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Don’t blame it all on the bullpen

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching the Pittsburgh Pirates, wearing camouflage uniforms, play the Arizona Diamondbacks, wearing uniforms that make them look like Friendly Freddy’s Bar & Grille softball team (female version).

The Cincinnati Reds bullpen has taken the heaviest barrage of criticism for this mockery of season, and rightfully so, for the team’s occupation of the coal cellar in the National League Central.

And although the starting pitching has been better of late, blame can be laid at their spikes, too, although they draw a pass because the rotation is a conveyor belt stretched between Cincinnati and Louisville, due to injuries.

SOME HUGE BLAME must be heaped on the heads of hitters, too, maybe even more than the bullpen.

Yes, the team is in a rebuild mode, but that rebuild hasn’t hit the position players, so there is no excuse. The lineup is populated by veterans and familiar faces.

Left fielder Adam Duvall is the only newcomer and catcher Tucker Barnhart is a fill-in for disabled catcher Devin Mesoraco, but Barnhart has been around for a couple of years.

HOW FAMILIAR ARE these names? Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Eugenio Suarez (moved from shortstop to third base to take traded Todd Frazier’s place), Billy Hamilton, Jay Bruce.

Those names are not part of any rebuilding blueprint. Most have been with the team and in the lineup for four or five years.

And what are they doing this year? Nothing. Zip, nada, zilch. And never was their feebleness more evident than in the just-complete three-game series in Los Angeles, a Dodgers sweep.

IN THREE GAMES, 27 innings, they scored three runs on nine total hits. On Monday against Clayton Kershaw the last 17 batters made outs. On Tuesday, against an assortment of Dodger relief pitchers, 15 of the last 16 made outs. On Wednesday the last 10 made outs.

That means that in the late innings the Reds offense made outs in 43 of their last 44 at bats.

Numbers, of course, can lie. But do these numbers lie?

The Reds team batting average is .226. Only San Diego is worse in the entire majors at .221. The Reds on base percentage is .281 and, again, only San Diego is worse at .280. The Reds have drawn only 109 walks (while striking out 385 times) and only the free-swinging Kansas City Royals have drawn fewer walks with 101.

OF THE GUYS WHO play every day only shortstop Zack Cozart is hitting above .263. He is hitting .306. From there it dips to Jay Bruce (.263), Adam Duvall (.254), Brandon Phillips (.248), Billy Hamilton (.223), Eugenio Suarez (.222) and Joey Votto (.205).

They aren’t only not hitting, they aren’t drawing walks, either. Cozart mostly bats leadoff, but he is far from the archetypical leadoff hitter. He has drawn only five walks all season. And it is a team trait.

The Reds want Hamilton to bat leadoff, but he still hits more balls in the air than on the ground, unable to use his speed, and he has drawn only six walks.

Duvall and Barnhart have six walks each and Phillips has seven. Bruce and Suarez have 11 each and, of course, Votto leads the pack with 28.

Votto, though, also leads the pack in strikeouts with 51. Suarez has 49, Duvall has 45, Bruce has 38, Phillips has 24, Barnhart has 23, Hamilton has 23 and Cozart has 19.

They always say there is no ‘i’ in team. For the Reds, though, there are no runs, no hits and no pitching in team. So when fans talk about the ignominy of this season they can’t blame it solely on the bullpen or the starting pitchers or the position players.

The blame has to be equally shared. It is, truly, a team effort.

Even a day off Thursday isn’t long enough to lick all the wounds of a 10-game losing streak and losses in 14 of their last 16. And the sad part is that there is one team some thought the Reds might finish ahead of in the National League Central. That’s the always-rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers. But when the Reds open a three-game series Friday night against the Brewers, even if the Reds somehow and unlikely score a three-game sweep, they’ll still be 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers when they leave town.

 

 


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