September 2010

Postseason outlook

From MLB, the NL postseason outlook if the season were to end today

(Standings through Games of Thursday, September 23rd)

Division Races
NL EAST                   NL CENTRAL                 NLWEST
PHI 92-61 .601 —      CIN   86-67 .562 —           SF      86-67  .562 —
ATL 86-67 .562 6.0    STL 78-74  .513 7.5           SD 85-67 .559    0.5
                                                                        COL 82-70 .539  3.5

NL WILD CARD RACE

ATL  86-67 .562 —
SD   85-67 .559 0.5
COL  82-70 .539 3.5

The tie between division champion Giants and the Reds would be broken via San Francisco’s 4-3 lead in the season series. Thus, the National League match-ups would be:

DIVISION SERIES

Games 1, 2 and 5*: CIN @ PHI, ATL @ SF

Games 3 and 4*: PHI @ CIN, SF @ ATL

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On the ground in San Diego

You can’t ask for a better location for a final regular season road series than San Diego. The weather is always beautiful and the downtown area always has plenty to do. Although I will likely be too busy to do much this weekend.

Coming here immediately improved my mood after being in a middle seat for over four hours during the flight. I had John Fay to my immediate left, which was complete chance, and another gentleman to my right. The most interesting part of the flight is that Goldberg from WWE wrestling and the Celebrity Apprentice was on board. I accidentally mistweeted at first that it was Steve Austin — shows how much I know wrestling.

*For today’s off day story, I wrote about Jonny Gomes. His backstory is beyond fascinating and he’s never complained about the hand he’s been dealt. And he’s done rather well to boot.

*Obviously, everyone is waiting for the NL Central clinch — which could very well happen on Saturday or Sunday. But there is another rather significant element to this series. The Reds need to beat the Padres to improve their seeding in the playoffs and they could be the team they meet in the first round. San Diego has a 2-1 advantage in the season series from April. If the Reds sweep, they would own that tiebreaker should they finished tied.

*If the postseason began today, the National League Division Series match-ups would be:

Games 1, 2 and 5*: CIN @ PHI, ATL @ SD
Games 3 and 4*: PHI @ CIN, SD @ ATL

(The Padres, a half-game up on the Reds for the second-best record, play at L.A. tonight)

So — beating the Padres would greatly improve their chances at hosting a first-round series vs. the Braves, assuming they can hang on to the Wild Card. But a lot can change. The Giants are a half-game back in both the NL West and NL Wild Card standings.

*For for a complete look at all of the playoff tiebreaker scenarios, my colleague John Schlegel wrote a breakdown. 

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A crack at the postseason roster

The Reds and Dusty Baker refuse to discuss postseason rosters because they don’t want to jump the gun before a clinch. But with Wednesday’s game being a blowout, I took some time to think it over.

If I’m thinking clearly, I’ve got 22 locks:

Infielders:

Votto
Phillips
Cabrera
Rolen
Cairo
Janish

Outfielders:

Gomes
Stubbs
Bruce
Heisey
Nix

Catchers:

Hernandez
Hanigan

Starting pitchers:

Arroyo
Cueto
Volquez

Relievers:

Cordero
Masset
Rhodes
Chapman
Ondrusek
Bray

What’s left?

The final starting pitcher spot is between Wood and Bailey because you only need four starters in the playoffs. Whoever doesn’t get it, I would expect that dude to go into the bullpen. That would make it 24 players, including 11 pitchers. 

And that would leave one more spot on the bench and it’s up in the air should Jim Edmonds not get back from his Achilles injury. Contending will be Chris Valaika, Juan Francisco, Yonder Alonso and possibly Corky Miller.

To be eligible for the postseason roster, a player would have to be either on the 40-man roster or part of the organization as of Sept. 1.  So if they decided to reach down for someone like non-roster outfielder Wladimir Balentien, it’s legit, but I don’t see that happening at this point. Willie Bloomquist, who was acquired in a trade last week, is not eligible for the postseason.

Don’t forget, changes can be made after each round of the postseason. So someone not on the roster for the NLDS can be added in event of an injury or changing situation. I would expect extra players to be around to be ready just in case.

Who would you add or subtract?

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Votto out again, Alonso in

Weds lineup vs MIL

Phillips 4
Cabrera 6
Bruce 9
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
Alonso 3
Stubbs
Hernandez 2
Cueto 1

*Jim Edmonds was hobbling around the clubhouse with a protective boot on his right foot — but the news on his Achilles wasn’t awful. There is not a tear, according to tests.

“He’s not as severe as originally thought,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “So I think he’ll be in a boot for a couple of days and let it calm down.”

*Joey Votto got another day off after missing Tuesday’s game with a sinus infection.

“He’s doing a little better,” Baker said. “We thought it was best to wait until Friday, especially since we have a day off tomorrow. He was going to be off today but he was feeling so bad yesterday, he didn’t play yesterday.”

*Laynce Nix, who hasn’t played since Aug. 23 because of a sprained left ankle, appears to be available tonight. Nix has been taking BP for a week and has been running without problems.

“Hopefully I can get an at-bat tonight or the next couple of days,” Nix said.

Nix wasn’t worried about the one month layoff affecting him being ready for the postseason.

“I’m not concerned so much about playing as I am feeling comfortable running around,” Nix said. “I’ve played all year and have been healthy all year. I have enough at-bats where it would only take a couple of at-bats to get back into it and feeling comfortable.”

*This is Yonder Alonso’s first career start in the big leagues.

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Votto scratched from lineup

A new Reds lineup:

Phillips 4
Cabrera 6
Bruce 9
Rolen 5
Edmonds 3
Gomes 7
Hernandez 2
Heisey 8
Volquez 1

*Joey Votto was scratched because of a sinus infection.

“He has a very serious sinus infection, which is tough,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “All that hitting, base running and all that, there’s got to be some fatigue. You don’t get fatigue physically making outs. You get fatigue hitting and running the bases.”

*Drew Stubbs was pleased that he got his 20th homer last night. With 25 steals, he’s a 20/20 player this year. He’s also one of six Major League center fielders to reach 20 homers.

“Coming into the season, I try not to set any statistical goals but one thing I kind of had in mind was to try and reach 20 home runs,” Stubbs said. “I thought it’d be an attainable goal but also a challenge. Getting that last night was pretty specials.”

*Reds catchers lead the NL in hitting at .291.

*The Reds’ next win will give Baker 1,400 for his managerial career.

And since I have it, here is the Milwaukee lineup, which includes former Reds OF Chris Dickerson.

Weeks 4
Hart 9
Braun 7
Fielder 3
McGehee 5
Dickerson 8
Lucroy 2
Counsell 6
Bush 1

Edmonds starts, Stubbs rests

Tues lineup vs MIL

Phillips 4
Cabrera 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Edmonds 8
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Hernandez 2
Volquez 1

*As Dusty Baker said, it’s an off day for Drew Stubbs.

*Jim Edmonds has quite a track record vs. Brewers starter Dave Bush — .462 (6-for-13), three homers and 11 RBIs.

*More later from Miller Park.

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Momentum in Milwaukee?

Give the Reds and manager Dusty Baker some credit for being humble about the postseason stuff. They, especially Baker, don’t talk much about it and won’t until there is an official clinch.

The Reds aren’t playing lately like a team about to clinch. It’s a crew that really needs some momentum after being 7-11 so far this month. They are 1-3-1 through four series this month.

Much of this can be attributed to having some key players banged up (ie: Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips) and a stretch of 20-straight games without a day off (one is coming Thursday).

Although Baker will try to rest guys selectively, you can expect the Reds to want to keep their collective feet on the gas to the end of the regular season.

Getting some sort of home field advantage via a No. 1 or 2 seed will be paramount. Right now if the season ended today, the Reds would take on the Wild Card leading Braves. Correction — the Reds would face the Phillies. They are tied for the NL’s second-best record with the Giants, which holds the tiebreaker. Here is a breakdown of the current postseason scenarios. 

 

If the Reds faced the best record holding Phillies, they’d get H2O trifecta of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt.

Some notes –

*Reds starting pitchers have a 2.92 ERA over the last 11 games. No one has allowed more than three earned runs in a start during that stretch.

*The Brewers pitching staff is one of the Majors’ worst at 27th out of 30 teams. It is 14th in the NL.

*Joey Votto is batting .371 (13-for-35) during his nine-game hitting streak. His season high streak is 10 games.

*Jonny Gomes has 12 RBIs in 17 games this month.

*Drew Stubbs is hitting .370 with four homers in his last 13 games.

Monday lineup vs. MIL

Phillips 4
Cabrera 6
Votto 3
Rolen 5
Gomes 7
Stubbs 8
Heisey 9
Hanigan 2
Bailey 1

*This would be a good chance for Phillips to escape his funk. He is 7-for-17 (.412) lifetime vs. Brewers starter Chris Capuano.

*It rained just before I drove to Miller Park and temperatures aren’t all that appealing. I’m betting that the roof will be closed tonight. It’s current shut as the field is being prepped for BP.

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Postgame: Volquez sharpening

Edinson Volquez had one shaky fifth inning and it cost him during a 3-1 Reds loss to Arizona. He walked the first two batters and paid for it.

But the overall vibe about Volquez’s performance was positive.

Dusty Baker was asked if Volquez had his 2008 All-Star stuff back yet after his return from Tommy John surgery.

“He’s pretty close. His endurance is up. His velocity is up,” Baker said. “Since he went down to Dayton, his location is a lot better, his tempo, rhythm and just his overall delivery is better. He’s not forcing it. He’s just letting it flow, pitching nice and relaxed.”

In two starts since returning from a tune-up stint at Class A Dayton, Volquez has given up seven hits and three walks while striking out 17 over 13 2/3 innings. He is trying to land one of the rotation spots in the postseason and likely competing with Travis Wood and Homer Bailey.

“I think I’m close now,” Volquez said of his stuff. “The last two games, I’m pitching really good. My delivery is better. I throw more fastballs for strikes than before.”

More notes —

*Orlando Cabrera snapped his four-game hit streak. He was was 8-for-21 during it. He also had five doubles during this series.

*Paul Janish has an eight -game hit streak (11-for-31, .355)

*Drew Stubbs hit safely in eight of last 10 games. Check out this notebook item I did on Stubbs before the game.

*This was game 14 of a 20-game stretch without a day off. The next off day doesn’t come until Thursday of next week between Milwaukee and San Diego.

More quotes —

“You don’t play this game for 162 games, you really don’t. You can throw them all in the trash once the playoff start. But we have to get there first. You get there by playing the way we’ve been playing. I think we’ve done a good job of keeping our eye on the prize.” — Jonny Gomes

“We knew it was going to be a tough stretch physically and emotionally, and everything especially down the stretch.” — Dusty Baker on the 20-straight game stretch the Reds are in.

One other thing –

I am off for this weekend’s series at Houston. But I will return starting Monday in Milwaukee and will ride with you until the end — whenever that may be.

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Cordero or Chapman?

Reds manager Dusty Baker had a spririted defense of closer Francisco Cordero when asked if Aroldis Chapman should take over in the role.

“It hasn’t changed,” Baker said. “Chapman just learned how to relieve. That eighth inning and seventh inning is a whole lot easier than that ninth inning. Is this the place to experiment with that? With the guy that hasn’t been there? In case he doesn’t do it, do I go back to Coco and say ‘hey man, I was just kidding.’ Then you lose both of them.”

Baker did leave the door open a some about what he might do in the postseason.

“There’s a situation like Price in Tampa Bay in the playoffs [in 2008]. If that comes up, we’ll see,” Baker said. “In the meantime, let’s not stir it up. There’s already enough stirring up whenever he comes into the game. That can’t help when he comes in the game and gives up one ball or one hit, the boos start. That makes it worse.

“Let’s enjoy what we have instead of thinking about what we don’t have. How about that?”

Baker is aware that people and fans have questioned his methods all season. Although asked about Cordero and Chapman he defended his way of handling issues and handling his players.

“They didn’t like my lineup,” Baker said. “They didn’t like this. They didn’t like that. I can’t worry about those people. Those people don’t manage this ballclub. Those people don’t understand the psychological dynamics of your ballclub.

“There were people that wanted Dickerson to play and they started booing Dickerson. They wanted Nix. There’s people that wanted Bruce sent to the minor leagues. There were people that wanted Heisey to play every day. There are people that wanted Stubbs sent to the minors. There were people that wanted Masset out of here at the beginning…I’m not worried about what people say because people go on who’s hot at the time. I have to look at the overall big picture, the dynamics and the psychology of my ball club.”

To read the full story on MLB.com — click here.

 

Postgame: Give Bruce the save

Francisco Cordero was more than willing to give Jay Bruce his save after a thrilling end to a 7-5 Reds victory. Bruce stopped a potential game-tying two run homer by Adam LaRoche with a great catch at the fence. Here is a link to the video of the play:

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=12115047&c_id=cin

Since Bruce couldn’t have the save, Cordero gave Bruce a hug instead and possibly the quote of the night.

“I didn’t give him a kiss because that would’ve been a little bit weird,” Cordero said. “I gave him a big hug. He saved my night tonight. I really give it up to Bruce. He saved that game tonight. He got the save.”

*Both Dusty Baker and Bruce backed Cordero, who has been shaky lately. He had two blown saves in the previous series vs. the Pirates and nearly had one more tonight.

“How many guys in the league have that many saves? Yeah, some have gotten away,” Bruce said. “That’s just the name of the game. It’s baseball. It’s not easy. It’s a really tough position to pitch in. He’s our closer and I trust him 100 percent.”

*There was some concern about Homer Bailey, who departed after only three innings because of dizziness. Bailey’s velocity was way down and he was bouncing some balls in the dirt.

“I had a real big headache and stuff,” said Bailey, who threw 83 pitches in that short span. “I thought maybe my hat was a little too tight or something. I went out there and was kind of dizzy and a little off balance and stuff. How many walks was it, 20? That hasn’t been my game here of late. I was having trouble just staying balanced and stuff.”

*Big 3-for-4 night for Orlando Cabrera, who had three doubles and three runs scored.

*The Cardinals were swept by the Cubs to give the Reds an eight-game lead in the NL Central and a magic number of 10 to clinch. The Reds can finish 8-8 while the Cardinals would have to go 17-1 to catch them.

*A cluster of a few thousand bugs took in the game at GABP. Although it didn’t really reach Joba Chamberlain levels like in Cleveland a couple of years ago, it was enough to be a little annoying to the players.

More quotes —

“I didn’t think that ball had a chance to stay in the ballpark. I thought our only shot there was for the ball to go foul. It looked like it was staying straight. I don’t think anyone was looking at Jay Bruce. We couldn’t see him in the corner. The fans went crazy so I figured something good must have happened.” — Dusty Baker on Jay Bruce’s catch

“First I thought it was going to be foul and then I was like ‘that might have a chance.'” — D-Backs 1B Adam LaRoche

“I was jumping kind of more lateral than back. On balls like that, I try to get to the wall first as much as I can when I run so I can have a view of where it is. I thought it was going to be one of those foul in the seats. I didn’t think it was going to go as far as it did. He puts a lot of backspin on the ball most of the time.” — Jay Bruce

“I should have caught it. In the grand scheme of things there’s no excuses. It’s a ball that I tracked down and just didn’t finish it off.” – Arizona CF Chris Young, who made an error on Miguel Cairo’s fly that scored Jonny Gomes in the four-run Reds’ first inning.
   

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