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Cincinnati Reds

It really does matter who the next Reds manager is

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Jim Riggleman has had a positive effect on the Reds, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily the man for next season.

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

LET’S GO REDS COUNTRY!

Now, in almost-March, we are looking forward to the 2019 season like a kid would the start of the summer.

Dave Pemberton

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This time last season I was praying for a sub par 77 win season from the Reds. By the time April had ended I was praying for the 2018 Cincinnati Reds not to go down in history as THE worst in franchise history. My group of friends and I decided to get a 20 game package last year and it was almost comical that they lost the first 8 games we attended. Besides the bit of offensive excitement this team showed in June and July, and solid bullpen performance throughout the year, it was a forgetful season. I think what worried me most was the discussion my friends and I had at the last home game of the season. Wasn’t this supposed to be the last year of “The Rebuild?” What did we have to look forward to in 2019? Besides that, how in the heck was this franchise going to be competitive with an almost stagnant front office making no moves.

Friday evening, December 21st, I was standing in line with my wife and kids, getting ready to see Santa Clause, when I received a text from a friend. No joke, I thought it was some edited photo. Just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating I had my wife read what was in the photo. “Cincinnati Reds add Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood in trade with Los Angeles Dodgers”. Never in a million years would I think that trade was a possibility. Then I thought I was really hallucinating when I saw was all the Dodgers got in return was Homer Bailey and a little known prospect. These aren’t some mediocre players, these are All-Star caliber guys that make you want to come to the ballpark, or at least tune in, every night to see what happens next. Puig has not even played a game in a Reds uniform yet but somehow managed to ignite Reds Country this offseason with his media blitz.  Dick Williams and Nick Krall are now clearly in control of the front office. Many articles had stated Castellini had decided to step aside of being involved in personnel moves this offseason. This 180 degree turn has proved to be almost magical for this franchise. The Reds were the talk of the offseason finding themselves associated with nearly any and all trade rumors and free agents. Williams and Krall were able to add Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray (with a contract extension at a team friendly deal) to the starting staff. They were able to acquire all of this new, exciting talent while holding on to their most valuable prospects in Senzel, Trammell, Greene, and India. These are the type of moves you try to make in a video game and the game rejects the offers because they are so absurd. They did so by not adding a ton of payroll to this team for the long term as well. Meaning in 2020 they Reds can still go out and spend some dough. Williams and Krall have made the 2019 offseason like some exciting Netflix series where you want to see what will happen next.

When I set my expectation for any of the teams I root for I try to be realistic instead of optimistic. This is the stark reality that comes with being a Cincinnati sports fan right now. I think the Reds go 81-81 for the 2019 season. I do feel if anything I am selling this team short with that expectation. Puig, Kemp, Wood, Roark and even Scooter are all in contract seasons. You see it all the time in nearly every major professional sport. When the opportunity to earn that big paycheck comes those players somehow magically turn out one of the best seasons of their careers. Winker back to full health for the first time in his entire professional career. Senzel if given the opportunity could become a Rookie of the Year candidate. Add to the mix you have Votto poised for a huge comeback season and a lineup that no team can pitch around, now. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation that everyone, but maybe Barnhart, could potentially bat above .275 in the regular starting lineup. The bullpen, the one solid performer last year, comes back largely intact with even more depth. You add to that several young pitchers trying to make a name for themselves in what could be some their final opportunities (Stephenson, Finnegan, Disco, Reed, Mahle, Ramano, and Castillo). Plus, perhaps the biggest turn around, our starting rotation comprised of solid veterans and young guys on the cusp of catching there breakout seasons. No longer will this be a copy and paste rotation that changes almost entirely every couple of weeks with an ace that unhealthy and unmotivated.  I truly don’t think its a far reach to see this team as serious contenders in the playoff race come the end of September.

The conversation we had with our group of season ticket holders aka #RoughneckReds completely changed. In September we were looking forward to the 2019 season like getting your tags on your car renewed at the BMV. Now, in almost-March, we are looking forward to the 2019 season like a kid would the start of the summer. We can’t wait for it to start and hope to enjoy every minute of it. Until then I will continue to enjoy every second of the most exciting offseason in my lifetime. The Reds might not be done just yet making this team a contender for 2019. I cannot wait to see all you beautiful Reds fans down at the Findlay Market Parade, The Banks, and finally the ballpark. LET’S GO REDS COUNTRY!!!

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Cincinnati Reds

Which Non-Roster Players to Watch

The Cincinnati Reds will play their first spring training game of 2019 this Saturday. While there are stories and discussion such as Nick Senzel’s usage this year and who will be the opening day starter, I wanted to break down the non-roster invitees.

Clay Snowden

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© Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds will play their first spring training game of 2019 this Saturday. While there are stories and discussion such as Nick Senzel’s usage this year and who will be the opening day starter, I wanted to break down the non-roster invitees.
A spring training non-roster invite list usually is constructed of veterans that are trying for one last push to make an MLB roster or are trying to prove themselves coming off of an injury. It also includes promising young players who have high upside but have not been added to the 40 man roster. As of today, the invite list looks like this:

Pitchers:
Anthony Bass
Buddy Boshers
Oldrisamer Despaigne
Vladimir Gutierrez
Felix Jorge
Ian Krol
Alex Powers
Tony Santillan

Catchers:
Juan Graterol
Chris Okey
Tyler Stephenson

Infielders:
Christian Colon
Alfredo Rodriguez
Nick Senzel
Derek Dietrich

Outfield:
Aristides Aquino
TJ Friedl
Brian O’Grady
Jordan Patterson
Taylor Trammell
Mason Williams
Kyle Wren

The average fan is probably asking themselves….who? The group of pitchers is headlined by Tony Santillan who has landed in the back half (69 Baseball America) of some “MLB Top 100 Prospects” list. He won the Reds minor league pitcher of the year last year while playing in AA Pensacola. I would be very surprised to see him on the opening day roster, but he is a guy you should watch in spring and follow throughout the year. Vladimir Gutierrez and Alex Powers are both young players with upside. Boshers and Krol both have MLB experience and are lefties but with the recent Zack Duke signing and having Finnegan, Peralta, Reed, and Garrett all on the roster it is unlikely to see Boshers or Krol make the team.
The catchers have two players that the Reds have selected early in recent drafts with Chris Okey (2nd round, 2016) and Tyler Stephenson (1st round, 2015). Okey has struggled so far batting a mere .200 but is still developing. Stephenson’s career was plagued with injuries early on, but in 2018 he showed some promise batting .250 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI. At only 22, the young catcher will be in the minors this season but could be a promising part of the Reds future.
The infield has a name you will know; Nick Senzel. He is listed as an infielder but will be getting a shot to prove himself as the centerfielder of the Reds. Several things will have to happen for him to start on opening day. The Reds have some difficult decisions to make about his team control, a roster spot opening, and if he needs more time in centerfield. Dietrich was signed to a minor league contract but could make the team out of spring training. A veteran lefty bat that has played over 50 innings at 1B, 3B, LF, and 2B brings tremendous value to a team that could be carrying more pitchers than years past.
The outfield is crowded, and I do not see any of the non-roster guys making the team on opening day. You might recognize some names such as Mason Williams and Aristides Aquino (who both had at-bats with the Reds last year) but the name to know is Taylor Trammell. Drafted 35th overall in 2016 and has climbed the prospect rankings into the top 50. It was rumored that teams were trying to get him in the blockbuster trades this summer, but the Reds refused to include him. He likely won’t be in Cincinnati this year but remains a big piece of the future.

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Cincinnati Reds

Weekend Thoughts – Pitchers and Catchers

Jeff

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There isn’t a podcast over the weekends, but that doesn’t mean the Reds stop. This will be a weekly-weened column following Reds stuff, thinking about the Reds, and talking about the Reds. Just in case you need more reds.

Projections are upon us, with two really standing out. Fangraphs and PECOTA both have nice increases predicted for Cincinnati, as a reward for their diligent effort to rebuild in a hurry. Fangraphs says they’ll finish with as many wins as losses while PECOTA thinks they’ll be one win better, at 82-80. This is an awesome time of year…that we Reds fans have been robbed of the last four years. Sure, there were whispers of success right before spring training in each of those seasons, but most all of us knew it would be a long season ahead. Now we can actually begin to think of a chance at contention. When the typical thought for the Reds season is they will finish at the .500 line, then its not hard to imagine a little luck happening, and one or two cases of lightning in a bottle, then they’re right in the thick of Wild Card contention. Seriously, this is a possibility!

With this week just looking at pitchers and catchers, there will be a lot of the podcast dedicated to that subject. Just as a lead-in, though. Obviously, the biggest question will be who the Opening Day starter is. Probably question 1-B is who is the fifth starter. That question has a bit more light shed on it, with Anthony DeSclafani as the odds-on favorite. Still, someone could emerge. On the Opening Day starter idea, I think it’s a three-horse race between Alex Wood, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray. I do not have any idea who the favorite is there. As of right now, gun to my head, I’d pick Castillo. Definitely not putting money on it, though.

The other part of this week, catchers, got a little interesting over the last few weeks with the idea of J.T. Realmuto possibly coming here. Then Philadelphia snatched him up. Here’s the thing, that’s ok. Tucker Barnhart is a steady presence behind the plate and a streaky producer at the bat. His backup, Curt Casali, is a solid bat and newcomer Kyle Farmer is a versatile utility player with catching experience. They’re deep there. Do not confuse their interest in Realmuto with the idea that they were weak at the backstop. They just had an opportunity to turn something solid into something great. Here’s another thought that I haven’t seen much chatter on. I think one of the reasons the Reds didn’t go past offering Jonathan India is they feel good about Tyler Stephenson and his development. Sure, to have the best catcher, arguably, would be nice, but they have an abundance of backstops with a young gun coming up.

Pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday, in Goodyear. Enjoy your weekend, see you on Monday!

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