Through the darkest of days during the 2016 Cincinnati Reds season, there was at least the chance to tune-in daily to watch teams aggressively pitch around Joey Votto. He’d get a pitch or two a game within the confines of the strike zone, he’d sock one of them, and by the time September rolled around we had his own personal successes to root for while the club itself fell by the wayside.
Would he win a batting title? How high would that OBP go? Could he sock 30 homers like Adam Duvall, or drive in a hundred? Would his OPS begin with a 1, and would he lead the league in that yet again?
That year, one of the dismal 90+ loss seasons from the most recent
rebuild reboot, there were tangible milestones that seemed achievable that even the most frustrated Reds fans could tune-in to support. And while many of the statistical categories are superfluous (ribbies) or even downright inexplicable (pitcher wins), I think we all remember just how satisfying it was when Johnny Cueto picked up his 20th win of the lost 2014 season in game 162, slicing and dicing his way through (who else) the Pittsburgh Pirates.
We are once again in the midst of a lost Cincinnati Reds season. They lost it early, immediately, and often through the months of April and May, rendering the final hundred-plus games they play this season meaningless in the grand scheme of the standings. There are some youngsters who, if ever healthy, we’ll get to support and watch develop and heap dreams upon, but those things are often so much more subjective than objective. This, which needs no reminder, is the game of baseball, a sport steeped in its history with round numbers and milestones and clubs and the like.
Are there even any of those for us to follow?
I’m honestly not so sure.
The 2019 Reds had Eugenio Suarez socking homers-a-plenty while flirting with another 90 loss season, and his quest to break the single-season record for homers by a 3B (and the single-season record for homers by a Venezuelan native) became a nightly watch. Mike Moustakas is sitting on 199 career dingers at the moment, and his next one will surely get a flashing scoreboard and a couple of golf claps from the dozens of folks in attendance at GABP, but there don’t seem to be many other homer numbers to pine for right now. Brandon Drury, the team’s leader with 14 so far, certainly appears to have a very real chance at clearing 30 for the season, but given his track to finding the Reds and pending free agency at season’s end, the odds of him still wearing a Reds jersey when he does it are incredibly slim.
Seeing if Tyler Stephenson could maintain a .300 average for the year would be nice, to be sure. That said, he’s at .305 right now and will be forced to overcome not just a busted thumb but nearly two months of inaction to keep it over that prized threshold. Compound that with the likelihood that he’ll fall far short of being qualified for a batting title, and even that comes with a bit of a grain of salt.
Nobody’s getting to triple-digits with ribbies. Nobody’s socking 50 doubles, or even 40 (unless the career-year from Kyle Farmer gets even more career-yearish). Nobody’s stealing bases at any quantity, and Tommy Pham’s inevitable departure prior to the trade deadline further puts rooting for a 20/20 season from him out of reach.
Absolutely nobody is going to have the first 200 hit season by a Red since 1979.
On the pitching side of things, Luis Castillo’s month-long absence to begin the season puts him pretty well out of reach of any compiling round numbers. No 200 K season for him, no 20 wins. Tyler Mahle, though, would appear to have a legitimate shot at his second straight 200 K season - he’s got 86 through 74.2 IP so far, his 10.4 K/9 almost identical to the 10.5 K/9 he posted last year in his 180 IP (that led to 210 total K). I do suppose the same caveats apply here as with the mentioned hitters, however, since both Castillo and Mahle will be brought up in trade rumors extensively until the August 2nd deadline given how precious little team control remains over both.
Saves? Hahahahaha. I do my best to forget that this bullpen exists entirely, but there...there’s their mention here.
If we’re truly looking for a single saving-grace statistical category where we can turn our focus, there is one, even though it’s not of the counting-stat variety and you’ll have to squint a bit. It lies with the brilliant, explosive right arm of Hunter Greene, who has probably been the brightest shining light so far in this otherwise gloomy as hell season. He’s currently sporting a brilliant 11.8 K/9 through his first 65 innings of work, and if you lower the threshold of IP to 50, that ranks as the 3rd best among the 107 MLB starting pitchers who’ve logged that many. Only Dylan Cease (12.84) and Shane McClanahan (12.06) rank higher at this juncture. The problem here, though, is that Greene falls short of actually being a ‘qualified’ starter here due to his IP, and given that he’s sure to get shut down early in this, his rookie year, he may not even get to claim the K/9 crown even if he surges to the top of it mathematically.
That’s probably more than enough time spent staring at the statistics of a club that started a season 3-22 and is currently 23-43, the worst record in the NL Central. There’s a definite non-zero chance I’ve missed something shiny, or round that could be achieved by a Cincinnati Reds player this season, of course, so let me know in the comments what side-action you’ll be rooting for while the Reds toil their way through the rest of the year. Maybe, just maybe, Joey Votto will come up with something for us after all.