First the good...
Aaron Harang continues to just be superb. What more can you say about the guy? His strikeout rate continues to be right up there with his performance last year, while his control continues to be above average (though his walk rates were up a tad last month). Perhaps even more impressively for a fly ball pitcher (40% GB%), he keeps the ball in the park pretty darn well.
Bronson Arroyo also has a fine month in what has been a frustrating season. Although his FIP isn't as flattering as that shiny 2.62 ERA, his peripherals are all solid and very consistent with what he did last year. The main reason his FIP is ~.2 higher than it was last season is that he managed to hit four batters last month (he only hit 5 all of last year). His blowup on August 1st was disappointing following such a strong July, though it is worth noting that Arroyo was coming of a 123 pitch performance in Chicago, his second highest total of the year. As we've discussed before, Arroyo has tended to show a substantial carry-over effect into the next start as his pitch count rises.
And Weathers continued to make a modest case for team MVP. He wasn't as much of a stopper this month as he had been previously, but his control continues to be excellent compared to his career norms, and he didn't allow a home run all month--and he's only allowed two all year. I've been really skeptical of his performance this season because it's just be so different from what he's done for most of his career. But there's no question that he's been excellent, if not a god-send. Can you imagine the Reds' bullpen without him?
One of the big stories in July was the emergence of Jared Burton as a reliever out of the bullpen. It's great to see one of our young guys having success in the major leagues, and receiving the confidence of management. This sort of month can do wonders for a kid's confidence. ... And hopefully that will translate into better peripherals moving forward, because his strikeout rate was fairly unimpressive, while his walk rate was a disaster. The only reason that his FIP was as low as it was in July was the fact that he didn't allow a home run, and while his 48% GB rate is fine, it's not enough to avoid home runs for long. In short, the kid got a bit lucky that month, and unless his performance improves--which it absolutely could--he's unlikely to keep getting the results he has.
Pretty much everything I wrote for Burton also applies to Jon Coutlangus, though Coutlangus has a history of avoiding home runs...though his 45% GB rate this season isn't particularly reflective of that.
On the more positive side (depending on one's perspective), Belisle and Livingston seem to have pitched better than their ERA indicated. In both cases, their walk rates and strikeout rates are right about what you'd expect from them, given their past history. They did allow a rather high rate of home runs, but if they can reduce the number of fat pitches down the middle of the plate by a few pitches per start, they can be reasonably effective throwing as they did. They just got a bit unlucky with their hits, as their high BABIP's indicate.
Michael Gosling continues to have one of the more bizarre seasons I've seen. As of last night, he'd struck out 23 batters in 20.7 innings, for a rate of 10 k/9. But he'd also walked 19, for a rate of 8.2 bb/9! Now just looking at that sample, one might think that he's Nuke LaLoosh incarnate--a fireballer with terrible control. The thing is, his minor league career k-rate is just 6.4 k/9, and in AAA (78 IP) this year, he's posted a rate of 7.5 k/9. Meanwhile, his '07 walk rate in AAA is 2.7 bb/9. Clearly, he doesn't have the stuff to keep up this pace, so one would hope that he can get his his walk rate back under control...
Todd Coffey. In April, his peripherals indicated that he was throwing the ball fine. In May, he looked awful, despite a decent ERA. In June, it looked liked he'd finally turned the corner. But my goodness...it's hard to find a pitching line worse than the numbers he put up in July. I almost wonder if he has a hidden injury..
Mike Stanton wasn't as bad as Coffey, but he was still pretty bad. I've been a modest defender of the Stanton signing, and his performance this season. He wasn't very good early on, but he had been solid if not good for several months coming into July. I don't know what happened to his control, but he walked a lot of batters and allowed a ridiculous number of home runs for how many innings he pitched.
And then there's Homer Bailey. I have to wonder if his groin had healed sufficiently for him to be pitching any time within his call-up. The fact that he's on the DL with it now, and that he was "feeling it" in his shoulder certainly doesn't indicate that he was healthy... Hopefully he can come back from that injury completely healthy before the end of the year, as I'd like to see him have a little success in the majors before the season is up--but not if he can't come back 100%. If the Reds are going to contend next year, they're going to need a good year from this kid.
Coming up next...July defensive splits!
Photos by AP/David Kohl (Harang) and AP/Tony Tribble (Belisle)