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10 reasons to start the Reds’ season optimistic

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How many games will the Reds win?

That’s not a question I can put a number on with any confidence. And I haven’t talked to anyone who is willing to say with any ease what that number will be.

Why are we so non-committal?

Well, my head can’t commit to a number above 79. My heart wants to say something in the 80s. Most Reds fans, it seems, are having the same head-heart tug-of-war.

We know what the worst-case scenarios are that would produce a similar season to the past two. Just list the pitfalls of last summer.

But who wants to be negative now? Maybe you do. That’s your choice.

If there’s a time to be optimistic, it’s now. This team can be in the wild-card hunt when August arrives. Admit it. You want reasons to believe that could happen. You don’t want to be negative on opening day.

If you are feeling low (and even if you’re not), let’s focus on what could spark hope.

In not particular order, here are 10 things, that if they happen in any degree of abundance, might mean the Reds get to August with something to play for.

  1. Figure out lead off

This position has changed as the game has changed to one dominated by power hitters and power pitchers. The argument is that speed isn’t required at the top. No argument there. Get on base.

But when someone with Billy Hamilton’s speed comes along, there’s not a manager who wouldn’t try to make him a lead-off hitter. In today’s game, speed is a bonus. And it’s smart to at least try to take advantage of that bonus.

But if Billy can’t play at least close to league average on-base percentage, then he should bat at the bottom of the order.

Jesse Winker gets on base. Eugenio Suarez gets on base. Joey Votto gets on base better than anyone. What’s the answer? Winker is a popular choice, but we don’t know how much he will play.

Solving this riddle will reduce a lot of anxiety.

  1. At least 3 starters stay healthy and dependable all season

That’s not an unreasonable expectation. It happens all the time.

But I know what you’re thinking … last year, 16 different starters and not a full season out of any of them. It can’t happen again.

Think about it. Three starters healthy all year from the group of Bailey, Castillo, Romano, Mahle, Finnegan and Garrett will bring some stability and produce more victories.

  1. Fewer starting pitchers than last year

Even with three healthy and dependable starters, those last two spots could be a revolving door. That doesn’t mean the Reds can only contend if the number is six or seven.

The Astros won the World Series with 11 different starters. Yes, most were far more experienced than what the Reds have, but don’t freak out because a couple of guys miss a few starts. But if a lot of guys miss a lot of starts, freak out all you want.

  1. At least two more position players get multi-year deals after season

Even if you are not a fan of long-term contracts, signing players to them usually means you have talent.

Votto and Suarez are it for now. Mostly that’s because most of the players aren’t to the point where the Reds have to make that decision.

But if this season sees two players produce enough for the Reds to make that commitment, that can only be a good thing.

  1. Joey Votto isn’t the only Red in top 10 for MVP voting

The last Reds other than Votto to get MVP votes were Johnny Cueto and Devin Mesoraco in 2014. So even one MVP vote would be a good sign.

And it doesn’t matter who gets it.

  1. Bench production improves

A few years from now (if it even takes that long), we won’t remember names like Kivlehan and Alcantara. The Reds need some bench guys with staying power.

The four-man outfield rotation will help. And Mesoraco showed signs this spring of swinging a bat the way he used to. Not to be negative, but I’m not digging Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin.

Phillip Ervin is a good choice. I would rather see some prospects getting a chance and learning what the big leagues are about than guys we know will never develop beyond what they already are. If this is a rebuild, keep Brandon Dixon and Alex Blandino.

  1. Bullpen doesn’t melt down

That can’t happen like the past two years, can it? The starting rotation needs their support for 162 games.

That does work both ways. The bullpen needs the rotation to increase its number of quality starts.

  1. Winker a rookie of the year candidate

Now wouldn’t that circumstance answer a lot of questions. He has been like the backup quarterback everybody wants to see get a chance when the starter isn’t performing at a high level.

Is Winker ready for Price to give him that chance? No doubt about it.

  1. Duvall has a good second half

Is it the diabetes that wears him down? Is it the pitchers figuring him out all over again? Maybe more days off with Winker in the mix will help.

If Duvall can put two halves together, then you have your second Red in the top 10 in MVP voting. Then you’re looking at numbers like 40 homers, 40 doubles, 120 RBIs, a .265 batting average and an OPS well over .800.

Those are big ifs, but not impossible.

  1. Reds still can’t find a full-time spot for Nick Senzel

That would mean Jose Peraza, Scooter Gennett and the corner outfielders are playing well. And that means more victories.

Senzel will get some big-league time for sure, but it could be next year before he takes over a position full time. Gennett is probably gone after this year, and a season at second base might be the best thing for Senzel.

Certainly there are more candidates for this list. Use it to feel optimistic for at least the next month.

That’s my plan.

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Cincinnati Reds

Reds Mailbag: 7/08/2020

Let’s brush up on a few burning questions before the season gets going

Clay Snowden

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BASEBALL IS BACK. The 2020 Reds will finally get to see the field. Sure, it will be totally different than we expected, but I’ll take it. Let’s jump into some mailbag questions.

Who will end up being the Reds MVP?

I think you have to go pitcher here. Pitching will be crucial in a shortened season, so let’s go with Luis Castillo. We all know he has the stuff of a true ACE. However, someone like Bauer/another starter playing at an MVP level would be a bigger impact to add to Gray and Castillo. Offensive MVP = Castellanos.

Will the Reds make the NLCS?

Yes. I think the Reds are set up well for a 60 game season. As many have said, the team that remains the heathiest has a huge leg up. The Reds have the starting pitching to have a chance to win each day. The offense should be there as well. Staying healthy is the most important thing to success this season.

Who will the 4 extra players be on the 30 man?

Injuries and illness could cause roster changes, but as of today: Nate Jones, Mark Payton, Tejay Antone, Alex Blandino.

I could be seeing some as locks or part of the “26” that others might see as bubble. Payton must be kept on because of the rule 5 pick or sent back to Oakland, and he shows enough talent. Blandino is the best option as a back up short (defensively) that’s had MLB experience. Jones is great when healthy, and you can’t have too many good arms in the pen. Antone is a guy I have been high on, and his increased velo stands out. He’s a back of the end rotation/Long relief guy.

Will Castellanos play for the Reds past this season?

Yes. Owners are likely to be cheap this offseason. Going into the free agent market hoping to make more than the Reds are set to pay him could be tough. I think Castellanos will love playing in GABP. This ballpark gives him an opportunity to put up big offensive numbers. I expect him to have a huge season.

Any chance Jose Garcia is on the Opening Day roster?

It would take a major injury to Galvis. Even then, I am not sure he would. He is the best pure SS of the back up options, but he hasn’t played above AA. I think if Galvis went down, the Reds might do it. But if Galvis just needs a couple of days off, Blandino/Farmer/”other” could step in.
Don’t get me wrong, I cannot wait to see Garcia take over the everyday SS at bats, but only once they feel he is ready. Who knows, a trade could still happen.

If the Reds win the WS do you think everyone will give it the same respect as a normal season?

Why not? It might even be more difficult to win this year than any other. Strategy will play a larger roll this year than any other. Managers will have to show what they are worth. Someone has to win the World Series this year, might as well be the Reds.

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Cincinnati Reds

Remembering Reds: Corky Miller

Among the Reds’ fan favorites is a man not known for his statistical achievements, but for simply how awesome he was.

Clay Snowden

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Morgan, Bench, Robinson, Larkin, and Miller. All names that Reds fans recog…wait, Miller? As in Corky Miller? Absolutely. Corky Miller, the minor league catcher with 539 career MLB at bats. The Miller that holds a career .193/.277/.306 53 OPS+ and a 0.0 WAR, yet everyone knows his name. And adores him. His stats won’t jump off the page, but his laid back attitude and fu Manchu leave a mark on your memory.
Signed by the Reds in 1998, Miller did not reach the show until 2001. In his 11 year career spanning from 2001-2013 (didn’t appear in 2011/2012) Miller never played more than 39 games in one season. So how did he become a household name? Well, probably because he looks more like your fun uncle than your favorite team’s catcher. Now don’t get me wrong, Corky brought value to the teams he was on. He was as much as a coach/mentor as he was a ballplayer. You will still find him in the Reds organization helping the young catchers develop. Let’s take a look at some of Corky’s highlights.

Corky steals home

https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=1802290979915796

When you think about baseball players stealing home you might immediately think about the great Jackie Robinson sliding in against the Yankees as Yogi Berra losses his mind at the “safe” call. Hell, you might even think about Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pulling off the impossible feat in the last scene of the Sandlot. Well, Corky Miller joined this elite group on September 27th, 2001. As Omar Daal of the Phillies threw to first Miller showed off his wheels as his much slimmer self had a perfect slide under the tag. Miller walked back to the dugout as if he’s done this 1,000 times. Incredible swagger.

The Dancing KING

Fast forward to late June 2013. Miller finds himself back in a Reds uniform for the first time since 2010. Looking more like the Corky we know and love, sporting the fu Manchu, Miller shows off his quick footwork. Juan Uribe flies out to Jay Bruce who’s throw home took Corky off to the left of home. Hanley Ramirez, not the best baserunner himself, runs past home, retreats, dances around the grounded Miller only to be tagged on the third attempt while flailing towards home. This is so ugly that it is absolutely beautiful.

The Next Cy Young

Corky was more than a catcher and fan favorite. He was an elite pitcher. Well, maybe not elite. Over his career in the minors he pitched 7.2 innings and surrendered 14 hits, 13 earned runs and struck out 2. But in 2012 while playing for the Louisville Bats he pitched a scoreless inning. Down 13-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Miller came in to throw some rainbows in the general direction of home plate. A fly out to left, a pop out to first, and a fly out to right Miller put down the Columbus batters in order.

While his career might not stand out, Miller’s impact has. One of the beloved players in the clubhouse, he has mentored many young catchers along the way. Here’s to many more great years to Corky!

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Cincinnati Reds

How a Shortened Season can Help and Hurt the Reds

step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.

Clay Snowden

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The world is in an obscure and unsure place. Today we were supposed to be watching a parade and cheering on the Redlegs. Instead, we are confused about the future of the 2020 season as we watch the 7th straight episode of a Netflix series, perfecting social distancing. How the 2020 season will be played has yet to be determined. I want to take a step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.

Each day that passes without baseball is a day closer to a season without 162 games. For the sake of argument, let’s say the season is somewhere between 75-100 games. What ways can that benefit the Reds?

1. They can get healthy. Suarez, Senzel, and Galvis (amongst others) have battled some spring injuries. Extra time off only helps their recovery and could lead to a 100% healthy “Opening Day” lineup. Although Galvis is not a top ten talent at short, he is much better than the current back up options. Luckily, he should be ready to go and 100%.

2. The rotation can be a great strength. We all know how strong the current rotation is. The Reds could adjust the strategy because you won’t be worried about getting starters 32 starts and 200ish innings. With a compact season, you could let starters go deeper in games, or even go to a shorter rotation because you won’t be trying to strength out the innings over several months. Bauer and Disco are both on contract years and will be laser-focused on making the most of their fewer starts to prove their value come next offseason. If the league goes heavy on doubleheaders, Mahle and a few others could step up into the expanded rotation and stronger than many team’s depth starters.

3. How a shorten season benefits Votto? As Joey ages, he will need more days off, especially if the decline is steady. If Joey does not have to prepare himself for 162 games, it could lead to better results as he would be fresher. We all know he can get off to slow starts and avoiding that would be crucial in a shortened season.

How can the shortened season hurt the Reds?

1. David Bell is still a new manager. Fresh, unproven, inexperienced. At times in 2019, he cost the Reds some games. There is little to no margin for error in a short season. Each game means more and the lineup experimenting with playing players out of position won’t fly. Managerial experience will be extremely important in 2020 and hopefully Bell has improved after year one.

2. Lack of important experience for prospects. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, and many other prospects are missing out on developmental time. This one really stings. A couple of the Reds top prospects are projected to be on the 2021 roster but needed some time in higher levels of the minors to learn and iron out a few things. You can train and work with coaches during this time, but the actual game experience cannot be overlooked.

3. Pressure. Obviously, every game counts each season. But a shortened season stresses the importance of each game. The Reds cannot afford to go on a losing streak as they did at the beginning of 2019. The expectations for 2020 remain high, and the pressure to perform is building. The adjustment to the MLB for Shogo must happen fast. Senzel has to stay healthy. The margin of error shrinks and pressure goes up. Iglesias cannot struggle to close out games or he’ll be replaced.

The 2020 season won’t be ideal. No one wants it to be this way. Watching 162 games a year is a joy and I will miss the routine of watching the Reds every night. Let’s hope this shortened season feels and plays like a playoff series where every aspect of the game is emphasized and more important. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy, and the Reds winning the pennant.

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