Few Reds fans came in to this season expecting the team to be competitive. So what was there to get excited about beyond developments in the rebuild? Prior to the season we highlighted a few key individual milestones that players might be working toward in 2016. With about a month to go in the season, it’s a good time to check in and see how they fared.
Can Jay Bruce hit 30 home runs again?
In 2016 Jay Bruce was coming off of two disappointing offensive seasons. Fans were hopeful that if Bruce was fully healthy he could have a bounce back year. It was obvious that the club attempted to trade him prior to the season, and if nothing else an increase in production could hopefully enhance Cincinnati’s return for the outfielder.
Bruce had not hit 30 HR in a season since 2013. However, if he was able to get back on that trajectory it could indicate that his injury woes were behind him.
As of today Bruce sits on 29 HR. Barring injury he should easily be able to pass that goal. Admittedly, he’s struggled over his first 30 games in New York (.204/.268/.345 with 4 HR), but it’s hard to imagine he won’t hit at least one more long ball. For now it looks like the Reds made the right call by hanging on to him until the deadline. Bruce was having the best offensive season of his career by OPS+ prior to the trade.
Can Joey Votto walk 150 times this season?
I believe it was Marcus Aurelius from the movie Gladiator who said, “There was once a dream that was the 150 walk season. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish... it was so fragile. And I fear that it will not survive.”
Okay maybe he wasn’t talking about the 150 walk season, but he should have been. No one has eclipsed that mark since 2004 when Barry Bonds broke baseball and the collective spirit of MLB pitching by taking a mind boggling 232 walks. Clearly that number isn’t getting touched anytime soon, but Votto was only 7 away from 150 in 2015. Was this the year he would reach the unreachable goal?
While it’s unlikely Votto will get to 150, he’s still leading baseball with 99 walks (two ahead of Paul Goldschmidt). League average walk rates are slightly up this season (8.2%) compared to last year (7.7%), but it won’t push any individual player higher than Votto’s mark of 143 a year ago. Actually, it could be interesting to see how long it takes for another player to even get close to 143.
Honorable mention: The previous article also noted that Votto was closing in on 200 career HR. He would reach that milestone in a late May game against the Rockies.
Can Billy Hamilton reach a .300 OBP?
Over the past few seasons fans have been tantalized by Billy Hamilton. It was obvious his speed could be an incredible offensive weapon, but in order to employ that skill he was going to have to get on base more. In 2014 Hamilton’s OBP was .292, and in 2015 it dropped to .274. Prior to 2016 there was real concern regarding Hamilton’s future in the lineup if he continued to struggle at the plate.
We might have seen the last of Billy Hamilton this season, but in 119 games he was able to increase his OBP to .321. He’s still not having a great offensive season (78 OPS+), but getting on base more allow him to already set a career high in steals (58). For the month of August his OBP was an eye raising .360. Fans saw some promising progression in Hamilton’s offensive game this season, and there’s no reason to think he can’t continue to develop in 2017.
Honorable mention: Could Billy Hamilton become the first player to steal at least 70 bases in a season since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009? Due to his injury Hamilton won’t hit that mark, but there’s a good chance he would have gotten there had he stayed healthy. Hamilton was already at 58 steals, and in the two previous months he had racked up totals of 16 (July) and 19 (August). There’s always next year.
Will Homer Bailey get to 1,000 career strikeouts?
This milestone had more to do with what the number would signify than the actual mark. Bailey entered the season 168 strikeouts from 1,000, and for him to hit that goal he would have needed a healthy and productive season. So far this season Bailey has 27 strikeouts.
Initially fans hoped that Bailey would make his big league return from Tommy John surgery in May. However, the team had no need to rush him back this season, and he experienced a few setbacks along the way. Bailey wouldn’t make his debut for the Reds until July 31. Since returning he’s 2-3 with a 6.65 ERA (3.11 FIP), but he’s striking out a career high 10.6 per nine.