Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcoming Myself To The Blog

Let me start of by thanking Mr. Neagle and the Big Donkey for allowing me to be part of this blog. Ever since I was a boy I dreamed of writing my thoughts on the only thing that really matters to me (sorry Becky)…sports. I hope the following entertains everyone and proves what I believe to be true…no one knows sports quite like I do. My first entry will detail my belief on the Reds turn around, but soon to come will be a look at ND’s upcoming opponents. Yes, I said upcoming as its 101 days until opening kickoff!

Now…..onto the Redlegs. This year’s success can be attributed to many things: outstanding starting pitching, a strong bullpen, younger players, but to me we can’t downplay the defense up the middle. There are all kinds of phrases describing what wins “Defense wins championships” “There’s no “I” in team” “See the ball; hit the ball” but in baseball it’s the defense up the middle that holds true. Let’s look at some of the recent World Series winners:

2006 Cardinals: C- Yadier Molina; 2B- Aaron Miles; SS- David Eckstein; CF- Jim Edmonds.

Let’s start with the weakest, and this might be surprising, Jim Edmonds. While all Reds fans remember Jim Edmonds robbing millions of base hits by 2006 he was on the down hill slide. His range wasn’t the same, and he wasn’t nearly as healthy with only 105 games played, but he was still a gamer and I know every Reds fan would’ve taken him.
Aaron Miles- while he did commit team high 17 errors his range was above average and he teamed with Ronnie Belliard to form a great duo with David Eckstein. Scott Rolen gets a ton of credit for being a standout fielder, but based on the number of plays made Miles was worth 3.5 worth runs over the season than was Rolen.
David Eckstein- this little dude is slick in the field. He might not be able to ride all The Vortex or The Beast, but he gets the job done in the field. Only 6 errors all season he provided to be the little engine that could for this surprising World Series winner.
Yadier Molina- not really much to say here since his family owns catching. They might not own it, but it’s safe to say the have a monopoly on the catching position. He’s an above average catcher with a great arm that handled a solid pitching staff all year long. Messages to all dads out there; please consult with Papa Molina before encouraging your kids to get behind the plate.

2007 Red Sox: C- Jason Varitek; 2B- Dustin Pedroia; SS- Julio Lugo; CF- Coco Crisp

Again, we’ll start with the weakest, Julio Lugo. Coming into the season Lugo had signed a huge contact (36 mil) so expectations were sky high. Lugo is, better yet was, known as a defensive specialist prior to his time in Boston. He led the team in errors with 19, and also struggled at the plate. His defense came up big when needed though, and he is more the exception than the rule.
Jason Varitek- the grizzly veteran, 35 during this season, helped mold a pitching staff that was downright nasty. He threw out about 25% of his runners which isn’t a blistering pace, but that is based off of only 83 total chances. Varitek is the clubhouse leader this team needed and played a solid C all season long.
Dustin Pedroia- Yes, he won the rookie of the year largely based on his offensive numbers, but he plays a solid 2B as well. A .99 fielding percentage is great; considering it’s the same percentage our main Brandon Phillips had last year. On top of all this is the fact his defense was worth almost 10 runs is outstanding.
Coco Crisp- Every time I hear this guys name I think of one thing: coco pebbles. Going forward it will be associated with that and outstanding defense in CF. Crisp was worth an amazing 25 runs; more than double that of anyone else on his team. Tracking down balls in Fenways huge OF is no easy task, but this guy made it look easy. Also, anyone notice what his current team is doing? It’s no small coincidence the Royals aren’t being the typical Royals this year (we’ll save Greinke discussion for another day).

2008 Phillies: C- Carlos Ruiz/Chris Coste; 2B- Chase Utley; SS- James Rollins; CF- Shane Victorino

While a dynamite offensive player; Chase Utley won’t be winning any gold gloves anytime soon. His 13 errors and .984 fielding percentage aren’t anything to brag about he did play a team high in innings with over 1,400. He also lead all position players (sorry catchers) in put outs.
Carlos Ruiz/Chris Coste- further proof that strong defense up the middle wins titles; we have a true catching platoon. Both guys threw out about 25% of their runners and handled a pitching staff that included a mid-season acquisition of Joe Blanton.
The next two are a toss-up as they’re both dynamite defensive players: Shane “the Flyin Hawaiian” Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Both guys cover above average ground and both have great arms. Without these guys the Phillies would’ve been hard pressed to bring home the title.

This leads us back to our current Cincinnati Reds. While I may have been calling for Alex Gonzalez’s head a few weeks ago; I realize his contributions at SS are pretty good. He doesn’t have quite the range he did “back in the day” but he’s recovering nicely after being gone a full year.
Ramon Hernandez has been a solid pick-up not only for the pitching staff, but a great fill-in at 1B with Votto being out so much. He started his career as a 3B and this surely influenced his cat like reflexes at first and behind the plate.
While Fast Willie Taveras has been a surprise at the plate no one has said anything about defense… for good reason. He’s been able to cover all kinds of ground and make plays that our awesome combination of Dusty’s daughters’ lover, Jay Bruce, Chris Dickerson, and whomever else we threw out there last year couldn’t make on a regular basis.
Phillips….he’s golden. Nothing else needs to be said as no one in their right mind will question his defense.

I’m not predicting a world championship, but based off our middle defense we have the pieces in place to make a run at the playoffs. Also, big shout out to baseball-reference for all the help with stats.

Future Posts: ND oppenents position break downs
Currently playing on the ipod:Shake Me Like A Monkey by Dave Matthews Band

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