One of my favorite book series is The Lord of the Rings. It is a riveting tale of a person’s journey to destroy the evil that has plagued his world and the things that he has to overcome to achieve that goal. There are obviously much deeper things that J.R.R. Tolkien hoped to have drawn when he wrote those books but for the sake of brevity and the fact that I’m trying to draw a metaphor for the 2016 Reds, that’s about as deep as I’ll get.
Throughout the movie adaptation of these books, you get a great sense of the weight that this task not only has on Frodo, but on the community that is relying on him. You can feel the exhaustion as they fight with their opponents to keep this evil from overtaking their world.
There is a particular part in The Return of the King that always gets me fired up. They have been fighting for years at this point, and in this movie they have been involved in a battle that seems that the only way out is to retreat and surrender. The people are dejected and defeated, the walls of their great city of Minas Tirith have been broken down, and the enemy seems to just keep getting stronger. It’s at this time that over the hill comes an army of reinforcements, led by none other than their own king (complete with an awesome speech), there to save the day, giving the people hope that there may be a better way out of this after all.
While the return of Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and the promotion of Cody Reed may not be as dramatic as King Theoden leading the Rohirrim into the Battle of Pelennor Fields, it certainly gave the Reds and us fans the hope of something to look forward to. It wasn’t that long ago that we felt that "no way out of this" feeling. An 11 game losing streak and a historically bad bullpen will do that. But all of a sudden, Disco and Reed turn a shaky rotation into something more solid. Iglesias and Lorenzen, although not in their original roles that we had imagined, give relief to a bullpen that curtails that feeling of impending doom when we hand the ball over late in games.
All rebuilds are difficult, and sometimes they feel like they are never going to end. But there always comes that time where you can look over the hill, see the help that’s on the way, and begin to realize that you can fight your way out of it.
Here are stats and notes through Tuesday’s games.
2016 Reds: Capsule 4:
Strength of Schedule: .502 (6th hardest in NL; 13th hardest in MLB).
RPI (ESPN): .475 (13th best in NL; T-26th best in L)[Previous: .473 T-13th NL, T-27th MLB].
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%).
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%).
- .258/.312/.440 for capsule 4 compared to NL average of .252/.318/.416. Yet again, we have another capsule of improvement for the offense, which hit .232/.280/.395 in capsule 3.
- The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Suarez, Duvall, Bruce, Hamilton, Holt. Since Billy missed some time due to a concussion, Tyler Holt had one fewer PA than Billy, so he was included in the list of regulars.
- Joey Votto had his most Joey Votto-like stretch of the season. Over the last 18, he hit .339/.474/.516 with a cool .990 OPS. He also had 15 walks to 16 strikeouts, which was his best ratio by a large margin in these selective endpoints. It took a little longer than we all expected, but it sure is nice to see him back to doing Joey Votto things.
- Jay Bruce once again had a solid capsule, going .309/.365/.662. He had 12 XBH in this period, hitting 5 doubles, 2 triples, and 5 home runs with 21 RBI. He also leads the team in OPS for the season at a mighty fine .921 and is 3rd in the NL in SLG% at .588.
- Tucker Barnhart had somewhat of a bounce-back capsule after struggling mightily in the last one. He hit .250/.327/.341 including a rare home run over these 18. It’s hard to expect much more out of a guy who was supposed to be our backup catcher going into the season.
- Billy Hamilton hit .265/.257/.353 over this period. If you’re wondering how he achieved the "higher BA than OBP" mark, it’s because he struck out 13 and didn’t walk once. He also didn’t have an XBH over this capsule, hence the low SLG%. He missed some time because of a concussion and was hitting well before he got hurt, so hopefully this is less of him reverting back to his old self and more of him struggling after having to sit out for a week.
- Adam Duvall continued to knock the snot out of the baseball, adding another 7 home runs to his total over this capsule. He is 2nd in the NL in home runs with 20 (Arenado is 1st with 21) and he leads the league in SLG% at .590. He still continues to have a large gap between his walks and strikeouts, as he only walked 3 times while he struck out 15 in this period.
- Speaking of strikeouts, Eugenio Suarez continues to strike out a ton. He posted 24 strikeouts this capsule, which is surprisingly not his highest total for these endpoints. He had 27 last time around. He also only posted 4 walks and had another sub-.300 OBP.
- Brandon Phillips hit for average pretty well this period, going .276/.304/.342, but the rest of his numbers weren’t great. He only walked 3 times against 11 strikeouts and his power has decreased as he has aged, as you can tell by the .342 SLG%. He continues to swing at way more pitches than he ever has in his career, swinging at a 60% rate compared to 53.3% for his career and 54.2% for 2015.
- Ramon Cabrera was our best bat off the bench for this capsule, going .300/.318/.400 with 2 doubles in 23 PA.
- 4.64 team ERA for this capsule, which is a vast improvement over the 6.45 ERA we posted last time we did this. NL average ERA for the season sits at 4.03. Our season ERA sits at 5.32, which is worst in the NL.
- Brandon Finnegan was solid once again, posting a 2.98 ERA over 4 starts. He could still work on striking more people out, he only had 15 this time around, but he is still showing the promise that we saw in him when we traded for him last season.
- John Lamb also was solid in this capsule, posting a 3.19 ERA in 17 innings pitched over 3 starts. He also walked 8 and struck out 14 over that time.
- While we’re talking about returns from the Cueto trade, Cody Reed made his major league debut last week. He was solid in his debut, lasting 7 innings and giving up 4 runs while striking out 9. He was the first Reds’ rookie to strike out that many batters since the aforementioned Cueto struck out 10 in his debut in 2008. It’s great to see Mr. Reed in a Reds uniform and it will be even better watching him continue to strike out guys for us in the future.
- Another pitcher we are all excited to have back in the rotation is Anthony DeSclafani. He has made 3 starts since his return from oblique injury and pitched well for the most part. He has gone 1-0 with a 2.3 ERA with 7 walks and 10 strikeouts over 15.2 innings. He has done well at minimizing damage so far, but his 10.9 H/9, 4 BB/9, and 5.7 K/9 could certainly use some improvement. I imagine that’s exactly what we’ll see as he gets settled in.
- Tony Cingrani has seemingly settled into the "closer role." He pitched 8 innings and only gave up 2 runs while accumulating 4 saves. While the closer role and save stats are mostly meaningless, it is nice having some kind of stability late in games after dealing with the alternative for so long.
- Our Defensive Efficiency Rating (DER) rose from .686 to .688, which is just below the NL average of .691. We made another 13 errors in the last 18, which gives us 55 on the season, good enough for best in the NL if you consider making mistakes on defense a good thing.
The Next 18:
- 7 games at home, 11 on the road.
- 6 of the 18 against NL Central opponents.
- 7 of the 18 against 2015 playoff teams.
- 1 of the 18 against American League teams, which also involves the DH.
- .572 average winning percentage of the next 18.
- Note for optimism: We get to play the Padres! Other than that, games against the Cubs and Nationals might not be very much fun.