The playoffs require those of us who may be distracted by video games or birds that make weird noises (It was like a “Ha-flonnnk“) to cast out our demon thoughts and provide much more observant, thoughtful analysts. Here, I’ve compiled some notions for all of us to enjoy as a pre-NLDS appetizer. Feast your eyes upon the collective work of my last 20 minutes or so.
What is my first thought when considering this series? Screwing Scott Rolen over. I don’t even remember hating him, I just know that we do. That’s healthy. And mature.
Just kidding, I remember working up enough 12-year-old rage to kick a LEGO set when he started grumbling. So to see him again after this much time in a post season match-up is… just weird. Makes me wanna… *sound of LEGO set being destroyed*
It was sad, certainly, to watch the biggest bat of that era go away unhappy, but we all seem to be better for it, and I think that makes any drama from the past all but irrelevant (Seriously! I really do think that!)
Well, let’s start with the pitching. Roy Halladay is on our team, so that’s good. And so are Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Jesus, we’re loaded. Might as well start drinking immediately. Good thing it’s Tuesday morning and I was doing that anyway.
But wait! The Reds have a starting rotation too! I know this because of Dave from OMGReds patiently explaining this in his ridiculous guest post. Their three-headed monster consists of Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88; oh wait it’s the post season so he’s back to 0-0, 0.00), Edinson Volquez (0-0, 0.00) and Johnny Cueto (0-0, 0.00), who I believe was the guy who spent most of the Cardinals-Reds brawl kicking a man in the back.
I hope it doesn’t come to that.
Basically, our pitching strips these guys. The Reds will be competitors, but not in this regard. Cueto’s got that changeup that warped some of our bigger hitters (Although on a bad day, a kitty cat could strike out Ryan Howard) and he tends to look like he’s about to burst into tears if he doesn’t get a call. Volquez is recovering from Tommy John–are you kidding me?! Tommy John surgery, the surgery you get when pieces of you are removed and put back in places they aren’t originally from. Volquez had that and he’s the Reds Game 1 starter.
Dude’s clearly a beast of some kind. The good news is he is walk-heavy, and the Phillies, when they want to be, are patient at the plate (When they want to be. Can’t stress that enough). Facing Volquez will be about not going out there and trying to be an instant-hero (TAKE A PITCH, SHANE).
And then, there’s Arroyo, who pre-empted his Philly visit with some choice words about the fans: “Loud,” “aggressive,” “brutal,” “vicious.” Which were not meant as barbs, I don’t think, just more like casual observations based on reality.
So Bronson may be your best target for rattling, as he is clearly scared out of his wits. Though 80% of Philadelphia’s population is, so you know. Let’s get ‘im, fellas.
Now, for lineups.
We spent most of this year curled up in a ball, lashing out strategic knife-strikes to slash our opponents in the Achilles, rather than the titanic, barbaric warring of seasons past. Injuries and slumps required us to become a club of small-ballers, using the strengths of our weak-hitting bench and leftover starters to our advantage. It was pretty cool to watch, eventually. Wilson Valdez deserve specific mention for his evolution from wily, stiff-armed shortstop to occasional clutch hitter.
By the end there, when Chase was back and firing on all cylinders, even those cylinders you didn’t know existed, we began looking more like the Phillies of yore, striking with seven or eight runs on a daily basis, thanks to resurging Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez, as well as the increasingly frequent baseball-murders of Ryan Howard.
The Reds, however, required no such spiritual journey throughout the season. They’re number one in home runs. They’re number one in runs. They’re number one in slugging percentage, which even if you don’t know what that means, it sounds really, really powerful.
Joey Votto (1.093 road OPS) just tears sheep in half instead of warming up. The man is a straight-monster, crawling out of the depths of hell and attempting a fairly horrifying, relentless pursuit of the NL Triple Crown. And the worst part is, he’s orbited by a posse that all have 18+ home runs themselves. That is so many home runs.
Young’ns–Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce–and old’ns alike, the Reds have an arsenal at their disposal. It’s disgusting, and if we didn’t have the starting pitching of a team of cyborgs from Super Baseball 2020, I’d be ripping my hair out.
Big League Stew mentioned that Jose Contreras and Danys Baez average a 94 mph fastball, but failed to mention that said fastball can often be found bouncing around the outfield while opposing runners circle the bases laughing. Which brings me to my next point: relief pitching.
*Massages temples while sighing*
Okay, look. Maybe I just envision our bullpen as worse than it is, because when they fail, they fail hard, and it stings. But as the season progressed, we saw we had a dominant, confident Brad Lidge out there. Ryan Madson retired from childish temper tantrums and stuck right with Lidge as a quality set-up man. Chad Durbin threw some high pressure middle relief and came out unscathed, and even Contreras put the pedal to the metal and impressed a few times.
But there are some guys out there I don’t want touching the ball. Kyle Kendrick still scares the hell out of me, no matter where he’s pitching from. Baez has a 5.48 ERA and seems to give up runs every time the wind blows. But between J.C. Romero and Antonio Bastardo, we needed a stable left hand, and didn’t always get one. And we’ll need one. Everyone does.
The Reds’ relief corps is not without their mistakes, but they are even more not without their depth. The Reds are sticking Travis Wood and Homer Bailey in the bullpen. Wood, you’ll recall, is that guy who almost no-hit us. There’ also Arthur Rhodes out there, who for some reason had an All-Star year in 2010 at the age of 40. Maybe you’ll recall Aroldis Chapman, the guy who can throw a fastball harder than you drive your car (105.1 mph)? And nobody forget their closer, Francisco Cordero, who, without any sort of need for a “you can do it!” attitude, closed 40 games for the Reds this year.
The Phillies are being heralded as the smart money, which, if you were around for the month of September, seems precise. I mean, we won. A lot of times. Maintaining that momentum alone would be a key notion in kicking the Reds in the face. Sort of like how you can be asleep at the wheel of a steamroller and still squash a family of squirrels.
The Reds will be the team that makes this interesting. They are being tested, doubted, and in some cases, pushed aside, which in the playoffs, is a dumb thing to do. The Phillies playoff experience, however, is a great little advantage to have in our back pocket, as Cincinnati could be overwhelmed by the raucous playoff atmosphere in Philly.
Bronson Arroyo knows. The brutality and viciousness of baseball are thriving in the Northeast this time of year, and always, so I do not envy a staff of post season virgins who have to come into a city who, like its team, and thirsty for blood.
And what color is blood? I rest my case.