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.
What Should We Expect Out of The Rotation? Part Three – Tanner Roark
Eight games. Seven innings. Nineteen earned runs. Earned run average of 13.50. Twelve walks. An ERA+ of 18 (An ERA+ of 100 is league average, so yeah).
Thirty Games. One hundred-thirty innings. Eighty seven earned runs. Fifty walks. Earned run average of 4.34. An ERA+ of 97.
A simple question: Who would you rather take?
Of course there are other factors to consider before making such a hasty pick, but do so anyway. For one, the sample size of both players are extremely different. Player A: has only seen seven innings of big league ball, so while we can get a picture of what his future career might look like, it’s an educated guess. Player B: on the other hand will be entering his seventh season, and you can except the level of performance in a player by that point. While money, future projections, and use of roster spots all had a hand to play in this deal, just looking at in in a vacuum, one could say the Reds came out with some value, as they went with player B, or Tanner Roark, over player A, Tanner Rainey.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the intangibles or the personalities or the millions of other traits of a player, we forget the statistics. Tanner Roark has never been a household name in the sport, but he’s done his job effectively and consistently, which makes me optimistic to have him on this rotation in dire need of such players.
Tanner Roark spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals as a back end of rotations featuring star pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez; and has had a lot of success doing so. He has compiled a 3.59 ERA to go alongside a 17.5 bWAR in his time in D.C. Just looking at those stats are a sight for sore eyes for Reds fans. His 2.9 bWAR he managed to produce last year is about half the value the entire starting rotation managed to put together (6.1 bWAR).
When you really dig deep into it, you wonder how this trade went under the radar, because the Reds were able to steal a quality starter out of the Nats for nothing more than a fire-balling reliever who can’t find the strike zone quite nearly enough to be effective.
If one word could describe Roark’s game, it would be consistent. Nothing he does is really flashy, or is going to lead the league in any categories, but he’s going to get the job done. It probably is why he’s been so “low key” in his career for a guy who is nearing a 20 bWAR career; add in the fact that he’s also been in the shadow of the previously mentioned pitchers, you can see why he hasn’t made any national attention. In his 6 years of pitching, his highest season ERA was back in 2017 when it hit 4.67, which is still about league average. Essentially what we’re getting to, is at his worst, Tanner Roark is a cheaper Matt Harvey. Which is who Reds fans were clamoring to resign anyway.
Digging a little deeper into the stats, his ground ball percentage is average at 45% , his home run percentage is just as normal at around 11% , except in his four starts this year, it clocks in at 5%. Be on the lookout for a spike in homers soon, as pitching in GABP isn’t so healthy for those kind of stats. Back to the digging, his K to BB rate is standard among pitchers, you know what, I think you get the point here. He’s basically your run of the mill above average pitcher, which contrary to what you might think, is really valuable, ESPECIALLY to this team. If you put five Tanner Roark’s on last years team, it would be hard not to make a case for the playoffs, or at least contention for Pete’s sake with the way they were able to score runs last year.
Now that the season has started, we are able to get a small portion size of perhaps is what to come of Roark. He’s had some, dare I say it, GREAT SUCCESS in the early goings, posting a 3.6 ERA in 20 innings across 4 starts this year. Perhaps the only fault you could point out is his inability to pitch effectively enough to get deeper into ballgames. He’s never pitched more than 5.1 innings so far in a game. If that’s the only concern with my number 4 starter however, it’s a good problem to have. This team is equipped with the bullpen numbers right now, insisting on carrying 8 members up to this point, and all (except Zach Duke) have been pretty effective.
If Tanner Roark can keep this stretch of baseball going forward, bright days are ahead this season. (Just please score some runs)
The Sound of Losing
Almost every bit of news coming from the Cincinnati Reds is overshadowed by the sound of losing. Here are three easy steps to fixing this funk.
A week and a half later we find ourselves at the same point we were at after the Pirates fight night. The Reds have found themselves again at seven games under .500. Today I found myself infuriated as the Reds wasted another quality pitching performance from it’s starting rotation. A starting rotation that was supposed to be adequate at best. A starting rotation with the 6th best ERA in baseball as I write this. The bullpen continues to pitch above average as well ranking 11th in ERA with 3.70.
The one thing we all said we could absolutely depend on has been the depth of this lineup. The Reds gains from last week in hitting have been washed away during this losing streak. The team is dead last in team avg, 28th in OBP, and 26th in runs. Tucker Barnhart actually has the team-high in average at .258 and on base percentage at .409. I predicted Barnhart to have the lowest of any of the starters average. This team desperately needs a jump start. Here’s how they can do that to get the bats finally somewhat consistent and start winning games.
Can we all, including the Reds front office, agree that Senzel was sent down to gain an extra year of control on his contract? Now that time has come and pass. Senzel can be brought up tomorrow and the Reds have that extra year of control. This is a player many Reds fans have been clamoring for to see his full potential. We’re all tired of hearing about his potential and his prospect ranking. I’m ready to see him getting his chance in the starting lineup whereever he can get the playing time. Center field, second base, shortstop, or third base. Get the man in the lineup any chance we can. If given the opportunity, he will be a serious Rookie of The Year candidate.
The other way to light a fire under the outfielders butts would be bringing up Phillip Ervin. Ervin had the opportunity this weekend to show us why he shouldve made this team after absolutely owning spring training. What does he do? He rips a triple in clutch situation. Ervin was the Reds first round pick in 2013. Now is his time to shine. He did well most of last season until September. Right now they don’t have an everyday center fielder. And no I am not saying to cut or send down Schebler. He belongs on this team. Schebler just is not an everyday player on this roster. I think Ervin is just dying for an opportunity to prove his worth as a first round pick. Perhaps this will put some much needed pressure on the other outfielders who has been virtually non existent at the plate with the addition of Ervin and Senzel. They could bring these guys up by sending Farmer down and DFA’ing their weakest link in Zach Duke
While the Reds pitching has been pretty amazing overall there is still a few ways they could improve. The most glaring being parting ways with Duke. In 9 appearances he has totaled a 10.13 ERA, 7 hits, and 5 walks. I can’t imagine the front office will allow this to continue much longer. The Reds already have one too many bullpen pitchers with eight. If they choose to stay with that many bullpen guys they still have Cody Reed waiting in the wings. Something tells me Reed will easily outperform Duke this year even with a small sample size.
The final way they might be able to improve this team would be sending Disco to the minors instead of Mahle when Wood returns. Latest news has Wood returning mid May. These next few starts will be crucial for both Mahle and Disco to outperform one another. Mahle seems to really be zoning in. Last night in his worst performance so far and he still managed to hold the Dodgers to 4 runs on 11 hits. Disco has the highest ERA by far of any Reds starter at 7.43 and FIP at 6.44. Each player has minor league options but Disco definitely seems to be the obvious choice at the moment.
Right now almost every bit of news coming from the Reds is overshadowed by the sound of losing. Losing isn’t fun. Neither is this Reds team right now. They remind me of the scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane realizes that the plan isn’t working out right now. They need to shake things up. I do accredit Bell with shaking up the lineup and allowing pitchers a little more rope as I suggested a few weeks ago. I think the only thing right now that would truly shake this team up would be the addition of some new guys who are desperate to prove themselves as major league ballplayers in Senzel and Ervin. That followed by the addition of Scooter and Wood returning from the DL could prove a great way for the team to finally gain some traction. I expect this team to at least be at .500 by the end of May. I hope the front office is expecting the same or better by then.
Early Thoughts on the Bullpen
There’s been mostly good things come from the bullpen, so far, for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019.
14 games into a 162-game schedule you should not *yet* read too deep into stats. Far too early, too much to be determined, but one thing we do know about the Reds on tax day 2019 is David Bell will pull pitchers early. Plenty have debated and questioned Bell’s decision to call on the bullpen early (although some made sense) and how it could play a role later in the season. Early on the bullpen has been hit or miss. A few players are throwing lights out while others have struggled to put up the numbers similar to years past.
I am not sure if I can call Robert Stephenson’s early season success a surprise. Ranked amongst the top prospects in baseball for the better part of his career, the talent has always been there but putting it all together has been a struggle. His pitches have had great movement forcing swing and miss at a much higher rate. Being used as the “long man” out of the pen has produced to a line of 1-0, with a 1.23 ERA in 5 games, 7.1 innings, 10 K’s and 1 walk. He is also holding batters to a .120 avg. Did the 26–year old finally figure it out with the new pitching coach? The Reds sure hope so.
The ever so interesting Michael Lorenzen has also been used in multiple innings, along with the outfield and pinch-hitting duties. He’s not off to his best start, but no need to hit the panic button as he has pitched well enough.
Some fans (prematurely) are hitting the panic button on David Hernandez and Jared Hughes. Hernandez has struggled in his first 7 games giving up 10 hits while batters are hitting .370. After a career-best .984 WHIP in 2018, 2019 has started with a 2.333. I would expect to see the number level out to his 1.288, 10-year average, but it has been a struggle in his first 6 innings.
Jared Hughes 2018 season saw him throw a career-best 1.94 ERA leading to high expectations for 2019. People who only read the stats will see an 8.10 ERA and .346 avg against and start to worry. Four of the six earned runs Hughes has given up were on Sunday, April 14th. In the 102 appearances since his last 4 run outing, his ERA has been 1.90. The consistency in his career leads me to be optimistic.
The Reds most valuable relief pitcher over the past few years has been Raisel Iglesias. His 2019 got off to a weird start when David Bell used him earlier than usual on opening day. After a rough start, and rough spring training, Iglesias has not allowed an earned run in his past two outings.
Carrying a larger bullpen (8 pitchers) allows the team to have three lefties. Wandy Peralta, Amir Garrett, and Zach Duke make up the southpaw roster. Garrett is a fan favorite with his swagger and early season success to back it up. In 8 games he has 10 K’s and 2 walks with 4 hits given up and holding batters to a .174 average. Peralta seems to be a guy that fans have mixed reviews on. His good spring training has followed him into his 2019 campaign. An ERA of 0.00 usually pleases most fans but his streaky past leaves people uneasy. Zach Duke was brought back to Cincinnati on a 1 year $2 million deal to be the teams LOOGY. So far, it has not been pretty. A team-high 8.31 ERA with 4 walks to 2 K’s has caused frustration. I do not expect the Reds to move on from Duke having only 4.1 innings under his belt.
It’s a bit ridiculous to read into a teams bullpen success when a reliever has yet to pitch even 10 innings. The focus should be on the movement pitchers are showing and their control. Some of these players have shown great movement and control, others haven’t. If the Reds want to be a team that climbs out of the bottom of the division, the bullpen will play a crucial role.