A narrative has begun to make Jim Riggleman the Reds’ permanent manager.
In response, another narrative has begun to continue the exhaustive national search for the next Sparky Anderson or Lou Piniella.
These two narratives have something in common. Most voices on both sides have a history of saying that it doesn’t matter who the manager is. That a baseball manager has the least effect on a team’s performance among team sports, is a long-held belief. Is that simply a narrative that has gained so much steam that it is become akin to a natural law? Is it an over-simplification of a complex equation?
You can’t have it both ways. Either a manager has an effect or he doesn’t. The answer, as with most topics that are not black and white, is somewhere in the middle. So did the Cubs win the World Series because of their great young lineup, a strong pitching staff or Joe Maddon? It’s still a team game even if it is dominated by one-on-one battles. Credit should go to all three.
Managers with an interesting personality like Maddon get more credit. Quick: Who’s the manager of the Houston Astros?
Riggleman is a good choice for what the Reds need today. The best any baseball team can do is to choose a manager who has a feel for the game and its changing nature, can relate positively to players and is not afraid to take chances.
The narrative in recent Reds’ history was that no manager could win with the players Bryan Price had to work with, which actually puts the bottom line on the front office. But he was heavily criticized anyway. I didn’t care for his handling of the bullpen and his misguided loyalty to players who weren’t performing. But before this season, the team played hard for him. Not sure that was the case in April.
Now the Reds are hot and playing like the .500 or a-little-better-than-that team I expected this season. Those who don’t want Riggleman give all the credit to the players. Those who want Riggleman give him too much credit.
Hot streak or not, Riggleman has had a positive effect. To argue against that is to say that managers don’t matter. And if you argue that Riggleman has had no positive effect – that it’s only the players – then you defeat your own argument that Riggleman is not the right man for the job. If the manager doesn’t matter, why do you care? Why even have a manager?
What has Jim Riggleman done to help this team?
- Brought a measure of accountability: The play is sharper on the field. If you actually watch the Reds night after night, you see this. Money makes players comfortable. It’s the manager’s job to keep them uncomfortable and playing for their job. Riggleman has sent this message better than Price did at the end.
- Manages the bullpen well: Yes, the starters are putting the relievers in better situations and the relievers are doing their job. But when you know your role and you know the manager isn’t afraid to make a change, you perform better. It’s part of the accountability.
- Stack the lineup with your best offensive contributors in the top six: With what he has to work with, Riggleman’s lineup choices have evolved into this even if we don’t always like the order of those six. Early on I wouldn’t have said this about Riggleman’s choices.
Schebler, for now, is the Reds’ best leadoff hitter since Shin soo-Choo had an .885 OPS in his only season with the Reds in 2013. That number was second only to Joey Votto. Schebler’s OPS today is at a career high .843. I began asking for Schebler to lead off last year as we watched Billy Hamilton continue to founder. And for your consideration, Colorado leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon has a career .854 OPS. Not sure Schebler is the permanent answer depending on who gets added to the roster, but for now he’s the Reds’ Charlie Blackmon in a hitter- and home-friendly GABP.
Tucker Barnhart at No. 2 doesn’t do a lot for me, but neither does anybody else. An on-base guy with enough speed to score from second on most singles does not exist on this team without depleting the middle of the lineup. So Riggleman is right now doing the most with what he has. (He could also move Votto to No. 2 and rotate Barnhart down to No. 6.)
Where does Riggleman fall short?
- He can be indecisive: Remember the bench Winker drama? Managers make mistakes, but that could’ve been a big one had it lasted.
- He likes to sacrifice bunt: Asking Scooter Gennett to bunt the other night made no sense. Giving up an out for anyone but a pitcher (except maybe the always dangerous Anthony DeSclafani) goes against the percentages of scoring runs.
- Batting Hamilton ninth: He should be batting eighth. Too many times the pitcher has come to the plate with runners on base and killed rallies. DeSclafani’s feat won’t be repeated until after the next comet fly-by.
There are unanswered questions as well.
- Can he keep a coaching staff happy and working well together? Does he delegate well?
- Will he become set in his ways just because a lineup choice works for a short time, etc.?
- Can he make his opinion count in personnel decisions? Riggleman and his staff know the players better than anyone else. I’m for this as long as loyalty doesn’t blind them.
The decision on a permanent manager should not be made on a whim. Winning streaks and losing streaks come and go and should not be a deciding factor, only a part of the equation. No one should get the job because “they deserve it.” The Reds must look at the long haul and create a list of what they want in a manager. And that list should be much longer than my short list.
Analytics have taught us not to rely on single stats to determine worth and contribution. Analytics has taught us to look at lots of factors, devise formulas that account for many things and make the best decisions possible with the information we have. No manager will fit all of the criteria any of us have.
If due diligence results in Jim Riggleman, then so be it. Even though Riggleman is the right kind of manager for today, I don’t think he will be the manager next season. But for now he’s doing the job this team needs of building consistency, accountability and confidence even if he gives the bunt signal when we don’t like it.
That’s a narrative the Reds can live with the rest of the summer.
Reds Lose and Bunting Stinks
The Cincinnati Reds (64-87) tested the fortitude of the fans who continue to pay them some form of attention as they got blasted by the Milwaukee Brewers (86-65) 0-8, Monday night.
Anthony DeSclafani (7-6, 4.92 ERA) continued his struggles as he allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. The Brewers scored three runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth, but, really, the one they scored in the third was all they needed.
Christian Yelich (4-for-4) became the first player in the history of baseball to hit two cycles in one year against one team.
The most the Reds threatened was in the fourth inning when Scooter led off with a single. A bunt into a fielder’s choice and another single later gave the Reds runners on first and second with one out and Disco up to bat. Yet another bunt was called, which successfully moved over the runners, but Billy Hamilton grounded out to end the threat. That’s it. The Reds were, largely, toothless from the batter’s box, on Monday.
Due to Yelich’s cycle and Scooter’s 1-for-3 performance, they both are now tied for the NL batting title at .318 with 11 games to play.
Fox Sports Ohio loved the Reds’ performance, so much, that the postgame interview on the field was courtesy of Fox Sports Wisconsin as they interviewed Yelich.
Real quick, because the thought is permeating my mind and I have to write about this. Bunting stinks. It was a “whoa buddy” thought whenever sabermetrics and Moneyball first started, but now there are numbers to back it up. Here is a run expectancy chart, as seen on FanGraphs.com:
|Runners||0 Outs||1 Out||2 Outs|
|1 _ _||0.831||0.489||0.214|
|_ 2 _||1.068||0.644||0.305|
|1 2 _||1.373||0.908||0.343|
|_ _ 3||1.426||0.865||0.413|
|1 _ 3||1.798||1.140||0.471|
|_ 2 3||1.920||1.352||0.570|
|1 2 3||2.282||1.520||0.736|
Quick explanation – the numbers above represent the average runs a team can expect based on the base runner situation, given the number of outs in an inning. Notice anything? The number is higher for a runner on first with no outs versus a runner on second with one out. This means that, if a sac bunt is successful, then it actually is more detrimental to a team’s run-scoring ability. That’s math, not an opinion.
The Boston Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored, with 799. The Red Sox also have the second-fewest sacrifice hits in the majors, with six. The New York Yankees are the second in runs scored at 763, but have just 10 sacrifice hits (5th least in MLB). The Cleveland Indians have scored the third most runs at 752 and have 22 sacrifice hits, which is more than double the Yankees, but still bottom half of MLB. The Reds have scored 672 runs, 127 less than the Red Sox, but lead the world in sacrifice hits with 47. Now I am no major league manager, I know this, but it just does not equate. Stop. Bunting.
The Reds and Brewers do it again tomorrow. I’ll be watching and tweeting (@jefffcarr) and also follow @lockedonReds, if you haven’t already done so. We’ll be with you, when the calendar turns to the offseason, so keep it tuned here!
Catching You Up on the Reds
The Cincinnati Reds (64-86) starting pitching allowed one run in three starts, but the Chicago Cubs (87-62) took two-out of-three over the weekend in the Windy City.
Luis Castillo (10-12, 4.52 ERA) showed another flash of ace stuff on Sunday in the lone Reds win. He tossed 6.2 innings of one-run baseball. He only struck out two, but he limited one of the best lineups in the NL to four hits. Castillo’s outing was indicative of the Reds’ rotation, as a whole.
Cody Reed, once again, made a start and didn’t get his first career win, though he didn’t lose either. He tossed five scoreless innings, allowing two hits and two walks, while fanning 10 Cubs. Manager Jim Riggleman decided to pull Reed after he threw 91 pitches, bringing in Sal Romano (7-11, 5.43) who allowed a single, solitary run, which was enough to beat the Reds.
Matt Harvey was the other tough luck start for Cincinnati, this weekend. He got a no decision after six shutout innings in which he struck out six and allowed just four hits. His quality start was smashed when David Hernandez (5-1, 2.65) allowed three runs in the seventh, earning his sixth blown save of the year. Fatigue may be playing a factor for Hernandez as he has a 6.30 ERA in his last 10 appearances. His ERA has climbed from 1.89 to 2.65 in that time span.
Baseball is a team sport, though, and the losses, while they can be pinpointed to an inning in each game, aren’t all on the relief pitching. The bats were averaging just a shade under five runs per (4.75) in their last dozen games, but were held to four runs, total, for the weekend, in Chicago. Cincinnati lived (four homers) and died (no other RBI) by the long ball, this weekend, with four solo shots hit out of Wrigley. Jose Peraza and Joey Votto continue the most unlikely home run race in the Reds lineup as they both hit their 12th on Friday, while Scott Schebler (17) and Phil Ervin (Seven) went yard on Sunday.
Scooter Gennett endured a 1-for-8 weekend and saw his average dip, slightly, to .318. He still leads the National League for the batting title, though, as Christian Yelich’s average dipped to .313. Scooter gets three more chances for revenge against his old team, coming up, so he may be able to bump that number up.
Speaking of what’s next, let’s take a look at the series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Anthony DeSclafani has been sputtering, down the stretch this year and will look to flip the script in game one at Miller Park. Here’s a look at Disco’s rough stretch through his last five starts, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:
He’s given up quite a few hits over this span and most of these starts can be broken down into an inning, or two, each time where the opposition strings together some hits to blow the score wide open. His last start, he had a perfect game going through three, only to see the Dodgers slap two runs on in the fourth and four runs in the fifth. His season stats show that, due to his xFIP being 4.08, he pretty much has been exactly what his ERA says he is and isn’t getting all that unlucky.
He’ll be opposed by Wade Miley, whose just been a revelation for Milwuakee. In 13 starts, he has a 2.23 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). In 13.1 innings against the Redlegs, Miley has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 10.
Michael Lorenzen (3-1, 3.21) makes his long awaited return to the rotation in another 180 degree decision by the Reds, in 2018. Just a week back I recall hearing Riggleman say something to the effect of “We like what he gives us out of the bullpen” to a question of whether Lorenzen will start a game in 2018. Now, sure enough, here he is, a probable starter. Reminiscent of the team’s handling with Winker, and Harvey, and Senzel…anyway.
This is Lorenzen’s first start since in just over three years. His last one was against the Giants on September 16, 2015. His rookie year in the majors was the only year he pitched out of the rotation, making 21 starts and compiling a 5.45 ERA. He averaged right at five innings per outing but had an alarming 1.42 strikeouts per walk (78 Ks to 55 BBs). Granted, it was his first venture into the starting rotation, and most Reds fans think he has earned another shot, but the numbers do not support the revisionist history that some have ascribed to Lorenzen being a rotation stalwart. As we’ve said many times this year, though, let’s put him out there and see what he has.
His opponent on the mound will be Chase Anderson. The man thought by most to be the Milwaukee ace (except when Jimmy Nelson is healthy) has a 9-7 record with a 3.85 ERA. He’s not pitched more than five innings in any start this month, but he also hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of those starts. Back on August 20th, he held the Reds to two runs on two hits (both home runs) in six innings enroute to his fifth win of the year. He is 5-1 in his career against Cincinnati.
Matt Harvey (7-8, 4.67) will look to continue the success he had in his last outing, and maybe get his record back to .500, in the series finale. He’s 1-2 in five-career starts against the Brew Crew, with a 5.26 ERA. His last outing, a memorable game of 2018 for both the Reds and the Brewers, he allowed five runs on 11 hits in four innings.
Opposite him will be future-Red (hopefully, maybe) Gio Gonzalez (8-11, 4.44). In two starts, as a Brewer, he is 1-0, having allowed three earned runs in 10.1 innings of work. In his last start, he got a no-decision, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing the three runs, against the Pirates.
Locked on Reds will keep you covered during the doldrums of September baseball. Check out @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter for your Reds social media fix.
The 2018 Reds Will Miss the 2018 Dodgers
The Cincinnati Reds (63-84) dropped the series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers (79-67) by an 8-1 score, Wednesday afternoon at Great American Ballpark.
Anthony DeSclafani (7-5, 4.80 ERA) failed to pitch at least five innings for the third-straight start. The Dodgers touched him up for six runs on five hits and three walks. Disco actually got out to a roaring start, retiring LA in order the first time through the lineup. It unraveled the second time around, however, following a Joc Pederson home run. He changed his strategy, trying to hit the corners, but failed, leading to multiple at-bats where the hitter was ahead. LA strung together hit after hit, leading to Disco getting pulled with two outs in the fifth.
Jose Peraza provided the lone fireworks for the Reds lineup with a first inning solo shot, his 11th of the year. Billy Hamilton added a double and a triple, but was stranded at third, both times, as the Reds gave the Dodgers free pizza (aka, the Reds struck out 11 times).
Scooter Gennett managed one hit in four tries, keeping his season batting average at .321.
The Reds finish 6-and-1 against the Dodgers in 2018. They have never gone an entire year undefeated against LA, so a win on Wednesday would have been historic, but all things considered, Cincinnati liked its matchups with their old NL West rivals. They hit .280, as a team, against the Dodgers, with 34 runs scored to go along with a team ERA of 3.14. The Reds racked up 63 strikeouts in the 63 innings pitched against the Dodgers.
Scooter will personally miss the LA pitching staff as he compiled 16 hits (.727 batting average) in five games played. He also had two homers and 10 RBI.
Also of note, all three former Dodgers (Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, and Brandon Dixon) homered in the season series against their old team. Schebler even had a pair of dingers.
Luis Castillo dominated the pitching performances for the Reds in this season series. He started a pair of games, pitching 12.1 innings, and compiled 17 strikeouts. He won both his starts, allowing just nine total base runners (though they got at him with three homers).
The Redlegs hit the road again with an off day, Thursday. They will play a weekend series against the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs. We’ll see if they can play spoiler as the Cubs lead is razor-thin over Milwaukee.
Keep your eye on @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter!