CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Reds are not doing well at the voting booths, lagging behind with All-Star nominees. And the prognosticators and pundits see little chance that any member of the Reds will be voted onto the All-Star team.
Every team, though, must be represented by at least one player and there are at least four solid candidates on the pitching staff from which National League manager Mike Matheny can choose.
It starts, of course, with starter Johnny Cueto. And why would a manager pick a pitcher with a 6-and-5 record? Because any manager knows that Cueto’s record is as deceiving as a Las Vegas magician’s act. You start with his 1.85 earned run average — best in the league. You check his complete games and it is three, second best in the league.
You check his innings pitched and it is 102 — most in the league. You check his strikeouts and it is 108, most in the league. You check his opponent’s batting average against him and it is .160, best in the league by 39 points
With St. Louis Cardinals manager Matheny selecting the pitching, it is almost dead, solid, perfect that he’ll select his own Adam Wainwright, leading the league with nine wins, to start the game.
"There is no question that Cueto is at the top of the list for me as National League starters," said Price. "And maybe I’m being biased because I see all of his starts. What he is doing is special and I wish he had the won-loss record which would support every other facet of his game."
The most crazy idea for an All-Star is not so crazy, based on what setup pitcher Jonathan Broxton is quietly doing. Setup pitchers receive no attention unless they blow games. If they do their jobs, they are ignored. And that’s the case with Broxton.
The 6-foot-4-inch tall, 300-pound Broxton is too big to not notice and his big numbers make hlm stand taller and broader. He has not given up a run in his last 12 appearances or in 20 of his last 21 appearances. And when Aroldis Chapman was on the disabled list to start the season Broxton stepped in and annexed five saves.
Why would Matheny take a setup guy like Broxton?
"The All-Star game is a weird dynamic in that you put so much importance on winning the game for your league to get home field advantage in the World Series, yet the fans voted the players in. That doesn’t seem to make any sense. I love the fan involvement, but it seems strange that the game means so much and yet the manager doesn’t get to pick his own team."
Price said the All-Star game is no longer just an entertainment vehicle, so it is important, "Home field advantage in the World Series is a pretty big deal," so managers should want to put together the best team they can and the late-game pitchers are important.
"You need a relief pitcher who is not a starter or a closer, a guy who is used to coming in in the middle of sticky situations to get you a ground ball or a strikeout. If he continues the way he is going and can throw up the numbers he is throwing up there by mid-July he would have to be under consideration," said Price.
Then there is Chapman, the torch-bearing left arm who could be the closer or a situational left hander.
"He might be a three-inning situational left hander, the way he is throwing," said Price. "He certainly has the pitches and the command to do it. I have never seen him throw this well."
In addition to his 102 miles an hour fastball and an 89 miles an hour slider that he is throwing more and more, Chapman mixes in an 85 miles per hour in a changeup once in a while to completely baffle a mesmerized hitter.
As of Thursday, Chapman had retired 22 straight batters and 32 of his last 33, including seven straight perfect appearances with 14 strikeouts.
As always, Chapman’s numbers are not on any readable chart and he has been so good and has such a good mixture of pitches that Price recently said, "He has enough pitches to be a starter," but then he quickly added, "I’m kidding, I’m kidding about him being a starter. He has had a lot of great moments in a Reds uniform but I’ve never seen him throw as well as he is throwing right now."
And, oh yeah, there is even another Reds pitching candidate, somebody few people talk about because he was only inserted into the rotation as a stand-in for Mat Latos. Stand-in? Alfredo Simon has the win-loss record that Cueto wishes he had and a record he should have, 8 and 3.