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A humdinger of a season start for the Cincinnati Reds

Moving on from a calamitous week of baseball.

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Houston Astros v Cincinnati Reds Photo by John Grieshop/MLB via Getty Images

Through 10 games of this 2022 season, the Cincinnati Reds have won just twice. Their -24 run differential says that’s no fluke, and both that and the team’s overall record are the worst among Major League Baseball’s 30 teams at the moment.

Reds fans were robbed of Opening Day on Opening Day, the lockout having altered the schedule to where it had to be celebrated a day late and dollar short well after the season had actually began. On that eventual day, the Cleveland Guardians smashed them to bits just hours after team COO Phil Castellini told fans far and wide just how much he wanted them to act like obedient meat.

Tommy Pham and Nick Senzel slammed into one another in the outfield and both immediately hit the shelves, with Senzel now there for a longer stint thanks to an undisclosed illness as we still sit in the heart of a global pandemic. Jonathan India, the future of this conflagration, pulled a hammy at the dawn of the west coast road trip and has yet to be seen since. Mike Minor, meanwhile, has been shut down from his restart from being shut down, his lingering shoulder concerns making us all wonder just what his entire short-lived Reds career will ever become.

Remember Donovan Solano? Me either.

It seemed like the Reds were trying to let Tyler Mahle stretch out a big in his Sunday outing against the Dodgers, letting him pitch through a mid-inning jam the way they likely would not have done a week ago when he was still trying to ramp up after the abbreviated Spring Training. It didn’t work, he got shelled, and the Reds limped out of Dodger Stadium with the 8th loss on that previously listed ledger.

The team’s collective 51 wRC+ is the worst in the game. Their .250 wOBA is worst, too, as is their .254 on-base percentage. Their 24.5% hard-hit rate ranks last, in case reading that after burying it could possibly surprise you at this point. Statcast endorses that FanGraphs evaluation, as they list the 85.2 mph average exit velocity also ranks last among baseball’s franchises.

It’s been quite the ride for these Reds so far even if, as C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic relayed, it’s ‘not even early yet’ according to manager David Bell. Trent’s rundown, which you should read through, even pours a bit of salt into this summation as it notes that Nick Castellanos - who would presumably augment those offensive stats just a tad - had legitimate interest in returning to the Reds this offseason while the club instead chose to spontaneously combust.

Believe it or not, though, there are reasons for some optimism!

What we’ve seen from Hunter Greene in his two starts has been nothing short of drool-inducing. That he’s managed to do that against the 2021 World Series champs and the 2020 World Series champs deserves some specific notice, as that aspect also helps add to the light optimism here - the teams who the Reds have faced in their 8 road games so far have been nothing short of tremendous, and that won’t continue.

They’ve also got Luis Castillo on the mend, and he’s expected to rejoin the rotation by the end of the month. In theory, there will be a week very soon in which he, Greene, Mahle, and Nick Lodolo will take the mound on consecutive days, and it’s hard not to see the promise in that (even if how it shakes out beyond just 2022 doesn’t appear to add up given the dwindling team control of half of that unit). India and Senzel should be back by then, as well as with the mysterious Donovan Solano, and by then I can only assume Joey Votto will have shaken his annual early-season funk.

Still, it’s yet another season in which the Reds appear to be buried before we even had a chance to blink, and that’s frustrating on a cosmic level. The Major League Baseball season is so long, takes up such a huge chunk of each and every calendar year, and the allure of such a long season is that it allows one to enjoy the many steps along the way. To be out of the race, an afterthought so incredibly early again puts a fog on the way we all watch the next five months of action, and anything sort of a miraculous turnaround threatens to put us through that ringer yet again.

That’s the outcome that was softly written on the wall last winter when the Reds cut costs in drastic fashion prior to the lockout. That outcome got spray-painted in highlighter when the lockout ended and the Reds cut loose the rest of their former core. Those moves diminished hope for a 2022 run severely, obviously, but did still allow for the kind of perennial baseball optimism for a miracle to still be embedded in there somewhere.

Another week like the last one, though, and even that might evaporate in a hurry around these Reds. And believe me, saying that on April 18th is a very, very tough pill to swallow.