Your Cincinnati Reds (66-91) have finished their road schedule for 2018 after splitting a four-game series with the Miami Marlins (62-93). This isn’t going to be the typical recap, though, because the results are sort of moot at this point.
There are five home games remaining for the Reds, but we can pretty well judge this season for what it is. Scooter Gennett is the only red who has something to play for, individually. He’s seven points behind Christian Yelich in batting average (.315 to .322), which means he has some work to do in these last five games. We’ll see if he can pull it off.
Coming into this season the biggest question that needed to be answered, or at least sort of figured out, for 2019, was run prevention. Pitching, defense, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, there are no real answers there. The Reds have given up the most runs in the National League, at 795. They’ve managed to allow the second most earned runs (721), but that’s because they’ve allowed the most un-earned runs (74). Confused yet? See, still no answers here.
So where does that leave us? Well, more change is needed. Yes, this far into the rebuild, there’s still brick to be laid. Any pitching help, at least in the amount needed, will have to come from the outside. Unless someone snaps their fingers and the pitching staff turns the clock back to 2012, this team will only return to contention by adding two top-shelf starting pitchers. Most believe that’s going to have to be through trades as the free agents to-be (Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, possibly Clayton Kershaw) would probably need to be given keys to the city in order to agree to pitch at Great American Ballpark. Projecting who they could trade for would be like looking for a needle in a stack of needles, suffice it to say, the front office will be on the prowl.
Another question coming into 2018 remains unanswered: Nick Senzel. Can he be a valuable contributor, and where will he do the contributing? Early in the season, he had another problem with the vertigo, that he overcame, but that is something that will be hard to predict and prevent, moving forward. It’s not that it’s 50-50 as to whether it will happen to him again, but it’s enough of an albatross that it cannot be ignored. Then there’s the actual physical ailment that derailed his season. He tore a tendon in his index finger, on his right hand, and had to have it surgically repaired. He seems to be recovered from it, now, though, and is ready for the Arizona Fall League…where he will play the outfield. Yes, the third baseman who played shortstop during Spring Training and second base at Triple-A Louisville, before getting hurt, is not done on his nomadic trip around the diamond. Where will he play for the Reds? And will he be stymied at Triple-A to begin 2019 in order to save time on arbitration? I, personally, hope the answer to the second question is no, but at this point, who knows?
That’s two questions that we had in March which remain in September.
What’s answered, then?
For starters, the Reds have a solid lineup. Now, they’ve sure hit a wall to end the year (so much for positive momentum), but the bats should, largely, be unchanged. I’ll go into more detail in later posts about each player, but Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart, Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker, and Scooter Gennett should all be mainstays in the lineup, barring trades, of course. The Reds have been one of the leading NL lineups in on-base percentage, all season. It’s kept them in most games, and led them to a successful streak back in June and July, and should drive the success of this team in 2019.
Another positive answer has been the bullpen. It started out rough, sure, but they trimmed the fat early. The two best signings of last offseason, Jared Hughes and David Hernandez have held down the late innings with Raisel Iglesias for much of the year. Now fatigue has played a factor, for Hernandez in particular, but that’s due to the fact they’ve pitched the third-most innings in the NL (580.2). That’s right around 90 innings more than the NL team with the least amount of bullpen innings, the Rockies with 491. Hughes and Hernandez have combined to pitch 136.2 IP this year, I’d be a little tired, too.
But the rest of the season has been fraught with turmoil. Winker started, then didn’t start (for four days) and then started, until he got hurt. Homer Bailey started, stunk, got hurt (kinda), said no to a bullpen assignment, started again, again…and again, and then was shut down for the final month. Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Michael Lorenzen, you get the picture. Much has been made of the Reds inability to develop starting pitchers from their farm system, maybe we see a symptom here. Players don’t know their role on a day-to-day basis with this club. So, the biggest question heading into 2019 for me is this: is stability forthcoming? That will be the over-arching, big picture theme for this offseason, how they will set themselves up for stability. They can make all the trades and signings they want, but if we go through more constant role changing in 2019, there may be a 5th 90-loss season in a row.
As the clock hit 6:30 pm, last Saturday, I was ready to go to Great American Ballpark. That’s when my wife reminded me that it was December. Every year the Cincinnati Reds put on a first class party for their fans called Redsfest and they’re pretty good at what they do.
I got to meet Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, Ibandel Isabel, and Jimmy Herget. I got my copy of “The Big 50” signed by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber, made a video with Mo Egger, and talked shop with Doug Gray. Okay, I get it, enough with the name dropping. Basically, it was fun.
I made it a point to ask some light-hearted questions (or in Lorenzen’s case, make a light-hearted, but factual, statement) to see what their reactions would be.
I first met Lorenzen. I told him that he was the real silver slugger and I am attempting to get that other guy to mail him the trophy he deserves. Lorenzen responded with, “Well, that just gives me motivation to hit twice as many homers next year.” Might have to get me a Lorenzen jersey…
I then got Mahle’s John Hancock (or is it Herbie Hancock?) on a baseball and I asked him if we can expec upwards of three, or more, 20-strikeout games this year. He replied “Let’s hope so. I’ll see what I can do.” Hope you folks in the bleachers with K’s are ready to work, this season.
I then got autographs from Isabel and Herget. Isabel just gave me an awkward smile and a chuckle when I asked if he will focus on inside-the-parkers this year instead of traditional homers, since he’s already hit a lot of those. Herget gave me a classic answer to my simple question of what his favorite pitch was when he said, “A strike.” Well played Jimmy.
The main stage offerings were also enjoyable. The best was at the kids-only press conference. Joey Votto, Amir Garrett, and Eugenio Suarez were on stage for the show, and when asked what their favorite memory of 2018 will be, Joey decided it was “When Amir tried to fight the Cubs.” Suarez bumped in, “Yeah, when he struck out Baez and stared him down. That was awesome, man!” As much as we fans may have liked that moment, it seems to have been even cooler to the team.
Memorabilia-wise, there was a ton of stuff to get. I didn’t go too crazy, this year, but I did end up with a new hat that has a Jackie Robinson 42 patch on it. Definitely my favorite hat, now. All in all, a good weekend.
If you went, let me know how your experience went!
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Live (Sorta) from Redsfest with Mo Egger
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Instant Reaction: Bye, Bye Billy
Wow! It’s the first hour of Redsfest and there are fireworks, already! The world’s fastest man (probably), Billy Hamilton, was non-tendered by the Cincinnati Reds making him a free agent. I have a few instant thoughts on this.
Firstly, I am bummed. I watched his career develop in the minors all the way up til he got the call to the Bigs. He looked like a star in the making in Pensacola, but what we now know is that he was defensively gifted and offensively challenged. He will go down, in my book, as the foremost example of “You can’t steal first.” I hope that his next step (if he doesn’t return, that is, but more on that in a second) he finds that missing piece and becomes a star.
Nextly, where do the Reds go from here? The encouragement is that we know Bob Castellini loved Billy and wanted him to be here forever and ever. That means the front office has definitely, officially been handed the reigns. If that’s the case, maybe we see Nick Senzel brought up and given the CF job, or Jose Peraza move to CF (he has a few minutes of experience there) and Senzel put in at shortstop. Those possibilities excite me. Whatever gets Senzel in the lineup is the right course of action, to me.
Lastly, maybe this is a little Michael Johnson maneuvering? For those who don’t follow the other professional franchise in Cincinnati, the Bengals made a move, right before the season, where they cut one of their longtime veterans only to resign him a few days later. They made the move to get some young guys onto the practice squad, but I digress. What if the Reds and Billy have a little head nod and handshake agreement that they will sign him for a year or two at his current rate, avoiding the arbitration-hike in salary he was about to get? This is purely a hypothetical notion by me, by the way, and I don’t know if they can do that, or if Billy would want it that way. Just a thought from a fan who can never truly be unbiased when it comes to Cool Papa Bill.
Anyway, I am sure there will be more to come from Redsfest!
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