Welcome to the midsummer 2017 edition of April and May 2016.
You’ll remember that after the Reds started 2016 with a 5-1 record, they proceeded to lose 34 of the next 46 games. Since June 8, 2017, Cincinnati has lost 13 of 14, and the upcoming schedule is foreboding. The next 23 games are against teams that are currently either first or second in their division. As we have seen recently against the Dodgers and Nationals, those are not good matchups for the Reds as currently constituted.
(6/25/17 8:25 p.m. EDT correction: Four of the 23 games are against Colorado, currently in third place in the NL West — but with the third-best record in the National League.)
As the starting pitching continues to be the worst in baseball, the relief corps and starting eight that carried the club to a 29-30 through the first 59 games have begun to return to earth.
The next month might be the most important in-season month of the current rebuild process. If the Reds can hang somewhat close to .500 during the next 23-game span, it will be cause for great optimism, and perhaps a renewal of the hope from earlier in the year that perhaps a corner has been turned.
If, however, the losing continues at its present rate – even after the return of Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan to the rotation – there will be real questions and doubt about whether the rebuild can be successfully achieved with the current core of players. We are likely to learn whether the 29-30 record in a small 59-game sample size, or the 1-13 record in an even smaller 14-game sample size, is more representative of this roster’s potential.
As the Houston Astros went through this process, they had consecutive season records of 56-106, 55-107 and 51-111 in 2011 through 2013. While the Reds have not been close to that poor of a record, it feels to some die-hard fans at Redleg Nation like they are still that far away from real progress.
While the temptation may be to throw your hands up and say, “See you next year,” the next 23 games against very good teams will give us a chance to see just how this Reds team compares to top-level competition. It will either be a source of hope, or a reality check that this process is nowhere near as far along as we may have believed.
Today’s matchup is about as close as you can get to clones facing off against one another. We know that Feldman can run very hot or very cold, and the same can be said for Roark. Anything is possible today, including a chance for some of the Reds’ slumping hitters, particularly Billy Hamilton, to get some good pitches to hit.
Manager Bryan Price kept all of his “high-leverage” relievers out of yesterday’s massacre, so in a close game, they should all be available. If Feldman struggles and needs to be pulled early, Lisalverto Bonilla and Ariel Hernandez are probably unavailable in long relief after throwing 3.1 and 2 innings, respectively, yesterday. If Feldman struggles and the game gets out of hand, he may be asked to “take one for the team” and get through at least five or six innings.
|CF Billy Hamilton||SS Trea Turner|
|2B Scooter Gennett||CF Brian Goodwin|
|1B Joey Votto||RF Bryce Harper|
|LF Adam Duvall||2B Daniel Murphy|
|RF Scott Schebler||3B Anthony Rendon|
|3B Patrick Kivlehan||1B Adam Lind|
|SS Jose Peraza||CF Michael Taylor|
|C Tucker Barnhart||C Jose Lobaton|
|P Scott Feldman||P Tanner Roark|
Patrick Kivlehan gets the start today at third base, giving Eugenio Suarez a day off. His offensive production has dipped considerably this month (.209/.365/.693) and a day off is probably a good idea. Kivlehan continues to open eyes when he gets his chances.