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Cincinnati Reds

The Best Bench in Baseball

The Cincinnati Reds have the best bench in all of baseball, and you don’t really have to squint that much to see it.

Dave Pemberton

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© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the headline caught your eye, let me tell you why that is probably not an embellishment. The 2018 Cincinnati Reds Opening Day bench consisted of Adam Duvall, Devin Mesoraco, Cliff Pennington, Phil Gosselin, and Phillip Ervin. Duvall and Mesoraco were both traded by the deadline. Duvall had the worst year of his career and Mesoraco continued his decline. Pennington and Gosselin were both released by the end of May.

Cut to today. The Reds have the most depth on the bench since 1999. On paper the 2019 Reds bench might be better than that 1999 team that would help win 96 games. Many of them would even be starters on almost any other Major League roster.

Lets start with the infield. The obvious choices seem to be Derek Dietrich and Jose Iglesias. Both play nearly every infield position. They both bat around .260 AVG and .320 OBP. Both were mostly starters for there organizations for the past two years. Both seemed determined to stick it to there previous organizations. And both were a steal for the Reds to acquire.

Alex Blandino was the obvious choice to be one of the bench infielders prior to the signing of Dietrich and Iglesias. Blandino is still trying to overcome his injuries from last season. I am sure if he cant get healthy injuries will help him find a way to get playing time on this roster. His 2018 season proved he’s capable of being an adequate backup infielder in the majors.

Next we look at the outfielders who may start the season on the bench. Most reports have Jesse Winker in left field and Yasiel Puig in right field as Opening Day starters. Center field however is the only position up for grabs. This in combination with the talent the Reds have in the outfield provides the Reds with unreal depth at these positions

I can’t believe I am even mention this name as a possible bench player but Matt Kemp. He seems hell bent this spring training on being an everyday player. His age and history with injuries prove show that may not be in the cards. Kemp had a resurgent year with his former team the Dodgers making the All-Star team. While I don’t expect him to be an everyday starter I don’t think that leaves out the possibility of it happening periodically. Especially if his bat shows up again this season.

Scott Schebler is a left hander that can play anywhere you ask him too. His history shows his bat can be more than adequate when needed. Schebler was able to put up over 30 HR’s in 2017. For his career as Reds player Schebler has a .248 AVG and .323 OBP. Now Schebler has the most competition for work in his career. I expect him to elevate his game to meet the challenge. While not an everyday starter he excel off the bench.

Phillip Ervin. IS. MY. DUDE. I hate, hate, hate the fact Ervin is probably going to start the season in Louisville. He currently leads the Cactus league in HR’s. He’s talked about how new hitting coach Turner Ward has helped improve his mechanics at the plate. Even up until part of August of last season he was batting north of .300. He completely dropped off in September finishing with .252 AVG and .324 OBP. If we were judging based on current talent I’d choose him over Schebler in heart beat. However, Ervin still has minor league options making him the front runner not to make the Opening Day roster. This of course is unless they decide to control Nick Senzel’s contract an extra year by benching him for the first two weeks of the season.

Nick Senzel is the future of this organization. Most current projections show him as the Reds starting center fielder Opening Day. Senzel has made it clear he will do anything to get playing time. He’s rotated from third to short to second. Each step of the way finding an establish player in the way with Suarez, Pereza, and Scooter. MLB Pipeline has him rated as the sixth best prospect in all of baseball. Many believe he is very capable of winning batting titles in future. His beginning cannot wait any longer. Senzel has shown he is capable of being adequate in center field. A position up until this year he had never played. I am calling it now his bat helps him to win the NL Rookie of the Year. I hope the Reds find any and everyway they can to get him into the lineup. Whether that’s starting center field, pinch hitting, or filling in for the infield. I pray as a sign of good faith to Senzel they do not screw him over by trying to control his contract at the beginning of the year. We did that last season and we all remember how that worked out.

Lastly, Curt Casali seems like the shoe in for backing up Tucker Barnhart. Casali quietly assembled a impressive 2018 season. In 156 plate appearances he totaled a .293 AVG and .355 OBP for 2018. I by no means expect that from Casali this season but am interested to see how he progresses. If not the Reds still have Kyle Farmer the forgotten man in the big trade with the Dodgers this offseason to get his shot.

In summary the 2019 Cincinnati Reds have little to worry if they need to rely on there bench for support this season. There bench at it’s worst is adequate. Many of these players would be starting on any other team. The Reds have an abundance of talent in the starting eight for this team making it very difficult. As excited as I am about the starting lineup I am equally excited to see what many of these guys are going to surprise us with off the bench this year.

I grew up engulfed in baseball. My grandfather had season tickets for the Reds from 1970 until 2002. I was raised in a neighborhood that was essentially the Sandlot set in the 1990's but with even more kids. We played from the minute we woke up until it was too dark to see the ball. Then we'd spend the night at someones house playing baseball video games, talking about baseball cards, or watching it on television. I idolized Barry Larkin as fielder, hitter, and leader. I was fortunate enough to play baseball through high school. Now I am a registered nurse, married way out of my league, and have two amazing kids that will exceed anything I ever do in this life. I am fortunate enough to have a Reds season ticket package with my close friends and family. The Reds ballpark is my second home. Baseball has provided me with some of my most treasured memories shared over four generations.

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Cincinnati Reds

What Should We Expect Out of The Rotation? Part Three – Tanner Roark

Taj Simmons

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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)

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

Dave Pemberton

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© Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

Early Thoughts on the Bullpen

There’s been mostly good things come from the bullpen, so far, for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019.

Clay Snowden

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© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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