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Cincinnati Reds

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

Reds Lose and Bunting Stinks

Jeffery Carr

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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
Empty 0.461 0.243 0.095
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!

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Cincinnati Reds

Catching You Up on the Reds

Jeffery Carr

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© Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Monday

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:

Rk Date Opp Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA Pit Str IBB GDP ROE
14 Aug 23 CHC L(6-4) 6.0 8 5 4 1 5 2 0 4.26 87 58 0 0 1
15 Aug 28 MIL W(7-4) 6.2 7 4 4 1 6 1 0 4.34 98 71 0 0 0
16 Sep 2 STL 3.2 5 2 2 2 4 0 1 4.37 72 42 0 0 0
17 Sep 7 SDP 4.0 8 4 4 0 3 1 0 4.56 64 42 0 1 0
18 Sep 12 LAD L(7-5) 4.2 5 6 5 3 5 1 0 4.80 89 54 1 0 0

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

The 2018 Reds Will Miss the 2018 Dodgers

Jeffery Carr

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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!

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