Cincinnati Reds @ Miami Marlins Series Preview: Listen to an Awesome Johnny Bench Interview


Oct 6, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds bench coach Chris Speier (35) comforts starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) as he leaves the game against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of game one of the 2012 NLDS at AT

The Miami Marlins return home after a disappointing 3-6 mark on their 9 game road trip. The Marlins split a four game series with the Philadelphia Phillies, but then proceeded to lose 5 of 6 to the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, including a sweep by the hands of the Padres.

The Marlins now sit at an National League worse 11-27. Thank goodness for the Houston Astros or the Marlins would be the worst team in baseball. Not much, but here on Marlin Maniac, we do like to celebrate #minorvictories.

Up next, the Marlins get a second shot at the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds were able to take three out of four games against the Marlins last month in Cincinnati. The Marlins are hoping for better results this time around.

To preview the second series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins I had an email chat with John Rentz, a staff writer on Blog Red Machine, the Fansided Reds site. Blog Red Machine has to be one of the cooler names out there for any sports site and they also do a great job of covering everything Reds-related.

One of the BRM staff members recently had a chance to interview the great Johnny Bench. This is a chat that you don’t want to miss if you are a baseball fan, as Staff Writer Jordan Barhorst did a wonderful job with it. Please do check it out.

John and I chatted about everything from the amazing ability of Shin Soo-Chin and Joey Votto to the imminent return of Johnny Cueto to the Reds rotation.

Without any further ado, here is my chat with John:

May 12, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) runs off of the field during the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Ehsan Kassim: Is there anyone in the league more annoying than Shin-Soo Choo? It felt like he got on base every time he came to the plate the last time these two teams squared off.

John Rentz: From a Reds fan perspective, we count our blessings Every. Single. Day. we see Choo on the lineup card. The man is a consummate hitter, even flashing the occasional leather in CF (despite the limited range he’s had adapting to the position, but, honestly, I see him improving there as well). Having watched Choo on a more limited basis with the Indians, he was always a “Reds killer”, so having him on “our” side now is such a relief. I think he’s a tremendous talent who will garner a big contract when the season is over, and I will be sad to see him be a one-and-done acquisition for Cincinnati.

Ehsan: This may upset Miguel Cabrera fans, but I believe Joey Votto is the best hitter in baseball. What are your thoughts?

John: I’d have a hard time not seeing Votto eclipsing the kind of unworldly production even Cabrera himself is capable of delivering. 2012 was a special season for Miggy in establishing a solid .330 BA (en route to his Triple Crown) with a .393 OBP, although his OPS+ of 164 fell just short to Mike Trout’s 171. For perspective, Votto was simply awesome in his 2010 campaign, achieving a .424 OBP and a historic-level .600 SLG (to his credit, Cabrera is a better pure-power hitter than Votto and had a .606 SLG himself last year), yielding an OPS+ of 171 himself (although Albert Pujols had a very slight advantage of 173 in the measure). Even more “astounding” in the “what might have been” department, Votto achieved a .474 OBP and 175 OPS+ in 2012 despite the surgery for his torn meniscus that caused him to miss nearly a 1/3 of the season. Given the notion that Votto is off to a “slow start” in 2013 (which should tell you the absurdity of local media and fans for giving into the preposterousness of it) even though he has a .310 and .444 OBP (you can probably thank Choo for making that seem “low”), it’s easy to see and concur with Joey Votto being one of the, if not the, best pure hitter in the game.

Ehsan: What is the latest on Johnny Cueto’s oblique injury? When will he return and who will get the boot from the rotation?

John: I can provide some unique perspective having actually watched his rehab start live and in-person just this past Thursday (on the Reds’ off-day) with the High-A Dayton Dragons squad. Cueto pitched a fairly uneventful three innings (51 pitches) including 4 hits and 4 strikeouts (velocity was solid) against Lansing (Toronto farm team) while being spotted for a lone run in the first (not helped on a defensive play). The expectation is that he makes a 2nd start, likely again for Dayton on Tuesday night (5/14) against West Michigan (Tigers farm team). The second part of your question is far more complicated and is the source of a lot of debate among fans. It’s pretty safe to say that Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo have safe jobs in the rotation (particularly Arroyo being a 10-and-5 veteran in the last year of his contract). The same is likely true for Homer Bailey (Tuesday’s starter), even though he’s been slightly shaky at times in the early going … there’s merit to his no-hitter at the end of 2012 giving him a longer leash these days. The designated “5th starter” is Mike Leake, who, like Bailey, is a former 1st-round draft pick on which there are high expectations yet to be fully realized. In Spring Training a year ago, it was between Bailey, Leake, and Aroldis Chapman for the back-end of the rotation. In Spring Training this year, Bailey was considered a lock, but the debate came down to Leake and Chapman again (as Dusty Baker ultimately won the “battle” by keeping Chapman his closer). Now, we see Tony Cingrani, the” wunderkind” (23-year-old) lefty with his high penchant for strikeouts, in a “pseudo” battle for that fifth spot with Leake (25) to stay in rotation. Odds are, Leake sticks around … he’s three full seasons more “seasoned” than Cingrani, and the odds of Cingrani staying around in a long relief role (when he’s very clearly a future starter with what we’ve seen to-date) pretty slim barring injury. I’ll be the first to admit I’d rather see a Logan Ondrusek demoted given the electric stuff Cingrani has, but I can’t see a place for Tony with six starters at the ML level.

May 11, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos (55) pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Ehsan: The finale of this series will be the rematch of the hyped first matchup between Tony Cingrini and Jose Fernandez. What do you expect to see in the rematch?

John: Interesting last-minute change to the rotation just minutes before I started writing this. Mat Latos has been set to start Thursday’s game instead of Tony Cingrani, who will be a better fit to face the Phillies lefty-heavy lineup. So, while your question was a valid one when posed, we won’t be seeing the rematch we first expected. I am interested to see Fernandez again, who struggled a bit the first time around in only lasting 4 innings (5 runs on 6 hits) at GABP. I was there that night to see the first matchup, and I expect to see Fernandez fare somewhat better this time through; however, the Reds hitters are finally showing signs of “clicking” again and may pose a challenge for the young 20-year-old rookie.

Ehsan: In the first month and half of the season, who has been the Reds MVP?

John: This is tougher for me to answer than I thought it would be. I could make a valid argument for Choo, for Votto, and even for Brandon Phillips. On the pitching side, Latos has been pretty close to lights-out for most starts (his last one notwithstanding). Statistically speaking, someone cannot deny that Shin-Soo Choo has meant more to this team than anyone else. He’s 2nd in BA (.309 to Votto’s .310), tops in OBP (.451 to Votto’s .451), tops in SLG (.547, significantly higher than Votto at .465), AND leads the team in HR with 7 along with runs at 29. He’s produced a WAR of 1.4 so far (decreased by defensive lapses), bested by only a 1.8 by Votto. I’m a huge Joey Votto believer, but last year proved that Votto couldn’t drive in runs without someone on base … and, so far, that’s been Choo more than anybody else (for which RBI to Phillips have most benefitted).

Ehsan: Make a bold prediction for the series. Which Reds hitter will have a huge series? Which Reds pitcher?

John: My gut tells me that Choo and Votto are going to have solid results this series, but the bold hitting prediction is that Brandon Phillips is going to go on a tear. Why? BP hails from Georgia, and, while Florida it’s not, he will thrive on hitting cleanup against the majority of Marlins pitching. I have a separate premonition that Jay Bruce is just starting to heat up and go on one his crazy hot streaks, but I won’t pick Jay over Brandon just yet. For pitcher, I think Aroldis Chapman could feature prominently in just about every game (if there’s a save on the line to be had) and, with his Cuban roots, will want to show off a bit for the “home crowd” of sorts.

A big thank you to John for taking his timeout to talk to us. We at Marlin Maniac wish all Reds fans the best of luck in the upcoming series. If you get a chance, please check out Blog Red Machine for some of the best Reds content on the internet.