Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about how we finally have a fun team to watch after 3 seasons of a lot of losing. They then proceeded to lose 5 in a row - 7 in all if you count the two previous to that post - and had some pretty atrocious numbers put up by their starting pitching (more on that later.) The issue isn’t really the fact that the team went through a stretch like that, as good teams will even struggle at times, but it’s how they’ve done it.
While this team has been great on offense and has put up league-best numbers on defense, the starting pitching has been the biggest issue in 2017. What is concerning is that it’s the young pitchers who have severely under-performed this year. Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett, and Cody Reed have all been thought of at some point as the top pitching prospects in our system and own career ERA’s of 6.86, 6.00, and 7.15. Not only are they giving up a lot of runs, but they have also had trouble finding the strike zone. Walks, as they say, will haunt, and these guys have given up a lot of them. Cody Reed owns a career walk rate of 5.0 per 9 innings, Robert Stephenson’s BB/9 is at 5.1, and Garrett’s is a little better at 3.6.
Thankfully it’s still early, and these guys are going through these rough patches in a season where the Reds were never expected to compete. It’s okay to endure some of these performances when you have a solid rotation, but when you have a former indy-leaguer, a journeyman who hasn’t consistently started in two seasons, and a 40-year old who hasn’t been healthy since 2014 making up your rotation, it magnifies those issues.
While it may not be time to panic on these guys yet, the Reds certainly have to be worried about the long-term prospects of their young pitchers. Considering they sought guys like Reed, Brandon Finnegan (who is injured), Keury Mella (who has been inconsistent in the minors), and Anthony DeSclafani (also injured) in some of their bigger deals, their performances will help determine how successful this rebuild is. In the short-term, the Reds will have to endure. Finnegan, DeSclafani, and Homer Bailey returning from injury will bring more stability to the rotation and hopefully some better performances. But until then, things might look a whole lot worse before they start to get better.
All stats and notes through Friday’s games.
2017 Reds: Capsule 3
**Note: Due to rainouts and the schedule leading up to the All-Star Break, there are only 17 games in this capsule. They will be made up with a couple of 19 game capsules in the second half.
Season Strength of Schedule: .483 (11th hardest in NL; 26th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .480 (11th in NL; 26th in MLB)[Previous: .506 - 8th NL; 15th MLB]
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 2.8% (Previous 4.3%)
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 5.0% (Previous 12.1%)
- .264/.326/.459 slash line for capsule 3, compared with NL average of .252/.319/.416 and .270/.345/.450 for capsule 2.
- The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Peraza, Cozart, Suarez, Duvall, Hamilton, Schebler.
- It was another solid capsule for the offense, who seems to be carrying the team at the moment. They posted numbers above the league average for the second straight capsule and saw improvements or solid numbers from everyone in the lineup.
- Zack Cozart had the best offensive output out of the starters for this capsule, hitting .361/.420/.639 with 5 home runs, 13 RBI, and an absurd 1.060 OPS. He only had 2 home runs after the first 2 capsules, so he obviously had a huge power surge for this one. One of the biggest factors in his offensive surge this season has been his ability to take a walk. He put up a 10.1% BB% for this capsule, which is actually lower than his 13.4% for 2017. To put that in perspective, he has a career BB% of 5.9%.
- Jose Peraza improved his hitting over the last capsule, going .311/.333/.459 for the period. While he still isn’t walking (only 1 walk compared to 11 strikeouts), he did smack 5 extra-base hits, which matched his combined total from periods 1 and 2, and was 6 for 7 on stolen-base attempts.
- Joey Votto put up another solid .263/.432/.544 line for capsule 3. For the third straight capsule, he walked more than he struck out, finishing with a 15/11 BB/K. His K% for 2017 sits at 12.9%, which is way lower than his career K% of 18.2%. For the season, his BABIP sits at .260, which is nearly 100 points lower than his career BABIP of .354. His numbers are only going to get better.
- Scott Schebler had 6 home runs for capsule 3, which led the team. His 16 home runs on the season leads the NL. He also struggled at the plate, with a .207/.266/.534 line for the capsule. Some of that can be contributed to bad luck, as he had a BABIP of .154 over the last 17 games.
- Adam Duvall went .290/.315/.551 for the capsule, bashing 5 home runs and driving in 19. The fact that his OBP was only 25 points higher than his BA can be attributed to the fact that he walked only once for the capsule while striking out 18 times. That’s a BB% of 1.4%, for those of you keeping track at home.
- Billy Hamilton went .257/.297/.286 for the capsule, which is about right in-line with what he has done all season. He still is struggling with striking out, K’ing a team-high 19 times for the capsule.
- Scooter Gennett was the best bat off the bench for this capsule, hitting .281/.343/.344 for the capsule. He was also a victim of the strikeout bug, however, striking out 13 times in 35 PA.
- Team ERA of 6.31 for capsule 3, compared to the NL average of 4.22 and 4.66 for capsule 2.
- Hoooo boy. The pitching. We’re really going to really have to do some mental gymnastics to find many positive things to say about the pitching performance for capsule 3. The starters were bad for the most part and even some of the relievers struggled, leaving us to wonder if their heavy workload to start the season is starting to catch up to them.
- Speaking of how bad the rotation was this capsule, they had an astounding 7.55 ERA in 84.2 IP over the last 17 games. The best ERA among starters who made multiple starts over this capsule was Tim Adleman with 5.43.
- It’s hard to pinpoint what all has gone wrong for the pitching staff so far, because there are a lot of things, but the fact that Reds’ pitchers are worse than league average by a full walk per 9, nearly 2 K/9, and a full K/BB for the capsule.
- The bullpen had their ups and downs this capsule, but they were effective for the most part. Guys like Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Austin Brice, and Drew Storen had a solid capsule, while Wandy Peralta, Blake Wood, and Robert Stephenson struggled.
- Speaking of Iglesias, he made 9 appearances and didn’t allow a run in his 8 innings of work. His ERA sits at a cool 0.66 on the season.
- Perhaps the most surprising pitching performance, other than what Wandy Peralta did in the early-going, is what Austin Brice has done. In this capsule, he gave up 3 runs in his 10.1 innings and walked only 1 batter while striking out 7. For someone who wasn’t the main piece of the return for the Dan Straily trade, he has certainly been more than serviceable out of the ‘pen this season.
- The Reds’ Defensive Efficiency Rating sits at .713, which is the best in the National League and second in MLB to Minnesota’s .714.
The Next 18:
- 9 games at home, 9 on the road.
- 4 of the next 18 against NL Central opponents.
- 3 of the 18 against American League teams, all 3 will use the DH.
- 6 of the 18 against 2016 playoff teams.
- .486 combined winning % for teams in the next 18.