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Despite April, the case for optimism for all Reds’ fans

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April 2018:

  • Feels like we suffered through more inches of rain than Reds victories.
  • The average temperature is as chilling as Reds batting averages.
  • Feels as unending and as cold as winter all by itself.

Wow, that’s depressing. The GABP souvenir cup is half-empty. There is no light at the end of the clubhouse-to-dugout tunnel. And we wonder if Marty will forget how to say, “And this one belongs to the Reds.”

Optimism, it seems, never had a chance this season. It has been a true Titanic struggle. So what are Reds fans to do? Give up, turn off the television and avoid GABP? Watch the NBA playoffs? Watch those shows stored on the DVR? Clean the gutters?

Back-to-back wins over the Braves and Scooter Gennett’s bat are a relief, but 5-18 doesn’t give us a reason to be optimistic that this team will play a meaningful game late in the season. An April this bad for a team still in development cannot be overcome in the standings. Only in the movies.

What stage of development is this team actually in?

Are these the infant stages? Does this team resemble the one a silver-screen manager lost patience with when he asked how many games his lollygagging team had won and wondered how it had managed to win that many? Are these the pitiful New York Knights before Roy Hobbs turned up? Are these the Indians before “The Wild Thing,” Willie Mays Hayes and Pedro Cerrano put it all together and kept the team in Cleveland?

Yes, they’ve been the Bad News Reds, but this team is not that bad. This team will not continue this pace and lose over 130 games. They might not lose fewer than 90 — what felt like a realistic goal in March — but this team will show us some promise this season. There aren’t enough good players yet but there are enough to look like a team with a chance heading into 2019. (I know, some of us thought that way heading into this season.)

We can be angry about the slow rebuild. We can say start over. We can say this is a waste of time. And we can be miserable. We wish this season was already showing a marked improvement over the last two seasons. But it’s not. We can’t change that.

It’s time to accept what this season is, but it’s also time to buck up and look for the little sparks of promise. No matter the record, being optimistic is a far better way to spend the summer than wallowing in an extra-inning April funk.

The bullpen

Despite the ninth-inning meltdown Tuesday night against the Braves, the actual big-league pitchers in this group have been exceptional.

The combination of Yovani Gallardo and Kevin Quackenbush (may we never see has-beens like them get another Reds contract) and not-yet-ready rookies Tanner Rainey and Zack Weiss have made the bullpen look worse than it is going forward. In 13 1/3 innings, they combined for a 20.25 ERA and allowed seven home runs.

The good part of the bullpen will soon be joined by Michael Lorenzen and David Hernandez. Raisel Iglesias, Wandy Peralta, Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes have combined for a 2.45 ERA in 36 2/3 innings and allowed three home runs. If Lorenzen and Hernandez pitch to their talent when they return, this bullpen will be good with a chance to be very good.

Winker

If Bryan Price did anything right this season, it was to see what Jesse Winker could do as a leadoff hitter. A .298 batting average and a .431 on-base percentage are a promising start. More speed with the ability to score from second more often would be nice, but we’ll take what we can get.

Suarez and Schebler

These guys can hit. Suarez has proven it more, but expect Schebler to be productive. That the offense has suffered with them on the DL is not a coincidence.

Starting pitching

Yes, the Reds are last in the league in ERA and FIP and the only starting staff with a negative WAR. But there are promising signs here and there, which is far better than last year.

Homer Bailey isn’t that shutdown No. 1, but be honest: He’s pitched better than you expected.

Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano have looked the part at times. Luis Castillo has been off, but it seems more like inconsistency than a lack of stuff. These four will be solid. Not a power four yet, but they will make significant progress this year. And don’t count out Brandon Finnegan. He’s still trying to get in shape.

Manager search

Be encouraged that the Reds intend to look around for what all Reds fans hope is the right manager. Price certainly does not deserve all the blame for what has gone wrong. But he was not much better than Dusty Baker as a game manager when it comes to bullpen usage, relying too much on journeymen and some lineup choices.

Jim Riggleman might be cut from the same mold. He said he would only use Peralta, Garrett and Iglesias when tied or ahead. That’s why we saw Quackenbush turn a close game into a blowout the other night.

This team needs a fresh look. It needs a manager who will use his best players in the right situations whenever possible.

Be optimistic. Hope for the best. Baseball’s more fun that way.

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

Jeff

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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. 

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Cincinnati Reds

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

Clay Snowden

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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.

Pitchers:

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.

 

Catchers:

Rocky Gale

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.

 

Infielders:

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.

 

Outfielders:

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.

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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.

Jeff

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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.

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