Discussing expectations for 2015, Brandon Phillips said, “Our goal coming to spring training is to win the World Series, and if we stay healthy and go out there and play small-ball and do the right things, I feel like we can achieve our goal as a team.”

We know the Reds didn’t stay healthy in 2014, but they also often did not do the right things. I take Phillips’ use of the term ‘small-ball’ not simply to mean moving a runner over with a groundout and getting him in with a sac fly, but also making good decisions, protecting late leads, and taking care of routine plays that can ultimately make the difference in a close game. The Reds lost 38 one-run games last year (up from 22 in ’13 and 21 in ’12), and they lost even more winnable games than that.

I started with 45 losses that I thought the Reds had a reasonable chance to win, and narrowed it down to 12 games they should’ve won in 2014:

1) Thursday, April 3 – 7-6 loss at home to the Cardinals

Down 4-3 in the 5th, Bryan Price looked at his depleted bullpen and had to call on Nick Christiani, Logan Ondrusek, Trevor Bell and Curtis Partch to finish out the game. Christiani and Partch pitched admirably but Bell and Ondrusek allowed 2 walks and 3 singles to start the 7th inning. The Cardinals finished their scoring on a 2-out wild pitch by Ondrusek, affording them just enough runs to hold the Reds off 7-6.

2) Saturday, April 5 — 6-3 road loss to the Mets

A 2-run homer to Curtis Granderson was Johnny Cueto’s lone blemish, and he gave way to Sam LeCure in the bottom of the 8th with the Reds up 3-2. LeCure retired David Wright, Granderson and Lucas Duda in order on 11 pitches, but he must’ve worn himself out because Bryan Price went to J. J. Hoover in the 9th. To be fair, at this point in the season Hoover had given up nothing but a walk in 1.1 innings. But on this particular Saturday he faced the 6-9 positions in the Mets’ lineup and allowed all 4 batters to score on a walk-off pinch-hit grand slam by Ike Davis.

3) Tuesday, April 8 — 7-5 road loss to the Cardinals

In his second start of the season, Homer Bailey was staked to an early 4-0 lead. It was 4-4 before the game got to the 3rd inning, but it could’ve been 4-1 if Todd Frazier hadn’t made an errant throw on a potentially inning-ending double play. With the Reds up 5-4, Ondrusek gave up 2 runs in the 6th when a 2-out fly ball glanced off Jay Bruce’s glove in right and was scored a double.

4) Saturday, April 12 – 1-0 home loss to the Rays

Alfredo Simon made one mistake all day, resulting in a solo homerun by James Loney. With no outs and Votto on 2nd base in the bottom of the 4th, Brandon Phillips singled. Steve Smith waived Votto around 3rd and he was thrown out easily. In the 6th, Zack Cozart was on 3rd with one out and Billy Hamilton’s fly ball to left wasn’t deep enough to get him home.

5) Monday, April 21 — 6-5 walkoff road loss to the Pirates

The Reds scored twice in the top of the 8th to go up 5-4. However, Jay Bruce was thrown out at home with no one out, so they managed just 2 runs out of an inning that began with 2 singles, a double, an IBB and another single. Bryan Price brought in lefty Manna Parra to face right-handed Andrew McCutchen leading off the bottom of the 8th. In his career, McCutchen has slugged 100 points better against lefties, and his OPS has been 137 points higher. He tied the game with a homer. J. J. Hoover couldn’t survive the two walks he allowed in the bottom of the 9th, and Neil Walker walked off with an RBI single.

6) Tuesday, May 6 — 4-3 walkoff loss to the Red Sox at Fenway

Bryan Price’s lineup featured Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, Neftali Soto and Tucker Barnhart. Yet, the Reds started the 2nd inning with a walk, a double and a single off of Felix Doubront, resulting in a run and Ryan Ludwick on 3rd with no outs. He failed to score. Homer Bailey lost his control in the 3rd inning and walked in a run before giving up another run on a single. The Reds tied it with 2 runs in the 8th, but they could manage no more and Price was forced to pitch Ondrusek for 2 innings in extras. The Red Sox walked off against him with 3 straight singles to start the bottom of the 12th.

7) Monday, May 26 — 4-3 road loss to the Dodgers

Due to errors by Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart, Johnny Cueto gave up 3 unearned runs. The Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu had a perfect game through 7 innings, but the Reds knocked him out in the 8th, scoring 3 runs against Ryu and the Dodger bullpen. It wasn’t quite enough to come back.

8) Friday, June 20 — 14-9 home loss to the Blue Jays

Who could forget this one? The Reds sent 11 men to the plate in the bottom of the 2nd inning and scored 8 runs on 7 hits, including 2 home runs. Mat Latos was lifted in the 6th with the score 9-4 and two men on; Parra and Ondrusek walked back to back batters to make it 9-5.
In his major league debut, Jumbo Diaz gave up a solo shot and a 2-run homer to make it 9-8. Jonathan Broxton walked 2 in the 8th and former Red Dioner Navarro doubled in the tying run. Chappy had a rare meltdown in the 9th and the routers became the routed.

(It should be noted that the Reds won 8 of 9 after this game. One could argue that this embarrassing loss inspired them to play better for a while. We all know from Back to the Future 2 that when you change history, Biff becomes some sort of bizarro Donald Trump, and that’s not good for anyone. No, had the Reds won a certain game, they might’ve lost other games and Marty McFly’s sister might’ve disappeared completely from the polaroid.)

9) Saturday, July 12 — 6-5 home loss to the Pirates in 11 innings

The Reds took a 5-4 lead to the top of the 9th, but Andrew McCutchen (again!) homered off Broxton to send the game to extras. In the bottom of the 10th, Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri walked the first two batters, and then Jay Bruce singled off Justin Wilson. Steve Smith decided to challenge the arm of Gregory Polanco with the slow-footed Ramon Santiago. The rookie’s aim was true and Santiago was out at the plate. After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Ludwick failed to get a ball in play, and Brayan Pena struck out too. McCutchen (double again!) took J. J. Hoover deep with 2 outs and nobody on in the 11th for the winning run.

10) Sunday, August 17 — 10-9 road loss to the Rockies

This was probably the loss of the year. I’m willing to bet it was the game of the year for Drew Stubbs. In this first game of a double-header against the Rockies—the team with the worst record in the NL— Bryan Price called on his closer in the top of the 9th, just to be sure 9-5 lead was safe. But Chapman walked all 4 batters he faced, causing Price to bring in Hoover with the bases loaded and no one out. After a sac fly and a line out it seemed that J. J. might actually get out of this one. But you had to guess the center fielder the Reds gave up on after 2012 would be swinging for the fence. Stubbs teed off and sent one into the sunset like Gary Cooper.

Obviously, they lost game 2 of the double-header, and the Cardinals walked off against them in 10 innings the next day, setting up:

11) Tuesday, August 19 — 5-4 walkoff loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis

The Reds took a 4-1 lead in the 6th inning with Alfredo Simon on the mound. Simon was pulled after giving up a solo homer to Jhonny Peralta and a single. LeCure came on to allow the runner to score on a 2-out RBI single by pinch-hitter Shane Robinson. Jumbo Diaz blew the lead in the 8th on a 2-out pinch-hit RBI double by Daniel Descalso.

2 days after the Drew Stubbs disaster, Bryan Price sent J. J. Hoover back out to lose his 10th game of the year. Hoover walked the first batter he faced and gave up a single on the next pitch. At this point, Price had clearly conceded the game because he left Hoover in to walk the next batter and then hit Jon Jay for a walk-off HBP.

 

I’ve omitted as many September games as possible because the team was out of contention and looking at some call-up players. The lineup was often weak in September. Bryan Price recently said “Great teams are able to create runs in that bottom third of the order. We can’t have throwaway innings because we’re sitting seven, eight, nine.” You end up with a lot of throwaway innings when the 5-8 spots are full of bench players.

12) Sunday, September 7 — 4-3 home loss to the Mets

The Mets won this with 4 unearned runs. With one out and nobody on in the 6th inning, Wilmer Flores lifted one to center that hit Billy Hamilton in the glove for a 2-base error. After what should’ve been a harmless single and an inning-ending pop foul, Anthony Recker hit a 2-run homer to make it 3-1. At least one of the homers hit off of J. J. Hoover in 2014 should’ve never happened. Curtis Granderson led off the 8th inning with a pop foul to the first base side. Jack Hannahan waited under it and fell backwards as the ball hit the center of his open glove and dropped to the ground. A few pitches later Granderson pulled one out to right. The Reds scored 2 in the 9th and Mesoraco struck out with the bases loaded to end it.

 

The Reds finished 12 games behind the Pirates and Giants, who earned the NL wild card spots. Had the bullpen been fully stocked in April, it’s possible our guys could’ve gotten off to a great start and maybe could’ve weathered the injury to Joey Votto like they did in 2012. Maybe a better record at the end of July would’ve inspired the front office to make a move. But ultimately, with Votto needing the offseason to get healthy, Hamilton and Simon declining in the second half, Jay Bruce enduring the worst season of his career, and late injuries to Bailey and Latos, it’s unlikely the Reds could’ve pulled together a playoff run.

Someone recently commented on this site that the majority of the Reds’ April schedule this year is against the NL Central and that they could go a long way towards contending with a strong month. Let’s hope they start 2015 healthy, focused, and doing the right things.

In response to Mat Latos’ questioning of the team’s leadership Joey Votto said, “We’re alright. We just lost last year. Last year, I would like to think was a bit of an aberration.”

Me too Joey, me too.

38 Responses

  1. gaffer

    Summary: the bullpen sucked last year. Ondrusek is gone. Hoover?

  2. Tom Gray

    2014 was tough year all around. Hoover 1-10. Cingrani 2-8. Other Reds P were 75-68.

    • Steve Mancuso

      W-L is a bad measure, especially for bullpen pitchers. Wins depend entirely on your team scoring runs, which the Reds didn’t do much last year. If you add Chapman, LeCure and Parra’s W-L record up it would have been 1-10. Throw in Diaz, Contreras and Villareal, and you’ve got 1-14.

      • Jason Lawrence

        Totally agree. A win just means the offense scored at the right time. But if you get the loss, you probably did something that wasn’t too good. That was certainly the case with Hoover last year

      • The Next Janish

        Agreed relief pitcher has no control on how the team bats, but show me a good relief pitcher that had a 7 loss season.

      • Tom Gray

        Hoover and Cingrani were terrible last year by any measure. W-L or any other.

        Chapman was great. LeCure and Diaz fair. Parra decent. No comparison to Hoover and Cingrani in 2014.

  3. lwblogger2

    Um, I would say “Thanks for the memories” but I don’t think I’m very thankful 😉

  4. Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

    I just find it telling that you say you started out with 45 games that the Reds could have reasonably won. Now obviously plenty of teams have a number of games that they feel they could reasonably win as well but that number is just telling. Even the smallest of things can make a huge difference in a win or a loss but wow. It just makes a fan a little agitated to think that maybe of the front office had been proactive last season with fixing some of the glaring holes that maybe some of those games would have turned out differently. 38 1-run games is also ridiculous. Mismanagement in some games and just plain unlucky in others. Still though, it is still irritating to think what could have been. Here’s hoping this season is better than last.

  5. lwblogger2

    RE: Parra facing the RH hitting McCutchen, it seems that Price is not a big proponent of platoon matchups nor having pitchers work to one batter.

  6. spro

    Can someone counter with the 12 best wins of 2014 article to get us pumped for next year? Here’s mine:
    1) Opening Night – Heisey walk off, 1-0 first win of the season!
    2) Apr 9th – Hamilton shows off speed and scores on sac fly to 2B
    3) June 18th – Reds climb back to .500 by trouncing Volquez
    4) June 23rd – Simon outduels Samardzija, Mes’s GS in the 9th
    5) June 27th – Mes finally catches Cueto, surprise! Reds win!
    6) June 29th – Bailey flirts with a no-no, Reds win 5th straight and sweep the eventual champion Giants
    7) July 8th – My most enjoyable game of the year. 6-5 comeback over the Cubs, Hamilton with the game winner
    8) July 26th – Cueto wins 1-0 gem, Reds don’t trade for Rios!
    9) July 31 – Win over the Marlins on the terrible home plate call where Cozart says he was blocked
    10) Aug 7 – Reds take 3/4 from Cleveland to stay alive, Bailey with a strong 7ip
    11) Any of Cueto’s dominating 20 wins.
    12) OK, I guess I gave up after the Stubbs game too, oh well. Hopefully we can keep track longer next year!

    • Jason Lawrence

      These games were painful yes, but there’s no intention of bringing anyone down here. I’m pumped because they might’ve been a little closer to competing than we realized last year, and they should be starting this year in a better place, other than maybe starting pitching. But I have hope that things will go the right way more often this year.

    • Dennis

      The last two games of the season qualify, in my book. Game 161 had the light-hitting Ramon Santiago crushing a walk-off grand slam on national TV. In Game 162, Cueto secured his own 20th win with an RBI single, and Kris Negron followed with an absolute bomb to left.

      There was also the May 9 game when Broxton gave up the tying run to the Rockies in the top of the 9th, but Votto won it in the bottom of the inning with a no-out, walk-off shot on a 3-0 count.

      I love baseball … even in a season as bad as 2014 was, there are still so many great memories to relive.

    • The Next Janish

      Last November I randomly picked Bailey’s game against the Giants. That was a great game and series.

    • chezpayton

      I don’t remember the exact date, it was somewhere around the all star break, but the Reds trailed the pirates by 4 or five runs in the 6th inning I believe and came back to get the win. That was my favorite game. I also remember chapman came in in the ninth and either tied or broke the consecutive appearances with a strikeout record.

  7. doublenohitter

    The consistent theme here is Ondrusek and Hoover.
    One is gone. I hope the other does not make it out of spring training.

    • redsfan06

      I also noticed their names appeared repeatedly in this list.

    • VaRedsFan

      Also my first thought before I even read the article. We hollered for Jumbo to come up for about a month before it ever happened

  8. Jeremy Conley

    My take away was also that the bullpen is the Reds best hope of rebounding this year. With all the focus on Votto, Bruce, and the offense in general, the Reds still would have been competitive last year with a league average bullpen.

    Jumbo and Cingrani are definitely good additions (Jumbo obviously should have made the team out of spring training last year). Badenhop might be decent. Hopefully that will be enough to turn it around, but I’m not sure. Broxton was really good for us last year and he’d gone now.

    If you want more depressing reading, here’s an article at fangraphs that echos most of my thoughts on Bryan Price talking about Marquis and Maholm as guys they want in their rotation all year. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-reds-and-playing-it-too-safe/

    Losing Latos and Simon is also a majorstep back for the Reds, and if the Reds really are thinking that two mid-thirties veterans who were terrible last year are the solution to replacing them, we’re in trouble.

  9. garym6059

    I can’t watch Hoover pitch again, it was too painful last year. He gave out more souvenirs that the gift shop.

    • jessecuster44

      Funny. JJ is a nice enough guy, but yeesh.

  10. redmountain

    Everybody take your Zoloft now! The season has not begun and most sound like you have given up on the season-step away from the ledge. I remember, several years ago,
    how the Reds were going to be awful and they won the division.

  11. jdx19

    This is actually encoraging. Things have to be better, right? I mean, losing 10-2 is easier to swallow than watching the bullpen give up a lead only to lose by 1 in my opinion!

  12. Reds&Hoosiers

    I was there for the Mets game in NY. It was absolutely pathetic and such a telling sign of what that bullpen was going to become

  13. The Next Janish

    The double-header vs Colorado. The broken water main. It was like fate was combining to drop the straw ..no the anvil to break the camel’s back. I just remember thinking that day was the end of the season and it sure felt like it.

  14. Pooter

    Where was Chappie in those situations? Probably waiting for that elusive save. Granted he was hurt at the beginning of the year. Those games are the epitome of frustration.

  15. ohiojimw

    About the accounts of games 4 and 9 in this post, I didn’t think it was Mark Berry sending all those runners to untimely fates. I thought it was the guy fired over the off season, Steve Smith.

    • Jason Lawrence

      Oh man, you are totally right. That’s my mistake, I got Mark Berry in my head and never looked back. Apologies! Steve Smith. Good catch there, total bush league move on my part.

  16. Kyle Farmer

    Wow. Just, wow. It’s hard to overstate how frustrating and unenjoyable this team was to watch last year. This is a very good look at the top of those frustrations. I’m worried this anemic offense may give us more of the same this year, but the bullpen looks to be significantly improved. Here’s to winning a lot more one run games in 2015!

  17. Redfuture

    Good list but the 3rd base coach was Steve Smith not the esteemed Mark Berry. It’s possible that 12 games were lost simply because of the poor judgement of Smith. I’m hoping for much better from Riggleman!

  18. Victor Vollhardt

    #10 the Rockies/Stubbs homer-Chapman meltdown changed the whole season for the Reds. Even with the injuries there was such a team letdown after that game that just couldn’t be overcome —all the life was gone. Would the team won the division if this game played out different ? NO, but they would have finished the season on a much higher note and for sure have felt better about themselves and just maybe they could have affected the outcome of the division with more spirited play.

  19. vegastypo

    I was in San Diego in early July for the series opener as the Reds were coming off the road sweep of the Giants. Optimism was high.

    Instead, despite giving up just one hit to the Padres, the Reds lost 1-0. The run scored on a fifth-inning walk, a just-missed-getting-the-guy-at-second stolen base, then two fly balls to get him around. The Reds got five or six hits, and had the bases loaded once, but it came with two outs and Latos at the plate in the second inning.

    Just awfully frustrating.

  20. Chris Garber

    #1 entertains me, in that they had a “depleted bullpen” by the 5th inning of game 3. The bullpen had pitched all of FOUR innings by that point (with an off day between games 1 & 2).

    I’m not ripping Jason – I remember the Reds using that excuse at the time.

    • lwblogger2

      Wonder if someone was hurt? It is a tired excuse, that’s for sure.

  21. Andy10

    I remember at the beginning of the season I was listening to Marty on the radio talking about how esteemed Steve Smith was as a coach. Later that game, the go ahead run gets thrown out trying to score from first on a ball in the gap. He got Brayan Pena thrown out easily at least 10 times alone!