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Cincinnati Reds

The Ones Who Got Away

Jeffery Carr

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

And here we go! In one corner, we have the 6’ 6”, 245 lb hurler from Alexandria, Virginia – former Red Mat Latos. In the other corner we have a poor son of a gun who was rendered two-dimensional from the body slam Latos put on him. Mad Mat has come a long way from the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark. 

Since being traded for Anthony DeSclafani, Latos pitched for the Marlins, Dodgers, Angels, White Sox, Nationals, and Blue Jays (all in the span of two seasons) before finding himself out of Major League Baseball and playing for the Independent New Jersey Jackals.

That viral video got me to thinking, how are those former fan favorites that were dealt away? Let’s take a look.

The New York Reds

For whatever reason, a good handful of former Reds are currently playing in the Big Apple. Keeping it limited to the ones who fans bought jerseys for, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Devin Mesoraco are currently New York Mets while Aroldis Chapman saves games for the Yankees now.

Frazier – The Toddfather really made Reds fans miss him in 2016, smashing 40 homers for the White Sox. Since then, though, he has cooled down a bit. He had a postseason appearance with the return of the Yankees to October baseball, but otherwise hit a cool .222 after being traded midseason away from Chicago. This year he is hitting .239 in 37 games played with seven home runs and 24 ribeye steaks.

He’s currently on pace to have his best season since he left Cincinnati.

Bruce – Despite being mired in, possibly, his slowest start to a season, Bruce has had an interesting ride since leaving Cincinnati. Upon being dealt to the Mets in 2016, he accompanied them to a Wild Card exit at the hands of the San Francisco Giants (he’s got to have a special kind of distaste for that team) while contributing just eight homers and a .219 batting average.

2017 saw a more Brucian-like 29 homers and 75 RBI up until August 9th, when he was dealt to the Indians for a low-A pitching prospect. With the Indians, Bruce was a vital part of the record-setting 22-game winning streak that Cleveland put together. Bruce hit the 3-run homer that put the Indians ahead in their 21st straight win and hit the walk-off RBI double to win the 22nd in a row.

Mesoraco – He hasn’t been gone long, but he’s still worth mentioning. After receiving a bit more regular playing time, Mes has five homers and 10 RBI in 22 games. He is still batting just .209, though, and has 15 strikeouts in 67 at-bats.

Chapman – This former Reds closer is not a Met but a Yankee. After being dealt to the Bombers for what seemed like 20 cents on the dollar, Brian Cashman flipped him for his current starting shortstop and then signed him in free agency a year later. Must be nice to have all that money. As most of you probably remember, Chapman helped the Cubs break their championship drought in 2016, so I’d say he’s ok with having been traded.

Chappy has 76 saves in his three seasons away from Cincinnati. For what it’s worth, the Cuban Missile hasn’t eclipsed 100 strike outs in a season since pitching for the Reds (Man, I miss seeing that guy in a Reds uniform).

The Rest of ‘Em

Just want to look at a few more who play in other places besides New York.

Mike Leake – Currently a Seattle Mariner, Leake has also pitched for the Giants and Cardinals. Mike has not topped his 2013 season in Cincinnati when he went 14-7 and had an ERA of 3.37 in 31 starts. So far into 2018, Leake is averaging 6 innings a start and an ERA just above four. In his last three starts, Leake has pitched 23 innings, given up five runs, and added two wins to his season total.

If you’re like me, you’re looking at those stats and thinking “How on earth did we think Adam Duvall was worth Mike Leake? The Reds could totally use his arm!” Then I looked at his contract…he’s currently on year three of a five year $80 million deal. He’d be the Reds third-highest paid player. Objectively: $16 million a year is overpaying for a 4.00+ ERA.

Johnny Cueto – Johnny has spent three years in San Francisco after winning the World Series with the Royals in 2015. Cueto was the first domino to fall in the Reds rebuild and, at the time, the trade was deemed a good deal for both sides. As of today, the Royals got a ring and the Reds got one pitcher who is no longer with the team, one pitcher who is wallowing in the minors struggling with his control, and one pitcher who has gone from injury-prone to a reclamation project in Louisville.

This season Johnny is 3-0 in five starts with a sub-one ERA. Sabermetrics show that he is getting a little lucky, stranding over 90% of the baserunners he faces (career average is 76%).

Zack Cozart – We’ll wrap this “Where are they now” segment up with a player who wasn’t traded away. Zack left via free agency last season, as you may remember, to the Angels. He hasn’t quite taken to his new digs, though, as he currently batting .226 with five homers and a .299 on-base percentage. Uncharacteristically for him, Cozart is sporting a negative defensive war. Statistics show the Angels plan to move him to third base has not worked out, to this point, as he has a .957 fielding percentage there, the lowest of the three positions he’s played in LA.

Cozart has bat leadoff in 26 games this season for the Angels and gets on-base one out of every three plate appearances. He has been displaced as of late, though, given his low batting average.

The Reds wont face anyone on this list until August 6th when they travel play the Mets. As far as in Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto may pitch in Great American Ballpark again, when the Giants come to town August 17th, 18th, and 19th.

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 been at the center of his mind. Just as comfortable talking spread offenses as he is talking Sabermetrics, get ready for simplistic views of complicated sports jargon. The Queen City is his home and he is excited to write about the Reds and the Bengals.

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Cincinnati Reds

The Reds Blueprint for Success in 2019

Jeffery Carr

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© Kareem Elgazzer The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

Hi, my name is Jeff and I am a Reds-a-holic.

It’s been a problem the last few years. I bring the Reds up in conversation and people either blatantly ignore me for the rest of our time together, their eyes glaze over while they’re faking undivided attention, or they laugh and walk away. The Redlegs need to do some things, plural (because, let’s face it, if all they do is add Mike Trout, they still aren’t a playoff team), to re-insert themselves back into people’s minds as something worth their attention. As a degenerate fan who knows next-to-nothing about running a team (though I was not bad at fantasy baseball, not to brag) here are some obvious, and not so obvious ideas to get this Reds team back to the playoffs tomorrow, let alone next season.

Some people to move on from: Like I said, some are obvious and some aren’t, and some you might want me murdered for mentioning.

First and foremost, sign the check and send Homer Bailey on his way. It’s done, it’s over. He is now one of just a small percentage of pitchers who managed to throw over 200 innings in a season and somehow have a 6.00+ ERA. It’s not health, strangely. The man of many injuries did not go down for an extended period of time. And, come on, the time he missed during the summer was not an injury. That was the Reds brass saying “We need a reason not to play him, so, uh, he’s hurt, maybe.” The one thing you can say about him is he pitched the lone complete game for a Reds staff that was not good. He still lost that game. He’s due $30 mil whether he loses 20 games for you, or not, so just give him his money, and thanks for the memories.

Secondly, move on from Billy Hamilton. This one stings to admit, because, as a fan, I think he’s awesome. Objectively, though, it’s time. Listen, I know there’s this argument that on-base percentage does not apply to Billy like it applies to other players because he scores a higher percentage of runs when he is on base. Baloney. Plus, double baloney on his base-running ability as his steals took a dip this year. Call it conservative managing, or whatever you like, he stole less bases. Billy Hamilton should lead the league in steals every single year, barring a career-altering injury. He didn’t. It’s a bad sign. Find a team who will use him the way he should be used (as a late game super sub) and make a deal for a reliever or for a minor league arm.

Thirdly, and this one stings, because I love this dude, but move on from Scooter Gennett. I’ve been back and forth on this one, and believe me, if my fan heart was not sure about Billy, I’m really not loving this idea, but it has to be done. There is a caveat here, but if there is a good return to be had, do not say no. If there’s no market for him, then keep him. But if you can get a game-changing arm for Scooter and maybe a package of prospects, please don’t dismiss that idea simply because we fans like Scooter. I get it, he’s a hometown dude. He hit four homers in a game. He *almost won the NL batting title this year. He is legit, which means he should garner some trade interest. Do not slap a hypothetical no-trade tag on Scooter simply because he makes a few more fans go woo. There is a defensive upgrade, who is not a liability at the plate, who can take over in his absence, but more on that later.

Lastly, move on from Jim Riggleman. The manager is not the most important thing in a championship run, but he is kind of important, and Riggsy isn’t the guy to get the reds there. This has been said by James a lot, and by other radio personalities in the Queen City, but I’ll just pile on here. The Red Sox are the best team in the AL, with a relatively inexperienced manager. The Yankees are not far behind, with a first-year manager. The Brewers have a manager that some of their fans aren’t high on, and he’s young, but hey, that didn’t stop them from winning the toughest division the National League. Be open-minded about the next Reds manager-aka-go with Mr. Outside Hire.

Here’s who you bring in. Disclaimer, this is all hypothetical. I don’t actually know who’s available and who’s not. So, yeah, take this with a grain of salt.

Go get Jacob DeGrom. Per Baseball-Reference.com, his contract is up at the end of this year. Make a deal before Christmas, send Hunter Greene, Scooter Gennett, Tony Santillan and some other prospects and see if the Mets will add in Brandon Nimmo (can play CF, .404 OBP in 2018). If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the ridiculous numbers DeGrom put up this year. Some consider him in the MVP race, despite the Mets horribleness. Yeah, MVP, for a pitcher, that’s how good he is. So, maybe the Mets lock him down, or maybe they are looking to blow things up. The Reds have a top ten farm system, but no one cares about what the Reds can do in 2021, we want wins in 2019. Make it happen, captain!

Roll out the red carpet, and the checkbook, for Dallas Keuchel. Do what he wants to get him to pitch for the Reds. There’s money to spend, and he probably loves Skyline Chili, so get him here. He’s a free agent, this year, so no players will have to be traded away to get him, there will just need to be some money spent. What’s that? You are planning on spending for pitching? Well, there you go. Your money will be well spent on both DeGrom and Keuchel, and neither one will be like Eric Milton. You put these two at the top and all NL teams immediately will take notice.

Go get one more pitcher with Scott Schebler. Look, Schebs has been good, but it feels like he’s trending toward brittle, with that shoulder, and now is the time to get value out of him. Go talk to Seattle about Marco Gonzales or Wade LeBlanc, or maybe see if Detroit is willing to part ways with Michael Fullmer or Matt Boyd. It doesn’t seem that farfetched, to me, but maybe Dick Williams gets laughed off the phone in all of those examples. At any rate, I feel like there’s still a little value to be had from trading Schebler to an AL team that can DH him. I do not think he will ever have an outfield arm again, with his shoulder issues, so get him traded, while you still can.

Bring up Senzel and name him the starter immediately after trading Schebler. Don’t wait until Spring Training, or whatever you’ve been doing lately with him, give him the starting corner outfield spot as soon as you swap Schebs for a decent arm. Senzel will replace Schebler, and may even be an upgrade. Or, go the Phil Ervin route in the corner outfield spot, and put Senzel at shortstop and…

Install Jose Peraza as the everyday second baseman, upon Scooter’s departure. Look, he isn’t a plus fielder, but he is serviceable and when you move him to second base, you negate his throwing deficiencies. Plus, he took a big leap forward in the hitting department, this year, making him a top of the lineup candidate in 2019.

Lastly, and this is just my hard and fast opinion, based on nothing but a gut feeling: go get Mike Scioscia. Just a hunch, think he’ll be good.

Alright, I’ve droned on enough. Tell me what you think, @ me on Twitter (@jefffcarr) and all that jazz. Tell me I’m nuts, tell me I’m a looney. Let’s talk the 2019 Reds!

Also follow @lockedonReds on Twitter, if you haven’t already!

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Cincinnati Reds

Looking Back on the Good in 2018

Jeffery Carr

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Cincinnati Reds did not become the first team to have the exact same record for three-straight years, but they did lose exactly one more game than the last two years. Despite a year of confusion and frustration, there were a few good points. Let’s do the denial thing and recap the bits Reds fans had to smile about in 2018, in no particular order.

1.       That point at the end of June/early July where the Reds chances at making the playoffs went from 0.00% to 0.03%. What a time to be a Reds fan and alive, in June 2018. Everyone was hitting, everyone was pitching, and everyone was winning. June and July went down as the only months of 2018 in which the Reds had a winning record. Remember what life was like back then? You talked about the Reds, you smiled about the Reds, and you cared about the daily results. Heck, you even wanted Jim Riggleman’s interim tag removed, right then. How you feeling about that today?

Whoops, sorry, this is a positive post, back to the happy. The Reds outscored their opponents 146 to 119 in June, batting a ridiculous .281 average and compiling an equally ridiculous (for 2018) team ERA of 4.06. That’s where anyone who does math somehow came up with the one single solitary scenario in which Cincinnati could make the postseason. When I think back on this year, I will remember this stretch, and especially the next bit…

2.       All those grand slams they hit. I mean, c’mon. For a hot minute, when the Reds loaded the bases, you popped open a cold one, knowing you’d be seeing four runs put up on the board with one swing. The Reds hit 11 slams this year (you probably heard that number). In fact, as a team, Cincinnati hit .299 with the bases loaded, in 2018. Here’s a list of players who hit a bomb with all the deck stacked: Joey Votto (two), Adam Duvall (two), Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza, Jesse Winker, Anthony DeSclafani, and Michael Lorenzen.

Joey was just stupid with the bases juiced. He hit .429 in 14 at-bats, with his pair of dingers, a triple, a pair of doubles and two walks. In this tiny sample, Joseph Daniel slugged 1.143 and had a .500 on-base percentage. Despite his overall down year, when it comes to counting stats, nobody wanted to pitch to Joey with the bases loaded.

3.       Jesse Winker will be here awhile. Despite enduring one of the handful of “will he start or will he sit” sagas, Winker etched his name in the Reds starting lineup, in the years to come. You may have forgotten about him, since he’s been shut down for a bit, now, due to injury, but let’s take a look.

Season Totals
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
2018 Totals 89 74 334 281 38 84 16 0 7 43 0 0 49 46 .299 .405 .431 .836 121 6 2 1 1 4 2 .336 100 133
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2018.

He showed extraordinary discipline, a true mark of a Votto teammate, but did you also know he had success when aggressive? Winker compiled 13 hits (.361 average) when swinging at the first pitch, including a pair of homers. That’s not to say he should approach an AB with reckless abandon, as he showed poise in three-ball counts with a ridiculous .691 OBP. He will be a valuable on-base machine, in years to come, for the Reds.

4.       Votto is a national treasure. Okay, so he didn’t hit a million home runs and failed to eclipse 70 million RBIs, Joey continued being Joey, despite some unluckiness with the counting stats. He joined the inner circle of inner circles, as far as baseball, by leading the NL in OBP (.417) for a seventh time in his career. He joins his idol, Ted Williams (12), Babe Ruth (10), Barry Bonds (10), Rogers Hornsby (7), and Ty Cobb (7). If etching his name next to those legends of baseball isn’t enough, then there’s always this:

5.       Scooter Gennett is now someone you hate to see traded. There are objective arguments out there, most of which I agree with, that Scooter should be traded. “He’s blocking Nick Senzel,” or “He’s due for some regression” are a few of the many theoretical headlines around Gennett. One more that some talk about, but I believe warrants more attention, is he is due a big pay day, and pretty soon. With his resume he’s put together since being waived by Milwaukee (which as much as we Reds fans like to harp on, hasn’t seemed to hurt them too much) Scooter is set to have some generous negotiating kahones. Is that risk worth taking? Sure, he’s shown with his play this year that he is no fluke at the plate, but his glove leaves a lot to be desired. Anyway, those are all questions for later posts.

Scooter’s 2018 has looked like this:

Season Totals
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB HBP SF IBB
2018 Totals 154 143 638 584 86 181 30 3 23 92 4 42 125 .310 .357 .490 .847 286 4 5 3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/2/2018.

He’s a guy that most fans, I believe, will be disappointed to see go, regardless of objectively acceptable outcomes.

6.       The late inning guys took shape. This was supposed to be a “set the table” year, like James has said, a lot, on the podcast. It wasn’t in many areas, but it was, in some. The bullpen is a big one. Raisel Iglesias has been and will continue to be the closer. He got to 30 saves this year and, although he allowed a dozen long balls, remained the unquestioned best arm in this bullpen. Joining him are the two free agent acquisitions the Reds made, last offseason, in Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. Now, fatigue factored in, as the bullpen just got used and abused for a third-straight year, but Hughes and Hernandez showed good return on investment. When Hughes comes sprinting out of the bullpen to the mound, I do not have a feeling of uncertainty, I do not really worry, I feel like the door will close on the opposition’s scoring chances. Past them, Lorenzen was solid and Amir Garrett even emerged as a “closer-in-waiting” type guy, should Iggy get traded. I’m not worried, beyond being forced to pitch 600 innings again, about the bullpen next year.

Now that the most exciting part of 2018 for the Reds is beginning don’t forget to check in on Locked on Reds as we will have you covered!

@lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter

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Cincinnati Reds

Questions for the Prospective Reds Manager

Jeffery Carr

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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.

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