2017 Reds / Editorials

Trending Upward: What We’ve Learned From 2017

It’s been a rough season for the Reds in terms of wins and losses, but that’s not how a rebuilding team is measured. If you’ve watched this team day in and day out, you’ve seen encouraging progress. Fans are always looking for something new, something they can find to hold onto the hope that one day it will make the team good again. There’s always something that fans can take away from a season, even if in the midst of a rebuild.

Here are four things we can take away from 2017:

1). Slap a C on his jersey–Joey Votto is the leader of the team and whether he wanted it or not, it seems he’s embraced that role. No one knows what goes on in the clubhouse behind the scenes, but if video highlights and media coverage are any indication, it’s clear Votto is the Reds’ leader. He’s the veteran on the team, and everyone wants to emulate his success. 

He’s more of a Scott Rolen-esque leader, leading by example more than by talk (though again, we don’t know because we aren’t in the clubhouse every day). Many players talked highly of Rolen and his leadership, and Votto is the same way. Teammates look up to him. Eugenio Suarez has tried to imitate his approach at the plate, and I’m sure he’s not the only one. Every successful team needs a veteran presence, and for the Reds, it’s Votto.

2). Speaking of Suarez, we have learned this season that he is a star. With a 119 wRC+ and a 4.4 WAR (both career highs) in his breakout season, Suarez has proven he should be the third baseman of the near future. His defense has also drastically improved to the point that he might be considered for a Gold Glove if a guy named Nolan Arenado didn’t also play in the National League. Instead of Reds fans thinking Nick Senzel is the heir apparent at third, they’re wondering where Senzel will play when he makes his debut. It’s a good problem to have, and the Reds likely already have some kind of plan in place.

3). Barring any off-season trades, an outfield competition should happen next year. Jesse Winker is ready for the big leagues. In 127 plate appearances, he’s hitting .292/.370/.531 with an OPS of .901, 20 runs scored, 33 hits, seven home runs, 14 RBI, and 14 walks. Even when he comes off the bench, he’s performed well, with five hits in 15 at-bats, including two home runs. Given Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler’s second-half slides and Billy Hamilton’s inability to consistently get on base, Winker should get the opportunity to compete for a roster spot. But again, it’s a good problem when a team has multiple options.

4). Injuries suck, and the Reds have been no stranger to them. No team will ever be able to prevent injuries, but it seems like the Reds have had more than most the past couple of years. It puts the rebuild behind schedule when key players like Devin Mesoraco and Anthony DeSclafani miss large chunks of the season for multiple years. While they aren’t up-and-coming players, they are still key parts to the Reds’ future, given their past success.

While injuries give more opportunities for younger players to prove their worth, when a team is trying to win, it wants the best players on the field. Those best players might not be the rookies. When young players are injured, like Brandon Finnegan or Amir Garrett and Rookie Davis at Triple-A, it can prolong the rebuild because the young players aren’t getting the experience they need. Injuries can’t be predicted, so it’s frustrating for fans to wait longer than they’d like for a winning team.

After another 90-loss season that saw huge gains from many players, this off-season will be one of the more interesting ones, as GM Dick Williams and the front office mull over possibilities, such as trading high on Scooter Gennett or keeping him for next year in hopes he’ll continue the success. However, there’s much more optimism this time than a year ago. The Reds are trending in the right direction, and it will be exciting to see what next season brings.

Don’t you think?

22 thoughts on “Trending Upward: What We’ve Learned From 2017

  1. 1. For the outfield, it would nice to see for home games LF-AD, C-SS, R-JW, away games (unless small ballpark), LF-JW, C-BH, R-SS. With Billy hitting 9th when he plays.
    2. Trading high on Scooter would be ideal.
    3. If trying to compete next year, Cozart should be re-signed. (I not sure I completely agree with this.)
    4. Pitching should be improved, but I wouldn’t consider it a strength unless everything falls right.
    5. I still think Peraza should have a chance to prove himself. He’s too young to not be given another chance.

  2. It seems like rebuilding for the Reds takes 3x longer than it does when other teams do it. Does it seem like that to anyone else?

    • KDJ,

      This re-build will likely not be used as a blueprint or repeated by other teams in the future.

      It is at least 1 year, more likely 2 years, IMO, before it can be called “completed” and the Next Good Reds Team is fully shaped.

      Changing general managers (at least in name) in the middle of it, selling too late on veteran players, etc., etc. Just a few of The Reds Way moves that other teams don’t often do in the same circumstances.

      The only comparable team I see is the Orioles. A Reds general manager could have easily said the following:

      “Duquette then said that he, along with Baltimore fans more generally, instead prefer “working-class” and “gritty” ballplayers.

      http://www.businessinsider.com/baltimore-orioles-gm-jose-bautista-working-class-2017-3

    • It just seems like that while you are in the midst of it. The Cubs and Astros were bad for a lot longer than the Reds have been. Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals never go away. Royals and Rays endured some really, really bad stretches before getting very good. Just depends on the team.

      • I didn’t realize Houston was that bad from the Killer Bs era (Bagwell, Biggio, etc) to this group. In the 9 years from 2006-14, they lost 88+ games 6 times and only barely over .500 twice.

        I’m done with the rebuilding myself! If they don’t show some improvement, then I’ll just follow them casually. Otherwise you’re a masochist and that’s no way to enjoy life.

        • I’m already a Indiana football fan…lol. I was in diapers when they last went to the Rose Bowl. The big “reward” now is 6-6 and the Motor City Bowl. Just getting home alive from Detroit is not a reward.

  3. I am with you on number 1. I have been saying for 3 years now that the Reds need to add the captain’s “C” to Votto’s jersey.
    Let’s get a digital petition going on this.

  4. All true Ashley. The Reds have a solid core in the starting 8, so long as a) Peraza isn’t in that lineup, b) Hamilton bats 8th or 9th or sits while Winker, Schebler, Duvall start, and c) Gennett doesn’t start against lefties. Senzel may resolve a and or c on that list. The bullpen is fine. Defense is a strong point. And starting pitching has clearly improved with reason for even more optimism. So make Votto the Captain and hope for good health – I’m ready for the Reds to be a winning team next year, and compete for playoff spots and a ring for the next several years.

    • I share your optimism,but if the changes many of us want are put in place, defense may not be a strong point next year, and until the rules are changed to reduce the number of outs per inning or pitching staffs strike out 27 batters per 9 innings, defense will continue to matter. The Reds may lose Cozart, and Gennett is a poor fielder. I like Winker and agree that he should start and bat lead-off, but he is no more than adequate defensively and the same is true of Schebler, who may not even be close to adequate in center. If Duvall is traded, left field defense will probably suffer, as well. Moving Suarez to short would weaken defense at third and probably short as well. It’s a tough job to balance a roster and lineup so that hitting, pitching and fielding are well-balanced, but it’s a job that needs to be done if the Reds are going to be consistently good. Maybe Indy wouldn’t give up on them.

  5. Per Fangraphs

    Winker has a 0.8 WAR in the second half
    Duvall, Schebler, Hamilton are a combined -0.2

    Winker 115 PA
    Starting 3 717 PA

  6. I see a lot of sentiment about playing Winker more (and rightfully so), but I think we need to pump the brakes a bit on our expectations for him in 2018. See Jose Peraza, 2016/2017. I get that his approach is much more refined, and I’m cautiously optimistic that he will be a key cog next year but……

    • Oops, forgot to finish the thought……..I don’t think JW getting another 50 ABs will really make a difference for 2018. Plus there may be rookie status in play, and who knows what kind of contract implications that would have?

      • Winker should get over 600ABs and Schebler and Duvall each should bat no more than 400 times if the Reds want to optimize results

  7. Great post Ashley. I agree with your observation that Joey seems to be stepping up to the plate to be captain-like. It is noticeable in his animated cheering of players when they’ve had a good play or good at-bat. He may still not like his head-rubbed though. Also, I know he’s not considered the best defensive first baseman, but man he makes a lot of plays. Especially on put-out assists…scooping or stretching, etc. Check out his play on the Romano come-backer. Can you see Adam Dunn making those plays?

    I’ve said before that maybe Gennett (and maybe Hamilton) should be packaged this off-season for a bona fide replacement for Cozart, especially if Cozart goes away next year. But Gennett has proven to be such an important offensive element in the line-up he will be hard to replace, doubly so if Cozart is gone. Maybe you keep next year, groom Senzel for second and see if he (Gennett) is the real deal.

    • Votto is a below average fielder. He doesn’t get in front of balls – he likes to get out from in front of and stab at the ball from the side, he doesn’t stretch out like Rizzo or even Panda Sandoval who did the splits the other day to narrowly beat out the runner while receiving throws, he doesn’t receive pickoff attempts optimally giving the pitcher little or no chance of picking off a runner at first, and Votto has little range in the field. His throws are sometimes puzzling and inefficient.

      That doesn’t take away from his hitting and ability to get on base. Just as RBIs are dependent upon having runners on base, however, the value of ultra high off the charts OBP diminishes when you don’t have clutch hitters hitting behind you. The reds don’t have efficient, clutch RBI hitters, and thus Joey’s value as a run producer is not fully realized. Hopefully Suarez sustains a full year of hitting well in 2018 (he’s slumped badly around late August through now…also had a couple other long term periods of struggle) and Duvall and Schebler are used less to become better run producers. The key will be having Winker hit in front of or immediately behind Votto, forcing pitchers to allow Votto to become a better RBI guy or scoring runs with Winker & Suarez driving him home.

      Votto is one of my favorite players from his cerebralness wrt hitting and in keeping the relevance of baseball in perspective relative to the rest of life. Hope he gets a chance to perform on a winning team before he retires. Given this front office, manager and ownership….it won’t happen anytime soon.

  8. It’s simple what we’ve learned. Our pitching sucks. Oh, there may have been glimmers. But, those are glimmers. We are needing glimmers every game, or at least a majority of them.

    From what I remember, from the spring training season, people on here were writing down just who the Reds had to choose from for the starting rotation. And, guess what? Not one of them starting more than 21 games. The two top on that list of most starts this year, Adleman and Feldman, I don’t even believe were even on that initial list in spring training for a starting spot! Seriously, the Reds literally when through that entire list! And, people continually talk of, “You can’t blame injuries on this or that.” All you have to do is look at the trends. It’s called epidemiology. Look it up.

    Not to mention, when a pitcher we get during last off season who is suppose to support our bullpen ends up becoming our opening day starter, we should have been able to see what was going to happen this season.

    My preference was to see Price not return this season. I mean, just consider it. We have had effectively 2 pitching coaches on this team for the last several years, and to say our pitching has degressed is an understatement. It’s been a morgue most every season (not every season but most every season) since 2011. Something needs to change with the pitching and change badly. If the pitching definitely doesn’t take a definite step up next season, I don’t see how Price lasts the entire season.

    My prognosis I will give right now. Assuming everyone I see on baseball-reference.com is on the team next year (except for Arroyo), I see Bailey, Castillo, Romano, Davis, Finnegan, Mahle, and Stephenson coming down with some sort of injury where they will miss at least 1/3 of the season. I don’t believe we will see Garrett again at the major league level, not unless it’s in mop-up roles or September meaningless games. I don’t believe we will see DeSclafani again, period.

    Hey, I hope I’m wrong about all of this. But, I just don’t see any of this changing if something doesn’t change with the management and coaching of these pitchers.

    • Agree on the pitching. Besides Cueto when has a true ace came out of the Reds farm system? Homer is a 4 or 5 not an ace, nor is Leake who really wasn’t developed by the Reds as he came straight to the majors anyway. I mean, go back 30-40 years on this. Why can’t the Reds develop pitching? Seems like they always get injured or flame out. I look for much of the same next year, and I’m usually very positive and hopeful when dealing with the Reds. This rebuild has been awful, and I don’t see much hope at the end of the tunnel. Bringing Price back is just bad business. What other person can fail like that at a job and keep it for five years. That is the epitome of this rebuild. I really hope I’m wrong, but just getting over 70 wins would be a positive next year.

      • I don’t know how you’re defining a “true ace” or a “4 or 5”
        The way I think about it is 5 starting pitcher spots on 30 teams, for 150 total starting pitcher spots in the majors. Therefore a #1 pitcher would be someone ranked 1-30, a #2 pitcher 31-60 and so on.
        Saying Bailey is a “4 or 5” would mean you rank him #90 or worse. Accounting for his time missed for injury maybe that’s fair. At his prime though, 2012-13, Bailey was #23 per Fangraphs in WAR which would put him as a low-end #1 level starting pitcher.

        • Homer has NEVER been a number 1. Those two years I’d call him a low 2/high 3. Most of his career has been a number 4. Again, the last true ace produced by the Reds farm system besides Cueto is?

          • My question would be what do you define a “number 1” “number 2” etc?
            Is your argument against Fangraphs WAR, that Homer was not the 23rd best starting pitcher over that time frame? Or is your argument that the 23rd best starting pitcher in the league is not a “number 1”?

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