The Reds have wrapped up their worst week of 2017, going 2-5 since we spoke last Tuesday. The club has been up against some pretty big odds, facing off against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, and a respectable, high-powered American League offense in the Baltimore Orioles. Both of those series saw the Reds go 1-2, but both series also had some encouraging signs emerge from within. So much, in fact, that I was slightly surprised to realize the Reds were 2-5 over the past week. They seem to be playing much better than that record, and some key pieces of the offense are heating up. Let’s check out who’s up and who’s down on the Cincinnati Reds:
Warning: A man-crush gush session is about to take place. You’ve been warned.
There may not be a better all-around player in baseball right now than Eugenio Suarez. He’s sitting pretty at number 3 on FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboards with 1.6 fWAR, trailing only the duo of Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman, who are tied for first with 1.7 fWAR. Most of this is obviously due to him crushing the ball thus far, but Suarez also happens to be gaining a lot of his fWar from a surprising area: his Defense.
Eugenio Suarez is the most valuable third baseman in the defense department through this point in 2017. I know, I had to read it twice, too. This might be surprising if you remember the amount of botched balls that he produced at the start of last season, but if you’ve watch Eugenio at the hot corner at all in 2017, you won’t be shocked that he’s got the best glove over there this season.
Suarez is also proving he’s no liability in the base paths with a not-horrible 0.3 BsR, making him the only player in the top 5 of the fWAR charts with positive scores in FanGraphs’ three all-encompassing statistics that measure each facet of the game – Off (for Offense), Def (for Defense) and BsR (for Baserunning).
So, when I said earlier that there might not be a better all-around player than Eugenio Suarez right now, it’s not just a homerism – it’s backed up by some pretty legit baseball nerd stats.
Call off the trade talks, the swing analysis, and the worrying – our fearless leader seems to be heating up. As Zach Buchanan at the Enquirer mentioned, Votto was hitting .313/.425/.750 with four home runs in his last 9 games before Monday night’s game. It seems that whatever science fair exhibit Votto was collecting evidence for at the beginning of the season has passed, and his swing rate experiment has been put behind him. He’s swinging the bat much more like he has throughout his career, and the statistics are starting to build back up to his career averages as well.
The one spot he’s excelling a bit more than usual is in the power department – both the eye test and the numbers back this up. It seems as though Votto is hitting for more power than he has in a few years, and his .314 ISO – almost .090 points higher than his career average – is good for 12th in the National League. According to FanGraphs, ISO, or Isolated Power, is a measurement of a hitter’s raw power. It’s essentially a player’s slugging percentage minus his average, giving you a good idea how much of that slugging percentage is due to extra-base hits. ISO does take a little while to become predictive, so it’s likely that this, too, will regress back to the mean for Votto. But you have to love what you’ve seen from the Reds first baseman over the last slate of games.
It’s easy to write off Tim Adleman as a legitimate piece to be considered moving forward in this rebuild. He’s already 29, has spent the majority of his career putting up decent numbers in the minor leagues without much fanfare, and has been treated like a AAAA player for the past few seasons by the Reds front office. However, not many pitchers can claim to have worked through a Cubs lineup over six innings like he did last Friday night. Both earned runs Adleman gave up on the night were home runs on mistake pitches. And outside of those two home runs he looked very impressive, striking out seven and only surrendering two walks.
It’s hard for us as fans to think that someone like Tim Adleman, who never had the minor league writers trying to convince us of his imminent stardom like Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Amir Garrett all did, could potentially be a stalwart in the rotation of the next great Reds team. But if he can pitch the way he did against the defending World Champions in his next few starts, he’ll make it a little easier for us all to believe.
Honorable mentions: Zack Cozart, Patrick Kivlehan, Wandy Peralta, Ariel Hernandez, Drew Storen, Bronson Arroyo
After getting off to a hot start, the Reds left fielder has crashed down to earth as of late. Over his last nine games, Duvall has only manage to get on base five times. He’s struck out 30% of the time over that span, and walked only once. He was benched for the game on Sunday, and Patrick Kivlehan had himself a day in his stead.
To make matters worse, Duvall currently has a -0.7 Def rating from FanGraphs, a far cry from the Gold Glove caliber defense he showed us last season. There’s no denying his power – two of the four hits he’s had in his last nine games have left the park – but Duvall will need to step it up in the upcoming games, or you’ll have to think he’ll feel the pressure of one Jesse Winker and/or Phillip Ervin hot on his tail.
Another appearance on this list for Schebler. Like Duvall, Schebler is in a bad spot right now, going 3-15 since the last Three Up, Three Down article. He’s struck out in 50% of his at bats in that span, and although he’s homered twice, that’s just not enough production out of a corner outfielder. The argument earlier in the season was that Schebler’s ISO, BB% and low BABIP were all good enough that his traditional statistics would eventually progress to the mean. However, not only have his traditional statistics remained low, his peripherals are now in the tank as well – a .293 ISO, .290 BABIP and a 2.4% walk rate isn’t going to cut it in Right Field. I think it’s safe to say that once the Reds deem Jesse Winker “ready” (RE: service time issues put behind him), he’ll at least enter a timeshare with Schebler in right.
After a blistering start to the season, Lorenzen has cooled off considerably over the past handful of appearances. He’s given up at least one run in three of his last five appearances, including a three earned run performance against the Cubs on Friday night, a four earned run appearance against the Brewers before that, and another appearance with an earned run last night. The eye test tells me that some of Lorenzen’s electric stuff is missing – maybe due to a bit of overuse?
It’s very early in the season, and Lorenzen has shown the stuff necessary to be a bullpen stalwart only a few appearances ago. It’s too early to worry, but definitely notable in this week’s Three Down list.
Dishonorable mentions: Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza, Cody Reed