Tag: Joey Votto

Jeff Francoeur

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights


Phillies 4, Red Sox 2: Jeff Francoeur has this thing where he makes a great first impression with new teams. He did it, obviously, when he came up with the Braves. When he went to the Mets. Again with the Rangers, etc. Then, after you get to thinking he’s awesome, he reverts to Francoeurdom and frustrates you like mad. I mean, there are worse players. Lots of worse players. And he’s a great guy so you want to like him. But that little flash of something he first showed you and then seemed to inexplicably lose just haunts you. Poisons the whole relationship. It’s like having a new significant other who cooks you the most amazing meals for the first three months of the relationship and then, for whatever reason, starts bringing home fast food every night and you wonder where all of the great dinners went. Anyway, Jeffy had a three-run homer off of Rick Porcello here and Aaron Harang shut Boston out into the seventh on a cold and icky night.

Tigers 11, Twins 0: I imagine the Twins will score at some point this year. Just not sure when. Ian Kinsler drove in four. Jose Iglesias had four hits. Alex Avila scored four times. This means something. This is important.


Cubs 2, Cardinals 0: Lance Lynn was good (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 9K), but Jake Arrieta was better (7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7K). The Cubs scored their runs in the seventh, the first of which came when Lynn hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch then threw a pickoff throw wide to let Rizzo reached second. Then Starlin Castro singled him in. In other news, there were about 9,000 fewer fans for this game than Sunday’s, 74 more toilets and no reported problems of bathroom chaos that I’ve yet seen, so all is right with the world.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: Down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth, New York scored three when the Jays’ bullpen blew up with a bunch of unforced errors. Which, yes, is a tennis term and could be confused with actual baseball errors, but I think we overuse “implosion” when it comes to describing bullpens and I feel something more specific should describe this kind of garbage. Anyway: Aaron Loup gave up a double, a single and then loaded the base with a HBP. Then Brett Cecil came in and tossed a run-scoring wild pitch, loaded the bases again with an intentional walk, hit Brian McCann to allow a run to score and then gave up an RBI single. The Yankees’ offense is still pretty bad, but even a bad offense can score when you literally force them across the plate.

Nationals 2, Mets 1: Jordan Zimmermann allowed one run in six innings. But was he truly good enough? We’ll have to wait for Thom Loverro’s column to let us know.

Reds 5, Pirates 4: A long rain delay, a long game and then two extra innings on top of it ended just before 2AM when Joey Votto singled home the winning run in the bottom of the 11th. It was his second RBI single of the game. I’m so glad he has decided to hit RBI this year rather than choose to eschew all opportunities to drive in runs in the interests of leading the league in on-base percentage. Which is a statement that, I know, sounds insane, but people in Cincinnati actually think that.

Braves 2, Marlins 0: As everyone assumed would be the case, the Braves are 3-0. A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-run homer. Which is a nice bonus considering that his entire raison d’etre is to be baseball’s version of a Hanson brother. Shelby Miller made his first start with the Braves and allowed four hits in five innings. Overall five pitchers combined on the six-hit shutout.

Rays 2, Orioles 0: Jake Odorizzi took a two-hitter in the seventh inning. I feel like there have been a lot of fast games so far, but this could be a textbook pace-of-play game. Three hours even which, no, is not an egregious game time in this day and age. But there were only eight hits overall and one of the only two scoring plays in the game ended with a baserunner running into an out. So little action for three hours, it seems.

Royals 7, White Sox 5: Lorenzo Cain hit a two-run homer in the eighth to break the tie and give KC the win. Cain was motivated, he and his manager said, by the fact that he had been hit by pitches in both games against the Sox and that, maybe, they were thrown at him on purpose. If the the Sox are throwing at Royals guys on purpose, maybe they should change their strategy, because it ain’t working: Chicago has lost 13 of their past 16 games against the Royals and have been outscored 86-43 in those games.

Rockies 5, Brewers 4: Wilin Rosario played his best position last night — pinch hitter — and it paid off with a tenth inning homer. LaTroy Hawkins vulutred a win when he blew a save in the ninth by giving up two runs on four hits and remained the pitcher of record until the home run was hit. But we’ll excuse him because he’s one of only two players in baseball older than me anymore, and we HAVE TO HOLD ON TO HIM.

Indians 2, Astros 0: Carlos Carrasco was on point, striking out 10 in six and a third shutout innings. Carrasco posted a 1.30 ERA in his last ten starts last season and is beginning this one on a roll too. Some guys just take a while to put it together, I guess, but the previously frustrating Carrasco has turned into a pretty darn sure thing for Terry Francona and the Indians.

Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2: Chris Heston plunked a guy, allowed him to advance two bases when he sailed a pickoff throw into right field and later allowed a run on a wild pitch, but he shook it off to get his first big league win in his second big league start. Casey McGehee hit a two-run homer. Which helped remind all of us that, oh yeah, Casey McGehee plays for the Giants now.

Dodgers 7, Padres 4: Three homers for Adrian Gonzalez. He has started the season 10 for his first 13 with five homers, two doubles and seven RBI. That’s a 2.846 OPS. I think “on pace” jokes after three games are the hackiest thing out there, but I have no pride so I’ll note that he’s on pace for 267 homers this year. That would be a record.

Athletics 10, Rangers 0: I did three different radio spots in Texas Rangers country yesterday, including Tyler, Texas, Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. They all asked me if I think the Rangers have a chance this year. My answer is “nope.” Scott Kazmir allowed only one hit and struck out ten in seven shutout innings. Mark Canha who, um, not, I had never heard of before — and if you’re not an A’s fan or Canha’s mom or something, neither have you most likely — drove in four. UPDATE: OH MY GOD, Canha gave a postgame interview in which he did the “Bull Durham” “Good Lord willin’ . . .” speech word for word. I heart him.

Angels 5, Mariners 3: The Angels scored four in the first off Hisahi Iwakuma and held on. Iwakuma was poor in the second half last season. If that was more harbinger than aberration, the M’s staff isn’t gonna be as good this year as a lot of folks expect it to be. Albert Pujols homered to tie Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas on the all-time list at 521. That’s fairly decent company. I suppose.

2015 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

votto getty

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Cincinnati Reds.

The Big Question: Is the fun over in Cincy?

The Reds won a 36-year-high 97 games in 2012 and they finished with 90 wins in 2013, but a combination of key injuries and poor individual performances led the club to a disappointing 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League Central in 2014.

And there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism in 2015.

Joey Votto is fully recovered from his distal quad strain, Jay Bruce is capable of a bounceback, and young speedster Billy Hamilton should take a step forward offensively after batting just .250/.292/.355 in 611 plate appearances as a rookie, but the Reds don’t appear to have the kind of well-rounded major league roster that will allow them to seriously compete in a division that suddenly looks like the deepest in all of baseball.

The rotation is in pretty rough waters, for the upcoming season and especially long term. Homer Bailey had an underwhelming 3.71 ERA (97 ERA+) over 145 2/3 innings last year — the first year of a six-year, $105 million contract — and he will open the 2015 campaign on a minor league rehab assignment following September surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Taking his place will be 36-year-old righty Jason Marquis, who didn’t make an appearance at the major league level in 2014. Mat Latos was shipped off to the Marlins in December because he had one year left on his contract and the Reds knew they weren’t going to be able to lock him up to a long-term deal. Extension talks don’t seem to be trending in a positive direction with Johnny Cueto, who is among the best starters in baseball but could very well be leaving Cincinnati for good next offseason. Tony Cingrani was shifted to the bullpen in a curious spring training decision so that Raisel Iglesias — an unproven Cuban right-hander — can slide into the starting corps. Iglesias pitched almost exclusively in relief in Serie Nacional. He gave up six runs to the Brewers in his latest Cactus League start.

Mike Leake is solid, and Anthony DeSclafani — part of the return package for Latos — carries some upside at age 24. But there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding this group and that’s an ominous situation for a team that plays 81 games per year in one of the least pitcher-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball.

Cincinnati’s bullpen doesn’t offer anything inspiring beyond its flame-throwing closer and 22-year-old top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson probably won’t be ready for his MLB debut until the second half. Maybe the Reds can slug their way into contention, but here’s guessing that won’t work in the NL Central in 2015.

What else is going on?

  • The lineup does have a nice mix of dynamic offensive contributors. Todd Frazier finished in a tie with Josh Donaldson for the most home runs by a third baseman (29) last season and he led all major league third basemen in stolen bases with 20. Young catcher Devin Mesoraco was one of Major League Baseball’s breakout stars in 2014, producing an .893 OPS (149 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. Offseason addition Marlon Byrd collected 25 home runs and 85 RBI in 154 games with the Phillies last summer. Votto, Bruce, and Hamilton — as mentioned above — should all be very good.
  • Aroldis Chapman has been a steal so far for Cincinnati, boasting a 2.32 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 430 strikeouts in 252 2/3 innings over the first five years of the six-year, $30 million deal that he signed after defecting from his native Cuba in 2010. But he opted into arbitration this winter and settled with the Reds at $8.05 million. He gets one more year of arbitration in 2016 and can then become a free agent. Will the Reds consider trading him after they get done hosting the 2015 All-Star Game festivities?
  • Brandon Phillips has registered a weak .714 OPS (95 OPS+) in 419 games since signing a six-year, $72.5 million contract extension with the Reds at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was praised for his clutch hitting ability after tallying 103 RBI in 2013, but analytical baseball people knew that lofty total was more the product of Votto and former Reds leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips finished with just 51 RBI in 2014 and he slugged just eight home runs — an 11-year low. Yet the veteran second baseman is still being penciled in as the Reds’ No. 3 hitter behind Hamilton and Votto by manager Bryan Price.

Prediction: A potent offense but messy pitching leaves the Reds with 81 wins and a last-place finish in a loaded National League Central. Go ahead and pencil them in for a last-place finish in 2016 as well.

Brandon Phillips doesn’t value on-base percentage, Joey Votto does. Does this matter?

Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips

Interesting piece from Bob Nightengale of USA Today about Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, who don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the importance of on-base percentage. While Votto has taken criticism for valuing his on-base skills, he continues to defend his approach at the plate. Meanwhile, Phillips is doing the same thing, except from the opposite end of the spectrum. Check it out:

“I don’t do that MLB Network on-base percentage (stuff),” Phillips told USA TODAY Sports. “I think that’s messing up baseball. I think people now are just worried about getting paid, and worrying about on-base percentage, instead of just winning the game.

“That’s the new thing now. I feel like all of these stats and all of these geeks upstairs, they’re messing up baseball, they’re just changing the game. It’s all about on-base percentage. If you don’t get on base, then you suck. That’s basically what they’re saying. People don’t care about RBI or scoring runs, it’s all about getting on base.

“Why we changing the game after all of this time? If we all just took our walks, nobody would be scoring runs. Nobody would be driving anybody in or getting anybody over. How you going to play the game like that. People don’t look at doing the things the right way, and doing things to help your team win.

“I remember back in the day you hit .230, you suck. Nowadays, you hit .230, with a .400 on-base percentage, you’re one of the best players in the game. That’s amazing. I’ve never seen (stuff) like that. Times have changed. It’s totally different now.

Does this sound a little crazy? Of course. I got a little chuckle out of the line about MLB Network inventing on-base percentage. That was the first I’ve heard of it. Anyway, we don’t need to point out the obvious about on-base percentage and what it means for run production. Players don’t just reach first base on a walk and disappear into oblivion. If Phillips drives in 100 runs this season, Votto will be a big reason for it. It’s easy to gang up on what Phillips is saying here, as we have seen on Twitter throughout the evening. However, as our own Craig Calcaterra wrote about Jeff Samardzija exactly one month ago, does it really matter if a player understands or values sabermetrics?

Votto has embraced sabermetrics and that can have its advantages, but it’s not essential for a player to do so. There are analytics departments for that and coaching staffs to communicate information to players in an accessible way. We would have a problem here if Phillips said he purposely makes outs rather than draw a walk. He’s not saying that. However, he feels that he gets paid to swing the bat and drive in runs. That’s his approach and how he justifies his place in the lineup. It’s worked for him in the past, but his deficiencies are standing out a bit more now that he’s seemingly past his peak and moving into his mid-30s. And now he looks stubborn as he tries to defend something that has worked for him in the past. It’s probably frustrating. And from that prism, you can understand him getting extra defensive when he gets asked about on-base percentage, even if he’s wrong. It would be more alarming to hear this kind of talk from a general manager or front office executive as opposed to a player. Fortunately, Phillips is not in that position. He’s just a player with an opinion.

Joey Votto: “I’m a different hitter than most.’

Joey Votto

Certain parts of the Cincinnati media like to go after Joey Votto because he’s not a run-producing RBI machine. This despite the fact that, um, yeah, he actually creates boatloads of runs and is far and away the best hitter that team has and has had in, like, 30 years. But he takes walks and speaks intelligently about advanced metrics, see, so screw that guy, right?

Perhaps his biggest detractor is Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Yesterday, however, Daugherty actually talked to Votto about his hitting and value as a hitter. And if you can get past Daugherty’s Luddite opening and closing remarks, Votto says a lot of interesting and intelligent things about his hitting and the criticism he takes for the way he approaches hitting.

Really, though, Daugherty’s overall tone is the most illuminating thing about the piece. I feel like certain sportswriters don’t know much what to do with an athlete who is demonstrably intelligent, which Votto certainly is. So he must be “curious” and weird and different and what he says must be met with dubiousness. Pretty funny, actually.

Russell Martin made a point to emulate Derek Jeter . . . and Joey Votto

Russell Martin

It’s not a terrible surprise to read a story about a former Yankees player who learned some lessons from Derek Jeter while they were teammates. Blue Jays’ catcher Russell Martin certainly did, he tells the New York Times. Specifically, the idea of having a regular routine and the notion that, in the middle of the game, you always have to have the attitude that the pitcher you’re facing can’t get you out.

But he also decided, at some point while playing in Pittsburgh, to emulate Joey Votto:

Early last season, during a game against Cincinnati, Martin watched from his crouch as Reds first baseman Joey Votto exasperated the Pirates by fouling off one good pitch after another.

As annoyed as Martin was, he figured that if Votto could do it, so could he. (You might say that was the Jeter in him.) He went back to the Pirates’ bench and declared, “I’m going to do the Joey Votto.”

What Martin meant by that was fighting off pitches he didn’t want and waiting for his pitch. It’s an approach Martin credits for raising his average and his on-base percentage even if it has cost him some power.

Which is pretty hilarious, actually. Talk to your average Marty Brennaman-listening Reds fan and they’ll tell you that’s an awful, awful thing to do. Funny, then, that major league hitters think it’s a pretty spiffy approach.

But I suppose old Marty and Brian from Deerfield Township know better.