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.
Read The Room
David Bell has made some interesting choices, some that he may want to tweak his thought process on. Let me explain.
On Monday’s podcast my friend Jeff stated he liked the fact that David Bell was able to remove himself from the equations on many big decisions. He stated that by focusing on the analytics Bell is able to make an objective decision versus a gut decision. I won’t disagree with fact that I am loving the front office and managements use of analytics. I, like most Reds fans, love to see the organization finally joining this century of baseball thinking in full force, from an analytics stand point. However, while I do support the use of analytics in helping make decisions, I don’t feel as if it should be the sole reason for decision making.
The best managers in the history of this game are often forward-thinking and also having the right instinct at crucial points in games. I think the Reds, and even David Bell, are some of the most forward thinking in baseball right now. We have seen it in all the new positions created this offseason specifically for analytics within the Reds front office. The Reds outfielders carry cards based on each pitcher and each batter in where to align themselves. The infield is making unique shifts. Bell seems opposite of his predecessor, because he despises bunting frequently. The amazing performance by our pitching staff which has been one of the worst in recent years. I believe these things will continue to help this team as the season continues. I also believe it’s one of the main reasons we have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball right now.
On the flip side of this is the daily, head-scratching decisions Bell has made. The constant hooking of starting staff or bullpen pitchers too early. This isn’t just something making fans question his decisions, but his players as well. I have seen almost every starting pitcher this year, on at least one occasion, have a baffled look after being removed to early. Bell often pulling starters in a close game due to the “third time around the order” analytics. In regards to the bullpen often pulling relievers early who are up there throwing smoke and no one is touching them. All that started back on Opening Day when he used three relievers, each for one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then when it comes to the lineup we are often seeing players who may be crushing it that day pulled for favorable situational matchups such as lefty right or righty lefty. On several occasions I’ve seen him pull Dietrich or Winker when there out there hitting rockets just for an analytic advantage. It often causes me to yell at my television.
One of my favorite sayings is “READ THE ROOM”. Bell desperately needs to “READ THE ROOM” in more crucial situations. Leaving pitchers in to go one extra innning in a start or relief when there mowing batters over. Leaving a guy in the lineup who is on fire rather than pulling him for a analytic matchup. This shows faith in your players as well as your instincts as a manager. It’s what differentiates the best coaches from everyone else. It’s the knowledge that no amount of statistics can provide and it will ultimately be what puts this team over the top. In recent weeks I have seen signs of this coming to fruition. I hope to see more of it as the season goes on. And I promise you Reds fans when it does the most important statistic WINS will come much easier.
Reds Catchers Now and in the Future
Let’s take a look at the catching picture for the Reds organization.
In late September of 2017, the Cincinnati Reds locked up Tucker Barnhart to a 4-year, $16 million contract. And why not? Barnhart hit .270 in 2017 and was a gold glove winner. $4 million a year for him was a steal. Fans were ecstatic about the deal, especially at the price. Don’t get me wrong, having a catcher with a career average of .248 with about 10 home runs a year and a great glove is something most teams are satisfied with. It’s more about what he does with the pitching staff and defense than the hitting. But in 2019, although only 100 at-bats in, how concerned should Reds fans be about their catching situation now and in the future?
The Reds currently have two active catchers: Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali. Barnhart has struggled mightily out of the gate. A .160/.282/.270 line is not anywhere close to his career numbers. Adding to that, he only has two hits in the past 10 games. A switch hitter with only 10 at bats versus Left-handed pitchers tells us Bell wants Casali taking those at-bats.
Curt Casali has put together a great season for the Reds. Acquired off waiver last year from Tampa Bay he hit .310 before the All-Star break. In 2019 he is hitting to the tune of .293/.349/.379. When used as a pinch hitter, he’s delivered at times for the Reds. Although Casali is the better hitter so far, I do not think it is time to give up on Barnhart. 100 at-bats into a season with plenty to go. *Deep breath* He can still put together a decent season. Something needs to change though, drastically. Right now, the Reds have bigger issues than the catcher’s spot. But will Casali take reigns as the team’s number one catcher? A lot of fans are calling for it. Keep in mind Casali is a career .229 hitter. He has been streaky in the past. The Reds will probably continue to platoon and giving at-bats to Casali against left-handed pitchers. 2019 catcher situation is pretty much locked in. The depth at AAA Louisville are not “prospects” and haven’t shown to be MLB hitters either. The question is what will it look like in the future?
Tyler Stephenson is one of the top prospects in the Reds organization (#6 mlb.com) and is showing his potential this year in Chattanooga. A first-round pick in 2015, he’s struggled with injuries early in his career and is now showing his potential. Hitting .267 with 3 HR and 18 RBI while throwing out 26% of baserunners is a nice start to the first part of the season. He won’t be in Cincinnati this year, who knows where he will start next year, but he plays into the future of the Reds.
There are some other options in the minors. Chris Okey (#30 Reds prospect) was drafted in the second round of 2016 but has really struggled with the bat. Hendrik Clementina (#23 Reds prospect) is someone to watch. He was acquired in the Tony Cingrani trade and hit 18 home runs with Dayton in 2018. He has some pop and but also strikes out too much. We all know how frustrating that can be. Other than those 3, the Reds do not have another top 30 catching prospects. A thin position of depth look for the Reds to bring in more talent this year.
The Reds catching future is banking on Stephenson and Barnhart to be the guys. That could end up being just fine, but it also doesn’t leave much room for error. Casali has two arbitration year left and is 30 years old. He could be a Red past this year, sure. Good catchers are hard to find and that’s why the asking price is so high (paging JT). I would expect the Reds to try to add depth here through the draft or offseason. The quick fix would be Tucker returning closer to 2017 form but who knows if that will happen.
What The Reds Should Be
Wednesday night was a glimpse at this team’s potential.
If you were able to witness tonight’s win over the scorching hot Chicago Cubs you were probably ecstatic. It was a comeback win, in extra innings, and a one-run game. In a season clouded by early disappointment and many missed opportunities, tonight we witnessed the Reds full potential.
This game had all the markings of what was shaping up to be another Reds loss. A five-inning start by the pitcher, playing from behind almost the entire game, and constant pitching changes. Instead the Reds played together and won, as a team. The chemistry we see off the field was finally seen on the field. The bullpen stepped up when they needed to. Stephenson, Hughes, Peralta, and Garrett all providing top notch performances. Garrett making what seemed to be an impossible out at first to save a run from scoring. When providing a clutch at-bat was needed, we saw it from nearly everyone put on the spot. Senzel with 2 hits and 2 stolen bases. Iglesias continues to be the Reds MVP of position players having a double and solo home run to keep the Reds in contention. Suarez starting to catch fire with a 3-for-5 evening, 3 RBI’s, a double, and a 2 run HR in the eighth inning to tie up the game. Quietly, Joey Votto was the one who actually came up big, in the clutch, during the eighth, with a single. He then scored on Suarez’s dinger. Then again in the 10th inning with a one-out walk. For the icing on the cake the player all of Cincinnati wants to see perform comes up to seal the deal. And most importantly the extra innings walk-off hit by Puig with a bat flip for Reds highlight reels for years to come happened.
What made it most glorious was the absolute look of disappointment on Cubs fans faces as the Reds came back to pull off the comeback win. Wednesday, we saw the Reds full potential as a team. This is the Reds ceiling as a team performance. I hope we grow accustomed to this scene more often and start to see them compete in this division. There is no doubt they are in the toughest division in baseball. That being said, they can absolutely shake things up whenever they decide to get hot. I know it’s possible. I just hope it’s not too late when it does.