2017 Reds

Three Up, Three Down: Opening Day Edition

Welcome to the first edition of Three Up, Three Down, a new weekly column here at Redleg Nation that will detail which Reds are hot, and which Reds are not. Each week we’ll review the previous week’s’ worth of games, and highlight the three best and the three worst player performances.

We’ve only got one game in the books so far in the 2017 season, but we have quite a bit of Spring Training games to work with. So, who’s up, and who’s down?

Three Up:

Amir Garrett warming up before the game

1. Rookie Davis and Amir Garrett

So, my first entry in this series, and I’m already breaking the rules. But Davis and Garrett are in the same boat – unexpectedly (especially in Rookie’s case) making the Opening Day rotation. This has to be a huge boost to the morale for these two young pitching prospects, and is likely a huge disappointment for two other young pitching prospects. And yes, you’ve guess it, we’ll get to those two later.

Both Davis and Garrett earned their way into the starting rotation. It’s a move I question whether the previous front office was capable of making, and a relatively forward-thinking approach to building a starting staff. It shows us that the Reds aren’t focused on winning games in 2017 – and depending who you ask, that might be fine – but it also shows the team is focused on winning games in 2018 and beyond. They’re throwing spaghetti at the wall. Let’s hope it sticks.

2) Jose Peraza

Okay, so maybe Jose Peraza won’t get on base at a .400 clip, but the kid can hit the baseball, that’s for sure. Would I like to see more walks? Sure. Do I think his high batting average can be maintained? Probably not. Would I be surprised if BOTH of those things happened? I don’t think I would be.

Peraza is in a key spot in the Reds lineup, a two-hole in which the Reds have really struggled to get premium production in the past few years. In actuality, Joey Votto is probably best suited for this spot, but if Peraza can continue to hit, he might be pretty dang good in between Votto and Billy Hamilton.

3) Scooter Gennett

A nice story here, for sure. Hometown kid comes home, cracks a home run in his first at bat of the spring wearing the uniform of his favorite childhood baseball team. Dat Dude SG struck again in his second AB in the first game of the season, putting a ball in the seats to opposite field in an effort to get the club back in the game. He only succeeded in making the 3-4 loss look a little better in the papers than a 1-4 loss, but at this point, I’ll take it.

I don’t expect Scooter to bring a ton of value to the Reds in 2017. He should, however, provide a pretty good left handed bat off the bench and a semi-reliable glove at second base, two factors that might see him get in the game a little earlier than a standard defensive replacement or pinch hitter might be, as was the case on Opening Day.

 

Three down

1. Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson

Don’t let his parading around town in the back of a pickup truck fool you – Robert Stephenson is no longer the Reds top prospect. Not only was he not made a starter on the Opening Day roster, but he was relegated to the bullpen, a spot in which GM Dick Williams has said will give Stephenson the potential to prove he can get through a major league lineup one time, rather than trying to prove he can do it three times. It seems clear that Williams doesn’t think Stephenson currently has the skill to make it in the majors as a starter, but sees the potential and isn’t quite ready to give up on the young righty. Moving Stephenson to the bullpen for now is a strategy I personally agree with, and one we’ve seen the St. Louis Cardinals perfect over the years.

2) Scott Feldman

Man, that was tough to watch. Scott Feldman’s opening day start was far from dominant, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and two walks before basically being booed off the field. It wasn’t all bad, and there were times in the game Feldman looked competent, but man, there’s nothing to get you on the wrong side of the Reds fanbase like giving up two homers on Opening Day.

3) Joey Votto

Votto was 0-4 on the day. He’s awful.

I kid, of course.

Who’s on your Three Up, Three Down list? Leave a comment below, or tweet at me either at @JordanBarhorst or @redlegnation. We’d love to hear from you throughout the week to help build next week’s Three Up, Three Down. But don’t let the cynicism get to you just yet. Because baseball is back, and it’s a beautiful thing.

61 thoughts on “Three Up, Three Down: Opening Day Edition

  1. While Gennett’s performance yesterday was certainly a feel-good story line, ignoring Duvall’s spring training and opening day results misses one the the actual three-up contributors.

    I would also argue that Feldman’s early season performance was not far off expectations. The Reds were still in the game when Feldman exited after 4.2 innings yesterday. I think Hamilton’s spring training results and yesterday’s plate results (his two-out leg triple notwithstanding) probably qualified him for one of the three-down nominations.

    • Oh, I completely agree. With only one game in the books, you could probably make the argument for any player to be on either of these lists. Spring Training stats don’t matter much to me, whether they be positive or negative. Guys go out there to work on specific parts of their game, pitchers included. Just makes for a much different game, so the stats don’t really compute.

      You can definitely see who’s looking comfortable and who isn’t, however, and I agree, Duvall looks like he could potentially turn the corner from his horrible second half last year. Still not sold on Duvall as a cog in the machine, but the jury is still out, and I’m absolutely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, mostly due to his defense.

      Billy Hamilton will be okay. Spring stats, yada yada, etc. He looks so much more comfortable at the plate, and I think that triple was probably a triple for quite a few players in the lineup. He stung that thing into the gap with a pretty good swing. Don’t sleep on Billy.

      • No disagreement with any of your points Jordan, except the poor field conditions contributed to the triple. You could see Billy crank the speed when the ball skipped off the wet turf and past the fielder. I’m really looking forward to your weekly column this season. It should make for some good discussions once sample sizes begin expanding. One game is obviously really ineffective for any meaningful evaluation and spring training is just that, spring training.

    • Cossack…Billy did have a pair of 2 hit games in his last couple of spring games, and drove a run along with his triple yesterday

  2. So, a stand-up triple, a sac-fly that plated the only run that Gennett didn’t, a bad luck line drive, a pretty good bunt (again bad luck), and typical stellar defense qualifies BHam to be listed as one of the 3 worst performances on the team? What does he have to do to impress you?

    • In answer to your question…

      The conditions offered for evaluation in this initial segment were ‘We’ve only got one game in the books so far in the 2017 season, but we have quite a bit of Spring Training games to work with.’ Hamilton’s spring training completely underwhelmed. As far as yesterday’s performance…

      I consider a bases-loaded, no-outs sac fly by the fastest baserunner in MLB as a negative result, RBI notwithstanding. Any bunt fielded by the catcher and the catcher easily throwing out the runner, especially the fastest baserunner in MLB, is NOT a good bunt at all. The two-out triple was nice, but only from the perspective of actually making good contact. The triple was no more effective than a double in that situation. That PA combined with 2 fly balls and 2 weak groundouts produced a .200 OBP and that’s a poor result.

      Hamilton’s performance through spring training and yesterdays game was every bit as poor as Votto’s performance over the same period and Votto’s nomination was equally as valid as Hamilton’s nomination.

  3. UP:
    1. Reds fans. Largest crowd ever at GABP on a wet opening day.
    2. Barrett Astin. Nice debut for the kid.
    3. Scooter!

    DOWN:
    1. Iglesias. Too clever for his own good, which will lead to walks and high pitch counts.
    2. Red brass. Injuries or not, the optics are terrible when Feldman is your Opening Day starter.
    3. The off day after Opening Day. I hate it!

  4. I really don’t like Peraza hitting #2 behind Hamilton. I wouldn’t argue with Peraza leading off but I think Peraza’s lack of patience at the plate negates somewhat Billy’s ability to steal bases.
    According to fangraphs the average lead off hitter had a 273/339/424 slash line. In his time in Cincinnati last year, Peraza’s 281/333/375 isn’t far off that.

    • I’m absolutely with you on this. It doesn’t make much sense to put Hamilton and Peraza 1 and 2 (ahead of Votto no less). With Peraza swinging freely, there won’t be as many steal opportunities for Hamilton. But the bigger issue is that I don’t see Hamilton getting on base much at all. Wouldn’t it be better to have Votto up in the 1st with 1 out or no outs (approx 33% of the time) where it makes it less likely that he will be pitched around?

      • Billy’s OBP woes have, for the better part of a year now, been overstated. He had a .321 OBP last season, which is almost exactly average according to Fangraphs. Obviously you want more than ‘average’ in the leadoff spot, but who else on this Reds team not named Joey Votto or Tucker Barnhart has proven they can sustain an above average on-base percentage?

        Just for fun, the sabermetric lineup, in my opinion, probably looks something like this:

        CF Billy Hamilton
        1B Joey Votto
        LF Adam Duvall
        3B Eugenio Suarez
        RF Scott Schebler
        C Tucker Barnhart
        SS Zack Cozart
        Pitcher’s Spot
        2B Jose Peraza

        You can flip flop Peraza/Hamilton between the 1 and 9 spots depending on who’s having the better stretch.

        • Saber or not, that’s pretty much how I see the lineup shaking out to utilize each player’s abilities effectively. I would flip Peraza and Hamilton until demonstrates consistently better on-base skills at the plate than Peraza. If both Peraza and Hamilton prove capable of consistently good on-base skills, then I like Hamilton in the #1 hole and Peraza #6 hole. Of course there’s also the possibility that neither Peraza nor Hamilton demonstrate consistently good on-base skills, in which case we start looking for other options to lead off.

        • I’m not as high on Billy maintaining that OBP mainly due to an (IMO) unsustainable BABIP. And that spike in BABIP was really applicable in the 2nd half of last season. So prior to that, he was about the same player as he has been in 2014 and 2015. Which is to say, not a player who will likely get on base very much.

          I think your optimized lineup is fun concept. And I just noticed that Patrick posted his thoughts on lineup optimization today. It’s definitely worth a read. The take-away was that it really doesn’t matter all that much how the lineup is constructed in terms of producing more expected runs over the course of a whole season. Still fun to dissect though!

        • Over the first four months of last year, Hamilton’s OBP was .299. At the All-Star break it was .283. He didn’t play in September. The hope is that his future is more like August (.360 OBP) than the rest of the season. August counts, but I don’t think it’s safe to say Billy Hamilton is an average player for OBP yet. Hopefully he will be.

          • Billy’s OBP by month:
            Apr. .283
            May .294
            Jun. .319
            Jul. .290
            Aug. .360
            Sept .545 (3 games)

            Obviously, trended in the right direction, after reportedly working with Votto.

  5. An interesting note from looking at the boxscore.

    The Reds had 37 plate appearances and saw 117 pitches, for 3.16 pitches per PA. The Phillies had 40 plate appearances and saw 172 pitches, for 4.3 pitches per PA.

    Whether this is a result of Feldman not throwing many strikes, or the Reds lineup not being patient (probably a little of both) I thought it was an interesting comparison.

  6. One of my downs would be Schebler’s mishandling of the ball hit to him in right. If he knocks that down, he could prevent the fourth run from scoring. Thus, Scooter’s homer would have tied things. That to me is a glaring mistake.

    • I honestly think that if he knocks that ball down, the run still scores. The runner was on 2B and running on contact.

      • I honestly think he should have caught it…no run scores…even Bruce made that type of play numerous times, and Bruce was not good.

        • Possibly… Would like to have seen the catch probability on it from StatCast.

          • So, odd, the MLB play-by-play on that triple has the ball hit to CF… Odd. “Jeremy Hellickson triples (1) on a line drive to center fielder Billy Hamilton. Freddy Galvis scores.

          • I’m guessing that’s because Hamilton is actually the one who threw the ball back into the IF but can’t find the catch probability data anywhere.

        • As soon as he decided to do a slidey-dive instead of a head-first dive, I think he killed any chance to had to catch it. Looked very tough at that angle to catch it while sitting and sliding.

  7. If you go off stats, Davis and Garrett haven’t performed well above AA. I’m not sure what the rush was to promote them to starters. We already have a starting staff filled with back of the rotation guys. We need to see if Stephenson and Reed can reach their potential as front end guys, not to see if Davis and Garrett can fill the back end of a rotation. And it seems somewhat short-sighted to deem Stephenson a bullpen arm after a handful of starts. If you are correct that Price views Stephenson as bullpen piece, it is because Price is trying to win as many games as possible now in order to save his job, not to help the team in the long run.

    • Price might also want Stephenson to work on his shaky command in the middle innings when his ineffectiveness wouldn’t result in 7or 8 innings of work for the bullpen.

      • Then why not send him down to the AAA so he can work on his command? Better for his development than working one inning every couple of days.

        • A good question. He’s been at AAA, though, and maybe they feel that he doesn’t stand to gain much more there. I agree, though, that command seems like something he could work on anywhere. Maybe they don’t want him with Deshields?

        • Command against AAA pitchers is different than command against big leaguers. Robert needs to learn to not only hit the zone with consistency, but has to also be able to place the ball in places big league hitters either can’t reach, or are likely to swing and miss. Can’t learn how to do that in Louisville.

          • I’m not sure if he is ever going to pan out to be anything but how is throwing 15-20 live pitches every three to four days in the big leagues better for his development than throwing 100 pitches in AAA, especially when you know in Price’s mind there a lot of better options as relievers ahead of him? He’s just going to rot at the end of the bullpen. And If he can’t throw strikes in AAA then how is he going to learn command in the big leagues?

        • Stephenson has shown poor command his entire career. A little extra time in AAA isn’t going to change anything.

          Likely, the Reds have realized what Stephenson is (a flawed pitcher) and want to see if they can salvage any value from him. In my opinion, Stephenson has a nearly 0% chance to ever be a successful starter in the bigs, and probably something like 50/50 to be a successful reliever.

          • He is definitely flawed right now but that doesn’t mean he can’t get any better. And who is to say more time at AAA won’t aid in his development? Some pitchers take time to develop. We aren’t planning on winning this year and it’s not like he would be blocking another phenom’s development by going back to AAA. My fear is he goes to the pen is successful and stays there forever.

          • Wow, your outlook on Stephenson is bleak! The guy has very good stuff. He has enough stuff that at worst, he’s a bullpen pitcher. I think the chances of him being a good starter, if given the chance, have indeed dropped. His ceiling now is also lower in my opinion because I don’t think he’ll ever have the command to be even a #2. A #3-#4 guy however, quite possible… In the pen, he can be successful by commanding the fastball moderately well and having some sense of control on his curve. Keeping in mind he should gain 2-3 MPH of velocity by being able to pretty much go all out, I think the above qualifications are something he should reasonably be able to accomplish. My question is more can he do it well enough to be in the back of the bullpen or will he end up carving out a career as a journeyman middle-reliever?

          • Ya since his stuff is so good, if I am the GM, I am giving as much time as it takes. I’m not ready to wrote him off as a failed starter after 8 starts in the big leagues.

          • I guess my opinion stems from the fact that I don’t think his stuff is all that good. It’s perhaps above-average, but that is all I’d give it.

            His command hasn’t improved in 5 seasons in the minors (and majors) at various levels. If he was showing some sort of improvement, I’d be more apt to be patient with him, but I just don’t see it.

            There’s nothing about him that impresses me. Even his elite velocity is now merely above average. I could be wrong, but before I ever saw him pitch I remember hearing how he touches triple digits and sits at 95-97. In all the games I’ve seen him pitch (admittedly, very few), I can’t recall him even touching 95, and it seemed like he was sitting 92-93.

            I’ll be very happy if my overly pessimistic view is proved wrong, but when I watch him and do some stat-line scouting, I don’t see much to be optimistic about.

          • You might have just caught him on a bad day. Last year Brooks Baseball had him at 94 and this year he’s at 95.6 although I’m not sure if the higher velocity this year is just due to the move to Statcast. If so, then knock a mile off his fastball.

    • Why do Davis and Amir have to fill the back end of the rotation? RS and CR had a chance to earn their rightful spot this spring, and did not cash in on their opportunity. There will be plenty of innings for them to throw with Arroyo and Feldman soaking up starts.

      • If you are going by their performances in spring then Reed and Stephenson should be in the rotation ahead of Garrett and and Davis. Reed had one bad start which skewed his stats. Unfortunately, for him it was the his most recent one. Stephenson also had a good spring aside from his first start.

  8. Hamilton’s lack of power should disqualify him from hitting first. In 2013, Shin-Soo Choo drove in 54 runs batting lead-off. 21 of those were driving himself in. That’s the point of putting the best *hitters* not the best batting average or even exclusively on-base toward the top. Power matters. Get power more at bats. Billy Hamilton had 17 RBI last year.

    • I’ll ring that bell again. Schebler vs. RH pitchers. Might become a poor man’s version of the Cubs Schwarber batting leadoff. And when Winker arrives, go with 3 LH hitters at the top of the lineup with Schebler, Votto, Winker vs. the righties.
      What about vs. LH pitching? Maybe Peraza or even Cozart. Suarez could even be an interesting experiment there.

      • I kinda like this idea. If Votto can’t lead off, go Schebs into Votto. I’d take that against RHP.

      • You still haven’t. In this case, the point was that leadoff hitters produce runs when they hit for power. Getting on base is important. So it hitting with power. That includes the #1 spot in the lineup. Just thought it was interesting to point out that Choo drove in himself more times than Hamilton drove in any runners. Not to pick on Billy, just to show that kind of player – that old-fashioned concept of a lead-off hitter – comes with liabilities. Was true with Willie Taveras, too.

    • Pete Rose had 60+ RBIs eight times. Pete was not a power hitter in terms of home runs but he was a doubles machine. I am shocked by how few doubles Billy Hamilton hits.

      • That is why this slow start in the spring bothers me about Hamilton! He was hitting doubles last year but he was hitting line shots even if they were just out of the infield! I had hoped that what I saw last year before the injury shut him down was him maturing enough to level his swing out instead of that big old looping hole that was a pop out waiting to happen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • In 2015 and 2016 Hamilton was in the lower echelon of hitters in terms of average exit velocity. He seems to hit very few line drives into the gap.

          • Addison Russell had 95 RBIs last year. I was watching the Cubs/Cards game last night and the commentators were talking about how remarkable the statistic was because he hit behind Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo, and they said they were surprised anyone was left on base after they were done hitting. Like, Addison Russell had some type of magic ability to knock in runners.

            Maybe because the two guys ahead of him have a .380+ OBP and hit lots of doubles? It’s actually kind of amazing how some people think.

            Hamilton’s lack of on base ability is probably his worst offensive quality, but his almost complete lack of power causes problems up and down the lineup. There aren’t many runners scoring from 1st or 2nd when Hamilton gets a hit because the OF is playing so far in. His speed may create some runs, but his bat takes them away.

      • RBI is such an imperfect statistic. Pete Rose was on one of the best teams in the history of baseball. Billy Hamilton is on one of the worst teams in today’s game. Their RBI numbers can’t be compared.

        • Finally a voice of reason. People are trying to turn Billy into a gap-hitting slugger. Just 2 short years ago the same people were crying that he didn’t hit the ball on the ground enough. He has improved his avg/obb the last 2 years, isn’t that what we wanted? Until Rickey Henderson comes walking through our door, this is what we have.

    • Agreed. Hamilton is the worst offensive player in the starting lineup and should be nowhere near the top of the order.

      • If the opening day lineup’s potential production is less than the optimal lineup’s production by a mere six runs over the course of an entire season, then it’s really hard to get worked up about it. I like the havoc that Billy and Peraza can cause on the base paths. Hard to quantify the effect on the other team’s battery.

        • I don’t think anyone is getting worked up, but it begs the question why its OK to destroy ~6 runs by giving bad hitters more PA than good hitters.

          Not a huge deal, but also worth discussing on a baseball site created for discussion. 🙂

  9. Long time lurker here and I love the idea of this new weekly column. Great conversation and debate. I honestly get most of my information from you guys as I don’t get to watch many games these days. I love to see the youngsters get their chance to pitch. The organization needs to get evaluations on all of these guys as they progress into the next winning club. Thanks for all of the great content.

    • Hey Brian, thanks for the comment! Hopefully we’ll turn you from a long time lurker into a full time commenter 🙂

  10. I was just a little worried about Feldman being a bust. I know it’s just one start but it wasn’t a good one. Frankly, I don’t know why Reds fans booed him off the field, they had to know that he was just gonna be a temporary fix for the rotation. After all, didn’t the Reds only give him a 1-yr contract? So if he busts it wouldn’t be that detrimental to the club. Were the fans expecting another Strailey? Hard to strike gold twice in a row sometimes. This appears to be one of those times. Instead, me may have found fool’s gold twice in a row (think A. Simon). All I’m saying is that Feldman is obviously not a part of this team’s future so we shouldn’t expect much from him. Yes, it would be nice if he does well so as not to thrust another kid into the rotation before he’s possibly ready (I guess). But his performance should be expected.

    • I think the booing fans were probably more upset that this guy is who they chose to start Opening Day. Remember, not everyone reads news on the Reds daily, weekly, or even at all. So to show up at the park on Opening Day, expecting your best pitcher to take the mound, and getting THAT – I can see why there were boos. I definitely don’t condone it, but I can understand the thought process.

      • Jordan, you raise a good point. Although, I have to question the strength of the loyalty of those fans who don’t keep up to date with the Reds. I suppose it could be that some are probably too busy with their business and/or personal life that they simply can’t keep up to date on their Reds. But I would have to believe that those Reds fans who can’t or don’t keep up to date with the Reds are a small minority. I’d be willing to say that a vast majority of those in attendance knew everything they needed to know about the club before that game.

        • While I’d usually agree with you, Opening Day in Cincinnati is a different beast entirely. The stadium was packed – how many of those people were there because their company had tickets to the game? I personally know four people I can think of, all four at different companies, who had no real interest in going to the game.

          And yet I, someone who really wanted to go to the game, was priced out and forced to watch the game at Holy Grail 🙂

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