- Justin Masterson looks to build on his strong outing last week against Mike Leake at 7:15 (all times central).
- John Lackey draws the start against Alfredo Simon tomorrow at 7:15.
- Lance Lynn and Johnny Cueto pitch Wednesday at 6:15.
1. As I write this, the Reds are leading in a game which would bring them to .500 if won. What do you think will be the Reds' record at the end of the season? Why?
- It's weird to think that letting this question marinate for two days could make all the difference in the world, but in writing this after a pair of crushing losses to the Rockies on Sunday I have a much, much more miserable view about the rest of this season than I did on Friday. The rotation depth has begun to wilt, the positional depth wilted long ago, and the thin threads the Reds had been wearing for nearly a month finally seemed to burst at the seams.
I feel like I'm being stupidly optimistic by saying they'll reach 84 wins this season, but hell, sports are exactly what stupid optimism is for. They'll win 84 games this season.
2. What the hell happened to Jay Bruce? Can he be fixed?
- Jay is notorious for his streakiness, and his slumps slump hard just as frequently as his hot streaks burn white hot. He has made a pretty solid young career out being the NL Central's version of the Incredible Hulk, and I think that's the best way to spin what his 2014 has become. Provided, of course, that he throws an eventual hot streak in to complement the really, really bad season he's had so far. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee earlier in the season, and hasn't really hit to his usual caliber since, so hopefully that has more to do with his woes than the increasing amount of shifts he's been facing. Speaking of which, his BABIP is the lowest its been since 2009, and that's got a lot to do with the way teams are using the shift to shut down his pull power. If he can fix his pull tendencies to reduce that defense against him, he's got a chance to go back to mashing dingers. He's still just 27, somehow.
I also managed to get Jay on my team in the Red Reporter fantasy league this season, which undoubtedly has had more to do with him struggling than any sort of rational explanation could explain.
3. Tell us how good Devin Mesoraco is. Is elite offensive catcher going forward accurate?
- Devin's breakout has carried the Reds for long stretches in 2014, and they'd have long fallen off the national radar had he not chosen the 2014 season as the time to go nuts. He was a former 1st round pick out of high school and a consensus Top 30 prospect at points in his minor league career, so it's not completely outlandish to see what he's done, but the way he's transitioned from overmatched backup catcher to the catcher with the most dingers in the majors in such a short time has been amazing. His power is very real, and I think he'll be a threat in the middle of the Reds order for the future, but I'm pretty sure he's far from a perennial 160 wRC+ guy.
4. What got into Alfredo Simon? Is it sustainable?
Alfredo Simon has always had a pretty powerful fastball and the ability to change speeds, and that's what made him a valuable reliever even after his failure as a starter in his Orioles years. Somehow he managed to stretch into starter's innings for the first half of the season in a way that was wholly unexpected. Lately he's hit a major wall, though, and has looked extremely hittable in most of his post-ASB starts. I don't think it's sustainable at all, unfortunately, but his overall numbers this season are going to make his arbitration issues next year interesting to watch.
5. Billy Hamilton looked awful in April, really good by the end of June, and he's struggled since. Are these random fluctuations? Are we seeing the battle of adjustments and adjustments to adjustments here? What do you make of his hitting? And the 71% SB rate is a little disappointing for a guy with generational speed. Any ideas why he's not been more successful?
- I still think Billy Hamilton has the talent to be much better than what his overall season stats reflect. He's shown he can handle CF at an elite level despite very limited experience there, and his offense has been a pretty pleasant surprise so far, too. His baserunning has been electric, but it's also seemed a bit mistimed for a lot of the season. It's been one of the most glaring gaffes for a team that has unfortunately TOOTBLAN'd their way out of many precious potential runs all too often this season. I think he'll get better at picking his spots with the more game experience he gets, though, and I still think that'll materialize into a base-stealing season that baseball hasn't seen in a few decades.
6. How has Bryan Price been? Regardless of your answer, can we trade you Mike Matheny for him?
- Y'know, I don't know. I've had a hard time judging Price this season thanks to the obstacles he's been presented with. It's not on him that Votto played hurt before getting shut down, and it's certainly not on the manager that the bullpen started the season without their four best relievers, either. It's certainly not his fault that the team's "depth" consisted of Skip Schumaker, Ramon Santiago, and Jack Hannahan. He's been OK, but he's not been nearly as creative as I expected him to be when it was announced that he'd be the next Reds manager. He bunts all the time, he adores pitching J.J. Hoover and Logan Ondrusek, and he's been hesitant to use Aroldis Chapman in non-save situations (which is something he more or less said he wanted to do a few months ago). Coupled with a generally aggressive team baserunning philosophy that has largely backfired and there's enough to gripe about, but it's not something that deserves wanting him run out of town yet.
And great, now when Walt googles "trade for Mike Matheny," this article will show up, he'll click on it, remember that Mike played for the Cardinals, and he'll instantly call and offer Price with a PTBNL.
7. Ok. Personal question. I defended Brandon Phillips in the past. It was obnoxious at first, but I got over the "whiny little bitches" comment and his role in the ensuing fight. I love a good heel, particularly one with a grin as wide as Brandon's. "All in good fun," I thought.. And then I read about his being nasty with C. Trent and generally unpleasant about his contract. Is Phillips a jackass?
- Brandon Phillips is a guy who plays the game of baseball with a wealth of talent and a ton of passion. Brandon Phillips is also a guy who plays the game with the full knowledge that people watch games as entertainment. It can be overbearing at times, but he at least has the history of backing things up on the field of play, and I think that's endeared him to many Reds fans as the classic "love him if he's on your team, hate him if he's not" kind of player. The on-camera filth flarn filth flarn filth he launched at C. Trent was pretty much a dick move, though, one that really lost him a lot of admirers. I've resigned myself to trying really hard to watch him on the field and really hard to ignore him off the field, though, and if you stick to that it's pretty easy to be a big fan of his.
8. Any way the Bailey and Votto contracts pay-out their value on the field?
- Bailey? Yeah, absolutely. If you look at his ERA, WHIP, FIP, an K/9 from his breakout 2012 and compare them to his 2014 numbers, he's been roughly the same exact same pitcher, and he's been trending in the right direction rapidly since a very rough start to this season. He's still young for signing that large of a mostly FA years extension, so he'll only be 33 by the end of the contract, which means his proverbial "prime" is still in the now. I'm not worried about Homer of the next few seasons at all...unless this damn flexor strain issue is more serious that it initially sounds.
Votto? No. There's no way. I hope he comes back 100% and can at least hop back on a normal aging curve, but even that wouldn't get him 40+ WAR over the life of the contract. He'll always be able to get on base, which should age well, but I just don't see him being the kind of power hitter he once was. Good, but not MVP good.
9. I read your excellent piece (here. Go read it.) on Jocketty and the future of the Reds. What do you think is the most likely path the organization takes over the next few years with regard to the gm situation, payroll, and on-field success?
- I think the ownership group and Jocketty both believe that 2015 is a year in which the Reds can make a deep postseason run, and I think that's the primary focus right now. There are massive personnel decisions that need to be made in the next 12 months with each of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Alfredo Simon, and Aroldis Chapman set to become free agents at the end of the 2015 season, and I have a hard time believing that the front office will make a drastic change of direction with such a short window remaining open. Bob Castellini and Walt Jocketty go way back, and I envision Walt getting a 1-year extension when his current deal expires at the end of this season in order to make the big decisions on which players to sign and which to trade away. Beyond 2015 is anyone's guess, though. When Jocketty was pressed about non-moves at this past trade deadline, he hinted that ownership was very hesitant to sell off assets because they're so focused on winning. That has me thinking that there's one more season that the current group wants to buy into before things may break down and transition.
Huge thanks to Wick Terrell. You can follow him on twitter @wickterrell He's a good follow to get some perspective on the Reds, but be warned that he lives in some sort of Mountain nirvana designed to make you homesick for a place you've never been. On second thought, don't follow him. It's the worst.
You can look for my responses to his questions over at Red Reporter. edit: Here
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