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Bell hiring finally rings in a new century for Reds

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The innovators are often criticized. It’ll never work, they’re told.

Wind the baseball tighter to allow more home runs? Ty Cobb hated it because it took the science out of the game. But Babe Ruth loved it, so did the fans and the sport grew. Show sports on a cable channel for 24 hours a day? Nobody will watch that. The Internet? It’s just a fad.

The Cincinnati Reds love their tradition, so it’s no surprise that it has taken them this long to embrace the modern game. This is baseball, not math, the Reds have said for the past 20 years while others have proven that math matters. Not the kind of math of counting stats that says he’s a good hitter or pitcher because he has this many of this or that. But the kind of math that looks at percentages and formulas that aren’t easy to understand. They call it analytics and it makes old-timers (mostly people over 30) roll their eyes from man caves to the broadcast booth. A lack of understanding is not a reason to dismiss an idea. It’s a reason to learn before you judge.

The Reds have finally been convinced that their way doesn’t work anymore. They’ve stopped rolling their eyes, let go of the eye-rollers who blocked progress and hired a manager with vision. Those old ways once worked for the Reds — though not as much as we’d like to think— when all teams did it that way. But when smarter ways to build a good team passed them by, so did their ability to win.

To be fair, the Reds have been moving in this direction, the one Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s began following in 1997. The Reds have an analytics director and three people they call data scientists. The problem is that too much of that information was stopping at the field manager’s door. The guys running the dugout weren’t doing enough with it. They were baseball men, after all, and they only trusted their eyes and tradition more than a spreadsheet or report they probably didn’t take the time to understand.

And the front office allowed the dysfunction to fester through Baker, Price and Riggleman. Finally, there is reason to believe that the Cincinnati Reds aren’t stuck in the 20th century.

There’s a new guy in the dugout named David Bell who has caught this vision since he left the Reds organization after managing in the minors. He’s worked for the Cardinals, Cubs and Giants, teams that have obviously done a lot more right in recent seasons than the Reds have. Yes, Bell had to leave the Reds to learn a better way.

When Bell was introduced as the new manager he said things that were an indictment of the front office and on-field dysfunction. He talked about how all of the information had to be considered from upstairs to downstairs. He asked for an offseason office upstairs and will live in Cincinnati in the offseason.

He has this crazy idea that the front office and manager’s office ought to actually work together and have shared leadership instead of a top-down model that didn’t work. Remember Jesse Winker from odd-man out to everyday right fielder in a 24-hour period? Then there was the indecision about what to do with Homer Bailey. Who’s in charge we wondered? Does this team have a strategy?

Bell surely interviewed the Reds as much as they interviewed him. He discovered the lack of communication between the front office and the dugout. He must have told Dick Williams he’s ready to listen to them, and it appears they’re ready to listen to him.

This is good for the Reds. A true strategy that teaches on-field fundamentals and has an appreciation for complex data will have a chance to develop and flourish. Players will come up from the minors and maybe not sit the bench. They won’t hear a different message from the one they’ve heard in the minors.

Now this is going to take some getting used to if you don’t buy all this analytics mumbo-jumbo. The in-game moves and strategies won’t be what your used to:

  • The lineup might not be predictable.
  • You won’t agree with a lot of pitching changes.
  • You’ll wonder why Winker isn’t playing tonight.
  • Why not bunt in this situation, you’ll wonder.

And the offseason moves:

  • Why did they sign that guy?
  • Why didn’t they sign that guy?
  • Who are these all these prospects we just got for a proven player?
  • Those aren’t the pitchers we should have gone after?

Not every move will work, but you have to play the percentages. Not every move (not even close to it) worked the old way. It’s a new world in Cincinnati. If you still have a Big Red Machine hangover, get over it. Rose, Morgan, Bench and Perez would have been free-agent eligible by 1975. In today’s market, there is no way all of them (if any of them) would have been teammates that deep into their careers.

The Reds can’t compete with big payrolls. They must copy what other small-market teams like the A’s are doing. It’s the only way to have more good seasons than bad ones like the A’s have. And maybe they’ll find that year like they did in 1990.

That’s the promise of the Bell hiring. Not because he’s necessarily destined to be a great manager but because his hiring has signaled a fundamental change in the way the Reds intend to do business. Maybe Bell will preside over the next playoff team, maybe he won’t.

But at least we can finally welcome the Reds to the 21st century.

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Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds Alternate Site Game: April 6, 2021

The Cincinnati Reds are currently playing some games with their alternate team against other alternate teams. Clay Snowden had a chance to attend one and gives a report.

Clay Snowden

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78 degrees with a few clouds in the sky was the perfect day for the perfect game of baseball. My first in person game since 2019. I never knew just how much I missed it until I experienced the sights of sounds of the game for what felt like the very first time (again). Enough about me, let’s talk about the game. The alternate site Reds (that’s what we will call them) took on the Royals on Tuesday night. I want to provide a recap of the pitching and hitting while highlighting a few players.

 

Pitchers:

Riley O’Brien started for the Reds. Acquired in the Cody Reed trade, O’Brien is an interesting pitcher with some obvious upside. He has a lot to like but can struggle to find the zone at times. He struck out Bobby Witt Jr (One of MLB top prospects) while causing him to whiff on back to back strikes. He also gave up 2 home runs, 4 hits 4 runs in 3 innings while striking out 5. At times he simply over powered hitters and at times they squared him up. I still like him as a possible bullpen guy at some point.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “Riley O’Brien (@RileyyOBrienn ) striking out one of the best prospects in all of baseball Bobby Witt #Reds https://t.co/YVQOpuIKby” / Twitter

Brandon Finnegan, who came out of nowhere this spring and impressed, looked pretty solid tonight. Struck a guy out looking while allowing 1 hit in one inning. His breaking stuff had some life on it. Doolittle, Perez, and Garrett will make it tough for him to find innings, but if injuries happen he’s more than capable of filling in. What a great story his comeback is.

Finnegan was followed by uneventful innings from R.J. Alaniz, Edgar Garcia, Hector Perez, and Ryan Hendrix. Garcia was hit hard and hit often. Perez has a fastball that is noticeably faster than others, but the radar gun was not on. Hendrix really pops the catchers glove, but location was an issue.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “Finnegan (thread) https://t.co/a8pYMq0JuI” / Twitter

Batters:

Mike Freeman, a utility infielder brought over from the Indians, provided the only real offense tonight with a home run off a LHP (Lynch) to right center. In my mind him, Blandino, and Schrock all are battling for the same “utility infielder” position. Schrock was quiet at the plate tonight.

Mark Payton had a decent night at the plate. I really like his eye for the strike zone and patience at the plate. He had a strong single up the middle and worked a count full on another at bat. He had a ton of balls hit to him in center and he covered a lot of territory well. One ball he tried to rob a HR and it hit off of him and went over the wall. From my vantage point it looked like he might have helped that ball go over.

Jose Garcia made solid contact in his two balls put into play. I am far from a swing expert, but his swing looked a little off tonight. Maybe a little slow? I don’t know. He also swung and missed several times. A full year in the minors will do him well.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “@TooKold2 https://t.co/YJgnyWHl7Q” / Twitter

The last player that caught my eye was Alejo Lopez. The 24 year old switch hitting infielder just knows how to hit. He has logged over 1,000 minor league at bats and has a slash of .297/.367/.746. In his two at bats he made great contact one leading to a single up the middle and one a sharp lineout to end the game.

Claiborne Snowden on Twitter: “Alejo Lopez single. A player who isn’t listed as a super high prospect but has been producing https://t.co/FydDrk2kjd” / Twitter

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Cincinnati Reds

Eugenio Suarez at Shortstop Makes the Cincinnati Reds Very Interesting

The Cincinnati Reds have announced that Eugenio Suarez will start Tuesday’s game at shortstop which opens up so many possibilities that make the Reds lineup dangerous.

Jeff

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The Cincinnati Reds dropped a Geno-sized bomb on Reds Country and the result is mass excitement.

We are all aware of the swings-and-misses with free agent shortstops the Reds front office had this offseason. In fact they struck out, if you’re counting, as there were three bonafide shortstops who all went elsewhere. So we’ve spent all Spring Training squinting our eyes to see if we could maybe see the fringe possibility of someone on this roster playing shortstop. Then the Reds stopped pretending.

Coming into camp, Eugenio Suarez just looked different. He was way more fit, trim, cut, whatever word for in-shape you want to use. You could say he was in the best shape of his life (many have). Geno planned for this, and management noticed. They’re reportedly been giving him more practice reps at shortstop and getting him comfortable fielding back there again. You don’t do that just for kicks, they were on to something.

Then Jose Garcia showed a continued lack of confidence at the plate, Dee Strange-Gordon proved there was a reason he hasn’t played shortstop, exclusively, in eight years, and Kyle Holder showed some skills but ultimately proved he needs more seasoning. Kyle Farmer has shown promise at the plate but the defense isn’t any sort of revolutionary development and he still shows more value as the do-everything guy off the bench. Insert Suarez.

Immediately some of you are thinking “Isn’t there a reason they moved him away from shortstop in the first place?” You could go that route, but let me answer your question with a question “Is there really a good reason to keep Jonathan India, or dare I say Nick Senzel (when Shogo Aliyama is healthy) out of the starting lineup for Kyle Farmer, or any of the other options they’ve tried at shortstop?”

This is the Reds thinking outside the box! This opens up so many possibilities with the lineup. With injuries, this is what the Opening Day lineup could look like:

CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
1B Tucker Barnhart
Pitcher

I like that lineup. Now, there’s more than a chance that someone else plays first base and Tucker is the catcher on Opening Day, but this is the optimal lineup with Joey Votto on the COVID shelf. Once he is back, this lineup just looks dangerous:

CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
1B Joey Votto
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
Pitcher

Here’s hoping the Eugenio Shortstop experience lots all year long!

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Cincinnati Reds

Monday Morning Manager: The Cincinnati Reds and Things Being What They Are

David Bell has too many outfielders, or does he? An injury to Shogo Akiyama could make lineup decisions easier, but could hurt the overall team potential.

Jeff

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Today on the Monday Not-Morning Manager I want to look at how the chips fall. There’s a line of thinking in sports that pertains to rosters. If you’ve got four players for three spots and it’s hard to differentiate between them, something always works out. Something beyond the making of a lineup card happens that makes making the lineup card slightly easier (so far as filling the three spots). One wonders if this is what has happened with centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds. 

Shogo Akiyama had an encouraging September, last year. He got on base roughly 46% of the time and became the leadoff hitter that Reds fans felt he’d be when he signed. He showed his prowess in the outfield and sound fundamentals that lead you to believe he can be a defensive asset. He looked to be showing he could bring value to the lineup. 

Nick Senzel has had a heck of a Spring. Hitting the ball all over the field, taking what the pitcher gives him, and making solid, powerful contact. He’s overcome some early spring mishaps on defense and is back to his athletic range in centerfield. When healthy he has shown to be an asset for the team. Barring some creative decision-making on the part of David Bell, he’s going to play in the outfield, come he’ll or high water. 

So what then? Shogo and Senzel cannot both start of Nicholas Castellanos and Jesse Winker man the corners. How does David Bell figure this out? That may be taken off his plate. 

Today (Monday) Shogo is getting his left hamstring examined. He left Saturday’s game after just one at-bat. If he is to miss any amount of time, the decision who the Opening Day centerfielder will be will be easy, but this isn’t a statement of relief. The best version of the Cincinnati Reds lineup includes all of Shogo, Senzel, Castellanos, and Winker and you’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise. I want Bell and the Reds managerial staff to find ways to get all four of them in the lineup as much as possible. Hopefully, Shogo is fine and Bell will begin the 2021 with too many players rather than too few.

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