Eight games. Seven innings. Nineteen earned runs. Earned run average of 13.50. Twelve walks. An ERA+ of 18 (An ERA+ of 100 is league average, so yeah).
Thirty Games. One hundred-thirty innings. Eighty seven earned runs. Fifty walks. Earned run average of 4.34. An ERA+ of 97.
A simple question: Who would you rather take?
Of course there are other factors to consider before making such a hasty pick, but do so anyway. For one, the sample size of both players are extremely different. Player A: has only seen seven innings of big league ball, so while we can get a picture of what his future career might look like, it’s an educated guess. Player B: on the other hand will be entering his seventh season, and you can except the level of performance in a player by that point. While money, future projections, and use of roster spots all had a hand to play in this deal, just looking at in in a vacuum, one could say the Reds came out with some value, as they went with player B, or Tanner Roark, over player A, Tanner Rainey.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the intangibles or the personalities or the millions of other traits of a player, we forget the statistics. Tanner Roark has never been a household name in the sport, but he’s done his job effectively and consistently, which makes me optimistic to have him on this rotation in dire need of such players.
Tanner Roark spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals as a back end of rotations featuring star pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez; and has had a lot of success doing so. He has compiled a 3.59 ERA to go alongside a 17.5 bWAR in his time in D.C. Just looking at those stats are a sight for sore eyes for Reds fans. His 2.9 bWAR he managed to produce last year is about half the value the entire starting rotation managed to put together (6.1 bWAR).
When you really dig deep into it, you wonder how this trade went under the radar, because the Reds were able to steal a quality starter out of the Nats for nothing more than a fire-balling reliever who can’t find the strike zone quite nearly enough to be effective.
If one word could describe Roark’s game, it would be consistent. Nothing he does is really flashy, or is going to lead the league in any categories, but he’s going to get the job done. It probably is why he’s been so “low key” in his career for a guy who is nearing a 20 bWAR career; add in the fact that he’s also been in the shadow of the previously mentioned pitchers, you can see why he hasn’t made any national attention. In his 6 years of pitching, his highest season ERA was back in 2017 when it hit 4.67, which is still about league average. Essentially what we’re getting to, is at his worst, Tanner Roark is a cheaper Matt Harvey. Which is who Reds fans were clamoring to resign anyway.
Digging a little deeper into the stats, his ground ball percentage is average at 45% , his home run percentage is just as normal at around 11% , except in his four starts this year, it clocks in at 5%. Be on the lookout for a spike in homers soon, as pitching in GABP isn’t so healthy for those kind of stats. Back to the digging, his K to BB rate is standard among pitchers, you know what, I think you get the point here. He’s basically your run of the mill above average pitcher, which contrary to what you might think, is really valuable, ESPECIALLY to this team. If you put five Tanner Roark’s on last years team, it would be hard not to make a case for the playoffs, or at least contention for Pete’s sake with the way they were able to score runs last year.
Now that the season has started, we are able to get a small portion size of perhaps is what to come of Roark. He’s had some, dare I say it, GREAT SUCCESS in the early goings, posting a 3.6 ERA in 20 innings across 4 starts this year. Perhaps the only fault you could point out is his inability to pitch effectively enough to get deeper into ballgames. He’s never pitched more than 5.1 innings so far in a game. If that’s the only concern with my number 4 starter however, it’s a good problem to have. This team is equipped with the bullpen numbers right now, insisting on carrying 8 members up to this point, and all (except Zach Duke) have been pretty effective.
If Tanner Roark can keep this stretch of baseball going forward, bright days are ahead this season. (Just please score some runs)
Read The Room
David Bell has made some interesting choices, some that he may want to tweak his thought process on. Let me explain.
On Monday’s podcast my friend Jeff stated he liked the fact that David Bell was able to remove himself from the equations on many big decisions. He stated that by focusing on the analytics Bell is able to make an objective decision versus a gut decision. I won’t disagree with fact that I am loving the front office and managements use of analytics. I, like most Reds fans, love to see the organization finally joining this century of baseball thinking in full force, from an analytics stand point. However, while I do support the use of analytics in helping make decisions, I don’t feel as if it should be the sole reason for decision making.
The best managers in the history of this game are often forward-thinking and also having the right instinct at crucial points in games. I think the Reds, and even David Bell, are some of the most forward thinking in baseball right now. We have seen it in all the new positions created this offseason specifically for analytics within the Reds front office. The Reds outfielders carry cards based on each pitcher and each batter in where to align themselves. The infield is making unique shifts. Bell seems opposite of his predecessor, because he despises bunting frequently. The amazing performance by our pitching staff which has been one of the worst in recent years. I believe these things will continue to help this team as the season continues. I also believe it’s one of the main reasons we have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball right now.
On the flip side of this is the daily, head-scratching decisions Bell has made. The constant hooking of starting staff or bullpen pitchers too early. This isn’t just something making fans question his decisions, but his players as well. I have seen almost every starting pitcher this year, on at least one occasion, have a baffled look after being removed to early. Bell often pulling starters in a close game due to the “third time around the order” analytics. In regards to the bullpen often pulling relievers early who are up there throwing smoke and no one is touching them. All that started back on Opening Day when he used three relievers, each for one out in the bottom of the ninth. Then when it comes to the lineup we are often seeing players who may be crushing it that day pulled for favorable situational matchups such as lefty right or righty lefty. On several occasions I’ve seen him pull Dietrich or Winker when there out there hitting rockets just for an analytic advantage. It often causes me to yell at my television.
One of my favorite sayings is “READ THE ROOM”. Bell desperately needs to “READ THE ROOM” in more crucial situations. Leaving pitchers in to go one extra innning in a start or relief when there mowing batters over. Leaving a guy in the lineup who is on fire rather than pulling him for a analytic matchup. This shows faith in your players as well as your instincts as a manager. It’s what differentiates the best coaches from everyone else. It’s the knowledge that no amount of statistics can provide and it will ultimately be what puts this team over the top. In recent weeks I have seen signs of this coming to fruition. I hope to see more of it as the season goes on. And I promise you Reds fans when it does the most important statistic WINS will come much easier.
Reds Catchers Now and in the Future
Let’s take a look at the catching picture for the Reds organization.
In late September of 2017, the Cincinnati Reds locked up Tucker Barnhart to a 4-year, $16 million contract. And why not? Barnhart hit .270 in 2017 and was a gold glove winner. $4 million a year for him was a steal. Fans were ecstatic about the deal, especially at the price. Don’t get me wrong, having a catcher with a career average of .248 with about 10 home runs a year and a great glove is something most teams are satisfied with. It’s more about what he does with the pitching staff and defense than the hitting. But in 2019, although only 100 at-bats in, how concerned should Reds fans be about their catching situation now and in the future?
The Reds currently have two active catchers: Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali. Barnhart has struggled mightily out of the gate. A .160/.282/.270 line is not anywhere close to his career numbers. Adding to that, he only has two hits in the past 10 games. A switch hitter with only 10 at bats versus Left-handed pitchers tells us Bell wants Casali taking those at-bats.
Curt Casali has put together a great season for the Reds. Acquired off waiver last year from Tampa Bay he hit .310 before the All-Star break. In 2019 he is hitting to the tune of .293/.349/.379. When used as a pinch hitter, he’s delivered at times for the Reds. Although Casali is the better hitter so far, I do not think it is time to give up on Barnhart. 100 at-bats into a season with plenty to go. *Deep breath* He can still put together a decent season. Something needs to change though, drastically. Right now, the Reds have bigger issues than the catcher’s spot. But will Casali take reigns as the team’s number one catcher? A lot of fans are calling for it. Keep in mind Casali is a career .229 hitter. He has been streaky in the past. The Reds will probably continue to platoon and giving at-bats to Casali against left-handed pitchers. 2019 catcher situation is pretty much locked in. The depth at AAA Louisville are not “prospects” and haven’t shown to be MLB hitters either. The question is what will it look like in the future?
Tyler Stephenson is one of the top prospects in the Reds organization (#6 mlb.com) and is showing his potential this year in Chattanooga. A first-round pick in 2015, he’s struggled with injuries early in his career and is now showing his potential. Hitting .267 with 3 HR and 18 RBI while throwing out 26% of baserunners is a nice start to the first part of the season. He won’t be in Cincinnati this year, who knows where he will start next year, but he plays into the future of the Reds.
There are some other options in the minors. Chris Okey (#30 Reds prospect) was drafted in the second round of 2016 but has really struggled with the bat. Hendrik Clementina (#23 Reds prospect) is someone to watch. He was acquired in the Tony Cingrani trade and hit 18 home runs with Dayton in 2018. He has some pop and but also strikes out too much. We all know how frustrating that can be. Other than those 3, the Reds do not have another top 30 catching prospects. A thin position of depth look for the Reds to bring in more talent this year.
The Reds catching future is banking on Stephenson and Barnhart to be the guys. That could end up being just fine, but it also doesn’t leave much room for error. Casali has two arbitration year left and is 30 years old. He could be a Red past this year, sure. Good catchers are hard to find and that’s why the asking price is so high (paging JT). I would expect the Reds to try to add depth here through the draft or offseason. The quick fix would be Tucker returning closer to 2017 form but who knows if that will happen.
What The Reds Should Be
Wednesday night was a glimpse at this team’s potential.
If you were able to witness tonight’s win over the scorching hot Chicago Cubs you were probably ecstatic. It was a comeback win, in extra innings, and a one-run game. In a season clouded by early disappointment and many missed opportunities, tonight we witnessed the Reds full potential.
This game had all the markings of what was shaping up to be another Reds loss. A five-inning start by the pitcher, playing from behind almost the entire game, and constant pitching changes. Instead the Reds played together and won, as a team. The chemistry we see off the field was finally seen on the field. The bullpen stepped up when they needed to. Stephenson, Hughes, Peralta, and Garrett all providing top notch performances. Garrett making what seemed to be an impossible out at first to save a run from scoring. When providing a clutch at-bat was needed, we saw it from nearly everyone put on the spot. Senzel with 2 hits and 2 stolen bases. Iglesias continues to be the Reds MVP of position players having a double and solo home run to keep the Reds in contention. Suarez starting to catch fire with a 3-for-5 evening, 3 RBI’s, a double, and a 2 run HR in the eighth inning to tie up the game. Quietly, Joey Votto was the one who actually came up big, in the clutch, during the eighth, with a single. He then scored on Suarez’s dinger. Then again in the 10th inning with a one-out walk. For the icing on the cake the player all of Cincinnati wants to see perform comes up to seal the deal. And most importantly the extra innings walk-off hit by Puig with a bat flip for Reds highlight reels for years to come happened.
What made it most glorious was the absolute look of disappointment on Cubs fans faces as the Reds came back to pull off the comeback win. Wednesday, we saw the Reds full potential as a team. This is the Reds ceiling as a team performance. I hope we grow accustomed to this scene more often and start to see them compete in this division. There is no doubt they are in the toughest division in baseball. That being said, they can absolutely shake things up whenever they decide to get hot. I know it’s possible. I just hope it’s not too late when it does.