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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

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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

Reds Rule 5 Players and Predictions

We are coming up on the deadline for MLB teams to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Here are some players the Reds need to make some tough decisions on.

Clay Snowden

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MLB teams have until November 20th to make their decision on the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. They must decide to “protect” (add to the 40 man roster) to avoid another team selecting a player in the draft. I want to go over the list and make predictions on if the player will be protected or not.

Riley O’Brien RHP

O’Brien was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Cody Reed trade. A late bloomer of sorts, the 6’4” righty has a nice fastball. Being 25, he’s ready to battle for a spot in the pen right now. There isn’t great bullpen depth on the 40 man roster right now, so I can see O’Brien replacing a spot that players such as Romano/Alaniz/De Leon held in 2020. Prediction: Protected

Vladimir Gutierrez RHP

The former top 10 organizational prospect has been trending in the wrong direction. The beginning of 2019 was tough in AAA for Vlad but he finished the year strong. A suspension plus the lack of a 2020 minor league season makes it difficult to see how he is doing. However, he has enough raw talent to keep him on the roster. Prediction: Protected

Jacob Heatherly LHP

Checking in at #18 on the Reds prospect list, Heatherly is the only lefty on the list. We know the Reds will likely bring in lefty competition for the LHP bullpen spot next to Amir. Coming off an injury, I would bet he would not get drafted. Prediction: Not Protected

Alfredo Rodriguez SS

It feels like Alfredo has been in the Reds system forever. A 2016 pricey Cuban SS, Rodriguez was brought in due to his glove in hopes that the bat would come around. Long story short, it hasn’t. He’s now 26 and a change of scenery might be the best for him. I doubt he will get picked, though. Prediction: Not Protected

TJ Friedl OF

Friedl was exposed last year in the draft and not selected. He is a plus fielder and runner, but most other parts of his game are underwhelming. Prediction: Not Protected

Joel Kuhnel RHP

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what Kuhnel is. He has a fastball that is VERY good. I have always liked Kuhnel and wanted to see him get a longer look. There were plenty of opportunities for him to get a shot and more often than not he was overlooked. This one is hard for me, but I think him not getting more chances shows what the Reds think of him. Prediction: Not Protected

Mariel Bautista OF

Bautista has been with the Reds since 2014. I really do not think he is anything too special in terms of a prospect. He also doesn’t do any one thing so well that a team would select him off of that one skill. Prediction: Not Protected

Jared Solomon RHP

To be honest, I do not know much about Solomon. So I reached out to someone much smarter than me, our #RedsTwitter friend @RedsFan_Brandon . He predicted him to be protected. Boddy has been high on him and his fastball has improved. So I will stick with that. Prediction: Protected

None of these players are top 15 Reds prospects by most list. So losing any of them shouldn’t be the end of the world. Last year the Reds selected Mark Payton. Conor Joe was selected the year before.

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Cincinnati Reds

Non-Tender Candidates

Should the Reds look to be active in the free agent market they’re most likely going to have to cut payroll, first. Let’s start with some player who could get non-tendered before the December 2nd deadline.

Jeff

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This offseason…stop me if you’ve heard this…is going to be weird. Budgets will be unpredictable, although most believe spending will be at a minimum, and the Reds already have a lot of contracts that are set. Further additions and movement in the free agent market most likely will be preceded by some surprise cuts.

Based on the players leaving and the estimated totals of arbitration contracts, spotrac.com has the Reds at just over $126 million in payroll for 2021. They totaled out at a smidge over $144 million last year (if the season was to be as normal) with all of the transactions considered. The Reds could try to get back to that number, but the most likely scenario is that they hover around the $125-$130 million mark.

With the idea of making one or two moves to improve one of the worst lineups in baseball, let’s look at three candidates for being non-tendered. 

(Just an FYI, only non-tender candidates are capable of being cut and their salary taken off the books. All other MLB contracts are guaranteed.)

Brian Goodwin

As a fan, this one would hurt. He was a guy I watched with the Angels thinking if he were given everyday playing time, he would flourish. If I’m being objectively honest (and if I want the Reds to run similarly to the Rays) non-tendering him would make sense. He’s an athletically gifted outfielder who has a little bit of pop in his bat. In fact, he’s pretty much Phillip Ervin. The problem is, he figures to be a rotational outfield player, assuming everyone is healthy.

According to Spotrac, he will make around $3.2 million next year, or possibly the sixth highest dollar amount of Reds position players. That’s more than Jesse Winker’s possible $2.7 million and I think we can all agree that Jesse needs to be in the everyday lineup. Ik now he just got here from LA, but the dude was bit by whatever bug bit the Reds bats and slashed .163/.236/.327 in 20 games as a Red. Small sample size, sure, but am I counting on him to be light years better than that in what may not figure to be much more playing time? No.

Archie Bradley

This one I am less sure of being a good idea, but I am rolling with this whole “be more like Tampa” idea. The Rays, per Spotrac, aren’t estimated to give ANY of their relievers more than $2.5 million next year. The Reds are slated to give three relievers over $4 million.

I am not advocating a non-tender for Michael Lorenzen because of his versatility and potential for being the fifth starter in 2021. Barring a trade, the Reds are paying $9.125 million to Raisel Iglesias to get the last out of a game. They’re really going to pay Archie Bradley, who it felt as though David Bell didn’t trust as much as Nate Jones at times, $5 million to be a setup man? 

Robert Stephenson

Okay, this one really isn’t that surprising. It is time. We once regarded him as the Reds top prospect. We once regarded him as a future ace. We once proclaimed he reborn as a shutdown reliever. We now have no clue what to expect from him and it just does not make sense to continue to trot him out there expecting the complete career turnaround that we’ve all been hoping for since the “rebuild” began.

It won’t really save the Reds a ton of money, but freeing up BobSteve’s roster spot will open up an opportunity for one of the up-and-coming prospects or another Derek Johnson reclamation project. Frankly, I’d rather see any of those than BobSteve coming out of the Reds bullpen in 2021.

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Cincinnati Reds

Mailbag: Senzel, Winker, Votto, and More

Time for an offseason mailbag to get your focus on what the Reds need to do th be better for 2021

Clay Snowden

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It’s been a while and we have all had a chance to process that Reds playoff performance. Yuck. However, it is time for offseason talk. Let’s get into the mailbag.

 

What are the Reds going to do at catcher? The Reds and pitchers seem to like Casali and Barnhart behind plate..

The Reds once again went with the duo of Casali and Tucker behind the plate in 2020. The results were underwhelming, but not miserable. Tucker is a finalist for a gold glove while hitting .204/.291/.388 and an OPS+ of 77. Casali hit .224/.366/.500 with an OPS+ of 126. However, we all want to see the exciting prospect, Tyler Stephenson, take his reign of the position. I expect exactly that next season. Having a veteran backing him up is important so I’d imagine Tucker plays that role as he is under contract while Casali will enter arbitration.

In terms of how the pitchers like Casali and Tucker, I think that just comes with time. I am sure once the pitchers get to work with Stephenson more, they will learn to pitch well to him.

 

If there is a DH in 2021, shouldn’t #19 fill that role and let Da Wink and (place RH bat here) platoon at 1st?

The only thing the Reds have now is time (between now, and next season). So, what is their excuse for not putting Senzel at 2B, and give him regular ABs? (This makes Votto the DH, and Moose 1B)

What’s the odds of moving Senzel to 2nd, Moose to 1st and Votto to DH.

Well this is my intake everybody has one with the Outfield I guess we’re not going to have a DH going forward so Jesse Winker needs to be traded along with Nick Senzel I definitely keep Shogo, and hopefully we can keep Castellanos and let’s go try to get a productive outfielder

 

I want to clump all these together because it’s pretty much all the same gist.  So, let’s breakdown what it could look like with and then without the DH.

WITH: Votto to DH, Moose to first, Senzel STAYS in center, second is open to add speed/OBP.

Explanation: Votto’s defense is terrible. His contract isn’t going anywhere, so put him at DH. He still has something left with the bat. When Moose signed he wasn’t signing on to play second for the duration of that contract. No way. Move him to first and the defense at first likely improves. Keep Senzel in Center. Injuries and swing changes have stunted the development of Senzel enough. Asking him to change back to second after 2 years of focusing on becoming a CF just feels like something they will not do. He hasn’t done any work (that we know of ) at second since he moved to CF.

Now for 2B. Bringing back the same team that barely sneaked into an expanded playoff (while maybe losing Bauer) seems like a bad idea. Changes have to be made. The Reds added plenty of HR power last offseason, now add a 2B that might be a better OBP guy. Speed and better baserunning would be welcomed as well. In theory, this could increase the defensive ability at second as well.

WITHOUT: Votto at first (with plenty of days off), Moose at 2B, Senzel in CF, Winker traded.

Explanation: Votto really doesn’t have anywhere else to go besides the bench. There is not an option at this point, when they play him he will be at first. Which leaves Moose at second. Again, not a thrilling defensive side of the infield, but Moose held his own at second but as he gets older his range will continue to drop. Senzel in CF for the same reason’s I listed above. Winker is traded. In this scenario, I am still looking to shake up the team from 2020. ( I am also assuming Castellanos is returning) An OF with Winker and Castellanos fielding would be far less than ideal. I really like Winker, but Shogo could be ready for a bigger role. Winker has trade value and could strengthen the team in other areas by moving him. If the Reds make a big trade like many fans are hoping for, they will have to move MLB talent. They do not have enough top-end prospects to trade. If they do move the top prospects, they will deplete their farm system because it lacks depth. Remember, to acquire top-end talent you have to trade high value. Prospects out of the top 5 usually aren’t considered too high by many other organizations. 

 

Goldstar or Skyline and Cut or Twirl

I have never even had Goldstar. No need to. Skyline fills my needs. Twirl

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