Last season, it was largely the pitching, most notably the starting pitching, that made the Reds nearly unwatchable. Joey had a “down” season but for the most part the Reds hit well and were at least fun to watch at the plate. The 2018 pitching staff finished the season with an ERA of 4.63 which was 24th out of all 30 MLB staffs. Even worse, they finished 26th in WHIP at 1.40 and gave up more home runs than anyone in the league not named the Baltimore Orioles with 234.
2019 is different.
One of the big questions this offseason was how much would the subtraction of Homer Bailey and additions Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Alex Wood (who still hasn’t pitched yet) and a healthy Anthony Desclafini improve the outlook on the National League Central. How different is 2019? Well let’s check in on how they stack up with the rest of the league.
Wait, that can’t be right, can it? It’s on MLB.com so I’ll be damned.
It’s crazy to think that the Reds are being held together by their pitching staff and pretty much only their pitching staff can take credit for not being 2-23 (even the worst pitching staff on the planet wouldn’t have lost last night with the Reds putting up 12 runs and hitting 5 homers and we can’t forget the 14 run performance that Jeff, Dan and I were directly responsible for). The baseball world largely laughed at the idea of Luis Castillo being named the Opening Day starter instead of a veteran like Sonny Gray or Tanner Roark. What has Luis done to prove the haters wrong? Oh, I dunno, just posted a league leading ERA of 1.23, allowing only one home run with Great American Ball Park as his home field and striking out just over 7 batters a game. Professional hitters are batting only .168 against him and he’s only given up 5 earned runs in 6 starts. Buddy, if that doesn’t put him in the early conversation for the Cy Young, I don’t know what will. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how filthy he’s been.
With one of the best pitching staffs in the league currently, you’d think the Reds would be in the thick of the NL Central race with the offensive firepower they possess. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The 2018 Reds finished 10th in team batting average (.254), finished in the middle of the pack in home runs and runs scored. They made improvements by adding Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and presumably Nick Senzel. Senzel is still jumping through hoops in Triple-A after an injury that would’ve never happened if the Reds put him on their Opening Day roster and Matt Kemp is hurt after breaking a rib in San Diego while chasing down a fly ball. Puig is hitting .216 but his bat is starting to come to life. Derek Dietrich has been a huge signing for the Reds, especially considering Scooter Gennett’s ill-timed injury and Jose Iglesias may be the steal of the century considering nobody signed the former All-Star in the offseason and he made his way onto the team through a minor league contract in Spring Training.
The Reds currently hold the MLB’s worst batting average at .208 despite being 11th in the league with 36 home runs. It’s pretty much been feast of famine every single night. They barely dribble lazy grounders the entire game, then Dietrich or Jesse Winker will come up in the 7th inning and hit a homer to put them right back in the game with a chance to win it. It sounds exciting but it’s one of the most frustrating things on the planet to watch every single night when you expected this team to average at least a touchdown night in and night out.
But at least we have the pitching staff. Even when the Reds aren’t hitting, its a joy to watch a group of guys mow down opponents one by one until the bats decide to help their cause. Yes, the pitching staff that all of the “experts” still said wasn’t improved enough to be respectable and allow the Reds to be relevant in the division. The arms are doing their part. Now it’s time for the bats to wake up and show the rest of the league the Reds team that all of us in Cincinnati expected to see. Votto, Suarez, Puig, Dietrich, Winker, Gennett, Senzel, Kemp.. I don’t know about you but that adds up to a lot of runs once everyone is healthy and hitting to the back of their baseball card instead of looking lost at the plate. The biggest problem we may have during the dog days of the summer is making sure all of those guys get their at-bats so they can stay hot. Until the NL goes to a DH or they start allowing 12 guys to hit, David Bell is gonna need to get creative down the stretch.
Here’s to hoping the game last night vs. St. Louis is more of the norm for the rest of the season. But with that being said, I fully expect Mahle to get chased by the 3rd inning after giving up 8 runs en route to an 11-2 loss.
Don’t make me look like an asshole, Reds.Follow @BennyMacBlog