We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and there are still 66 more games to go for the Cincinnati Reds. Buckle up, though, this ride still has a few ups, downs, loops, and corkscrews.
Although, this ride isn’t as bumpy as, say, the Vortex over at Kings Island. This year feels more like the Diamondback. It took awhile to get up that first chain hill (April through the first week of May) but that’s only because it’s a really big hill. The ride has been quite entertaining since that first month.
Sure, the state of things aren’t great. Cincinnati is last in the Central at 43-53 – 13.5 games behind Chicago. They’re 10 games out of the second National League Wildcard spot. The question is, though, were playoffs the goal of 2018? If you’ve paid attention to Locked on Reds, the answer is no.
This was supposed to be a year that the Reds set the table for a contending team at Great American Ballpark, and there is some semblance of success in this arena.
The current team MVP is Joe…nope…Eugenio Suarez. That’s right boys and girls. You remember that contract extension that the front office handed out to a talented, young Venezuelan this past offseason? Yeah, looking like a great idea. According to baseball-reference.com, Suarez has compiled a 3.6 WAR up to this point.
Of course, if WAR is your thing, Fangraphs has both Suarez and Scooter Gennett at 3.3 WAR. The Reds have found their nucleus. In fact, Jose Peraza is currently sitting at a 1.8 WAR, making the entire Reds infield (Votto with a 2.8 WAR) the most valuable part of the team.
Much has been said about Suarez and Scooter, so let’s take a look at an under-appreciated part of this team: Peraza.
For starters, he’s been a revelation from the leadoff spot. Peraza is hitting .333 as the leadoff hitter and has a .389 on-base percentage. Right, blink, rub your eyes, and look again at that .389 OBP. He’s scored 22 of his 53 runs from the leadoff spot, scoring just under 50% of the time he’s reached base.
Part of the explanation for his success can be explained by Peraza having a 30 point-better batting average on balls in play than last year (.293 compared to .259). Another part of the explanation comes from Peraza’s improved plate disciple. His walk percentage is up for the third-straight year to 5.5% and his strikeout rate is down to 10.9%. Diving slightly deeper, he has decreased his swing % by three points on pitches outside the zone and has a 95% contact rate on pitches in the zone. He’s made leaps and bounds in the improvement area this season.
The hitting has been what’s pushed this team through the first 96 games. The Reds have scored the third most runs in the NL, at 461. Their team on-base percentage trails the Cubs by 4 points (.341) for best in the Majors. Much has been written, of late, regarding Cincinnati’s plate discipline and their willingness to take more walks translating into success at the plate, and who could argue? It has been a huge factor in their turnaround.
While not egregiously worse, Cincinnati’s OBP was 15 points lower for the month of April. Combine that with the second worst slugging percentage in all of major league baseball, for that month (.357), and you get an offense that was unable to bail out horrific pitching.
The pitching has come a long way, since that harrowing month, in which the Reds compiled the worst ERA in the NL (5.15) and beat everyone to 20 losses. They’ve shaved over a run off that number, since April, as their team ERA in months not named April is 4.06. The bullpen has gotten a lot of work, as Reds starters average just over five innings a game, but they’ve been up to the task, thus far.
As a unit, considering some individuals that are no longer with the major league team, they re statistically at the middle of the pack in the National League. Individually, there are some pitchers that no opposing lineup looks forward to facing, late in-game. Foremost is Jared Hughes.
Hughes has a 2.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference, good for 4th best on the team. His 1.44 ERA is third best among NL relievers with at least 40 IP. When you are the key guy out of the bullpen, you’ve got to be tough when you get a bad hand dealt to you, and Hughes stands tall in those situations. He’s inherited 23 runners and stranded 15 of them. Despite tossing right handed, Hughes is toughest on lefties, allowing 16 hits in 81 lefties faced. He’s also kept the ball in the park, allowing just two round-trippers.
Amir Garrett stands tall next to Hughes. The starter turned reliever has one-upped Jared Hughes in the inherited run department. Just six of the 32 runners Garrett has inherited have crossed home plate. He is tied for eighth in the Majors with 18 holds, but his ERA has climbed each month (it currently sits at 10.13 for the month of July). Safe to say, he’s relishing this All Star break.
The winning of late has distracted us Reds fans from the big picture of this season. It isn’t necessarily the goal to make the playoffs this year, but to get the team situated for multiple years of playoff contention, beginning next year. The biggest storylines coming out of the All Star Break will not be a pursuit of a playoff appearance, but a couple of other things:
What will they do at the trade deadline?
– Will they sell off? (I hope not)
– Will they go after a staff ace? (I hope so)
– Who will be a Red after the dust settles?
Will they succumb to peer pressure and remove the interim tag from Jim Riggleman?
– Don’t get me wrong, Riggsy has done a fantastic job, but that’s just premature and needless in so many ways. They haven’t conducted an actual managerial search since they hired Bob Boone. It needs to happen at the end of this season. If Riggsy is determined to be the guy after it’s all said and done, cool, but do a search.
Will they stop bunting?
– Okay, admittedly this isn’t really a storyline, per say, but it’s worth noting. The team that has scored the most runs in the Majors, the Boston Red Sox, have compiled a grand total of three sacrifices. Three. That’s it. That’s 30 less than the Reds, who lead all of Major League Baseball in sacrifices. Their seventh in runs scored, but think of where they could be if they stop giving up outs. You know what…I’m feeling a more detailed blog about this subject, so let’s wrap this up.
The Reds need to win 38 games in their final 66 to finish the year at .500. I predicted they would, before the season, on another website. I still think they complete the 81-81 season. This is a decent team, an entertaining team, and they can play with anyone. Add in a couple of trades that are, hopefully, coming in the next few weeks, and you got yourself a contender for the next few years.
Like I said in the opening graph, buckle up, Reds fans, there’s plenty of baseball left!
(Also, shout out Locked on Reds, this is post 100!)
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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