As I type this, the Reds are at the tail end of a 10-game stretch against two last place teams from the Bay Area. They have played 7 games in that stretch and are 3-4. After they conclude this weekend’s series against the San Francisco Giants, it will be another 3 weeks until they play a team with a losing record. They sit 6 games under .500 and 7.5 games out of first place in the National League Central. To say that this is the most important stretch in the season so far is an understatement. Unfortunately for the Reds, they are still trying to figure themselves out.
Things have definitely got better since that 1-8 start. They are hitting the ball better than they did during that stretch, even if it isn’t up to their full potential. Although they are closer to league average than the were at the beginning of the year, they still go into frustratingly long stretches without scoring. Typically these stretches come after the 2nd or 3rd inning, when they have already put up a few runs on the starting pitcher. It’s as if this team is the inverse of the “3rd time through the order” rule. They’re dangerous at the beginning of the game, only to be figured out by the pitcher as it progresses.
It’s hard enough to win with that kind of inconsistency when you’re playing bad teams, and it’s going to be even tougher over the next 3 weeks. They play 9 games against first place teams in that stretch and add 2 against Milwaukee, who sit a game out of first place. To take it even farther, they play exactly 11 games against teams with a losing record from now until the All-Star break. It’s only May, so there’s still time for the Reds to figure their hitting out. Unfortunately, that time is running out quickly, and its running out against some of the best teams in baseball.
All stats and notes are through Tuesday’s games.
2019 Reds - Capsule 2
Season Strength of Schedule: .502 (9th hardest in NL; 14th hardest in MLB)
Season RPI (ESPN): .481 (13th in NL; 22nd in MLB)[Previous: .449 - 13th NL; 26th MLB)
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 1.4% (Previous 5.3%)
Baseball Prospectus post-season odds: 5.4% (Previous 10.6%)
- .225/.312/.407 slash line for capsule 2, compared to the NL average of .242/.315/.405 and .198/.266/.378 for capsule 1.
- The regulars, according to plate appearances: Barnhart, Votto, Peraza, Iglesias, Suarez, Puig, Winker, Dietrich.
- Well, the offense was better this capsule, though it’s hard to be as bad as they were for the first 18 games of the season. They were right around league average in OBP and SLG this time, which was quite the improvement over the .266 OBP and .378 SLG they posted in the first capsule. There is still quite a bit of work to be done on the offensive side.
- Let’s talk about Joey Votto. He hit .207/.343/.276 for the capsule with only 2 extra-base hits while walking 11 times and striking out 16 times. This is the second capsule in a row where he struck out more than he’s walked, something he only did once last year. Last season was considered a down year for him, but he still had a .417 OBP and was an All Star. So far, he has an OPS below .700 for the first time in his career, has a walk rate that is way below his career totals (13.1% in 2019 vs. 16.3% for his career), and is striking out much more often than normal (23.4% in 2019 vs 17.7% for his career). I’m not sure what is going on with Votto, or if this is just what happens when you turn 35, but he has not looked close to himself this season. I don’t think he will hit this bad all year, but I think we’re coming to grips with the fact that the Joey Votto of 2017 might not be coming back.
- On to better news. Jesse Winker had a great capsule, hitting .288/.373/.576 over the last 18. He hit 4 dingers and 5 doubles, tying for the team lead in XBH for the capsule. It has been really, really fun to watch Jesse Winker come into his own this season.
- How great of a signing has Jose Iglesias been? He continues to play outstanding defense and has been pretty good at the plate so far. In capsule 2, he hit .333/.354/.460 with 3 doubles, a triple, and a homer while leading the team in hits with 21. Not bad at all for a minor league signing.
- Speaking of minor league signings, Derek Dietrich was also fantastic. He hit .314/.419/.743. He led the team in OBP and SLG (and, obviously, OPS) for the capsule and was 2nd on the team in home runs with 5. He also stared down each and every one of those homers, which made them even more glorious.
- Eugenio Suarez was a little better, hitting .221/.289/.559 for the capsule. He had 15 total hits, 7 of which left the yard. It’s honestly amazing that his slash line was even that good, as he had an incredibly low BABIP of .189 for the capsule. At some point, that is going to turn around for him.
- Welcome to the show, Nick Senzel. He makes his 18 GAT debut having only played in 5 for this capsule, but he did some really good things. He walked 4 times in only 24 PA’s and collected 4 hits, 3 of which went for solo home runs. He also made numerous plays in center field that showed that he was more than competent in the outfield. I’m so excited to see the future of this kid in Cincinnati.
- Team ERA of 3.64 for capsule 2, compared to the NL average of 4.21 and 3.27 for capsule 1.
- The pitching, once again, was good. At the time of the end of this capsule, the Reds were tied for first in ERA with 3.61 and were first in the NL in fWAR. That is quite the change from last season.
- Luis Castillo: Still an ace. He had another fantastic capsule, throwing 25 and two-thirds innings over 4 starts. He allowed 7 runs, 4 of which came in one bad inning against the Giants in his last start, and struck out 27 against only 6 walks. This kid just continues to impress this season.
- Anthony DeSclafani also had a fantastic capsule. After struggling in his first 3 starts, he bounced back in a huge way. He made 4 starts in capsule 2, allowing only 5 earned runs in 23.2 innings, which was good for a 1.90 ERA. He also had much better command, as he only walked 7 and had a team-high 28 strikeouts. With as much as he’s been through the last few years, it’s wonderful to see that out of him now.
- Tyler Mahle had a 4.17 ERA in his 4 starts in this capsule, but that doesn’t really tell the story. There was one bad inning against San Diego and a bad outing against St Louis that accounted for 9 of his 11 runs. The rest of the time, he was dominant. He allowed only 2 earned runs combined in his last 2 starts, but unfortunately the offense failed to score in either of those games. He also had much better command, allowing only 4 walks against 26 strikeouts.
- Tanner Roark continues to be solid in 2019. There is nothing flashy about him like, say, Luis Castillo, but he continues to get outs and limit runs. He had a 4.17 ERA in his 3 starts, but owns a 3.27 ERA on the season. He also keeps the ball in the ballpark, which is a welcome change from what we’ve seen the last few years. He is tied with Sonny Gray for the fewest home runs allowed, with 2.
- Speaking of, Sonny Gray struggled in this capsule. He allowed 9 earned runs in 15.1 innings of work. He has really seemed to struggle once the lineup rolls over the first time. In all of his starts in this capsule, he didn’t give up a run through the first 3 innings, and then things kind of fell apart in the 4th or 5th. I’m not sure if he starts losing his command or if he’s that easy to figure out, but hopefully he can start to be more effective later in games.
- The bullpen was mostly solid again this capsule. Save for a meltdown against San Francisco last week, they did their job for the most part. Michael Lorenzen continues to pitch well this season. He allowed only 1 run in his 9.1 innings of work. He also only walked 1 batter and struck out 5. He did, however, allow 11 hits in those 9+ innings. That will probably come back to bite him if he continues that trend.
- I’m not sure what to make of Raisel Iglesias. He has shown stretches of brilliance, like the stretch of 9 straight batters he struck out a couple weeks ago, but he has also been extremely hit-able at times. It’s not that he’s wild, he only walked 2 batters this capsule, but he is allowing a lot of base hits. He gave 9 hits, 2 of which were game-tying or game-winning home runs, in this capsule in 8.2 innings. The good news is that he struck out 15, so he is still showing that he can be nasty.
The next 18:
- 8 games at home, 10 on the road.
- 10 of the next 18 against NL Central opponents.
- 2 of the next 18 are against an American League opponent, both of which use the DH.
- 11 of the next 18 against 2018 playoff teams.
- .547 combined winning percentage for teams in the next 18.
- This is a very important stretch for the Reds. They need to start turning some of these 1-run losses into wins. Unfortunately, an absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule is coming up so they will have to figure it out against some good competition.