The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for Reds fans. While the team was having it's best stretch of the season on the field, most fans kept a watchful eye on that elephant in the room off the field: That one of our most beloved players was going to be playing for a different team. The emotions were mixed as we watched these last few weeks. We scoured social media for rumor after rumor with anticipation, wondering when the big trades were going to happen. We speculated and projected, wondering what implications this would have on the future of the club. And as we enjoyed another one of his patented hot streaks, we finished each game wondering if it was his last in a Reds uniform.
The last 8 years of Jay Bruce as a Cincinnati Red have also been a bit of a whirlwind. He came along at a time where the Reds were facing a turning point. Old players were at the point of being shipped out, and young players like Jay were positive signs of the future of the club. He started in the only way that he could, by collecting 11 hits in his first 5 games as a major leaguer, hotter than any player in baseball. Throughout his career, the Reds would go as Jay would go. He peaked as the Reds peaked, posting his best seasons as the Reds won two division titles in 3 years. As he struggled through an injury and at the plate, the Reds would struggle on the field and kick off a rebuilding project and 12 months of trade rumors that left Bruce in limbo of what his future would hold. But then, he bounced back, posting his best numbers since 2012 and staying on pace for one of the best seasons of his career. His hot streaks stayed hot, his cold streaks weren't near as cold, he hit 6 dingers in 5 games, and then all of a sudden he was a New York Met.
When Tuesday's game rolled around, it was tough to know how to feel. We all knew the Reds were going to line up and play that night, as they had done 104 previous times this season, but it didn't feel right. Sure, Jay Bruce didn't play every game in the last 8 seasons, but we knew he'd be out there the next night when he didn't play. This was different. It was permanent. While we knew the outfield of Schebler-Hamilton-Duvall was going to happen, it's hard to say that it's what we wanted. We wanted #32 in right field, just as he'd always been. But then the Reds played and they battled, and when Scott Schebler hit that walk-off home run we screamed just as loud as we would have if it were Jay Bruce who had hit it. And just like that, whether we wanted to or not, we moved on.
Here are the stats and notes through Thursday's games.
2016 Reds: Capsule 6
Season strength of schedule: .502 (T-2nd hardest in NL; T-12th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .479 (13th in NL; T-27th in MLB) [Previous: .475 13th in NL; T-26th in MLB]
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%)
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 0.0% (Previous 0.0%)
- .269/.334/.428 line for capsule 6, compared to NL average of .249/.319/.399 and .231/.294/.354 for capsule 5. Overall, it was a good hitting stretch for the Reds. Most of the lineup hit well and got on base. Whether it was due to the fact that they were more dialed in after the All-Star break or because they were playing a softer schedule, those numbers are certainly a relief after the ones they put up before the break.
- The regulars as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Suarez, Duvall, Hamilton, Bruce.
- Jay Bruce finished his career with the Reds in the only way he could: On one of his patented hot streaks. In his final 14 games he collected 9 XBHs, 7 of them being home runs. He had 6 of those dingers in a streak where he hit home runs in 5 straight games, one of which would be his final home AB in Great American Ballpark. His line in his final 14 games was.250/.322/.692, good for a 1.014 OPS. There are few things that have been more fun than watching Jay Bruce on one of his incredible hot streaks, and we were graced with another one for his last 2 weeks in a Reds uniform. His final line as a Cincinnati Red was .265/.316/.559 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI. His OPS of .875 and OPS+ of 128 would be the best of his career if the season ended on August 1. Thanks for being such a great Red, Jay. Go win yourself a championship.
- Joey Votto did some more things at the plate this capsule, posting an absurd line of .468/.575/.710. He once again walked (17) more times than he struck out (12) and now leads the NL in OBP at .420. He just continues to be one of the best hitters in baseball and it is so much fun to watch.
- Billy Hamilton had a solid capsule, hitting .301/.354/.329 with 16 stolen bases. As you can tell by that SLG% he didn't hit for much power, as 20 of his 22 hits this period were singles with the other 2 being doubles. It has been nice to see him get on base more this season. While his season OBP of .300 leaves a little to be desired, it is still a vast improvement over last season and is on pace to be the best of his career.
- Adam Duvall had another solid stretch this period, hitting .242/.338/.500 with 3 home runs, 3 doubles, and 2 triples. He posted his best OBP over these 18 game stretches, with his only other .300 OBP capsule coming way back in the first one at .333. The thing that stood out the most was his BB/K ratio. He had 8 walks, which was his highest 18-game capsule total, with 16 strikeouts. Compare that to the 7/27 ratio he had in the 18 games before the break and you have a significant improvement in plate discipline.
- Eugenio Suarez had his best capsule since way back in capsule 1, hitting .295/.353/.492 with 2 home runs, 6 doubles, 5 walks and 16 strikeouts. His walks and strikeouts could definitely improve, but the numbers he has put up since the break are hopefully a sign of things to come for the young third-baseman.
- Brandon Phillips is trying his hardest to prove everyone wrong who says that it is time to bench him, as he hit .313/.333/.406 with 6 doubles over this capsule. If you look at it purely from a batting average perspective, then you could say "Yeah, he did a pretty good job." Unfortunately, the rest of his numbers tell the rest of the tale. He only walked once in 66 plate appearances over this capsule. He still hasn't hit a home run since May 7th. His plate discipline is still drastically worse this season, as he is swinging at pitches outside the zone at a rate 9% higher than his career average. I love Brandon Phillips and appreciate what he has done as a Cincinnati Red, and talking about him like this sucks almost as much as it does watching Jay Bruce play for another team, but it is time to move on to the players of the future.
- Zack Cozart hit .262/.318/.361 over this capsule. He only had 3 XBH, 1 of each type. There really wasn't anything spectacular about what he did over this capsule. He hit about the same as he has been hitting all season with less power.
- Tucker Barnhart had a forgettable return from the All-Star break, hitting just .188/.259/.396 over the 18-game stretch. If we're looking for positives, he hit 3 home runs to double his season total and walked 5 times against 6 strikeouts.
- Scott Schebler got his opportunity in the outfield after the Bruce trade and took full advantage, hitting .455/.500/.818 in his 3 games since returning to the majors. He had at least one hit in all 3 games and had a monster of a walk-off home run to beat St. Louis on Tuesday.
- 3.38 team ERA, compared to NL average of 3.89 and 5.97 for capsule 5. Once again, a major improvement heading out of the All-Star break compared to the numbers heading into the All-Star break.
- It's good to finally write about Homer Bailey in one of these articles. He made his long-awaited return to the Reds' rotation and didn't disappoint, giving up 2 runs in 5.2 innings while striking out 6 batters. He also had a stretch where he retired 14-straight Padres hitters, which was awesome to see. It wasn't his sharpest start, but he was healthy and throwing actual pitches for the Reds. It's good to have him back.
- Anthony DeSclafani continues to be the ace of the starting rotation. In 25 innings over 4 starts, he had a 3.96 ERA, walked only 4 batters and struck out 23. He was roughed up a bit in a dinger-fest in San Francisco, or else his numbers would have been even better. His name came up in trade talks over the last couple of weeks. While it was smart for the Reds to listen to offers, especially with the price of pitching this season, I am glad that he is still pitching for my favorite team.
- While DeSclafani may be our best overall pitcher, Dan Straily had the best capsule of our starting pitchers. He compiled a 1.67 ERA over 4 starts with only 6 walks against 21 strikeouts. After the disastrous stretch he had before the break, it's nice to see him bounce back and have his best stretch of the season.
- Brandon Finnegan was another guy who bounced back after a rough stretch heading into the All-Star break. In four starts since the break, he amassed a 3.27 ERA with 6 walks and 17 strikeouts. On top of that, he finished this stretch with a 12 inning scoreless streak where he gave up only 5 hits, walked 3, and struck out 9. Not bad at all, Mr. Finnegan.
- Cody Reed had another rough go of it. He gave up 10 earned runs in 3 starts that covered 16 innings during this stretch. He also walked 5 while only striking out 9. He did have his best start of his young career against Atlanta, where he gave up 2 unearned runs over 6 innings with 5 strikeouts. Cody Reed is going to be a very good major league pitcher. He is not right now, but that's okay. We are still rebuilding and he has the opportunity to take the time to figure things out at the major league level.
- The bullpen has improved drastically since July rolled around, mainly due to the return of Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen. Raisel Iglesias threw 13.1 innings in this stretch, giving up no runs, walking 3, and striking out 15. His season ERA sits at 2.00 for the season. Michael Lorenzen was also solid, giving up only 2 earned runs in 10.2 innings pitched over the 18 game period. He walked 4 and struck out 10 and is holding hitters to a measly .167 batting average on the season
- Our Defensive Efficiency Rating, which is the percentage of balls in play that are converted into outs, sits at .696 for the season, compared to the NL average of .689. That is good for 5th best in the NL and 8th best in MLB. We made 8 errors over the last 18 games, which puts our season total at 72 for the season. That is good for 5th worst in the National League.
The Next 18:
- 9 games at home; 9 games on the road.
- 9 of the 18 against NL Central opponents.
- 11 of the 18 against 2015 playoff teams.
- 1 game against an American League team which does not involve the DH.
- .524 average winning % for teams in the next 18.
- Note for optimism: The Reds are playing good baseball right now. At this point in a tough season, that is really all you can ask for. They have been fun to watch over the last few weeks and we can only hope that it continues.
- To see previous installments of this feature, click here.