With the 2015 season winding down, the Reds are destined for 90+ losses one year after dropping 86 games. For the second year in a row, the general feeling surrounding the club’s performance seems confined to a limited sorrow-filled breadth ranging between an upcoming trip to the dentist’s office and attending the wedding of a former significant other sans a date.

So, it’s difficult not to reminisce about the not-so-distant glory years that began at the outset of the decade. I remember when most of the gripes surrounding the Reds were centered around where to bat Drew Stubbs in the lineup and whether Todd Frazier should start over an aging Scott Rolen. First-world problems, indeed.

What has fast-forwarded the musing of yore for me lately is the knowledge that so many of the key cogs in the 2010-13 run that produced three 90-win seasons and two National League Central crowns are no longer with the organization.

From 2010-13, these 10 players recorded the most plate appearances for the Reds: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Scott Rolen, and Jonny Gomes. Only Phillips, Votto, Bruce, Cozart, and Frazier remain. Five years ago, each of the Phillips-Votto-Bruce-Cozart-Frazier quintet was either an up-and-coming talent or a player in or around their prime. Now, with the exception of Bruce, all five will be at least 30-years-old by Opening Day 2016.

From 2010-13, these 10 pitchers logged the most innings for the Reds: Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, Travis Wood, Aroldis Chapman, and Edinson Volquez. Only Bailey, LeCure, and Chapman are still around, but Bailey’s 2015 season was cut short after 11.2 innings, and LeCure spent most of 2015 at Triple-A before being promoted on Aug.19. Given the rookie pitching record the Reds have established this year, this list shouldn’t be surprising at all.

Chad recently delivered a fond toast to The Run, so there’s no need to echo his words in this space. (Whenever I type ‘Jay Bruce’ into YouTube’s search field, the first result auto-fills to ‘Jay Bruce home run to clinch.’ How’s that for living in the past?) But as it turns out, there was a bit of nostalgia to revisted yesterday: on Sept. 22, 2012, the Reds blanked the Dodgers 6-0 to become the first team to secure a division title that season.

A quick look at the box score from that joyous day reveals a microcosm how much just went right for the 97-win Reds that year:

*Prized offseason acquisition Mat Latos delivered eight shutout innings, an outing complete with zero walks and seven strikeouts. Latos went 14-4 with a 3.48/3.85 ERA/FIP split and K/9 of 8.0 in 209.1 innings. Latos, along with Cueto, Bailey, Arroyo, and Leake, combined to make 161 of out a possible 162 regular-season starts.

*First-year closer Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth. Chapman notched 38 saves in 71.2 innings, boasting a K/9 rate of 15.3 and a ERA/FIP split of 1.51/1.55.

*Nearly two years after he clubbed one of the most important home runs in Reds history, Bruce again hit the division-deciding home run (sort of), as his solo round-tripper in the fourth inning was all the run support Latos and Chapman would require on the day.

*Frazier, en route to a .273/.331/.498 slash and a wRC+ of 121 in his rookie season, was 2-for-4 with a run scored.

*Phillips tallied a solo home run in the seventh inning. Random note: Phillips hit 18 home runs each year from 2010-13.

*Xavier Paul went 0-for-2 with two walks. In 96 plate appearances, Paul slashed .314/.379/.465 with an wRC+ of 128. Paul was playing for Ryan Ludwick, who was in the midst of a renaissance season. In 2012, the 33-year-old left fielder slashed .275/.346/.531 with a wRC+ of 134.

*Not everything went right. Dusty Baker was still in the hospital undergoing treatment for an irregular heartbeat. Also, Votto, who underwent knee surgery (twice) in July and missed 49 games, was in the midst of a power outage: the last home run Votto would hit in 2012 came on June 24.  

When I spoke with Heisey recently, I became convinced he had moved on from his time with the Reds, and I can’t blame him. A player like Heisey is now forever on the fringes of the Triple-A/major league line, and it behooves him to keep his mind focused on the present and what’s in front of him.

But I could also detect a fond appreciation for his time in Cincinnati, and not just because the Reds won a lot of games, but because those teams helped the city and a lot of casual fans fall back in love with the Reds. And as the Reds continue to turn over the roster and step into a new era, I’m interested to see if that sense of endearment — on both a small and large scale — can be replicated.

Join the conversation! 19 Comments

  1. Its amazing how little has changed, but so much. The right decision would have been to “retool” in 2013-2014. Inaction led to complacency.

  2. It’s not easy to keep a small market team near the top for long time, it requires a lot of vision, management, player development, etc. which, in a nutshell, Reds just don’t have for the time being.

  3. The 2010-2013 era was the payoff for the lost decade…..a cheap core mixed with some value oriented pick ups and good trades. The 2012 team was good enough to win the WS but the baseball Gods had other ideas. All a team can do is get to the post season…the rests is luck.

    The Reds decided to stay the course and eventually the cheap core became the progressively more expensive core. A team with limited resources needs to be very smart and very lucky and the Reds have been neither.

    The Twins are a good comparison. From 2002-2009 they were consistently in the mix despite lower than average payrolls. They increased spending dramatically in 2010 to retain their core and came up short. The next 2 years they suffered from bad injury luck and lack of financial flexibility. They started to rebuild and now seemed poised to be competitive again. Cheap Joe Mauer gave them an edge….injured expensive Joe Maurer was an albatross.

    The Reds seem to be on the right path. It’s ok to be bad if you’re building towards something. It’s not ok to be bad because you’re stupid.

  4. I’m on board to see Lamb and Iglesias (in particular) pitch but I wish they would get some exciting young position players. It is however interesting to see Phillips battling to stay relevant (and to this point succeeding in spite of the doom and gloom predictions); and Votto will be interesting and exciting to the end of his tenure I suspect. Frazier and Bruce are turning out to be the same player from opposite sides of the plate; I appreciate their contributions but it is difficult to stay excited about them because of their extreme flip flopping.

    • Hitting is streaky and hitting homeruns is very streaky. It always have been. This is not news, or something that Reds players invented to frustrate their fans.

      I think the problem for many Reds fans that post on RLN is that they follow the Reds so closely that they see all the ups and downs in a season for the Reds, and not for other team’s players.

      No one in baseball plays a season at exactly their average. Everyone goes up and down. Name me a player that you think is the model of consistency that you’d like to see from Bruce and Frazier and I’ll compare the variance in their performance. My bet is that most guys have just as many ups and downs.

      • You are probably right. I think when I said get some exciting young position players please, I was seeing somebody like Hamilton but with the ability to get on base more than once or twice in a typical series.

        I think my fascination with the possibility of Lorenzen as a position player started when he made that improbable dash around the bases as a pinch runner to lock down the walk off win just a couple of days after he was brought up.

        I already knew it had been a close call whether he would be a position guy or pitcher and that many teams had seen him as a solid eventual MLB position guy. Then I went back and saw his NCAA D1 offensive stats (good OBP, occasional power outstanding fielder etc) and once all the new pitching came onboard it just seemed to me, unless this guy projects as almost a lock as a #1 ace why aren’t they turning him around to see if he can be that guy that Hamilton has not been able to be.

  5. I think it’s pretty clear that what went wrong was the pitching. The article says “only” Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Zack Cozart, and Todd Frazier remain with the team, but who is really missing Drew Stubbs, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Scott Rolen, and Jonny Gomes? Stubbs was cut by Colorado, Heisey has struggled in AAA, Rolen is retired and was struggling at the end of his career, and Hanigan and Gomes both have OPSs around .680.

    Yes, the Reds need offensive help, but those guys weren’t going to bring it.

    The problem was that the Reds were a bad team last year, who’s strength was their starting pitching and worst weakness was their bullpen. In the offseason they traded two pieces of their rotation for one piece and a prospect, weakening the rotation. They tried to fill in the gaps of both the rotation and the bullpen with guys like Kevin Gregg and Jason Marquis.

    In addition to Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake,, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Logan Ondrusek, Travis Wood, Aroldis Chapman, and Edinson Volquez, the earlier Reds also had Sean Marshall, Jonathon Broxton, and Alfredo Simon.

    The Reds were a pitching first team when they were successful, and they had enough offense to go with it to win the division twice. A little bit of the offense went away, but the strength of the team, the pitching, has just vanished.

    • Very true, and I think the danger for the Reds is that the days of (always) pitching first appear to be gone.

      Likely to further complicate the situation for a pitching first org like the Reds is the prospect of the universal use of the DH. It seems like critical mass is getting so close on the universal DH; that it could even come during the development cycle (player control sequence) of the current crop Reds prospects. And even the Reds 90 win teams between 2010-2013 struggled with AL clubs and the DH.

      • The narrative that the days of pitching first teams is over is out there, but I’ve never really bought into it. I’ve never really understood the reasoning behind that thinking, the Cardinals of this year obviously make it seem like pitching first still works great, and I still think that on any given day good pitching beats good hitting.

        If you have 5 aces in your rotation, your offense just doesn’t have to be that good.

        • I agree… it’s part of the reason that analytics don’t necessarily hold up in the short sample of the playoffs. Still seems to me the advantage goes to the high quality pitching. Madison Baumgarner basically won the WS by himself last year.

    • Spot on! Best and most accurate diagnosis I’ve seen.

  6. CHUCK said its ok to be bad if your building towards something and I agree.I will say that with our young pitchers we have started the process.What happens this winter will define if we are stupid or not.I understand we can’t possibly fix all the problems but if we could just address a few of them this would give die hard fans like us some hope.

  7. All of these comments are on target. My main disappointment is the Reds did not have replacement talent in the system to cover LF, CF, and have position players who could have upgraded other positions or made it easier to trade for needed talent. A small market team must spend on scouting and player development. People who can spot and develop talent are worth their weight in gold. Hopefully as Chuck and James said the Reds brain trust uses the next couple of winters, seasons, and drafts to rebuild the organization with the objective of having a competitive team in the conversation for a playoff spot by 2018-2019. Staying relevant is essential to maintaining fan enthusiasm. It is the “Cardinal Way” and it works. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates and Cubs learn from the mistakes the Reds made and are able to keep winning. The Cubs will have the money to do it. The Pirates will need to be disciplined and smart.

  8. This winter we could see some significant turnover in the 25 man roster. Rebuilding a bullpen, a bench and hopefully manning 3 different spots with the 8 positional players will take many new faces. Some of those spots will have to be filled from outside the organization, as the Reds just don’t have the talent within to fill those spots. It will be a very,very important off-season.

  9. Those glorious years were the fruits of the Krivsky and O’Brien years finally ripening.

    You can say how many great trade Jocketty has made, but until his trades put a team like the 2010-2013 team on the field, he’s nothing but a sad old man whom the modern game has passed by.

  10. On a positive note,its great to see two guys we got for Cueto pitching in the big leagues along with one of the guys(Duvall) we got for Leake getting some playing time in left field.

  11. 2012 should have been the year
    Cueto’s back “spasm” that morphed into an oblique (mind spasm)
    This after starters made 161/162 starts.Due to Dusty’s expert handling of pitching staff of course.
    Rolen throwing away the 2-1 game. Rolen striking out with the bases loaded to end the series. Leadership more important than ability .Rolen shoulder hurt couldn’t hit a high fastball, everyone knew it but Dusty
    Latos who substituted for the hurt Cueto in game 1and gave up a HR to Posey,pitched game 5 ran out of gas(everyone knew but Dusty I guess)loaded bases,gave up grand slam to guess who?
    My head hurts reliving that series,Dusty stubbornness cost team big time
    BTW wanna know why I don’t miss Cueto. 2012 and the 2013 meltdown in Pitt. KC problems: when Cueto tenses up he misses high(see Baker comments after Pitt game)
    Well Grant thanks for letting me rant!

  12. Offense is not the problem this year. The Reds must correct the pitching staff to have any hope of contending. They need some veteran pitchers to help this young talent and the bull pen has to be fixed. It would seem they do not have a clue on what a bull pen should be. You can argue about dusty Baker until the cows come home, but he made Jocketty provide pitchers who could effectively pitch out of the bullpen. The Reds probably lost 50 plus games this year because of the bull pen in the 6th through 8th innings. My crystal ball says that the Reds will trade Phillips in the off season so they have a chance of signing a free agent pitcher. They then need to go to the free agent market and pick up 2 good middle relievers. That is all it will take for them to compete next year. Homer back, and let the young pitchers compete for the final 3 spots.

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