The Reds pulled out an exciting win on Opening Day, which means we can immediately begin to overanalyze the team and pretend we know things that we really don’t. That’s part of the fun of baseball. One day tells us nothing, but it allows us to complain, debate, and dream of what could be.

Opening Day gave the optimist reasons to believe in this team and the pessimist reasons to further dismiss the team. I predicted the team to go 82-80. I also said that this team would be pretty good when healthy. Opening Day did nothing to deter me from thinking that. Optimism abounds. Let’s allow it to while we still can.

Make no mistake, the Reds have plenty of question marks, and Opening Day reminded us of some of those. Marlon Byrd swung the bat at will and missed often, doing nothing to alleviate fears that his rising strikeout rate (29% in 2014) will eventually lead to a drastic drop off in production. The pitching staff has plenty of questions marks, especially until Homer Bailey returns. The Reds have very little depth anywhere on the field and need healthy seasons from their regulars.

Many fans are understandably upset with Bryan Price’s decision to pitch Kevin Gregg in the 8th against the middle of the Pirates’ lineup. That decision is indefensible. But, Gregg’s poor performance doesn’t worry me in the least.

Why you ask? Because I don’t expect Gregg and Manny Parra will pitch many important innings in close games this year. The Reds have too many other options and better ones at that. Gregg and Parra are likely the Reds two worst relievers, and that will become apparent soon enough. I expect Burke Badenhop, Jumbo Diaz, and Tony Cingrani will pitch important innings and pitch well enough for the Reds to succeed.

I’m especially excited about Cingrani. I would prefer he start instead of Jason Marquis. But if he is going to pitch out of the pen, he will likely dominate an inning or two at a time. Price will figure out the bullpen. The pieces are there to be good enough.

The Reds defense will really help the Reds pitching staff. I’m still worried about the rotation, but the defense eases those concerns slightly. On Opening Day, the Reds put on a defensive clinic. Frazier likely saved a run in the first with an assist from Votto on the other end. Billy Hamilton made a great play on a ball that took a wicked turn right in front of him. Byrd made a leaping grab that mitigated some of the damage from the Gregg debacle. Does anyone think the Reds won’t save a lot of runs on defense this year?

But the most important take away from Opening Day was that Jay Bruce and Joey Votto looked healthy. Both had vintage moments. Votto’s vintage moment came in the bottom of the eighth with Billy Hamilton on first. Votto fell behind 0-2 before taking some close pitches. He managed to lay off a tough pitch with a check swing (borderline call acknowledged). He eventually hit a fastball on the outer half the other way in classic Votto fashion. He just doesn’t give away outs. He also ripped a single into right-center field earlier in the game.

Votto singling twice isn’t big news. The big news is that his legs looked healthy, and Votto was able to take advantage of pitches he struggled with last year when he wasn’t healthy.

Bruce’s vintage moment came on an inside fastball that he clobbered into the sun deck. When Bruce connects, is there a better looking swing in baseball? It’s beautiful. We didn’t see that swing last year as Bruce struggled to overcome his knee injury.

If you get a chance, check out this article from early March from Fangraphs about how the leg injuries affected Votto and Bruce last season. They both seem to have their healthy swings back. At least for one day. The question is whether they can remain healthy all season. If they look as good as they did on Opening Day, the Reds offense will produce a great deal more runs than last season.

A healthy Bruce and Votto gives the Reds a dynamic middle of the lineup with Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, and Bruce all capable of All-Star caliber offensive seasons. No one wants to face those four players in a row, especially if Hamilton figures out how to get on base more.

For those of us that believe the Reds can contend when healthy, Opening Day was encouraging. I still think they are a .500 team because of depth issues, but if the two left-handed boppers are bopping,  we can hope. And for now, hope is all we need. Let optimism abound!

63 Responses

  1. ColoREDo

    Obviously we are going to go 162-0. I mean we are 1-0 now, projections are projections.

    Votto’s slash will be 500/500/500
    Frazier projects to have 486 Ribbies.
    And Bruce will Slug 2000.

    Cant ask for much more. Go Redlegs.

  2. PDunc

    If Hamilton can get on base at even just the league average rate, this offense has a chance to be very good. I love Votto hitting in the #2 spot in the lineup. I’d like to see Frazier, Mesoraco and Bruce 3-5 in some order with Byrd and Phillips at 6 & 7.
    Hopefully the defense can continue to help mask some of the deficiencies in the pitching staff.
    This season really just hinges on the health of the starters as having to rely much on our depth will be trouble.

    • Nick Carrington

      Against right-handers, it appears you will get your wish with Frazier, Mesoraco, and Bruce hitting 3-4-5.

    • DevAJS

      The entire season honestly and truly does hinge on health of the regulars. If everyone stays healthy, this team can be very good and win a lot of games.

  3. Aaron Bradley

    I see no indication that Price is capable of learning from his mistakes. Hoover last year is a perfect example. What was he 0-10 or something? He will never ever use Chapman properly and that is a crying shame and the reason this team will never reach its’ potential. But hey, who am I to ran on your parade?

    • yoitsscholzy

      Don’t get me wrong – I was yelling at Price through my TV when Kevin Gregg came in the game. Even more as McCutchen came to the plate and Gregg was still on the mound. It was completely stupid. But to say you see “no indication that Price is capable of learning from his mistakes”? Um… how about batting BP 7th? There was great fear in Redleg Nation early in Spring Training that BP would be batting anywhere 1-3, with many people saying they didn’t believe Price had it in him to deal with BP’s attitude. He did. It paid off, big time. Price made some bone-headed pitching decisions yesterday, but he also put together one of the best lineups I’ve seen in the last 3 or 4 years. Cut him a little slack. He is clearly learning.

      • Nick Carrington

        I was one of those who was convinced Phillips was going to bat 3rd. Impressed that Price put him in the 7th spot. Many people felt he couldn’t do drop Phillips that far in the order without Phillips causing a scene. To Phillips credit, he hasn’t made a big deal out of it yet.

        Dusty likely would have hit Phillips somewhere in the 2-4 range and Mesoraco 7th.

      • lwblogger2

        I think your point about BP not making a big deal out of it is a big deal in itself. It’s a good sign that Price and BP if not on the same page, have at least reached an understanding.

      • Steve Mancuso

        The test will be when one of the national writers gets a chance to ask him what he thinks of batting 7th. He won’t talk to the local writers.

      • lwblogger2

        Yeah Steve. We’ll have to wait and see. I hope that BP is understanding of his role on this team and that he’ll have enough RBI opps in the 7-hole so as not to feel slighted.

      • greenmtred

        I have some suspicion that the whole narrative–BP throwing a tantrum, Price being afraid to cross him, etc.–is our invention. BP clearly, at times, speaks too freely in the presence of microphones, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he would be obstructive in this situation. Votto had some laudatory things to say about his leadership, and I don’t have any reason to think that Joey is in the habit of blowing smoke.

    • sezwhom

      I agree Aaron. Sticking with Gregg one batter too long is another perfect example.

      As for that parade, you can run in mine anytime because I don’t want to “rain” on yours. :o)

  4. Steve Mancuso

    I like your point that Gregg and Parra (and let me add Jason Marquis) may be on a short leash. I certainly got that impression when Price talked about Gregg’s role after the game. Didn’t seem dead set on it. Why choose Gregg for the 8th inning just because of veteran status? The one factor I’ve heard Price mention is that he’s a former closer. I’ve also heard Walt Jocketty go on and on about how good Gregg is.

    If the core regular players stay healthy, the Reds’ success will hinge on how quickly Jocketty and Price are willing to pivot away from these roster mistakes.

    • Frogger

      Thinking the same thing about correcting roster mistakes. Cozart is in the same boat. He stats the first three weeks hitting .100 something has to be done if we want to contend. Can’t wait till mid-May or June.

    • Boneill1621

      Sadly, your last sentence is how I view the entire season.

    • kmartin

      I agree that it is important for Price and Jocketty to avoid the classic “sunk cost” mistake and pivot away from the roster mistakes. However, I feel there is another disturbing problem. Having ANY pitcher other than Chapman face McCutchen with two outs in the eighth and the game on the line shows that Price is still totally wedded to the “closer rules.”

      • The Next Janish

        +1
        Either have your best face their best in those situations or just concede the walk.

    • droomac

      Yet another reason that I think even the word “closer” should be abolished from baseball. Even a history of “closing” (even if he did a terrible job for terrible teams) is enough to give a bullpen pitcher an edge, in the mind of a manager, over other obviously better pitchers.

  5. Jeremy Conley

    The pitching is going to be the question. I think the Reds offense has a chance to be really good, and we saw why yesterday. They have a lot of weapons now.

    But we’ve been spoiled with our pitching for the last few years. We barely got the win yesterday with Cueto throwing a 10k shutout for 7 innings. The pen is very suspect, especially if Price is going to use Gregg and Parra like that. Wednesday Mike Leake is our #2, and after him it’s all question marks. Leake is a good #4 or a great #5. He is not a very imposing #2, and that says nothing of who we’re running out there after him.

    We may have to outslug a lot of people.

  6. RedsFanInCali

    Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever really dies.

    In regards to Byrd and the high strikeouts…I’m trying to replay the game in my head from yesterday (I was watching the dots of Gamecast while here at school). How many of his at bats came with the bases empty? With the bases empty, what’s the difference between a strikeout and a flyout to the track in center? Understood is the fact that he may well strikeout far too often, but if he is able to offset his high strikeout rate with some power and above average RBI numbers, he is a major improvement over what the Reds got out of our left fielders, as a matter of fact our whole outfield, last year. At times I feel too much is made of his strikeouts. Granted, he is not the ideal “upgrade” for us in left field, he is still a significant upgrade.

    I’m still feeling really good about this year, especially after seeing our studs be the studs they are capable of. One of my buddies out here who is a Dodger fan said to me yesterday, “I like our new middle infielders, but your Reds are scary if they can stay in one piece.” Just thought I’d share an outsiders point of view…

    • Andrewpky

      “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever really dies.” Thank you, Mr. Dufresne.

    • Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

      I think the thing with Byrd is how over matched he looked in every plate appearance against Liriano. He was swinging for a home run every time and looked bad doing it. His whole plate approach is going to be something to watch as it seems like he swings at everything and is out in three pitches. Obviously it’s just one game but his strike out numbers have been alarmingly bad and will only get worse with age.

    • Steve Mancuso

      May not be any difference between a strikeout and fly out. But there is a difference between a strikeout and a fly ball. Fly balls can become singles or doubles, depending on where they land. You don’t compare out vs. out, because that prejudges the outcome of the fly ball. Strikeouts are worse because they can’t become hits. Here’s to hoping Byrd bounces back.

    • Tom Reed

      Byrd does strike out a lot and statistics do not lie. But I think he will provide offense this season in a similar way Kevin Mitchell did in the few years he was with the Reds in the 90’s. Bryd and Boesch will give the Reds some bopper power they have lacked the past few seasons.

      • CP

        Just pointing out that Kevin Mitchell’s worst full season of his career he had a 117 wRC+. Marlon Byrd’s career WRC+ is 102. He looks more like Ryan Ludwick 2.0 than Kevin MItchell.

      • lwblogger2

        Yeah that was an odd comparison to me. Mitchell was a fantastically good hitter. He was a no-doubt, middle-of-the-order, big stick. Byrd really has never been that.

  7. gosport474

    When Votto made the stretch for Frazier’s throw in the first inning was the telltale sign that he is healthy and ready to go. I don’t think he even attempts that play last year. And the beauty of it was that in the pre-game interview with Grande he said he wanted to live up to his end of the bargain on the Reds having the best infield in baseball this season.

  8. jdx19

    I was encouraged that every Reds player looked pretty excited to be playing baseball. I hope that drive continues to exist through the inevitable ups and downs.

  9. CTRedsFan

    To not be worried about Gregg’s poor performance is one thing, because, hopefully, you are correct and he will not be around long. However, the truly disheartening part is the absolutely horrible decision making that put him in that position in the first place!

    I don’t know if Price is making these decisions, or if he is just a puppet for Walt, but the organizations knack for bad decisions needs to change.

    The Giants have won three world series lately because the sum of their teams accomplishments have exceeded their individual parts, due in large part to one of the best front office/management groups in the sport. For years now, the Reds team accomplishments have been less than the sum of their parts because of poor decision making by their management group, much like the decisions that led to Kevin Gregg entering the game in the 8th inning yesterday.

    This team is simply not talented enough to overcome both their opponents and terrible decisions by their own management. That’s what’s worrisome about the Gregg situation, it’s indicative of a lack of fundamentally sound decision making throughout the organization.

    Sorry for the long post.

  10. seat101

    One pitcher given a chance. He blew it.

    Nothing wrong with either finding out (or just as likely, demonstrating) what Gregg is capable of.

    Price knows to manage pitching. It looks to me like he’s learned how to teach GM’s as well.

    • Thegaffer

      The 3 hard hit balls by the first 3 batters in that inning was more than enough of a chance. What is the definition of crazy anyway???

  11. Mark Elliott

    2 run lead, man on base and Andrew McCutchen at the plate. And Bryan Price calls down to the bullpen to.. check the weather because Kevin Gregg is staying in the game. KEVIN GREGG????????? McCutchen has never gotten an extra base hit against Chapman, 4 strikeouts in 7 AB… (And I think the Missile has plunked him a few times… ) There are two outs… and Kevin Gregg is your best choice? Thanks, Dusty Jr.

    Can I change my 2015 prediction from Sunday PLEASE?

  12. unc reds fan

    I too am willing to cut Price some slack…the only way his lineup could’ve looked better was if Votto was leading off (something that will never happen)…I was pumped BP was batting 7th…sometimes you want to believe that a player is better than he is…I refer to Little Big League…the manager was a 12 year old kid who didn’t want to cut his favorite player but finally realized he had too…maybe this is Price hoping for that one last gasp before finally conceding…now if Gregg continues to pitch crucial 8th innings…then lets throw Price to the wolves…but people one game a season does not make…I like the optimism we are already in a better position than half the teams in the league 🙂

  13. nellie

    Aside from Byrd’s 3 k’s and the Gregg debacle, it was a great ballgame. Votto and Bruce looked really healthy and Votto’s 8th inning at bat was 2010. Frazier and Mesoraco are growing before our eyes. Loved Hamilton , but only 1 game. BP and Cozart are fine at 7/8. I think Byrd would be a great platoon outfielder/RH pinch hitter off the bench for 80-100 games with 300-350 well timed at bats….ala Glenn Braggs????? That catch looked familiar. Don’t know that Boesch is the lefty answer to that platoon though.

    • BoldOD

      Unreal. 7 runs and couldn’t get out of the first inning.

      • Janet

        Probably not possible for DeSclafani to do worse than that. Good trade for us.

    • Eric the Red

      I haven’t seen what happened, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that a call or two went against him and he got upset/lost focus. Just a hunch.

      Normally I’d have wished him well–Game 1 in SF when Cueto went out earned him “free beers for life” in my mental saloon–but not after he popped off about the Reds. Even if he was right, he should have moved on with some class. So I’m glad he got rocked, at least this one game.

    • Matt

      Should I feel bad that I’m laughing at his current 94.5 ERA? I liked Latos while he was here, but my opinion of him changed really fast when he went bad-mouthing the Reds to the media.

      • SlyMcBean

        I saw that and got a kick out of it also. Probably the trainers fault or maybe the clubhouse is too relaxed.

      • Thegaffer

        I watched the replay, his arm is DONE! He looked like Gregg the other day, 90 mph meatballs down the heart of the plate.

    • docmike

      The real problem is a lack of leadership in the Marlins clubhouse…

    • lwblogger2

      Yeah, I was watching that game too. Whew, he didn’t look good. Velocity was still at 90-92 on the fastball too. Breaking ball didn’t look sharp. I have been a very harsh critic about that trade but based on the first start, I may have some crow to eat. I’m not ready to dine yet as it’s a long season but, that start was ugly.

  14. Red Giant

    I was at the last spring training game in Montreal on Saturday and things started to go downhill fast when K. Gregg came in in the fifth inning (he ended up giving 4 earned runs in 0.2 innings) so, like many here, I was quite surprised to see him in the eight inning on Opening Day. Fortunately, Super Todd came to the rescue and saved the day and, thanks to him, I went from frustration to joy and relief (no pun intended).

    Now I just hope that lessons will have been learned and that this won’t happen again too often… although I must say, in the end, that watching the Reds win like this was kind of exhilarating for me (certainly not for Johnny C., though).

    Note: This is my first post on this blog, which I’ve been reading regularly for a couple of years now. So hello, everyone!

      • Red Giant

        Thanks, Nick, you’re very kind. This blog has been my preferred source for in-depth information/analysis about the Reds since I discovered it in spring training of 2013.

  15. Tom Reed

    Not a good Marlins debut for Matt Latos. He gives up seven runs in the first inning.

    • Thegaffer

      If Desclafani has a decent year, Walt will look much better. Did the ump squeeze him on a pitch?

      • lwblogger2

        Not really. There may have been a pitch or two but mostly, he was getting a lot of the plate and the hitters were getting a lot of the ball when they hit it.

  16. ohiojimw

    I suspect our optimism and patience will be put to the more often than not when the turns of the back end of the rotation come up, at least early on.

    My frustration and anger over the events in the top of the 8th on opening day remained intense even after the fact of the Reds comeback. I feel like given the shortcomings of this team, starting with the back of the rotation, that every time the Reds have a clear path to victory, they must absolutely go after it almost like it were a playoff game.

    Right now the Reds no longer have the luxury of a rotation that is likely to deliver them into the 7th or 8th inning with a lead or an even to at least fighting chance to win the game nearly every day. Thus they simply must not squander those opportunities like opening day where the game should have been won without the need for the heroics in the bottom of the 8th.

    • charlottencredsfan

      Yes sir.

      Reminds me of post-ASB 2013 Giants. The team was borderline falling out of he race and the Reds came to SF, sooner after the break. Bochy was pulling out all the stops to win every single game like a playoff game. Many here complained that he was ruining the arms of his bullpen and basically over-managing. The Giants never made the playoffs but the Reds will have to fight in much the same manner from Day 1. Hopefully Price is aware of this; he was given a gift on Opening Day.

    • greenmtred

      I can’t disagree with you about the need to not squander leads, but there are questions to ponder: Can Chapman pitch every day? Can he even pitch in every close game? Can he pitch more than one inning every time he pitches? I think the answers are no, no and no, so this leads me to believe that Price needs to identify several other reliable late-inning guys. Gregg probably isn’t that, though I wouldn’t base this on one appearance.

  17. Eric the Red

    I hate having an off day right after Opening Day. It leaves us nothing to do but rehash things. That said, let me rehash something, not to beat a dead horse but to think about what it means going forward:

    Before the inning started, I wanted Chapman in the 8th. Many here could live with him not starting the inning, but argued for bringing him in for a 4 out save once things got scary. But I’m now convinced that the lineup/roster made that basically impossible. With the pitcher’s spot leading off our half of the 8th, bringing in Chapman would have required a double switch (or sacrificing the lead off batter in the 8th inning of a tight game by letting Chapman bat.). The guy you want to get out of the game on defense is Byrd, but he was batting 5th. So if you put Chapman in his spot, there’s a good chance he ends up batting, except this time with men on base. To avoid this problem with the way things were set up, you’d have to take out your 7- or 8-hole hitters, but they’re the heart of your infield defense and it’s still only a 2 run game.

    Another thing about replacing Byrd: of the choices available, we’d probably all say that Negron–and ONLY Negron–would be an upgrade defensively. But I wonder if the Reds agree with that. I bet Schumaker is ahead of him on the Reds outfield “depth chart”. I also wonder how highly they (over)rate Byrd’s defense; everyone remembers his “great catch” in the 8th, not the ball he let drop in front of him earlier in the inning.

    I may be giving Price too much credit; if Cozart had reached base in the bottom of the 7th we’d have cleared the pitcher’s spot and not needed a double switch, but it would probably have been too late to get Chapman up and throwing. I just want to point out: going forward, double switching with Byrd batting 5th is unlikely, and Negron is probably the only guy on our bench who I’d want to see come in defensively in the late innings anyway. (Which makes Schumaker and Boesch, poor hitters with little power, poor platoon splits, and lousy outfield defense kind of…um…unhelpful on our bench.)

    • Joe Atkinson

      Well, the day off DID give us a chance to watch Mat Latos last night. The good news is that DeSclafani only needs to get through the first inning to give the Reds the (extremely, extremely) early lead in winning that trade.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Odds are, if you put Chapman in to pitch the eighth, there’s a 2-0 lead when/if he comes to bat. So it matters a lot less if his spot in the lineup is an automatic out. They don’t need to score runs, they need to prevent them. And it’s no sure thing the #5 spot comes up in the bottom of the eighth. So improve the defense by taking Byrd out.

      • PDunc

        Agreed. If Chapman pitches the eighth there is a good chance we are batting in the bottom of the eighth with the score still 2-0. Then we’d be leading off the inning with Pinch Hitter, Hamilton, Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, then Chapman. Odds are we’d either don’t get to Chapman or have scored run before his at-bat comes up.
        So Chapman pitches the top of the eighth, likely gets through scoreless, we bat in the bottom of the eighth with a pinch hitter and the top of the order to bat, then worse case Chapman comes back to pitch top of the 9th with the score still 2-0.

      • Eric the Red

        Yes, if you assume Chapman will simply shut them down and we’ll win 2-0 then it’s an easy call. But I’m not sure there’s a manager in baseball–even the “progressive” ones–who would do that in a situation where the lead is so slim and the pitcher may well end up batting with runners on base. In fact, if you’re that confident Chapman will probably shut them down then it would make more sense to double switch with Cozart; if we reach his spot in the order we will have scored some runs, and if we don’t you’re confident Chapman won’t need a super defensive SS behind him.

        More broadly, I’m still unclear if Negron will be used as the defensive upgrade in LF in the late innings. Forget what we think; how certain are you they view Negron as a clear upgrade defensively in LF over Byrd and Schu? (At the very least, I bet they use Schu over Negron if he’ll be facing a RH pitcher.)

      • Steve Mancuso

        The assumption is that Chapman would be the choice least likely to give up two runs in two innings. He only gave up more than one run twice last year. I’d put the odds at about 98% than he wouldn’t give up two runs in the eighth. If he does give up two or more runs, and his spot comes up in the ninth, just pinch hit for him, no big deal. I agree with you that managers won’t do this. It’s just about exposing the consequences of Closer Rules.

  18. sultanofswaff

    Latos was sitting 89-91 on his fastball–yikes. He would have to have a Cueto-like season for the Reds not to win this trade in terms of production relative to salary.