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Cincinnati Reds

Are the Reds in a better position than last season?

Jacob Rude

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It feels like it’s been ages since the Cincinnati Reds looked like a real, contending team. A win over St. Louis on July 14 gave the Reds a record of 43-52, the only time this season the team dipped below 10 games under .500. It also meant the Reds had gone 40-34 in the post-Bryan Price era, 18-7 over the previous 25-game stretch and had taken series from the Cardinals, Cubs (a four-game sweep, even!) and Atlanta.

Since then, it’s been nothing but sadness, particularly since the All-Star break. Injuries have decimated the roster with Joey Votto, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker all spending time either on the disabled list or, in Winker’s case, having the season come to an end as a whole.

The once-competent Reds look destined to finish with a worse record than year’s past even despite the promising middle months of the season. Heading into Friday’s contest, the Reds are 59-82. At the same point last year, the Reds were 61-79. Two years ago, the team was 59-82. The team needs to reach the 69 win mark to finish with a better mark than years past. To avoid another 90-loss season, the team must go 14-7.

In short, it doesn’t look great for the franchise, which begs the question, are the Reds really in a better spot than years past?

Coming into the season, the Reds appeared to have a plethora of starting pitching options, more than one rotation could even hold. And that didn’t even include Homer Bailey or Matt Harvey. Fast forward six months and there’s never been more uncertainty about the starting pitching.

Luis Castillo has been disappointing in his sophomore season. At times he looks incredible, like going 6.2 innings while allowing just two hits and striking out 11 against the Cardinals. At other times, like the start that preceded that in which he lasted just 3.2 innings while allowing five runs, he’s frustrated.

Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano suffered struggles of their own. While both had positive signs, the negatives outweighed the good and both were demoted in separate ways, the former sent to AAA and the latter to the bullpen. Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson look like lost causes as starters. Reed has shown enough promise to earn a chance in the bullpen while Stephenson looks like a player that needs a change of scenery.

Harvey and Bailey hardly deserve discussion about the future. Neither belong in the present Reds rotation and certainly don’t warrant a spot in the coming seasons.

While the bullpen has been largely a positive for the team this season, overall, the pitching has tons of question marks. Free agency or trades could address the matter but it means the team can’t address other holes with their limited funds.

The offense has not been a source of questions. When at full strength, the Reds not only have an offense worthy of competing at a high level but one of the best in the league. Heading into next season, the Reds will have some combination of Votto, Schebler, Winkler, Nick Senzel, Eugenio Suarez and even potentially Scooter Gennett in the lineup. That’s the type of offense that a contending team should have.

The biggest source of concern for the Reds, though, is not on the field but off of it. Recent moves, or lack thereof, have raised many concerns about the structure of the front office. While President Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall are saying many of the right things publicly, owner Bob Castellini has handcuffed both of them.

The comments about the team not moving Billy Hamilton and Harvey point to an owner unwilling to let those who he hired have freedom. And when your boss is hovering around in the day-to-day operations, it wears on a front office.

To be honest, does any fan trust Castellini to make the moves necessary to turn the Reds into a winner now? Hamilton’s time as a starter should be done. Harvey and Bailey’s time as Reds should be done. Gennett should have been traded months ago and that’s not even taking into account the necessity of finding a spot for Senzel in next year’s team.

Because of Castellini’s lingering, the Reds appear to be in a worse position than any year prior. The team is on the brink of capping off the rebuild and balking at the trade deadline could prove costly. Even then, the correct sequence of moves in the off-season could still put the Reds back into contention. But the question marks are continuing to arise more quickly than they disappear and without a properly-functioning front office, the Reds may be moving backwards than forward.

Jacob is a journalist and lifelong sports fan across the board. From soccer to basketball to baseball, he enjoys watching his favorite team’s break his heart. After finishing up at Indiana University and majoring in journalism, Jacob is now a sports editor during the day and an online journalist at night.

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Cincinnati Reds

Reds Lose and Bunting Stinks

Jeffery Carr

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds (64-87) tested the fortitude of the fans who continue to pay them some form of attention as they got blasted by the Milwaukee Brewers (86-65) 0-8, Monday night.

Anthony DeSclafani (7-6, 4.92 ERA) continued his struggles as he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. The Brewers scored three runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth, but, really, the one they scored in the third was all they needed.

Christian Yelich (4-for-4) became the first player in the history of baseball to hit two cycles in one year against one team.

The most the Reds threatened was in the fourth inning when Scooter led off with a single. A bunt into a fielder’s choice and another single later gave the Reds runners on first and second with one out and Disco up to bat. Yet another bunt was called, which successfully moved over the runners, but Billy Hamilton grounded out to end the threat. That’s it. The Reds were, largely, toothless from the batter’s box, on Monday.

Due to Yelich’s cycle and Scooter’s 1-for-3 performance, they both are now tied for the NL batting title at .318 with 11 games to play.

Fox Sports Ohio loved the Reds’ performance, so much, that the postgame interview on the field was courtesy of Fox Sports Wisconsin as they interviewed Yelich.

Real quick, because the thought is permeating my mind and I have to write about this. Bunting stinks. It was a “whoa buddy” thought whenever sabermetrics and Moneyball first started, but now there are numbers to back it up. Here is a run expectancy chart, as seen on FanGraphs.com:

Runners 0 Outs 1 Out 2 Outs
Empty 0.461 0.243 0.095
1 _ _ 0.831 0.489 0.214
_ 2 _ 1.068 0.644 0.305
1 2 _ 1.373 0.908 0.343
_ _ 3 1.426 0.865 0.413
1 _ 3 1.798 1.140 0.471
_ 2 3 1.920 1.352 0.570
1 2 3 2.282 1.520 0.736

Quick explanation – the numbers above represent the average runs a team can expect based on the base runner situation, given the number of outs in an inning. Notice anything? The number is higher for a runner on first with no outs versus a runner on second with one out. This means that, if a sac bunt is successful, then it actually is more detrimental to a team’s run-scoring ability. That’s math, not an opinion.

The Boston Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, with 799. The Red Sox also have the second-fewest sacrifice hits in the majors, with six. The New York Yankees are the second in runs scored at 763, but have just 10 sacrifice hits (5th least in MLB). The Cleveland Indians have scored the third most runs at 752 and have 22 sacrifice hits, which is more than double the Yankees, but still bottom half of MLB. The Reds have scored 672 runs, 127 less than the Red Sox, but lead the world in sacrifice hits with 47. Now I am no major league manager, I know this, but it just does not equate. Stop. Bunting.

The Reds and Brewers do it again tomorrow. I’ll be watching and tweeting (@jefffcarr) and also follow @lockedonReds, if you haven’t already done so. We’ll be with you, when the calendar turns to the offseason, so keep it tuned here!

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Cincinnati Reds

Catching You Up on the Reds

Jeffery Carr

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© Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds (64-86) starting pitching allowed one run in three starts, but the Chicago Cubs (87-62) took two-out of-three over the weekend in the Windy City.

Luis Castillo (10-12, 4.52 ERA) showed another flash of ace stuff on Sunday in the lone Reds win. He tossed 6.2 innings of one-run baseball. He only struck out two, but he limited one of the best lineups in the NL to four hits. Castillo’s outing was indicative of the Reds’ rotation, as a whole.

Cody Reed, once again, made a start and didn’t get his first career win, though he didn’t lose either. He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, while fanning 10 Cubs. Manager Jim Riggleman decided to pull Reed after he threw 91 pitches, bringing in Sal Romano (7-11, 5.43) who allowed a single, solitary run, which was enough to beat the Reds.

Matt Harvey was the other tough luck start for Cincinnati, this weekend. He got a no decision after six shutout innings in which he struck out six and allowed just four hits. His quality start was smashed when David Hernandez (5-1, 2.65) allowed three runs in the seventh, earning his sixth blown save of the year. Fatigue may be playing a factor for Hernandez as he has a 6.30 ERA in his last 10 appearances. His ERA has climbed from 1.89 to 2.65 in that time span.

Baseball is a team sport, though, and the losses, while they can be pinpointed to an inning in each game, aren’t all on the relief pitching. The bats were averaging just a shade under five runs per (4.75) in their last dozen games, but were held to four runs, total, for the weekend, in Chicago. Cincinnati lived (four homers) and died (no other RBI) by the long ball, this weekend, with four solo shots hit out of Wrigley. Jose Peraza and Joey Votto continue the most unlikely home run race in the Reds lineup as they both hit their 12th on Friday, while Scott Schebler (17) and Phil Ervin (Seven) went yard on Sunday.

Scooter Gennett endured a 1-for-8 weekend and saw his average dip, slightly, to .318. He still leads the National League for the batting title, though, as Christian Yelich’s average dipped to .313. Scooter gets three more chances for revenge against his old team, coming up, so he may be able to bump that number up.

Speaking of what’s next, let’s take a look at the series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Monday

Anthony DeSclafani has been sputtering, down the stretch this year and will look to flip the script in game one at Miller Park. Here’s a look at Disco’s rough stretch through his last five starts, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

Rk Date Opp Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA Pit Str IBB GDP ROE
14 Aug 23 CHC L(6-4) 6.0 8 5 4 1 5 2 0 4.26 87 58 0 0 1
15 Aug 28 MIL W(7-4) 6.2 7 4 4 1 6 1 0 4.34 98 71 0 0 0
16 Sep 2 STL 3.2 5 2 2 2 4 0 1 4.37 72 42 0 0 0
17 Sep 7 SDP 4.0 8 4 4 0 3 1 0 4.56 64 42 0 1 0
18 Sep 12 LAD L(7-5) 4.2 5 6 5 3 5 1 0 4.80 89 54 1 0 0

He’s given up quite a few hits over this span and most of these starts can be broken down into an inning, or two, each time where the opposition strings together some hits to blow the score wide open. His last start, he had a perfect game going through three, only to see the Dodgers slap two runs on in the fourth and four runs in the fifth. His season stats show that, due to his xFIP being 4.08, he pretty much has been exactly what his ERA says he is and isn’t getting all that unlucky.

He’ll be opposed by Wade Miley, whose just been a revelation for Milwuakee. In 13 starts, he has a 2.23 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). In 13.1 innings against the Redlegs, Miley has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 10.

Tuesday

Michael Lorenzen (3-1, 3.21) makes his long awaited return to the rotation in another 180 degree decision by the Reds, in 2018. Just a week back I recall hearing Riggleman say something to the effect of “We like what he gives us out of the bullpen” to a question of whether Lorenzen will start a game in 2018. Now, sure enough, here he is, a probable starter. Reminiscent of the team’s handling with Winker, and Harvey, and Senzel…anyway.

This is Lorenzen’s first start since in just over three years. His last one was against the Giants on September 16, 2015. His rookie year in the majors was the only year he pitched out of the rotation, making 21 starts and compiling a 5.45 ERA. He averaged right at five innings per outing but had an alarming 1.42 strikeouts per walk (78 Ks to 55 BBs). Granted, it was his first venture into the starting rotation, and most Reds fans think he has earned another shot, but the numbers do not support the revisionist history that some have ascribed to Lorenzen being a rotation stalwart. As we’ve said many times this year, though, let’s put him out there and see what he has.

His opponent on the mound will be Chase Anderson. The man thought by most to be the Milwaukee ace (except when Jimmy Nelson is healthy) has a 9-7 record with a 3.85 ERA. He’s not pitched more than five innings in any start this month, but he also hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of those starts. Back on August 20th, he held the Reds to two runs on two hits (both home runs) in six innings enroute to his fifth win of the year. He is 5-1 in his career against Cincinnati.

Wednesday

Matt Harvey (7-8, 4.67) will look to continue the success he had in his last outing, and maybe get his record back to .500, in the series finale. He’s 1-2 in five-career starts against the Brew Crew, with a 5.26 ERA. His last outing, a memorable game of 2018 for both the Reds and the Brewers, he allowed five runs on 11 hits in four innings.

Opposite him will be future-Red (hopefully, maybe) Gio Gonzalez (8-11, 4.44). In two starts, as a Brewer, he is 1-0, having allowed three earned runs in 10.1 innings of work. In his last start, he got a no-decision, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing the three runs, against the Pirates.

Locked on Reds will keep you covered during the doldrums of September baseball. Check out @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter for your Reds social media fix.

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Cincinnati Reds

The 2018 Reds Will Miss the 2018 Dodgers

Jeffery Carr

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds (63-84) dropped the series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers (79-67) by an 8-1 score, Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ballpark.

Anthony DeSclafani (7-5, 4.80 ERA) failed to pitch at least five innings for the third-straight start. The Dodgers touched him up for six runs on five hits and three walks. Disco actually got out to a roaring start, retiring LA in order the first time through the lineup. It unraveled the second time around, however, following a Joc Pederson home run. He changed his strategy, trying to hit the corners, but failed, leading to multiple at-bats where the hitter was ahead. LA strung together hit after hit, leading to Disco getting pulled with two outs in the fifth.

Jose Peraza provided the lone fireworks for the Reds lineup with a first inning solo shot, his 11th of the year. Billy Hamilton added a double and a triple, but was stranded at third, both times, as the Reds gave the Dodgers free pizza (aka, the Reds struck out 11 times).

Scooter Gennett managed one hit in four tries, keeping his season batting average at .321.

The Reds finish 6-and-1 against the Dodgers in 2018. They have never gone an entire year undefeated against LA, so a win on Wednesday would have been historic, but all things considered, Cincinnati liked its matchups with their old NL West rivals. They hit .280, as a team, against the Dodgers, with 34 runs scored to go along with a team ERA of 3.14. The Reds racked up 63 strikeouts in the 63 innings pitched against the Dodgers.

Scooter will personally miss the LA pitching staff as he compiled 16 hits (.727 batting average) in five games played. He also had two homers and 10 RBI.

Also of note, all three former Dodgers (Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, and Brandon Dixon) homered in the season series against their old team. Schebler even had a pair of dingers.

Luis Castillo dominated the pitching performances for the Reds in this season series. He started a pair of games, pitching 12.1 innings, and compiled 17 strikeouts. He won both his starts, allowing just nine total base runners (though they got at him with three homers).

The Redlegs hit the road again with an off day, Thursday. They will play a weekend series against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. We’ll see if they can play spoiler as the Cubs lead is razor-thin over Milwaukee.

Keep your eye on @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter!

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