News & Notes

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I’ve been doing some thinking about this ballclub, and you know me: I can’t just keep my thoughts to myself. So I’m going to inflict them on you. Enjoy.

Vote Frazier. He’s the biggest star in town, after all.

–I’m going to talk about the bullpen later, but how about Burke Badenhop? I was pretty happy with the off-season signing of Badenhop, given the strength of his last three seasons, including last year, when he put up a 2.29 ERA (171 ERA+) in 70 appearances for Boston. He has a great sinker, he induces a lot of ground balls, and he’s a thinker.

Unfortunately, after the first month of the season, Badenhop looked more like a Baden-flop*. In his first nine appearances with the Redlegs, Badenhop surrendered 12 runs on 16 hits and 3 walks for a 15.43 ERA. Fans were calling for his head.

*Yes, I’m embarrassed about that line. Please forgive me.

Well, I’m glad to say that things have improved. Since May began, through 18 appearances, Badenhop’s ERA is 2.08, allowing only five runs on 16 hits. Small sample sizes are a dangerous thing.

–The Reds’ playoff odds are down to 0.6%. Odds of winning the National League Central division are precisely 0.0%. We can’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in the Cincinnati front office, but if Walt Jocketty & Co. are contemplating anything other than a fire sale, they are deluding themselves. It’s time to make some hard decisions about this ballclub, decisions that management has been putting off for some time.

It actually doesn’t have to be a complete “fire sale” as we’ve come to know the term. The Reds are going to have to deal Johnny Cueto, and maybe Aroldis Chapman (and more), but as Jason Linden noted, there are hopeful signs about the young guys who will inhabit the starting rotation over the next couple of years. On the offensive side of the ledger, the Reds are around the middle of the pack in the National League, but the lineup has anchors in Todd Frazier and Joey Votto, and guys like Billy Hamilton (surely), Jay Bruce (if he isn’t dealt), and Eugenio Suarez can be expected to produce more over the next few years than they have this year. Jesse Winker has been playing much better as a 21-year-old at AA Pensacola lately, and he might be the answer to the revolving door in Cincinnati’s left field. If the Reds can add a couple of nice prospects here and there in trade deadline deals…well, who knows?

Okay, I’m trying to look at the glass as if it were half full. This team has some challenges ahead. I wish the Reds had the money to re-sign Cueto and Chapman, while still filling in the gaps on the roster, but that’s not likely. We are Reds fans, and we need to accept the reality that this club will go through occasional re-builds, even if the organization is run well.

–I write the Power Rankings comment for the Reds over at ESPN every week. This week, I noted a strange statistic: until Sunday’s nightcap in New York, Cincinnati’s bullpen hadn’t allowed a single earned run all last week. That covered a stretch of 26.1 innings. Given that the bullpen has posted only 1.8 fWAR this season—with 1.5 of that coming from Aroldis Chapman—it’s one of the fun little anomalies of baseball that the pen could have a stretch like that where they are so productive.

Even stranger: after going 2-4 this week and getting swept by the Metropolitans, the Reds moved up 5 spots in the Power Rankings. The team is ascending!

–(Not-so-) fun thing to watch over the last three months of the season: will Tucker Barnhart compile more wins above replacement than Brayan Pena, despite getting about half the playing time? Right now, Pena is at 0.5 in 226 plate appearances, while Barnhart has 0.4 in 122 PAs. Fangraphs likes Barnhart’s defense, which bumps up his WAR total.

For what it’s worth, I like Barnhart’s defense too.

–This is ugly. Billy Hamilton’s OPS at the end of April: .627 (.217/.278/.349). At the end of May: .582 (.223/.262/.320). As of June 29, his OPS is .556 (.220/.264/.292). Things keep getting worse for the young center fielder. Yes, his defense is often spectacular, but how long can the Reds keep running him out there?

The answer is: indefinitely, probably. Hamilton has actually posted 1.6 fWAR, thanks mostly to excellent defense and baserunning. Plus, the Reds really don’t have anyone to replace him in center field. We can only hope he figures out how to hit at the major league level. Fingers crossed.

–I’m excited to be in attendance at Great American Ball Park for the Home Run Derby in a couple of weeks. Evidently, MLB has decided to change the rules for the Derby, and I think the changes make a lot of sense. First of all, they’re using a single-elimination bracket that should work nicely—assuming Bryce Harper and Todd Frazier aren’t matched up against each other in the first round. Each round is also going to be timed, which seems like a good thing, especially since they are playing at such a homer-friendly park. Of course, they have also added somewhat-confusing rules about how bonus time is going to be added for each round.

I also scoured through the new Derby setup, and I couldn’t find any rule, regulation, or policy that would ensure a Todd Frazier victory. Must be an oversight on MLB’s part, though Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is doing his part to help Todd (unfortunately; I was really looking forward to seeing Stanton’s blasts at GABP).

–My wife is going to be upset if we come to the Celebrity Softball Game during All-Star Weekend and Jon Hamm isn’t playing. Someone needs to make sure that happens. He plays in all these celebrity games, doesn’t he?

She may have to be satisfied with Snoop Dogg.

–As noted on Twitter, Skip Schumaker has been worth -0.9 WAR this season. Last season, he was at -1.2 WAR. Schumaker has literally been significantly worse than a replacement-level player since being signed by Jocketty to a two-year, $5 million contract before the 2014 season. That signing came immediately after Schumaker had a -1.1 WAR season for the Dodgers in 2013. Everyone should have seen this coming, but just as with the Kevin Gregg Debacle (™), Jocketty missed it. I mean, I know the guy had a couple decent seasons with the Cardinals, but that was back in 2008 and 2009. Now, the Reds are going to have to pay him $500,000 just to go away after this season…and that’s assuming Jocketty doesn’t exercise the team option to keep him around for another year.

–Back to the bullpen: C. Trent had a good piece this weekend on Ryan Mattheus. The Reds picked up Mattheus on waivers back in May, and he has fit in very well in Cincinnati’s pen. He’s appeared in 19 games and posted a 2.75 ERA, striking out 12 and walking only four.

Mattheus has been a productive reliever for pretty much his entire career to this point. He generally has decent control, coupled with a fastball that still reaches up into the mid-90s on occasion. Kudos to Jocketty on picking up this guy; Mattheus and Badenhop are precisely the type of pitchers that you can find to fill out a bullpen without spending a lot of money.

–In thinking about the bullpen, I began to wonder whatever happened to Logan Ondrusek. Ondrusek, of course, pitched out of the Reds bullpen off and on for the last five seasons. Somehow, it had escaped me that the big guy had signed a contract to pitch in Japan. Yep, Ondrusek is making $1.2 million to ply his trade for the Yakult Swallows.

–Did I mention that you need to go vote for Todd Frazier?

Chad Dotson is a Nuxhall Way contributor. He is also the founder of Redleg Nation and a contributor to ESPN’s SweetSpot blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @dotsonc.

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