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Cincinnati Reds

Questions for the Prospective Reds Manager

Jeff

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© Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cincinnati Reds announcing they are officially interviewing in-house candidates for the opening at manager, I had a though: what questions would I ask candidates? Here’s a few I came up with.

What do you expect out of your leadoff hitter? This has been a constant point of questioning by Reds country, really, ever since Dusty Baker thought fellows named Patterson and Hairston warranted starts in the top spot of the order. The superhero known as Billy Hamilton has been tried, and tried, and tried again in this spot in the order and has never taken to it. Does the managerial candidate believe the leadoff hitter should be fast, or…

He should be an on-base machine. Theoretically, if you get on base more, you score more. Ergo, put someone in the leadoff spot who gets on base at a high rate.

When do you call on your best reliever? Another theme created by Dusty that has lingered is watching the team’s best reliever, which, ideally is the closer, only pitch save situations. The save is a weird stat. A player can get a save for finishing a game when the score is close, or by pitching the final 3+ innings of the game, after entering when his team had the lead. If a statistical category drives your decision-making, this job shouldn’t be for you.

Now I know what you’re thinking, relievers who earn a lot of saves tend to earn a lot of money. I would raise your thinking with, the manager, while it’s a nice thought, should not be concerned with his relief pitcher’s forthcoming contract negotiations. He should be concerned with one thing: winning games. Your best reliever should be ready to pitch in the most high leverage situation of the game. Now, sure, maybe that’s the ninth, or maybe that’s the sixth. Bases loaded, nobody out, Christian Yelich is up to bat. Do you want Jackson Stephens or Raisel Iglesias on the bump? Probably won’t happen, but if a manager came in and got rid of the idea of bullpen roles, that would be pretty solid.

Bunting, your thoughts? There is a right answer here. The answer is: don’t. Traditionalists just clicked away, of turnoff their screen, or punted their computer, but seriously, the upside to bunting is moving over the runner. There’s a chart on fangraphs.com that I referenced, in an earlier recap, that uses math to explain the chances of scoring a run based on runners on base and how many outs there are. The percentage of scoring a run with a runner on first and no one out is actually higher than when a runner is on second with one out.

I can remember one play in which a bunt turned into more than it was planned to be, and that was because of an error and the superhero known as Billy. I can think of multiple instances where bunting killed an inning for the Reds. The Reds are all about positive momentum, but a bunt is, at best, neutral, and more likely, negative momentum.

Do you tell Billy Hamilton to do pushups every time he hits a pop fly? If the answer is no then the interview ends, right then.

Does a player dictate his role on the team, or do you? If someone tells you they are incapable of pitching out of the bullpen, but they are also proven to be incapable of starting, then they should be remaindered to the bench. This may be a utopian idea, but I truly believe running Homer Bailey out every fifth day this year was a large reason why the season was pretty much a lost one. Hopefully, the front office takes care of that particular situation, so the new manager doesn’t start the season playing catchup.

How transparent will you be in press interviews? It is nice to see a candid interview, but a lot of things should be kept in house. We as fans want to know, but, honestly, the game tells us plenty. Had the Reds not announced decisions like benching Jesse Winker, putting Bailey in the bullpen, and others, then they would not have looked as haphazard as they did. Some things we fans can find out when the lineup card comes out and when the game unfolds.

There’s plenty more, but these are just the starters. Which ones would you add? Let me know in the comments, or on the Twitter-verse!

Speaking of Twitter, check me out @jefffcarr and @lockedonReds as well as @jamesrapien.

Jeff has spent his entire life around sports. From playing baseball and golf in high school to traveling with college softball, volleyball, and men’s basketball teams as their media relations guy, sports have always been his focal point. He’s pumped to be bringing Reds content to the Locked on Sports Podcast Network!

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Cincinnati Reds

Read The Room

David Bell has made some interesting choices, some that he may want to tweak his thought process on. Let me explain.

Dave Pemberton

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday’s podcast my friend Jeff stated he liked the fact that David Bell was able to remove himself from the equations on many big decisions. He stated that by focusing on the analytics Bell is able to make an objective decision versus a gut decision. I won’t disagree with fact that I am loving the front office and managements use of analytics. I, like most Reds fans, love to see the organization finally joining this century of baseball thinking in full force, from an analytics stand point. However, while I do support the use of analytics in helping make decisions, I don’t feel as if it should be the sole reason for decision making.

The best managers in the history of this game are often forward-thinking and also having the right instinct at crucial points in games. I think the Reds, and even David Bell, are some of the most forward thinking in baseball right now. We have seen it in all the new positions created this offseason specifically for analytics within the Reds front office. The Reds outfielders carry cards based on each pitcher and each batter in where to align themselves. The infield is making unique shifts. Bell seems opposite of his predecessor, because he despises bunting frequently. The amazing performance by our pitching staff which has been one of the worst in recent years. I believe these things will continue to help this team as the season continues. I also believe it’s one of the main reasons we have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball right now.

On the flip side of this is the daily, head-scratching decisions Bell has made. The constant hooking of starting staff or bullpen pitchers too early. This isn’t just something making fans question his decisions, but his players as well. I have seen almost every starting pitcher this year, on at least one occasion, have a baffled look after being removed to early. Bell often pulling starters in a close game due to the “third time around the order” analytics. In regards to the bullpen often pulling relievers early who are up there throwing smoke and no one is touching them. All that started back on Opening Day when he used three relievers, each for one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then when it comes to the lineup we are often seeing players who may be crushing it that day pulled for favorable situational matchups such as lefty right or righty lefty. On several occasions I’ve seen him pull Dietrich or Winker when there out there hitting rockets just for an analytic advantage. It often causes me to yell at my television.

One of my favorite sayings is “READ THE ROOM”. Bell desperately needs to “READ THE ROOM” in more crucial situations. Leaving pitchers in to go one extra innning in a start or relief when there mowing batters over. Leaving a guy in the lineup who is on fire rather than pulling him for a analytic matchup. This shows faith in your players as well as your instincts as a manager. It’s what differentiates the best coaches from everyone else. It’s the knowledge that no amount of statistics can provide and it will ultimately be what puts this team over the top. In recent weeks I have seen signs of this coming to fruition. I hope to see more of it as the season goes on. And I promise you Reds fans when it does the most important statistic WINS will come much easier.

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Cincinnati Reds

Reds Catchers Now and in the Future

Let’s take a look at the catching picture for the Reds organization.

Clay Snowden

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© Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

In late September of 2017, the Cincinnati Reds locked up Tucker Barnhart to a 4-year, $16 million contract. And why not? Barnhart hit .270 in 2017 and was a gold glove winner. $4 million a year for him was a steal. Fans were ecstatic about the deal, especially at the price. Don’t get me wrong, having a catcher with a career average of .248 with about 10 home runs a year and a great glove is something most teams are satisfied with. It’s more about what he does with the pitching staff and defense than the hitting. But in 2019, although only 100 at-bats in, how concerned should Reds fans be about their catching situation now and in the future?

The Reds currently have two active catchers: Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali. Barnhart has struggled mightily out of the gate. A .160/.282/.270 line is not anywhere close to his career numbers. Adding to that, he only has two hits in the past 10 games. A switch hitter with only 10 at bats versus Left-handed pitchers tells us Bell wants Casali taking those at-bats.

Curt Casali has put together a great season for the Reds. Acquired off waiver last year from Tampa Bay he hit .310 before the All-Star break. In 2019 he is hitting to the tune of .293/.349/.379. When used as a pinch hitter, he’s delivered at times for the Reds. Although Casali is the better hitter so far, I do not think it is time to give up on Barnhart. 100 at-bats into a season with plenty to go. *Deep breath* He can still put together a decent season. Something needs to change though, drastically. Right now, the Reds have bigger issues than the catcher’s spot. But will Casali take reigns as the team’s number one catcher? A lot of fans are calling for it. Keep in mind Casali is a career .229 hitter. He has been streaky in the past. The Reds will probably continue to platoon and giving at-bats to Casali against left-handed pitchers. 2019 catcher situation is pretty much locked in. The depth at AAA Louisville are not “prospects” and haven’t shown to be MLB hitters either. The question is what will it look like in the future?

Tyler Stephenson is one of the top prospects in the Reds organization (#6 mlb.com) and is showing his potential this year in Chattanooga. A first-round pick in 2015, he’s struggled with injuries early in his career and is now showing his potential. Hitting .267 with 3 HR and 18 RBI while throwing out 26% of baserunners is a nice start to the first part of the season. He won’t be in Cincinnati this year, who knows where he will start next year, but he plays into the future of the Reds.

There are some other options in the minors. Chris Okey (#30 Reds prospect) was drafted in the second round of 2016 but has really struggled with the bat. Hendrik Clementina (#23 Reds prospect) is someone to watch. He was acquired in the Tony Cingrani trade and hit 18 home runs with Dayton in 2018. He has some pop and but also strikes out too much. We all know how frustrating that can be. Other than those 3, the Reds do not have another top 30 catching prospects. A thin position of depth look for the Reds to bring in more talent this year.

The Reds catching future is banking on Stephenson and Barnhart to be the guys. That could end up being just fine, but it also doesn’t leave much room for error. Casali has two arbitration year left and is 30 years old. He could be a Red past this year, sure. Good catchers are hard to find and that’s why the asking price is so high (paging JT). I would expect the Reds to try to add depth here through the draft or offseason. The quick fix would be Tucker returning closer to 2017 form but who knows if that will happen.

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Cincinnati Reds

What The Reds Should Be

Wednesday night was a glimpse at this team’s potential.

Dave Pemberton

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

If you were able to witness tonight’s win over the scorching hot Chicago Cubs you were probably ecstatic. It was a comeback win, in extra innings, and a one-run game. In a season clouded by early disappointment and many missed opportunities, tonight we witnessed the Reds full potential.

This game had all the markings of what was shaping up to be another Reds loss. A five-inning start by the pitcher, playing from behind almost the entire game, and constant pitching changes. Instead the Reds played together and won, as a team. The chemistry we see off the field was finally seen on the field. The bullpen stepped up when they needed to. Stephenson, Hughes, Peralta, and Garrett all providing top notch performances. Garrett making what seemed to be an impossible out at first to save a run from scoring. When providing a clutch at-bat was needed, we saw it from nearly everyone put on the spot. Senzel with 2 hits and 2 stolen bases. Iglesias continues to be the Reds MVP of position players having a double and solo home run to keep the Reds in contention. Suarez starting to catch fire with a 3-for-5 evening, 3 RBI’s, a double, and a 2 run HR in the eighth inning to tie up the game. Quietly, Joey Votto was the one who actually came up big, in the clutch, during the eighth, with a single. He then scored on Suarez’s dinger. Then again in the 10th inning with a one-out walk. For the icing on the cake the player all of Cincinnati wants to see perform comes up to seal the deal. And most importantly the extra innings walk-off hit by Puig with a bat flip for Reds highlight reels for years to come happened.

What made it most glorious was the absolute look of disappointment on Cubs fans faces as the Reds came back to pull off the comeback win. Wednesday, we saw the Reds full potential as a team. This is the Reds ceiling as a team performance. I hope we grow accustomed to this scene more often and start to see them compete in this division. There is no doubt they are in the toughest division in baseball. That being said, they can absolutely shake things up whenever they decide to get hot. I know it’s possible. I just hope it’s not too late when it does.

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