Well, it didn’t get worse. I was at least right about that when I recapped the first 18 games of the season a few weeks ago. If we’re strictly comparing the two 18-game segments in a vacuum, things got a lot better. The Reds doubled their win total from capsule 1 so things have to be looking up, right?
It’d be nice if we were saying that about a .500 team that won 6 games and then turned around and won 12, but the unfortunate fact is that we are 36 games into the season and the Reds have won 9 games. We’re twenty per-cent of the way through the season where we were supposed to see the dividends of this rebuild finally paid off and the Reds have yet to reach double-digit wins. That’s not how any of this was supposed to go.
The thing is, if you actually look deeper, the Reds did get better. The offense went back to performing at the level they did for much of the 2017 season. Joey Votto turned back into his normal self. Eugenio Suarez returned from the disabled list and immediately started mashing. Scooter Gennett, Jesse Winker, and Jose Peraza also hit very well. They were also much more competitive, losing five 1-run games and losing three more by 2 runs.
The problem with this team, as it has been for seemingly forever, is the pitching. Things will not get better until the pitching gets better. Tyler Mahle has probably been the best, Luis Castillo is (hopefully) fixed, but nobody has been consistent. We already know what this team can do when the offense plays like it should, but when the previous sentence is the only positive thought you can conjure up about your starting pitching, you end up with a 9-27 record.
We already know why the Reds are where they are. We’ve known it for three years now. The wins won’t come until the starting pitching is better. Hopefully it fixes itself soon.
All stats and notes are through Tuesday’s games.
2018 Reds: Capsule 2
Season Strength of Schedule: .505 (12th hardest in NL; 16th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .441 (15th in NL; 26th in MLB)[Previous: .415 - 15th NL; 28th MLB]
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 0.0% (Previous: 0.3%)
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 0.1% (Previous: 0.5%)
- .262/.346/.421 slash line for capsule 2, compared to the NL average of .243/.320/.399 and .219/.299/.319 for capsule 1.
- The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Peraza, Gennett, Suarez, Duvall, Schebler, Winker.
- The offense actually returned to their pre-2018 selves in this capsule. After being pretty much non-existent in capsule 1, they hit above league average in nearly every offensive category for capsule 2. This is undoubtedly due to the return of Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez to the lineup, along with Joey Votto becoming Joey Votto again.
- First of all, let’s talk about Jose Peraza. He had himself quite the capsule this time around. He has been successful this season by doing what he does best: Making contact. His contact rate for capsule 2 was 94.9%. The hits were definitely falling for Peraza, because in capsule 2 he hit .321/.345/.436, but his success over the whole season tells the bigger story. He has the 2nd-fewest strikeouts among the regulars and his OPS+ this season is at 87 which, while still not great, it is an improvement over his career OPS+ of 77. He also leads all National League shortstops in hits. Obviously time will tell to see if this is sustainable since the season is still young but, at just a hair over 24 years old, maybe Peraza is finally starting to come into his own as a hitter.
- Welcome back, Joey Votto. After a rough first capsule, he went off and turned right back into himself in capsule 2. He slashed .295/.482/.607 for this period and, after tallying only a singe extra-base hit for capsule 1, he led the team with 9 in this capsule, including hitting his first 5 dingers of the season. Oh yeah, in classic Votto fashion, he had 19 walks against 12 strikeouts. Back to normal.
- Jesse Winker also hit the ball pretty damn well over this capsule, slashing .298/.369/.404. After he also only had one XBH in capsule 1, he found some of that power by lacing 6 doubles. While he is still searching for that first home run of the season, I imagine that it will come pretty soon considering how hard he has been hitting the ball lately.
- Eugenio Suarez returned from his stint on the disabled list and hit the ball well. He slashed .326/.396/.630 in 53 PA’s in this capsule. He also smacked 3 home runs and led the team with 18 RBI. It helps to have 3 guys with near .400 OBP’s hitting in front of you all the time.
- Now that he has been receiving some regular playing time, Alex Blandino has been fantastic over the last 18. He hit .324/.405/.405 in 14 games this capsule. He also smacked his first career home run in this capsule, which is always great. While the power hasn’t been there (his home run is his only XBH this year), it has been nice to see him take advantage of his regular opportunities so far.
- It’s probably weird to follow up the previous statement with a note about how well Scooter Gennett is hitting, but Scooter hit the ball damn well in this period. He hit .305/.359/.576 and had 8 XBH, including 4 dingers. While his shoulder might be turning his throws from second into an adventure every night, it isn’t showing up in his offense yet. And even though the Reds should be playing Blandino more than Scooter, it’s nice to know that the Reds have options right now.
- Adam Duvall struggled again, hitting only .164/.292/.345 over capsule 2. The good news is that he walked 10 times and only struck out 13 times, which is quite different from what Duvall normally does. I won’t harp on the rest of his performance too much, because Wick did a great job breaking down his situation last week, but he really needs to figure something out quick or the Reds need to find someone else to put out there every day.
- The Devin Mesoraco saga as a Cincinnati Red ended with a whimper. In his final capsule as a Red, he hit .200/.273/.300 in 22 PA’s that spanned over 8 games. In all, he hit .234/.309/.405 with 48 career home runs as a Red. Good luck in New York, Devin. Here’s to many healthy years in your future. You deserve it.
- Billy Hamilton walked 8 times and put up a .352 OBP for the capsule, which seems astronomical for him.
- Team ERA of 4.90 for capsule 2, compared to the NL average of 3.96 and 5.42 for capsule 1.
- Here come the 2018 Reds, same as the 2017 Reds. I pretty much wrote some variation of “well the offense played well, but the pitching...” in every capsule last season and, well, here we are again.
- Tyler Mahle was probably our best starter over this capsule. In 18.1 innings over 3 starts, he put up a 3.42 ERA while walking only 4 and striking out 22. This includes an outing against the Atlanta Braves where he struck out 11 and took a no-hitter into the 7th. He also put up a WHIP of 0.88 while leading all starters with 10.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. Once he improves on his 3rd time through the order, which will surely come with experience, this kid will be fantastic.
- Sal Romano also had a solid capsule. While he gave up fewer runs than Mahle and had an ERA of 2.25 over 16 innings, his strikeout numbers weren’t there for this capsule. He only struck out 8 batters over his three starts, which is only good for a 4.5 SO/9 for the capsule.
- Homer Bailey can’t keep the ball in the damn yard. In 19.2 innings in capsule 2, he gave up 9 home runs after only giving up 2 in the previous capsule. He also isn’t striking anybody out, fanning only 9 batters in his 4 outings. I can’t imagine what it would be like to come back from three major arm surgeries and pitch at the major league level, and the fact that he is doing it is admirable. But this is getting hard to watch.
- Brandon Finnegan was also bad this capsule. He gave up 14 earned runs over 16.1 innings in 4 starts. He walked (11) more batters than he struck out (10) and had a WHIP of 1.99. Hopefully he is also shaking off some rust because he, like Homer, is getting hard to watch.
- If you look at Luis Castillo’s performance in capsule 2 from the outside, you see a pitcher who gave up 12 runs in 17.2 innings, good for a 6.11 ERA. And, some of it was bad. When you have a start where you give up 5 runs on 6 hits and don’t make it to the 2nd inning, you aren’t doing many good things. However, his final two starts totaled 11.2 innings and in each outing he walked 1 batter and struck out 7. Hopefully things are turning around for him.
- Dylan Floro has been fantastic out of the bullpen. He threw 10 innings in this capsule and gave up only 1 run, walked 2, and struck out 12. I have no idea how much longer this will be sustainable, but the Dylan Floro experiment has worked out very well for the Reds so far.
- Jared Hughes has also pitched well over this capsule. He gave up only 2 earned runs in 13 innings, while walking 2 and striking out 12. He did give up 10 hits, so he definitely had to work out of some jams, but he was still able to limit most of the damage.
- A team’s Defensive Efficiency Rating (DER) is the percentage of balls in play that they convert into outs. The Reds have a DER of .690, which is good for 12th best in the National League, and below the NL average of .696. To show you how quickly this changes at this time of year, I originally wrote this portion Tuesday night, before the stats from the 18th game came in. I thought: “Surely this won’t change much, I’ll go ahead and put these numbers in.” Well, I checked my work on Wednesday and they had changed quite a bit. At the time, the Reds’ DER was .694, the NL avg was .687, and the Reds had the 5th best DER in the National League.
The next 18:
- 8 games at home, 10 on the road.
- 7 of the next 18 against NL Central opponents.
- None of the next 18 are against American League teams.
- 11 of the next 18 against 2017 playoff teams.
- .528 combined winning % for teams in the next 18.
- It definitely doesn’t get easier. The Reds make their first West Coast trip of the season and the only team they play with a losing record is the Los Angeles Dodgers who, as you know, were a game away from winning the World Series last season. Also, Matt Harvey’s bid for the 2018 Cy Young Award begins this capsule so that should be really fun to watch.