Baseball has an amazing way of dragging on through the drudgery of a season that the Reds just had, while still making you look back and say "Is it already over?" I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that the Reds were scoring 5 runs in the 8th inning against the Phillies and we were all making "You can’t win them all without winning the first one" jokes. Or maybe that was just me.
Anyway, we just made it through year 2 of the so-called reboot of the Cincinnati Reds. I don’t think anyone can really say that it went as we expected. Even the worst teams don’t have a negative WAR pitching staff, but these Reds somehow managed it. We knew the rotation would take their lumps, but not to that extent. In the first installment of this series I wrote that things were looking up because Homer Bailey, John Lamb, and Anthony DeSclafani were coming back soon to help out the rotation. Well, Homer didn’t pitch until July 30 and lasted 6 starts, John Lamb came back in May and struggled enough that he was sent down in the middle of July, and Anthony DeSclafani didn’t make it back until mid-June, finishing out the season and lasting longer than the other two starters. Making matters worse, Cody Reed, probably our most anticipated prospect from the Johnny Cueto deal, did nothing but give up dingers in his short time with the Reds. Of the four guys we were the most excited about this season, exactly one of them made it until the end. That’s how rebuilds go, though. Even the lowest of your expectations can still find a way to derail themselves.
But we did see some positives. Joey Votto bounced back from his astonishingly poor start to post one of the best 2nd halves you will ever see, reminding everyone that he continues to be one of the best hitters on the planet. Jose Peraza, the much criticized centerpiece of the Todd Frazier trade, came up and spent the last 6 weeks doing nothing but hitting the ball all over the field. Adam Duvall, a throw-in from a previous trade played solid defense in left while smacking 33 dingers. Zack Cozart bounced back from his horrific knee injury and had the best offensive season of his career. And Dan Straily, a last minute pick-up before the regular season, gave us 31 solid starts and was surprisingly the most consistent starter over the course of the season.
These are the things we get to look back on and get excited about, though. These are the things that makes all of the losing, the trading, and the general slogging through the down years worth it. Our best player is still putting up MVP-like numbers, young players and new faces are contributing, and the slew of players who haven’t even stepped on a major league field yet are waiting to become the next successful team of the Cincinnati Reds. The tear down is finally over and now the true "rebuilding" can begin.
Here are the stats and notes through Sunday’s games.
2016 Reds: Capsule 9
Season strength of schedule: .503 (Hardest schedule in NL, T-11th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .482 (11th NL; 25th MLB) [Previous: .482 T-10th in NL, T-24th MLB]
2016 final division standing: 5th (35.5 GB)
2016 final wild card standing: 15th (19 GB)
- .275/.322/.420 for capsule 9, compared to NL average of .270/.327/.413 and .278/.341/.403 for capsule 8. Hitting wasn’t really this issue for the team in this capsule. As you’ll see later, the issue was keeping the other team from hitting.
- The regulars as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Peraza, Phillips, Suarez, Duvall, Schebler, Selsky, De Jesus.
- Joey Votto once again was our best hitter. The .395/.452/.724 line put him at .326/.434/.550 for the season. He finished his 5th straight capsule of having more walks (8) than strikeouts (7) and had a team-high 6 home runs, which was also the most he hit over any 18-game capsule. He finished the season leading the National League in OBP (.434), wRC+ (158), OPS+ (160), tied for the lead in OPS (.984), and was 2nd in walks (108). The fact that he had the worst 2-month stretch of his career to start this season made these numbers all the more impressive. We are about to enter a 6-month stretch of not watching Joey Votto hit baseballs, and our lives will be worse because of it.
- If there is anyone that had as good of a capsule as Votto, it’s Jose Peraza. He continued to hit, hit, and hit some more, as he has done since his call-up in August. He had a slash line of .313/.341/.413 for capsule 9, bringing his season line to .324/.352/.411. If there is one critique about his performance this season, it’s his lack of patience at the plate. He finished the season with 7 walks against 33 strikeouts, with a measly 2.8% BB%. Regardless, his overall performance was encouraging and is certain to have Reds fans excited about our future shortstop.
- Brandon Phillips pulled off the feat of having a higher batting average (.292) than OBP (.275) for this capsule. That’s what happens when you go another capsule without recording a walk. In fact, he didn’t record a single walk in his last 30 games of the season. As slow as he started, he put up a slash line (.291/.320/.416) that was nearly identical (.294/.328/.395) to what he put up in 2015. He also, along with Joey Votto, finished tied for the team lead in doubles with 34. While many fans (including myself) were frustrated with how he was used, especially when there were young MLB ready players waiting, he rebounded nicely in the second half to finish off a surprisingly respectable season.
- Scott Schebler walked once and struck out 13 times over capsule 9 and finished the season with a K% of 20.9%. He also gave us one of the best moments of the season back on August 1, and for that we are thankful.
- Adam Duvall put up a .247/.304/.479 line for capsule 9, which is right on track for his overall performance of .241/.297/.498. The biggest surprise was obviously his power, as he led the team with 33 dingers and 103 RBI. If we had told you guys back in April that Adam Duvall would lead the Reds in home runs in 2016, you would have said we were crazy. Not bad for a "throw-in."
- Finally, Tucker Barnhart was the surprise of the season at, and behind, the plate in 2016. He finished capsule 9 hitting .256/.320/.279. He drove in 9 runs and walked 5 times and struck out 7 times. Coming into the season as the backup catcher, he jumped in immediately and did more than any of us could have imagined in a full season behind the plate. If Devin Mesoraco’s body doesn’t allow him to catch again, the performance from Tucker Barnhart in 2016 will make that pill a little less tough for the Reds to swallow.
- Team ERA of 5.33, compared to NL average of 4.28 and 3.97 for capsule 8. The pitching staff struggled in this capsule, to say the least.
- Dan Straily, as he was multiple times this season, was the most consistent pitcher in the rotation. In 4 starts spanning 26.2 innings this capsule, he posted a 3.01 ERA while striking out 25 and walking only 9. His best start of this period was possible his best of the season, where he lasted 8 innings and gave up only 2 runs on 3 hits and struck out 8. Like I said about Duvall earlier, you would have called us crazy if we told you back on April 1 that our newly acquired pitcher would be our best one.
- Brandon Finnegan finished the season strong, throwing 5 shutout innings against Milwaukee in his final start of the season back on September 25. While he kept his ERA under 4.00 for the season, he had trouble keeping guys off base as he had the 2nd most walks in the National League this season (84). It wasn’t a terrible season for Finnegan by any means, but the Reds will definitely look to see some improvement next season in what will surely be a crowded rotation.
- Anthony DeSclafani struggled in his last couple of weeks of the season. In 3 starts spanning 16 innings, he put up a 5.63 ERA, giving up 10 runs while walking 8 and only striking out 11. He seemed to struggle with his command some in his last 3 starts and had trouble striking guys out, as he didn’t strike out more than 3 batters in any of his final 3 starts and his K/9 was down to 6.2, compared to the season average of 7.7.
- After showing promise in his first 2 starts in Cincinnati and then laboring through Triple-A, Robert Stephenson had a rough go of it in his last 4 starts. Over 16.2 innings, Stephneson put up a 8.10 ERA, giving up 15 runs while walking 12 and only striking out 16. Hopefully he can correct some of these issues in the offseason and put up those numbers that earned him the designation of being our top pitching prospect.
- Jumbo Diaz had the best performance out of the bullpen this capsule. In 8.2 innings, he put up a 1.04 ERA while striking out 12 batters and walking only 2. This was by far his best capsule of the season.
- Tony Cingrani had a weird season. After J.J. Hoover struggled his way to Triple-A, Cingrani was given the closer position by default (and mainly because he was the only one in the ‘pen who wouldn’t give up 3 runs an outing). Seemingly in a position where his fastball would be utilized, he struggled with his command and couldn’t strike guys out. His K/9 sunk to a career-low 7.0 (compared to 10.5 in 2015 and 10.3 in his fantastic rookie season) and his BB/9 was 5.3, which is the 2nd highest of his career. His fastball can be great when he is on top of his command, but when he isn’t locating he has the tendency to get shelled.
- The year-to-date DER stayed the same at .694. That was good for 5th in the NL and 8th in MLB. The NL average was .687.
Stress-free playoff baseball, Winter Meetings, and Spring Training. It’s all right around the corner, but can’t get here soon enough. Thank you all for reading these this season. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Enjoy the offseason, everyone.