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18 Games at a time: Capsule 5

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Selective endpoints on the 2016 Reds - Capsule 5

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I went on a hike earlier this Summer up a mountain that reached about 13,000 feet, an altitude I hadn't come close to reaching in about 5 or 6 years. To say that I struggled with the altitude and the difficulty of the climb would be an understatement; each step we took meant that we were closer to the top, but it also became that much harder to get enough oxygen into my body to keep myself going. I kept trying to self motivate, telling myself "Keep going, you're almost there. The view at the top will be worth it in the end." While that positive reinforcement certainly helped, it didn't keep me from looking up at the peak, then looking down at how far we had already walked and dreading what we had ahead of us.

When we finally got to the top after stumbling over rocks and navigating each switch back, the feeling of reaching the peak, our halfway point of the day, wasn't that of elation, but of exhaustion. While the view from that peak was beautiful in a way that is difficult to even put into words, we still understood that our adventure wasn't over.  We still had to hike down that thing. As our feet ached, heads pounded, and legs screamed, we knew that we had to keep pressing. And while it wasn't easy, and while we may not have seen it at the time, we knew in the end that our adventure was worth it.

That's how this rebuilding season feels so far. It certainly has been a struggle, even more so than we expected at the beginning. Going into the season, we saw the difficulty that was ahead of us, but also had things to be excited about. But as injuries piled up and young guys took their lumps, that careful enthusiasm turned into a feeling of exhaustion as we watched this team sputter and scuffle through the early parts of the season. The good news is that we are now at the halfway point of this season. And while it's been a season that has been frustrating and difficult to watch, we know that this rebuild will end at some point, and the adventure will have been worth it.

Here are the stats and notes through Sunday's games.

2016 Reds: Capsule 5

Record: 4-14

Strength of Schedule: .506 (2nd hardest in NL; 7th hardest in MLB)

RPI (ESPN): .469 (worst in NL; 29th in MLB) [Previous: .475 13th in NL; 26th in MLB]

Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%)

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

Offense:

  • .231/.294/.354 for capsule 5, compared to NL average of .261/.329/.433 and down drastically from the .258/.312/.440 line put up in Capsule 4. As you'll be able to tell below, there weren't too many bright spots from the offense this time around.
  • The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Phillips, Suarez, Cozart, Duvall, Hamilton, Bruce.
  • Tucker Barnhart had the best capsule at the plate, hitting .372/.449/.558. He is up to .269/.333./.385 on the season, which is way more than we could have expected from our back-up catcher turned everyday starter this season.
  • Joey Votto turned into another solid performance at the plate, hitting .275/.441/.510 for the period. He also turned in 16 walks to 14 strikeouts, his first capsule to have more walks than strikeouts. Remember when we were all worried about him a month and a half ago? He's up to .252/.386/.446 on the season. While that's not entirely what we're used to with Joey, we have certainly started to see what we're used to seeing from him over the last month and a half.
  • If you take out Votto's numbers for this capsule, the team's walk rate drops from 8.2% to 6.6%. The NL average walk rate was 8.4% for this 18 game set.
  • Eugenio Suarez also hit decent this time around, after struggling mightily over the last 3 capsules. His overall slash line of .242/.329/.339 isn't going to blow anyone's socks off, especially that slugging % (he only had 2 XBH this time around, both home runs). The biggest improvement he made was in his plate discipline, as he had only 12 strikeouts to 7 walks. This is where I'm going to post the BB/K ratios from capsules 2-4 for Suarez while also warning you about how poorly he was seeing the ball through May and June: 4 BB/17 K, 4 BB/27 K, and 4 BB/24 K. I really hope this is a sign of things to come instead of an outlier for Eugenio. I don't think I can handle typing those numbers again.
  • Speaking of BB/K ratios, Adam Duvall struck out 27 times this capsule against only 7 walks in route to a .224/.293/.418 period, which was his worst of the season. Hopefully this is not his peripherals catching up to him like pretty much everyone has been predicting this season.
  • The entire outfield pretty much struggled in this period, with Jay Bruce hitting .219/.250/.370 with only 3 walks and 14 strikeouts, while Billy Hamilton hit .177/.261/.290. Billy was hampered by a low .222 BABIP, his 9.7% walk rate was the best he's posted since our first capsule. As for Jay, it just seems that he is in one of his slumps. He has hit solid all season, so hopefully this break does him well and we can get one last glimpse of him scorching the ball before he is almost certainly moved at the end of the month.
  • Jose Peraza was our best bat off the bench, going .263/.300/.263 for this period. Obviously, he didn't hit for much power as he is not a power hitter, but he put the ball in play and didn't strike out much (only 6 times in 40 PA). He also was 6 for 6 on stolen bases, which is always great to see. Hopefully we will see him get more and more regular at-bats as the season progresses, which leads me to my final, and probably most unfortunate point about the offense.
  • The decline of Brandon Phillips is real, and it sucks. We were all encouraged with the numbers he put up last season, thinking that he may be the second baseman that ages more gracefully than the rest. Unfortunately, that does not look to be the case. He hit .250/.301/.279 over this capsule, putting him at .259/.298/.372 for the season which is the worst line he's put up since his 2003 season in Cleveland. It's not only that, but his power has been pretty much non-existent since the middle of May. In fact, his last home run came on May 7 when he hit two against the Brewers. His plate discipline has become considerably worse, as he is swinging at pitches outside the zone 47.1% of the time, up just over 10% from his career rate. Lastly, his fielding seems to have also taken a hit, as he has already made 10 errors on the season which is already 4 more than his total from last season. This is obviously not fun to watch each day,  especially with a player who has been such a fan favorite for so long. Unless something changes, it might be time for the Reds to really think hard about handing over the reigns to some younger players as the second half progresses.

Defense:

  • Team ERA of 5.97, compared with NL average of 4.50 over the same time frame and 4.64 for capsule 4. Our overall team ERA of 5.46 is the worst in MLB and it's not really close, with Colorado coming in at 5.08.
  • The most encouraging performance from our pitching staff was from Anthony DeSclafani. In 3 starts over 20.2 IP, he went 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA, walking only 2 and striking out 19. It's such a fresh of breath air to be able to type that out knowing that I am not lying to you guys by associating those numbers with a member of the Reds pitching staff.
  • The lines from the rest of the starters were...um...less encouraging. Brandon Finnegan had his worst stretch of the season to this point, throwing up a 10.29 ERA in only 14 IP with 12 walks and only 14 strikeouts. You would have to wonder if the workload has finally started to have an effect on Finnegan. At 101.1 IP, he is has already more than doubled his career high of 48 IP, which he accumulated in 2014 with Kansas City. It will be interesting to see how they continue to manage his innings going forward, as they have already altered the rotation coming out of the break to do just that.
  • John Lamb tossed a 6.89 ERA in 20.2 IP over 4 starts this capsule. He seems to have started a trend of a bad start followed by a good start. His last start was encouraging, though. While he lasted only 5 innings, he scattered 6 hits and gave up 3 runs, but struck out 9 and walked none.
  • Cody Reed was another who has struggled so far. He was 0-4 with a 9.94 ERA. While his strikeout numbers were encouraging (10.5 K/9 for this period), he has been crushed by the long ball. He gave up 7 dingers over the 18 game capsule and boasts a MLB worst HR/FB rate at 40.9% (h/t Wick).
  • The bullpen had a pretty solid period this time around. Tony Cingrani is still throwing well as the team's closer. He gave up only 2 hits and 1 earned run over 7.2 IP this capsule en route to earning 4 saves.
  • While it makes me somewhat sad typing this, Raisel Iglesias was lights out from the bullpen this period. He tossed a fantastic 0.89 ERA in 10.1 IP, giving up only 4 hits, 1 run, 5 walks and 17 strikeouts. While it's nice to see that he is healthy and pitching extremely well, it's unfortunate that his shoulder may not hold up to the stresses of being a starting pitcher.
  • Blake Wood, Jumbo Diaz, and Michael Lorenzen also all had solid stretches out of the 'pen. Wood posted a 1.29 ERA in 7 IP with 5 strikeouts. Diaz gave up only 1 run in his 5 appearances and Lorenzen had 12 strikeouts in 10.2 IP. It's nice to finally be able to say nice things bout the bullpen for once.
  • Our Defensive Efficiency Rating, which is the percentage of balls in play that are converted into outs, sits at .692 for the season. That is good for 5th best in the National League and 9th overall. We made 9 errors over the last 18 games, which means we have now made 64 errors on the season, which is 28th in MLB. Only St. Louis and Milwaukee have more.

The Next 18:

  • 11 games at home; 9 games on the road.
  • 5 of the 18 against NL Central opponents.
  • 2 of the 18 against 2015 playoff teams.
  • 0 games against American League teams
  • .484 average winning % for teams in the next 18.
  • Note for optimism: The schedule gets a little easier for the first stretch out of the break. I can't believe the season is halfway over. Enjoy the rest of your All-Star break, everyone.
  • Note:  A much overdue thank you is due to riverfront76. He was the creator of this series and I asked him back in April if he was fine if I took it over. He was more than willing and has been a huge help as I try to live up to what he did before. He was willing to give over his spreadsheet that he used to collect all of this data and has had to answer numerous questions from me as I worked through my Excel illiteracy. So, thanks for all of the help, riverfront76, and I will always envy you for being able to do this in 2012 and not 2016.