Waiting on a Reds revival
July, 25, 2011
By Buster Olney | ESPN.com
CINCINNATI -- As manager Dusty Baker chatted in his office a few hours before "Sunday Night Baseball," the Reds were 39 days from the last time they had registered back-to-back wins. And Baker talked about waiting for his team to get on the kind of roll that hasn't happened yet this year -- a roll that seems inevitable, given the fact that Cincinnati has essentially the same core of young players that won the NL Central last year.
Joey Votto, the reigning NL MVP, is still here, and so are Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce and the strong catching duo of Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez. Aroldis Chapman has been throwing strikes, and Dontrelle Willis looks completely different than he did with the Tigers, slimmed down and joyful again. The Reds are hopeful that Edinson Volquez has gotten angry in a good way in the aftermath of his demotion to the minors, and will soon come back refocused; no one has ever doubted his ability.
Getty ImagesDrew Stubbs is just one of the many talents on the Reds roster. Will they put it back together?
And presumably the Reds will add help before the trade deadline, like other teams. While Baker talked, his phone rang: It was Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty, who had just finished watching the ceremonies in Cooperstown. Baker answered and told Jocketty that he'd call him back after the reporters left the room, and maybe their subsequent conversation was about a starting pitcher or a reliever or the kind of middle-of-the-order hitter they've sought.
But if the Reds are going to find a solution, a big part of it will inevitably be center fielder Drew Stubbs. Somebody posed an interesting question on Twitter the other day: Of all the players in Major League Baseball, who would be the best decathletes? In other words, who would be the guy who could best run, jump, throw through all those events? And the first two names that jumped to mind, for me, were Stubbs and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Stubbs is one because he's a package of remarkable physical talent. On Saturday he made a ridiculous throw home, and in the first inning Sunday he reached after his grounder was fumbled by Braves third baseman Martin Prado and Stubbs outran the throw to first. Then, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Stubbs had the strength to club the very first pitch over the right-field wall -- to the opposite field -- for a game-ending home run.
On the walk back to the hotel after the game, ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian mentioned that he once had a conversation with Stubbs about how the ballplayer had run hurdles as a teenager.
By the way, the Reds have won back-to-back games for the first time since mid-June and, despite all their problems and frustrations and weaknesses, are just three games out of first place. The NL Central is wide open.
The Reds will have to deal with the loss of Zack Cozart, who hurt his elbow Saturday and is out indefinitely.
Barry Larkin had some fun.
• The Mariners' losing streak is getting pretty ugly, at 15 games, and Seattle will be playing in Yankee Stadium this week. The feeling among the Mariners' coaches, and for catcher Miguel Olivo, is that Michael Pineda was tipping his pitches. But he may be hitting the wall, too: In his first 15 starts, he was 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA and a .199 opponents batting average. He'd allowed just 0.7 home runs per 9 IP. In his last five starts, he's 1-3 with a 7.71 ERA, a .248 average against and 1.6 HR/9.
Eric Wedge shaved his facial hair in an effort to change his luck.
• The Hall of Fame may reduce the wait for induction to three years, writes Kevin Kernan. This would be a very, very, very smart way for the Hall to bridge the gap as the PED guys begin to saturate the list of eligible candidates.
Trade stuff1. Colby Rasmus was offered to the White Sox. Edwin Jackson wasn't surprised when he heard about the report that he might be in the middle of the Cardinals-Chicago talks.
2. The Rockies lost again, and the expectation among some rival evaluators is that Rafael Betancourt, Ty Wigginton and Jason Giambi could all change addresses this week.
3. Brian Sabean says he is not close to a Carlos Beltran deal. Beltran is surely at the top of the Giants' wish list, writes Tim Kawakami.
Terry Collins has already started thinking about what he's going to say to his players after Beltran leaves. Mark Bradley thinks the Braves should trade Mike Minor in a deal for Beltran.
4. Neal Huntington is thinking clearly as the deadline approaches, writes Ron Cook. The Pirates are frustrated by the high prices, writes Bill Brink. The Pirates have talked about Hunter Pence, Carlos Pena and Carlos Beltran, writes Rob Biertempfel.
5. B.J. Upton wants a resolution as soon as possible in his situation, as Marc Topkin writes. The Upton Watch continues, writes Anwar Richardson.
6. The Astros are weighing all their options, writes Brian McTaggart.
7. Koji Uehara is aware of the trade talk. It's worth repeating: I think the Orioles should keep Uehara, who has an affordable option.
8. The rumor mill around the Cubs has quieted, writes Dave van Dyck.
9. Heath Bell expects to be traded, and he hears that the most interested teams are the Rangers, Phillies and Cardinals. Sounds about right.
10. The Rangers are waiting for the right deal.
Moves, deals and decisions1. Ian Stewart has lost favor, and his everyday position.
2. Ozzie Guillen is giving the thumbs-down to promoting a prospect.
Dings and dents1. Alex Rodriguez's rehab is on track.
2. Geoff Blum will be out two to three weeks with a fracture.
3. Roy Oswalt is set for a rehab start.
4. Chien-Ming Wang is likely to be back on Friday.
5. Johan Santana was feeling good after a bullpen session.
6. Chipper Jones is ready to go, he says.
7. Cameron Maybin has a hip flexor strain.
Sunday's game1. Xavier Paul scored a really important run for the Pirates, who pulled out the final game of Pittsburgh's series against St. Louis.
2. Micah Owings had a strong outing.
3. Roy Halladay's dominance continued. From ESPN Stats & Information, how Halladay won:
• Halladay labored through the first five innings, throwing 91 pitches while allowing eight baserunners and three runs (two earned). In his last three innings, Halladay threw just 25 pitches and didn't allow a baserunner.
• In his last three innings, Halladay was able to get ahead of hitters more effectively. He threw 64 percent first-pitch strikes through the first five innings but increased that to 78 percent from the sixth on. Halladay doubled his cutter use and decreased his two-seam fastball and changeup use on the first pitch over the last three innings, keeping Padres hitters off balance.
• Eleven of the first 25 batters he faced swung at the first pitch -- getting two hits -- while only one of the final nine batters he faced swung at pitch one.
• The Phillies are now 39-15 in games that Roy Halladay has started.
FROM ELIAS: The Phillies' .722 win percentage behind Halladay is tied for the best team win percentage in a pitcher's starts since 1900:
Roy Halladay (PHI) .722
Nick Maddox (PIT) .722
Russ Meyer (BKN) .718
Lefty Grove (PHA) .713
4. Oakland lost again to the Yankees.
5. Madison Bumgarner was excellent, again, against Milwaukee. From ESPN Stats & Information:
• In three career starts against the Brewers, Bumgarner has a 1.27 ERA and 18 strikeouts to just four walks in 21 1/3 innings. In each of those three starts, Bumgarner has attacked Brewers hitters, particularly righties, inside. On Sunday, 32 of his 81 pitches (39.5 pct) to righties were inside, his fifth-highest percentage this season and 12th in his 40 career regular season starts; his other two starts against the Brewers rank first and sixth. Righties were just 1 for 9 Sunday, including three strikeouts, in at-bats ending on an inside pitch.
• Bumgarner relied on his slider more often than usual Sunday, and wasn't afraid to come inside with it. He threw the pitch 39 percent of the time, his second highest in a start this season. Bumgarner threw more sliders than fastballs inside to righties, and hitters were 0 for 4 in at-bats ending in a slider inside.
Bumgarner may have perfect command by the time he's 25.
6. John Buck came out of the bullpen to get a big hit. Emilio Bonifacio has been on a serious tear: From ESPN Stats & Info: Bonifacio has sparked the Marlins offense, as he leads the majors with 21 runs, a .489 on-base percentage, and 14 stolen bases in July. The Marlins are 13-8 in July, averaging 5.1 runs per game. Prior to this month, Bonifacio sported a .331 on-base percentage with only 8 stolen bases.
7. The Rays avoided a sweep with a lot of help from Alex Cobb.
8. The Red Sox absolutely wrecked the Seattle Mariners, as Dan Duggan writes. Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a driving force.
9. The Cardinals lost three leads, and lost.
10. Bartolo Colon threw out a strong effort, as Ben Shpigel writes.
11. The Braves were on the other end of the Stubbs walkoff, as Carroll Rogers writes.
12. The Tigers finished off a nice series in Minnesota with a win; Rick Porcello picked up his 10th win.
13. The Cubs have three straight wins, and counting.
14. A lot pop-up in the sun took down the Brewers, writes Tom Haudricourt.
15. Chad Billingsley was The Man for the Dodgers.
16. Tyler Chatwood boosted the Angels.
17. Brett Cecil had a really strong outing.
18. The Twins missed an opportunity.
19. On a hot day, the Rangers were cooled off.