Friday, September 10, 2010

The Elephant in the Room: Shaky starting Pitching and Bullpen meltdowns

                                      The Enquirer/Jeff Swinger                                 The Enquirer/Jeff Swinger

Folks, dont be afraid, lets talk about it: Months ago, it was all about Wood/Leake/Arroyo/Cueto/and Volquez coming back. Conversations included Chapman being to wild to pitch, now for the moment he may have the best stuff on the roster, just like Leake did months ago. Pitching and Defense win in the postseason. The mid season acquisitions the Reds didnt make could come back to haunt us as we take a tattered/changing starting staff into the stretch. Good pitching stops good hitting: see the Seattle/Philly/Cards and now Rocky series, for evidence of the Reds bats being shutdown.

Many have listened in disdain(myself included) to the recent musings of Ohio's main critic: Colen Cowherd, on ESPN radio, who has labeled the Reds as "Frauds". His reasoning comes from our inability to beat contending clubs while dominating the bottom dwellers, and to that end he has a point. I do believe that we must beat the best to be the best, and although our NL Central Lead would say we do deserve the recognition of a first place club, I would feel better knowing we dominated the strong also. No, we dont have to do that to make the playoffs, but it would sure send a stronger message as to the Reds being true contenders, and help our self confidence(fans included ;). This will all play out in October, if things continue as they are with the Magic Number dropping to 17 tonight. Cowherd also talked about our pitching woes, "Welcome to the party Pal" (Always love a good Die Hard ref! ;)

Many comparisons have been made to the 1990 WS Champs team, we need to stop. Jose Rijo/Danny Jackson/Tom Browning have not been reincarnated in the form of Arroyo/Cueto/Wood or Bailey. Our pitching is suspect including the relievers: Masset/Smith/Ondrusek/ middle guys can help or hurt(mentally and physically: see Masset, as he watched Rockies steal home and a big getaway game, ugg) Rhodes age and aged arm has started to show signs of kryptonite in his previous supermanish self, and CoCo, although Ok lately, still scares the Skyline right outa me! Chapmans addition: how much can we count in him in a pressure playoff condition: unknown, exciting to this point yes: Dominate in the playoffs? we shall see!

I dont mean to preach doom and gloom but the early and mid season phenom of Leake/Wood has disappeared as the young guys realized endurance limitations not previously attained in their young arms/careers. (Hey, at least we didnt blow his arm out  like the Overthrowing Strassburg!) They will be fine, but the "Sugar Plumb Fairy" dreams dancing in our heads of our young guys pitching us into the post season was just that : a dream.

There's a little over a month to straighten this out before the playoffs baring a monumental collapse ( losing a 4 games of a 8 game lead is not monumental) the question is how will the rotation perform come playoff time: we don't know and we can't, cause these boys have not been there(Except for Arroyo we have no post season exp). On the elevator, in the Reds HOF recently with the 1990 Reds exhibit looming all around there was talk with other Reds fan about the main difference between this team and 1990, easy agreement: pitching! Arroyo/Cueto/ & who: Bailey/Wood/at one time Vasquez? We don't even consistent top 3(yes they have had great moments) and our Number One: Arroyo, would be a champions #2. Thats the prob folks: we dont have a "championship" pitching staff and in the postseason its Pitching and Defense! Relievers: ugg, as tonight we all watched CoCo blow another lead, and as I've said before, Ill be surprised if he doesn't blow a huge game in the postseason! These are no Nasty boys: Chapman is coming but still unproven, Rhodes and CoCo? No where close to Charlton/Dibble/Myers, so lets please stop the comparisons, and hope that that they can re-group and give us some kind of consistency in the postseason.

We have time to get it straightened out but what will "it" look like? Our boys will need some magic, like we had in Leake and Wood early on: but "magical concoctions" and feel good stories, don't win ball-games: talent and grit does! The last time "Mystique and Aura" helped win a game was: never(some say they should have remained in the gentlemens club) but those two intangibles is what the Yankees said they had as they got beat by a young NL club named the Dbacks, and that "magic" didn't help then and wont for any team now.  Grit and Gut, a little luck all helps! Pitching and Defense Wins Championships: ask the 1990 Reds ;)

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