Off-Day Thoughts – What’s The Rush?

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The Reds are only 16 games into this wild 60-game season and already they have showed signs of life – and death. The offense has been inconsistent. The defense has been bad. The starters have been impressive. The bullpen? Far from it. Even though there’s a good chance that the Reds could make the postseason because of this year’s expanded playoff field, there’s still time to get the engine into gear. Going 3-4 in a week where you played 5 road games is definitely acceptable. At least it was if you’re the Reds of the past few years, who tried to stay afloat for as long as possible.

This was supposed to be the year where the Reds made a real push for the playoffs. This was supposed to be the year where they took on all comers and staked their claim on the division again. Especially with Trevor Bauer, Anthony Desclafani and possibly Nick Castellanos on their last year with the Reds, this was supposed to be the year where they finally came out hot. Of course, they did not do that and now find themselves 4.5 games back with 44 to go after a weekend where the team leading the division didn’t play. If the Cubs stay on their torrid pace, the Reds are going to have to fight for either second place in the division with two other tough teams or a wild card spot in which they can’t control the teams above them. Let’s figure it out Dave.

Now for some other Off-Day Thoughts!

Will the Reds show any urgency this year?

This piece that Mo Egger wrote over the weekend at The Athletic is well done, and he brings up a good point as a long suffering Reds fan – probably the leader of the fanbase right now. Are the Reds going to let this season pass them by like they did last year? However you slice it, the Reds chose to keep Nick Senzel down after spring training to get an extra year of service time from him. They let Matt “I just work here, man” Kemp spend an entire month on the roster, and gave Scott Schebler more than enough time to figure out his woes. Zach Duke and Jared Hughes got more than half a season to get right before getting released.

This year, Dave Bell’s picks for “old arm first out of the pen” fell on Brooks Raley and Nate Jones, who both pitched well on Opening Day but fell off almost immediately. Raley was DFA’d recently and Jones, who to his credit pitched a scoreless inning Sunday, came into a tie game against Cleveland last Tuesday and promptly gave up a 2-run homer that turned out to be the deciding factor in a game where the Reds had led the entire way before the bullpen gave up all four Cleveland runs.

Mo also mentioned using prospects like Tyler Stephenson and Hunter Greene in this season where the Reds need wins any way they can get them. Especially now when Mike Moustakas is on the IL, Alex Blandino and maybe even Jose Garcia should be considered for a call-up to plug the second-base hole while the Moose is on the shelf. With all due respect to every major league player on the roster because they’re better than I will ever be at the sport of baseball, enough with Christian Colon, Travis Jankowski and Matt Davidson. Dave loves a good offset matchup, but the Reds can’t be using those guys if they are serious about winning this year. The clock is ticking, Dave. Use the time wisely.

Speaking of the bullpen…

Put the bullpen guys in a position to succeed

Sunday’s game was a perfect example of how poor management can ruin a game. Bell has been oft-maligned over his short tenure as Reds manager for pulling starters too early. But on Sunday, Bell let Sonny Gray start off the 6th inning. While it would make sense to let your leading Cy Young candidate go back out when he only has 92 pitches under his belt, Gray was not his incredible self during his start, often missing spots and having to get out of jams in three of the five innings he had thrown in. The other problem was that Michael Lorenzen was told to warm up in the bottom of the fifth, where Gray ended up getting through the inning on four pitches. If Lorenzen wasn’t used in the next inning, he wouldn’t be available for the rest of the day. But with a lefty heavy set of hitters lined up in the 6th inning, it would have made sense to put in Amir Garrett to get through that inning.

If you watched, you know what happened. Bell let Gray pitch, who then gave up three hits and a run. Lorenzen, who has struggled mightily in high-leverage situations this year, threw a four pitch walk, gave up a single, allowed two more walks and was removed without recording an out. He was clearly upset.

This is an easy fix. Lorenzen was great last year in high-leverage situations like the one he was put into on Sunday, allowing a low .171 batting average with only 9 walks and 21 runs allowed in 117 plate appearances against him. This year, Lorenzen is allowing a .571 batting average and has already given up 4 walks and 9 runs in only 12 plate appearances. He is much better in low-leverage situations so far, with only two runs and zero walks allowed. If he had been allowed to work that sixth inning from the start, maybe he doesn’t let that meltdown happen. Once Dave puts pitchers in better, comfortable opportunities (see: Iglesias, Raisel), he’s going to build their confidence back now for when he needs them in high-leverage situations at the end of the year.

Can the offense socially distance their scoring?

Going back to the first game of the year is not the most fun exercise if you want to feel good about the current state of this Reds team. But hey, why not? In looking back at that linescore, the first thing that pops out is how the Redlegs didn’t do all of their scoring in the same inning. They scored in five of their eight innings, incrementally adding to their lead and eventually choking out the Tigers, 7-1. Since that game, they’ve only scored in more than three innings once, a heart-breaking 8-7 loss to the Cubs that Craig Kimbrel nearly choked away.

Obviously, you’ll take a win any way you can get it, but to win in September and October, you need to start winning games from behind. The Reds have only taken the lead late once so far this year, when they defeated the Tigers via Shogo Akiyama’s RBI single in the last inning of game 1 of their doubleheader two Sundays ago. They have had opportunities to walk off, but have not capitalized as of yet.

Split Talk

I wanted to find out information on some Reds record splits that I’ve been wondering about over the first two and a half weeks of the season. So here they are.

Reds Record With Mike MoustakasReds Record Without Mike Moustakas

The Reds won their first two games of the season without Moose starting in the lineup this past weekend. His energy is clearly lacking in games where he is not involved. We miss him dearly. Come back soon, Moose.

Home RecordRoad Record

I wanted to see if there was a notable difference so far without fans. While we could argue about if the Reds have a true home advantage every game they play at Great American Ball Park, they have performed better at home than they did on the road in recent years. But without fans on the road, the Redlegs have seemed to fare better so far this year outside of Cleveland, where Reds teams have historically underperformed. One more split!

Division RecordInterleague Record

The Reds have 44 more games left in the season, and only ten of those games will be against AL Central opponents, with three against the current division-leading Twins coming in the last series of the season. So after doing some math, that means 34 of the next 41 games on the schedule will be against division opponents. That is pending the Cardinals ever playing baseball again.

By the way…can we cancel the Cardinals season?

If the Reds had to play two games without Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel due to COVID-19 protocol in which they lost, the Cardinals should either be forced to play 55 games in 45 days or be forced out of the league for this year. If we are going to choose who gets into the playoffs by winning percentage, the NL Central is going to be the division affected most by that change. The Cardinals had another positive test come out on Sunday from a player who went back to live with a player that had previously tested positive for COVID-19. If that player just lives in a hotel, they’re playing tonight and back on track to play a full season. They will give the Cardinals every opportunity to finish the season, but this second delay was avoidable, despite any rumors about how the Cardinals first contracted the virus.

And now, for some parting thoughts

  • If the Reds can’t win five of their next eight games against the bad Royals and the awful Pirates, it might be time to call it a season.
  • Would Nick Castellanos really opt out for more money in a pandemic, especially when this team is supposed to be loaded for the next three years – at least?
  • Give me Anthony Desclafani on a team-friendly deal over the next few years instead of Trevor Bauer on a one-year deal. Let Bauer go make his money. Disco has nearly matched him in his first two starts.
  • The new red jerseys are good. The Reds should steal an idea from the Phillies, though, and add a Throwback Thursday set. Make it a different throwback every year, but capitalize on the popularity of the jerseys from last year’s anniversary celebration.
  • If fans are allowed at GABP at 20% capacity but the team is not in contention, will they still fill that capacity?
  • Do the Reds need to make a trade or just bring up prospects and let them work? Prospects might be the easier route.
  • The team still has someone in the yard that updates the strikeout counter for home games. If anyone wants to outsource that job for a home stand, we here at ATBBTTR are more than happy to service that need.

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