The 2019 professional baseball season is nearly upon us. In and around the Queen City, there has been a lot of buzz about baseball. The Reds made a lot of moves this off season. Some uncharacteristically aggressive free-agent signings and a few trades that made it the Reds look like a big market team.
All the new additions (on the coaching staff as well as on the field) have brought a new life to the team and people are noticing and getting excited. Once that opening day first pitch is thrown, we will soon see if there is any candy in this hype-piñata. As the fans, our only job is to watch and speculate. And since we cannot watch yet, as the season hasn’t started, we will speculate. The question for today? What went right in 2018, and what went wrong?
How can we enhance the advantages and eliminate the issues? Let’s take a look. Under here you’ll find 2 good things about last year, and 2 bad things. Alongside each will be one way to address the issue/advantage in the coming season.
+ The Infield
The 2018 Reds, at times, toted a scary offense. And a lot of that rode on the bats of the Cincinnati infield. At the end of last year, the Reds top 3 players in WAR (wins above replacement) were Eugenio Suarez; the third basemen, Scooter Gennett; the second basemen, and Joey Votto; the first basemen.
All 3 of them made the all-star game in 2018. Oh, and you know was fifth in WAR on the team last year? Shortstop Jose Peraza.
So, if you buy into WAR as an end-all stat, 4 of Cincy’s 5 best players last year were manning the dirt. And there’s reason to believe things will get better. Despite his great stats, 2018 was considered an off year for the frequently phenomenal Joey Votto, and many (including Joey himself) expect 2019 to see a marked improvement from last year’s ‘slump’.
Not to mention, Peraza and Suarez are young, and each of the past 3 years have seen a definite improvement for the pair both offensively and defensively. Suarez was recently signed to a nice contract and Peraza’s bat began picking up towards the end of last.
There is plenty of reason to believe that they will take a step forward this year, and if Scooter Gennett can stay anywhere near his freakish levels of offensive output this year, the Cincinnati lineup is going to be a force to recon with.
– Starting Pitching
These past few years, Cincinnati has been the poster child for poor pitching; And in 2018, the problem fully manifested itself pretty much every game between innings 1 and 6.
The Reds had 6 players record at least 20 starts. The rotation consisted of Tyler Mahle, Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Matt Harvey, Sal Romano, and Luis Castillo.
Not one of them managed an ERA under 4.30 and none of them had a winning record. Needless to say, the Reds lacked a sure thing on the mound, and the starts were wildly inconsistent. Long story short this group of guys couldn’t get the job done. However, the off season saw the Reds part ways with Matt Harvey and Homer Bailey, and in the process pick up 3 new legitimate starters.
Reds manager Alex Bell has projected the starting rotation to consist of Luis Castillo, Anthony Desclafani, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark, and Sonny Gray. The 2 returning Reds have shown moments of brilliance alongside some sustained ugliness. While the 3 new picks might seem shiny compared to what the Reds are used to dealing with, none of them immediately jump out as a staff ace like Cincinnati desperately needs.
If these pitchers were able to take significant steps forward in spring training, this rotation may be able to keep the Reds afloat. If not however, we may have to watch their season sink.
+ The Bullpen
One very pleasant surprise to come out of 2018 was the Cincinnati bullpen. As a whole, the Reds ‘pen compiled a solid 3.12 ERA, with Raisel Iglesias earning 30 saves in 34 tries and Jared Hughes putting up a microscopic ERA of 1.94.
David Fernandez looks to continue his late-career revival after the 33 year old made 2018 one of the best seasons in his career.
At some points in the season, the back end of Cincinnati’s pitching staff was putting opposing offenses on lockdown. If the Reds could find a way to get to the 7th inning with a lead, you could chalk it up as a W most days. If that trend continues, don’t expect the Reds to waste a cast performing at this level. A good bullpen is what separates the good teams from the bad ones.
It may feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, with 3 of my 4 points being about pitching, but let me throw some stats at you in an attempt to justify my whining. In 2018, the Reds on offense were top 5 in the National League in hits, on-base percentage, and batting average. You don’t even need the stats to know that offensively, this team has the pieces to be competitive.
But here’s the issue, going back all the way back to the 2015 season, (which is basically a century in baseball terms) the Reds pitching has ranked in the bottom three in runs allowed per game, saves, home runs allowed, WHIP, and team ERA every single season now. That’s 4 years in a row of having objectively the worst pitching in the National League.
The Cincinnati offense is good, and could be great. But for nearly half of a decade it’s had to try and carry around the dead carcass of the Reds pitching staff. We’ll see if the new season, the new players, and the new coaches and make a difference.