.  Today's performance makes me wonder if they have worked on the problem at all. 

I have pointed out, I don't like the way that Bryan Price went about his spring lineups.  I'll repeat, the problem with this team has been at the plate.  To address that, we hired a pitching coach to be the new manager.

Again, one of 162.  We may see them make the adjustments.  Regardless, there are red flags of same ole, same ole. The Reds can erase this game by now winning a couple.  I just want to see some signs that they have identified the problem and they are working on it.  If not, it will be a long season.