Reds Series Preview: Q&A with Brandon Kraeling of Red Reporter

USA TODAY Sports

We are getting back on the Series Preview track. Brandon Kraeling, the Manager of Red Reporter, was nice enough to sit down with me over email and exchange some questions about the Reds. Our Q&A session follows below.

If you look at their Pythagorean record, the Reds are underperforming by about three games. There are numerous theories for why some teams tend to over- or under-perform their Pythag. Why do you suppose the Reds are underperforming so far this year?

I think it has a lot to do with a couple of really big wins early in the season, paired with a lot of close losses lately. It seems like the Reds' tendency this year is to have good performances from their starters but not back it up with offense. The little things like an error here or there have cost the Reds more dearly than they have in recent years, and the luck that went their way last year to get them into the postseason hasn't fallen their way this year.

The A's and Reds have something in common in that they both have a below-average defender playing an up-in-the-middle defensive position for his bat. Pick your defensive metric, and Shin-Shoo Choo is as below-average in CF as Jed Lowrie is at SS. The A's got here because he is honestly the most experienced SS on the roster, despite his shortcomings. But with CF and Choo, are there really no better options? I seem to recall Jay Bruce being thought of as a CF coming up, but he's played mostly RF.

There probably are better options, but not too much better. Bruce probably isn't an improvement, and the reason why Choo is there because he spent all spring there with Ryan Ludwick penciled in to take all of the ABs in LF to begin the year. Since then, we've seen two guys who are better defensive players than Choo get significant time in LF in Chris Heisey and Derrick Robinson, yet Dusty still refuses to move Choo over. Choo passes the eye test, but you do get the feeling that Dusty has "CF" marked in permanent marker at the leadoff spot on his lineup card every day.

There are only a few sure things in baseball, and one of them is people saying how Dusty Baker overworks pitchers. To the extent that it was a deserved label in the first place, do you think he's gotten any better?

After spending 5 1/2 seasons watching Dusty Baker led team, I think that label is pretty overblown. He has a tendency to leave pitchers in too long while they're struggling, sure, but as far as it being past their physical limit, I don't think that's usually the case. He's pretty good about listening to his starters and (sometimes to the team's detriment) lets guys like Arroyo stay in as long as they're comfortable. It's helped that to have a young pitching staff, though. I think he knows that he can't throw guys like Cueto, Latos, and Bailey for 120 pitches a start and still have them at the end of the year.

Mike Leake seems to have this Trevor Cahill-esque line, where he doesn't really strike anyone out and has a low-ish BABIP, but good TV stats: 10-4, 2.59. Do you see him as a guy who breaks FIP consistently, or someone who will eventually strikes more guys out?

Leake is definitely more of a "pitch-to-contact" type of pitcher than most. He really doesn't have the stuff to overpower anybody, but everything he throws moves a ton and he throws 4-5 pitches right now. He's learned a lot from Bronson Arroyo and looks like he could be on a really similar trajectory as far as what type of pitcher he is. They both rely on their defense quite heavily. His strikeout rate is actually down this year, but he's doing a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark this year, and I think you can attribute a lot of his recent success to that.

Cincinnati (Skyline) Chili: Really? On Spaghetti? Is it actually good, or do you really just buy cans of Hormel chili at home and hide them from visitors?

Yes, really. It's good, but people from here don't tend to like it or understand why we like it. That's okay with us. I can't remember the last time I've had non-Cincinnati chili on a hot dog.

Thanks for no-hitting the Giants. That brought much joy to the A's fanbase.

Our pleasure! It didn't make up for the whole "not knocking them out of the playoffs" from last year, but every little bit helps. Thanks for taking Adam Rosales off of our hands.

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