It’s funny how expectations can shape how you view a team’s performance. A 6-12 start in any of the last few years would have been a little more understandable. It wouldn’t have been any more fun than a 6-12 start in 2019, but we all didn’t expect the Reds to be very good so we understood a poor start. 2019 was supposed to be different, though. The front office made changes to improve the team and hopefully compete for a playoff spot. Despite those improvements, the Reds are back in last place and this whole thing just feels worse.
I don’t write all that to say that, if you look at this team in a vacuum, with no expectations, that they have actually been good. No. They have been bad. The year they finally get a pitching staff that performs well enough to keep the team in nearly every game, the offense has fallen off a cliff. That is part of why this season feels worse. Not only are we expecting this team to do better, but now a 2-run deficit seems insurmountable. At least when the Reds were losing in 2017 and 2018, they were scoring 5-6 runs in their efforts. They were fun to watch. Outside of a few players, there hasn’t been anything fun about the 2019 Reds.
The good news is that they’re a shade over 1/9th of the way through the season. There’s plenty of time to turn the offense around and go on a run. These players are too good not to improve. But they’re playing in arguably the most competitive division in baseball. If they’re going to live up to expectations, they’ll have to turn it around fast.
All stats and notes are through Thursday’s games.
2019 Reds - Capsule 1
Season Strength of Schedule: .487 (12th hardest in NL; 22nd hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .449 (13th in NL; 26th in MLB)
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 5.3%
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 10.6%
- .198/.266/.378 slash line for capsule 1, compared to the NL average of .244/.321/.424.
- The regulars, as defined by plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Peraza, Suarez, Iglesias, Winker, Schebler, Puig.
- I don’t even know, man. We’ve written so many times over the last two years about how much better off the Reds would be with a decent pitching staff, because their offense were the ones carrying the team. It’s honestly hard to say what changed from 2018 to 2019. I won’t get into it much more than I already have, but goodness this team was bad at the plate.
- Tucker Barnhart had the best line of the first 18, going .264/.404/.395. He didn’t hit for much power, as is pretty typical for Tucker, but he was the only regular with more walks (9) than strikeouts (7). He also had the highest OBP and OPS among the regulars. Good on you, Tucker.
- Joey Votto got off to another slow start this season, going .230/.319/.426 for the first capsule. I do think he will be fine this year despite the slow start. He already has 8 extra-base hits (6 doubles, 2 home runs) this year, where he only had 1 last season. He did have an uncharacteristic capsule where he had more strikeouts (18) than walks (7), but that will end up getting worked out.
- After having such a strong finish to 2018, Jose Peraza has endured his slowest start of his career, hitting .151/.167/.226 for the first 18. He didn’t draw a single walk and struck out 14 times. Yikes. He is typically a slow starter but this is uncharacteristically bad. Hopefully he gets it figured out.
- Jose Iglesias has already been worth everything the Reds are paying him this season. He hit .250/.318/.400 in the first 18 and has been the best defender on a team that lacks defense.
- Despite hitting .216/.212/.294 over the first 18, the one consistency in this lineup has been Matt Kemp: Cleanup hitter. He, like Peraza, also didn’t draw a walk and struck out 14 times.
- The only other hitter to top the Mendoza Line for the capsule was Eugenio Suarez, who hit .232/.348/.446 with 3 home runs and 3 doubles.
- The outfield. Yasiel Puig hit .179/.207/.339. Scott Schebler went .163/.255/.306. Jesse Winker hit .182/.250/.455. Winker did hit 5 home runs, which led the team over the first 18 games. But those 3 and the aforementioned Kemp really started off poorly.
- Derek Dietrich had 7 hits in the first capsule. 4 of them left the yard, so that’s cool.
- This has to get better, right?
- Team ERA of 3.27, compared to the NL average of 4.34.
- “Imagine how the Reds would look if they had a pitching staff that was close to league average”, we all used to say. We continued, “They would probably be competing for a playoff spot if they could just pitch.” Well, the Reds were still 6-12 through the first 18 games, only this time the team ERA of 3.27 ranked 3rd in the national league. I guess there is nothing more Reds than finally getting something they’ve been looking for only for the other half of the team to completely tank. At least we get to talk about good things, now.
- Let’s just talk about Luis Castillo. Ever since his slow start to 2018, he has been lights out. He currently leads all National League pitchers in WAR at 1.6 and hits per 9 innings while ranking in the top 5 in pretty much every other stat. Through the first 18 games this season, he threw 24.2 innings over 4 starts. He allowed only 4 runs, walked 13, and struck out 32. He’s just so dang fun to watch. And the best part is that, for once, he isn’t the only pitcher having a good season.
- Sonny Gray was the one offseason acquisition who the Reds decided to extend, signing him to a 4-year extension after he was acquired from the Yankees. He had a rough debut for the Reds, walking 4 and failing to record a strikeout while allowing 3 runs in a short outing against Pittsburgh. Since then, Gray has only walked 2 batters in 16.2 innings and struck out 16 in that same time. Were it not for one mistake pitch in his most recent outing, he might not have given up a run in that time, either.
- Tyler Mahle has had a strong start to 2019 as well. He had a rough time against the Dodgers in his 3rd start, but in his other two he allowed only 1 run over 11 innings of work while striking out 12 batters. Tanner Roark has also been solid, sporting a 3.60 ERA over his first 4 starts of the season. His one issue has been control, walking 8 batters over his 20 innings of work.
- The one starter who truly struggled over the first 18 was Anthony DeSclafani. After he allowed only 1 run and had 8 strikeouts in 5 innings in his first start, he allowed 10 earned runs over 8.1 innings in his next 2 starts, which was good for a 7.45 ERA in the first capsule. It is going to be interesting to see what the Reds do once Alex Wood returns from his back injury.
- Robert Stephenson has been fantastic out of the bullpen this season. Wick wrote last week about how Stephenson found his slider and how much it has helped him this year. He made 7 appearances in the first 18, allowing only 1 earned run, allowing only 1 walk, and striking out 15. For someone who struggled so much with command, this is a wonderful way to start out a year.
- Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen were also solid in relief, putting up ERA’s of 1.04 and 2.16, respectively, over the first capsule.
- Raisel Iglesias really struggled in the first capsule, putting up a 5.87 ERA and allowing 2 HR and 5 walks in his 7 appearances. I will say, since this is a few days late, that he did some good things that won’t factor in until the 2nd 18 game capsule. He looks much better, though.
The next 18:
- 8 games at home, 11 on the road.
- 3 of the next 18 against NL Central opponents.
- 1 of the next 18 will be against an American League opponent and will use the DH.
- 4 of the next 18 against 2018 playoff teams.
- .513 combined winning percentage for teams in the next 18.