The Reds are currently the .500est of teams, being within one game of .500 in just about every split. They lead the division, but that’s more to do with the division than their own quality. Pitching excellent, hitting awful. They have the only positive run differential in their division at +11.
The Good: The Rotation
1st in MLB in ERA, the main five man rotation is through five games each (except Cole Wilcox, who starts his 5th tonight), and the highest ERA amongst them is Jordan Lyles’ 2.27. Lyles’ 1-3 record belies the fact that the team have given him 2, 1, 0, 1, and 2 runs of support so far this year. With four of the six being rookie eligible (Wilcox, Greene, Pearson and Johnson), this is a very promising start for this group.
The Bad: Alfred Johnson
Johnson has been the lone disappointment in the rotation, starting just three games and shipping four runs in two of them, he’s now transitioned to the bullpen until such a time as a sixth starter is needed (both of his previous two rotation days were off days so he hasn’t pitched in a while). There was improvement last time out in San Diego, however there needs to be more considering who he’s being compared to. There was a reason he was the sixth starter, however.
The Ugly: The front end of the bullpen
Whilst the good bullpen pieces have been excellent (Aumont, Anderson, Cromwell and Faedo), the bad bullpen pieces have been terrible (Peacock, Smoral & McMillon). McMillon has surrendered four home runs in 7.2 innings and has a WHIP of nearly 2.0, Peacock has a 5.00 FIP through a bullpen-leading 14.2 innings. The Reds can’t really complain, given the strength of the rest of their pitching – and nobody was expecting greatness from 35 year-old contract albatross Brad Peacock, but McMillon was supposed to be a key setup guy this year. All he’s setting up right now is the opposing team’s comeback.
The Ugly: The entire team
Let’s start here, because the good things are few and far between. This is the squad who trail almost everyone in almost everything.
- Only Pittsburgh, Cleveland and the Cubs have scored fewer runs (two of these teams being in their division may go a long way to explaining why they’re top of it).
- Only St Louis and the Cubs have fewer extra base hits (both in the division…), which is odd because Cincy are comfortably mid-table in home runs.
- Only Pittsburgh and the Cubs have a worse team OPS or wOBA (there’s a division-related theme here).
- Only San Diego have walked less.
- Quite a few teams have struck out more, but the Cubs, Pirates and Brewers are all among them.
This is not a good hitting team. Or division!
Now, considering the Reds play in the ballpark equivalent of a cat’s litter tray (in terms of size, not smell. This is Cincinnati, not Cleveland), this is a problem. You’re not supposed to come to GAB and watch a pitching duel, you’re supposed to come and watch a slugfest. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Chicago and St Louis are four of the bottom 5 teams (San Diego are 4th) and Milwaukee are in the bottom 8, in BABIP. So does that mean this is all going to turn around as the weather warms up? Low BABIP in Cincy makes sense (as per aforementioned cat litter tray analogy – what goes up hardly ever comes down in play), but Pittsburgh and St Louis shouldn’t be up there with them!
The Bad: The Outfield, especially Jose Ramirez
The Ballad of Jose Ramirez came to a sudden end last week. For a while, he was hitting .069, which was at least amusing on a schoolboy level. But .097 isn’t amusing, it’s just rubbish, so he’s gone (Ed: not technically gone yet, but it’s very unlikely he’s playing for the Reds again). With the callup of Mike Daum to replace him, the Reds now have an excellent defensive outfield. Which is ironic, given the cat litter thing. What they need is a great offensive outfield, which they categorically do not have.
Daum, through his first two games (tiny sample, I know) is on-base-less (though has made two fantastic defensive plays) despite dominating AA last year and making a nuclear-hot start in AAA this year, however he is still only 22. The panic button is nowhere near as close to being pressed as it is for some people. Unrelated: Mark Dickey is hitting .163/.226/.244 (though is 3-0 in stolen bases!). Josh Lowe is hitting .229/.295/.417 and is 1-5 in stolen bases (he should probably stop trying).
This simply has to improve. Being tremendous defensively in the Great American Ballpark outfield will not earn you a living for long by itself.
The Good: The Three Musketeers
Three players who have started brilliantly this year are Leguizamo, Castillo and their captain D’Ar
tagnannaud. Fernando Leguizamo has five home runs (good for 2nd on the team behind you-know-who) and 144 OPS+ (leads team) so far this season, in 95 PA. He also has a BABIP near .400 but we’ll brush over that. He steals bases, he’s good defensively, he’s 23 years old. He’s projected to build upon his 2.2 WAR season last year with a 5 WAR season this year and while I don’t think he’ll get anywhere near that, a 3 WAR third baseman isn’t a bad building block for this team.
Castillo is still Castillo, crushing balls left, right and centre (literally, 2/3/2) to keep his name among the HR leaders in defense of his NL HR crown from last season. He also has two flyouts to straightaway centre that would be home runs in a lot of parks. There’s nothing to suggest he’s slowing down from last year, being currently on pace for 48 homers. He’s clearly enjoying his time in the cat litter tray, and to top it all off is apparently a plus defensive first baseman. Who knew?
The surprise of the season so far, other than Castillo’s defensive prowess, is Travis D’Arnaud. Signed as backup for Ernesto Pena, who has hardly hit at all this April and been demoted so he gets playing time, clubhouse captain D’Arnaud has taken the starting job with a .333/.333/.549 line through 51 PA and solid defensive ability. There’s absolutely nothing to suggest this will last, and if it does he’d likely price himself out of returning to Cincy next year, but the Reds will ride it whilst it’s there. D’Arnaud isn’t a batting title qualified hitter yet, but is 5th in wRC+ among catchers with at least 50 PA.