First, the mitigation. Robert Stephenson is just 23 years old. This Cubs lineup has undone the best pitchers in baseball. Two of the hits against Stephenson came to rest about half way to third base. A couple other soft ground balls got through. Stephenson is 30 innings over his workload of the previous two seasons. Progress for pitchers comes in non-linear chunks. I want to be sure to mention Stephenson is only 23 years old.

That said. Stephenson didn’t make it through four innings. He threw 98 pitches, 34 in the first inning. He struck out two and walked two (one intentional). Stephenson gave up a wild pitch, a home run and hit a batter. He had no command of his fastball, as pitch after pitch flew out of the strike zone. Jeff Brantley says Stephenson is overthrowing. Has been overthrowing. By the middle of the 4th inning, you could see Tucker Barnhart shaking his head in frustration with the young pitcher.

Prior to tonight, Stephenson’s ERA was 4.97, his FIP was 6.21, his xFIP was 5.32. All those numbers went up tonight. In four September starts, Stephenson’s longest appearance was 5.1 innings. In only one major league start out of six this year – against the Mets on September 5 – was Robert Stephenson’s performance befitting expectations for the #1 prospect in the organization.

Meanwhile, the Cubs (97-55) swept the Reds (63-89). Only the most optimistic of us expected otherwise when the Reds assigned Tim Adleman, Josh Smith and Robert Stephenson to start games against the Cubs patient and potent lineup. But the domination hasn’t been just this week – the massacre and lesson have been season-long.

The 2016 Cubs are 13-3 against the Reds. The hard part of that to reconcile is how the Reds managed to win three games. The Cincinnati Reds don’t look like they belong on the same planet, let alone in the same league, as the Chicago Cubs. Walt Jocketty’s team is now 34 games behind Theo Epstein’s.

Cincinnati Reds 2 • Chicago Cubs 9 | FanGraphs  | The Kinks

40 Responses

  1. MrRed

    A quick post deserves a quick response. Thanks for not keeping me waiting!

    What a game and series, huh? Glad we don’t have to play these guys again this year. Wait, what’s that? We another series vs. the Cubs and that after a series with the Cardinals? Doh!

    • TR

      The Reds have a season-ending series with the Cubbies and a lot of fans in blue at GABP.

  2. kmartin

    Webster Dictionary
    mis·match (verb) — example usage — Ross Ohlendorf pitching against Kris Bryant

  3. Tct

    Cubs are really a complete team:

    1st in the NL in offensive runs above average
    3rd in the NL in baserunning runs above average
    1st in the NL in defensive WAR
    3rd in the NL in FIP WAR
    1st in the NL in RA/9 WAR

    They are top 5 in all of baseball in everything. Hitting, pitching, defense , and baserunning. This isn’t a moneyball team. They are built around guys who do everything well.

    • sezwhom

      True but in one-run games, the Cubs are only 22 & 23! Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers are 36 & 10.

      • Big56dog

        They do not have enough clutch guys to get a RBI with runners in scoring position. But I would think now that Chapman is there for save situations it should improve but on the other hand how can you win 1 run games when you are up by 3 in the 9th?

  4. vegastypo

    Look at the bright side. We’re closing in on the Braves for an even better draft pick. Not much consolation, is it?………

  5. ohiojimw

    The encouraging (yes, i said encouraging) thing to me is that Stephenson is not being rocked and lit up on a regular basis like Reed was. I know there is concern by some over his recent loss of velocity. However Homer Bailey suffered through the same issue as he struggled to find the level of command needed to succeed at the MLB level; so that need not be a show stopper. As he matures, if the command develops he can regain velocity.

    Stephenson is frustrating to me because he seems so close yet so far from being where he needs to be. Tonight the first 5 or 6 hits he allowed all came on 2 strike counts. Along with tightening his command perhaps he also need to be really developing one of his offerings as a put away pitch. But also by and large he was behind in the counts before he got to 2 strikes; and, when a pitcher is not always behind in the count, it is a lot easier to put the opponent away with pitch not in a hitting zone.

    Hindsight should always be 20/20 or better; but , for my money RS is the guy that should have been first up and in the rotation since July learning what he needed to do to succeed at MLB.

  6. Hotto4Votto

    I’m far away from giving up on Stephenson. For all the reasons you mentioned above, plus he may have the best arm of the three prospects in AAA. But he’s been frustrating to follow this year. The control has been an ongoing issue. Trust your stuff young man.

  7. Playtowin

    Realistically Reed and Stephenson have been major disappointments. The hype about them looks over blown. They are young but so far they do not look like top of the rotation prospects. When you look at the the Reds roster the team looks to be far away from being competitive with the best clubs in the NL. The bench players on the Cubs would be middle order guys in the lReds lineup. The only Reds pitcher who might make the Cubs roster is Iglesias and that’s no sure thing. This team has much more to do to get out of the 95 loss club. There is not an abundance of talent in the minors and what is there appears less than what other teams have. The current MLB roster has proven it can’t win. It will take several years of exceptional drafting and player development for the Reds to become competitive again. The track record of the organization in this area does not foster optimism. Watching this rebuild will be very painful. I bet it takes at least two “5 year plans” +.

    • greenmtred

      When you are talking about young pitchers facing MLB hitters for the first time, a major disappointment is bad stuff–poor velocity, poor secondary pitches. What you see now is unlikely to be what you get when they’ve had more experience. Also, you should ask Doug Gray about the talent in the minors. This season has been largely–though not entirely–disheartening, but we all knew that it would be.

  8. wizeman

    As much as anyone… I have been beating the drum for Stephenson all year.
    The overthrowing is what makes the most sense to me. I m far from giving up on him or Reed.
    They are limping home and resemble the decimated group in April and May. Probably putting nails in Price’s coffin.
    Lots of good this year. Hamilton, Peraza. Got Herrera for Bruce. (Wonder how cheap we can get him next year) Used to think it would take 3/50. Now probably 2/20. Don’t scoff or throw your hands up.
    Ready for basketball season followed quickly by spring training.

    • Shchi Cossack

      The Metropolitan’s are in a very tough position regarding Bruce this off season. If they pick up the club option for $13MM, the fans and press will be viscious and vocal after the total lack of production from Bruce following the deadline trade. If they opt for the $1MM buyout, the fans and press will be viscious and vocal for getting a -0- return for Herrera following the deadline trade.

      Bruce looks like a good candidate for a 1-year contract with a mutual option and minimal buyout on a 2nd year in order to establish value prior to signing a multi-year contract as a 31-year-old OF.

      The Old Cossack would not be adverse to seeing Bruce back in a corner OF position for the Reds in 2017 on a 1-year contract. The downside of such a decision would be playing time for Schebler and Duvall, but a 4-way OF rotation between Hamilton, Schebler, Duvall and Bruce could help alleviate that issue. The upside would be the possibility of a 4-6 months of a solid offensive performance by Bruce that creates value for a trade deadline move or a possible qualifying offer after the 2017 season. Of course the Reds and Bruce would need to be open to such an arrangement an both parties may be more inclined to just move on.

      • ohiojimw

        I think the Metz pick up the option then try to flip him. Of course it they would get into the post season and JB would come up big there, everything changes.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        I can’t imagine Bruce would come back to put himself in the same trade limbo and speculation situation as he has been in the past couple of years. That is, unless there are no other options for him. I would hope the Reds would not go there, as well.

      • ohiojimw

        I agree. Much as I liked JB as a player and person, the ship has sailed for him in Cincy unless his return would be as in a cameo role as a bench power bat on a truly good Reds team 4-5 years from now. In this regard it is unfortunate he bats from the same side of the plate as Votto which would essentially make him a guy without a fielding position in such a situation.


        The Reds are doomed if they bring Bruce back. Rebuilding does not include this type of move. What it would say is the Reds don’t believe the current corner outfielders are any good and there is no one in the minors who is MLB ready. Beyond this Bruce has been in decline with the Reds and has been a bust with the Mets. Bruce is not the answer for any team. His time has come and gone. It is time to move on.

        If the Reds did bring Bruce back they should sign Phillips and Cozart for another couple of years. Next move would be to offer Peraza for Frazier and DeSclafani/Iglesias for Leake. We would almost have the same team that lost 97 games in 2015.

      • Steve Mancuso

        If the Mets make the postseason and get into the NLDS – assuming Bruce does a little something to help with that – my guess is that all will be forgiven and they’ll claim his option.

      • Playtowin

        That’s a big IF in my opinion on Bruce. He has got to do something over the next 10 days to get them to the playoffs or he will be gone with universal approval of Mets fans. Bruce did not start yesterday vs. a right hander vs Atlanta. De Aza, a .201 hitter, played in his place.. Bruce pinch hit in the 9th with a man on first and no outs with the Mets down 4-3. Bruce struck out. He has been a major disappointment so far.

  9. WVRedlegs

    Robert Stephenson is a younger version of JJ Hoover. It doesn’t matter what kind of arm you have, what kind of velocity you have, if you cannot throw pitches for strikes. Pinpoint location is not one of his attributes. Nor is it one in many Reds pitchers and pitching prospects.
    Drafting big arms and thinking you can teach them how to pitch, how to locate their pitches, isn’t working very well for the Reds. Maybe a new drafting philosophy should be taking place within the Reds organization. That is draft pitchers that already know how to pitch and how to locate their fastballs.
    Trade Robert Stephenson this winter before his stock completely plummets. He is likely to drop far out of the top-100 MLB prospects for next year.
    Stephenson heads the list of 1st round draft busts in recent Reds drafts. Stephenson can’t throw strikes and has poor command & control. Travieso can’t stay off of the DL with his fragile durability, as he has been hurt just about every year. Nick Howard can’t throw strikes, period. Ervin can barely hit his weight, but he can take a walk. Blandino, much like Ervin, can’t hit AA pitching, and barely hits his weight also. Tyler Stephenson has spent more time on the DL than he has the active roster. Lorenzen looks like he’ll make it. Luckily Senzel has broken this streak of bad 1st round drafting.

    • ohiojimw

      In 3.2 innings, Stephenson gave up 1 HR; and, it was a solo shot. That doesn’t qualify him to be mentioned in the same sentence as Hoover who likely would have been good for at least two in that kind of stretch, most likely one of them a salami. 🙂

      • Old-school

        Cubbies just ran Mike leake in the 4th inning in a must win situation. 80 million.

      • ohiojimw

        And it Stephenson’s outing v. the Cubbies, it was not so much that they ran him as he ran himself out pf pitches. As I said elsewhere here, it was an unsatisfactory outing but not one without points to build upon.

    • Bill

      If you think Stephenson can’t pitch what makes you think the Reds would be able to trade him for anything of value? While he may never reach his potential, it is too early in his career to give up on him. Everyone wanted to give up on Bailey when he first got called up, but he put together some good years before getting injured. I do agree the Reds strategy of drafting relief pitchers and turning them into starters is questionable, but Stephenson does not fall into that group

      • Old-school

        Homer was rushed to the big leagues. Stephenson hasn’t and has been THE top prospect for 5 years. No one is giving up but this guy is not developing….his walk numbers and stats supports this…his coaches and catchers are vocally or visibly frustrated. He fails the eye test too.He is still a thrower…not a pitcher. He can’t throw inside and can’t command his pitches….not even a 2 seam fastball ball. Juxtapose that with lorenzen who was hitting 95 consistently and missing by an inchwhen he missed. The cubs are a great hitting team. Let’s hope Bob steve is just tired and not doing his best Tony cingrani impression..Homer’s health… Stephensons development/ non development and the roles of Iglesias/lorenzen are huge stories next March in Goodyear.. could be the most interesting ST in a long time….especially with Mister Senzel there.

      • Shchi Cossack

        The Old Cossack had not even considered the possibility of a spring training invite for Nick Senzel. After his season in A ball, I think a spring training invite might be in order, just to give him a taste of the talent and competition trying to make the cut to the show. It actually sounds like a good idea since spring training of 2018 might be his opportunity to make the jump or set himself up for the jump during the 1st half of the 2018 season.

      • Old-school

        Reds will need to generate some buzz coming off their first back to back 90 loss seasons in 80 years..Mr Senzel will get an invite and why not. He’s the most dynamic player since Joey Votto and Reds fans need hope.

    • Chuck Schick

      Stephenson vs Tom Glavine at roughly the same point in their MLB careers:

      K rate BB rate BABIP FIP
      RS. 17.4 9.9 294 6.44
      TG. 8.4. 13.9. .282. 5.51

      The Braves really should’ve given up on Glavine. What a clown

      • ohiojimw

        Stephenson’s night really turned on those two dribblers to 3B both of which happened on pitches which the Ol’ Lefthander used to term as being maybe “too good” for the pitcher’s own sake.

        RS was strong versus Bryant (4 pitch K) after he hit Fowler. They get the out on Rizzo’s dribbler or they get an out on Baez’s dribbler; and, he is out of the inning at with either 0 or 1 run scored and a pitch count just over half of what he ended up with for the inning.

        An aside for you Chuck since you’re in Chicago and exposed to that local media. Is there any uneasiness about Bryant heading into the playoffs? The Reds starters actually handled him pretty well in this series except for the pop fly double which should have been caught. Rang him up a number of times. He’s not likely to see any softer pitching from anyone in the post season.

      • Big56dog

        Enough with this rational nonsense, I think what is important for all Reds fans to do right now is
        1) Post all the dumb things this organization has done and give immediate changes that need to be made…firing Price is always a good point
        2) Jump to conclusions
        3) Now may not be the time to panic, but overacting is definitely a worthwhile activity considering the circumstances


      WVREDLEGS has identified one of the main problems…… poor evaluation of talent. Nothing good happens unless you get this right,

    • greenmtred

      I can see that you are taking the end-of-season swoon to heart. Stephenson has pitched far fewer innings for the Reds than Hoover did, and his velocity and breaking stuff are visibly superior to Hoover’s. It’s really much too early to bail on Stephenson, but I feel your pain.

  10. ohiojimw

    Just to be clear for those who did not watch or listen to this game, while Stephenson performance was not satisfactory, strictly speaking this game did not get out of hand or even clearly away from the Reds on his watch or as a direct result of his watch. That onus for the night falls on Michael Lorenzen who came on to start the 5th and allowed 3 earned runs in 1.2 innings of work.

    By way of comparison, RS and ML were basically equally pitch inefficient. Stephenson’s pitches per out ratio was 8.9, Lorenzen’s was 8.4. Lorenzen walked walked as many hitters (2) as Stephenson in fewer than half the outs. Bringing this up because it seems to me both Lorenzen and Iglesias are backsliding a bit. Hopefully it is not because their arms are barking even under the relatively light and closely controlled workloads they are being given.

    • WVRedlegs

      “Jeff Brantley says Stephenson is overthrowing. ”
      This is exactly what Brantley was saying about Finnegan during Finnegan’s tough stretch back in May and June. Finnegan figured it out and got his command under control. Maybe Stephenson can too.
      You are right on Lorenzen and Iglesias. They both have regressed a bit.

      • RedAlert

        Better believe that Brantley very keen on stuff about pitching . Cowboy is certainly knowledgeable about it and had a very successful career. I enjoy listening to his analysis of pitchers and more times than not he is spot on. Reds organization could learn a thing or two from him about pitching and what it takes to succeed at the major league level .

  11. Carl Sayre

    I am by no means ready to think about giving up on RS but I find it telling that Barnhart got so frustrated with him. He was shaking his head on the way back to the plate after talking to him that happened twice. The really good pitchers have egos part of what makes them go is the belief that they are better than they are. I am beginning to worry about Stephensons make up when it comes to listening after Deshields comments and watching him with an experienced catcher last night. There is a reason for the phrase ” million dollar arm and a ten cent head” I am wondering if we might have one of those guys?

  12. ArtWayne

    There’s a lot of difference playing on a last place team in moral One thing we’re saving up for next season is moral.

  13. Earl Nash

    “So Reds pitchers have a -1.2 WAR. No pitching staff has ever finished with a negative WAR. Time’s running out, Cincinnati. And they close with seven against the Cubs and the Cardinals.”

    You got to wonder if this is the worst pitching staff in the history of the franchise, I think the answer may be yes. Kind of a big step down from a few years ago when they might have had the best pitching staff the Reds ever had.

    • Playtowin

      The pitching problem is very disappointing given the Reds have tried to improve it through the draft and trades. Results to date are unsatisfactory.

    • lwblogger2

      Wonder if the case is the same with bWAR?