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Looking ahead to a future Reds lineup

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Even with his shortcomings and his team's shortcomings, Billy Hamilton and the Reds are playing and managing hard to win. That's a good sign.

Summer can get a little boring. So what do Reds junkies do with their spare time?

We think too much. We rant to ourselves when no one else in our household cares. We obsess on Twitter. Some of us write. One thing we all do is watch the Reds play and think about future lineups.

Here’s where my brain has been rambling recently about the future lineup:

Number numbness

We’ve all read and heard lots of ideas and seen faulty and questionable reasoning. Our individual criteria are almost as numerous as the columns of numbers on Fangraphs. Some people live in that black hole. Some don’t even know what Fangraphs is.

I’m willing to bet that whether you determine your version of next year’s opening day lineup using the eye test and traditional stats or by using the voluminous metrics of Fangraphs, you will come up with the same answer. Your prejudices will surface.

The advanced metrics are useful, should not be ignored and the Reds should use them in their decision-making. But baseball is too complex to make it that simple. I know, there’s nothing simple about all of those metrics, but to focus solely on them is as simple-minded as ignoring them.

Numbers were used to explain away the idea that Scooter Gennett couldn’t possibly repeat his 2017 season. I wondered the same thing, but he’s exceeding it.

Numbers by the end of April said Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton couldn’t possibly contribute anything positive this season. If this recent surge by the Reds has proven anything, it’s proven that those two players have something to offer to the Reds and perhaps a trade partner.

I’ve heard it’s all about sample size. Define what that number should be. It will be as arbitrary as 100 pitches.

The goal is still to win

The Reds are transitioning from rebuild to build, which means it’s time to get serious about winning. Major-leaguers have worked too hard to not play in an atmosphere that does not value winning no matter what the standings say.

Learning how to win is an abstract concept, but when it exists you know it. Knowing how to win involves confidence in yourself, your teammates, your manager, your coaches and your front office. The Reds will have some down periods during the second half of the season, but the winning mentality exists again.

Jim Riggleman deserves some of that credit. Whether you agree with all of his lineups, pitching changes, double switches, etc., it is clear he is managing to win. He’s not in minor-league development mode anymore. The players have noticed and responded. They feel like they’re playing for today, not just the future.

Fact is, Duvall and Hamilton are playing well right now. They have been just as likely during this stretch to get the big hit or save a run as anyone else on this team. If you don’t like the double switches, then root for an American League team. This is what you get without a DH.

I don’t know if this is Riggleman’s intention or not, but his liberal use of the double switch has resulted on fewer complete off days for the outfielders and the backup infielders. The four-man outfield rotation made it difficult for them to find a groove. Now that they are getting more regular at-bats, they are producing more. I’m a DH guy, but for now long live the double switch. It’s helping this team win.

The Reds’ minor-league system has long been criticized for being so focused on development that it does nothing to develop winning attitudes and habits. This stuff matters. Players are not just numbers-generating robots. The Reds have a good managerial prospect in Dayton right now. Luis Bolivar, who never got to the majors, manages to win as best he can with the players he has within in the parameters the Reds set. Winning is part of development.

So Duvall and Hamilton will continue to play as long as they are on the roster because they are helping this team win.

Lineup ideas

For as long as the Reds roster is what it is:

  1. Schebler (Peraza on Schebler off-days)
  2. Votto
  3. Gennett
  4. Suarez
  5. Winker or Duvall
  6. Barnhart
  7. Peraza (or an OF)
  8. Hamilton

Opening Day 2019:

  1. Schebler (CF)
  2. Peraza (SS)
  3. Votto (1B)
  4. Gennett (LF)
  5. Suarez (3B)
  6. Senzel (2B)
  7. Winker (RF)
  8. Barnhart (C)

Pick it all apart. Give me your ideas.

In short, I like what Schebler has done leading off. Peraza is getting better and the OBP will too.

I expect a more settled lineup next year and a commitment to Nick Senzel. Duvall will be traded. Hamilton might go too, but keeping him as the No. 4 outfielder isn’t a bad idea.

This 2019 lineup is appealing on offense. The infield is appealing on defense. The outfield defense will be the weakness, which isn’t great for a young pitching staff. Barring new and experienced faces, this is the best the Reds can do.

As far as the starting rotation goes, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano and Luis Castillo should stay in the rotation the rest of this season no matter what. With that experience and Anthony DeSclafani finding his old form, that will be the most experienced first four the Reds will have started the season with in what feels like more years than it actually is.

Now is not the time to worry who No. 5 will be. If that’s the only unknown next spring, that will be a good thing.

And just in case the Reds trade Gennett and Duvall:

  1. Schebler (RF)
  2. Peraza (SS)
  3. Votto (1B)
  4. Suarez (3B)
  5. Senzel (2B)
  6. Winker (LF)
  7. Barhart (C)
  8. Hamilton (CF)

This makes good sense. Senzel’s bat replaces Gennett’s bat and the outfield defense is much stronger. It also assumes Winker, Peraza and Schebler will continue to improve. This is my favorite lineup.

At least for now.

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Cincinnati Reds

Remembering Reds: Corky Miller

Among the Reds’ fan favorites is a man not known for his statistical achievements, but for simply how awesome he was.

Clay Snowden

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Morgan, Bench, Robinson, Larkin, and Miller. All names that Reds fans recog…wait, Miller? As in Corky Miller? Absolutely. Corky Miller, the minor league catcher with 539 career MLB at bats. The Miller that holds a career .193/.277/.306 53 OPS+ and a 0.0 WAR, yet everyone knows his name. And adores him. His stats won’t jump off the page, but his laid back attitude and fu Manchu leave a mark on your memory.
Signed by the Reds in 1998, Miller did not reach the show until 2001. In his 11 year career spanning from 2001-2013 (didn’t appear in 2011/2012) Miller never played more than 39 games in one season. So how did he become a household name? Well, probably because he looks more like your fun uncle than your favorite team’s catcher. Now don’t get me wrong, Corky brought value to the teams he was on. He was as much as a coach/mentor as he was a ballplayer. You will still find him in the Reds organization helping the young catchers develop. Let’s take a look at some of Corky’s highlights.

Corky steals home

https://m.facebook.com/watch/?v=1802290979915796

When you think about baseball players stealing home you might immediately think about the great Jackie Robinson sliding in against the Yankees as Yogi Berra losses his mind at the “safe” call. Hell, you might even think about Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez pulling off the impossible feat in the last scene of the Sandlot. Well, Corky Miller joined this elite group on September 27th, 2001. As Omar Daal of the Phillies threw to first Miller showed off his wheels as his much slimmer self had a perfect slide under the tag. Miller walked back to the dugout as if he’s done this 1,000 times. Incredible swagger.

The Dancing KING

Fast forward to late June 2013. Miller finds himself back in a Reds uniform for the first time since 2010. Looking more like the Corky we know and love, sporting the fu Manchu, Miller shows off his quick footwork. Juan Uribe flies out to Jay Bruce who’s throw home took Corky off to the left of home. Hanley Ramirez, not the best baserunner himself, runs past home, retreats, dances around the grounded Miller only to be tagged on the third attempt while flailing towards home. This is so ugly that it is absolutely beautiful.

The Next Cy Young

Corky was more than a catcher and fan favorite. He was an elite pitcher. Well, maybe not elite. Over his career in the minors he pitched 7.2 innings and surrendered 14 hits, 13 earned runs and struck out 2. But in 2012 while playing for the Louisville Bats he pitched a scoreless inning. Down 13-0 in the bottom of the 8th, Miller came in to throw some rainbows in the general direction of home plate. A fly out to left, a pop out to first, and a fly out to right Miller put down the Columbus batters in order.

While his career might not stand out, Miller’s impact has. One of the beloved players in the clubhouse, he has mentored many young catchers along the way. Here’s to many more great years to Corky!

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Cincinnati Reds

How a Shortened Season can Help and Hurt the Reds

step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.

Clay Snowden

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The world is in an obscure and unsure place. Today we were supposed to be watching a parade and cheering on the Redlegs. Instead, we are confused about the future of the 2020 season as we watch the 7th straight episode of a Netflix series, perfecting social distancing. How the 2020 season will be played has yet to be determined. I want to take a step back and attempt to look at the way the Reds can benefit from a possible shortened season and how it could hurt them.

Each day that passes without baseball is a day closer to a season without 162 games. For the sake of argument, let’s say the season is somewhere between 75-100 games. What ways can that benefit the Reds?

1. They can get healthy. Suarez, Senzel, and Galvis (amongst others) have battled some spring injuries. Extra time off only helps their recovery and could lead to a 100% healthy “Opening Day” lineup. Although Galvis is not a top ten talent at short, he is much better than the current back up options. Luckily, he should be ready to go and 100%.

2. The rotation can be a great strength. We all know how strong the current rotation is. The Reds could adjust the strategy because you won’t be worried about getting starters 32 starts and 200ish innings. With a compact season, you could let starters go deeper in games, or even go to a shorter rotation because you won’t be trying to strength out the innings over several months. Bauer and Disco are both on contract years and will be laser-focused on making the most of their fewer starts to prove their value come next offseason. If the league goes heavy on doubleheaders, Mahle and a few others could step up into the expanded rotation and stronger than many team’s depth starters.

3. How a shorten season benefits Votto? As Joey ages, he will need more days off, especially if the decline is steady. If Joey does not have to prepare himself for 162 games, it could lead to better results as he would be fresher. We all know he can get off to slow starts and avoiding that would be crucial in a shortened season.

How can the shortened season hurt the Reds?

1. David Bell is still a new manager. Fresh, unproven, inexperienced. At times in 2019, he cost the Reds some games. There is little to no margin for error in a short season. Each game means more and the lineup experimenting with playing players out of position won’t fly. Managerial experience will be extremely important in 2020 and hopefully Bell has improved after year one.

2. Lack of important experience for prospects. Tyler Stephenson, Jose Garcia, Jonathan India, and many other prospects are missing out on developmental time. This one really stings. A couple of the Reds top prospects are projected to be on the 2021 roster but needed some time in higher levels of the minors to learn and iron out a few things. You can train and work with coaches during this time, but the actual game experience cannot be overlooked.

3. Pressure. Obviously, every game counts each season. But a shortened season stresses the importance of each game. The Reds cannot afford to go on a losing streak as they did at the beginning of 2019. The expectations for 2020 remain high, and the pressure to perform is building. The adjustment to the MLB for Shogo must happen fast. Senzel has to stay healthy. The margin of error shrinks and pressure goes up. Iglesias cannot struggle to close out games or he’ll be replaced.

The 2020 season won’t be ideal. No one wants it to be this way. Watching 162 games a year is a joy and I will miss the routine of watching the Reds every night. Let’s hope this shortened season feels and plays like a playoff series where every aspect of the game is emphasized and more important. Here’s to everyone staying safe and healthy, and the Reds winning the pennant.

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Cincinnati Reds

March Mailbag

Take a look at a few thoughts before we get this 2020 season underway!

Clay Snowden

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

What is this team’s greatest weakness and how do they go about addressing it? (@GeraldSHuber)

To me, it has to be defense. (Here’s an article I wrote about it: https://bit.ly/2wft1Bs ). Tucker and Casali are fine but not spectacular, Votto is mediocre, Moose is an unknown, and the outfield defense leaves you wanting more. Galvis is great at short, but many others could be troublesome. If defense is your greatest weakness, you probably have a pretty good team.

How many years until we see Jose Garcia? (@smoffe87)

Everyone’s new favorite prospect, and he should be. The future is bright. Garcia has yet to reach AA, where he’ll likely start this season. In high A Daytona he hit .280/.343/.436 with 8 HR and 37 (!) doubles. No need to rush the 21-year-old, but he likely is the SS in 2021 if all goes according to plan. The lack of depth at SS could rush him if injuries happen or he hits the cover off the ball.

Who will lead off? What do they do with Schebler, Reed, Mahle, and other players without options? (@StachlerJames)

Shogo Akiyama should see time as the leadoff. A career .376 OBP who has been closer to .400 in recent years (NPB league) has a chance to be a real difference maker.

Schebler, I think, will end up being traded or DFA. Reed has a tough first start, but its early and he looked great in limited time last season. Another lefty in the pen not named Peralta or Duke is welcomed. Mahle has an option and likely is headed to Louisville to get regular starts. The Reds will likely need him to start at some point during the season. Sims likely earns a pen spot, Travis Jankowski could be the final spot if injuries occur. His speed and defense are useful.

Is Senzel going to be a utility player or end up getting traded? (@GerryYnciarte65)

Being a super utility is not a bad thing. Ben Zobrist was a hell of a player in that role. However, I think Senzel will be seeing plenty of time in CF splitting with Akiyama. His bat is too good to be a true bench player. I don’t think he will be traded. It feels like he would have already been moved if that was the plan.

 

If Tucker or Casali get hurt do they let Farmer catch or Stephenson? (@OdeToRedsWS)

Catcher organizational depth is lacking. Stephenson could be the option if he is hitting well in AAA Louisville. I think we see him at some point this season. Only other catcher in the organization with MLB experience besides Casali and Tucker is Francisco Pena (190 AB .216/.249/.311). His stats are underwhelming at the plate but he’s a veteran and that carries value. Sadly, I doubt we see former Red great Ryan Lavarnway in 2020. Add Garcia and Stephenson to this lineup in 2021 and that team is very strong.

 

Over/Under….When do the Reds give up on the mix-n-match platoon ideas and have a regular lineup? Line is May 31st. (MTGPackFoils)  

The days of the “same lineup everyday” are gone. And they should be. Putting out the same lineup doesn’t always mean the results will follow. Some players hit lefties but not righties and some hit righties and not lefties. Play the best players for each situation. Platooning can lead to the best results at times. So OVER. (More on that here: https://bit.ly/38cbCXD)

 

What are your thoughts on Shogo playing mostly center or left, if Senzel is healthy? (@Win1SuperBowl)

As it stands today, the outfield is crowded. It will play itself out. Akiyama can play all three OF positions and I could see him getting at-bats in the corner OF when Senzel is in CF. There’s true competition for at-bats this season and that’s absolutely a good thing. Players will have to earn their playing time.

Who is the backup SS? (@GebzillaG)

Kyle Famer. He ‘s such a unique player who can play all over the field. He was a college SS and has worked their early this spring. Across all levels he’s seen 76 innings at SS and hasn’t recorded and error. Blandino could also be the back up SS. Blandino has 60.2 innings at short in the MLB and is a .941 fielder there. 1692 innings at short in the minors with a .951 fielding %.

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