West Coast Three Up/Three Down

Well, last night didn’t go so well but that shouldn’t dampen spirits any as the entirety of the past week has been a very good time to be a Reds fan. This road trip has started with a fizzle and I am hoping that this isn’t indicative of those road trip woes of the past but only time will tell. On to the ups and downs…

Three Up

The Drew Stubbs Leadoff Experiment– I mark this with a qualifier of ‘thus far’ but Stubbsey really has gotten off to a hot start to begin 2011. Having recorded a hit in all but one game this season, going 2 for 3 on steals, and hitting a solid .300 with a decent .344 OBP can be chocked up as a win for the experiment thus far. I know if you would have told me those stats through the first 7 games I would have been elated. Let’s hope the hot start carries on…and that the boy might lay down a bunt every once in a while (what mention of Stubbs would be complete with mentioning bunting).

Reds Shortstop Position– The part of the Reds lineup that had the most uncertainty going into the year most definitely had to be at shortstop. With Paul Janish getting the nod as starter with a penchant for a light bat and Edgar Renteria being cast (or miscast) as not useful, many people thought that part of the lineup would be a hindrance. Not so! The combo of Janish and Renteria have combined to hit .483 with 2 XBHs, 5 RBI, and a SB and Janish has started out through the first 7 games to lead the starters in BA at .455. While it’s not completely world beating numbers, that’s more than comfortable production from a spot that was viewed as a potential unknown just a short time ago.

Reds Defense– The Redlegs picked up right where they left off last season, carrying the fantastic team defense over. Thus far into the year, the Reds lead all of baseball by only having committed 1 error and compiling a fielding percentage of .996. That’s a really awesome stat to hear for Reds fans. The easiest way to not beat yourself and maximize your chances of winning are to not give your opponent any extra chances. And every error a team commits is one more chance you might be giving them.

Three Down

Edinson Volquez– While he is 1-0, Volquez has been the definition of maligned to start the season. The opening day starter has been the Reds’ least effective starter thus far and it’s not really close, sporting a 7.36 ERA and a WHIP of 1.72 thanks to 8 total BB issued through 2 starts. The maddening part of Volquez’s performance however is that all these struggles appear to be between his ears. His April 6th start against the Astros is a perfect illustration. Through the first two innings, Volquez gives up back-to-back HRs to begin the game, then goes on to give up 2 more runs on 3 hits, 2 BBs, and a wild pitch. Fairly putrid. That’s the Dr. Jekyll side.  After the second inning, Volquez goes on to settle down, giving up only two more hits the rest of the way and looking very much like the Volquez that is expected. It really looked like two different pitchers were on the mound: the pitcher who was absolutely wild and gave up 3 runs in two innings, and the other pitcher who was efficient and effective only giving up one run the other 4 innings. Whatever the dilemma is, hopefully Volquez can work it out as an Edinson Volquez clicking on all cylinders is paramount to a successful season.

Jay Bruce– It pains me to put Bruce here but his start to the season has definitely not been stellar. Sporting a slash line of .269/.296/.308 with only 1 double, no homers, and 1 RBI, Bruce has been struggling at the dish thus far. The most disconcerting part (and part that makes me think he may be pressing a bit) is the 10 SO to only 1 BB. I am liking the 2 quick SBs from Brucie though thus far. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this will be a trend, but there isn’t denying that Jay is definitely a ‘down’ thus far this season. That should certainly change.

Manny Ramirez– Yea, yea…I know. It’s all over ESPN and such and it might be getting completely over saturated but I feel it bears mentioning. From the time I started watching baseball and following it seriously (which has been since I was about 12-13 so around 1999/2000), Manny has been a fixture as one of the most dominant offensive players in baseball and certainly in my mind the most talented in terms of the art of hitting. Even though I didn’t openly root for the Indians or Red Sox, Manny always sort of won my adulation. One of the favorite pastimes of my brother and I has been to contemplate and extrapolate the career trajectories of today’s stars and predict where they would land in terms of the all-time greats. Manny was always one of our favorite subjects. With his ability to hit for average, prodigious power, and innate clutchness we predicted all-time pantheon status for Ramirez. The last couple years have soured my view on Manny however. ‘Manny being Manny’ is no longer a funny brush-off phrase to anoint his anctics, it’s a sad way people define what is now the end of a career. It’s unfortunate to see that a great career ends this way with a rushed retirement to back away from yet another accusation of PED use. I will not even get into that ring, as the feelings on that are mixed and not worth dredging, but I just wanted to make a note to mention the abrupt and painful ending to a career that I enjoyed so.