For the next three days, the Cincinnati Reds (36-48) take on the bad guys from, what seems like, every baseball movie ever made as the Chicago White Sox (29-54) come to town.
Since the infamous 1919 World Series victory, the Reds have not enjoyed seeing the Chicago South Siders. The Reds have won just four of the 20 meetings between these two teams. The White Sox did not play the Reds at any point between 1920 and 1996.
After playing three-straight series against first place teams, the Reds will put their recent success on the line against a team in more of a rebuilding mode than they are. Cincinnati holds a 6-1 record against American League teams, having gone 2-0 against Kansas City and Detroit and 2-1 against Minnesota. The Reds pitching, during those games, has a collective 3.00 ERA with 47 punch-outs compared to 27 free passes.
The last time the ‘Sox and the ‘Legs met was May 9thand 10th of 2015. There was a doubleheader on the ninth due to a rainout on the 8th. The Reds won the first game, but dropped the next two. Getting the win for Cincinnati in game one was Johnny Cueto, while Jason Marquis and Aroldis Chapman got the losses. Remarkably, the only remaining player still on the team from the Reds last win against the White Sox, is Billy Hamilton.
The White Sox have had a rough go of it since they won the World Series in 2015, compiling just four winning seasons in that time span. In fact, they’ve not finished better than 4th in the AL Central since 2012. This year looks to be no different.
For starters, Chicago’s starters have been inconsistent. The three the Reds will face (James Shields, Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Covey) all sport ERAs above 4.20, with Giolito enduring a 6.59 ERA. They’re in a bit of a “see what we’ve got” phase with the youngsters. Giolito was called up last August and inserted into the rotation. He pitched seven starts in 2017, compiling a 3-3 record with a 2.38 ERA. Sample sizes, though, tend to be misleading as in 16 starts this year he has averaged 5.4 walks per nine innings.
James Shields has a 4.29 ERA and has pitched through nine losses, thus far. The 36-year old hasn’t had an easy time of it since arriving in Chicago, but his current ERA is a run better than it has been since donning a White Sox uniform. He’d like his strikeout-to-walk ratio to calm down, though, as he fans just under two batters before allowing a base-on-balls.
Dylan Covey has a 4.82 ERA in nine starts with a 3-3 record. Covey is allowing a lot of solid to hard contact this season as fangraphs.com says just 19.2% of contact off him is soft-hit. That, coupled with a contact rate of 83.8% of his pitches, is probably why opposing hitters have a .273 average against Covey. After not allowing any long-balls in any of his first six starts, Dylan has given up six homers in his last three starts, including four his last time out. The Rangers touched him up for nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and three walks in 2.1 innings pitched.
Hitting-wise, they do have two boppers in the middle of their lineup. Matt Davidson leads the team in homers (14), on-base percentage (.347), slugging percentage (.482), and walks (36). Jose Abreu joins him in the middle, leading the team with a .271 batting average, 50 RBIs, and 27 doubles. They also have a speedster in Tim Anderson who spearheads their run-scoring efforts with 45 runs scored and 17 steals.
Despite winning yesterday, Chicago comes to Cincinnati 5-7 in the last two weeks. Their pitching over that time has allowed 79 runs (69 earned), 110 hits, and 53 walks. Opponents have compiled 18 homers on them, over those 12 games.
All three games in the series have a start time of 7:10 pm. Wednesday’s game will have a Independence Day fireworks celebration afterwards.
The Cincinnati Reds and the 20 Pitch Limit
When it comes to quirky early Cactus League season games, there’s a lot to know. One this is the 20-pitch limit a manager can invoke on an inning his guy is getting clobbered in. The Cincinnati Reds have already done this.
This Spring has seen an interesting beginning in that teams have smaller rosters than normal (though still plenty of players to go around) and they can choose to play shorter games. One other added wrinkle of differentness is the ability of a manager to “throw in the towel” whenever his pitcher reaches 20 pitches in an inning.
The Reds have already taken advantage of this twice, both during the beat down at the hands of the Athletics. Sal Romano got the curtain pulled on him in the fourth inning while Shane Carl heard the music in the fifth. These don’t necessarily paint a larger picture, as of yet, but it is interesting to note.
Carle doesn’t factor into the equation that is the Opening Day roster, but Big Sal surely does. He is out of minor league options (meaning he’d have to clear waivers to be assigned a minor league team) and he has shown some flashes of talent in the past. He could be valuable depth for the Reds bullpen, so calling it quits after 20 tosses (which frankly were all a consequence of Nick Senzel misplaying a ball early in the inning) doesn’t mean he’s out, but it is something to watch.
We’ll keep track here on the blog for more 20-pitch tap-outs.
Cincinnati Reds Roster Breakdown: Non Roster Invitees
Let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees trying to make the Cincinnati Reds roster during this Spring Training
WELCOME BAAAAAAACK! The Reds kick off the 2021 season on Sunday with their first spring training game. As I do each spring training, I am going to take a look at the non roster invitees (NRI) and how they could impact the team this season.
R.J. Alaniz, Matt Ball, Cam Bedrosian, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle, Josh Osich, Branden Shipley, Bo Takahashi
You might recognize a couple of these names. Alaniz has been around the organization the past couple of years and pitched 11.2 innings with the Reds in 2019. Biddle was a guy who was around last year, but the others are new. Carle (76.1 in), Osich (206.1 in), Shipley (100 in) have experience in the show with moderate results. Cam Bedrosian is the name to know here. The fact that he was signed on with a minor league deal is surprising. 277.2 innings with a 3.70 ERA has been a solid MLB pitcher. 2019 batters hit .207/.283/.336 and in 2020 they hit .196/.276/.255. His spin rate is gritty darn good honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a minor league deal that really is a promise on the roster. Think Jose Iglesias who was also a NRI a couple years back. This allows the Reds to delay their decision on making a 40 man roster move.
For a team that lost Rasiel Iglesias, Bradley, maybe Antone and Lorenzen to the rotation, Bedrosian will have a chance to really earn a legit role with this team. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a scenario where Shipley or Carle get innings this year.
Bittle and Osich are lefties that would have battled for the other LHP spot in the pen, but the signing of Doolittle bumps them to depth roles.
A 33 year old catcher with 37 at bats and a career .108 avg. Id say that there is not much to see here. Stephenson and Tucker are the one two punch and the offseason addition of Deivy Grullon will provide a younger depth option with a higher upside than Gale.
Cheslor Cuthbert, Dee Strange-Gordon (not listed on Reds roster yet)
Cuthbert isn’t a household name, but he does have over 1,000 at bats in the MLB. He had a decent season in ’16 with the Royals batting .274/.318/.413 and 12 HR, but he hasn’t shown enough to be a full time MLB player. Corner infield depth.
Here’s where I stand on Dee….If he is here to battle for a utility role, that’s fine with me. If he is here to be some variation of an answer at SS, we are in trouble. A 32 year old poor defender (who on the Reds isn’t at this point) who doesn’t have any power and doesn’t get on base. Yeah, he has stolen some bases. We all know speed is one of the first things to go when you age, and he still has some jump, but I don’t think it’s game changing speed at this point, and it’s useless unless he’s on base. I’m not high on Strange Gordan making an impact.
Nicky Delmonico, Tyler Naquin, Dwight Smith
I was worried about the Reds outfield depth. It’s a sneaky need, especially of Aquino doesn’t bounce back. This group of NRI is a group I am excited about. All have MLB experience and have had their moments. Delmonico had a nice (small sample size) rookie year with the White Sox in 2017, but has been worse each year since then. It’s the other two that catch my eye.
Dwight Smith has shown he has some pop in his bat. He is the type of player that you want to have in AAA ready to fill in if needed. Tyler Naquin is a guy I think could actually contribute to this team. We know 2020 was a small sample size, but look at the hard hit and exit velo. And his outfield jump/Outs above avg. fit in well with the team that doesn’t seem to care about defense.
He had a great rookie year in ’16, and has had moments since. .288/.325/.467 10 HR 19 2B in 2019 would be a good bench bat. The question is…is he better than Aquino/Heineman/Payton? Him and Payton are the two leftieis of the group. At the very least, I think he is great organizational depth, and I think his floor is a higher floor than the group listed above (maybe Aquino can make me eat crow there)
This list is different than most years. Not as many players listed, and no prospects. The number of players at Spring Training will be smaller than years past. Overall, I think theres 2-3 guys who could earn a role on the Reds 2021 roster.
Monday Morning Manager: The Snell Effect
David Bell has many things he needs to go right in order to win games and get a contract extension. One thing he can control is a decision-making process that should not be made entirely analytically.
In case you lived under a rock last year (and that might be Truer than in any other year) then you know how the World Series went down with the Rays falling to the Dodgers. You may even know about Blake Snell’s improbable removal from Game Six when he was absolutely on fire. This is something David Bell cannot mess up in 2021.
Ok, so in the grand scheme of things, I’m talking about the correct managing of the bullpen and rotation in pressure situations. Most people will look at the Game Six managing of Kevin Cash and see two things: a man sticking to his system that got him there and a man over-thinking things. Neither thoughts are incorrect.
In this day and age of baseball, most people understand statistical evaluations on pitchers favoring removing a starter before they pitch to the opposing lineup for the third time in a game. Well, maybe, because the numbers are a bit different in 2020, small sample size, and all. In fact, the Reds pitching staff held opponents to a .599 OPS in 253 plate appearances the third time through the order, last year. That may be a smoke screen, though, as the 2019 Reds pitching staff (largely similar to 2020) allowed an OPS of .892 in 799 PA. That’s a bit of a more reliable sample size, which would leave me to believe a starter pitching a third time through the order isn’t the most favorable idea.
Also something David Bell must consider is the overthinking aspect. In this Player’s Tribune post by the man, Blake Snell, himself, he points out the immense effect that simply seeing someone warming up in the bullpen had on him. Now, you can say “Well, that shouldn’t have been an issue, he should have sucked it up and pitched!” The dude is a human being. If you saw the person management was likely to replace you with if you messed something up at your job, are you going to just keep on keeping on with no thought to look over your shoulder? If you are, you might be a Jedi. Most of us mere mortals have problems with worrying about what might happen if things fall apart. Baseball players are not totally immune to this, either.
In order for Bell to garner a contract extension, he will have to adeptly manage a pitching staff that has talent, but also has human egos. Just because the numbers say that a decision should go one way, the human element must also be factored in. Last I checked, theres no button for that on a calculator, which leaves it up to his own decision-making skill.