To me, 2016 was a disastrous baseball season for the Cincinnati Reds.

They finished in last place. They were no-hit. They blew leads. Their bullpen wasn’t just bad but historically bad. And while it’s true that no one expected anything from the Reds last year, it was still a painful thing to watch or listen to on the radio. It was worse than a train wreck.

It was embarrassing and no fun at all. Not one bit.

At least here in Illinois, the upcoming 2017 season is a waste of time because the Cubs are the best baseball team of all time (or so I’m told). I try to explain to these Cub fans that winning a World Series championship is one thing but repeating is quite another. Cardinal fans understand that. Reds fans do too. So if Cub fans don’t quite get it, I can appreciate that.

2017 for a Cincinnati Reds fans is different because this team (and organization) has certainly bottomed out. And while I’m skeptical to a degree, both over the young talent the Reds have acquired and the wisdom of Dick Williams, there are five things I’m looking forward to this season.

Quick note: I’m omitting Marty Brennaman on the radio and Joey Votto’s skills at the plate for obvious reasons– they are always there..

1. 150 games from Jose Peraza

This guy needs to play and the Reds need to figure out where his best position is. My preference is at shortstop but Zack Cozart is still around, ad is a decent player. But the Reds farm system seems deep at the second base position so I’d rather see Peraza at short. Regardless, we need to know if Peraza is going to sink or swim.

2. Progress from Nick Senzel

Senzel can flat out hit. I only watched him play three games last year, but it seems (from what I’ve read here at the Nation) that Senzel is anxious to make it to the Rhineland so I hope the Reds are patient and don’t rush him. Watching him take batting practice reminds me of Sean Casey. It’s the sound— the sound of the ball coming off the bat. You could be getting a beer and a hot dog, hear that sound, and you just knew it was Sean Casey. It’s the same with Nick Senzel.

3. Michael Lorenzen

With the trade of Jay Bruce to the Mets, my newest favorite Reds player is Michael Lorenzen. If you know his background, how can you not pull for this pitcher? If the Reds brain trust (including Bryan Price) misuse Lorenzen’s abilities, Reds fans will understandably be upset– big time.

Lorenzen’s home run last season was the most memorable for me by a Reds pitcher since Don Gullett hit one in the 1975 NL playoffs against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

By the way– who were the best hitting Reds pitchers? Of the ones I have seen over the years (and without researching any material) the best ones in my mind were Tony Cloninger, Mel Queen, Don Gullett, and Travis Wood. I’m not sure if the stats will show this or not. But Cloninger once hit a pair of grand slam homers in one game when he was with the Braves and knocked a few out for the Reds as well. Queen was a converted outfielder, Gullett was one hell of an athlete and Wood was the closest Red to get a hit off Roy Halladay, who no-hit Cincinnati in the 2010 playoffs.

4. 150 games from Billy Hamilton

This is a long shot. A real long shot. Hamilton’s play, on the bases and in centerfield, leads to injuries. Eric Davis had a similar issue. Hamilton’s defensive prowess in centerfield is electric and his omission from getting a Gold Glove last year was a farce. Hamilton can be one of baseball’s best weapons but there’s two big “ifs”– can he get on base and can he stay healthy? Vada Pinson and Cesar Geronimo were the two most athletic and durable centerfielders for the Reds in the last sixty years. Will Hamilton join that small fraternity?

5. A Decent Bullpen

How frustrating was the bullpen last year? No, how maddening was it? If Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins can’t put together a back end of a respectable bullpen, it will be discouraging. I’m not talking Nasty Boys, lights out kind of stuff— just reliable.

Four suggestions for Mr. Price: Be imaginative. Be creative. Don’t assign roles. Go with the hot pitcher.

I’m looking forward to seeing the Reds play in 2017. I buy one of those $6 tickets, mingle with other Reds fans, and enjoy a visit to the Reds Hall of Fame before the game. I used to cheer on Jay Bruce in right field. My first favorite Reds player was a guy named Frank Robinson, who used to play right field too.

So now, my guy is Michael Lorenzen. I hope he’s a big part of the “next winning Reds team.”

36 Responses

  1. domo_arigato_mr_joe_votto

    Don’t forget Micah Owings as one of the best hitting pitchers we’ve had.

  2. cfd3000

    John I’ll acknowledge Votto and your list and add this: I’m excited by the sheer number of promising players that we get to see develop. There’s no specific player I expect to root hard for and agonize over, but a pile that I think will be great fun to watch, and the list is so long I’m certain some of them will really impress. The young arms Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Michael Lorenzen and Robert Stephenson, the young bats Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez (and Peraza and Herrera too), the injury prone Devin Mesoraco and Homer Bailey and Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani, and the wily veterans Bronson Arroyo, Drew Storen and maybe even Hernan Iribarren. I think nearly every one of those guys has the potential to break out and be terrific and I’m excited to see who it will be.

  3. Reaganspad

    I agree with #3

    Lorenzen should be given 4 abs every 5th day. A miss by this management team same as the last one.

    Especially for this 2017 team which is scrambling for starters. Maybe after 8 starts he would return to the pen once Bailey and Disco are sound.

    But in that time, he would be 8-0 and have 32 abs, which would mean that we would see 2-3 more of those moments; 3rd behind the no-no and complete game is Lorenzen circling the bases after going oppo off of the other guys starter

  4. David

    As far as hitting pitchers, you forgot to mention Micah Owings. Remember that Home Run off the Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin (at that point in the season he hadn’t blown a save) to send it to extras? He was always our first pinch hitter it seemed.

    • Keith

      I’m remembering Pete Harnisch and John Smiley as decent hitters, but that could just be my memory going fuzzy with age.

  5. Wayne nabors

    Can’t leave mike leake off that list or tom seavers

    • Gonzo Reds

      I was thinking Mike Leake as well. Miss his bat as much as his arm! Another guy that I think might eventually end up back with the Reds as he did nothing when moved to another team.

      • lwblogger2

        He’s only been with the Cards one season so far. Although he had a fairly poor season, especially considering the deal they signed him to, his peripherals were decent. I expect him to have a bounce-back season for the Cards this year. Stupid Cards.

      • greenmtred

        Remember that Leake pretty much stopped hitting well after awhile. I’m afraid that I would expect the same from Lorenzen. I imagine pitchers have to work on pitching nearly to the exclusion of hitting, and also that a good-hitting pitcher takes longer than a position player to become well enough known to the league for other teams to figure out how to pitch him.

      • lwblogger2

        Basically, opposing batteries start working him as if he was a hitter and not a pitcher.

  6. IndyRedMan

    Lorenzen is my favorite pitcher too! I jumped on his meager bandwagon when he was getting knocked around in 2015. He should be in their regular pinch hitting rotation too! Young talent like Suarez, Peraza, Herrera, Winker, and Garrett. Duvall is a great story and hopefully he can adjust since he won’t fly under pitchers radar this year! I’m ready for Reds baseball!!!

    • IndyRedMan

      I can’t shortchange Disco, Iggy, or Schebler either. The ball just explodes of Schebler’s bat when he connects! His bomb off Oh to beat the Cards was fun! I think he needs to be a platoon guy though!

      • TR

        I like Schebler as a hitter but I’m worried about his arm in right field. It seems left field would be a better position for him. Right field calls for a strong, accurate arm, i.e. Paul O’Neil, Jay Bruce.

      • Gonzo Reds

        Still think Schebler best as a 4th OF. Want Winker up on the big league club now, unless there’s a date a month or so in where we can save a year of service time.

      • Preach

        I agree. And if you have Schebler as a fourth outfielder you have to feel pretty good about your bench.

  7. Old-school

    Great article John. Spot on with Billy. Can he play 150 games and build on his second half. Great observation with Eric the Red. It’s why I think the Reds should be proactive and say no he can’t…
    Let’s shoot for 135 starts and let him rest and play situationally another 10-15. Play winker after he meets service time issues…Give schebler 15 starts in CF….the fifth OF another 15. Let Duvall play 1b 15x and rest Votto…4 good outfielders are a blessing…Not a curse.

    • koverman

      i agree i think the reds should be giving their starting position players more time off i like iribarren for his left handed bat he can spell our 2b ss 3b all right handed hitters

      • Old-school

        Many have made the compelling service time Kris Bryant argument and I won’t argue with those…But I do believe its time the Reds make a 25 man roster with the best 25 baseball players after the requisite service time observation. Winker has to be one of those 25 and Herrera does as well. If Herrera has shoulder issues, I would argue that would be the perfect reason to be WITH big club…He cant play every day at AAA either??? So, he can start 3 days a week with the big club and work with the trainers and get his shoulder rehab while taking a less pressured pace. Would it not be nice to have Herrera sitting on the bench opening day as a RH pinch hitter and playing 2b on the Thursday day game? It’s 162 games. If Kershaw or Lester are pitching, put Herrera at 2b and Peraza in the OF with Billy and Duvall. You have Schebler and Winker off the bench. If its the Thursday afternoon get away day game, rest Joey and Cozart and Suarez and Hamilton and Put Winker and Schebler and Duvall in the outfield and Irbarren at 3b and Peraza SS and Herrera 2b. Use all 25 guys and have a deep bullpen and bench. Stop the Dusty worthless Sunday lineup days and the 22 man roster nonsense with 3 other non-MLB players……Jack Hannahan/Skip Schumacher/Cesar Izturis/ Wilson Valdez etc., etc.,

      • Chuck Schick

        If Herrera is hurt and limited in how much he can play, you’re wasting service time and money as he needs to be paid a major league salary if on the big league roster.
        If he starts off on the 25 man roster and it is determined that he needs surgery then you potentially waste a full year of service time.

      • Old-school

        Tim Kremcheck has said clearly he has no structural shoulder problems- No surgery. He needs ongoing shoulder strengthening to balance opposing muscle groups. This from Cincinnati Enquirer in the last week. Ill take them at their word.
        I will defer to the service time Kris Bryant 2+ week rule, but after that, playing in AAA for a major league hitter is a waste, particularly if he can only play 3-4 days a week. Todd Frazier was trader for Jose Peraza and he sat for too long last year. It makes no sense to sit Dilson Herrera too long this year after you traded Jay Bruce for him. Remember, Brandon Nimmo was the centerpiece player but the Reds changed at the last minute and “upgraded” to Herrera when lower add-on players had injury concerns. Herrera needs to be a Red by May 1 and needs to play and the Reds need a legitimate 25 man roster.

      • Chuck Schick

        Your points are good and I largely agree with you. I just don’t think they’re going to put him on the roster if he’s limited.

        I think they sat Peraza so it wasn’t perceived that he was taking BP’s job while BP was still there. The last thing they wanted was for him to make an error or strike out and have some
        ” we want Brandon chant” from the 86 people at the game.

  8. sandman

    Look, I’m not trying to be a pain here, but, I don’t know why people insist on making one of these new Reds their favorite player. Y’all are just gonna be upset when these players eventually get traded (even if it might be several yrs down the line). You know it’s gonna happen. I don’t care nothin about the new Reds. I do hope that they win us a championship or three since the organization is putting their eggs in these kids baskets, but that don’t mean that I’ve got to make one of them my favorite. I’m just trying to save myself some anger and distress when the next rebuild begins. I suggest you guys do the same. Just a side note: I am not saying anything against Lorenzen’s “story” or “background”. I empathize with him over the loss of his father and whatever else he’s overcome. Very good human interest stuff right there.

    • Chuck Schick

      I think 99% of the population above the age of 12 have the emotional maturity and fortitude to easily withstand the disappointment of having their favorite baseball player traded.

      I don’t recall the Emergeny Rooms being overwhelmed with distraught Reds fans when Cueto, Leake, Chapman etc…were traded. I like that Joey Votto gets on base a lot. That doesn’t make me want to make him my health care power of attorney, seek Canadian citizenship, sing Anne Murray songs and put mayonnaise on everything.

      I appreciate that he excels at his craft. I also appreciate that my garbage man does a good job of placing the lids back on my cans. You can admire and appreciate someone’s talent without wanting them to be one of your pall bearers.

      This is just a hobby and diversion from life. No one actually dies from appreciating a baseball player.

      • sandman

        Chuck, You said that baseball is a distraction. So maybe stop trivializing those of us who take this more seriously than you do. This is a sports site so let us have our distraction without minimizing baseball in comparison to life.

      • lwblogger2

        Not drastically depressed but it was, as a famous character from film once said a “bummer man”. And now I have the sudden urge for Tim Horton’s.

      • greenmtred

        We’re not supposed to put mayonnaise on everything????

      • Chuck Schick

        Perhaps that’s Votto’s secret to success. We should ship Billy Hamilton a thousand tubs of Hellman’s.

  9. sandman

    One more thing. Your suggestions for Price regarding how to use the bullpen seem a bit late. It’s my understanding that he already plans to do everything you suggested.

  10. JB WV

    Great article. Tom Seaver was good with the bat, and for the short time he was with the Reds, Dontrelle Willis could hit.

  11. Jim Zimmerman (Reds fan since 1963)

    Mike Leake could certainly swing the bat as well.

  12. Nate

    Good article. The biggest think I’m looking forward to see if the overall pitching is improved over last year. Finnegan is my guy to watch.

    Bronson Arroyo has 6 career HR’s

  13. Preach

    For a relief pitcher, Pedro Borbon could swing a bat. Lifetime .205 hitter

  14. greenmtred

    Nice looking dog, John. Bull Mastiff?

  15. nicolecushing

    Saw Lorenzen pitch in Louisville (before he originally got called up, if I’m not mistaken) and really dug what I saw. He was amazing when he was originally called up, too.

    On the downside, I find his interviews annoying because of his constant need to bring religion into it. (Someone on the team should set him up with a hooker, or give him a bong hit or two so he loosens up!)

    That last part was a joke, by the way. I don’t want the dude to come down with crabs or go full-tilt Dennis Rodman on us. Obviously, he’s entitled to his beliefs and entitled to share them. I just find that sharing annoying and always change the channel when I hear him start to go there. In the end, it’s no big deal. Hell, if Joel Osteen could throw a wicked curve and keep his ERA at 3.50 or under, I’d sign him!