Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Reds Dawn
2005-07-15 17:16
by Mark T.R. Donohue

The Reds sure have a lot of guys with good hitting stats, but then again, they play in a bandbox that's garnering a reputation to rival Coors. Ken Griffey (not horribly injured and it feels so good), Adam Dunn, Wily Mo Peña, Felipe Lopez, Joe Randa, and Ryan Freel all have OPS's on the sunny side of .800. Indeed, they're first in the National League overall in that stat. Also second in runs, second in slugging, and tied for first in homers. Rich Aurilia and Austin Kearns aren't having great years, but the Reds could be doing a lot worse. (They're fourth in road OPS, now that I check. So, not all the ballpark.) However, they only have 35 wins to the Rockies' 31.

Trouble is, about half the time, your team is on defense, and you have to send somebody out to the little bump to throw "pitches" to the other team's hitters. Here things hit a snag. The Reds are dead last in the NL in ERA, even behind the Rockies. They're also last in OPS against and 15th in WHIP. They don't strike out a lot of guys (12th in K/9) and when they get hit, they get hit hard (last in allowed slugging). At least they don't walk a lot of guys, probably because they can't sneak anything by anybody. The poster boy for Cincy's pitching futility is Eric Milton, who made our Negative All-Star Team with his 6.92 ERA, 29 homers allowed, and .305 batting average against. It doesn't stop there. Ramon Ortiz has quietly been nearly as terrible, 6.35 ERA, 20 homers, .318 BAA. The Rockies get to face both of these guys this series, in addition to "ace" Aaron Harang, who has been average to slightly above average (4.12 ERA, but a decent 1.24 WHIP and good 8.40 K/9 mark.

Danny Graves was made the scapegoat for the bullpen's poor performance, but things have hardly perked up since his release (5.08 relief ERA, good for 14th in the league). Thanks to the starters' awfulness, the Reds also lead the NL in bullpen innings, which isn't helping matters any. Kent Mercker, Matt Belisle, and David Weathers have been the best of a bad lot. They've tried a number of guys, among the notable stiffs still on the major league roster are Todd Coffey and Randy Keisler. Brian Shackelford, recently recalled from Louisville, has been pretty good in his first six appearances.

For your new-look Colorado Rockies it will be Jason Jennings (vs. Harang, tonight), Jeff Francis (vs. Milton, Saturday), and Jamey Wright (vs. Ortiz, Sunday). This is it right here. This is where we win a road series. No fooling.

Lineup for tonight:

1. Cory Sullivan CF
2. Aaron Miles 2B
3. Todd Helton 1B
4. Garrett Atkins 3B
Eric Byrnes LF
6. Jorge Piedra RF
7. Luis Gonzalez SS
8. Danny Ardoin C
9. Jennings P

Not completely different from what I hoped to see, although it makes my flesh crawl a little that Miles and Ardoin are in there. I like that the Luis Gonzalez-at-short experiment is to continue. Interesting that Clint is choosing to move Atkins from the two spot, where he's been very comfortable, to be Helton's protection at the four. We'll see how that goes. Eric Byrnes is wearing number 35, for all those of you who want to be the first on their block with a Rockies Byrnes jersey.

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