McCoy: Who are top starting pitchers Reds could pursue in free agency?

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: I saw a list of the all-time Top 25 players with sweet swings, headed by Ken Griffey Jr., and does it surprise you that Joey Votto is not on the list? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Have you seen some of those defensive thrusts Votto takes to foul off pitches? Efficient, but not sweet. Votto’s swings are not picturesque, just spartan and effective. I haven’t seen that list, but I’d wager most are left handers. For some reason, left handed swings are prettier. This, of course, comes from a guy who swung from the left side, but not very sweet.

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Q: Who are some of the quality pitchers available in free agency and who would you bid on if you were Bob Castellini? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: You can start with Matt Harvey, already on the Reds roster, if he wants to stay and Mr. Castellini can dig deep. Clayton Kershaw will be a free agent but there is no way the Dodgers will let him walk. Others on the FA list include Patrick Corbin, Clay Buchholz, Marco Estrada, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Shelby Miller, Garrett Richards and Jose Quintana. Not a whole lot there, but Keuchel and/or Quintana would look spiffy in a Reds uniform.

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Q: It is difficult and unfair to compare today’s players to those of the Ty Cobb/Babe Ruth/Tris Speaker eras, but would you share your greatest starting eight for players after 1950? — KJD, Waynesville.

A: Indeed, impossible. And the game changes all the time and has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, all strikeouts and home runs. I am old school, some say one-room schoolhouse old school. But here goes: catcher Johnny Bench, first base Stan Musial, second base Joe Morgan, shortstop Derek Jeter, third base Mike Schmidt, left field Barry Bonds (yeah, I know), center field Willie Mays, right field Roberto Clemente. My team, my opinion.

Q: Who is controlling this so-called rebuild with the Reds and does it really exist in your opinion? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: It is not a so-called rebuild, it is real. How else can you describe it with all the trades of established players for prospects/suspects and the constant auditions for starting pitchers? The rebuild is a four-headed conglomerate of owner Bob Castellini, president of baseball operations Dick Williams, executive advisor to the CEO Walt Jocketty and general manager Nick Krall. And there is a lengthy list of special advisors. In other words, a whole bunch of cooks. One wonder how they ever come to decisions, although I suspect Mr. Castellini has the final say.

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Q: When a batter hits a ground ball over the pitcher’s mound and into the outfield, why do broadcasters say the ball was hit through the box? — KEITH, Butler Twp.

A: In the formative days of baseball, there was no pitcher’s mound. Pitchers threw from flat ground and his area was marked off with a square, a box. That’s why balls hit over the mound are referred to as going ‘through the box.’ If baseball wants to eliminate hitters striking out every third at bat, it could eliminate the mound and force pitchers to work off flat ground, sort of like The Flat Earth Society.

Q: If I told you that after 151 games one MLB team would have only one player with more than 14 home runs, no player with more than 65 RBI and only two pitchers with more than four wins, how many wins would you think this team would have? — CRAIG, Dayton.

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A: At first gasp, I’d say you are describing the Baltimore Orioles. But you aren’t. I’d say this team has 85 wins (yes, I had to look it up). You are talking about the incredible Tampa Bay Rays, the team with the best record in baseball since Aug. 1. And they are doing this while playing in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. They would be tied for first place in the American League Central, they would be leading the National League East, and tied for first in the National League West. But they are 17 ½ games behind Boston in the AL East.

Q: Do you think interim manager Jim Riggleman has managed his way out of a chance to get hired with the way he has managed the pitchers? — RICK, Vandalia.

A: What pitchers? When he first took over after Bryan Price was fired, the team played much, much better and his stock was high. The stock plummeted recently with the team’s struggles. He is managing the pitchers, and the whole team, with a sense of trying to win every game. He knows his pitchers and how most can’t wade through the batting order a second or third time. I have no fault with the way he has managed a bad team. That said, the team’s performance has pushed Riggleman down the list of prospective managers for 2019.

Q: Did broadcaster Jeff Brantley get fired for his comments? — JOHN, Huber Heights.

A: For those who didn’t read or hear Brantley’s comment during a game, he said, “I have seen no improvement at all from last year to this year from the young starting pitchers. None.” That’s what I love about Jeff Brantley. He is honest and forthcoming. He gives his opinion, good or bad. Yes, he is employed by the Reds, but fans aren’t stupid and they see what he sees. It won’t be sugar-coated by Brantley. No, he hasn’t been fired and shouldn’t be. He is doing his job the way it should be done and good on him.


Q: What is the logic behind hitting the pitcher eighth and a weak hitter like Billy Hamilton hitting ninth and is this another silly idea from Tony LaRussa? — RON, Vandalia.

A: In the case of Michael Lorenzen, a better hitter than Hamilton, it makes great sense. Actually, the theory is that it gives a team two leadoff hitters back-to-back, in the Reds case Billy Hamilton ninth and Scott Schebler first. To me, though, I often see the pitcher batting eighth come to bat with two outs and runners on base. Of course, when the No. 9 hitter isn’t producing, what difference does it make. You can’t hide a bad hitter any place in the order.

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