Not the way to start 2nd half

Thursday was the start of an important, actually critical, 10-game stretch for the Reds vs. the Brewers, Dodgers and Cubs. Thursday’s 9-6 loss was not the way they wanted to start the second half.

Homer Bailey started out OK even after hitting his first batter of the game, allowing two walks in the second and even Prince Fielder’s three-run homer in the third. What wasn’t OK were the two walks he issued to Ryan Braun and Fielder in the five-run, 10-batter Brewers sixth inning. Those were killer.

“He was trying to challenge them but wasn’t finding the strike zone in that inning,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They’re pretty good hitters. That was a tough inning right there, a real tough inning.”

Bailey pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up a career-high seven earned runs and six hits. He walked four and struck out three. Many of the hits, other than Fielder’s, weren’t crushed. Nick Masset took over in the sixth and let all of his inherited runners home on a groundball up the middle and a broken bat single — not overwhelming but damaging all the same. 

Reds starters are 1-5 with an 8.46 ERA over their last eight games.

Some high moments: Joey Votto hit a mammoth two-run homer to the smokestacks in the bottom of the third inning. It traveled 471 feet and was the 12th longest HR in GABP history.

“Joey’s ball landed in Newport,” Bailey said.

In the fifth was about as neat a “web gem” as you’ll see. Craig Counsell hit a sharp roller to the middle. Shortstop Jerry Hairston Jr. scooped and flipped the ball with his glove. Second baseman Brandon Phillips caught it barehanded and turned the 6-4-3 GIDP.

The Reds, which have lost eight of their last 11 and five of the last six, are 42-46 — that’s four games under .500. The Cardinals were off so the deficit in the division is 5 1/2 games.

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Had to turn the game off when it was 8-2. Nix and Hernandez shouldn’t be in the lineup. Why does Dusty constantly play guys who are struggling when he’s got other options. (Hanigan behind the plate, Heisley in the outfield). When you want to win, you play your hottest players. He’s managing this team like it’s a AAA farm team. Dusty has let too many opportunities get away and now we’re in a place where we’re basically out of contention. I mean, look at the leadoff spot. Worst OBP in baseball. How long did he continue to play WT while he was struggling and let the hot hitting Dickerson sit on the bench? How many games has Gomes missed, even though he’s one of our best OBP hitters?

Jeez-o-Pete! I feel awful for Dickerson. I’ve had back spasms twice in my life, and was flat on my back two days both times. Never felt such pain. If he can play through them he’s a better man than I am (Gunga Din). When is this team going to catch a break? We may have to give Jockety and Baker a pass on this season. A mulligan. And then, I think we just might go like Colorado two seasons ago. Win 20 of the last 21 and poach the division title. I don’t why, I just can’t give up hope.

Time to Replace Baker

It pains me to write this, but it’s pretty clear now that the Reds are not going to contend this year. The injury to Jay Bruce sealed that fate. Bruce may have been slumping, but there is no scenario for the Reds to win the division without Jay Bruce playing a large role.

As a long-suffering Reds fan, and one who fondly remembers the Big Red Machine in my childhood, I think the Reds are on the right track. Yes, it seems like “just wait ’til next year” has been our organization’s mantra for a decade. But I genuinely think the Reds have some important pieces for success in the near future.

The urgency facing the organization right now is removing Dusty Baker as the manager. I have slowly come to this conclusion because there are parts of Baker’s management of the team that I like – especially his intensity and focus on every game. I also generally tend to give managers the benefit of the doubt.

I’m not even pinning the blame on the Reds’ current record on Baker, either. Injuries, poor roster construction and key under-performance contribute to that.

Regardless of who is to blame, he is the wrong person to lead the Reds from now forward.

First, Baker was hired to win with veterans in the short term, not to develop young players over the longer term. His history of success with veteran teams is well known. His track record is to not make the short term sacrifices to develop our team for the future. He will stubbornly continue to play veterans that have zero prospect of playing central roles for the Reds in the future. Ramon Hernandez, Alex Gonzalez, David Weathers, Jerry Hairston and Johnny Gomes are examples of this type of player.

Second, Baker’s view of baseball is hopelessly old-fashioned, causing the Reds to fall behind other teams with more modern direction. His use of Willy Taveras in the leadoff slot, despite the fact that Taveras has become, over three months, the worst hitter in baseball, is based purely on old-school notions that fast players should play centerfield and lead off.

Baker having Alex Gonzalez bat second, even for a few games, is further proof of how out of the modern mainstream he is. It’s really hard to imagine a hitter more inappropriate in that role – terrible plate discipline, short at bats, straight pull hitter, and an even worse OBP than Taveras.

Another example of Baker’s out-of-date thinking is his attachment to the concept of “clutch hitting” and “we have to find a way to get runners in from second and third.” Again, these are outdated metrics that have been thoroughly discredited by modern analysis. Certain hitters do not rise to the occasion in clutch situations. Hitters essentially have the same batting average – over sufficiently large sample sizes – with runners in scoring position as they do at other times.

Focusing on the team’s need to “find a way to get runners in from second and third” looks at the problem completely backwards. The team needs to find a way to get more runners TO second and third base – in other words, high OBP. Studies have consistently shown that the numbers of runners in scoring position is closely correlated to runs scored, and that differences between teams in OBP explain run differentials far more than batting average with RISP.

Dusty is only a short time away from having said that “walks clog up the bases.” It’s really difficult to put into words how totally wrong that is. (Funny, when the Reds pitchers give up walks, it sure seems to be a problem, not a benefit. Dusty pointed to Homer’s walks last night as leading to the loss.)

Third, Baker is unwilling to discipline ‘established’ players – or insist that they develop fundamental skills. For example, it seems every night we witness mistakes in judgment by the centerfield play of Willy Taveras. He doesn’t charge base hits, he overthrows cutoff men allowing following runners to gain extra bases, he takes improper routes to catch fly balls. Yet, not a word of concern from Baker. Yet, he saw fit to single out Chris Dickerson, who hustles MORE than anyone on this team, for not backing up Taveras on one of his nightly mistakes.

How discouraging it must be to young players to see Baker tolerate Taveras’ mental mistakes but publicly go after the hard-working Dickerson.

Baker is also tolerating Ramon Hernandez’s inferior defensive skills, his apparent lack of raport with many of the Reds pitchers, and his declining offensive output. While I like certain things about Hernandez, it has become a travesty that Ryan Hanigan sits the bench basically every night.

It’s hard to determine Walt Jockety’s complicity with these mistakes. He surely was involved in signing Taveras and Hernandez, even though their low career trajectories were evident. Perhaps he was making the best of a bad situation. We didn’t sign the big bat we needed this off-season, that’s a failure, for sure.

But changing the manager – now – is the most important need for the Reds. I don’t come to this conclusion easily, as I’m usually not a “fire the coach” guy. My dad was a head coach for a long time, so I’m pretty sympathetic to the notion that outsiders are generally poorly informed.

But it has become very evident that for the Reds to develop their team the way they need to for future years, Dusty Baker has to go.

You know, I’m usually the one who comes in and defends Baker, but I believe I’m beginning to turn to your all’s side. I don’t think he’s a good coach for the future either. You guys point out that he plays mediocre veterans over talented youths, and I agree. Willy shouldn’t be playing, and right now I don’t give a darn that we paid him to be our starting center fielder.
What hurts me the most is that Ryan Hannigan continues to sit on the bench while Hernandez catches. Granted, Ramon is starting to turn it back around offensively, and a lot of runners that steal against him are actually stealing against the pitchers. Ryan is already 30 years old (I believe). It’s time we start playing him before it’s too late.
I don’t think firing Dusty right now would solve anything. But, if we end up below .500 again, it’s time for him to go. He hasn’t established much of anything since becoming the manager.
Wow… can’t believe I’m starting to agree with you all about all of this stuff.😛 I do think we all need continue to stay patient, though. Things are looking grim, but that’s the good thing about baseball. A week or two can completely turn things around. Just keep waiting. Hopefully something good will happen…

What is the deal with half inning long commerials for Cincinnati tourism durning the game?

I am listening to hear the game, not how great Cincinnati is to visit. Mark can you tell Tom to cut the interviews down a bit?

I hope you do good in the 2nd half – good luck.

Sorry laroberts — Tom is just doing the job he’s paid to do. He doesn’t tell me what to write and I wouldn’t dream of walking into that booth and telling Tom, Marty or Jeff what’s what.

Ever see the movie “The Right Stuff” ? There’s an appropriate term that applies here — “No bucks, No Buck Rogers.”

I would love to hear someone say something to Marty!!

I am thinking about sponsoring some ‘Ask Marty’ segments so there will be more.

I love the banter. Especially when the discussion rolls into Cowboy’s chicken adventures or Marty’s love of twitter.

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