Two weeks ago, the 2017 Cincinnati Reds were 29-30 and just 2 games behind the Brewers for first place in the NL Central. 12 games later and things have taken quite the turn. It was always going to happen though, right? None of us could have reasonably expected .500 baseball to continue when the Reds were running out 4-inning starts from the rotation night after night. As fun as it has been to repeatedly watch the offense come back late in games, something was going to give at some point. It just took the offense hitting slightly worse (and I mean slightly, because they were pretty much league average in every category) and the bullpen faltering just enough to make a .500 team lose 11 out of 12.
The thing about a losing streak like this is that it was going to happen at some point this season. And it is probably better that it happened now rather than later. While you always hope to be competitive, this was never going to be the year for the Reds. Even with a struggling NL Central, the Cubs were going to pull away at some point, and at this point the Wild Card would have been way out of the picture with the way the NL West is performing. For the long-term success of The Rebuild, it was better to get this out of the way now than going for it only to have this happen in August or September. That mindset, unfortunately, doesn’t make these stretches suck less than they already do.
The good news is that the solution to the Reds’ problem is finally on the way. Homer Bailey returns on Saturday, and has looked awesome in his rehab starts. Brandon Finnegan returns soon, too. And lastly, they may have finally found a young pitcher, at least temporarily, who can throw strikes in Luis Castillo. Things haven’t gone exactly to plan so far in this rebuild, but the time might finally be here where we see what the rebuilt Reds are capable of.
All stats and notes are through Wednesday’s games.
2017 Reds: Capsule 4
Season Strength of Schedule: .486 (12th hardest in NL; 27th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .470 (12th in NL; 27th in MLB)[Previous: .480 - 11th NL; 26th MLB]
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 0.5% (Previous 2.8%)
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.7% (Previous 5.0%)
- .255/.325/.462 slash line for capsule 4, compared with NL average of .264/.331/.451 and .264/.326/.459 for capsule 3.
- The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Mesoraco, Votto, Peraza, Cozart, Suarez, Duvall, Hamilton, Schebler.
- This wasn’t even the worst capsule for the offense this year, but it was the first one where the offensive numbers were either right at or just below league average. That just shows 1) how well the position players have performed this season, and 2) how much they have had to make up for the starting pitching woes.
- Joey Votto had himself another hot capsule, hitting .380/.450/.690 with 6 dingers, 11 RBI, and once again walking (9) more times than he struck out (5). His BABIP was at .350 for the capsule, the first capsule that he has anything close to his career average, but his season BABIP is at .292, which is still well below his career BABIP of .355.
- Scott Shebler also hit well for this capsule, slashing .314/.407/.588. He continued to show his power, hitting 4 dingers and 2 doubles, and walked 6 times against 11 strikeouts. He has a wRC+ of 120 on the season and his ISO is at .288, which is good for 11th best in MLB. So far, so good for the Reds’ right fielder.
- While Adam Duvall posted a solid slash line of .290/.343/.516 for the capsule, he also struck out 21 times against only 5 walks. His K% sits at 24.8% on the season, which surprisingly is lower than his career average of 26.9%.
- Billy Hamilton, man. He just continues to struggle at the plate. He struggled again this capsule, hitting .190/.250/.254. It’s telling how much he struggled to get on base when he only managed to steal 3 bases for the capsule. He did miss some games, but for comparison, his previous low for a 18-game capsule was 7. With a season OBP of .289, you have to wonder how much longer the Reds will stick with him at the top of the order.
- Eugenio Suarez was able to post a .389 OBP for the capsule thanks in large part to his 12 walks over the last 18 games. He did strike out 18 times, which isn’t great, but at least he has started to show a little more plate discipline. Hopefully that means a turnaround at the plate, as he has cooled off a little since his hot start to 2017.
- Scooter Gennett has turned into a very reliable bat off the bench so far in 2017, and will get a chance to prove his worth even more now that Zack Cozart has hit the DL. For capsule 4, he hit .268/.317/.643 with 6 dingers and 19 RBI, and a game that could go down as one of the best offensive performances of all-time.
- Considering he basically missed two full seasons, it’s safe to say that Devin Mesoraco is still adjusting to playing regularly. But, he is coming around. In 55 PA, his most for a capsule, he hit .222/.300/.611. He also is starting to find his power, as he smacked 3 dingers (he only had 1 this season leading up to the capsule.) Hopefully he and his fully-intact labra can continue to get back to the offensive force he was back in 2014.
- Team ERA of 5.90 for capsule 4, compared to the NL average of 4.82 and 6.31 for capsule 3.
- 71 games into the season and things haven’t really changed much with the starting pitching. The starters are still getting hit all over the field and the bullpen is doing what they can to keep the Reds in the game, although they have struggled as of late, too. Things won’t get better until Homer Bailey, Brandon Finnegan, and Anthony DeSclafani return to the rotation. Thankfully one of those is coming back this weekend. Unfortunately one of the others might not be back until August.
- Speaking of the starters, they were horrendous once again, sporting a lofty 6.87 ERA for the capsule.
- Bronson Arroyo probably threw his last major league pitch last week. He’s already hit the DL and we don’t know how long that will last, but when he is eligible to come off it’s hard to imagine a spot waiting for him. I won’t get deep into the stats as to why, because we all knew how it went. I do know that I will always appreciate what he did as a Red, regardless of his 2017 performance. I was able to see him pitch once in-person during his last good season as a starter and he was fantastic, and that’s what I’ll remember the most from his time in Cincinnati.
- Tim Adleman had the best capsule out of the starting pitchers, posting an ERA of 3.13 over 23 innings. He struggled with control a little, walking 4.7 batters per 9 innings, but was the one starter that kept the Reds in the game. Once again, we are 71 games into the season, and Tim Adleman is our most consistent starter. Hopefully he continues to pitch like he has, but we are saying that about Homer Bailey or Brandon Finnegan instead.
- Scott Feldman wasn’t terrible, either, putting up a 4.04 ERA over 22.1 IP. He was better with command than Adleman, walking only 2.4 per 9 for the capsule.
- After those two, things really start to fall off a cliff. Bronson Arroyo had a 11.74 ERA in only 13.1 innings, Amir Garrett was worse, with a 12.37 ERA in 13.2 innings, and Asher Wojciechowski had a 7.56 ERA in his last 3 starts.
- Raisel Iglesias, outside of one fateful appearance against the Dodgers, was solid once again. If you take out that game, he gave up no runs in 6 innings with 1 walk and 9 strikeouts. Unfortunately, that game did count, and he had a 5.22 ERA over 6.2 innings.
- Michael Lorenzen was also good out of the bullpen, giving up only 3 runs in his 10 innings, walking 2 and striking out 9.
- Blake Wood continues to have a solid 2017 campaign. For capsule 4, he threw 9.2 innings with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP while walking only 3 batters per 9 innings and striking out almost 12 per 9 innings. For the season, he’s put up a 3.63 ERA over 34.2 IP.
- Ariel Hernandez came back up and pitched 2 perfect innings. He still has not allowed a base runner in his career, which seems good.
- Speaking of the bullpen, it seems that Bryan Price has reverted back to more traditional bullpen roles this year. Raisel Iglesias hasn’t pitched more than one inning since May 9 and 17 of his 29 appearances have been in the 9th inning or later. 25 of his appearances have been in the last inning of the game and 19 of his appearances have been with the lead. Michael Lorenzen has been the traditional late-inning reliever, appearing in the 7th or 8th inning in 21 of his 29 games and only pitching in the last inning 4 times. Drew Storen and Blake Wood have been appearing in the middle innings of games, regardless of the score situation. Now, this change very well could be because of the struggles of the starting pitching and the need to not overwork our best arms, but with all of the early season talk about our unorthodox bullpen, it doesn’t seem so different from what everyone else is doing at the moment.
- The Reds, by their Defensive Efficiency Rating, continue to be the best defensive team in baseball. Their DER sits at .704, which is the best in all of MLB. They have also made 34 errors, which is the 4th fewest in MLB. to put that in perspective, the Reds had made 55 errors at this point in 2016, which was the worst in the National League.
The next 17:
- Yes, you read that right. The next capsule is only going to be 17 games because that is how many are left until the All-Star break. That way I don’t have to wait the whole break for the last game of the capsule to come around.
- 6 games at home, 11 on the road.
- 7 of the next 17 against NL Central opponents.
- None of the upcoming 17 games are against American League teams.
- 6 of the 17 against 2016 playoff teams.
- .560 combined winning % for teams in the next 17.
- Things get tough leading up to the All-Star break. Only 1 game is against a team with a record under .500 and that is a make-up game against the Cardinals.