(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.
The Positives for the Cincinnati Reds of Keeping Nick Senzel in AAA
The Cincinnati Reds are telling us it is time to change our expectations of Nick Senzel, writes Clay Snowden
Things have not gone as planned. Nick Senzel was selected with the second overall pick in 2016 and was praised for his plus hit tool. Fast forward to now and Senzel is an often injured player who currently sits in AAA Louisville. I am not sure if I remember a player with as much frustration attached to his name, maybe Billy Hamilton? I am not writing Senzel off as a bust just yet, but things are trending that way. With him in AAA what should we make of this?
I think it is time to change expectations. Once thought of as a potential building block of the Reds rebuild and future, Senzel has proven he cannot be that. Injury after injury has limited his time on the field, but even when he has played he has not been very good. Definitely not second overall good. Hell he’s a negative WAR player. He’s still young(ish) and has not had enough at bats to really determine what he will become. If I was a betting man, I would bet he wouldn’t reach the potential we once though he had. A lot of the blame falls on….well….bad luck. Injuries stunting development is not something I like to blame on players. The organization has not exact made it easy on him. Changing his positions several times including a drastic change to center to fit team needs was not easy on Senzel. Changing his swing/stance during his rookie season was crazy. And here we sit on August 16th, 2021 with Senzel playing for the Louisville Bats. You can debate if it’s the right move or not, but its where we are. What positives can come from this move?
Let’s go back to expectations. It’s time to shift from all star build block to useful utility player. We can be mad about it all we want, but it won’t change anything. My hope is Senzel is used all over the field in Louisville. He’s played some SS down there which makes things interesting. We know he can play second, third, and center. Adding short to that resume makes him a very useful piece. If the plan is to transition him to a utility role, he could get plenty of starts at multiple positions, cover pinch running, defensive subs late in the game, and be a back up shortstop (especially in 2022).
Bottom line, Senzel needs a role and they need to stick to that role. I think the utility role with more playing time than an average bench player is the best role for him. No, it’s not the role we all expected when the Reds selected him in 2016, but it could be the best role for him and the Reds going forward.
Cincinnati Reds July Reds Mailbag
The Cincinnati Reds are battling to retake first place in the NL Central, here in July, and questions abound. Clay has some answers for you!
Here we are, a few days before the deadline and more than a couple spots outside of first place. The Reds are looking less and less like a playoff team, and have yet to make a move (7/27/21 2:24 pm). Let’s get to some questions.
Miguel Rojas and Yimi Garcia for Allen Cerda and Alejo Lopez?
These are the caliber of players the Reds seem likely to get. I think World Series contenders are more likely to overpay for some all star caliber players than the scratching and hoping for playoff Reds are. I do think the Reds will get someone, but not a splash move. I would love to add Rojas and Garcia. However, I think the Marlins say no to this. Lopez projects to a bench bat and Cerda has been good, but not a high profile prospect. I think the Marlins could get someone in the 8-11 range plus another top 30 from a team. OF course, each team ranking is different, but you get what I am saying.
What do you see in the future for Castllanos? Do you think the Reds will sign him to another deal?
I hate to say this, but I do not think Castellanos will be a Red next season. His agent, Scott Boras, is tough. An he loves to have his clients test the market. Castellanos will opt out, as he is worth more than the $16 million option. Once he hits free agency, another team will outbid the Reds. This isn’t me being some grouch, this is me being realistic. One of the best bats hits free agency at age 29, he will be looking to get locked up to a big money/term deal into his mid-late 30s.
Will Alejo Lopez get a chance? Does Jose Barrero get called up? What about Phil Diehl?
Lopez has been mostly up and down from Louisville and Cincinnati, and has received a spot start here and there but mostly has been a bench bat. I’d like to see him play some third and give Suarez time on the bench. However, that doesn’t seem likely. To me Diehl is a classic example of a AAAA player. I don’t expect him to come up and make an impact but with the way he’s pitched in Louisville and the current state of the bullpen, he’s earned a shot.
Jose Barrero has been outstanding this season. He was recently moved to the number 20 overall prospect for Baseball America. The deadline will determine the rest of his season. If a SS is acquired, he will stay down. If not I think he would be their “deadline addition”. For the record, I would keep him in AAA the rest of the year and go acquire a SS. Bringing him up as the answer is a lot of pressure. Also, he has less than 250 at bats above single A. If his lack of experience was the issue less than 12 months ago, 245 at bats isn’t a huge amount to prove otherwise. But the way he’s hitting…I would understand if he’s brought up.
What should the Reds do with Shogo? Does he stay or go?
He stays. Too much money with another year left for an older outfielder with zero (proven at MLB level) hit tool. I doubt there’s much of a market for that. Maybe he “needs more playing time” to get comfortable, but he has done nothing to earn that. I love Shogo, but it’s getting harder to justify playing him. Keep him on the roster for a defensive replacement/pinch runner.
Will the Reds do anything to strengthen the bullpen? Will the starters be stretched out to go 7 innings?
I think the Reds will add a bullpen arm. I don’t think it will be some all star closer, but an above average guy. Givens/Bard from Colorado come to mind.
The issue with a lot of these starters isn’t David Bell *not* letting them go deep, but instead, they are throwing too many pitches. It’s on them more than Bell most of the time. We need to advance past thinking every starter should go 7 or 7 plus innings.
Positives of the Cincinnati Reds 2021 Season
The highs have been high, but man oh man the lows have been low. Clay Snowden checks in to highlight some of the positives from the first part of the Cincinnati Reds season.
The highs have been high, but man oh man the lows have been low. This season has entertained us with some big moments like sweeping the cardinals, Wade Miley’s no – no, and a couple of winning streaks. The low’s have been low. Like, lower than Geno’s batting average low. I still have nightmares about the west coast trip. And as of right now, the Reds are hovering around .500. To be frank, that’s about where they should be. A roster with this many flaws, fakes, and aches won’t win many divisions, even if it’s an easier one like the NL Central. I wanted to take today to highlight some of the positives from the first part of the season.
The Future is Bright
The Reds rookie class is shaping up to be more than a few contributing pieces, but a core a build around. Johnathan India started off scorching hot, cooled down, but has since blossomed into one of the integral parts of this team and the Reds future. The former 5th overall pick switched positions and has shown he can flash the leather at second. Slashing .262/.374/.396 on the year, he’s really turned it on in June slashing .303/.425/.455. The most important part…the Reds have found a leadoff hitter. Something they have struggled to find.
Tyler Stephenson has not only shown he can hit at the big league level, but that he can become one of the best hitting catchers. His ability to play first has been the cherry on top. Slashing .269/.378/.425 with 5 HR he’’s proving he needs to play every day. I expect a big breakout in 2022. What Alejo Lopez has shown in the minors is promising as a future switch-hitting bench bat that puts the ball in play.
The rookie arms have shown flashes as well. Vladimir Gutierrez and Tony Santillan have not been perfect, but they have shown enough to have a role in the future. Even if they become 4 or 5 starters under cheap team control, that’s a plus for the Reds. The top two pitching prospects, Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene, have been battling for the title of “future ace”. Both have looked great, especially Lodolo. Greene is younger but developing quickly. Art Warren isn’t exactly a prospect but has pitched well enough to get a mention.
Internal MVP Race
No matter what the Reds do this summer, we will always have the summer of the MVP race. Jesse Winker has blossomed into one of the best pure hitters in the MLB while tapping into more power than he was every projected to have. Nicholas Castellanos had a frustrating covid season in 2020, where he showed power but chased too many bad pitches. Fast forward to 2021 and he’s a doubles machine. He’s hitting everything. Who knows how much longer he’ll be a Red, but what’s happening right now, two all star outfielders, doesn’t happen often. Enjoy it.
Reds Broadcast Team
I watch about 8 MLB games a night. Fantasy baseball has turned me into a monster, and MLB TV quad screen has been feeding that monster. I listen to games every time I’m in the car, and I can say with certainty the Reds have one of the best radio + TV groups. John Sadak has been energizing, positive, quirky, and unique. He’s been a breath of fresh air compared to the previous. Larkin was awful at the beginning of the season but has improved, and will continue to improve. Tommy Thrall is gold. He’s in his second year but has been amazing. Chris Welch brings intelligence of the game that makes us smarter each day and Cowboy is just fun as can be. It might seem small but trust me a bad team with bad announcers is unbearable. The Reds nailed this.
A baseball season is a roller coaster of emotions. 162 games is a long season. Sure, it’s frustrating that Bob won’t spend the money, but at the end of the day I am thankful I have a team to watch every day. Especially after last season, I will not take that for granted.