Monday, April 7, 2008

Baseball In The Daytime: 4-7-08 (w/ Bonus Redlegged Action!)

If you're a true American patriot, then the last week has been a thrill. That's because baseball, and specifically baseball in the daytime, has graced our nation once again with its slow, sweet melody. I understand that some of us care about the NBA stretch run, or the hockey playoffs, or the Pennsylvania Primary, or a certain game that will take place--boom boom boom boom--deep in the heart of Texas tonight. I'll take the following ballgames played under God's own heat lamp.

After the jump you'll find today's schedule, accompanied by a past-due breakdown of the Cincinnati Reds...

Philadelphia @ Cincinnati, 10:35 Mountain The most compelling game of the day is our leadoff batter, as the ace of the Phillies (Cole Hamels) takes on the dreamiest hippie on the Reds' staff (Bronson Arroyo). The Phils are looking for a split of the four-game reacharound set in this one at Great American.

Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh, 11:35 Ted Lilly, whose normal quest is to stop a Cub losing streak of some length, inherits a little positive "mo" today instead. That's because Big Z mowed down the 'Stros yesterday. Chicago's road trip starts in Pittsburgh with a daytime date against Tom Gorzelanny.

Seattle @ Baltimore, 1:05 Another reacharound concludes at Camden Yards as Carlos Silva and Daniel Cabrera trade fastballs. Expect a crowd in the dozens, as Baltimore has descended into Marlins territory when it comes to home attendance.

Minnesota @ Chicago White Sox, 2:05 Fresh off a convincing sweep of the hapless Tigers, the White Sox head back to the South Side for their home opener against the Twins. Nick Blackburn gets the call from the visitors, while Javier Vazquez is Chicago's nominee.

San Diego @ San Francisco, 2:35 Greg Maddux goes for his 348th career win in a matchup with hard-luck Matt Cain. We'll see if Maddux can manage to keep his digits free of debris, unlike his fellow Friar righty.

For the record, I think Peavy and Bochy are both full of it. They got popped. Jake Peavy made $5 million last year in winning the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young. He's one of the best in the business at what he does, and his fingers are the tools of his trade. You're telling me that they became smeared with that much shit and he didn't notice? Come on...

On a happier note, it appears that baseball's next fuzzy, happy story is shaping up in Cincinnati. The Redlegs generated a lot of buzz with a bevy of promising prospects and a nice showing in spring training. They've now transferred that to the regular season with a 4-2 mark through the first week. But what's got everybody talkin' Reds baseball are the pair of infant firballers they unveiled last week.

Johnny Cueto, in his major league debut on Thursday, took a perfect game into the sixth and struck out ten. Edinson Volquez followed that yesterday with eight strikeouts over five and a third. Should either or both continue this dominance, the Reds will be able to send quality pitchers against every opponent (Arroyo and Aaron Harang are the front end of the rotation), something few if any NL clubs can boast.

Now that's a big if, as is the manager. Dusty Baker is quite an enigma. he was able to win in San Francisco for a while, until the talent level of that team dipped. He then took his toothpick-chewing show to Wrigley, where he pushed the Cubs to within five outs of the Series. But Baker wore out his welcome there too. He's unable to deal with young players and he absolutely kills pitchers who can't handle a big workload. But for a few years he somehow wins games, and in Cincy he may just have a squad that can capitalize on a weak division.

But as for the lineup, let's look at the Reds one through nine:

1. Corey Patterson CF
2. Jeff Keppinger SS
3. Ken Griffey Jr. RF
4. Brandon Phillips 2B
5. Adam Dunn LF
6. Edwin Encarnacion 3B
7. A first baseman
8. A catcher
9. A pitcher

Dusty's decision to send megaprospect Jay Bruce down and give the centerfield/leadoff job to Patterson was the first salvo in his crackpot war against logic. The Lizard is as anti-Moneyball as they come, and his adventure with CP is being ably chronicled by Walk-Off Walk (other WOW highlights: this Post headline, as well as a feature whose title seems oddly familiar).

Now Keppinger's a guy I'd never heard of, but he seems competent on the field and has already delivered a couple of jacks. Griffey's bound to go down, of course, but if/when that happens Dusty can always summon Bruce (or sign Neifi Perez). Phillips, while ill-suited to cleanup (he ought to bat in a top-3 slot) is a stud, and Dunn provides copious power, walks and strikeouts. Encarnacion drilled a dramatic game-winner last week, and he may develop the consistency to be an All-Star someday.

Now the first-base platoon is more classic Dusty. Scott Hatteberg (ironically, a central character in Moneyball) is the steady vet that Dusty always prefers. Joey Votto is the freakishly talented youngster he despises. They both bat left-handed, but thus far they've essentially split time. I have no doubt that Votto will eventually supplant Hatteberg, but for now they'll share the gig.


Unknown said...

matriculate.... jayhawkulate...give it some time..ulate!


Not getting swept by the Red Sox, but beating the Tigers...One it.. of the Memphis NCAA variety.