Cincinnati Reds at the 2014 All Star Break

Cincinnati Reds Logo courtesy of MLB.comHeading into the All Star break, the Reds were hot – winning seven of their last ten. Despite not having Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips (and even Skip Schumaker), the Reds managed to gain some ground on Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Jay Bruce hit three homeruns during that stretch and was primed for one of his team-carrying hot streaks.

Then the break came and the Reds broke.

Since regular season baseball resumed, the Reds have dropped four straight. And it’s been ugly, ugly, ugly. Dropped pop-ups, flubbed grounders, base running blunders and an inability to hit with RISP have put serious doubts into whether the Reds should be buyers or sellers in the second half.

Oh, and Jay Bruce is 0 – 11 with 5 Ks since the break.

But the fact remains, this team is only three and a half games out of first place. They’re still over .500 and the starting pitching remains above average – if not superb. The bullpen has improved, though both Broxton and Chapman have been touched up a little as of late. And for the amount of money being spent on those guys (see my previous rant on that for more details), well, they’d better improve. Only JJ Hoover can’t seem to get it together (see below for my thoughts on him).

They’re not getting Phillips or Votto back anytime soon, but if they can snap out of this little funk before leaving the land of brats and cheese wheels, I think the Reds should still be buyers. Cautious buyers, but buyers nonetheless.

Please don’t give up top-end prospects to land a mediocre rental player. Trade a guy you’re probably not going to re-sign that’s proven to be successful.

This mostly consists of pitching as the Reds can’t afford to lose any position player that can even hit at least .240. Now this is a very limiting strategy, I’ll admit, but this Reds team is probably not worth mortgaging the future.

Alfredo Simon, as much as I love what he’s done this year, might be a flash-in-the-pan as a starter. His arm might not be used to this many innings. Deal him while he has value. If you truly believe in Homer Bailey (money talks), and you trust Mike Leake and pray to God that Cingrani seasons well, you still have a solid staff. And in the playoffs, you’ll only need Cueto, Latos and Bailey.

However, if the Reds get swept out of Milwaukee or lose three or four games over the next seven, I’d start selling.

Should be easy, right? Who wouldn’t want the likes of Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Zack Cozart, Ramon Santiago, Brayan Pena, Donald Lutz or Skip Schumaker? Teams are probably salivating to take on the contracts of Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto. GASP – did I just say to unload Joey? Yes. Yes I did.

Of course, none of this will happen. The Reds will continue to get diminishing returns on BP and JV, and no contender is looking to part with prospects for the rest of the gang.

All we can do is hope these guys continue to play as a cohesive unit and that somehow, someway, someone picks up the slack.

If only the Todfather had a daughter. And it was the day of her wedding. Every day. And he had to grant all us Reds fans our wishes: more bombs (of the three- or four-run variety), the healing touch on Votto and Phillips and a post-season berth. Surely the Home Run Derby runner-up has the clout.

Final Thoughts on JJ Hoover

JJ Hoover Meme

Seriously, though, Hoover’s stats are horrific. He’s given up 8 homeruns in 34 appearances (41 IP) and 25 earned runs for a 5.49 ERA, all leading to a 1 – 7 record. He might have good stuff and may eventually become a quality reliever, but right now? He’s killing the Reds. Get on the phone, call Louisville and tell them they have a project on the way.

JJ Hoover statistics

—Ryan Varney


NL Gold Glove Snub

I was stunned to learn that Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds did not win the Gold Glove for National League secondbasemen. Instead, the award was given to Darwin Barney of the last place Chicago Cubs. (I know, I know, the team’s standings shouldn’t factor in, but just look at the MVP award and you’ll see that MVPs often play for winners.) Mind you, I’ve been slow to come around on Phillips. I’m not some Reds nut who’s rah-rah for his guys. Phillips’ on-field flakiness has often caused me to cringe and I’ve questioned his on-field demeanor and awareness many times—especially on the bases. However, watching him on TV and in person for the past three years has proven to me that he is, without a doubt, the best secondbaseman in baseball. He simply makes plays nobody else can make and his range is mind-boggling. Apparently, though, only stats matter to the managers and coaches who voted for the Gold Glove this year.

The Stats

Looking purely at the stats (below), Barney does seem like the better choice. With nearly 100 more chances, he made 3 fewer errors. Barney’s fielding percentage was .997 while Phillips’ was .992. However, statistics don’t always tell the whole story.

Defensive statistics for Brandon Phillips and Darwin Barney
Statistical comparison between Brandon Phillips and Darwin Barney

Going Beyond Statistics

Brandon Phillips has a knack for making unbelievable plays in great spots. He has saved the Reds from big innings countless times, often stretching the limits of physics to make the out that ends the inning. While you can never say for certain that runs would’ve been scored, it’s no stretch to surmise that Phillips easily saved the Reds 15 to 20 runs in 2012, which probably led to at least seven extra victories. Seven games can be the difference between a division title and especially a wild card slot.

Even when he wasn’t coming up with plays in big spots, he was still making ridiculous plays. Bare-handing double play feeds, ranging to his right beyond second, diving back-turned-to-the-infield to make over-the-shoulder catches and even throwing between his legs to make outs, Phillips has done everything a secondbaseman can do. To get a better idea of what I’m lamely trying to describe, just watch the video below.

Your Eyes Do Not Deceive

After watching this video, it should be obvious why Phillips is the best secondbaseman in baseball. And while Darwin Barney is still relatively young (and will certainly continue to evolve defensively), he is not even in the same class as Phillips. Of course, there’s nothing to be done now that the award has officially been mis-given, but at least you now know who the best secondbaseman is in baseball. Please feel free to pass this along so the rest of America can be duly educated.

—Ryan Varney