Hey Dusty, is it chemistry, or the pitching?

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One of the favorite go-to lines for certain baseball people is to gush
about team chemistry. Whenever a team is going well, we hear from
managers and writers and players about the great character guys are on
the team and this and that. And if a team isn’t playing up to the
potential that has been set for them, chemistry is blamed. The team
needs an attitude adjustment.

Does chemistry have an effect how teams play throughout a 162-game
season? Most likely. But it isn’t something any of us can quantify.
That’s what makes it occasionally maddening whenever someone uses the
chemistry card as a crutch to explain wins and losses. Not shockingly, Dusty Baker is our latest to do so. When talking about the team’s play so far in 2009 (26-21 through Friday), Dusty had this to say:

“We have more young talent, more exuberance, more
excitement. Guys take losses harder. We have some good character to
this ball club. That’s one thing we wanted to change. You scout ability
and you scout character as well when you’re trying to put the pieces of
the puzzle back together. We have a lot of homegrown talent. We
injected quality guys from the outside to go along with homegrown
talent. We brought in guys like (Laynce) Nix, (Arthur) Rhodes, (Ramon)
Hernandez, (Micah) Owings. The hard thing is: Who do you keep and who
do you delete? We’ve got guys here who get along well and like playing
together. Guys who are highly competitive against the competition and
highly competitive against each other without any envy or jealousy
involved. These are some of the quality you try to put together.”

To be fair, Dusty does throw out words like talent and ability, but the
basic gist of this statement is that the Reds are playing better
because the chemistry in the clubhouse is better. It’s also a shot at
guys like Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. who were traded away in the middle of last season.

Perhaps more guys getting along and enjoying playing with one another
has contributed to the Reds solid start. And maybe Dusty was asked
specifically about the team attitude. But let’s not get delusional.

Maybe Dusty could’ve mentioned that his team as a whole is pitching better than they were last year.

2008: 4.55 ERA (99 ERA+), 1.45 WHIP

2009: 3.96 ERA (115 ERA+), 1.34 WHIP

Or that Aaron Harang, his ace, has a 3.36 ERA compared to 4.78 in 2008. He could’ve given props to a bullpen that has the following ERA numbers:

Cordero: 1.71

Herrera: 2.04

Rhodes: 0.53

Weathers: 2.70

He could’ve also noted that Joey Votto is crushing the ball (1.091 OPS), and they got rid of Corey Patterson’s useless bat (.582 OPS, although Will Taveras hasn’t been a whole lot better at .660). And if Dunn was in the lineup instead of Chris Dickerson, they would not be worse off.

So it’s great that the Reds are fond of each other. But it’s even better that they’re pitching well.

Paul Janish retires

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MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports that the Orioles granted infielder Paul Janish his release from his Triple-A contract. He will retire and join the coaching staff at Rice University.

Janish, 34, played parts of nine seasons in the majors with the Reds, Orioles, and Braves. He hit .212/.280/.284 over his career, providing most of his value through his fielding and versatility. While he logged most of his time at shortstop, he also played third base and second base and also pitched on two occasions in blowout losses.

Yasmany Tomas to undergo season-ending core muscle surgery on Tuesday

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The Diamondbacks announced that outfielder Yasmany Tomas will undergo season-ending core muscle surgery on Tuesday in Philadelphia. Tomas has been on the disabled list since June 3 with right groin tendinitis and experienced multiple setbacks during his rehab.

Tomas, 26, was in the midst of a disappointing year before the injury, batting .241/.294/.464 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 180 plate appearances.

The Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez from the Tigers a month ago to help fill the gap in the outfield. Prior to that trade, Chris Herrmann and Daniel Descalso were handling left field. The D-Backs entered Monday’s action holding the second Wild Card slot in the National League by 2.5 games over the Brewers and trailed the Rockies by one game for the first slot.