Tag: Homer Bailey

Elimination: Unable to Hide the Homer

Just one…You couldn’t win…ONE!?!

On Sunday night, I was excited. The Cincinnati Reds had won Game 2 of the NLDS series, winning both games in San Francisco. Heading home for three games, it was a cinch that they would clinch…or so I thought.

I write for Bleacher Report when I’m not writing here, and I was given the assignment of completing a live blog for Game 3 between the Reds and Giants. It was a fantastic game, dominated by pitching, especially Reds (ace?) Homer Bailey, but when third baseman Scott Rolen bobbled the grounder in the 10th inning, it was the beginning of the end. We all know now that the Reds would lose on Wednesday and Thursday at Great American Ballpark, crushing the dreams that came along with a fantastic season.

The Reds won 97 games in 2012. They had not won that many games since winning 108 games in 1975 and 102 games in 1976, also known as the greatest team ever, The Big Red Machine. Why shouldn’t hopes have been high for this team?

As a baseball fanatic, I have a hard time rooting for a specific team. I have a tendency to root for specific players, as long as they aren’t on the St. Louis Cardinals. I like to think of myself as a baseball connoisseur, finding and appreciating the talent of the era, while hoping that the underdog finds a way to win the title, as long as the underdog isn’t the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, the Reds elimination hurt me to the core. It was worse than being told my those you love that you’ve disappointed them. It was worse than the club missing the playoffs last year, or losing decisively to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. This was catastrophic.

While I wrote for Bleacher Report as their Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Indians this season, I saw just how awful their fans have it. I was 9 years old when the Reds went wire-to-wire in 1990, winning the only title worth mentioning for a Cincinnati team in my lifetime (sorry ECHL/IHL Cyclones, you don’t count). The first game I can remember was the Reds 11-2 win over the New York Mets on July 19, 1988. Jose Rijo dazzled and even hit a home run off of Dwight Gooden that night. I was 7 years old.

I remember Paul O’Neil robbing home runs in right field, Eric Davis hitting for amazing power with incredible speed, and Deion Sanders making Davis look slow, flying around the bases. I remember the end of Dave Concepcion’s Hall of Fame worthy career, Chris Sabo and his awesome RecSpecs, and Barry Larkin’s entire, underappreciated career. All of those memories, all of those games with my cousin where we bought “Top Six” tickets and moved all over the ballpark, and all of those years of not committing myself to the team that I grew up loving made the losses that much more difficult.

When Scott Rolen struck out on Thursday afternoon, the homer in me was crushed. I don’t remember ever rooting for the Reds as hard as I have the last three days. I was a kid again. I loved the team that I always loved again. All of the times that I just said I loved baseball and I wanted to just enjoy the game…apparently that was a lie. I wanted nothing more than to celebrate a three-run home run by Jay Bruce, or to see Scott Rolen redeem himself for his costly error in Game 3 with a game-winning walk-off homer in Game 5.

I realized that I am still the kid who loved Eric Davis, stood for Rob Dibble’s blazing fastball to close out the game, and the man who now watches the radar to see how high Aroldis Chapman can make it climb.

The postseason in Major League Baseball is incredible for so many reasons, but, today, it made me realize that I never stopped loving the team that I grew up loving. That is why elimination was absolutely heart-breaking today.

Homer Bailey: Pirates Had No-No Chance

Courtesy: ESPN.com

In 109 career starts heading into Friday night, Homer Bailey was 37-33 with a 4.59 ERA. In those 109 starts, he had one shutout, way back on May 12, 2010 against, who else, the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Friday night, Bailey earned his second career shutout while tossing the seventh no-hitter of the 2012 MLB season. It shouldn’t be too shocking that it came on the road, and, especially, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

First of all, over his career, Bailey had been much better on the road:

Home: 18-19, 5.13 ERA, 60 starts, 344 innings, 286:130 K:BB, 52 HR allowed, 1.49 WHIP

Road: 19-14, 3.95 ERA, 49 starts, 287 innings, 204:91 K:BB, 26 HR allowed, 1.29 WHIP

In five starts at PNC Park in his career, home of the Pirates, heading into Friday, Bailey was 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA, 36 innings, 21:11 K:BB, zero home runs allowed, and a 0.92 WHIP.

Now, Bailey is a ridiculous 5-0, with a 1.40 ERA in 45 innings, posting a 31:12 K:BB, still having allowed zero home runs, and a slick 0.76 WHIP in his six career starts in the Steel City.

Bailey’s absurd home and road splits will probably be a concern for Cincinnati Reds fans, who will have to wait and see what happens in the Queen City, during the NLDS, when Bailey foots the rubber at Great American Ballpark against the San Francisco Giants in a little over a week. If only they could move the game to Pittsburgh, the Reds may be better off.

Are the Reds the Best Team in MLB?

Joey Votto has been one of the top players in MLB in 2012, posting an absurd .362/.485/.657 slash with 27 doubles, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, and a 49:52 K:BB in 213 at bats. Brandon Phillips is finally hitting, posting a .441/.472/.735 over his last eight games, with one double, three home runs, and nine RBI.  In doing so, Phillips has increased his triple-slash from .259/.314/.392 on May 24 to its current .292/.338/.454 level. With Votto still mashing and getting on base and Phillips finally hitting, are the Reds capable of being the best team in baseball over the rest of the season?

Some will argue that the Detroit Tigers have the lineup to beat due to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  Others say that the Yankees lineup with Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez is the greatest of them all.  Others will argue that it is Ike Davis and Jason Bay, and we will mock them ferociously; however, the Reds seem to have what it takes to win.  The rotation can be thin at times with the inconsistencies at the back-end, but look at the front-end of that group…

Johnny Cueto has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling a 16-8 record, a 2.36 ERA, and a 1.12 WHIP over his last 37 starts.  Mat Latos may not have great stats in 2012 (5-2, 4.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP), but the Reds are 8-2 in his last ten starts. Latos is also in the middle of the season, especially from May to July, where he is now 21-6 with a 2.90 ERA over his career during the early summer months.

What does all of this mean?  The Reds were as many as five games back and they were up as many as 3.5 games.  Now, they are three games up on both the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.  The Reds have gone 25-16 since April 15.  It’s too bad they aren’t the Chicago Cubs because they are 17-8 in day games after Thursday’s  12-5 stomping of the Cleveland Indians.

The Reds have a solid rotation and enough offense to matter.  The American League is filled with punishing offenses, but the National League has…good pitching?  With the dramatic decline of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, the Cincinnati Reds are in an elite class in the National League.

The Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants are the only other teams in the National League with the rotation and lineups that can match the Reds.  Bryce Harper is the real deal and the Nats will, at least, ride Strasburg to the limits of his innings, not his talent.  The Dodgers have had issues with injuries in the rotation and to Matt Kemp, but they’ve managed to hold on thanks to Andre Ethier’s redemption season and Chris Capuano’s best Clayton Kershaw impersonation.  The Giants have had some success from their rotation and offense, definitely not from Tim Lincecum, though, and with the return of Pablo Sandoval from injury, they will be that much better.

However, if Votto and Phillips are clicking like they are right now and the Reds have the 1-2 punch of Cueto and Latos going, then they can sit back and hope that the likes of Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake take the steps necessary to keep the team in contention while infusing youth in the every day lineup.  With smart baseball, like Mesoraco plowing into Lou Marson for defensive interference and a free run (see here), and mediocre production from the spare parts, the Reds are a team to be reckoned with.