It's pretty hard to believe, but the 2016 Cincinnati Reds are playing pretty good baseball right now. In fact, they are actually kind of fun to watch. I know it is hard to believe, especially after watching this same team suit up and produce results through the first 3 months of the season that were pretty much the opposite of what we are seeing now. I certainly didn't think that I would be writing about this in August, but the 2016 Reds are putting out a product worth watching, and they have been for over a month now.
How many teams in the midst of a rebuild get to enjoy a generational talent like Joey Votto and an up-and-coming speedster who continues to improve at the plate while defying logic pretty much every night while patrolling the outfield. Joey Votto has maintained a .500 OBP for over a month right now and has really shown no signs of bucking that trend. He works counts and lines lasers all over the field like very few people who play the game can do. Billy Hamilton is having his best offensive season at the plate and as recently as 2 nights ago made one of the best plays in the outfield that we may ever see. These are two of the best in the game at what they do and we have the pleasure of watching both of them every night.
And that's not even mentioning the potential shown by the younger members of the team. Dan Straily, picked up off the scrap heap just days before the season started, has been our most reliable pitcher this season. Anthony DeSclafani has done nothing but show us yet again that he can be the ace of this staff for the next 4 years. Jose Peraza came up and lit the world on fire in his first 4 games back in the majors and Eugenio Suarez has turned his season around and made enough improvements in the hot corner to show that he can possibly be the third baseman of the future.
We like to tell ourselves in losing seasons that we need to enjoy the fact that we're watching baseball, because in a few months there won't be baseball to watch. While, yes, this is true because baseball is awesome, did we really believe that back in May? I mean, there were two separate 18-game stretches where the Reds went 4-14 while putting up historically bad numbers in the process. Yet, we still kept coming back, because there was a hope that it was going to get better at some point. Fortunately, that point is finally here. We seeing light at the end of this tunnel. While it may not be a run that springs us into a division title in 2017 like it did in 2009, there is still something to be excited about. We can finally see the light, and I'm excited as hell about the journey to get there.
Here are notes and stats through Tuesday's games.
2016 Reds: Capsule 7
Season Strength of Schedule: .503 (Hardest in NL; 12th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI: .485 (T-10th in NL; T-22nd MLB (4-way)) [Previous: .479 13th in NL; T-27th in MLB]
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%)
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%)
- .275/.339/.411 for capsule 7, compared to NL average of .264/.332/.434 and .269/.334/.428 for capsule 6. Another good hitting capsule for the Reds. Slightly better than capsule 6, which was also solid.
- The regulars as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Suarez, Duvall, Hamilton, and Schebler.
- Joey Votto, man. His line of .443/.513/.705 was pretty much right-on track with his last capsule, meaning that he has now had 36 straight games with a line of .400/.500/.700 since the All-Star break. He also put up a slew of extra-base hits with 6 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 dingers. He drove in 20 runs while walking 13 times and striking out only 7 times. His total line since the All-Star break is now .455/.545/.707.
- Speaking of hot second halves, Billy Hamilton is having himself one of his own. He hit .311/.417/.393 for capsule 7, raising his line to .306/.384/.358 for the second half. The biggest thing that stood out to me about Billy's capsule is that he walked 11 times against 15 strikeouts. That is by far the highest walk total that he has had over an 18 game capsule this season. (His previous high was 7 in capsule 5, but he has had periods where he has walked as few as 0 and 1 times). He also stole 15 bases, which brings his second half total up to 31. He has 53 so far this season and needs only 4 to tie his career high.
- Speaking of Billy Hamilton, remember all of the hemming and hawing we all did when it came out this off-season that the Reds were going to make him keep hitting from both sides of the plate? Even after he said that he wanted to just stick with hitting right-handed? Yeah, about that. He is now hitting .278/.341/.368 from the left side this season. What's crazy is that he is actually hitting pretty poorly from the right side, slashing only .219/.268/.314 on the season. I think we can safely say that it was probably a good thing that Billy kept working at it this season. It certainly has paid off for him.
- Brandon Phillips actually had a pretty solid stretch of hitting this time around. He hit .400/.441/.600. He actually hit for a little power, breaking out of his 3-month long dinger drought with 2 in this period and adding 4 doubles. He also walked as many times as he struck out, posting his 2nd highest 18-game capsule walk total to this point. I could stop right here to keep this narrative going, but I'm about honesty here as much as I am putting a positive spin on things. Unfortunately, when your 2nd highest walk total is 4 over an 18 game capsule, it means you are not selecting pitches very well. On a positive note, it means that he only struck out 4 times in this period, which is way better than he has done at any other point this season. I was glad to see these numbers from BP this period. It's been harped time and time again about the playing time of the Reds second baseman. I'm not going to go into that discussion again but if he is going to be out there, I'm glad he has started to hit a little better.
- Hot hitting is going to be a theme of this capsule, and continuing this trend is Eugenio Suarez. He put up a respectable .313/.370/.507 line over this capsule with 9 XBH, including 7 doubles and 2 dingers. He is still not walking much while striking out a lot (5 BB/15 K), but it's nice to see Suarez have a good second half after struggling so much in the first half of the season.
- It's hard to find enough to say about the job that Tucker Barnhart has done this season. After hitting .298/.389/.468 over this capsule, he has raised his season line to .261/.330/.399. Considering he was going into this season as a back-up to Devin Mesoraco, he has done way more than anyone could have thought to fill the void left by our oft-injured starting catcher.
- Zack Cozart left a little to be desired over this capsule. He hit .239/.286/.283 with only 2 doubles and 3 walks. He did battle some knee and achilles soreness, forcing him to sit out the last 6 games with issues the he even admitted had been affecting his performance. Hopefully he can feel better soon and continue his strong season at the plate.
- The rest of the outfield not named Billy Hamilton was sub-par, to say the least. Scott Schebler endured an 0-29 streak at the plate this capsule and hit .167/.254/.283 with only 6 walks and 18 strikeouts. Adam Duvall wasn't much better, hitting only .208/.279/.377 with only 5 walks against 16 strikeouts. Not a great period for the corner outfielders.
- Lastly, Jose Peraza finally got some regular playing time, unfortunately due to Cozart being banged up, and he made the most of it. He recorded 11 hits in only 19 at-bats with 2 doubles, a dinger, and 2 stolen bases. He also only struck out twice, which is good, but he didn't walk once, which isn't good. In fact, he only has 2 walks in 112 plate appearances this season. That really could use some work.
- 4.14 team ERA, compared to NL average of 4.76 and 3.38 for capsule 6. It actually wasn't too bad of a stretch for the Reds' pitchers. The ERA is skewed pretty high, but that tends to happen when you give up 18 runs in one game.
- Dan Straily had the best 18-game stretch of our starting pitchers. In 4 starts spanning 23.1 innings, he gave up 6 runs while only walking 2 and striking out 22. That's an incredible stretch once again for a guy we basically got for free. He has been our most consistent pitcher this season and it has been a joy to see him do what he has done so far. Keep doing you, Dan.
- Brandon Finnegan also had a solid stretch this time around, putting up a 3.48 ERA over 18.1 IP. His biggest issue is that he continues to walk a ton of guys. He walked 11 guys this stretch and struck out only 16. He has now given up 70(!) walks this season.
- Anthony DeSclafani struggled a little in this capsule, putting up a 4.13 ERA over 24 IP. He struck out 23 batters while walking only 6 so his K/BB ratio still looked good. He also ran into a little bad BABIP luck, giving up a .303 average on balls-in-play for this period. I'm just glad that a 4.13 ERA is considered struggling on this pitching staff now, considering that same number a few months ago would have been described as "Well, actually he pitched better than everyone else did."
- It was a tale of 2 good starts vs. 2 bad starts for Homer Bailey this capsule. For this period, he gave up 12 earned runs in only 16.1 innings, good for a 6.63 ERA. His starts against Pittsburgh on August 6 and Los Angeles on Monday hurt him the most. In 5.1 combined innings he gave up 11 earned runs. In his other two starts, he gave up 2 runs (1 earned) over 11 innings. The best news out of all of that is that he only walked 4 batters while striking out 21 (boosted by an 11 strikeout performance against Milwaukee on August 12. The bottom line is that coming back from Tommy John surgery is tough, and pitchers struggle with consistency when they do come back after such a long rehab. Homer may be inconsistent this season, but we can definitely look forward to some improvement from Ol' Hoss in the coming weeks.
- Raisel Iglesias once again pitched well out of the bullpen. While he came back down to earth from his 22+ inning scoreless streak, he was still able to shut down opposing lineups pretty easily. He struck out 10 batters in 7.1 innings while walking 4. He also recorded 2 saves in the process, which hopefully doesn't mean that "Raisel Iglesias: Cincinnati Reds' closer" is a thing of the future.
- Michael Lorenzen was also solid once again from the bullpen. He threw up a 3.03 ERA in 8.2 innings. He walked only 1 and struck out 10, which is damn good. He also knocked his first dinger of his career in one of the more emotional moments of the season for the Reds in the middle of a 1.2 inning scoreless outing.
- Our Defensive Efficiency Rating stayed pretty steady at .695, compared to .696 last capsule and the NL average of .687. That is good for 5th in the NL and 8th in MLB. We have also made 81 errors so far this season. We made 9 this capsule and have only made 17 since the break. To put that in perspective, we made 17 in the first 18 games of the season alone.
- 8 games at home; 10 games on the road.
- 8 of the 18 against NL Central opponents.
- 11 of the 18 against 2015 playoff teams.
- 4 games against American League teams, 3 of which involve the DH.
- .485 average winning % for teams in the next 18.
- Note for optimism: I'm not sure if this is optimism as much as it is a few things to be excited about for the next capsule. First, Jay Bruce returns to Cincinnati. If you haven't noticed, he is no longer a member of the Cincinnati Reds and he'll be playing in GABP as a visitor for the first time in his career. It will be weird. Second, rosters expand in a week so we will get a chance to see some of our prospects get a shot at playing with the big club. Lastly, we get to watch the best player in baseball play against our favorite team on August 29-31. While it may not be fun to see the damage that Mike Trout may put up against the Reds, it will be fun to watch a generational talent that we don't get to see that often.
- To see previous installments of this feature, click here.