Hope & Other Four-Letter Words

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Did you watch the Reds play out in Colorado this weekend? If you answered that question with “no,” then I commend you on your good judgment and/or luck, as the case may be.

If you’re like me, you really like bacon. Also, you watched the Reds bumble their way to three losses in four games against the worst team in the majors, and endured an epic dumpster-fire of a Sunday doubleheader that just may have spelled the end of any playoff hopes Cincinnati still held.

Anyway, I had some thoughts about the ol’ Redlegs after another frustrating weekend in Redleg Nation. Here are a few of them…

-In game one of Sunday’s doubleheader, everyone’s favorite flamethrower entered the ninth inning with a four-run lead…and proceeded to melt down completely. Aroldis Chapman faced four Colorado hitters, walked them all, and all four would ultimately score.

Chapman has walked four batters in a single game only once before in his career. That was back on May 15, 2011, early in Chapman’s first full season as a big leaguer. He came on in the ninth inning of a game in which the Reds led St. Louis 9-2, and then proceeded to walk the first two batters he faced. After a fly ball out to deep center field, Chapman walked two more and was summarily replaced on the mound by Nick Masset. (It’s a historical fact that Masset was actually NOT injured at the time. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. You could look it up.)

*Masset proceeded to pour gasoline on the fire by surrendering a double to the only batter he faced. Francisco Cordero then entered the game and picked up a save in a typical 9-7 Reds victory.

In all, Chapman threw 23 pitches, but only five of those were strikes. (On Sunday, Aroldis threw 28 pitches, with 12 strikes. Much better control, eh?) Anyway, the question that crossed my mind was this: How did Chapman respond in his next appearance after a four-walk meltdown?

Now, it might seem obvious that he did well the next time out, since he’s a very good pitcher. If that’s what you thought, you’d be correct—the next time Chapman toed the rubber, he struck out the side in one inning of work against Baltimore. Over his next eight appearances, Aroldis allowed just one run as opposing hitters flailed away to the tune of .077/.143/.192.

There’s a twist, however: that next appearance didn’t come until June 25, 2011. Why? Because one day after that four-walk meltdown, the Reds placed Aroldis on the disabled list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. Which brings to mind the events of Sunday, when the trainer visited Chapman on the mound. Manager Bryan Price insisted after the game that Chapman was fine, but refused to elaborate. Hmmm…

-Four times in his career, Chapman has walked three batters in one game. Cincinnati won three of the four. Three of those came in 2011, and one in 2012. So, overall, the Reds are 4-2 in games in which Chapman walks three or more hitters. That’s a good winning percentage, so I would encourage Chapman to continue walking as many hitters as he likes. It’s clearly a good strategy, right?

-All this talk of bases on balls made me wonder what the franchise record was for most walks issued by a reliever in a single game. I couldn’t just wonder, and then forget about it like a normal person. No, I had to go look it up. You can thank me later.

The answer: the immortal Cliff Markle, who issued eight—count ‘em, 8!—free passes in a loss to the Cardinals (of course) on June 27, 1922. Let’s not compare Markle to Chapman, however. In his historic game, Markle actually pitched 11.1 innings after coming on in relief of John Gillespie, who had managed to surrender four runs on four hits and a walk, while recording just one out in the first inning. Markle pitched the rest of the game, but took the loss after permitting St. Louis to score in the bottom of the 12th inning. The score of the extra-inning affair was 9-8, but the entire contest was completed in only two hours and forty-five minutes. Not bad.

Seven relievers in Reds history have walked seven batters in a game, but none more recently than Claude Osteen on 9/15/59. There are some more recent names on the list of Reds relievers who have surrendered six bases on balls in a single appearance. Tony Cingrani did it last June. Marc Kroon (remember him?) walked six in a two-inning stint during a 14-0 loss to the Mets in April of 1998. Several other notable names dot that list, as well: Mario Soto, Tom Hume, Johnny Vander Meer, Joe Nuxhall. All those were multiple-inning appearances, however.

Let’s bring this back to Chapman’s performance on Sunday. Which Cincinnati reliever issued the most free passes in one inning or less of work? Only two have allowed more than Chapman’s four. The most recent was Elmer Riddle, who walked five in two-thirds of an inning of a 17-2 loss to St. Louis (again) on June 29, 1947. Three years before, Nuxhall had also walked five in two-thirds of an inning. That came in an 18-0 loss to…wait for it…yup, the Cardinals.

-I know many Reds fans were happy when Drew Stubbs left Cincinnati before last season. I wasn’t one of those—Stubbs always played hard while providing elite defense and a little pop in his bat—but it was probably time for a change of scenery. I’m much more upset with Stubbs over the walkoff homer he hit off J.J. Hoover on Sunday than I am over anything he did in a Cincinnati uniform.

Anyway, it’s good to see Stubbs having a good season in Colorado. He’s hitting .294/.335/.492 with 12 homers; those rate stats are all career highs, while still providing above-average defense. He’s a couple of wins above replacement. Sure those numbers are inflated by the Coors Field effect (he’s hitting .221/.283/.329 in 48 games on the road), but Stubbs is a guy I’ll always root for.

As long as he agrees never to hit another home run against the Redlegs.

-So, yeah, I basically declared the Reds’ season over at the start of this piece. But that’s might not be true, actually. Looking at the playoff odds before Cincinnati’s Monday night game (Ed’s note: which they ultimately lost.), I see that the Reds still have a 0.5% chance of winning the National League Central (which at least is higher than the Cubs). Even better, they still have 3.1% odds of grabbing one of the NL Wild Card slots (also better than the Cubs). It could happen!

It’s baseball, you guys. You never know.

Chad Dotson is a contributing writer to our Reds Blog. He is also the founder of Redleg Nation and a contributor to ESPN’s SweetSpot blog.

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