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?
A Look at the 2020 Reds
Taking a look at what the Cincinnati Reds roster may look like in 2020.
The 2019 version of the Cincinnati Reds was different from the past few years. New manager, new players, “rebuild” players finally getting called up. Unfortunately, the outcome was not that much different from years past. Players were moved at the deadline to help retool for the future. We all know this process far too well. Well, 2020 is the true start of “the future” of this organization. 2020 is the year they need to make the playoffs to keep the fanbase sane (according to my twitter feed). So, let’s dive in and see what this roster could look like.
This 2019 Reds roster will not likely produce 80 wins. Let’s get the facts out there. As of today (9/5/19) they are 65-75. Bringing back the same roster will not produce the same results. Plenty of players on the current roster are part of the future and some have yet to hit their prime.
Team needs/decisions for the offseason:
1) Bullpen help (especially adding a lefty)
2) Figure out the middle infield situation
3) 4th and 5th starters
4) The catcher situation
Let’s start with the pitching. What we know is Castillo, Gray, Bauer will be 3/5 of the starting rotation. I do not think Alex Wood will be brought back. Frankly, he can’t stay healthy. He pitched 30+ games each of the first three seasons in the league and reached that mark once in the past 6 seasons. His price tag will be too high for someone who’s honestly pitched “ok” this season. The 4/5 spots will be left open to DeSclafani, Mahle, Sims, (maybe) Gausman, or a free agent. I do not think many of the “prospects” will make the jump to make the team out of spring training. Vladimir Gutierrez is talented and had an up and down year in Louisville. Bringing back Gausman would be expensive and that money might be used elsewhere. Sims should get an extended look. He’s cheap, only 25, and shown he can strike out batters. DeSclafani has been good at times and a headache at times.
The bullpen needs stability. Players like Alaniz, Bowman, Herget, Mella, Peralta, Romano, Stephens, and Reed seem to be the most expendable. That’s not to say someone like Reed will build on this season to carry it over into next season which would be great. We all know a lefty would be appreciated. Right now, the pitching depth in the minors doesn’t seem to be ready for next season but a name to keep an eye on is Alex Powers. His 1.64 ERA this season and strong 2018 cannot go unnoticed. We all know Stephenson, Lorenzen, Garrett will be back. Iglesias is not as sure of a thing.
The catching situation could be the exact same as 2019. Barnhart and Casali have been, well, fine. But we all know management looked into trading for a catcher last offseason so I wouldn’t say either is a lock. Organizational depth is slim with Stephenson being the big prospect name and Reds legend Ryan Lavarnway released recently. (They are building his statue.)
The infield is a wild 2020 prediction. We know Votto at first and Suarez at third is a lock. Seems that Galvis will be back at either second or short. Iglesias will be due for a pay increase and his situation should be an article of its own. Mr. May, Derek Dietrich, offers similar versatility as VanMeter at a higher cost and less production. I’d say he’s elsewhere. Peraza and Blandino are not bad as backups but contending teams typically look for upgrades. I would expect at least Peraza gone. Do it all Kyle Farmer should be on the 2020 squad. I would not be surprised to see VanMeter as the second baseman next year or used in a utility role but getting near everyday at-bats.
The outfield is a bit easier to predict. We know Senzel will start in center while Aquino will be in right and Winker/Ervin will be on the roster. Aquino has been so much fun, but it would be absurd to think this pace keeps up. However, he has earned a starting spot in RF for 2020. Left might be some platoon of Winker and Ervin. Ervin against lefties, Winker against righties. O’Grady and prospect Jose Siri provide depth. Siri is fast as hell and plays top end defense so having him as a back up wouldn’t be a bad idea. He needs work with the bat so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reds brought in a free agent for competition for a back up in spring training. Scott Schebler will be elsewhere. Although I think he still has MLB talent I think he needs a fresh start.
The “random” breakout players are always welcomed as well. O’Grady, VanMeter, and Aquino weren’t expected to be making contributions this season and look where they are.
A few names that could take a similar route:
Narciso Crook (Outfield)
Luis Gonzalez (Shortstop)
Chadwick Tromp (catcher)
Just to name a few from Louisville
Regardless of what is in hold for the long and cold offseason, 2019 has been fun. It was weird and also showed us a glimpse of what is to come.
Unappreciated Cincinnati Reds: Kyle Farmer
Numbers don’t tell the whole story when you look at Kyle Farmer. His value goes far beyond the box score.
On December 21st, 2018, the Dodgers and Reds made a splash in the offseason with a blockbuster deal. The Reds received aging all-star Matt Kemp, animated outfielder Yasiel Puig, lefty Alex Wood, and a versatile utility player named Kyle Farmer. While Kemp’s Reds career ended after 20 games and fan favorite (and now U.S. citizen) Puig’s career ended in a trade, Wood and Farmer very much could be part of the Reds future.
What Kyle Farmer brings to this team is far beyond the box score. David Bell has shown trust and confidence in Farmer and his ability to pinch-hit. Offensively Farmer has improved from his first two seasons in LA. Over two seasons with the Dodgers he only played in 59 games and had 88 at bats. A .250 hitter with no home runs his value might have seen minimal. Reds fans saw his value immediately in spring training when he would catch bullpens then play short and second. Due to injuries, he found himself on the 25-man roster to begin the season. Many thought he would be the first sent down but his pinch-hitting and versatility proved his value to be too high. Farmer has played first, second, third, catcher, and pitcher. I have to mention his pitching stat line: 1.1 innings 1 hit 0.00 ERA. Hell yeah. With Casali injured Farmer has stepped in as the team’s second catcher and Alex Wood’s “personal” catcher. As many of you all know Wood and Farmer have been teammates and friends for a long time. The familiarity they have only helps each other during the game. Farmer’s 7 home runs look good, but his other numbers could use some work. .248/.288/.438 and 45 K’s to only 5 BB are not great. Improving on the walk to K ratio would go along way for his development. If you watched the Cubs series, you saw a few great plays he made at second. He is no Jose Iglesias, but he can hold his own.
How does Farmer play into the Reds future? Well, it’s no secret that the catching depth is not the Reds strength. Tucker is under contract but Casali is on a one-year deal, with arbitration left. In the minors, Tyler Stephenson looks promising but after that it’s slim. Questions on where Jose Iglesias (if resigned), Galvis, Peraza, VanMeter, Dietrich, and even Blandino will get playing time could limit Farmer’s time at second base. Votto will get plenty of off days next season and Farmer could pick up at-bats at first. Dietrich, if brought back, might get the at bats against right handers. What if Alex Wood is resigned? You could keep Farmer as a pinch hitter/late game sub and have him catch Wood every fifth game. His ability to catch opens opportunities for Bell to pinch hit his backup catcher (Casali) and not worry about a “what if” situation when they need a catcher in late innings/extras.
While there are plenty of unknowns about this team as the offseason approaches, we do know that David Bell values versatility and Farmer brings just that. Maybe knowing that he really does deserve to be in the big leagues will help his confidence going into the offseason. Either way, he’s a fun player to watch and adds value to this Reds club.
Here’s a couple of home runs for you:
Series Recap: Chicago Cubs
Here’s what we learned about the Reds, moving forward in 2019, after the weekend against the Cubs.
The Reds split a series with the Chicago Cubs in August and the fans feel upset. As strange as it might sound, that’s a good sign. In recent years I would be excited about splitting with the Cubs in August. The upset feeling shows this team is different. Expectations have changed. What we saw over the past four games leads fans to believe the future is bright.
The buzz across Reds twitter Thursday was refreshing to see. Fans were more engaged and thrilled to see the Reds welcome the first place Cubs to town for a four-game tilt.
Well, the first game was not a good start. Wood had a rough start going only three innings, Gausman made his debut, Sims showed a strong outing and David Hernandez did much of what he has been doing all season; disappointing fans. Hernandez, like many announcers have said after a pitch he’s thrown, “He’s gone”. We did see Phillip Ervin deliver a 4-hit night, Aquino continues to catch everyone’s attention, and Kyle Farmer displays his versatility by pitching 1.1 innings surrendering one lone hit and throwing slightly slower than Aroldis Chapman.
Friday was a different story. Trevor Bauer gave up a homer to new Cub and new Reds killer Nicholas Castellanos then was smooth sailing as he went 7 innings. The Reds collected 6 hits with no one having more than 1 but it was enough to show they wouldn’t go away easily.
Was Saturday the best Reds game this year? If seeing Cubs fans mad ranks high on your list than it might have been. Everyone besides Sal Romano had a hit and Aquino is now *checks notes for confirmation* the best player to ever play the game. His three homers and going back to back with Senzel gave us a glimpse into the future. Sonny Gray’s 2 hits allowed matched his 2 RBI he had at the plate. Sal Romano earned the rare 3 out save and Brian O’Grady had his first big league hit. The Reds won and momentum for Sunday was at a level we haven’t seen this season.
Having the Ace on the mound was not enough to earn the win Sunday. Castilo went 6.2 innings with 3 ER but Michael Lorenzen could not get an out. Bryant’s homer gave the Cubs the lead and they didn’t look back. A disappointing and frustrating loss to say the least. Jeff Carr said it best: “This is kinda where the Reds are in 2019. They are fun, they are interesting, they are entertaining…they are not a playoff team.”
What we learned from this series:
– Aquino is not only fun to watch but he is a legit piece for the future
– Sal Romano and Lucas Sims will get a chance to show how they can play into 2020
– Ian Happ and Nickolas Castellanos are banned for the City of Cincinnati (waiting on confirmation)
– Kyle Farmer had some great defensive plays and is very important to this team (Farmer article coming soon)
– Angel Hernandez should be embarrassed
– The Reds missed an opportunity to climb the standing but didn’t completely fall out
All in all, it was a fun series and seeing the fanbase this interested and invested in August is refreshing. Still plenty to learn about this roster and what it could look like next year. Let’s see if the Punisher can hit one to the White House.