The postseason awaits and, sadly, for another year, the Cincinnati Reds are not involved. I’m a sucker for some baseball, though, and continue to watch the playoffs regardless of the Reds involvement, but I enjoy having a team to root for. So let’s look at the field, in no particular order.
What’s not to love about the Brewers? They went for it this year and, while buying a championship isn’t feng shui, it is admirable that the team wanted to deliver some winning baseball to the fans. Unless you spent the season under a rock, you are aware of Christian Yelich. He’s the guy the Reds didn’t trade for who turned around and hit for the cycle…twice…against them. He’s probably going to be the National League MVP and he’s 26. They’re even built around hitting and relief pitching…kinda like your Cincinnati Reds, except they’ve had at least a little success from their rotation.
The Brewers have even come on strong enough, here lately, that they sit just a half game behind the Cubs for the NL Central division crown. They might just find themselves not having to worry about the one game playoff.
They’ve got UC grad Ian Happ and Thom Brennaman’s favorite player, Kyle Schwarber (also from Middletown) in the everyday lineup, so there’s some local flavor there. Plus they aren’t the Cardinals.
St. Louis Cardinals
They win purely on offense. Their team ERA is only a smidge better than the Reds at 4.37 but they’ve scored 740 runs and have a team batting average of .255. They’ve also committed the least amount of errors (71), among the playoff hopefuls (the Nationals have the least at 63).
Their third baseman, Nolan Arenado, is one of the five best players in the game, today, and is a front runner for MVP. He’s batting .295 with 34 homers and 105 RBI and has a .374 on-base percentage. He, alone, is worth watching the Rockies.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Speaking of spending to win, last year’s runners-up have had a turbulent season. Despite their mammoth payroll they just took over first place in the NL West, but only have a half game lead on the Rockies.
Okay, let’s not pretend like Reds fans are flocking to root for the Dodgers…but they do have Floromania going for them. The former Red has a 1.63 ERA in 29 appearances for LA.
They’re back! After rebuilding for a few years, the former mainstays of the NL East have regained that role as the youngsters outlasted the Phillies, another solid young team, and the Nationals, the preseason favorites. They’re a fun team to watch as their core is very young. Freddie Freeman is accompanied by two of the most promising young stars in baseball, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, Jr. They will be fun to watch. They’re the only team who has clinched a playoff berth, in the NL, but they will most likely be the two seed as both the Cubs and Brewers have two games on them. Yeah, let that sink in for a sec, the winner of the Central will be the one seed with the runner up, having the second best record (most likely) in the NL, will be a wildcard team. The Reds have one tough division to rebuild in…
Boston Red Sox
I begin the AL with Brandon Phillips’ team…or at least for now. Not sure if he’ll make the postseason roster, which is what my rooting interests in the Sox will depend on, but for now he’s there. How cool would it be to see Dat Dude get a ring? Dude is the second best second baseman in the history of the Reds, but has not even sniffed the World Series. He may have a shot with Boston.
Of course, should he not make the postseason roster, my interests in Boston disappear.
New York Yankees
The Evil Empire is back to its imperial ways and hating the Yankees, once again, became cool in 2018. They have five games left to hit 10 home runs and break the single season record, so we’ll see if that happens. Other than that, my interest in the Yankees in the playoffs is purely based off of my love of a good villain, and that villain is back.
Terry Francona is one of the most likeable people in baseball and the MLB.com power rankings, for what they’re worth, have the Indians as the lowest ranked AL team. It’s hard to root for the in-state rival, but it’s also hard to root against the team that everyone is counting out. Most knock them for playing in the weakest division, but it’s not like that’s their fault. Their top three pitchers, as we Reds fans well know, will keep them in any series, and Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are just plain fun to watch. They’ll, most likely, match up with the next team in the first series, so it’s be right into the fire from the get-go.
Everyone loves a repeat…or at least, that’s what network television believes. The poster team for successful, long rebuilds is, once again, in a position to get a ring. This time, they have the experience to go with the talent. Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and George Springer headline a 1-9 lineup of mashers and smashers while Justin Verlander and impending-free agent, Dallas Keuchel, headline a haul of heavy hurlers. But really, who want’s the same old thing, again? What is this, the NBA Playoffs?
Probably the most interesting team in these playoffs. Well, at least to me, they are. Without looking, name three Oakland players…can’t do it, can you? Ok, so you probably got Jed Lowrie and maybe, even Matt Chapman. But how about Chad Pinder? Khris Davis (spells it with a K so he doesn’t have to say the good Chris Davis)? Or did you know Stephen Piscotty, former Cardinal, is there? Or former Brewer Jonathan Lucroy? I’d wager no. No matter, they’ve hit the most homers in the AL outside of the Yankees and they’ve scored the third most runs, with 790. They also rank in the top six of AL teams in every pitching category, except strikeouts. They’ll probably be one and done in the wildcard game, but then again, you never know in October.
So there you have it. As for me, I’m pulling for a re-kindling of an old AL West rivalry in a Brewers/A’s World Series matchup with the Brew Crew hoisting the trophy. Doubt that will happen, but that’s who I’m rooting for. Reds in 2019!
Follow @lockedonReds, @jamesrapien, and @jefffcarr on Twitter for more Reds content.
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.