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 Cincinnati Reds and the 20 Pitch Limit
When it comes to quirky early Cactus League season games, there’s a lot to know. One this is the 20-pitch limit a manager can invoke on an inning his guy is getting clobbered in. The Cincinnati Reds have already done this.
This Spring has seen an interesting beginning in that teams have smaller rosters than normal (though still plenty of players to go around) and they can choose to play shorter games. One other added wrinkle of differentness is the ability of a manager to “throw in the towel” whenever his pitcher reaches 20 pitches in an inning.
The Reds have already taken advantage of this twice, both during the beat down at the hands of the Athletics. Sal Romano got the curtain pulled on him in the fourth inning while Shane Carl heard the music in the fifth. These don’t necessarily paint a larger picture, as of yet, but it is interesting to note.
Carle doesn’t factor into the equation that is the Opening Day roster, but Big Sal surely does. He is out of minor league options (meaning he’d have to clear waivers to be assigned a minor league team) and he has shown some flashes of talent in the past. He could be valuable depth for the Reds bullpen, so calling it quits after 20 tosses (which frankly were all a consequence of Nick Senzel misplaying a ball early in the inning) doesn’t mean he’s out, but it is something to watch.
We’ll keep track here on the blog for more 20-pitch tap-outs.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.