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Sleepless in Philadelphia

I was already in a foul mood this morning. One of those "I wonder what the consequences would be if I called in a bomb threat to work" moods. One of those fight-the-urge-to-spit-on-random-passersby moods. One of those " the only good thing about today will be bed time" moods. In short, I was feeling like what I can only assume a Pirates fan feels like every single day. However, to make matters worse, I awoke to a series of texts from my arch-enemy Jose, a.k.a. Satan Spawn:

2:26AM > Phils have just come to agreement on Roy Oswalt!!!! We da best!!!

2:30AM > We the new evil empire!!! The Yankees not even the Yankee Clippers anymore, we the Yankee Clippers, we acquire more big names than anybody!!!

5:04AM > I got a question for the rest of baseball now that the champs have Oswalt – WHO'S YOUR DADDY !?!?!?

Immediately, two thoughts went through my head. First: why would anyone WANT to compare their team to the Yankees, a.k.a. the most hated franchise in all of sports? Then I remembered this is Jose we are talking about, a guy whose ideal celebrity dinner party would probably include Joseph Stalin and Prince Humperdink. Second: who makes it a point to talk trash in three-hour intervals IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT? Again, I immediately reminded myself that this is the guy who undoubtedly spends the bulk of his daylight hours sleeping in a coffin with Donovan McNabb wallpaper. (He recently was given a two-day sports talk suspension for making the asinine claim that McNabb currently throws the best deep ball in the NFL. He left me no choice.)

Note: as I am writing this I received yet another text from the Scorpion King, directing me to the front page of, announcing the "likely" move of Oswalt to Philadelphia. Another suspension may be in order, just from shear annoyance.

Thankfully, for every yin in life, there generally exists a yang. For every dominant slugger, there is a lights-out closer. For every over-achieving sports franchise, there is the Chicago Cubs. For every poorly-made reality show, there is an Ultimate Catch. For every Robert Pattinson, there is someone who can act……you get the idea. As it turns out, the yin to Jose's venom has become the daily e-mails from my buddy Gunz. Gunz and I met in college, right around the time he was being given the nickname"Gunz" for being an absolute monster on the softball field, while still maintaining his 5'9, 125 pound chiseled physique. (When prompted, he will tell you he still hits mammoth home runs in his local Columbus rec' league). In addition to us both pulling copious tail due to our softball prowess, Gunz and I forged a fast bond on the strength of our Reds fanhood. And, while many years have passed, Gunz and I still take every possible opportunity to discuss all things Reds, Bengals, Buckeyes, and Taco Bell. As a result of our sports conversations, Gunz will often send me lengthy statistical breakdowns to back up his opinions, and so, most recently, (and with me blogging as an impetus) Gunz has become my de facto data warehouse. Think: Stats from Mike and Mike in the Morning, or Tony Reali from Pardon the Interruption. (DON'T think: Tony Reali from Around the Horn – if Gunz ever tried to mute me I'd smack him in the nose).

So, the topic of yesterday's conversation centered on the overall performance of the Reds bullpen, and the question was: if the playoffs were to start today (and the Reds were in), what would be the best possible bullpen they could employ? After throwing around a few scenarios and debating the merits of certain players (I am pretty sure Gunz and Nick Masset are dating, for as much as he defends him), Gunz sent me the following e-mail in order to bring a statistical foundation to the proceedings:

"Here is an update on some of the surprisingly effective relievers in the bullpen. The trade deadline is Saturday, and I would say these guys might not need replaced.

Logan Ondrusek hasn't allowed an earned run since June 15th. He's pitched in 17 games, including the June 15th game, eating 17.1 innings. During this period his ERA is 0.52 and his WHIP is 0.63. He has 15 strikeouts versus 4 walks. He has allowed 3 inherited runners to score during this period (2 of them during the June 15th game).

Nick Masset last gave up an earned run on July 8th (he left a runner on third that Arthur Rhodes inherited). This means he's given up 1 run over the last 8.1 innings (9 appearances). During this period he has 11 strikeouts versus 4, a 1.08 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He has not allowed an inherited runner to score over this period. Plus, he smells like Sex Panther and I want to be on him.*

Jordan Smith has also not given up an earned run since July 8th. This includes 6 appearances, pitching a total of 7 innings. He has 4 strikeouts, 2 walks and 5 hits (1.00 WHIP) and a 1.29 ERA. He has not allowed an inherited runner during this period.

Carlos Fisher has only pitched in 2 games since being recalled from Louisville. He has yet to give up an earned run, an inherited run or a walk. He has allowed struck out 5, allowing only 3 hits over 4.2 innings, giving him a 0.64 WHIP and a 0.00 ERA for that period.

The other three in the bullpen are Arthur Rhodes, Francisco Cordero and Bill Bray. Coco isn't going anywhere. He's owed too much and is still the most experienced closer we have. Arthur Rhodes has lost a bit of his dominance from earlier in the season, but is still pretty effective. He won't be going anywhere either.

Bill Bray is the biggest question mark in the bullpen right now. In his last 6 games, he has pitched 4.2 innings with a 7.71 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP. In addition, 4 inherited runners have scored."

*I obviously added that.

So, from what I can tell, Gunz' ideal Reds playoff 'pen wouldn't differ too terribly from its makeup today, except I think he would replace Bray with another lefty, either Chapman or possibly a trade-deadline acquisition like Scott Downs of the Blue Jays. He would also probably promote Masset to closer/ #1 boo, but that's a different story. I agree that our bullpen is coming into its own and, especially with its considerable depth (Micah Owings, Danny Ray Herrera, Enerio Del Rosario are all at Louisville), would be sufficient heading into the postseason. However, it's hard to ignore the 102-mph fireballer that's chillin' in the minors, even if he does have trouble finding the strike zone with a Tom-Tom. Also, Jared Burton (once a dominant set-up man) has been in a serious groove lately at Louisville, so he must be given consideration. For my money, if the Reds make the playoffs, here's who I've got slotted in:

R Co-co Cordero – Making a ton and has experience, despite his shaky play this year

L Arthur Rhodes – No one in Reds country will soon forget his dominant first half

R Nick Masset – We all know he can be dominant, and he is slowly returning to form

L Aroldis Chapman – Management definitely wants this to happen, and I think it will

R Jared Burton – Has the experience and the moxie to come through in big situations

R Logan Ondrusek – Has just been incredible since his second stint in the Bigs

L Travis Wood – A playoff rotation will probably consist of Arroyo, Cueto, and Volquez (I predict he gets it together) and they will be wanting to limit Wood's innings anyway.

Then, for fun, I posed the same question to Hal McCoy, Hall of Fame sportswriter for the Dayton Daily News. His response:

"Given my choice, I'd take Coco Cordero, Arthur Rhodes, Brian Wilson, Joakin Soria, Heath Bell, Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Papelbon and Neftali Feliz. But six of those eight players pitch for other teams and I don't think it's possible for the Reds to acquire them by Aug. 31. And who knows who will be pitching well and who won't by playoff time? Based on now (if the Reds make it), my bullpen would be Cordero, Rhodes, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek, Jason Isringhausen (if he shows he can still pitch), Jordan Smith, Micah Owings (so he can also pinch-hit) and Travis Wood (because they need another left-hander in the bullpen and he can also be a long man and emergency starter). Now they just have to get there."

While, over the years I have pretty much taken Hal's opinion directly to the bank, I'd have to disagree with him on a few things. First, Owings was sent down to the minors for a reason: he stinks. Yes, he can hit…kind of…but lately he's been getting punked more than Red from Friday. Second, while Jordan Smith has pitched admirably, I think Burton will prove to be a better option, if not Isringhausen.

Meanwhile, those are only the opinions of three men (two of which having zero credibility). So, the question becomes: what does the immense readership think? Will the Reds bullpen continue its current trend of shutdown baseball, or will someone implode? Will any of the AAA'ers be seeing a promotion between now and the end of August? What is our best possible 'pen?

Next up: After taking a hammer to the hearts of all Milwaukeans (Milwaukens?) in the second two games of the series, the Reds take a share of first place home to engage the Atlanta Braves. With a heavy heart, I will be taking a brief hiatus from my blogging duties for a week, as I will be occupied avoiding sharks and drinking Bud Light Limes on the sunny beaches of Hilton Head, South Carolina. Here's hoping the Reds can exorcise their shutout demons and put together a complete series against the Braves. Of course, every game we win against the Braves brings the Phillies closer to the NL East lead, which makes a small part of me die inside because of bragadocious Jose. I am halfway hoping Sprint doesn't get service on the island - the last thing I need on my vacation is to have my REM cycle shattered by texts about Dominic Brown's minor league statistics. Thankfully, the Phils still have Brad Lidge, Kyle Kendrick, and Fat Joe Blanton, a.k.a three of Atlanta's most crucial players down the stretch, so I am confident they will flop. Just in case, maybe I'll have Gunz dig up some figures on the likelihood of winning a championship with an aging, injury-prone team and send 'em Jose's way. Can't hurt.

Reed Domer-Shank 7-29-2010

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