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 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.
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.
Sonny Gray in a recent interview with Eno Sarris of The Athletic.
“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.”
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?
Have Some Faith in The Rotation
The Cincinnati Reds are going to have eight bullpen arms on the everyday major league roster. Let’s make heads or tails of this.
For a large portion of the 2018 season the Cincinnati Reds carried eight relievers. While I absolutely hated it, I completely understood it. The Reds starting rotation was lucky to finish the sixth inning. Pitch counts often were creeping towards 100 pitches by the end of the fifth inning. The rotation itself, outside of Castillo and Harvey, seemed to be in constant flux due to injuries and poor performances.
On paper, the 2019 Cincinnnati Reds rotation appears to be about as middle of the road as you can get. Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Disco, Alex Wood and now Tyler Mahle are all at least middle of the rotation guys . They will eat innings for your team if nothing else. I am expecting these guys to put up 6 innings nearly every appearance. Hopefully they will add plenty of quality starts, to boot. Why would you need eight relievers to back them up?
Madison Bumgarner said it best when referring to the idea of a bullpen opener, “If you’re using an opener in my game, I’m walking right out of the ballpark.” I think it’s an insult to starting pitchers for their goal to be complete 5 innings and hand the rest off to the bullpen. This leads me to believe there will be one bullpen pitcher that is extremely under utilized when he could be getting innings in the minors.
Meanwhile, the Reds are showing more roster depth on the bench than we have ever seen in the past 20 years. Rather than opting to have a fifth bench player, with a solid bat, you would rather use that position for an excessive amount of relievers. Matt Kemp, Scott Schebler, Jose Iglesias, Derek Dietrich, Phillip Ervin and Nick Senzel are all bats that could be getting significant playing time in the majors. All of which will have a significant impact on scoring runs and winning games for this team. It makes zero sense to me how you can justify using that roster spot for a player who will, maybe, pitch one or two innings a week at most. I think it also shows little faith in a rejuvenated rotation. While I don’t believe or expect this rotation to be as good as the 2012 Reds. I do expect them not to be warming up the bullpen in the fifth inning nearly every night.
Opening Day: Cincinnati’s Holiday
Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds means so much more to this city than, pretty much, any other day.
No one does Opening Day like Cincinnati.
As an adult Opening Day is the only day I get to act like a kid again. No matter how good or bad the team is going to be, Opening Day in Cincinnati is always treated the same by the fan base. The one day of every year everyone who lives in the city has there minds on one thing…Cincinnati Reds baseball.
This year in particular is marked with serious celebration. The Cincinnati Reds are celebrating their 150th season since their beginnings in 1869 playing at the Union Ground close to Union Terminal. The annual holiday is also marked by the biggest yearly parade the town has to offer in the Findlay Markey Parade. The parade itself is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this season. For a kid this is one of the coolest things you can witness as a Reds fan. All kinds of local high schools, kids baseball teams, local celebrities, local charities, veterans, former and even current Reds players participate.
Thanks to the lovely development of the riverbank area we are now able to take place in the most exciting party of the year. The Reds Opening Day Block Party at the Banks is THE event for Reds fan. Which, if you’re a baseball fan, is a guarenteed blast. Even better, the party raises a huge amount of money for the Reds Community Fund. There you can find all your local favorite foods (Skyline, LaRosa’s) lining the Banks with the cheapest alcohol you can find all season that close to the stadium. Live music and plenty of giveaways are passed out among the crowd. If mingling in the streets isn’t your fancy there are plenty of overly crowded restaurants where you can hang out. Most of them provide an exciting atmosphere during the game just like any other packed Reds game.
I personally have many experiences with Opening Day. In 1992, Opening Day also happened to fall upon my younger brother Adam’s arrival to planet Earth. When I arrived at the hospital I had zero interest in the newest addition to our family. I was more concerned about getting home in time to watch Opening Day and the NCAA Finals. At one of the mid 90’s Opening Days I was interviewed by the local news. The interview made me feel like a celebrity at the time. In 1996 I was a infuriated when after just a few pitches the game was cancelled because the umpire keeled over and never got back up. As an adult I feel terrible about that moment because he died from cardiac arrest. In the moment all I cared about was Opening Day.
I remember in 2000 being there to witness Ken Griffey Jr. for the first time in a Reds uniform. The Reds got what seemed to be a dream come true in the best player in the MLB at the time. Junior was the guy whose video game you owned, cleats you bought, and swing you emulated. We were going to be able to see him every night instead of just the highlights on Sportscenter. The team seemed to be on it’s way to becoming a powerhouse of the NL Central for years to come with his addition. The game itself was lackluster. It’s the only recorded tie 3-3 in the teams Opening Day history. Ultimately the hype exceeded reality with Junior’s tenure in Cincinnati. However, when he walked out on the field that day you would have thought the rebirth of the Big Red Machine took place.
I was present for Aaron Boone’s sac fly scoring Larkin in 2002, Joe Randa’s walk off homer in 2005, and Ramon Hernandez’s walk off in 2011. I have awkwardly ran into teachers and ex girlfriends during this holiday. However, my all time favorite Opening Day moment took place last year.
Opening Day 2018 I was interviewed by the local news. My brother was kind enough to take several still shots of my interview. Before I had even seen the footage he was kind enough to post a picture so amazing I want it shown at my funeral. Whenever they interview you on the news it usually will say your name and a short description about you. My description originally read Dave Pemberton: Reds Fan. My brother’s edited version said Dave Pemberton: Local Fat Kid. All of my close friends and family thought it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. I loved it so much I used it as my fantasy football name. I guess this is payback for not wanting to hang out at the hospital with him when he was born on Opening Day all those years ago.
I hope all of Reds Country is able to participate and attend Opening Day at some point in their lives. Even those fair-weathered fans who have attended Opening Day will probably tell you it’s a must if you live in Cincinnati. For this Local Fat Kid it will always the best holiday of the year.
Losing Scooter Gennett for the chunk of time they are about to, puts the pressure on the Cincinnati Reds from the word go.
Scooter Gennett went down Friday afternoon with a groin injury. It was announced Saturday afternoon that he would be returning after 8-12 weeks. At best that puts him back in the middle of May and at worst middle of June.
Scooter is a vital part of this team. In his two years with the Cincinnati Reds, Scooter’s career has seen a revival. Gennett’s career in Cincinnati has totaled him a .303 AVG, .351 OBP, 50 HR, and tied a team best with Suarez for highest WAR in 2018 with 4.2. He was almost able to win a batting title last season on his way to an All-Star season. We must not also forget this guy wants to remain a Red after the 2019 season when his contract’s up. All the signs point toward Scooter putting up more amazing totals this year for the Reds. Missing Scooter for 2-3 months will have a significant impact on the teams win total.
On the surface there were three real options to replace Gennett till his return. This is in the order of how I expected the Reds to make this decision.
- Move Senzel to 2B for Opening Day. Get Senzel at least two months of playing time at the position he may very well start Opening Day in 2020. When Scooter returns move him back to CF.
- Derek Dietrich being left handed would be the second best option. Dietrich also has similar numbers to Iglesias at the plate.
- Jose Iglesias has played little at 2B but is a better glove than Dietrich. Move Pereza to 2B and Iglesias to SS as a temporary fix till Senzel is called up.
Dick Williams and David Bell announced today that the last option was what they are going to implement. As a part of that though they also announced Senzel will continue to play CF in Louisville and the Reds will roster Kyle Farmer on the bench to start the season. This move seems to go against the entire direction of moves the team has made this offseason. That direction being we are ready to win NOW.
This move to me says they are playing the baseball economics over winning now. On the surface this move can be justified as gaining one more year of contract control over Senzel. Schebler for what it’s worth put up stellar numbers in Spring Training. On paper he would be the better choice to start CF.
However as I said before Senzel’s time is NOW. If the Reds front office is serious about winning now there’s no reason Senzel doesn’t start in Scooter’s absence. Nick Senzel is ranked the number 6 top prospect in all of baseball. Many believe he could win batting titles in the future. Senzel has shown he’s willing to play anywhere to get himself on the roster. He’s put up a .314 AVG and .390 OBP during his minor league career. I personally think once he is given the opportunity he’s going to be the frontrunner for the Rookie of The Year. I’m a big fan of history. History shows when the Reds tried doing this last year it backfired horrendously when Senzel ended up needing season ending surgery. Why wouldn’t you want that guy on your team as soon as possible?
I truly hope this is just us getting worked up over nothing. Leading to Senzel seeing serious playing time in just two weeks as the starting 2B. While in between Iglesias, Dietrich, and Farmer are able to start out the season on fire. Otherwise the front office needs to be more up front with there plans on Nick Senzel. Finally I probably shouldn’t complain about this at all. None of these options are bad at all. After all none of the players mentioned as replacements were named Gosselin, Pennington, Kivlehan, Alcantara, Dixon, or Herrera.