Let's start with Homer Bailey.
Bailey struggled through four tough innings. His fifth and final inning of work was a rather simple one, even though he did plunk the first batter, Xavier Nady.
When all was said and done, Bailey's line read:
5 IP, 7 H (all singles), 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HBP, 2 WP, and 1 BK—29 batters faced, and 109 pitches tossed.
What the line does not show is the way he battled through the first four, two of which could have been handled by a more defensively capable shortstop.
The cocky Homer of old would not have made it through the first inning. He would have been pacing and conversing with himself.
This Homer, the three-time Baseball America Reds' top prospect (2005-2007), was all business. He didn't have his best stuff, but he was constantly trying to find his proper delivery.
Like Jeff Brantley was saying, Homer never consistently found the release point that would have kept him from pitching behind so often. And as result, he gave up those seven hits.
But the way he kept his poise and never let the game get out of hand was a huge contributor to the Reds victory.
Bailey's grade on Friday: a solid C. Bailey's grade when compared to his first two and a half years: either a B+ or A-.
As mentioned earlier, if a more capable defensive shortstop were playing behind Bailey, rather than seven singles, he would have had only five.
Reds' fans need to face it: Orlando Cabrera at 35 years old is not the Gold Glover of former years. While far from a liability in the field, his range has been reduced due to age. He can still pick it with the best of them—but he has lost more than a step.
A few years ago he would have easily made the play that Ryan Theriot beat out for an infield single, and more than likely would have reached that blooper by Theriot in the fourth that resulted in a run.
People will look at that and say, "Well, look at the awesome line drive he caught during the Wednesday night game vs. the Cards."
Yes, it was pretty. However, he moved less than a step to his right to flag it.
Cabrera, even though his average is below the Mendoza line after four games, will still hit better than most shortstops.
But it does beg an interesting question. Would we rather have the defensive force of Paul Janish or the offensive force of Cabrera in the lineup?
Arguably shortstop is the most important defensive position on the field, and one has to wonder if Janish, a far weaker hitter, would save more runs than Cabrera produces with the stick.
Next, the Reds batters are horrendous when it comes to working pitch counts. Brook Jacoby, the Reds' batting coach, desperately needs to address this.
Each batter, with the exception of Joey Votto, swings at far too many first pitches, giving the opposing pitcher the upper hand by enabling him to work ahead in the count, and by keeping their pitch counts down.
If this is not fixed, we are probably looking at another sub-.500 season.
Last but not least, Drew Stubbs is phenomenal. Did you see just how fast he burned the base paths on that first-inning triple? Not to mention the game-winning grand slam that sent the folks at Great American Ball Park home with big smiley faces.
With Bailey, they have a superstar in the making. With Cabrera, let's hope his bat produces more runs than his lack of range gives opposing teams. With Stubbs, just watch with awe.
Votto is Votto—one of the top players in the league. We have very good pitching and lots of depth on the farm in case of injury.
If the lumber can learn to lay off more pitches, watch out because we may be looking at a wild-card appearance this season...even with Dusty Baker as manager.
And, oh yeah, thank you Lou Piniella for removing Carlos Silva after six innings when he yielded a mere three hits, no walks, and had thrown only 71 pitches.
For the first time in ages, this will be a fun season to watch.