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Volquez, Shutouts, and a Juicy Steak Dinner

I was all ready to dub this "The Best Series of the Season." It was close. So close, Drew Stubbs could probably smell it from third base. Alas, up 2-0 in the series but trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the 9th, the Reds offense managed to do the equivalent of waking up for a second to rub its face and mumble a few words, only to turn over and resume snoring.


With one out, Stubbs singled weakly to center. Dusty Baker then pinch-hit Ryan Hanigan for Corky Miller, who promptly executed a hit-and-run to perfection, moving Stubbs to third. Note: People are already blowing up the blogosphere with complaints about Dusty calling for a hit-and-run instead of a straight steal with Stubbs on first, the reasoning being that Stubbs would have scored on Hanigan's single instead of ending up at third. I'll admit, I was calling for a steal myself, but the fact remains that if the hit-and-run weren't on, there is no guarantee that Hanigan would have taken the same approach at the plate and produced a hit. Also, Stubbs could have been thrown out, and then everyone would have been bemoaning the steal attempt. For what it's worth, I liked the call. So, with runners on first and third and one out, the Reds were a fly ball from tying the game, and a couple hits from winning it and sweeping the series. So close.


As it happened, Chris Heisey and Brandon Phillips snoozed through their at-bats versus Huston Street, flailing at breaking balls and looking like Pedro Serrano after Jo-bu took a vaca'. 1-0, game over. However, before we go on to lament the Reds' lack of offense Sunday, let's exercise a little PMA (positive mental attitude) and take a minute to examine the factors that combined to make this a very encouraging series, despite the fact that the Reds began in first place and ended in second:


  1. Friday's nail-biter. Bronson Arroyo faced the minimum through six innings, and went on to turn in another great outing (he has a 1.29 ERA in three July starts). Then, Arthur Rhodes showed why he has been the best reliever in baseball this season, coming in in the 8th and striking out the Rockies' number two and three hitters to escape a bases loaded jam. What a moment, and what a way to start the second half of the season.
  2. Volquez' triumphant return. Backed by four home runs and a sell-out crowd, Edinson Volquez made his first start in a year and looked straight-up FILTHY. On top of his 96 mph fastball and knee-buckling changeup, it looks as though Volquez has improved upon his slider and added a devastating curve. Working six innings, Volquez ended with nine K's, two walks, and a boat-load of confidence. I would probably need three hands to count how many times I went "ohhhh" or "yiiiikes" or "holllyyyy @#$%!" after one of Volquez' pitches made somebody look silly. HE'S BACK, BABY!
  3. Travis Wood continues to impress. Wood has a 2.02 ERA over four starts. If you take out the start he willingly made after only three days rest because the Reds needed him, that ERA shoots down to 1.23. Granted, this is a small sample size, but is anyone really missing Aaron Harang or Homer Bailey right now? I didn't think so. Oh, and I don't know if you heard, but Wood took a perfect game into the ninth inning last Saturday. Against the defending NL Champion Phillies. Just sayin'.


So, for those reasons and others (Stubbs' two-homer game, Co-co's solid save, continued great defense), I firmly believe that this was a very positive series for the Reds. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on the Reds' sudden spat of sporadic power outages. They have been shut out in three of their past five games, and it has seemed as if every other day the Reds' bats have played hookey. In order to confirm this suspicion (that July has been a barren wasteland) I examined the Reds' runs-per-game averages (RPG) for the first three and a half months of the season. My assumption (based solely on my perception of how they have played overall so far) was that the RPG in April would be pretty bad, it would begin to improve in May, jump to new heights in June, and then start to plummet in the first half of July.


As it turns out, the Reds' RPG in April (4.6) was almost identical to the RPG in June (4.4) and July (4.4). Only in May (5.6) did the RPG fluctuate significantly. So, by this calculation, one could assume that besides a burst of power in May, the Reds offense has stayed extremely consistent over the course of the season, including July. However, a better indicator of the Reds recent struggles may be the distribution of shutouts. In the first half of July alone, the Reds have been shut out four times. That number becomes extremely telling when compared with the shutout totals in the first three months of the season (shown below). As of yesterday, the Reds had already matched the shutout total from June, doubled the total from May, and quadrupled the total from April. Not necessarily an encouraging trend.


Month

RPG

Shutouts

April

4.6

1

May

5.6

2

June

4.4

4

July (through 7/18)

4.4

4


Regardless of the Reds' offensive shortcomings this month, they still sit a half game back in the division, only because the Dodgers came out and pretty much crapped the bed four times in a row versus the Cards. That's not bad, considering the Reds gear up now for a four-game set with the last-place Washington Strasburgs (seriously, you would think that team has no other players). Meanwhile, the Cards have to square off against a Phils team newly-energized by the return of Placido Polanco. I'm calling it right now: not only will the Reds take this series 3-1, they will also find a way to beat the phenom and play Grinch on Strasmas.


Finally, due to the success of the poll questions in Thursday's post (while, no one commented on the actual blog, PER SE, the outpouring of faxes, and telegrams, and tin-can phone calls were much appreciated. I've been getting couriers and bike messengers all day with comments on the blog. It's stupendous.), I wanted to bring light to a recent wager I placed with my nemesis, Jose. Jose, my ex-corker, has spent the better part our relationship calling the 2nd place Phillies "the champs" and waxing eloquent (read: completely UN-eloquent) on his belief that Ryan Howard is superhuman and how he would love to have his babies. Jose has spent so much energy touting the merits of Ryan "never seen a curveball I didn't hate" Howard that I recently got fed up and stated that Howard has no chance of beating Joey Votto in final MVP voting at the end of the season. Now, despite the fact that Howard had a good series this weekend against the Cubs, Votto's numbers absolutely crushed Howard's at the break, so I am pretty sure I have this one in the bag. Especially since if it is even close, the nod will most likely go to Votto since he will be on a first place team when its all said and done and Howard will not (the Braves are legit.) So, the question is, will I be trouncing Jose in yet another wager? Is there any way Ryan Howard even makes this thing close??? A steak dinner hangs in the balance!


Please direct all telegrams, faxes, and barbershop quartets to www.redsmix.com.


Reed Domer-Shank 7-19-2010

3 comments:

  1. These blogs are too short, can you please make them longer so I have time to eat breakfast AND lunch before getting through one?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous - Chances are, you are spending too much time eating, and not enough time focusing on the text. Suggestions: 1) have a smoothie for breakfast, therefore freeing up your hands to scroll down quicker. 2) Wake up a little earlier. This will allow you to do the necessary reading and eating before you start your day. I know alarms can be frustrating when they go off so early, but it could be a viable option. 3) Eat six small meals per day, rather than three big ones. Not only will this take "lunch" out of the equation entirely, it also will improve your overall health and alertness. I learned that in Men's Health. Hope this helps, and thanks for the read!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Enjoy your steak dinner.

    They should install a windmill in center field at Citizens Bank Park. Those zephers Howard and Werth are generating with their stikeouts are going completely to waste!

    (Can you even imagine all the power we could generate when Mark Reynolds comes to town?)

    ReplyDelete