Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baseball gods to Reds on Opening Day: Release the Pujols!

I attended my first Opening Day at Great American Ball Park yesterday. It was exciting to feel the ballpark filled to capacity. There were other unique aspects as well.

The live Dixieland jazz band playing in the concourse ...

Pre-game interviews with the Reds broadcast on the scoreboard ...

Former Cardinals GM and current Reds GM Walt Jocketty on the field with Dusty Baker and current Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa ...

Reds owner Bob Castellini with Ohio Governor Ted Strickland ...

A giant, US-shaped flag on the field during the national anthem, with color guards from all branches of the armed forces present ...

Retired long-time Reds announcer George Grande (did you know he hosted the very first SportsCenter on ESPN in 1979?) threw out the first pitch to Big Red Machine Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. Here they hug afterward.

One other awesome display before the game was Albert Pujols taking batting practice. Seeing Albert rise up out of the Cardinals dug out to take his swings reminded me of the clip from the fantasy Clash of the Titans.

"Release the Pujols!"

Unfortunately, the Cardinals first baseman was an all-too-real punishment inflicted by the baseball gods on the Reds.

Pujols did not hit the longest ball of BP, though. That accomplishment fell to Cardinals OF Matt Holliday, who hit a ball above the batters eye in CF onto the steam-boat bar area.

Baker's lineup

I've complained at length about Reds manager Dusty Baker's terrible lineup construction. For those who think lineups don't really matter much, a
new statistical analysis from the folks at FanGraphs confirms that sub-optimal lineups can cost in terms of run production. They analyze Baker's lineup yesterday and found that it was sub-optimal by .24 runs per game. While that may not sound like much, over 162 games that works out to over 40 runs (or 4 wins) per year.

My two biggest complaints. One, batting Orlando Cabrera second. As I've written before, he's the worst Reds hitter in the lineup but slated to bat in front of the Reds' best hitter and receive the second largest number of AB for the Reds. Scott Rolen would be a perfect #2 hitter. Cabrera was 0-5 yesterday, including grounding into a double play.

Second, Baker started Laynce Nix instead of Drew Stubbs. This might have been based on Nix being a left handed batter, who might have a better chance against Cardinals starter, RHP Chris Carpenter. Nix did get a hit. Stubbs, put into the game later, was 2-2.

The game

There were several positives for the Reds. Joey Votto got three hits. Here Votto takes an inside pitch with Pujols playing first base in the background.

Third baseman Scott Rolen hit a long home run and was robbed of a second by Cardinals CF Colby Rasmus. Here is Rolen rounding third after his HR.

My biggest complaint with Baker's game management, aside from his lineup choice to start Cabrera ahead of Paul Janish and bat Cabrera second, was that he sent shaky relief pitcher Mike Lincoln to the mound for a second inning in the top of the seventh -- to face the meat of the Cardinals lineup. Lincoln gave up a hit-homer-hit (including Pujols second) that essentially put the game out of reach for the Reds.

When asked after the game why he sent Lincoln out for a second inning, Baker replied, according to CNati.com reporter C. Trent Rosecrans:
"I needed that second inning so I didn't go through my whole bullpen," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You need that second inning bad."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Reds have SIX other relief pitchers available to cover the last three innings (Owings, Herrera, Cordero, Rhodes, Masset, Ondrusek)?

Further ... so what if the Reds went "through their whole bullpen," didn't they have today off for the bullpen to get fresh for tomorrow?

Seriously, sending Mike Lincoln, the Reds worst relief pitcher, the one who wouldn't have made the team were it not for his guaranteed contract, the one who barely did make the team anyhow, sending him to face Pujols and Holliday in the seventh inning was a terrible, indefensible mistake by Baker.

Did that cost the Reds the game? Probably not. But I sure would have liked to see how the game would have played out with the Reds coming to bat in the bottom of the seventh behind only 4-2 instead of 6-2.


  1. They were only behind 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh. I agree that Lincoln facing Pujols should never happen when you have options.

  2. If he was so worried about the bullpen, why not use Owings so you wouldn't have to waste a pinch hitter?

  3. @BRM: thanks, fixed the mistake on the score in the seventh.