I have avoided during game recaps the last couple of weeks because I don’t want to overreact either positively or negatively. I must break my silence today after listening to a mundane game with riveting moments of action. It is just a single game, but it is the kind of a game that can set a trend. I want to focus on four areas for tonight’s recap:
- Starting Pitching
- Relief Pitching
- Clutch Hitting
Bronson Arroyo took the mound this afternoon and pitched 6 innings of quality baseball. He allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits and a walk. One of the hits was a home run but I want to focus on the positive. His fastball is topping out at over 90 mph. He finished strong retiring the last 10 batters he faced. He allowed only four hits in a quality start.
In 2011, Bronson pitched in 9 games where he went 6+ innings and allowed 2 or less runs. The significant number in my opinion is 4 hits. The last time Arroyo threw 6 or more innings and gave up 4 hits or less was September 30, 2010. He accomplished this feat 6 times in 2010 and it appears he may have rediscovered the form that enabled him to earn a 17-10 record. Few Reds fans expect anything out of Arroyo, but Dusty Baker needs Arroyo to return to form for the Reds to make a serious championship run. He doesn’t need an ace, he needs a solid contributor.
Are you starting to get a little antsy about the Reds bullpen? It would be hard to blame you. In a week that began with the announcement of season ending Tommy John surgery on Ryan Madson has now landed Nick Masset officially on the Disabled List to start the season with inflammation in his shoulder. Masset is a pitcher capable of more than he showed in 2011 but he may never be able to live up to the hopes that some invest in him. My hope is that he can return and give the Reds 60 innings with a 3.00 ERA. Lofty goals maybe but within the realm of possibility.
Bill Bray pitched for the first time on Monday and threw a scoreless inning adding a ray of sunshine to the gloom created by Madson and Masset. His return to productivity will be a welcome relief to both Dusty and Walt Jocketty.
That brings my to the unsung hero of this spring training, Logan Ondrusek. Logan pitched the final two innings of scoreless baseball to earn the win this afternoon. He has only given up a run(s) in a single outing this season and that was against these same LA Angels that he faced successfully today. He raised his preseason strikeout total to 12 in 10.1 IP against a single walk. Logan seemed to physically wear out in 2011 and if the Reds starting pitching can record a few more outs per game Logan should be an effective part of the bullpen all season long alongside Sean Marshall.
The excitement in 2011, when on Opening Day the Reds defeated the Milwaukee Brewers on the strength of a Ramon Hernandez walk off home run, was palpable. Today, just 8 days from the start of the 2012 season, the drama was not nearly as apparent but the dugout responded in much the same way. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th with the tying run on second and two outs, Ryan Ludwick delivered what is hoped will be the first of many home runs in a Cincinnati Reds uniform. Ludwick has been disappointing to some for not getting off to a quick start but this will hopefully be the catalyst for a little added excitement in the contest for the left field starting job. It is just a single home run, but before you can hit 20 you have to hit the first.
In 2011, aside from Drew Stubbs, the Reds struggled on the basepaths. Who can forget Brandon Phillips getting caught napping in the 19 inning marathon in Philadelphia. The Reds stole 97 bases but were caught stealing 50 times. Not a recipe for success in my mind. This spring the Reds have renewed their focus on this tool in the baseball toolbox. Reds base runners have swiped 28 bases and been caught stealing just 5 times. In the second inning today Phillips stole his second base of the spring.
Another aspect of speed affects extra base hits. In 2011 the Reds hit the second most home runs in the game demonstrating their power but did not fare as well in doubles and triples. The finished 11th out of 16 teams with 264 doubles and 15th out of 16 with just 19 doubles. What does this have to do with today’s game you might ask? Scott Rolen hit a triple. He hit two during the regular season in 2011 but at 36 it is still an accomplishment. For the Reds to be a consistent run scoring threat they need to not rely solely on home run power the need to manufacture run scoring opportunities. Did I mention Scott Rolen hit a triple?
Today’s game ended in a flash, but the ramifications could extend throughout the season.
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Tags: Bill Bray Brandon Phillips Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds Clutch Hitting Drew Stubbs Logan Ondrusek Nick Masset Ramon Hernandez Relief Pitching Ryan Ludwick Ryan Madson Scott Rolen Sean Marshall Speed Starting Pitching Walt Jocketty