On April 1, 2019, the Cincinnati Reds posted there worst attendance in GABP history of 7,799. This comes only days after setting an Opening Day attendance record. The 2018 Cincinnati Reds posted the worst yearly attendance since 1984. MLB as a whole saw a 4.19% drop in attendance, according to Forbes, which is the largest drop since 2002. What is causing this drop in attendance for the Reds in particular?
For starters, bad baseball. The Reds have not made the playoffs since 2013. Even more sadly the last time they advanced just one round in the playoffs was 1995. From 2015-2018 we have been trapped in the funk of losing 90 games a year. Most bandwagon fans going into last season could only tell you who Votto, Hamilton, and Bailey were because they were on the team the last time they made the playoffs. The word “Rebuild” was just code for losing to most fans. Again this is another problem that’s not just effecting the Reds but Major League baseball. What’s the point in investing time and money in a team you already know will lose close to 100 games a season? This has created a huge disparity in the game of baseball. Teams like the Rays who have a $59.9 million payroll are supposed to seriously compete with a team like the Red Sox who have a $222.7 million payroll. Many teams are simply the farm systems for the bigger fish.
Another thought is baseball is too tedious and time consuming. Between the pitching changes, commercials, mound visits, batter timeouts, and replays there is alot of dead air during the game. For many, especially children, this loses there attention. Games last nearly 3 hours exactly. Since many of these games start at after 7 o’clock most are ending after 10. Many people are already in bed or asleep by that time because they have to be ready for work the next day. I will say the MLB is trying to make strides in improving this with pitch clocks, limited mound visits, and next year a pitcher having to face a minimum 3 batters in one inning. Baseball is 162 games a year, plus spring training, plus the playoffs. It’s the last longer than any other major sport season. And yet the MLB has the smallest amount of teams that make the playoffs at a total of 10. Most people won’t follow their team once they know they’re out of playoff contention. This means for many fans the second half of the season is a complete wash since you know your team is not playing for anything.
Still another idea is the cost for concessions is outrageous. A friend of mine on Opening Day got 2 16oz Bud Lights and 4 Cheese Coneys for a whopping 55 bucks. I could get that from Skyline and my local gas station for under 15 bucks. If you bring a family you might as well forget trying to feed them at the ballpark.
The final problem is kids are not following baseball as much as they used too. For many it goes back to the attention span being too short to follow baseball. Others it’s their parents cannot afford to take them to a game on the regular because of the cost. The MLB doesn’t really do a good job of marketing their stars as much either. Mike Trout stands the possibility of being the greatest player in the history of baseball. The player from my generation who was sold to be like that was Ken Griffey Jr. He had his own shoes, batting gloves, swing tool, cleats, clothing, logo, video game, all styled after him. Trout and others do not even come close to that kind of marketing.
There are ways to fix these problems in several simple ways.
- Establish a Salary Cap- Slowly implemented over time so the rich teams can get their books in order. And the poor teams can establish who their big investment players will be. This should help to fix the disparity and prevent a large portion of the league from losing 90 games, or more. This should also help to prevent the teams with deep pockets from outbidding all the small markets. Allowing superstars to flourish everywhere instead of just Boston, Chicago, New York and LA.
- Pitch Clock in Between Pitches- They are already doing this in the minors. I believe this shortening the length of games is the only thing the MLB is seriously addressing.
- Starting Games at 640p during the week- The Reds have started doing this. I could not be happier. It makes it easier to attend a game right after work for many people. More importantly, it makes it easier to enjoy the game a little more without feeling the need to leave the game early as much.
- Expanding the Playoffs to Add Another Round and Wild Card Team- The MLB playoff bracket would look like the NFL bracket except one additional wild card team in a best of 3 first round series. In doing so this may involve shortening the regular season back to 152 games. However, I feel this is a sacrifice many fans, players, and owners would be willing to make if it meant there team possibly making the playoffs every year.
- Lowering the Cost of Concessions- Several NFL teams including the Falcons and Ravens have done this. There is no excuse not to. It ultimately led to increased sales for them. I guarantee it would pay off dividends for any MLB team willing to do so. That way I can afford the FryBox on a regular basis that Jeff keeps talking about on the podcast.
- Free attendance for kids 10 yrs or younger to select games- The Orioles did this last year. I think this is a no brainier idea. You bring a kid to a free game there parents are more likely to spend more money at the game. The kid is able to get a souvenir, appearal, or food. That’s an experience the kid remembers for life. Your more likely to get them interested in baseball. Long term you help to establish fans at a young age for life.
I don’t want to see a generation of fans lost to the Cincinnati Reds. The latest generation of kids still haven’t seen success from the Reds like many of us have from the Big Red Machine of the 1970’s to the 1990 Wire to Wire team. I am just going to chalk up this embarrassing record breaking night to bad weather.
What Should We Expect Out of The Rotation? Part Three – Tanner Roark
Eight games. Seven innings. Nineteen earned runs. Earned run average of 13.50. Twelve walks. An ERA+ of 18 (An ERA+ of 100 is league average, so yeah).
Thirty Games. One hundred-thirty innings. Eighty seven earned runs. Fifty walks. Earned run average of 4.34. An ERA+ of 97.
A simple question: Who would you rather take?
Of course there are other factors to consider before making such a hasty pick, but do so anyway. For one, the sample size of both players are extremely different. Player A: has only seen seven innings of big league ball, so while we can get a picture of what his future career might look like, it’s an educated guess. Player B: on the other hand will be entering his seventh season, and you can except the level of performance in a player by that point. While money, future projections, and use of roster spots all had a hand to play in this deal, just looking at in in a vacuum, one could say the Reds came out with some value, as they went with player B, or Tanner Roark, over player A, Tanner Rainey.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the intangibles or the personalities or the millions of other traits of a player, we forget the statistics. Tanner Roark has never been a household name in the sport, but he’s done his job effectively and consistently, which makes me optimistic to have him on this rotation in dire need of such players.
Tanner Roark spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals as a back end of rotations featuring star pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez; and has had a lot of success doing so. He has compiled a 3.59 ERA to go alongside a 17.5 bWAR in his time in D.C. Just looking at those stats are a sight for sore eyes for Reds fans. His 2.9 bWAR he managed to produce last year is about half the value the entire starting rotation managed to put together (6.1 bWAR).
When you really dig deep into it, you wonder how this trade went under the radar, because the Reds were able to steal a quality starter out of the Nats for nothing more than a fire-balling reliever who can’t find the strike zone quite nearly enough to be effective.
If one word could describe Roark’s game, it would be consistent. Nothing he does is really flashy, or is going to lead the league in any categories, but he’s going to get the job done. It probably is why he’s been so “low key” in his career for a guy who is nearing a 20 bWAR career; add in the fact that he’s also been in the shadow of the previously mentioned pitchers, you can see why he hasn’t made any national attention. In his 6 years of pitching, his highest season ERA was back in 2017 when it hit 4.67, which is still about league average. Essentially what we’re getting to, is at his worst, Tanner Roark is a cheaper Matt Harvey. Which is who Reds fans were clamoring to resign anyway.
Digging a little deeper into the stats, his ground ball percentage is average at 45% , his home run percentage is just as normal at around 11% , except in his four starts this year, it clocks in at 5%. Be on the lookout for a spike in homers soon, as pitching in GABP isn’t so healthy for those kind of stats. Back to the digging, his K to BB rate is standard among pitchers, you know what, I think you get the point here. He’s basically your run of the mill above average pitcher, which contrary to what you might think, is really valuable, ESPECIALLY to this team. If you put five Tanner Roark’s on last years team, it would be hard not to make a case for the playoffs, or at least contention for Pete’s sake with the way they were able to score runs last year.
Now that the season has started, we are able to get a small portion size of perhaps is what to come of Roark. He’s had some, dare I say it, GREAT SUCCESS in the early goings, posting a 3.6 ERA in 20 innings across 4 starts this year. Perhaps the only fault you could point out is his inability to pitch effectively enough to get deeper into ballgames. He’s never pitched more than 5.1 innings so far in a game. If that’s the only concern with my number 4 starter however, it’s a good problem to have. This team is equipped with the bullpen numbers right now, insisting on carrying 8 members up to this point, and all (except Zach Duke) have been pretty effective.
If Tanner Roark can keep this stretch of baseball going forward, bright days are ahead this season. (Just please score some runs)
The Sound of Losing
Almost every bit of news coming from the Cincinnati Reds is overshadowed by the sound of losing. Here are three easy steps to fixing this funk.
A week and a half later we find ourselves at the same point we were at after the Pirates fight night. The Reds have found themselves again at seven games under .500. Today I found myself infuriated as the Reds wasted another quality pitching performance from it’s starting rotation. A starting rotation that was supposed to be adequate at best. A starting rotation with the 6th best ERA in baseball as I write this. The bullpen continues to pitch above average as well ranking 11th in ERA with 3.70.
The one thing we all said we could absolutely depend on has been the depth of this lineup. The Reds gains from last week in hitting have been washed away during this losing streak. The team is dead last in team avg, 28th in OBP, and 26th in runs. Tucker Barnhart actually has the team-high in average at .258 and on base percentage at .409. I predicted Barnhart to have the lowest of any of the starters average. This team desperately needs a jump start. Here’s how they can do that to get the bats finally somewhat consistent and start winning games.
Can we all, including the Reds front office, agree that Senzel was sent down to gain an extra year of control on his contract? Now that time has come and pass. Senzel can be brought up tomorrow and the Reds have that extra year of control. This is a player many Reds fans have been clamoring for to see his full potential. We’re all tired of hearing about his potential and his prospect ranking. I’m ready to see him getting his chance in the starting lineup whereever he can get the playing time. Center field, second base, shortstop, or third base. Get the man in the lineup any chance we can. If given the opportunity, he will be a serious Rookie of The Year candidate.
The other way to light a fire under the outfielders butts would be bringing up Phillip Ervin. Ervin had the opportunity this weekend to show us why he shouldve made this team after absolutely owning spring training. What does he do? He rips a triple in clutch situation. Ervin was the Reds first round pick in 2013. Now is his time to shine. He did well most of last season until September. Right now they don’t have an everyday center fielder. And no I am not saying to cut or send down Schebler. He belongs on this team. Schebler just is not an everyday player on this roster. I think Ervin is just dying for an opportunity to prove his worth as a first round pick. Perhaps this will put some much needed pressure on the other outfielders who has been virtually non existent at the plate with the addition of Ervin and Senzel. They could bring these guys up by sending Farmer down and DFA’ing their weakest link in Zach Duke
While the Reds pitching has been pretty amazing overall there is still a few ways they could improve. The most glaring being parting ways with Duke. In 9 appearances he has totaled a 10.13 ERA, 7 hits, and 5 walks. I can’t imagine the front office will allow this to continue much longer. The Reds already have one too many bullpen pitchers with eight. If they choose to stay with that many bullpen guys they still have Cody Reed waiting in the wings. Something tells me Reed will easily outperform Duke this year even with a small sample size.
The final way they might be able to improve this team would be sending Disco to the minors instead of Mahle when Wood returns. Latest news has Wood returning mid May. These next few starts will be crucial for both Mahle and Disco to outperform one another. Mahle seems to really be zoning in. Last night in his worst performance so far and he still managed to hold the Dodgers to 4 runs on 11 hits. Disco has the highest ERA by far of any Reds starter at 7.43 and FIP at 6.44. Each player has minor league options but Disco definitely seems to be the obvious choice at the moment.
Right now almost every bit of news coming from the Reds is overshadowed by the sound of losing. Losing isn’t fun. Neither is this Reds team right now. They remind me of the scene in Moneyball where Billy Beane realizes that the plan isn’t working out right now. They need to shake things up. I do accredit Bell with shaking up the lineup and allowing pitchers a little more rope as I suggested a few weeks ago. I think the only thing right now that would truly shake this team up would be the addition of some new guys who are desperate to prove themselves as major league ballplayers in Senzel and Ervin. That followed by the addition of Scooter and Wood returning from the DL could prove a great way for the team to finally gain some traction. I expect this team to at least be at .500 by the end of May. I hope the front office is expecting the same or better by then.
Early Thoughts on the Bullpen
There’s been mostly good things come from the bullpen, so far, for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019.
14 games into a 162-game schedule you should not *yet* read too deep into stats. Far too early, too much to be determined, but one thing we do know about the Reds on tax day 2019 is David Bell will pull pitchers early. Plenty have debated and questioned Bell’s decision to call on the bullpen early (although some made sense) and how it could play a role later in the season. Early on the bullpen has been hit or miss. A few players are throwing lights out while others have struggled to put up the numbers similar to years past.
I am not sure if I can call Robert Stephenson’s early season success a surprise. Ranked amongst the top prospects in baseball for the better part of his career, the talent has always been there but putting it all together has been a struggle. His pitches have had great movement forcing swing and miss at a much higher rate. Being used as the “long man” out of the pen has produced to a line of 1-0, with a 1.23 ERA in 5 games, 7.1 innings, 10 K’s and 1 walk. He is also holding batters to a .120 avg. Did the 26–year old finally figure it out with the new pitching coach? The Reds sure hope so.
The ever so interesting Michael Lorenzen has also been used in multiple innings, along with the outfield and pinch-hitting duties. He’s not off to his best start, but no need to hit the panic button as he has pitched well enough.
Some fans (prematurely) are hitting the panic button on David Hernandez and Jared Hughes. Hernandez has struggled in his first 7 games giving up 10 hits while batters are hitting .370. After a career-best .984 WHIP in 2018, 2019 has started with a 2.333. I would expect to see the number level out to his 1.288, 10-year average, but it has been a struggle in his first 6 innings.
Jared Hughes 2018 season saw him throw a career-best 1.94 ERA leading to high expectations for 2019. People who only read the stats will see an 8.10 ERA and .346 avg against and start to worry. Four of the six earned runs Hughes has given up were on Sunday, April 14th. In the 102 appearances since his last 4 run outing, his ERA has been 1.90. The consistency in his career leads me to be optimistic.
The Reds most valuable relief pitcher over the past few years has been Raisel Iglesias. His 2019 got off to a weird start when David Bell used him earlier than usual on opening day. After a rough start, and rough spring training, Iglesias has not allowed an earned run in his past two outings.
Carrying a larger bullpen (8 pitchers) allows the team to have three lefties. Wandy Peralta, Amir Garrett, and Zach Duke make up the southpaw roster. Garrett is a fan favorite with his swagger and early season success to back it up. In 8 games he has 10 K’s and 2 walks with 4 hits given up and holding batters to a .174 average. Peralta seems to be a guy that fans have mixed reviews on. His good spring training has followed him into his 2019 campaign. An ERA of 0.00 usually pleases most fans but his streaky past leaves people uneasy. Zach Duke was brought back to Cincinnati on a 1 year $2 million deal to be the teams LOOGY. So far, it has not been pretty. A team-high 8.31 ERA with 4 walks to 2 K’s has caused frustration. I do not expect the Reds to move on from Duke having only 4.1 innings under his belt.
It’s a bit ridiculous to read into a teams bullpen success when a reliever has yet to pitch even 10 innings. The focus should be on the movement pitchers are showing and their control. Some of these players have shown great movement and control, others haven’t. If the Reds want to be a team that climbs out of the bottom of the division, the bullpen will play a crucial role.