I agree, and am pleased, with the thrust of this story at reds.com, which is that the Reds aren’t having to focus primarily on pitching for the first off-season in recent memory. That’s a great development for this organization. Sure, there are holes to be filled (particulary in the bullpen), but the pitching is in better shape than it has been in years.

I threw up in my mouth a little bit when I read this, though:

Since late last season, the Reds have gradually made an offensive transformation, from a veteran power-laden team to a younger one that wants to rely more on speed and manufacturing runs.

That often means a lot of low-scoring games, and for that strategy to succeed, the pitching will have to be better than it has been the last several years.

Ugh. “A lot of low-scoring games”. Is this 1969?

35 Responses

  1. doug

    Its just the Reds pawning it early and often to make up for a very crappy offense.

  2. per14

    It is true that we don’t have to worry much about pitching. When was the last time we thought that? 1995? 1990?

    I’m trying to be optimistic and thinking that it is prudent not to throw away money this off-season just so they can be decent, accepting reality, and holding that money for next year when they have a chance to be good.

    But, the Taveras signing really makes it hard for me to believe that was the planned course of action.

  3. catcard202

    IMO, for the REDS new speed/defense strategy to work…The staff & defense must be MUCH improved over the 2008 version.

    800 runs allowed is a load to overcome w/ the offense going to a speed/manufacturing style. If they do not cut the RA down to a 700-725run total…We are in for a LONG year…and even then, if they do…we could still be a 70-92 club.

    W/ no real viable RHB run-producing clean-up to stick btwn Votto & Bruce…This offense looks to potentially be as bad as the 2008 Padres, Giants or Nationals at manufacturing runs. All scored less than the 704 the REDS scored in 2008. Which ain’t good…

  4. David

    Objectively speaking, which is really hard for most fans, the Reds are not in position to contend this year. So, why the impatience.

    At best, this season hopes to be a lot like the Brewers’ 2007. That team went 83-79. It wasn’t enough to compete but the small additions they made that offseason filled a couple holes, didn’t cost prospects, and didn’t burden the team with long term contracts. By the next season, the Brewers still had enough pieces to acquire CC and make a playoff push.

    If the Reds sacrifice some offense this season in order to allow young guys to come up in September and make a push for 2010 or 2011 then I am all for it.

    I know, I know – – “we’ve heard this before.” Never before has the core roster been so young AND have so much pitching depth.

    Phillips (27)
    Votto (25)
    Bruce (21)
    EdE (25)
    Alonso (21)
    Fracisco (21)
    Frazier (22)
    Dorn (23)

    Volquez (25)
    Cueto (22)
    Bailey (22)
    Owings (26)
    Thompson (23)

    That’s a LOT of really, really good talent and each should be under team control and together at the big league level for at least 3-4 years.

  5. Deaner

    I definitely agree with you that it’s nice to not have to worry about starting pitching for once… it’s the first time in a LONG time that we really don’t have to worry about anymore than the 5th spot in the rotation – and we even have options for that!

    I actually love low-scoring games, so I’m looking forward to a team without a bunch of bombers. The tension and drama is magnified with every pitch and defensive play. This also means, however, that the Reds pitching and defense is going to have to kick it up a notch or two if they want to win these close low-scoring games.

    Low-scoring games are also nice because they move along at a quicker pace – shorter innings, less pitching changes, visits to the mound, etc.

  6. Chad

    Objectively speaking, which is really hard for most fans, the Reds are not in position to contend this year.

    Absolutely true.

    So, why the impatience.

    It’s been almost a decade. I’m not sure that is a proper definition of “impatience.”

    I think we’ve been quite patient with this organization, and we’ve eaten all the garbage they’ve spoon-fed us for years. Forgive me if I tire of requests to be patient.

  7. doug

    Chad,
    I am all for being patient…. but I want the Reds to tell us that. Tell us the plan is for 2010. Don’t lie to me and tell me Willy Taveras is the answer to our problems. Tell me the truth and we are going for 2010, otherwise management just comes off as dumb or liars…. neither of which is all too good.

  8. Y-City Jim

    Objectively speaking, which is really hard for most fans, the Reds are not in position to contend this year. So, why the impatience.

    I am in absolute agreement and, while I am not thrilled about the two main acquisitions in the off-season. I am pleased that management has not mortgaged the future under the illusion that the Reds have any chance to contend this year.

    While the years of futility certainly lead us all to being impatient, we can all be somewhat calmed when we see the young talent that is so close to delivering us from non-contention hell. When it arrives, please remember those GMs that made it possible.

  9. Chris

    I’m with Chad – my patience ran out around 2004.

    But hey, if Walt Jocketty wanted to be honest, and tell me they were in a transition year, I’d believe it. Instead, we get TWO YEARS of fast Willy, a veteran-preferring “win now” manager, and talk of a philosophical change to small ball.

    Tell me why any of that merits my hope and faith?

  10. Matt B.

    OT and random, but how do I change it so I get one of those spiffy pictures by my name?

  11. Steve Price

    First of all….we can contend now…we’re choosing not to do it. There were players over the offseason that were available that could have made us competitive. As far as we know…we chose not to talk to them…because we’re “building for the future.”

    However…many of the “prospects” that we discuss play the same positions of the players we currently have, and, from what I’ve seen, the Reds seem to rate these prospects higher than other organizations.

  12. Steve Price

    Yes, I understand multiple players at certain positions gives us “trade bait.” However, other organizations also know this, and devalue what’s there….adding that to the overrating part, makes me skeptical.

    We’re really hurting up the middle in middle infield and catching prospects. Stubbs can play centerfield, and we’re hoping his bat comes along.

    Everyone’s excited about Alonso, and should be…the Reds are even taking him on their winter caravan. But, it’s important to note that he’s really only played in the Hawaiian League, and I’ve met Brandon Larson personally and hoped he would hit, too. Francisco hasn’t seen a pitch he can take and hasn’t proven he can field, Frazier doesn’t have a possession yet, Dorn is only mentioned on Reds websites, Encarnacion is running out of chances, Phillips isn’t young any more, and there’s not a lot of acknowledged young pitching prospects running through the minors (that is, acknowledged by anyone besides the Reds).

    Back in the early 70’s we were said to have been stocked this way…we had a TON of pitching prospects coming to the majors in the early 70’s, as well as some young stars in Johnny Bench, Bobby Tolan, Dave Concepcion, and Bernie Carbo being added to the team. However, we already had Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Jim Maloney, and Lee May. and we soon traded for Morgan.

    We had veteran presence first…we didn’t from youth…youth added to the mix.

    it’s not fair to expect the Reds of today to match one of the greatest teams in baseball history, but we aren’t even close on the talent spectrum for me to accept that we can work with what we have.

    The pitching prospects then were tremendous, far outshining who we have now (Maloney, Merritt, Mcglothlin, Nolan, Gullett, Simpson, Grimsley, Wilcox, Andujar, Borbon, Eastwick McEnaney).

    Unfortunately, I feel our team, and our farm system, has been so poor the last few years any hope looks like heaven shining down upon us.

    Now…here’s the flipside and I think we’re better than this…the early 80’s…our “future” was Paul Householder, Duane Walker, Eddie Milner, Nick Esasky, Gary Redus, Frank Pastore, Bruce Berenyi, Brad Lesley, and Charlie Puleo. Our veteran core included Concepcion, Dan Driessen, Ron Oester, and Mario Soto.

    Good solid players, but not enough for a core (Soto excluded). I feel we’re better than this group, but I think we are a few veteran quality players away from having a core to add the young players to. Prospects are suspects until they prove themselves, and if every prospect in every organization worked out, we would need a lot more major league teams. If we’re lucky, one of these prospects we mention will be a quality regular to add to Bruce, Votto, and Phillips….

  13. Chad

    OT and random, but how do I change it so I get one of those spiffy pictures by my name?

    I’ve been meaning to write a post about this. Those little pics are called gravatars. Go to this website:

    http://en.gravatar.com/

    and sign up using the email address you use to post here. Upload whatever picture you want, and it should appear magically almost instantly.

    Let me know if it doesn’t work for you.

  14. Phill

    Chris, I don’t get it. If Jocketty says hey guys we’re going to suck really really hard next year you’re fine with it. If he makes pretty small moves that probably won’t mean much past next year you are irate? Veteran-preferring manager Dusty Baker oh no watch out! The only position you can say Dusty played veteran favorites over last year was catcher.Can we give that lame excuse for hating Dusty a break as he showed that when he has actual talent to play they will find the time if they show they deserve it?

  15. doug

    Steve, I think you are underestimating the current farm system. I know I write about our system every day, but I also write for other sites on all prospects in baseball. Our system is quite deep in the sense that there are a ton of guys who look like they can be league average types of guys. Mix in an Alonso, Soto and a Frazier and you are really getting somewhere. Right now the Reds don’t have a top tiered stud prospect, but they have 8 guys in the top 150 too (Alonso, Soto, Frazier, Valaika, Stubbs, YRodriguez, Duran, Francisco).

    As for the comparison of Alonso to Larson…. thats just a bleak outlook that is based on nothing other than they both once played in the Reds farm system. Larson and Alonso have entirely different skills. Larson couldn’t make contact with enough to ever be a good enough hitter and his only real tool was his power, which only goes so far when you can’t draw a walk and can’t make contact. If you want to compare Larson to someone, Francisco would be the guy. Alonso makes plenty of contact and will walk nearly as often as he strikes out, all while hitting for power and average.

  16. Brian

    I know many people were mentioning signing an outfield who is coming off a down year but could have a bounce back year and some people were mentioning Gomes.

    Well those people got there wish I read at mlbtraderumors that the Reds signed him to a minor league deal with incentives.

    Also Jocketty sayed Abreu is out of the Reds price range.

  17. Steve Price

    I don’t see the prospects in nearly the same light as mentioned here….and everything I read pretty much read says we aren’t that deep…except for what’s already graduated (and Cueto still has question marks).

    Now, what’s graduated is great…but, we were there a few years ago with Dunn and Kearns, too. What was missing then were pitching graduates, and we have a couple of those…so, that takes from a 70 win team to a 75-80 win team….one player doesn’t make that much of a difference; it’s many players that bring up a team.

    “League-average” projections is typical minor league prospect talk for fourth outfielders and fifth infielders….there’s just no way our farm system is that “loaded” or the prospect sites would be be lauding our farm system, and we’d have more veteran players being thrown at us than we can catch.

    I hope some guys surprise, but reality kind of shows that about half of can’t miss prospects miss, and 1 of 10 league average projections even make the average performance expectation….it takes a lot more than that…which is what I tried to illustrate in my 70’s Reds examples.

    In the late 60’s/early 70’s Reds farm system…we had Bernie Carbo, Hal McRae, Dave Concepcion, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey, Dan Driessen, Frank Duffy, Darrel Chaney, Don Gullett, Wayne Simpson, Gary Nolan, Joaquin Andujar, Milt Wilcox, Ross Grimsley, Santo Alcala, Ray Knightk Pat Zachry, Manny Sarmiento…we even had “Clyde Mashore” who was drafted from our farm system twice (by Mets and Expos)…he was considered a top guy, kind of like a lot of current prospects are viewed. There were a host of other guys that we let go that became major league average (Fred Kendall, Kurt Bevacqua, Angel Bravo, Jose Pena, Steve Mingori, Gene Locklear, Dan McGinn, Billy Mccool, Dave Tomlin, Aurelio Monteagudo, Mack Jones, Art Shamsky)

    Now this was over about four years….I don’t see that kind of production in the past four years nor do I see anywhere near this quantity of talent listed on prospect scouting lists.

    Real prospects who become real quality players don’t make the majors when they are 25-27 years old…those are typically bench players, or may be two year regulars….if our prospects aren’t making the team with a couple of years of college or about four-five years of high school, they’re .500 players….and I just don’t think those are playoff teams….unless expectations are low…and that’s what I feel has happened to us as fans.

    I think we deserve more, and I think more can be done and, frankly, should be expected to be done…

    Again…it’s not fair to expect the Big Red Machine, but we deserve more than a tricycle.

  18. David

    Steve,

    What are your sources which say that the Reds don’t have a deep system?

    The Reds had 5 top 100 prospects in BA’s 2008 top 100 including the Reds’ Jay Bruce (1), Homer Bailey (9), Johnny Cueto (34), Joey Votto (44), and Drew Stubbs (100). Only the Rays and Red Sox had more.

    Sure, the organization isn’t as deep, because only Stubbs remained in the minors last season. However, Juan Francisco, Todd Frazier, Matt Maloney, and Devin Mesoraco all received votes for the top 100 in 2008 and are in best of the rest which constitute the next 92.

    One can expect that Francisco, Frazier, Maloney, Mesoraco will all receive votes and at least Francisco, Frazier and Mesoraco will be in the top 100. I’d expect them to be joined by Thompson and Alonso. That again makes 5 prospects in the top 100.

    Moreover, Frazier, Stubbs and Alonso will all probably be with the club in 2010.

  19. David

    I saw the Johnny Gomes signing as well. A Dickerson/Gomes platoon could be interesting.

  20. Chris

    Phill, I want honest and consistent messaging, and a workable plan for future success, coherently explained.

    I don’t see that from Pete Rose Way.

    I’m not complaining about Baker, per se (today). I’m complaining that he’s a $3M (or whatever) manager, whose SPECIALTY is (supposedly) winning with veterans.

    I’m not complaining about Willy Taveras, per se (today). I’m complaining about a 2 year contract for a stiff when Chris Dickerson is in place.

    I’m not complaining about rebuilding, per se. I’m complaining about rebuilding right after they invested $90M+ in three veteran pitchers (Harang, Arroyo, Cordero).

    I’m not complaining about “pitching, speed, and defense,” per se. I’m complaining about building around those traits when you just build a HR-friendly ballpark, and have virtually NO ONE with those skills in your system.

    I’m not complaining about a down year or two, per se. I’m complaining about a down decade, AND two down years from a new owner who has repeatedly said that “losing is unacceptable,” that “we’re going to win now,” and who’s fired two GMs already, upending whatever “plan” was in place at the time.

  21. Chris

    I’m also complaining about George Grande.

  22. Phill

    I can always get behind the George Grande hate train.

  23. Chris

    I have to admit that the pitching is better. I just got a game for my Wii – it’s MLB Power Pros, and is based on the 2007 rosters (only $12.98 at my local Circuit City closeout sale).

    The Reds pitching staff in that game is so bad that I can’t get out of last place. Harang is good, Arroyo is interesting, and the rest of the team is complete and utter dreck: Milton, Belisle, Lohse, Weathers, Majewski, Livingston, Coutlangus, Saarloos, Coffey, Santos, Cormier. Bray and Burton even stink.

    It was AWFUL.

  24. nick in va

    As a Bengals fan (and BTW, sorry Chad, go Cardinals!) I’ll lose my patience with the Reds only when I’ve regained it from the Bengals. So, it will be a while. I can only get so worked up about one major sports franchise at a time. I do think the Reds are in a pretty good spot coming up in the next few years. I still think they’ll be better than what some of the commenters on here say.

  25. David

    “I’m complaining about a down decade, AND two down years from a new owner who has repeatedly said that “losing is unacceptable,” that “we’re going to win now,” and who’s fired two GMs already, upending whatever “plan” was in place at the time.”

    “I want honest and consistent messaging, and a workable plan for future success, coherently explained.”

    I never took you for someone who is easily duped, so why do you act like you have been? Why should Castellini explain anything to the fans? Just curious. I think Castellini is the type of owner who puts his trust in people and delegates.

    Look, bottom line, I understand the frustration, what I don’t understand is why or how Castellini is Carl Lindner.

    “I’m not complaining about Willy Taveras, per se (today). I’m complaining about a 2 year contract for a stiff when Chris Dickerson is in place.”

    Last time I checked, Dickerson is still here.

    “I’m complaining about building around those traits when you just build a HR-friendly ballpark, and have virtually NO ONE with those skills in your system.”

    How did those teams built around the longball work out?

  26. Shawn

    The answer to building a winning team is not to build for speed, or build for power, but to bring in good quality baseball players.

    Well, yeah, sounds simple. Not quite as simple in practice. But the truth is, good players usually have multiple talents. They have speed and some power, or play good defense and a little power, or some combination. The best are good at lots of things.

    But, since you can’t get someone to do all those things, or very many someones, you need some complementary players. Some who have power, some who steal bases, some who play defense. You need some of all that, not just some of one particular talent. That trick never works.

  27. Steve Price

    Source on prospects is Baseball Prospectus. John Sickels says there’s a lot of “useful” players (i.e. role players).

    As for prospects…current prospects lists wouldn’t include Bruce, Votto, Bailey, or Cueto any more since they’ve spent a year in the big leagues.

    yes, they are all young…

    However…they are now the “veterans” we are building around (plus Phillips, Harang, Arroyo, and a closer?)…and, as you just mentioned…the guys left don’t constitute impact players at this time the top 100….Stubbs is closest…and there’s still all sorts fo questions about his bat.

  28. preach

    I don’t mind pitching and defense. Unfortunately this team is just not that good defensively. Taveras is not an upgrade over Patterson in the field, who knows about our shortstop, and our new catcher leads the world in passed balls. If you are going to play ‘pitching and defense’, you need to have, well, good defense.

    Yes, our corner outfielders should be better, but given the production that we lost there, you better have platinum glovers out there to make a real impact.

  29. doug

    Steve,
    I listed 8 players who are within the CURRENT Top 150 prospects in all of baseball. Thats depth, and good depth. Oh, and none of those guys include the guy slated to get the bulk of playing time in Cincinnati’s left field next year (Dickerson) or the guy who will be 24 next year with a career minor league OPS of .915 (Danny Dorn) who will start in AAA next year. It also doesn’t count any of the slew of relievers that will be able to step in and help this season if needed (Roenicke, Fisher, Manuel to name a few).

  30. David

    Another side note on the pitching/defense plan. I have no statistical analysis to back this up. It’s just my general impression and I’d like to hear peoples’ thoughts.

    It seems to me that when you rely to heavily on one or two power hitters like Adam Dunn, when he is gone you may have too hard a time replacing his production and you have what the Reds will have in 2009.

    On the other hand, when your team is built around defense, pitching and manufacturing runs, it seems easier to replace players in the system. For example, Drew Stubbs replacing Willy Taveras will be a much smoother transition. Than anyone replacing Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn has a very unique skill set. I believe that Stubbs is going to be a much better player, but he brings the same skill set as Taveras. But during that transition the Reds won’t have to change their entire philosophy.

  31. Steve Price

    As for the top 150 prospects in baseball…how many (not just the 8 Reds mentioned—Alonso, Soto, Frazier, Valaika, Stubbs, YRodriguez, Duran, Francisco) will be on a prospect list next year? One half to two-thirds, with a third being replaced by others…

    Prospects turn over and over…; prospects lists I’ve read have even said they begrudingly included Duran and YRodriguez because they’re years away (they’re essentially mid-teens), but they listed them because of the money the Reds through at them…talk about dealing in futures…

    Dickerson’s not a prospect…he’s mid-career;
    Dorn will be 25 (July) this season, and he’s still listed as AA–I think he projects as Denorfia–a useful part.

    We all know relievers, especially minor league relievers, are essentially a dime a dozen. Roenicke’s got a good arm, but he’s 27…off the 22 pitchers listed on the 40-man roster, he’s the 6th oldest now…

    I agree with your assessment the other day in comparing Larson to Francisco…Soto can be added there, too…without plate discipline and positions, who knows what will happen.

    However, my comparison of Larson to Alonso was based on being the best available power college player available…and the switch to the wooden bat…I think it was a mistake to sign Alonso to a major league contract, because now we has to be promoted in three years, ready or not…we may not have gotten him otherwise, but we should have known that before we drafted him.

    Given any team’s prospect list, anybody out of the top ten is just a guess…on the Reds’ current prospect list it’s simply management promotion. Two of our top ten prospects have yet to see a minor league pitching, Alonso has seen a hand full of pitches…and we have two pitchers on this list; Lotzkar, who’s 19, and Thompson who seems to be sore-armed and without an out pitch.

    To quote BP:

    “While the system’s a bit shallow, the Reds have a blend of almost-ready talent and toolsy teens”

    Also…

    “They (Duran and YRodriguez) were impossible not to include, as the system bottoms out pretty quickly.”

    Alonso is rated as a five-star prospect; Frazier and Stubbs are four-star…

    John Sickels’s best grade goes ot Alonso at B+…no A talents…

    Keep in mind…Votto, Bruce, Dickerson, Volquez, and Cueto just graduated…that’s great…but, that was our farm system…and now we’re building around Votto, Bruce, and Volquez….

    I suppose what I’m saying is they can’t be both parts of the equation, building blocks and futures….

  32. Steve Price

    It is harder to replace Adam Dunn, who does have unique talents…when I mention “similarity scores”, the rating of 950 is considered truly similar (Dunn has no one), a score of 900 if somewhat similar (Dunn has no one), and from there it’s just more or less who’s the closest?

    It’s a useful tool for evaluating talent as it shows comparison to career numbers as well as comparison at specific ages which helps to measure how a player’s skills are aging. (still hard for me to picture Dunn being similar to Darryl Strawberry, but Strawberry has been somewhat similar four four consecutive years, ages 25 through 28).

    In saying all that, it’s very easy to find speedy centerfielders and middle infielders…in fact, they can be replaced on almost a daily basis.

    I don’t think that’s an advantage to a team; I think that’s the sign of a weak team built on replacement players.

    Good example here is the Earl Weaver Orioles of the 60’s ad 70’s. Built on power (Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson, Paul Blair) but laced with terrific defense (Brooks Robinosn, Mark Belanger, Dave Johnson, Paul Blair), and a speedy guy at the top with a high OBP (Don Buford), and terrific starting pitching and relievers.

    If you want a speed/defense model, that’s a good one…or, you could just take Bench-Morgan-Concepcion–Geronimo….