Apr 2, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Tony Cingrani (52) pitches during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Reds opening series thoughts


Well, the first series of the regular season is over and the Reds are sitting at 1-2 after losing the series to the St. Louis Cardinals. The first two games saw 1-0 wins, one by each team. The final game finished seven-and-a-half hours after it was originally scheduled to begin, but there was a long rain delay and after all was said and done the Cardinals hung on to win that one 7-6 and take the series.

Very little should be taken away from one series, the sample size worth of at bats, innings in the field or innings on the mound simply isn’t enough to truly have any clue of what anything means. We won’t know much about anything until the end of April and even then, we may not know much. But here we are after three games to start the year and everyone already has some thoughts. Here are mine.

Billy Hamilton had about as bad of a start as can be imagined. After replacing a guy who got on base 42% of the time last season at the top of the lineup, Hamilton went 0-12 with six strikeouts and a walk. He hit the ball semi-hard once and it came in the lone time at the plate he was batting from the right side, which is hit natural side of the plate. From the left side of the plate he struggled to stay back on the ball, often out on his front foot and simply throwing the bat at the ball. While some hitters can do that, they are hitters who have outstanding bat control. Billy Hamilton isn’t that kind of player right now. While everyone gets fooled and winds up out front at times, it seems Hamilton is purposefully slapping at the ball while on his front foot. Hopefully the trip to New York to face some lesser Mets pitching will let him get settled in a bit more and get things moving in the right direction.

Joey Votto is still the Reds best hitter. Not that anyone was truly doubting it, but after struggling against what seems to be his nemesis on opening day in Adam Wainwright, he settled in to go five for seven with two walks and two doubles while looking like Joey Votto.

Todd Frazier had a hit in each game of the series, though he showed the same inconsistencies we have seen in the past. One day he hits 900 feet worth of home runs and the day before he strikes out twice on pitches nowhere near the strikezone. His first home run yesterday was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to see what Hittrackeronline.com gives for the true distance on it.

Jay Bruce got the Reds on the board early on Thursday with a 2-run shot, his first of the season that was placed about 10 rows from the top of the sundeck. It seemed to get the offense moving after scoring just one run the previous two games, they went out and scored six times. It wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t enough because the pitching, after being so strong in the first two games, wasn’t so strong. Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani were outstanding in their respective starts. Tony Cingrani extended his modern record as he now has 19 straight starts of allowing fewer than six hits. Alone that would be incredible, but those are also the first 19 starts of his career. For those keeping score at home, Cingrani threw his fastball 80% of the time in that start and it continues to astound and impress that he can have so much success relying on it that much.

Where was Sam LeCure? The Reds bullpen has Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall all on the disabled list and in three different one-run games the right hander didn’t make an appearance? That seems a bit strange.

Keep using the shift, but perhaps consider not using it against Matt Adams. In the 2013 season Adams went to left field or third base just 22% of the time. He went there four times in three games against the Reds in the series. In the long run, using the shift along with players spray charts will work, but perhaps Matt Adams put the work in to go the other way and his old spray chart isn’t working for him anymore.

Those are some of my thoughts from the opening series. What caught your attention from the series?

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Tags: Billy Hamilton Cincinnati Reds

  • Ron Fulton

    The first series is about what I expected. Their scoring will come from Home runs and Phillips in not smart or parient to bat behind Hamilton. When your down one run, with Billy at first in the eighth inning, you don;t swing at the first two pitches. You give him the opportunity to steal and put the run in scoring position, especially with 2 outs.. Phillips will cost Hamilton stolen bases this season no question.

    • Doug Gray

      I thought Phillips was pretty patient the first game of the series. Personally, I HATE the idea of taking pitches so someone can steal a base. If you get a good pitch to hit, swing, because it might be the only one you get. Now, I will be up front, I was listening to that last at bat last night, so I don’t know if any of those pitches were good to hit or not, so Ron you can tell me if they were or not, but if they were actually good pitches for Phillips then I don’t have an issue there.

      • Ron Fulton

        I disagree with you, let’s say the pitches were hittable. With two outs you must get Hamilton in scoring position that late in the game. Maybe Price should have put the take sign on for the second pitch to give Billy a chance. But you don’t swing at the first two pitches ever with Billy on first. You must utilize his asset – speed.

        • Doug Gray

          Lance Lynn struck out 198 batters in 2013. You don’t get a ton of hittable pitches from him. If he throws you one that you can do damage on, swing. If Phillips hit a double on one of those pitches last night with Hamilton on first, the game is tied. Maybe you would still be complaining that he should have taken the pitch, I don’t know, but I look at the process of it not the results. The process of any at bat is get a good pitch and hit it hard. As I said, I don’t know if Phillips got the good pitches or not because I was listening on the radio and not watching. But if they were good, try to drive them. Hamilton is going to get more than one base if you can.

          • Ron Fulton

            The difference between you and I is your an optimist and I am a realist. Most of the age group you are in are. My group (I’m 77) believes in basic baseball. Steal when you can and bunt to advance the runners. Baker was the worst at these values, so I am a little skeptical about Price. You say let Phillips hit and maybe he hits a double and scores Hamilton. But what if he takes a pitch and Hamilton gets in scoring position, then he only needs a single to score. Are you telling me, it’s easier to hit a double than a single? I think not. Besides he has a good chance of stealing third as well. Well this is all supposition anyway, Price, by his look after the swing was not a happy man anyway, and I am sure Phillips will hear about it. No one can tell me that he should not have given Hamilton a chance to get into scoring position that late in the game and with 2 outs. Think about it.

          • Doug Gray

            What I am saying is that it is easier to hit a double on a good pitch (that he thought he got) than it is to hit a single on a pitch he may not get again.

            I am a realist. Swing at the good pitches when they are thrown because you may not get another one. There is no hypothetical in there and I don’t have to think about it. When you get a pitch to hit, try to hit it hard.

            Now, you said that Price didn’t look happy about it after the swing. Maybe Phillips missed the take sign or maybe it was just a bad pitch to try and hit (which wouldn’t be too shocking given that Phillips in general expands the zone more than any other Red).

          • Ron Fulton

            This is exactly why Votto needs to bat second. Leaving Phillips in the 2 hole will diminish the abilities of Hamilton, and as a rookie, he needs all the help he can get. The fallacy I find in your statement is your 2 hole hitter should be good enough to hit more than just one pitch. I still say, it is monumentally important to get Hamilton in scoring position. Play basic baseball and you will always win more games.