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:
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.
For as long as the Reds roster is what it is:
- Schebler (Peraza on Schebler off-days)
- Winker or Duvall
- Peraza (or an OF)
Opening Day 2019:
- Schebler (CF)
- Peraza (SS)
- Votto (1B)
- Gennett (LF)
- Suarez (3B)
- Senzel (2B)
- Winker (RF)
- 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:
- Schebler (RF)
- Peraza (SS)
- Votto (1B)
- Suarez (3B)
- Senzel (2B)
- Winker (LF)
- Barhart (C)
- 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.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.
The Cincinnati Reds Optimal Lineup
Let’s look past the Opening Day Lineup to the lineup the Cincinnati Reds could have, if everything is going right.
There will be many things said/written about the Opening Day Lineup and what that should like for the Cincinnati Reds. With the first full team workout happening Monday, let’s take a look at what the lineup should look like if things are going well for the Reds, this season. I’m going to exclude positions for this experiment and you’ll see why.
- Shogo Akiyama – Ideally, Shogo will be getting on base much closer to the clip he posted in September than the one he did in August of last year. If he does this, he will be producing what the Reds hoped he would when they made him the first Japanese-born Cincinnati Red.
- Jesse Winker – He broke out in a big way in 2020 and was the Reds best hitter. There’s no reason to think that won’t, at the very least, continue and probably will even get better.
- Eugenio Suarez – He should be the Reds best hitter and I believe he will regain that title in 2021.
- Mike Moustakas – Moose has always been a run driver-inner and, if things are going well he will continue to do so.
- Nick Castellanos – he could be the third hitter, but it would be an amazing season, indeed, if he gets on-base at a higher clip than Geno.
- Joey Votto – this isn’t meant to be an insult, just realistic. I’ve seen and heard takes putting him in the three-spot. That’s a great idea in 2017. Now, any power should be considered a bonus with the main expectation of him being an on-base catalyst for the bottom of the lineup/turning over of the lineup.
- Nick Senzel – him being down here is more a hope that the top six indeed prove worthy to be top six. This is also hoping he’s healthy enough to play everyday, or almost everyday, and build up enough momentum to produce at the level he is capable of. Also, the not labelling defensive position thing is because he should be in the running as a shortstop option, but it sure feels like that’s not the case. Before you say, “Jeff, he’s not a shortstop…” who on this roster is? Get the best eight (nine if the NL miraculously gets the DH) in the lineup and worry about defense later. That’s pretty much how this roster is built, anyway.
- Tyler Stephenson – in a few years, he should be hitting in the middle of the order. In 2021, let’s keep the pressure on low and watch him thrive in the box.
- Pitcher (again, we’ll reassess if the players and owners ever get together and figure this out before the season begins, but we aren’t holding our breath).
This lineup could be pretty good…maybe. As fans we can hope, the folks who run the Reds should not lean on that. The lineup I propose should only be if each player is performing to the level that is expected of him. More than likely, this lineup will not happen, because it is doubtful every single bat bounces back in 2021.