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Series Preview #10: Talking Reds With Red Reporter

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12-16 (T-4th place, NL Central)
14-13 (2nd place, NL Central)

GAME 1: May 7, 2012 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

: May 8, 2012 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 3: May 9, 2012 @ 12:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: None; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

Miller Park | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

SBN Coverage: Reds vs Brewers coverage

A View from the Other Dugout: Red Reporter

Game 1 Marco Estrada (0-1, 3.71) vs. Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 3.03)
vs. Reds (0-0, ---) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)
Game 2 Yovani Gallardo (1-3, 5.79) vs. Homer Bailey (1-2, 3.77)
vs. Reds (0-0, ---) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)
Game 3 Zack Greinke (3-1, 4.11) vs. Johnny Cueto (4-0, 1.31)
vs. Reds (0-0, ---) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)

While the Brewers were sleeping off last night's trip home from the west coast, RijoSaboCaseyWKRP of Red Reporter was kind enough to answer some questions about the Reds to help us get ready for tonight's series. Let's get right to it:

BCB: The Reds are somewhat hot right now, entering play Sunday as winners of nine of their last 14 to bring their record back to 13-13. Is this team starting to come together, or is this just the result of playing a lot of games against the Cubs, Pirates and Astros?

RR: Hardened Reds fans would have trouble believing that the team is "hot" right now, with its record around .500 and spotty offense. But they have been winning regularly since falling to 4 under in mid-April. They played ten of their first 13 games against arguably the two of the best teams in the NL - Washington and St. Louis. Since then, they've been able to get back to respectability with some wins over the Basement Three.

That's not the whole story, though, since they also had a very convincing series against the Giants (that included a trouncing of Matt Cain). They've also had pitching that should play well on the road and sturdy defense fans have begun to take for granted. If you think the offense has significant room for improvement, then their recent winning ways should translate (at the very least) to a winning team.

Follow the jump for more!

BCB: Sean Marshall was kind of thrust into the closer role unexpectedly this spring with Francisco Cordero's free agent departure and Ryan Madson's season-ending injury. How's he handled the job so far?

RR: Marshall handled the role pretty well. There have been a few shaky outings, most notably a recent blown save against the Giants, but his strikeout and walk rates suggest the same Sean Marshall who, as a Cub, haunted the NL Central for the past few seasons as a dominant set-up man. The biggest concern might be that more of his fly balls will go for HRs at Great American, but his stuff looks as good as advertised and I think "Marshall" is a pretty good closer name.

BCB: The Brewers are going to see Bronson Arroyo (3.03 ERA), Homer Bailey (3.77) and Johnny Cueto (1.31) this week, and all three have 2012 ERAs significantly below their career numbers. Which of these guys has been the biggest surprise so far? Who's most likely to maintain this hot start?

RR: Johnny Cueto is the undisputed ace of the staff after his 2011 campaign. That 1.31 ERA likely isn't sustainable, but I'm not at all surprised at his success. He's shown steady improvement since his '08 debut season and flirted with an ERA title last year (he didn't qualify with two DL stints). The peripherals will tell you he's going to regress hard, but I think they underestimate how effective he while putting the ball in play a lot.

Bronson Arroyo, on the other hand, may be due for a serious drop-off. His control has been impeccable, but he's probably going to give up some more meatballs by living in the zone so much. Last season, he had one of the highest HR-rates in modern baseball for any pitcher who qualified for an ERA title. He's either "crafty" or a "junk baller" depending on what you think of him, but you can't count out a major improvement from a pitcher of his ilk with a history of being volatile on a game-by-game basis by dependable over a season.

Homer, meanwhile, has had a modest improvement so far, but his track record and peripherals say he's more like a low-4.00 pitcher.

BCB: Looking at the numbers, this Reds team entered Sunday with Joey Votto (.295/.452/.500) and Jay Bruce (.303/.343/.646) hitting the cover off the ball, but only one other regular with an OPS over .700. Is this how it's going to be in 2012, or are you expecting others to bounce back?

RR: The offense has been an unpleasant surprise. Some of that has been made up for by Bruce's rake fest, production from the catching duo and the prospect of having, in Zack Cozart, a better than league average hitting short stop for the first time in years. Still, they're getting precious little from 2B, 3B and any non-Bruce outfielder. Brandon Phillips has been playing injured and I think he'll be fine, assuming he's not aggravating the situation. Stubbs, if allowed to be himself at the plate, should hit for some more power and get on base just enough to let his speed go to work. There isn't much reason for optimism in LF and 3B, but I hope I'm wrong. Rolen can still pick it at third, but he's just not the Rolen of old. Or even the Rolen of two seasons a go.

BCB: Speaking of Votto, he leads baseball with six intentional walks this season. Is this a sign the Reds aren't doing enough to protect him in the lineup?

RR: Protection may well be a myth in many cases, but it seems pretty real to me so far this season with Votto. There are plenty of situations where it's not advisable to pitch around or IBB Votto, with Bruce hitting two spots away, but the Reds have gotten an anemic .178/.259/.277 line from clean-up hitters. That said, it's pretty difficult to complain about Votto's statline being a victim.

Thanks again to RijoSaboCaseyWKRP for taking the time to help us out. You can see more of his work at Red Reporter.