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.

Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.