Winning solves everything.
It’s an adage that I strongly believe in and one that can be put applied to the Cincinnati Reds.
Twenty-one games into the season, everything was awful. Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler had missed a noteworthy amount of time, the Reds were 3-18, Bryan Price had been fired, Nick Senzel was still in Triple-A, fan interest was at an all-time low and the front office had serious questions that needed to be answered.
Fast forward to present-day and the Reds are 39-51 and are one of the hottest teams in baseball. Take any sample size you’d like after the 3-18 start and you’ll see the Reds are a much-improved team, one that is above .500 and one that more resembles the version that fans expected to see.
The Reds are fun again, maybe for the first extended time during the rebuild, and finally, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a contending Reds team in the future.
With that said, this version of the Reds is not a contender. As much fun as the team is, as vastly improved as they are and how promising they project to be, there are still plenty of holes to fill.
The rebuild is not done. It is in the final stages. It’s rounding the final curve and heading down the front stretch. The Reds must finish out the process rather than start patting themselves on the back. They cannot afford to be shortsighted.
There have been a couple red flags that have arisen as the Reds have begun streaking, starting at the top of the clubhouse with interim manager Jim Riggleman.
It’s easy to look at Riggleman and marvel at the job he’s done. Under him, the Reds are playing .500 baseball and have vastly improved both on the mound and at the plate. They look like a completely different team when you compare it to the one that played the first month of the season.
Suggestions of removing the interim tag from his title were premature at best and reckless at worst. Nothing Riggleman has done would indicate he’s demonstrably better than either Price or another candidate available. While he’s a generally good game manager, his fixation with bunting, for example, has cost the Reds more often than not.
More than just Riggleman himself, though, the process of removing the interim tag from Riggleman’s title would be a remarkably short-sighted move. It’s imperative the Reds go through a wide-spread search for a manager that should also include Riggleman. An added byproduct of the Reds’ recent streak of success is that more successful managers may find the Reds’ job more appealing. The franchise is on the last legs of the rebuild and is an appealing team.
Joe Girardi, for example, was a name tossed around mostly by fans as a potential hire last off-season. At the time, it seemed unlikely Girardi would go from a title contending team to one in a rebuild. Now, this upcoming winter, would a manager like Girardi more strongly consider a spot with the Reds when they go through the searching process?
If, after that process, Riggleman is the best candidate available, then that’s one thing. But skipping that process altogether would be a terrible decision.
In the same vein, the trade deadline will be a critical stretch for the Reds. While the Reds have become fun again, their horrid start to the season means that they’re still miles away from playoff contention. Because of that, it’s equally important for the Reds not to grow too fond of the assets they have and ensure they make the best move for the team to win next season and not next month.
Take Scooter Gennett, for example. He’s an All-Star second baseman who the Reds acquired for essentially nothing as a waiver claim. He’s a fan favorite who had one of the greatest moments in Reds history last season with his four-homer game.
He should be traded for a ton of reasons. His stock will never be higher. After spending much of the last year assuming he would regress this season, it appears Gennett might legitimately be one of the best offensive second basemen in the league. There’s a market for that. A large one.
More than that, second base is, by far, the deepest position in the Reds’ organization. The team moved star prospect Nick Senzel to second while fellow top-five prospect Shed Long is also a second baseman. Alex Blandino and Dilson Herrera are both on the active roster and are second basemen.
Moving Gennett could net the Reds are large return and fill one of the handful of holes left to make the Reds a contending team.
On the fringe side of the trade market, outfielders Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton should be shopped heavily. Duvall should have been dealt two years ago in his All-Star season and his value has plummeted since. At this point, he probably has value as a bench bat and would open up the path for consistent playing time from Jesse Winker.
Hamilton, meanwhile, has been red-hot over nearly the last month. On one hand, you could convince yourself that he’s turning it around and that he’s finally figured it out. Or, it’s another hot spell Hamilton has been prone to in his inconsistent career. Instead of being sucked in once more, the Reds should capitalize on the hot streak and find a landing spot for Hamilton.
Players like Raisel Iglesias, Scott Schebler, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez and really anyone on the roster could be had for the right price. Iglesias, in particular, could bring in such a massive haul that it could bring the finishing pieces to the rebuild.
The Reds are on the brink of ending the rebuild. They’ll have to make a handful of critical moves that could morph this team out of the cellar and into a contender.
Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates set to Play Three
Break’s over. That’s right, you heard me, back to work. Well, for the Reds, that is. There’s been four whole days since the last baseball game for Cincinnati, and now they’re back, starting Friday, at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds and Pirates are separated by four-and-a-half games in the NL Central. If Cincinnati is to stop the wire-to-wire last place finish they currently have going, this series will go a long way to solving that. The Pirates hold the edge in the season series, having won four of the 10 games, so far.
Th Reds will need to improve their pitching against the Pirates if they hope to make up ground. In the 10 games they’ve played against one another, Pittsburgh is getting on base at a slightly better rate than one per every three batters (.346). Chief among Cincinnati pitchers who need to improve against Pittsburgh is Tyler Mahle, Friday night’s starter.
Mahle’s first start against e Buccos didn’t go so well. In 4.2 innings pitched he was tagged for all five of Pittsburgh’s runs, allowed 10 baserunners (nine hits, one walk), and allowed a pair of home runs. In fact, his counterpart on Friday, Jameson Taillon, was his counterpart on that day. He pitched a complete game shutout against the Redlegs.
Saturday is a big day as it is the 2018 Reds Hall of Fame Induction game. Adam Dunn, Fred Norman, and Dave Bristol will all be enshrined in the best Hall of Fame outside of Cooperstown. Pitching that day is Anthony DeSclafani. His last start against the Pirates just missed being a quality one. He tossed 5.2 innings of two-run baseball and got the win. Both runs were scored on solo homers by Colin Moran and Gregory Polanco.
Pittsburgh’s scheduled starter, Nick Kingham, has never faced Cincinnati.
Sunday’s series finale will feature the Dark Knight making his first trip to the bump on the back side of the break. He’s pitched twice against Pittsburgh this year with varying success. Hist first outing he earned a win, pitching six innings of one-run baseball. His second time out turned into a Pirates win despite five solid innings of three runs allowed. Harvey has struck out seven Buccos in his eleven innings while allowing 11 baserunners.
The Pirates actually have Nick Kingham listed as their Sunday starter, too…so I’m guessing it’s actually TBD. But lets take a quick look at the Pirates young hurler.
Kingham has been around the Pirates minor leagues since 2010 and didn’t make his Major League debut until April 29th. On that day, he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out nine. Since then he has not pitched that deep into a game, though he’s grazed it. July hasn’t been as kind to him as he sports a 5.28 ERA for the month and has allowed six homers in three starts.
Fun fact, the Reds are 5-5 in the last 10 years in the first game back from the All Star Break. So yeah, that’s a completely pointless stat, but now you have something to regale your friends with as you watch the game, Friday night.
Both Friday and Saturday games begin at 7:10 pm while Sunday’s game is scheduled for 1:10 pm.
WATCH: Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto homer in the All-Star game
The National League trailed the American League 5-3 on Tuesday night, partially because a Joey Votto error led to three runs for the American League in the eighth inning. Scooter Gennett bailed out his teammate with a pinch hit two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth that forced extra innings. Gennett was the first Reds player to hit a home run in an All-Star game since Davey Concepcion in 1982. Watch the home run below:
SCOOTER GENNETT TIE GAME!
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 18, 2018
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 18, 2018
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 18, 2018
The American League hit two home runs in extra innings and ultimately won the game 8-6. Votto hit a home run in the bottom of the 10th inning. It was Votto’s first hit in an All-Star game (Votto was 1-3 on the night and is now 1-13 in All-Star games). Watch it below:
— Todd (@bitterRedsfan) July 18, 2018
JOEY HAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SWING ON THE PLANET pic.twitter.com/U5RFd8L8MH
— paco 🇺🇸 (@AllaireMatt) July 18, 2018
For more on the Reds, go here.
From the Beginning to the Break
We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and there are still 66 more games to go for the Cincinnati Reds. Buckle up, though, this ride still has a few ups, downs, loops, and corkscrews.
Although, this ride isn’t as bumpy as, say, the Vortex over at Kings Island. This year feels more like the Diamondback. It took awhile to get up that first chain hill (April through the first week of May) but that’s only because it’s a really big hill. The ride has been quite entertaining since that first month.
Sure, the state of things aren’t great. Cincinnati is last in the Central at 43-53 – 13.5 games behind Chicago. They’re 10 games out of the second National League Wildcard spot. The question is, though, were playoffs the goal of 2018? If you’ve paid attention to Locked on Reds, the answer is no.
This was supposed to be a year that the Reds set the table for a contending team at Great American Ballpark, and there is some semblance of success in this arena.
The current team MVP is Joe…nope…Eugenio Suarez. That’s right boys and girls. You remember that contract extension that the front office handed out to a talented, young Venezuelan this past offseason? Yeah, looking like a great idea. According to baseball-reference.com, Suarez has compiled a 3.6 WAR up to this point.
Of course, if WAR is your thing, Fangraphs has both Suarez and Scooter Gennett at 3.3 WAR. The Reds have found their nucleus. In fact, Jose Peraza is currently sitting at a 1.8 WAR, making the entire Reds infield (Votto with a 2.8 WAR) the most valuable part of the team.
Much has been said about Suarez and Scooter, so let’s take a look at an under-appreciated part of this team: Peraza.
For starters, he’s been a revelation from the leadoff spot. Peraza is hitting .333 as the leadoff hitter and has a .389 on-base percentage. Right, blink, rub your eyes, and look again at that .389 OBP. He’s scored 22 of his 53 runs from the leadoff spot, scoring just under 50% of the time he’s reached base.
Part of the explanation for his success can be explained by Peraza having a 30 point-better batting average on balls in play than last year (.293 compared to .259). Another part of the explanation comes from Peraza’s improved plate disciple. His walk percentage is up for the third-straight year to 5.5% and his strikeout rate is down to 10.9%. Diving slightly deeper, he has decreased his swing % by three points on pitches outside the zone and has a 95% contact rate on pitches in the zone. He’s made leaps and bounds in the improvement area this season.
The hitting has been what’s pushed this team through the first 96 games. The Reds have scored the third most runs in the NL, at 461. Their team on-base percentage trails the Cubs by 4 points (.341) for best in the Majors. Much has been written, of late, regarding Cincinnati’s plate discipline and their willingness to take more walks translating into success at the plate, and who could argue? It has been a huge factor in their turnaround.
While not egregiously worse, Cincinnati’s OBP was 15 points lower for the month of April. Combine that with the second worst slugging percentage in all of major league baseball, for that month (.357), and you get an offense that was unable to bail out horrific pitching.
The pitching has come a long way, since that harrowing month, in which the Reds compiled the worst ERA in the NL (5.15) and beat everyone to 20 losses. They’ve shaved over a run off that number, since April, as their team ERA in months not named April is 4.06. The bullpen has gotten a lot of work, as Reds starters average just over five innings a game, but they’ve been up to the task, thus far.
As a unit, considering some individuals that are no longer with the major league team, they re statistically at the middle of the pack in the National League. Individually, there are some pitchers that no opposing lineup looks forward to facing, late in-game. Foremost is Jared Hughes.
Hughes has a 2.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference, good for 4th best on the team. His 1.44 ERA is third best among NL relievers with at least 40 IP. When you are the key guy out of the bullpen, you’ve got to be tough when you get a bad hand dealt to you, and Hughes stands tall in those situations. He’s inherited 23 runners and stranded 15 of them. Despite tossing right handed, Hughes is toughest on lefties, allowing 16 hits in 81 lefties faced. He’s also kept the ball in the park, allowing just two round-trippers.
Amir Garrett stands tall next to Hughes. The starter turned reliever has one-upped Jared Hughes in the inherited run department. Just six of the 32 runners Garrett has inherited have crossed home plate. He is tied for eighth in the Majors with 18 holds, but his ERA has climbed each month (it currently sits at 10.13 for the month of July). Safe to say, he’s relishing this All Star break.
The winning of late has distracted us Reds fans from the big picture of this season. It isn’t necessarily the goal to make the playoffs this year, but to get the team situated for multiple years of playoff contention, beginning next year. The biggest storylines coming out of the All Star Break will not be a pursuit of a playoff appearance, but a couple of other things:
What will they do at the trade deadline?
– Will they sell off? (I hope not)
– Will they go after a staff ace? (I hope so)
– Who will be a Red after the dust settles?
Will they succumb to peer pressure and remove the interim tag from Jim Riggleman?
– Don’t get me wrong, Riggsy has done a fantastic job, but that’s just premature and needless in so many ways. They haven’t conducted an actual managerial search since they hired Bob Boone. It needs to happen at the end of this season. If Riggsy is determined to be the guy after it’s all said and done, cool, but do a search.
Will they stop bunting?
– Okay, admittedly this isn’t really a storyline, per say, but it’s worth noting. The team that has scored the most runs in the Majors, the Boston Red Sox, have compiled a grand total of three sacrifices. Three. That’s it. That’s 30 less than the Reds, who lead all of Major League Baseball in sacrifices. Their seventh in runs scored, but think of where they could be if they stop giving up outs. You know what…I’m feeling a more detailed blog about this subject, so let’s wrap this up.
The Reds need to win 38 games in their final 66 to finish the year at .500. I predicted they would, before the season, on another website. I still think they complete the 81-81 season. This is a decent team, an entertaining team, and they can play with anyone. Add in a couple of trades that are, hopefully, coming in the next few weeks, and you got yourself a contender for the next few years.
Like I said in the opening graph, buckle up, Reds fans, there’s plenty of baseball left!
(Also, shout out Locked on Reds, this is post 100!)
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WATCH: Scooter Gennett and Joey Votto homer in the All-Star game