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18 Games at a Time - Capsule 2

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Selective endpoints on the 2016 Reds - Capsule 2

"This part's over soon, right?"
"This part's over soon, right?"
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

**Note: Due to the rain-out in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and in order to keep things on schedule, there are only 17 games in this capsule. Don't worry, you'll get 19 whenever Tuesday's game is made up.

Rebuilding is tough. Really tough. You take on a project understanding that the work is going to be hard, that it will flat-out suck at times, but then you look at the nicer houses in your neighborhood and think to yourself "Yeah, that's going to be us, soon," while forgetting about the mess of the house that you just bought. "The neighbors up the street did this not too long ago, we can get this done in half the time they did," you say as you walk through your molded basement. The truth is, though, that you're gonna have to deal with a lot of mold before things get nice and pretty again.

Unfortunately, that moldy basement is where this team sits in this metaphorical house of a season. We've gutted almost everything we can gut from this team, and we're in the limbo portion of waiting on our shiny new things to show up ready to go. Sure, there have been flashes of things to get excited about early on. Zack Cozart is still hitting the ball well. Joey Votto is quickly climbing out of his own basement that was the month of April. Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb have have pitched well and shown us what are hopefully signs of things to come with them in the rotation. Other than that, things have just been kind of ugly the last few weeks. That's what happens with a team that goes through a rebuild also has half a roster worth of injuries to go with it.

As I wrote last time, guys are going to come back healthy and things will look a lot better than they do now. We will get a better idea at what the future of this team will look like in the next few months and these little blurbs will have a much more positive feel to them. Until then, we get to be stuck in that moldy basement for a little while longer. And that's where you find the beauty in rebuilding something. At some point you get to finish with that nasty basement, step outside, and get a good look at the nice house you built on top of it.

Here are stats and notes through Friday's games:

2016 Reds: Capsule 2

Record: 5-12

Strength of Schedule: .542 (Most difficult in NL and MLB)

RPI (ESPN): .506 (5th best in NL; 12th best in MLB) [Previous: .542, 4th best in NL; 5th best in MLB]

Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.8% (Previous: 3.0%)

Baseball Prospectus division odds: 0.0% (Previous: 0.7%)

Offense:

  • .222/.274/.399 for the team in Capsule 2 (.233/.289/.400 2016), compared to NL avg of .252/.321/.406 (.253/.324/.409 2016).
  • Regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Suarez, Bruce, Duvall, Hamilton.
  • As you can tell by the numbers above, this was a dreadful stretch from the offense. All but two of the regulars regressed, and they regressed hard. One of those two who did not regress was Billy Hamilton. He hit .292/.306/.396 for this period. He was boosted by a .350 BABIP during this period, compared to a .179 BABIP in the first capsule. One big take-away from that increased BABIP number is that he is hitting line drives (27.0% LD% in 2016, 21.2% career) and ground balls (52.4% 2016, 43.0% career) at a much higher rate than normal and has a fly ball percentage (20.6%) is way down from his career numbers (35.8%). The season is still early, sure, but hopefully this is a trend that we can continue to expect going forward, especially with the extra work he has been putting in with Joey Votto every day.
  • Speaking of Mr. Votto, his numbers also improved over this stretch. While we all knew it would come at some point, it was still a little disheartening to see him struggle the way he did in April. He hit .272 over this period, with a very Votto-esque .455 OBP and .934 OPS. While his numbers still aren't what we've been accustomed to, it is certainly a step in the right direction
  • Another indicator of Votto's improvements: His spray chart continues to normalize. His pull (40.2%) and up-the-middle rates (32.9%) are much closer to his career numbers (34.9% and 34.4%, respectively) than his numbers the last time we visited this (50% and 22.2%). This has naturally led to a BABIP of .417 for this stretch. I imagine that in 18 games from now that this blurb about Joey will have an even more positive tone.
  • As for the negative, I could probably write 1,000 words on that alone for this stretch so I will only point out a couple. Jay Bruce and Eugenio Suarez were bitten the hardest by the regression bug over this stretch. Jay had a .184/.239/.429 line for the period. He also only walked twice and struck out 17 times. He also only had 9 hits compared to 18 last time around. He is also now pulling the ball more than his career average and hitting it the other way less than his career average. Hopefully this is more of a cold streak instead of a sign of things to come.
  • As for Suarez, he was worse than Jay for this time period. He hit a paltry .167/.231/.267 over the last 3 weeks. He also only had 1 home run, down from 5 in the last section. Suarez is young, and with someone who relies on power like he does, we can expect some stretches like this. In the end, he'll be alright.
  • Tyler Holt has been a pleasant surprise off the bench this season. He hit .280/.280/.360 this period, good for .286/.317/.359 on the season. While he isn't hitting for much power, he's still getting on base and playing good enough defense to earn himself the 4th OF spot.
  • Lastly, I'm interested to see what Tucker Barnhart can do now that he is the full-time catcher. (Poor Devin. Rehabbing from an injury sucks enough as it is, but this guy has had 2 major surgeries in as many years. You've gotta hate that for him.) We all know that he plays some fantastic defense, but hopefully he can bring something to the offensive side of the game, too.

Defense:

  • 5.45 team ERA for capsule 2 (5.12 for 2016) compared to NL avg of 3.87 (4.04 in 2016).
  • Unfortunately the pitching didn't fare any better than the offense this time around, either. Our 5.13 team ERA for the season is good for 29th in all of baseball and 14th in the National League (Thanks, Milwaukee!).
  • Last time I visited these end points, I wrote about how things would be okay because reinforcements were coming. While some of them may not have even been back yet on their normal schedule, I fully expected to be writing about the very soon returns of Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani this time around. Well, as you all know, the exact opposite happened. Not only did Bailey and Disco have their respective set-backs, but John Lamb and Jon Moscot both returned only to hurt themselves again, and Raisel Iglesias also ended up on the DL. Our starting catcher then has his second season-ending surgery in a row, to boot. I haven't done the research, and I am obviously biased since I pay attention to the Reds more than the rest of the league, but you'd be hard pressed to find a team with worse injury luck since the end of the 2012 regular season than the Reds.
  • On April 1, 2016, if you would have told me 35 games into the season that Dan Straily would be our most consistent pitcher, I obviously would have thought you were joking. Yet, here we are. In 5 starts this season, he has a 3.54 and .211 opponent batting average. His K/BB ratio isn't great, but gets guys out and keeps the Reds in the game. At this point, it is all that you can ask for.
  • John Lamb showed some great things in his return from back surgery. In 2 starts spanning 10 innings, he gave up only 2 earned runs and 8 hits and added 7 strikeouts. While his back looked to be 100%, his thumb wasn't able to hold up to swinging a bat and had to cut his 2nd start short. 2016, man.
  • The other young guy on the staff, Brandon Finnegan, struggled with his control over this stretch. In 4 starts spanning 21.1 innings he walked 11 while only striking out 14, good for a 1.3 K/BB ratio for the time period. This was one of the knocks against him that had many projecting him to the bullpen, so hopefully he can correct this to stay in the rotation.
  • As for the bullpen, there isn't much to be said that hasn't been hashed over and over this season. It's still bad, and probably will be until our rotation starts to come back healthy. J.J. Hoover was bad enough to get sent down to Louisville to work things out. Caleb Cotham, who in the first edition of this was our best bullpen piece, got rocked in this stretch, giving up 10 runs on 15 hits in only 7 IP. At this point it looks like Tony Cingrani is going to be the closer, but it's hard to tell because through 35 games this team only has 3(!) saves.
  • The team DER (Defensive Efficiency Rating) dropped from .711 to .710, tying for 3rd in the league with Washington. We also only made 7 errors, improving from the 17 last time around.

The Next 18:

  • 5 games at home, 13 games on the road.
  • 3 of the 18 against divisional opponents.
  • 3 of the 18 against 2015 playoff teams.
  • 7 of the 18 against American League teams, 2 of which involve the DH.
  • .524 avg winning percentage for the teams in the next 18.
  • Note for optimism: It looks like the schedule gets a little easier coming up, so maybe we can get some more positive results.