Well, the Cincinnati Reds did not become the first team to have the exact same record for three-straight years, but they did lose exactly one more game than the last two years. Despite a year of confusion and frustration, there were a few good points. Let’s do the denial thing and recap the bits Reds fans had to smile about in 2018, in no particular order.
1. That point at the end of June/early July where the Reds chances at making the playoffs went from 0.00% to 0.03%. What a time to be a Reds fan and alive, in June 2018. Everyone was hitting, everyone was pitching, and everyone was winning. June and July went down as the only months of 2018 in which the Reds had a winning record. Remember what life was like back then? You talked about the Reds, you smiled about the Reds, and you cared about the daily results. Heck, you even wanted Jim Riggleman’s interim tag removed, right then. How you feeling about that today?
Whoops, sorry, this is a positive post, back to the happy. The Reds outscored their opponents 146 to 119 in June, batting a ridiculous .281 average and compiling an equally ridiculous (for 2018) team ERA of 4.06. That’s where anyone who does math somehow came up with the one single solitary scenario in which Cincinnati could make the postseason. When I think back on this year, I will remember this stretch, and especially the next bit…
2. All those grand slams they hit. I mean, c’mon. For a hot minute, when the Reds loaded the bases, you popped open a cold one, knowing you’d be seeing four runs put up on the board with one swing. The Reds hit 11 slams this year (you probably heard that number). In fact, as a team, Cincinnati hit .299 with the bases loaded, in 2018. Here’s a list of players who hit a bomb with all the deck stacked: Joey Votto (two), Adam Duvall (two), Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, Anthony DeSclafani, and Michael Lorenzen.
Joey was just stupid with the bases juiced. He hit .429 in 14 at-bats, with his pair of dingers, a triple, a pair of doubles and two walks. In this tiny sample, Joseph Daniel slugged 1.143 and had a .500 on-base percentage. Despite his overall down year, when it comes to counting stats, nobody wanted to pitch to Joey with the bases loaded.
3. Jesse Winker will be here awhile. Despite enduring one of the handful of “will he start or will he sit” sagas, Winker etched his name in the Reds starting lineup, in the years to come. You may have forgotten about him, since he’s been shut down for a bit, now, due to injury, but let’s take a look.
He showed extraordinary discipline, a true mark of a Votto teammate, but did you also know he had success when aggressive? Winker compiled 13 hits (.361 average) when swinging at the first pitch, including a pair of homers. That’s not to say he should approach an AB with reckless abandon, as he showed poise in three-ball counts with a ridiculous .691 OBP. He will be a valuable on-base machine, in years to come, for the Reds.
4. Votto is a national treasure. Okay, so he didn’t hit a million home runs and failed to eclipse 70 million RBIs, Joey continued being Joey, despite some unluckiness with the counting stats. He joined the inner circle of inner circles, as far as baseball, by leading the NL in OBP (.417) for a seventh time in his career. He joins his idol, Ted Williams (12), Babe Ruth (10), Barry Bonds (10), Rogers Hornsby (7), and Ty Cobb (7). If etching his name next to those legends of baseball isn’t enough, then there’s always this:
5. Scooter Gennett is now someone you hate to see traded. There are objective arguments out there, most of which I agree with, that Scooter should be traded. “He’s blocking Nick Senzel,” or “He’s due for some regression” are a few of the many theoretical headlines around Gennett. One more that some talk about, but I believe warrants more attention, is he is due a big pay day, and pretty soon. With his resume he’s put together since being waived by Milwaukee (which as much as we Reds fans like to harp on, hasn’t seemed to hurt them too much) Scooter is set to have some generous negotiating kahones. Is that risk worth taking? Sure, he’s shown with his play this year that he is no fluke at the plate, but his glove leaves a lot to be desired. Anyway, those are all questions for later posts.
Scooter’s 2018 has looked like this:
He’s a guy that most fans, I believe, will be disappointed to see go, regardless of objectively acceptable outcomes.
6. The late inning guys took shape. This was supposed to be a “set the table” year, like James has said, a lot, on the podcast. It wasn’t in many areas, but it was, in some. The bullpen is a big one. Raisel Iglesias has been and will continue to be the closer. He got to 30 saves this year and, although he allowed a dozen long balls, remained the unquestioned best arm in this bullpen. Joining him are the two free agent acquisitions the Reds made, last offseason, in Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. Now, fatigue factored in, as the bullpen just got used and abused for a third-straight year, but Hughes and Hernandez showed good return on investment. When Hughes comes sprinting out of the bullpen to the mound, I do not have a feeling of uncertainty, I do not really worry, I feel like the door will close on the opposition’s scoring chances. Past them, Lorenzen was solid and Amir Garrett even emerged as a “closer-in-waiting” type guy, should Iggy get traded. I’m not worried, beyond being forced to pitch 600 innings again, about the bullpen next year.
Now that the most exciting part of 2018 for the Reds is beginning don’t forget to check in on Locked on Reds as we will have you covered!
The Reds Blueprint for Success in 2019
Hi, my name is Jeff and I am a Reds-a-holic.
It’s been a problem the last few years. I bring the Reds up in conversation and people either blatantly ignore me for the rest of our time together, their eyes glaze over while they’re faking undivided attention, or they laugh and walk away. The Redlegs need to do some things, plural (because, let’s face it, if all they do is add Mike Trout, they still aren’t a playoff team), to re-insert themselves back into people’s minds as something worth their attention. As a degenerate fan who knows next-to-nothing about running a team (though I was not bad at fantasy baseball, not to brag) here are some obvious, and not so obvious ideas to get this Reds team back to the playoffs tomorrow, let alone next season.
Some people to move on from: Like I said, some are obvious and some aren’t, and some you might want me murdered for mentioning.
First and foremost, sign the check and send Homer Bailey on his way. It’s done, it’s over. He is now one of just a small percentage of pitchers who managed to throw over 200 innings in a season and somehow have a 6.00+ ERA. It’s not health, strangely. The man of many injuries did not go down for an extended period of time. And, come on, the time he missed during the summer was not an injury. That was the Reds brass saying “We need a reason not to play him, so, uh, he’s hurt, maybe.” The one thing you can say about him is he pitched the lone complete game for a Reds staff that was not good. He still lost that game. He’s due $30 mil whether he loses 20 games for you, or not, so just give him his money, and thanks for the memories.
Secondly, move on from Billy Hamilton. This one stings to admit, because, as a fan, I think he’s awesome. Objectively, though, it’s time. Listen, I know there’s this argument that on-base percentage does not apply to Billy like it applies to other players because he scores a higher percentage of runs when he is on base. Baloney. Plus, double baloney on his base-running ability as his steals took a dip this year. Call it conservative managing, or whatever you like, he stole less bases. Billy Hamilton should lead the league in steals every single year, barring a career-altering injury. He didn’t. It’s a bad sign. Find a team who will use him the way he should be used (as a late game super sub) and make a deal for a reliever or for a minor league arm.
Thirdly, and this one stings, because I love this dude, but move on from Scooter Gennett. I’ve been back and forth on this one, and believe me, if my fan heart was not sure about Billy, I’m really not loving this idea, but it has to be done. There is a caveat here, but if there is a good return to be had, do not say no. If there’s no market for him, then keep him. But if you can get a game-changing arm for Scooter and maybe a package of prospects, please don’t dismiss that idea simply because we fans like Scooter. I get it, he’s a hometown dude. He hit four homers in a game. He *almost won the NL batting title this year. He is legit, which means he should garner some trade interest. Do not slap a hypothetical no-trade tag on Scooter simply because he makes a few more fans go woo. There is a defensive upgrade, who is not a liability at the plate, who can take over in his absence, but more on that later.
Lastly, move on from Jim Riggleman. The manager is not the most important thing in a championship run, but he is kind of important, and Riggsy isn’t the guy to get the reds there. This has been said by James a lot, and by other radio personalities in the Queen City, but I’ll just pile on here. The Red Sox are the best team in the AL, with a relatively inexperienced manager. The Yankees are not far behind, with a first-year manager. The Brewers have a manager that some of their fans aren’t high on, and he’s young, but hey, that didn’t stop them from winning the toughest division the National League. Be open-minded about the next Reds manager-aka-go with Mr. Outside Hire.
Here’s who you bring in. Disclaimer, this is all hypothetical. I don’t actually know who’s available and who’s not. So, yeah, take this with a grain of salt.
Go get Jacob DeGrom. Per Baseball-Reference.com, his contract is up at the end of this year. Make a deal before Christmas, send Hunter Greene, Scooter Gennett, Tony Santillan and some other prospects and see if the Mets will add in Brandon Nimmo (can play CF, .404 OBP in 2018). If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the ridiculous numbers DeGrom put up this year. Some consider him in the MVP race, despite the Mets horribleness. Yeah, MVP, for a pitcher, that’s how good he is. So, maybe the Mets lock him down, or maybe they are looking to blow things up. The Reds have a top ten farm system, but no one cares about what the Reds can do in 2021, we want wins in 2019. Make it happen, captain!
Roll out the red carpet, and the checkbook, for Dallas Keuchel. Do what he wants to get him to pitch for the Reds. There’s money to spend, and he probably loves Skyline Chili, so get him here. He’s a free agent, this year, so no players will have to be traded away to get him, there will just need to be some money spent. What’s that? You are planning on spending for pitching? Well, there you go. Your money will be well spent on both DeGrom and Keuchel, and neither one will be like Eric Milton. You put these two at the top and all NL teams immediately will take notice.
Go get one more pitcher with Scott Schebler. Look, Schebs has been good, but it feels like he’s trending toward brittle, with that shoulder, and now is the time to get value out of him. Go talk to Seattle about Marco Gonzales or Wade LeBlanc, or maybe see if Detroit is willing to part ways with Michael Fullmer or Matt Boyd. It doesn’t seem that farfetched, to me, but maybe Dick Williams gets laughed off the phone in all of those examples. At any rate, I feel like there’s still a little value to be had from trading Schebler to an AL team that can DH him. I do not think he will ever have an outfield arm again, with his shoulder issues, so get him traded, while you still can.
Bring up Senzel and name him the starter immediately after trading Schebler. Don’t wait until Spring Training, or whatever you’ve been doing lately with him, give him the starting corner outfield spot as soon as you swap Schebs for a decent arm. Senzel will replace Schebler, and may even be an upgrade. Or, go the Phil Ervin route in the corner outfield spot, and put Senzel at shortstop and…
Install Jose Peraza as the everyday second baseman, upon Scooter’s departure. Look, he isn’t a plus fielder, but he is serviceable and when you move him to second base, you negate his throwing deficiencies. Plus, he took a big leap forward in the hitting department, this year, making him a top of the lineup candidate in 2019.
Lastly, and this is just my hard and fast opinion, based on nothing but a gut feeling: go get Mike Scioscia. Just a hunch, think he’ll be good.
Alright, I’ve droned on enough. Tell me what you think, @ me on Twitter (@jefffcarr) and all that jazz. Tell me I’m nuts, tell me I’m a looney. Let’s talk the 2019 Reds!
Also follow @lockedonReds on Twitter, if you haven’t already!
Questions for the Prospective Reds Manager
With the Cincinnati Reds announcing they are officially interviewing in-house candidates for the opening at manager, I had a though: what questions would I ask candidates? Here’s a few I came up with.
What do you expect out of your leadoff hitter? This has been a constant point of questioning by Reds country, really, ever since Dusty Baker thought fellows named Patterson and Hairston warranted starts in the top spot of the order. The superhero known as Billy Hamilton has been tried, and tried, and tried again in this spot in the order and has never taken to it. Does the managerial candidate believe the leadoff hitter should be fast, or…
He should be an on-base machine. Theoretically, if you get on base more, you score more. Ergo, put someone in the leadoff spot who gets on base at a high rate.
When do you call on your best reliever? Another theme created by Dusty that has lingered is watching the team’s best reliever, which, ideally is the closer, only pitch save situations. The save is a weird stat. A player can get a save for finishing a game when the score is close, or by pitching the final 3+ innings of the game, after entering when his team had the lead. If a statistical category drives your decision-making, this job shouldn’t be for you.
Now I know what you’re thinking, relievers who earn a lot of saves tend to earn a lot of money. I would raise your thinking with, the manager, while it’s a nice thought, should not be concerned with his relief pitcher’s forthcoming contract negotiations. He should be concerned with one thing: winning games. Your best reliever should be ready to pitch in the most high leverage situation of the game. Now, sure, maybe that’s the ninth, or maybe that’s the sixth. Bases loaded, nobody out, Christian Yelich is up to bat. Do you want Jackson Stephens or Raisel Iglesias on the bump? Probably won’t happen, but if a manager came in and got rid of the idea of bullpen roles, that would be pretty solid.
Bunting, your thoughts? There is a right answer here. The answer is: don’t. Traditionalists just clicked away, of turnoff their screen, or punted their computer, but seriously, the upside to bunting is moving over the runner. There’s a chart on fangraphs.com that I referenced, in an earlier recap, that uses math to explain the chances of scoring a run based on runners on base and how many outs there are. The percentage of scoring a run with a runner on first and no one out is actually higher than when a runner is on second with one out.
I can remember one play in which a bunt turned into more than it was planned to be, and that was because of an error and the superhero known as Billy. I can think of multiple instances where bunting killed an inning for the Reds. The Reds are all about positive momentum, but a bunt is, at best, neutral, and more likely, negative momentum.
Do you tell Billy Hamilton to do pushups every time he hits a pop fly? If the answer is no then the interview ends, right then.
Does a player dictate his role on the team, or do you? If someone tells you they are incapable of pitching out of the bullpen, but they are also proven to be incapable of starting, then they should be remaindered to the bench. This may be a utopian idea, but I truly believe running Homer Bailey out every fifth day this year was a large reason why the season was pretty much a lost one. Hopefully, the front office takes care of that particular situation, so the new manager doesn’t start the season playing catchup.
How transparent will you be in press interviews? It is nice to see a candid interview, but a lot of things should be kept in house. We as fans want to know, but, honestly, the game tells us plenty. Had the Reds not announced decisions like benching Jesse Winker, putting Bailey in the bullpen, and others, then they would not have looked as haphazard as they did. Some things we fans can find out when the lineup card comes out and when the game unfolds.
There’s plenty more, but these are just the starters. Which ones would you add? Let me know in the comments, or on the Twitter-verse!
Guide to October Rooting Interests
The postseason awaits and, sadly, for another year, the Cincinnati Reds are not involved. I’m a sucker for some baseball, though, and continue to watch the playoffs regardless of the Reds involvement, but I enjoy having a team to root for. So let’s look at the field, in no particular order.
What’s not to love about the Brewers? They went for it this year and, while buying a championship isn’t feng shui, it is admirable that the team wanted to deliver some winning baseball to the fans. Unless you spent the season under a rock, you are aware of Christian Yelich. He’s the guy the Reds didn’t trade for who turned around and hit for the cycle…twice…against them. He’s probably going to be the National League MVP and he’s 26. They’re even built around hitting and relief pitching…kinda like your Cincinnati Reds, except they’ve had at least a little success from their rotation.
The Brewers have even come on strong enough, here lately, that they sit just a half game behind the Cubs for the NL Central division crown. They might just find themselves not having to worry about the one game playoff.
They’ve got UC grad Ian Happ and Thom Brennaman’s favorite player, Kyle Schwarber (also from Middletown) in the everyday lineup, so there’s some local flavor there. Plus they aren’t the Cardinals.
St. Louis Cardinals
They win purely on offense. Their team ERA is only a smidge better than the Reds at 4.37 but they’ve scored 740 runs and have a team batting average of .255. They’ve also committed the least amount of errors (71), among the playoff hopefuls (the Nationals have the least at 63).
Their third baseman, Nolan Arenado, is one of the five best players in the game, today, and is a front runner for MVP. He’s batting .295 with 34 homers and 105 RBI and has a .374 on-base percentage. He, alone, is worth watching the Rockies.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Speaking of spending to win, last year’s runners-up have had a turbulent season. Despite their mammoth payroll they just took over first place in the NL West, but only have a half game lead on the Rockies.
Okay, let’s not pretend like Reds fans are flocking to root for the Dodgers…but they do have Floromania going for them. The former Red has a 1.63 ERA in 29 appearances for LA.
They’re back! After rebuilding for a few years, the former mainstays of the NL East have regained that role as the youngsters outlasted the Phillies, another solid young team, and the Nationals, the preseason favorites. They’re a fun team to watch as their core is very young. Freddie Freeman is accompanied by two of the most promising young stars in baseball, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, Jr. They will be fun to watch. They’re the only team who has clinched a playoff berth, in the NL, but they will most likely be the two seed as both the Cubs and Brewers have two games on them. Yeah, let that sink in for a sec, the winner of the Central will be the one seed with the runner up, having the second best record (most likely) in the NL, will be a wildcard team. The Reds have one tough division to rebuild in…
Boston Red Sox
I begin the AL with Brandon Phillips’ team…or at least for now. Not sure if he’ll make the postseason roster, which is what my rooting interests in the Sox will depend on, but for now he’s there. How cool would it be to see Dat Dude get a ring? Dude is the second best second baseman in the history of the Reds, but has not even sniffed the World Series. He may have a shot with Boston.
Of course, should he not make the postseason roster, my interests in Boston disappear.
New York Yankees
The Evil Empire is back to its imperial ways and hating the Yankees, once again, became cool in 2018. They have five games left to hit 10 home runs and break the single season record, so we’ll see if that happens. Other than that, my interest in the Yankees in the playoffs is purely based off of my love of a good villain, and that villain is back.
Terry Francona is one of the most likeable people in baseball and the MLB.com power rankings, for what they’re worth, have the Indians as the lowest ranked AL team. It’s hard to root for the in-state rival, but it’s also hard to root against the team that everyone is counting out. Most knock them for playing in the weakest division, but it’s not like that’s their fault. Their top three pitchers, as we Reds fans well know, will keep them in any series, and Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are just plain fun to watch. They’ll, most likely, match up with the next team in the first series, so it’s be right into the fire from the get-go.
Everyone loves a repeat…or at least, that’s what network television believes. The poster team for successful, long rebuilds is, once again, in a position to get a ring. This time, they have the experience to go with the talent. Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and George Springer headline a 1-9 lineup of mashers and smashers while Justin Verlander and impending-free agent, Dallas Keuchel, headline a haul of heavy hurlers. But really, who want’s the same old thing, again? What is this, the NBA Playoffs?
Probably the most interesting team in these playoffs. Well, at least to me, they are. Without looking, name three Oakland players…can’t do it, can you? Ok, so you probably got Jed Lowrie and maybe, even Matt Chapman. But how about Chad Pinder? Khris Davis (spells it with a K so he doesn’t have to say the good Chris Davis)? Or did you know Stephen Piscotty, former Cardinal, is there? Or former Brewer Jonathan Lucroy? I’d wager no. No matter, they’ve hit the most homers in the AL outside of the Yankees and they’ve scored the third most runs, with 790. They also rank in the top six of AL teams in every pitching category, except strikeouts. They’ll probably be one and done in the wildcard game, but then again, you never know in October.
So there you have it. As for me, I’m pulling for a re-kindling of an old AL West rivalry in a Brewers/A’s World Series matchup with the Brew Crew hoisting the trophy. Doubt that will happen, but that’s who I’m rooting for. Reds in 2019!
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