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18 Games at a time - Capsule 8

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Selective endpoints on the 2017 Reds: Games 126-144

Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

When it comes to rookie starting pitchers, 2017 has not gone as planned for the Cincinnati Reds. While the Reds were hoping to get extended looks from Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, and the like, injuries and poor performances saw all of these pitchers spending most of the season in Louisville. Instead of working out the kinks and returning to Cincinnati quickly, the struggles these pitchers dealt with in the majors followed them to Louisville, causing them to stay down there longer than both they and the Reds would have liked.

When many of these pitchers made their return to the major league mound in the second half, they were met with more caution than excitement, hoping for some kind of improvement from their first go around. This most recent 19-game stretch saw the Reds put in their best collection of pitching performances in 2017, largely because of their rookie starters. The team as a whole put up league-average or better numbers and the young starting pitchers were even better than that. 15 of the 19 games in this capsule were started by rookies, and you’ll see in the table below just how good that group has performed recently, how they have improved in the second half, and how they compare with the rest of the National League.

Rookie Starters over the 2nd Half

Capsule No. ERA (NL avg) BB/9 (NL avg) K/9 (NL avg)
Capsule No. ERA (NL avg) BB/9 (NL avg) K/9 (NL avg)
Capsule 6 (54 IP) 4.50 (4.31) 5.17 (3.26) 7.83 (8.34)
Capsule 7 (69.2 IP) 4.94 (4.50) 2.86 (3.51) 7.93 (8.26)
Capsule 8 (80.1 IP) 3.03 (4.87) 3.71 (3.45) 9.44 (8.79)

I will break up the individual performances of some of these guys later, but you can see that as a whole, this group of pitchers continues to improve as the season progresses. While it isn’t a linear progression, as capsules 6 and 7 are very similar, the fact that there is this much improvement in the capsule with the highest number of innings is very encouraging. When you include the ways that they are improving, better command and more strikeouts, it’s hard not to have a little hope for what these guys can do in the future.

While the Reds might have wished that these improvements would have come in, say, June, it’s still nice to see these rookies flash the potential that we have been waiting on all season. This upcoming stretch will be the biggest test for these rookies so far, as 4 of the remaining 5 teams are locked in pennant races. There are only 18 games left in the season, and I’m excited as hell to see what’s ahead.

All stats and notes are through Sunday’s games.

2017 Reds: Capsule 8

Record: 9-10

Season Strength of Schedule: .502 (4th hardest in NL; t-12th hardest in MLB)

Season RPI (ESPN): .484 (11th in NL; 25th in MLB)[Previous: .484 - 11th NL; 25th MLB]

Baseball Prospectus division odds: Eliminted

Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: Eliminated

Offense:

  • .252/.333/.400 slash line for capsule 8, compared to the NL average of .251/.326/.407 and .263/.370/.454 for capsule 7.
  • The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Cozart, Gennett, Suarez, Duvall, Hamilton, Schebler.
  • The offense was pretty much right at or below league average in all statistical categories. It is a testament to the Reds’ offensive performance this season that a capsule that is near league average is considered a “down” capsule.
  • Joey Votto once again did Joey Votto things. He hit .297/.458/.453 for capsule 8. The only thing missing this time around, as you can see from his SLG%, was the power. He only had 6 XBH this capsule, collecting 4 doubles and 2 dingers. He did have a Votto-esque 19/7 BB/K for the capsule, which is always great to see and at this point is pretty much an expectation.
  • It has been such a delight watching the progress of Eugenio Suarez this season. For capsule 8, he hit .308/.387/.492 with 3 doubles, 3 dingers, and had 9 walks against 15 strikeouts. He has already reached a career-high in home runs, doubles, walks, and RBI, his .859 OPS is nearly 100 points higher than his career average of .764. I have no idea how the Reds will figure out their infield situation in the future, but I hope that Suarez is a part of it.
  • Scooter Gennett just hasn’t slowed down, has he? He hit .348/.394/.591 for capsule 8, led the team in XBH with 9 (5 doubles, a triple, and 3 home runs), and led the team in OPS at .985. Speaking of the infield situation, it will be interesting to see what the Reds plan to do with Scooter during the off-season.
  • Tucker Barnhart continues to have a career-best season. He hit .308/.429/.462 for capsule 8 with 8 walks and 10 strikeouts. He has also tallied a career-high in walks (39) and his OBP of .351 is also on pace to be a career-high.
  • Adam Duvall, on the other hand, continues to slump and slump hard. He hit .152/.169/.258 for capsule 8 with only 2 walks against 24 strikeouts. That is the second-highest strikeout total put up by a Reds player over any capsule this season. The highest was 25, also put up by Duvall, back in capsule 6, which was the first one after the All-Star break. He has some pretty crazy first and second half splits this season. His SLG% and OPS from the first half (.557, .878) currently blow away what he has put up so far in the second half (.399 SLG, .660 OPS). This is an even bigger margin than his splits in 2016, where his first and second half OPS only differed by roughly 100 points.

Pitching

  • Team ERA of 4.43 for capsule 8, compared to the NL average of 4.37 and 6.25 for capsule 7.
  • We finally did it, you guys. We finally, in the 2017 season, had a capsule where the pitching was league average. Congratulations to all of you for the work you put in to reach this point.
  • We will go ahead and start this one off with Luis Castillo. Good Lord this kid is fun. He finished off his final capsule of the season with his best one. He threw 19 innings and put up a 1.89 ERA. He allowed only 4 runs, walked only 2 batters, and struck out 24. He put up a 11.4 K/9 and had a WHIP of 0.63 over the capsule. Lou-ace Castillo, indeed.
  • Robert Stephenson showed some improvement in that he only gave up 5 runs over 17.2 innings over this capsule, but he didn’t exactly prevent them from getting on base. Though he collected 25 strikeouts, good for a team-best 13.1 K/9, he also walked 12 batters. Hopefully his control will improve as he continues to string together solid starts.
  • Moving on down the line of rookie pitchers, Tyler Mahle had a pretty solid start to his career. He allowed only 6 runs over 15 innings, good enough for a 3.60 ERA over his 3 starts. While his 8 walks were uncharacteristic of him (he never allowed more than 2 in a game in the minors), he was still able to get batters out and limit runs.
  • Sal Romano also had some struggle with his command, walking 9 batters and striking out 20 over 23.2 innings of work. While he was keeping runners from crossing the plate (3.04 ERA over capsule 8), the walks will need to improve as he hopes to secure a spot in the rotation.
  • Lastly, for the rotation, Homer Bailey had his best capsule of the season by a long shot, putting up a 4.29 ERA over 21 innings. While he only struck out 12, he also showed great command by walking 5. He also had two separate stretches where he threw 6 innings of shutout baseball before giving up runs in the 7th, including one stretch where he retired 13 out of 14 batters. It’s great to see Homer finally able to start to return to his old self.
  • It was much of the same out of the bullpen for the Reds. Raisel Iglesias continued to be himself by allowing 2 runs over 10 innings while striking out 8. Drew Storen alowed 1 run in 5 innings while striking out 8 and walking 1.
  • The Reds Defensive Efficiency Rating for the season sits at .688, which is tied for 5th best in the National League and tied for 12th best in all of MLB. The NL average for DER is .686.

The next 18:

  • 9 games at home, 9 on the road.
  • 15 of the next 18 against NL Central opponents.
  • 3 of the next 18 are against American League teams, none of which use the DH.
  • 6 of the next 18 against projected playoff teams.
  • .523 combined winning % for teams in the next 18.
  • As our own Wick Terrell wrote about on Monday, 12 of the Reds final 18 games are against NL Central opponents who are still vying for a spot in the post-season. While the 2017 season has been over for quite a while for the Reds when it comes to post-season contention, the improvement of the pitching staff will certainly give them an opportunity to make things really interesting for the rest of the division down the stretch. Also, the Red Sox come to town, which means I get to imagine an alternate reality where the Reds lose 5 more games in 2014 and Andrew Benintendi is patrolling the Cincinnati outfield.