I did not expect to be the Reds lineup to be record setting in the worst possible ways, just one week into the season. I did not expect the a majority of the fan base to be jumping ship this suddenly. I definitely didn’t expect the strongest part of our team to be the starting rotation this early. Lets looks at the good, the okay, the bad, and the ugly. Then lets talk about how the Reds can improve there situation.
I’m going to lead with the ugly. I hate getting awful news as my last piece of information. The Reds lineup right now is straight up ugly. This team has the lowest batting average, on base percentage and runs scored of any team in the MLB. Its not even close. Iglesias, Barnhart, Dietrich and Casali are the only people currently batting better than .250. In fact the Reds currently have six batters batting less than .200. Puig, Kemp, Schebler, Suarez and Winker are seriously struggling. They have combined for 45 strikeouts in just 9 games. The Reds went over three games without producing any runs while the team only gave up 5 runs during that period. This has translated to a 1-8 start and wasted some amazing pitching performances.
The bad would be some questionable management decisions from Bell. Bell’s decision not to walk the bases loadad to get to the pitcher on Tuesday night against the Brewers. A mistake which led to a 3 run homer. Bell also had a controversy when Casali doubled and rather than bunt Schebler who has barely touched the ball he let him swing. While I agree with Mr. Jeff Carr that bunting is largely a waste that doesn’t mean its not necessary. I am 100% for situational bunting. And when you have Votto behind a guy that can’t hit a volleyball, currently, you bunt him.
The other bad has been the use of Lorenzen. I am fine using him as the occasional pinch runner, hitter, and center fielder. The Reds have essentially used his as a fifth bench player. Lorenzen played center field opening day. He has already logged an at bat and been used as pinch runner multiple times. What he has not done is pitch well. He’s been brought to clean up the mess. The results have been disastrous. Lorenzen has 4 innings pitched with an opposing avg of .353, 3 walks, and a 4.50 ERA.
Another frustration is the constant hooking of bullpen pitchers. The best example of this was on Opening Day when three different pitchers logged an out. Duke has logged 5 games and only 2.1 innings. Completely unnecessary.
One other bad thing is Bell, until the last two games, has not really shook up the lineup. Schebler and Winker keep finding themselves often leading off, something both seemed to be terrible at, so far. For the first six games the leadoff spot was hitless.
The okay has been the Reds bullpen putting up a 3.98 ERA at 16th overall in the MLB, so far. Amir Garrett, Wandy Peralta, and Robert Stephenson have been lights out in there performances. The rest have been struggling to shake the rust off. Iglesias, even though he was left with the loss, finally looked somewhat himself in his nearly 3 inning performance, Saturday. I’m confident they will continue to improve.
The good has been the starting rotation. They have posted the 11th best starting rotation ERA with 3.47. They have outstanding starts from everyone, but Roark, so far. Castillo has looked like he could be reaching the potential we all believe he has. Gray recovered from a horrendous start in the frigid weather with a stellar performance Friday night that should have produced a win. Disco and Mahle also produced terrific performances of there own. Derek Johnson seems to working some magic with these guys so far. The best part is they have Alex Wood still slated to comeback sometime near the end of April-early May.
Another piece of good has been the Reds use of analytics. Each outfielder has been carrying a card in there pocket they look at before each batter. The fielder then shifts based on the hitter’s tendency with the pitcher on the mound. While Puig’s bat has been absent, his glove has been a highlight reel.
On Sunday, Bell, Puig, and Garrett showed some life getting ejected. Chris Archer got butt-hurt that Dietrich whacked a dinger into a different area code and just admired it. Archer followed it up by throwing a 93mph fastball behind Dietrich his next at bat. The team seemed pretty unified in it’s response. The picture of Puig ready to take on the Pirates by himself is so good it belongs in the Louvre Museum. Hopefully this will help spark something in this season that is drowning.
How can the Reds turn this around. For starters they MUST shake up the lineup. I am not just saying this for the sake of trying to shake things up. I am saying this because with the depth this team has, there is zero reason why they shouldn’t. There is no reason they shouldn’t be seeing how Peraza could do as leadoff. Say moving Votto back to third and sliding Puig to fifth. Possibly try mixing Dietrich’s hot bat into the lineup more often as a starter. I have all the faith in the world that this team’s starting lineup will be an unstoppable force soon enough. In the meantime play the hot hand.
Next the Reds must move up Senzel and Ervin as soon as possible. Having 8 bullpen pitchers is serving this team no purpose. Especially when most of the rotation is able to eat up at least six innings. Senzel and Ervin could give the team the shot in the arm it needs till Scooter gets back in the lineup. This would also help Lorenzen to focus more on his pitching. Lorenzen was a solid bullpen pitcher for the 2018 Reds. I still feel like his career is on the upward swing. However using him as a substitute for a fifth bench player is a gimmick this team doesn’t need.
Finally Bell must give the bullpen a little more rope before yanking them. Garrett and Perelta have been lights out. No reason to pull them after one hitter. I also think as we go deeper into the season you’ll see the starting rotation go deeper into the games lessening the need for the bullpen. Bell has been great with integrating the analytics. However, just like in the movie Moneyball, playing the numbers only gets you so far. Sometimes you have to think with your gut and look at the bigger picture, not just the numbers in front of you. I hope to see less head scratching moves in the coming weeks.
I know this is rough Reds fans. Believe me my group of buddies and I have season tickets and we have a group chat going every night. If you were to read the messages without any context you’d think we all need anger management courses. However, I am always reminded the 1995 Reds, one of my favorite in my lifetime, started out a whopping 1-8. They used the remaining games to win the NL Central and advance to the the NLCS. I can and truly believe this team is capable of doing the same. Have faith and remember we were #BornToBaseball.
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.