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Cincinnati Reds

What Should We Expect Out of the Rotation? Part One – Sonny Gray

New pitchers have Reds fans excited for this season, but what can we reasonably expect from them?

Taj Simmons



The feeling of baseball is in the air, quite literally. Gloves all around the area are being broken into, bats getting those first satisfying cracks, and of course, pouches of the classic Big League Chew are being torn into.

Today the weather in Cincinnati peaked at 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Whenever that first nice day comes, I can’t help but think about baseball, and Opening Day, so close, but so far away. In past years, the hopes of a successful year for our beloved Redlegs quickly got sucked up in that strong wind. However, this team has the makings of at least looking like a formidable opponent. Which is a huge step in the right direction for this fan base that has been starved; just like we’ve been starved for those days we can finally step outside bright and early and not have to worry about frostbite.

The biggest improvement to the team this year, is the pitching, particularly the starting pitching. Partly because it HAD to improve at some point. I mean, we’re talking about the same starters who combined for an ugly 5.02 ERA, which was 14th in the NL, and 25th in the MLB last year.

If you want to look closer at the stats, it makes sense that nine of the ten teams that ranked in the top ten in starting pitching ERA made the playoffs last year. The only outlier being the New York Mets, whose offense struggled to support even the mighty Jacob DeGrom last year. A problem the Reds should not have.

Of course, we’ve been hyping up this new rotation since that winter vortex hit. Is it fair for us to assume the Reds can hit that top ten plateau with the new starting five? In order to do so they’d have to shave about 1.2 earned runs off that ERA. It’s a tough ask, but it certainly isn’t impossible. The Mets and Braves have flipped from bottom 10 to top 10 in just the past two years. Is this starting rotation built to make some noise? Or are they just cheap, store-brand imitations. Lets take a closer look.

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray as you may or may not have known was knocked around in the Bronx last year. However, that didn’t stop the Reds from scooping him up for cheap in a trade and immediately signing him to a three year extension, with an option for the fourth year. What do they see in him to hastily make such a move? Isn’t this the same guy that just got hit with a 4.90 ERA last year?

Well for one, it’s well documented that Gray had some absurd home-road splits last year. On the road, he posted an outstanding 3.17 ERA, however, that number balloons up to disgusting 6.98 at home. You can slice up all the home road numbers you want to support that notion. It just seemed like everything hit the wall for Gray in Yankee Stadium.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs

Now would be a good time to say “look at this particular stat”, but they’re ALL just so lopsided. The BABIP however supports the fact that Gray got a little unlucky at home to say the least. From this, we can conclude that Sonny Gray is likely to pitch more effectively away from Yankee Stadium. Preferably as far away as possible.

You want more reasons to believe in Sonny Gray, I’ll give ya more reasons to believe in Sonny Gray. Of course, the Reds new pitching coach, Derek Johnson coached at Vanderbilt while Gray was slicing eyeballs down there, as well as backup catcher Curt Casali. Personal friend and former Red, Caleb Cotham too was hired as an assistant pitching coach to deliver data-driven methods to help players. Having so many allies in your corner is definitely a plus, one that Gray should theoretically benefit from.

Let’s not forget the recent reports coming out about how the Yankees relied on Gray to pitch some more offspeed stuff rather than his fastball either.

Fangraphs reports last year only 35% of Gray’s pitches were his cut-fastball. A significant drop from the glory days of Gray from 2013-2016 seasons where that number hovered consistantly around 50 to 60%. Perhaps he’s on to something here.

“I can’t command my slider that well, I want to throw my slider in the dirt with two strikes, and that’s about it.”

Sonny Gray in a recent interview with Eno Sarris of The Athletic.

Yeah, maybe lets not make him rely on those sliders.

One significant drawback for all these pitchers is the fact they have to pitch in the tuna can that is Great American Ball Park. One has to consider whether those home-road splits can be trusted to be so quickly dismissed. Was the small ballpark the reason? Or perhaps the big stage of New York was the distraction.

Fangraphs’ THE BAT give Sonny Gray some projections I agree most with. How does a nice 3.96 ERA sound? Of course it’s not the stuff of a true number one, but that’s not what we’re asking Gray, or any other pitcher in this rotation to be right now. They’re called aces for a reason.

The important thing to note here is that no one can truly predict the stats of a player, however you can get close based on past evidence. It’s not like a weatherman has ever failed anyone before right?

Having been born and raised in Cincinnati, eating Skyline Chili and rooting on the Reds have gone hand in hand. Free times are usually spent scouring the web on Reds information, playing OOTP or the The Show, and pretty much filling up a baseball addiction through any means possible. Personal favorite memories include Jay Bruce's walk-off clinching Central title, watching Joey Votto do his thing, and Jonny Gomes' at bat shenanigans

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Cincinnati Reds

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

Clay Snowden



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.



Rocky Gale

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

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.

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Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds Optimal Lineup

Let’s look past the Opening Day Lineup to the lineup the Cincinnati Reds could have, if everything is going right.





There will be many things said/written about the Opening Day Lineup and what that should like for the Cincinnati Reds. With the first full team workout happening Monday, let’s take a look at what the lineup should look like if things are going well for the Reds, this season. I’m going to exclude positions for this experiment and you’ll see why.

  1. Shogo Akiyama – Ideally, Shogo will be getting on base much closer to the clip he posted in September than the one he did in August of last year. If he does this, he will be producing what the Reds hoped he would when they made him the first Japanese-born Cincinnati Red.
  2. Jesse Winker – He broke out in a big way in 2020 and was the Reds best hitter. There’s no reason to think that won’t, at the very least, continue and probably will even get better.
  3. Eugenio Suarez – He should be the Reds best hitter and I believe he will regain that title in 2021.
  4. Mike Moustakas – Moose has always been a run driver-inner and, if things are going well he will continue to do so.
  5. Nick Castellanos – he could be the third hitter, but it would be an amazing season, indeed, if he gets on-base at a higher clip than Geno.
  6. Joey Votto – this isn’t meant to be an insult, just realistic. I’ve seen and heard takes putting him in the three-spot. That’s a great idea in 2017. Now, any power should be considered a bonus with the main expectation of him being an on-base catalyst for the bottom of the lineup/turning over of the lineup.
  7. Nick Senzel – him being down here is more a hope that the top six indeed prove worthy to be top six. This is also hoping he’s healthy enough to play everyday, or almost everyday, and build up enough momentum to produce at the level he is capable of. Also, the not labelling defensive position thing is because he should be in the running as a shortstop option, but it sure feels like that’s not the case. Before you say, “Jeff, he’s not a shortstop…” who on this roster is? Get the best eight (nine if the NL miraculously gets the DH) in the lineup and worry about defense later. That’s pretty much how this roster is built, anyway.
  8. Tyler Stephenson – in a few years, he should be hitting in the middle of the order. In 2021, let’s keep the pressure on low and watch him thrive in the box.
  9. Pitcher (again, we’ll reassess if the players and owners ever get together and figure this out before the season begins, but we aren’t holding our breath).

This lineup could be pretty good…maybe. As fans we can hope, the folks who run the Reds should not lean on that. The lineup I propose should only be if each player is performing to the level that is expected of him. More than likely, this lineup will not happen, because it is doubtful every single bat bounces back in 2021.


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