Game Thread / 2017 Reds

Reds at Cubs — September 29, 2017

It seems like just yesterday that the excitement for Opening Day overtook the city of Cincinnati once again. But even in another losing season for the Reds (67-92), time seemed to whiz by. Now — all of a sudden — we’re in the final weekend of the season. Not much is on the line as the Reds travel to Wrigley Field to face the Cubs (90-69) one final time. Cincinnati has been out of the playoff race for months, and the Cubs clinched the NL Central on Wednesday. This will be the last chance for a few young Reds to make a lasting impression heading into next year, while the Cubs can get a bit of rest as they prepare for the postseason.

Starting Pitchers

Name IP ERA xFIP K% BB%
Robert Stephenson 79.2 4.86 4.96 23.8% 14.1%
Jose Quintana 184.0 4.06 3.76 26.2% 7.9%

While the walks are still too high to sustain this level of success, Robert Stephenson has shown considerable improvement in 2017. Since returning from the disabled list on August 19, he boasts a 2.87 ERA and has struck out an elite 27.4 percent of the hitters he’s faced. The addition of a slider has elevated his already-nasty pitch repertoire, and when he’s on his game, he’s been nearly unhittable at times. Of course, his last seven starts have come with a 4.43 xFIP due to a 14 percent walk rate, so we can’t get too excited yet. Regardless, his results have been a huge step in the right direction and he has a real shot at being in the 2018 rotation.

Stephenson vs. Cubs


The Cubs made the first huge splash of an eventful trade season in baseball when they acquired left-hander Jose Quintana from their interleague rivals across town. Quintana was the ace of the White Sox pitching staff after the Chris Sale trade, and Chicago hoped he would solidify their rotation for a playoff run. The southpaw has done exactly that. After struggling a bit through the first three months of the season (4.49 ERA, 4.14 xFIP with the White Sox), a move to the National League has served him well, as he boasts a 3.50 ERA and 3.26 xFIP with the Cubs in 13 starts. In fact, in five fewer starts with the Cubs, he has almost matched his fWAR (1.8) from 18 starts with the South Siders (1.9).

Quintana vs. Reds

Lineups

Reds

Cubs

CF Phillip Ervin (109 wRC+) CF Jon Jay (101 wRC+)
SS Zack Cozart (143 wRC+) RF Ben Zobrist (85 wRC+)
1B Joey Votto (164 wRC+) 2B Tommy La Stella (126 wRC+)
3B Eugenio Suarez (119 wRC+) C Willson Contreras (120 wRC+)
LF Jesse Winker (131 wRC+) LF Kyle Schwarber (101 wRC+)
2B Jose Peraza (62 wRC+) 3B Ian Happ (112 wRC+)
 RF Scott Schebler (102 wRC+) 1B Alex Avila (103 wRC+)
C Tucker Barnhart (90 wRC+) SS Mike Freeman (68 wRC+)
P Robert Stephenson (4.96 xFIP) P  Jose Quintana (3.76 xFIP)

— Billy Hamilton is getting the day off. Phillip Ervin is starting in center field. Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett are also out of the lineup, with Jesse Winker and Jose Peraza starting in their places.

— Zack Cozart is back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday’s game with a tight quad and missing yesterday’s contest against the Brewers.

— With the NL Central clinched, the Cubs are resting quite a few big names, including Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell. That should bode well for Stephenson, but the Cubs’ offense is still pretty strong without those three.

News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading

Stat of the Day

Joey Votto is now two starts away from playing in all 162 games this season. He’s done that one other time in his career (2013), which was the first time any Red had done it since Aaron Boone in 2002.

34 thoughts on “Reds at Cubs — September 29, 2017

  1. I just want to note that Stephenson’s xFIP is high more because of his low HR/FB % over his last 7 starts rather than his walks. His FIP, which takes into account his walk rate in the same way but does not normalize his homerun rate, is a solid 3.37 which indicates maybe his walk rate is acceptable if he continues to limit homeruns and keep up his extremely high strikeout rate

    • BobSteve is dancing a tango on a highwire. He appears to have the stuff and mindset to be able to live more dangerously than most. However, even as a fan of his, I believe he’s got to lower the BB% at least down into the high end of the league average range to succeed over time.

      His K rate as a starter is on the border between great/ excellent as defined by Fangraphs. On the other hand his BB rate as a starter is off the scale on the bad end. It is currently 14.5% If he could get it even down to awful (9%), that might be enough for him to thrive over time .

      • To my eye, he seems to get a lot of wings-and-misses on pitches that aren’t strikes–breaking balls diving out of the zone. Obviously, if the batter refrains from swinging, it’s a ball.

    • Pitchers generally don’t sustain below-average HR/FB rates. All they can do to prevent home runs is prevent fly balls and strike batters out. Even just looking at Stephenson’s last seven starts (the narrow sample you selected) his GB% of 34.1% is WAY below league average (44%). He’s had a really good strikeout rate, which helps. But his xFIP, which does normalize home runs, is a full run higher. And it better predicts future performance than FIP.

      • Agreed on all points. Stephenson still has a ways to go, but I think we can all agree we’re a lot more encouraged about his future than we were when the year began.

      • Even though his xFIP is a full run higher it is still around league average. MLB average is 4.36, which would peg him as #3 or #4.

        If you go back to July when he first started pitching as a starter, it is 4.81 which isn’t good but it probably good enough to be a no #5. This isn’t to say he doesn’t need to work on walks but as is he is capable of being a #5 for the Reds, assuming these recent games reflect his true level of talent. If the Reds were contenders then ya you probably want someone slightly better in the five spot.

  2. I love this site. I read it continually. The writers knowledge of analytics have helped an old guy look at many things with a new eye

    However… we all get caught in our own narratives. As I read today’s first paragraph following yesterday’s recap I kind of felt like bill Murray waking up to a sonny and Cher song

    I feel like he is a piñata and some are acting like fat kids with a stick

    Just my opinion. Hope he pitches well today

    • I love this site, too.

      There are many people here (not me) who have a way with words, like Jim Walker…”dancing a tango on a highwire.”

      The fact that no entity is universally loved by everyone at RLN, except Milton and perhaps Votto, (/s), makes it great.

      It’s cool that Bob Steve has already won over a lot of people. I will be glued to the playoffs, like every year. But, this time, I will try and envision Bob, Castillo, Mahle, etc., pitching in those games to the Dodgers, Cubs, Nats and how they would hold up.

      That, hopefully, is the payoff down the road for suffering through this low point in Reds history.

    • In the end it is about whether any given pitcher is more effective at getting outs and limiting runs allowed than other pitchers available to the team they are on. We have to be careful when we start turning ratios (ERA) into derivatives (FIP) and derivatives based on other derivatives (xFIP) because everybody isn’t average;and, the difference isn’t all luck.

      This said, I suspect the modeling going on in the analytics operations of many if not most or all teams puts even rates like xFIP to shame because they have the budgets, multitude of data points and computing resources so that they don’t have to be limited to league averages in building comparisons,

      • The Astros have an ex-NASA engineer running their analysis department. The Reds with their investment banker backgrounds probably have MBAs struggling to employ let alone understand differential equations

      • Smart people with 40+ hours a week to focus on the soul task of creating such metrics can get a lot done. Good point.

  3. Is it really necessary for me to point out that “tap the brakes” doesn’t mean “slam on the brakes” or “consign the player to the dustbin of history” – I was just pointing out that everyone who is automatically penciling Stephenson in the starting rotation next year based on the quality of his recent starts needs to take a solid look at all the stats, not just his ERA and strikeouts.

    • Steve, I need a favor from you…

      Please talk to Mrs. Cossack. For all her excellent to spectacular points and her unimaginable tolerance and patience for the Old Cossack, she is all about all brakes or all accelerator, all the time. I have never been able to get the concept of tap the brakes or gradual acceleration across to her.

      Thanks in advance!

      • Sounds a tad like my wife. I finally told her I was convinced I was every bit as terrified (or more) to be in the passenger’s seat to her driving as she to mine. it has seemed to help at least a bit. 😉

        • Hey Jim, how has the “cutting the cord” on cable worked out so far for you this year? Can you give us an update and maybe some do’s and don’ts you may have learned or encountered along the way this first season you’ve done this?
          I’ve been mulling over a change for months, but I’ve got to get more information in before I can decide what is best for my viewing. Thanks.

          • On the whole it has gone well. Be aware that there is up to a 30 second or so delay between real time and when I see the action on the stream. If that is an issue for you (for instance if you listen along on the radio or follow Twitter) then streaming is not for you. Otherwise other than an occasional hiccup no real problems. Looks aboutm the same as cable or satellite (I’ve used both). I’m satisfied. Biggest issue is that even though I live almost in line of site to the TV towers here in Dayton, we’ve had some problems with the local stations over the air. They work fine on my back room sports TV but the living room TV is a hassle. You might want to check this before you take the dive.

            Sony just raised the price the on package I have (Core Slim) by 10 bucks a month which doesn’t please me. My cable company has made a two service bundling offer which may in fact be better than PlayStationVue+ internet from them. I’ve got some things going on which will be filling my time the next couple of weeks then afterwards I’ll have to look into that.

  4. The game this afternoon should be a nice experience for Winker and Ervin against a top notch LH. I’m particularly glad to see Scooter replaced in the lineup with Peraza at 2B against a tough LH. Today would also have been a better opportunity than yesterday to sit Barnhart and give Turner a game behind the dish.

    • Agreed.

      -Finally- a start for Ervin. Too bad there’s only three games left for him to get additional exposure. Of all the sliding outfield pieces, he’s the one who remains a mystery simply due to sheer lack of data points.

    • Ervin got his MLB career of to a hot start in Wrigley Field a couple of months ago. I don’t think Price forgot that. I hope they give him 2 more starts too.

  5. I mentioned up above that the wind was going out. That was this morning. Game time and the wind is blowing in straight from centerfield. A pretty good breeze. That will help the pitching, not so much the hitting. Need line drives from Reds hitters today, not the big bopping.

  6. Nice 1st inning for Bob Stephenson, except for one batter when he got a little wild. His stuff looks very intimidating today. The changeup to Schwarber was particularly nasty good.

  7. Obviously not a good bunt by Stephenson, but were once again shown the flaws of using that tool.

      • Man, Winker just continues to get on base, hit and hit for power. I’ve been a Winker fan for a long time (Ya think!?), but since his wrist injury, I hadn’t expected him to put up this kind of performance when he got a chance at the major league level.

        Ervin has impressed, in his limited audition at the major league level, beyond any expectation I had, although his defense has been a little disappointing. This has the makings of an interesting off season.

  8. Amazing that against a tough left-hander it is a rookie LH hitter that gets the inning started and another rookie that gets a big RBI. And Joey gets RBI 100

  9. Stephenson with a 3.00 era in the last 2 months…with the 3 starts against the weak Pirates offense thrown out. I really think he’s turned the corner!

    • Indeed. He’s still learning, but man he is making strides. I think 2019 and after will be a solid body of work for him after some more learning curve next season

  10. I guess if someone had to launch that 3-run shot, Happ is the most palatable. Starting to really wonder about Lorenzen as a starter. I’ve been a proponent but…

    • As I was driving home listening to the game recap I had the same thought about Lorenzen. I’ve wanted him to get the chance to start but he’s making me shudder at times (like today).

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