With two games left, the Reds (67-93) are certainly not ending the season on a high note. They lost another one-run game yesterday afternoon — dropping their record in such contests to 13-22 — and have now dropped nine of the last 10. They’ll look to turn their fortunes around against the Cubs (91-69) this afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET in Wrigley Field.
Jackson Stephens will toe the rubber for his fourth and final start of the season this afternoon. His major-league debut came against this Cubs team back on July 1, and the 23-year-old held his own. In five innings, he struck out eight hitters while allowing three runs and six hits. He’s coming off his best major-league outing, firing six innings of one-run, two-hit baseball against the Red Sox last Sunday. Stephens probably isn’t pitching for a spot in next year’s rotation, but he’s proving to be a dependable guy to have ready in Triple-A if an injury or a need for a spot start pops up.
Stephens vs. Cubs
One year after finishing second in NL Cy Young voting, Jon Lester’s performance has dropped off a bit. For only the second time since his rookie season in 2007, he will finish with under 200 innings pitched and will wind up with his highest ERA, FIP, and SIERA since 2012. His average fastball velocity is down to 91.7 mph from 93.0 mph last season, and he’s walking more batters (8.1 BB%) than he has in any season since 2011. The Reds have rocked Lester this year, racking up 17 runs (15 earned) and 23 hits in 13.1 innings against him.
Lester vs. Reds
|CF Billy Hamilton (67 wRC+)||CF Ian Happ (115 wRC+)|
|3B Eugenio Suarez (119 wRC+)||3B Kris Bryant (147 wRC+)|
|1B Joey Votto (165 wRC+)||1B Anthony Rizzo (134 wRC+)|
|2B Scooter Gennett (126 wRC+)||C Willson Contreras (120 wRC+)|
|LF Adam Duvall (94 wRC+)||LF Kyle Schwarber (100 wRC+)|
|RF Scott Schebler (102 wRC+)||SS Addison Russell (87 wRC+)|
|SS Jose Peraza (61 wRC+)||RF Jason Heyward (88 wRC+)|
|C Stuart Turner (11 wRC+)||2B Javier Baez (98 wRC+)|
|P Jackson Stephens (4.92 xFIP)||P Jon Lester (3.90 xFIP)|
— Tucker Barnhart and Zack Cozart are getting a day off.
— The big guns (Bryant, Rizzo, Russell, Heyward, Baez) are back in the lineup for the Cubs after getting a day off yesterday.
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
— Today is the last day to vote for the Reds’ 2017 Hall of Fame class. Adam Dunn will probably win the fan vote, but don’t forget about Reggie Sanders before casting your ballot. You can make your vote here.
— Joey Votto is good.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 30, 2017
Stat of the Day
Votto tends to be the focus of Stat of the Day more often than others, so let’s focus on some different players today.
— Tucker Barnhart is currently second in baseball in defensive WAR (2.8). Martin Maldonado is the next-closest catcher at 1.9. He also leads all catchers by a wide margin in defensive runs saved with 22. Manny Pina is next at 13.
— If he gets one more steal over the next two games, Billy Hamilton will reach 60 stolen bases this season. No Reds player has done that since Eric Davis swiped 80 bags in 1986. Hamilton is also on pace to lead MLB in steals, the first Cincinnati player to do so since Bobby Tolan (57) in 1970.
— Raisel Iglesias will end the season as the Reds’ leader among pitchers in fWAR (currently at 1.9), the first Cincinnati reliever to do so since Rob Dibble (3.7) in 1989.
— Votto isn’t the only reason the team has its highest on-base percentage (.329) since 2010. Aside from the first baseman, six Reds hitters have an OBP above league average (.322):
- Zack Cozart (.387)
- Jesse Winker (.370)
- Eugenio Suarez (.369)
- Tucker Barnhart (.346)
- Scooter Gennett (.344)
- Phillip Ervin (.328).
— Six players aside from Votto also have a walk rate above 10 percent:
- Suarez (13.5 BB%)
- Cozart (12.3 BB%)
- Winker (11.0 BB%)
- Devin Mesoraco (10.9 BB%)
- Patrick Kivlehan (10.8 BB%)
- Barnhart (10.0 BB%)
— Anyone who watches the Reds on a daily basis can see the improvements Suarez has made at third base. It shows in the advanced metrics, as well. His defensive runs saved has increased from 1 in 2016 to 7 in 2017; among 12 qualified third baseman the last two seasons, only Evan Longoria and Todd Frazier saw a bigger jump this year. Suarez’s ultimate zone rating per 150 games has risen from 0.7 to 6.7; only Frazier has a larger increase.
— Among all pitchers with at least 80 innings, Luis Castillo has the seventh-highest ground-ball rate at 58.8 percent.
Growing up just north of Cincinnati, Matt has been a Reds fan for as long as he can remember. As a kid, he was often found leading the Reds to 162-0 seasons in MVP Baseball 2005 and imitating his favorite players (Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, and Austin Kearns) in the backyard. One of his earliest baseball memories is attending the final night game at Cinergy Field. Matt is also a graduate of The Ohio State University and currently lives in the Dayton area. Follow him on Twitter at @_MattWilkes.