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View From the Other Side: Cincinnati Reds

I sent some questions off to Slyde from the Red Reporter SB Nation's Cincinnati Reds blog, so we could learn a little about the Reds before their three game set in Toronto starting Tuesday night.  He was nice enough to send me answers back back quite quickly. 

Who has been the biggest surprise for the Reds this season?

Probably Ryan Hanigan. He had pretty good numbers in the minors (.294/.383/.372) though clearly without the power one may expect from a catcher. He's been a surprise mainly because he's a 28-year old catcher who is batting .325/.411/.397 on the season with one of the best arms from a catcher in the big leagues. He clearly still doesn't have much power, but when you are getting a .400 OBP from anybody, you don't tend to care about their lack of power. He's gotten a lot of playing time since Joey Votto went on the DL as Ramon Hernandez has been covering first base in Votto's absence. Unfortunately, word is that once Votto comes back, Hernandez will be the primary starter at catcher once again, which is a shame as Hanigan has been a superior catcher to Hernandez in just about every way possible this season.

What are manager Dusty Baker's strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: His players seem to respect him and like playing for him. His reputation as a players' manager appears to be justified in his year and a half with the Reds. He's loyal to his starting players, almost to a fault. It appears to be pretty hard to play yourself into Dusty's doghouse.

Weaknesses: He lacks creativity when it comes to managing the game. The majority of the time he plays things by "the book," which means he gets predictable. When he goes against the book, it's usually at a total WTF moment. He loves to bunt with his 2-hole hitter, even in the first inning, despite the fact that the lead-off hitter always has enough speed to steal second base. Ridiculously bad at making lineups - his solution to fixing a struggling offense was to bat Willy Taveras first and Alex Gonzalez second. Taveras was in the middle of a 1 for 46 slump and Gonzalez's OPS has not topped .591 this season. Generally drives fans crazy with his in-game decisions.

It should be noted that there is little indication at a propensity to completely abuse pitchers, as has been his reputation. He's made some questionable calls on how he has handled Aaron Harang a couple of times (one time pretty much led to an injury), but for the most part his has been reasonably cautious with the young pitchers - or at least more cautious than his reputation would imply.

You have a Toronto native son, Joey Votto, He missed a few games with 'dizziness', what was the story there? What do Red's fans think of him?

Votto missed some games early on for what was reported as an inner-ear infection. It took them a while to diagnose the problem, but when they finally did he started playing again sparingly. Then, out of almost nowhere, Votto went on the DL with "stress related issues." This is the extent of what we know about it because apparently very few in the organization actually know the root cause of the situation. There has been much speculation and rumor-mongering - and the rumors have run the gamut - but nobody has leaked the truth to this point.

I think for the most part Reds fans love Votto. Before his time on the disabled list, he was everything you could want in a ball player. He played hard, came through when it mattered, and basically carried the team during the month of April. And most importantly, he was getting better. Then he went on the DL, and most fans still support him, but there is a small faction of idiots who think that he just needs to "man up" and get over his problems and that he is letting the team down. I think these people are clearly in the minority, but it doesn't help that Votto's absence has coincided with one of the worst offensive months by a Reds team in many years.

The Reds are just 4 games back in the NL Central, and yet the Daily Dish says they might be trying to move Bronson Arroyo. Why would they be a 'seller' if they are that close?

Heh, there are some fans that would tell you that trading Arroyo in no way makes them a seller.

I think there are two reasons why this rumor makes sense given the Reds position. First, the offense is horrendous. They should get some help with Votto's return as well as the return of Edwin Encarnacion. However, they won't suddenly become a superior offense with just those two guys. If the Reds are serious about contending this season, they'll need to pick up another significant bat for the outfield. Since their pitching has been outstanding, I think there is a belief that they can trade a pitcher to improve the offense. I'm not convinced at this point that the pitching is that easily expendable.

The other reason I think the rumor has popped up is because Arroyo is going to be expensive in 2010 ($11M), at least from small market standards. The problem is that $11M is not unreasonable for an average pitcher like Arroyo, but there are rumors that the Reds are strapped a bit financially and if they are going to add a good bat to the lineup, they are going to have to cut cost somewhere else. That would make Arroyo and Aaron Harang the most likely candidates for trading.

Personally, I don't think they are playing for 2009. The Reds have a good crop of youngsters coming up in the next two years (Drew Stubbs, Todd Frazier, Chris Valaika, and Yonder Alonso all could find themselves as starters as early as 2010). I don't see them making any moves that are focused just on this season. If they trade Arroyo, I would suspect it will be for someone who will be with the team beyond this year, perhaps a shortstop or catcher.

Your bullpen has been great. Who would you want throwing in an important moment in the game?

The bullpen was a little bit shaky this past week, so this is harder to answer than it would have been a week ago. Arthur Rhodes has been outstanding though, much better than I ever would have expected. Francisco Cordero has been lights out too, although Baker tends to only use him in save situations or blowouts when he needs work. If I needed one out, I'd go with either of those guys depending on if it's a lefty or a righty at the plate.

Who is your favorite Red to watch?

Without a doubt, Joey Votto. It's been at least a decade since the Reds have had a talented player that looks like he truly cares about his teammates and about winning. Usually the hard-working players on the team are scrubs that fans fall in love with, but they don't provide much value to the team outside of their scrappiness. It truly is a joy to watch a player who both plays hard every play and has the talent to do something special on the field on any given night. I'm definitely looking forward to his return.

Is there anything else us Jay's fans should know about the Reds?

If you haven't paid attention to the Reds in a couple of years, you may not realize that they are not anything like the team of the last 8 years or so. They are a much more of a pitching and defense oriented team than in the past, but they struggle mightily to score runs. On any given night, they could have as many as 7 players with an OBP under .325 in the lineup. As the Braves announcers said in a recent series, these guys make entirely too many outs. When they win, it's usually because of a much improved starting rotation and a dramatically improved defense, especially in the outfield. Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn may have been mashers at the plate, but they were atrocious in the outfield. The Reds have not replaced their bats, but they've made up for a large portion of the loss with some excellent defense.