Ask Hal: Quality start could be better


Q: It looks as if Joey Votto and some of the other Reds are showing more emotion on the field and could this be the turning point for this team of underachievers? — CRAIG, Fort Loramie.

A: The Reds have played better recently making it much easier to show emotion. When a team isn’t playing well, losing a lot of games, it isn’t easy to show any emotion but frustration. And I don’t think displaying emotion has any effect on wins and losses. Scoring runs and pitching well beats helmet throwing and bat-snaps over the knee.

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. To tap into that knowledge, send an email to

Q: When the camera pans the Reds dugout it appears all the extra players are bored so why don’t they bring a book or and iPad to the dugout? — DAVE/Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: You are mistaking other people for yourself when you read books and played video games on your iPad when you were supposed to be working. When I look in the dugout I see most of the players at the railing watching the game intently or two players sitting next to each other discussing the game and baseball. You will find iPads in the clubhouse with players watching video of themselves or the opposing pitcher that night.

Q: What is the definition of a quality start? — MIKE/West Carrollton.

A: A pitcher must pitch at least six innings and give up three or fewer runs. Three runs over six innings is a 4.50 earned run average. Is that quality? I say no. I say a quality start should be two runs or fewer over six innings, a 3.00 ERA. But I didn’t invent it. John Lowe, a baseball writer at the Detroit Free Press came up with it. We were good friends until I put in my 2 ½ cents worth about making it two runs instead of three. I don’t hear much from him any more.

Q: Some ball parks have a strip of dirt between the pitchers mound and home plate, but most have grass, so who determines which it will be? — BOB/Belmont.

A: Only two parks have that dirt path between home and the pitcher’s mound, Comerica Park in Detroit and Chase Park in Arizona. At one time, back in the days of black and white TV, nearly all the parks had that strip. When AstroTurf came into vogue the strip disappeared. Now that grass fields are back the strip is reappearing. It’s strictly cosmetic, but I like it because it reminds me of my long gone youth.

Q: What odds would you have given in spring training that Billy Hamilton would have more RBIs than Jay Bruce and that Alfredo Simon would lead the National League in wins? — JEREMY/Kettering.

A: If you made that bet, you’d own Las Vegas and all the desert surrounding it by now. My odds would have been that Hamilton would still be in Louisville and Simons would still be in the bullpen. If that were the case the Reds probably would be shaking hands with the Chicago Cubs in last place.

Q: What is your opinion of all the defensive shifts teams are now using? — RICK/Vandalia.

A: For years every player pretty much stood in the same spot for all hitters. But the technology is changing the world and changing baseball. Every team has access to information that tells them where a player hit a ball. So why not use it? Pro football defenses don’t come out in the same formation every play, so why should baseball? I shake my head when I watch stubborn hitters not make adjustments and continue to hit balls right into the shift and make outs.

Q: Are there team captains on the Reds, and if there are, do they really lead this team by example, locker room speeches and presence? — RON/Covington, Ky.

A: There has not been an official Reds team captain since Barry Larkin retired. A player has to be with a team for a long time before he earns enough respect to be a captain. A player doesn’t have to wear a ‘C’ on his jersey to be a leader, to speak up, to lead by example. These guys are highly paid professionals who should be able to inspire themselves without having an appointee chewing on their ears.

Q: Do you see the Reds going after Grady Sizemore now that he has been released by the Boston Red Sox? — DERRICK/Centerville.

A: I hope not. He showed his character by signing with the Red Sox after he had a handshake agreement with the Reds, reneging for more money. And with his squalid numbers with the Red Sox (.219, two homers, 15 RBI in 52 games), why would the Reds want him? Let the Brewers or Cardinals sign him.

Q: It is time to unload Jay Bruce? — DEAN/Eaton.

A: Firstly, who would take him right now? He is struggling mightily right now, but we’ve seen how he can get hot and nobody can get him out. He does it at least twice a season. So far, it hasn’t surfaced once. But you never know when it will surface. He is still too young for me to say the Reds should dump him for a used rosin bag, two broken bats and cleat cleaner.

Q: Have you ever seen any player get more one-handed hits than Todd Frazier? — STEVE/Vandalia.

A: Never. And the amazing thing is that he has hit a few balls out of the park one-handed. That’s one strong man. It makes you wonder how far he might hit one if he kept both hands on the bat. It seems that the more funky his swing, the more hits he gets.

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