(This article is a two-parter in which we examine the reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic on the Reds so far. A “Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” take if you will)
The Cincinnati Reds are now fifty-plus games through the 2019 season, which is insane to think about. I can still remember what I was doing, thinking, and feeling both in and out in terms of baseball when opening day arrived. Maybe you do too, in which case I applaud you for such a vivid memory. If you’re one of those people, do you think you’ve made major life changes within that short time period? If you were to put present-day you right next to fifty-plus days in the past you, do you think you could tell any noticeable differences between the two? Perhaps you’ve set out a goal for yourself, and maybe you haven’t exactly achieved that goal yet, and that’s a major factor for your answer. Well if that’s the case, probability states you have plenty and plenty of time to figure things out, so don’t worry about it.
Unfortunately for the 2019 Reds, they don’t have that luxury, as time begins to grow shorter to flip things around this season.
What’s the point of this article you may be asking? Why Am I such a hater? Why am throwing in the towel so early? Aren’t we supposed to blindly follow our teams to the depths of Hell and back no matter what their record is?
The simple answer is it’s smarter to realize what exactly this team is made of sooner rather than later, because then we can figure out how to salvage anything from this roster through trades at the deadline, and start planning for next year. It’s to avoid the mistakes of making crucial roster moves at the wrong time (Todd Fraizer, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Cozart). Although it sounds rather cynical to say so, here’s why the season may be a lost cause for the Reds, if they want to have any sort of game plan to improve before it’s too late.
Christian Yelich, Paul Goldschmidt, Kris Bryant, Josh Bell, Zach Davies, Marcell Ozuna, Anthony Rizzo, Trevor Williams, Lorenzo Cain, Javier Baez, Josh Hader.
It’s a good thing we have to face these guys like what, every other series right?
Against all NL Central opponents, the Reds are 10-16. That’s including a record of 4-2 against the NL Cenral leading Chicago Cubs. Let that one sink in for a moment. Do you think the Reds can sustain that pace against them?
These are the teams the Reds need to play on par with if they want any success this year, and so far they haven’t answered the call.
Looking at baseball reference’s playoff odds simulator, The NL Central is predicted to be the strongest division in baseball when it’s all said and done, with the finally over 500. Reds still sitting fifth with a projected record of 85-77. There are wild card teams who have snuck in at that record, look at the 2017 Twins for example. The cramped NL Central just isn’t the right environment for a team like this to survive.
I suppose you could argue that finishing above .500 would be a success for the Reds, even if it comes at the cost of finishing last in the Central again. Just know that doing so is celebrating over a participation trophy, which doesn’t sound so fun.
In losses for the Reds, the team as a whole is slashing a putrid .204/.270/.325 . By comparison, Chris Davis, the feared and revered Orioles slugger is pounding a similar .171/.257/.319. Not good Bob, not good.
Looking at team rankings, the Reds are 24th in batting average and on-base percentage with rates of .223 and .305 respectively, and they’re also 22nd in slugging with a percentage of .411 .
Regular names like Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker, Jose Peraza, Tucker Barnhart, even Joey Votto have just been tough to watch so far. Really unless your name is Eugenio Suarez, Derek Dietrich, or Jose Iglesias, chances are it’s been a tough go around for you so far.
Of course, April was a dreadful month for the team as a whole. They’ve begun to heat up recently so perhaps there’s hope? As a team in their past 7 games, they’ve slashed .328/.387/.564 . Hopefully our sluggers can tap into this short hot streak.
One Run Games
Sure, if you’ve been paying attention to the telecasts, or doing some research on your own, you already know how dreadful the Reds are in one run games, but it’s worth reiterating.
The Reds as I type away, are simply not clutch when the situation calls for it. As of publishing, the Reds are 8-13 in one run games. However, in blowout games, (5+ runs) they’re 9-5. This is partly where you get that wonky run differential the Reds have at +36, but still have a record that speaks less.
Flat Out Luck
Baseball is a sport that is depended on luck more than any other, and unfortunately for the Reds, the theoretical ball is simply not bouncing their way this year. Of course, the previously mentioned run differential is at +36, which is second best in the division to the Cubs, and second best of all the teams in the wild card hunt behind the Diamondbacks at +43. Baseball Reference’s Pythagorean W-L has the Reds pegged at 32-24, which would tie the Cubs for the division lead. It really hurt me to type that so I’m going to guess that it’s going to hurt you to read as well.
Cincinnati Reds Alternate Site Game: April 6, 2021
The Cincinnati Reds are currently playing some games with their alternate team against other alternate teams. Clay Snowden had a chance to attend one and gives a report.
78 degrees with a few clouds in the sky was the perfect day for the perfect game of baseball. My first in person game since 2019. I never knew just how much I missed it until I experienced the sights of sounds of the game for what felt like the very first time (again). Enough about me, let’s talk about the game. The alternate site Reds (that’s what we will call them) took on the Royals on Tuesday night. I want to provide a recap of the pitching and hitting while highlighting a few players.
Riley O’Brien started for the Reds. Acquired in the Cody Reed trade, O’Brien is an interesting pitcher with some obvious upside. He has a lot to like but can struggle to find the zone at times. He struck out Bobby Witt Jr (One of MLB top prospects) while causing him to whiff on back to back strikes. He also gave up 2 home runs, 4 hits 4 runs in 3 innings while striking out 5. At times he simply over powered hitters and at times they squared him up. I still like him as a possible bullpen guy at some point.
Brandon Finnegan, who came out of nowhere this spring and impressed, looked pretty solid tonight. Struck a guy out looking while allowing 1 hit in one inning. His breaking stuff had some life on it. Doolittle, Perez, and Garrett will make it tough for him to find innings, but if injuries happen he’s more than capable of filling in. What a great story his comeback is.
Finnegan was followed by uneventful innings from R.J. Alaniz, Edgar Garcia, Hector Perez, and Ryan Hendrix. Garcia was hit hard and hit often. Perez has a fastball that is noticeably faster than others, but the radar gun was not on. Hendrix really pops the catchers glove, but location was an issue.
Mike Freeman, a utility infielder brought over from the Indians, provided the only real offense tonight with a home run off a LHP (Lynch) to right center. In my mind him, Blandino, and Schrock all are battling for the same “utility infielder” position. Schrock was quiet at the plate tonight.
Mark Payton had a decent night at the plate. I really like his eye for the strike zone and patience at the plate. He had a strong single up the middle and worked a count full on another at bat. He had a ton of balls hit to him in center and he covered a lot of territory well. One ball he tried to rob a HR and it hit off of him and went over the wall. From my vantage point it looked like he might have helped that ball go over.
Jose Garcia made solid contact in his two balls put into play. I am far from a swing expert, but his swing looked a little off tonight. Maybe a little slow? I don’t know. He also swung and missed several times. A full year in the minors will do him well.
The last player that caught my eye was Alejo Lopez. The 24 year old switch hitting infielder just knows how to hit. He has logged over 1,000 minor league at bats and has a slash of .297/.367/.746. In his two at bats he made great contact one leading to a single up the middle and one a sharp lineout to end the game.
Eugenio Suarez at Shortstop Makes the Cincinnati Reds Very Interesting
The Cincinnati Reds have announced that Eugenio Suarez will start Tuesday’s game at shortstop which opens up so many possibilities that make the Reds lineup dangerous.
The Cincinnati Reds dropped a Geno-sized bomb on Reds Country and the result is mass excitement.
We are all aware of the swings-and-misses with free agent shortstops the Reds front office had this offseason. In fact they struck out, if you’re counting, as there were three bonafide shortstops who all went elsewhere. So we’ve spent all Spring Training squinting our eyes to see if we could maybe see the fringe possibility of someone on this roster playing shortstop. Then the Reds stopped pretending.
Coming into camp, Eugenio Suarez just looked different. He was way more fit, trim, cut, whatever word for in-shape you want to use. You could say he was in the best shape of his life (many have). Geno planned for this, and management noticed. They’re reportedly been giving him more practice reps at shortstop and getting him comfortable fielding back there again. You don’t do that just for kicks, they were on to something.
Then Jose Garcia showed a continued lack of confidence at the plate, Dee Strange-Gordon proved there was a reason he hasn’t played shortstop, exclusively, in eight years, and Kyle Holder showed some skills but ultimately proved he needs more seasoning. Kyle Farmer has shown promise at the plate but the defense isn’t any sort of revolutionary development and he still shows more value as the do-everything guy off the bench. Insert Suarez.
Immediately some of you are thinking “Isn’t there a reason they moved him away from shortstop in the first place?” You could go that route, but let me answer your question with a question “Is there really a good reason to keep Jonathan India, or dare I say Nick Senzel (when Shogo Aliyama is healthy) out of the starting lineup for Kyle Farmer, or any of the other options they’ve tried at shortstop?”
This is the Reds thinking outside the box! This opens up so many possibilities with the lineup. With injuries, this is what the Opening Day lineup could look like:
CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
1B Tucker Barnhart
I like that lineup. Now, there’s more than a chance that someone else plays first base and Tucker is the catcher on Opening Day, but this is the optimal lineup with Joey Votto on the COVID shelf. Once he is back, this lineup just looks dangerous:
CF Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Eugenio Suarez
3B Mike Moustakas
RF Nicholas Castellanos
1B Joey Votto
2B Jonathan India
C Tyler Stephenson
Here’s hoping the Eugenio Shortstop experience lots all year long!
Monday Morning Manager: The Cincinnati Reds and Things Being What They Are
David Bell has too many outfielders, or does he? An injury to Shogo Akiyama could make lineup decisions easier, but could hurt the overall team potential.
Today on the Monday Not-Morning Manager I want to look at how the chips fall. There’s a line of thinking in sports that pertains to rosters. If you’ve got four players for three spots and it’s hard to differentiate between them, something always works out. Something beyond the making of a lineup card happens that makes making the lineup card slightly easier (so far as filling the three spots). One wonders if this is what has happened with centerfield for the Cincinnati Reds.
Shogo Akiyama had an encouraging September, last year. He got on base roughly 46% of the time and became the leadoff hitter that Reds fans felt he’d be when he signed. He showed his prowess in the outfield and sound fundamentals that lead you to believe he can be a defensive asset. He looked to be showing he could bring value to the lineup.
Nick Senzel has had a heck of a Spring. Hitting the ball all over the field, taking what the pitcher gives him, and making solid, powerful contact. He’s overcome some early spring mishaps on defense and is back to his athletic range in centerfield. When healthy he has shown to be an asset for the team. Barring some creative decision-making on the part of David Bell, he’s going to play in the outfield, come he’ll or high water.
So what then? Shogo and Senzel cannot both start of Nicholas Castellanos and Jesse Winker man the corners. How does David Bell figure this out? That may be taken off his plate.
Today (Monday) Shogo is getting his left hamstring examined. He left Saturday’s game after just one at-bat. If he is to miss any amount of time, the decision who the Opening Day centerfielder will be will be easy, but this isn’t a statement of relief. The best version of the Cincinnati Reds lineup includes all of Shogo, Senzel, Castellanos, and Winker and you’ll have a hard time convincing me otherwise. I want Bell and the Reds managerial staff to find ways to get all four of them in the lineup as much as possible. Hopefully, Shogo is fine and Bell will begin the 2021 with too many players rather than too few.