After a slumpy four-game sweep at the hands of the San Diego Padres, the once surging Cincinnati Reds find themselves again back in fourth place in the National League Central, at .500 with an even 35-35 record. It was a weekend filled with many familiar undertones, really, with the Reds losing in a nationally televised contest on Saturday, blowing a lead after an epic comeback, and Joey Votto being tossed for the dozenth time in his legendary career.
To be very fair, the same ol’ Reds narrative had dissipated in the weeks leading up to this past weekend’s thrashings. They skunked St. Louis, pilfered Milwaukee, and laid waste to Colorado just prior to their trip to San Diego, and began playing to the kind of upside so much of this roster has in that time. As the game of baseball continually ebbs and flows, though, there still continue to be very obvious flaws to this roster, and when the entirety of the pistons pumping from the best parts of the roster aren’t all 100% on, it’s still impossibly hard to patch over some of the glaring issues they face.
After 70 games, the Cincinnati Reds are the owners of baseball’s single worst bullpen ERA. At 5.66 combined, it’s only even approached by bottom-feeders like the Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Detroit Tigers, while their BB/9 (4.99) and HR/9 (1.53) rank next to last and dead last among all MLB teams, too. Their FIP of 4.83 sits just behind Colorado’s (4.85) for the worst mark in the game, suggesting it’s not due to some unfounded poor luck, either.
It’s almost as if failing to address the bullpen over the winter while giving away Raisel Iglesias and Archie Bradley and losing Michael Lorenzen altogether have been, are, and will continue to be glaring problems that hold back what otherwise has the chance to be a promising roster with eyes on a playoff chase.
After 70 games, the Cincinnati Reds are the owners of baseball’s single worst offense at shortstop, per at least on metric at FanGraphs. Per wOBA and wRC+, they’re the third worst unit in all baseball, while per combined fWAR they’re tied for second worst, all while hitting a combined .193/.265/.349 there this season. Now that Mike Moustakas is lodged on the 60-day IL and Eugenio Suarez is again being tasked with everyday duties at 3B, that means even more of the work is going to fall on Kyle Farmer to somehow miraculously perform wildly better than expectations under the current construction, an ask that I think we all pretty well know the answer to right now.
It’s almost as if letting Freddy Galvis walk, shipping Jose Barrero back to AA, and balking at the half-dozen available quality options at the position all winter created a glaring hole on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball at shortstop, and that’s going to fester as a problem for an otherwise promising roster with eyes on a playoff chase.
The thing is, this is at least the half-dozenth hammering of words into a keyboard I’ve belabored at this point this season about the topic. The Reds would not spend, told us they could not spend, and instead rolled out a half-finished product on Opening Day for all the world to see. A Greek goddess head of a sculpture with a GoFundMe page the gateway to the torso. That guy in the gym curling 80s who continually skips leg day.
Defining irony almost always ends up producing unintentional irony, but it’s at least slightly ironic that the only reason we can pinpoint these glaring flaws on these Reds is that they’re surrounded by such otherwise wealth. The starting rotation has floundered at times, but has a wealth of arms most everyone in baseball would adore when at 100% - even with Luis Castillo only finally showing up recently. Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker have formed the single best 1-2 punch in all of baseball at the plate. Rookies Tyler Stephenson and Jonathan India already look like key cogs of a good team, while Tucker Barnhart has paired with Ty to form one of the best catching tandems in the game. Even Joey Votto has looked spry since his return, enthused by the best of what’s around him.
If the marquee is turned off altogether, nobody will notice that a few bulbs were missing or broken. Once you flip on that switch, though, what’s working shines a very bright light on what isn’t.
Floundering shortstop production is going to keep drawing our ire, because the Reds so often will be just one big hit away thanks to the rest of their roster carrying its weight. The bullpen will continue to blow leads because the rest of the team was good enough to actually have leads late in games. And finally, failing to address these issues is going to continue add to our Sisyphean existence as Reds fans in the most glaring of ways because for one of the few times in the last three decades the front office and ownership actually got us all close enough to make it sting.