We had to wait an extra day, but opening day is finally here! The Cincinnati Reds (0-0) will kick off the 2018 season at Great American Ballpark with a three game series against the Washington Nationals (0-0) at 4:10 PM. The Reds have killed the term “rebuild” as we head into the 2018 season, and are now looking for some results.
The outside expectations could not be any different for the Reds and Nationals. The Reds are projected by PECTO to finish last in the NL Central with a record 75-87. The Nationals are expected to win the NL East with a record of 89-73.
The Reds bring back most of the pieces of a lineup that was 8th in the National League in runs scored. The Reds rotation is full of question marks, but the Reds should be able to avoid for the first time in several years having pitchers start who have no business being in the big leagues. The Reds will need their young starters to take a major step forward if they want to avoid a fourth consecutive 90 loss season.
The Nationals parted ways with Dusty Baker after another first round playoff exit in 2017, and are now managed by Dave Martinez (he was a bench coach for the Cubs a season ago). The Nationals won the NL East each of the last two seasons, and have finished at least second in the division each of the last six seasons. This season is incredibly important for the Nationals as this is Bryce Harper’s free agent season. Harper seems content to get to the open market after the 2018 season.
Between August 8th, 2014 through June 23rd, 2017, Homer Bailey made a grand total of 8 pitching appearances. It was obvious that Bailey would have some serious rust when he returned, and that definitely was the case. The biggest thing for Bailey was that he was able make 18 consecutive starts once he made his season debut June 24th through the end of the season.
Bailey’s overall numbers were certainly not good in 2017, but he did give some signs of life. Bailey had several starts where he got destroyed, which dramatically inflated his ERA. Bailey did however allow 2 ER or less and go 5+ innings in 8 of his 18 starts. Bailey had a 3.63 ERA over his last 7 starts of 2017, including pitching seven shutout innings against the Brewers in his final start.
The projections don’t like Bailey. Much of that is due to his low strikeout projections. It is hard to believe that Bailey, whose fastball velocity was right about his career average in 2017, will only strikeout around five batters per nine innings. If Bailey can find a way to miss bats in 2018, there is no reason he can’t at worst be a league average pitcher. If Bailey can make 25+ starts and produce at a league average rate, I believe the Reds would be thrilled.
Bailey’s career numbers against the Nationals are….not good. He has a 8.44 ERA in 6 career starts against the Nationals. The individual numbers vs Bailey below are terrifying. Last season, Bailey gave up 16 ER in 5.2 innings against the Nats. In fairness, one of those starts, where Bailey lasted just 1.2 innings, was his first start of the season coming off the DL.
Max Scherzer has won back-to-back NL Cy Young awards, and has been in the top 5 in Cy Young voting in each of the last 5 seasons (he won the AL Cy Young in 2013). Needless to say, the Reds have a tall task on Opening Day.
Scherzer has a career 2.25 ERA in just four career starts against the Reds. Scherzer pitched six shutout innings in his only start against the Reds last year. The Reds did light Scherzer up on July 7th, 2015: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER. Votto homered off Scherzer in that game.
|1. Adam Eaton (LF)
2. Anthony Rendon (3B)
3. Bryce Harper (RF)
4. Ryan Zimmerman (1B)
5. Howie Kendrick (2B)
6. Trea Turner (SS)
7. Michael Taylor (CF)
8. Matt Wieters (C)
9. Max Scherzer (P)
|1. Jesse Winker (LF)
2. Eugenio Suarez (3B)
3. Joey Votto (1B)
4. Scooter Gennett (2B)
5. Scott Schebler (RF)
6. Tucker Barnhart (C)
7. Jose Peraza (SS)
8. Homer Bailey (P)
9. Billy Hamilton (CF)
Bryan Price went with the lineup most of us were clamoring for. This could not be any more encouraging to me. Let’s hope this will last all year. Jesse Winker has a minor league career .398 OBP (Joey Votto had a career .385 OBP in his minor league career). Winker absolutely needs to be leading off (at least vs RHP) until he proves he can’t. Adam Duvall is the odd man out on Opening Day. That is the right decision vs RHP in my estimation, but it does stink for Duvall. He has done everything the Reds could have asked of him. That being said, having Duvall on the bench makes the Reds bench much better than we have seen in a long time. Billy Hamilton batting 9th is absolutely perfect. I never liked the idea of him batting 8th in front of the pitcher because that nullifies his speed (the pitcher would bunt him over if he did get on base). This takes pressure off Hamilton and still makes him the leadoff hitter the second time through the order. Win-win.
The Nationals lead the NL in OPS in 2017. That was mostly without their leadoff hitter, Adam Eaton, who a 6 win player in 2016 with the White Sox. Daniel Murphy is starting the year on the DL, so that does tame the Nationals lineup a little bit.
The Reds definitely made the right decision to cancel the game early yesterday. The latest weather forecast looks pretty good for uninterrupted baseball. Fingers crossed.
— Cara Owsley (@caraphoto23) March 30, 2018
The rest of the rotation
Luis Castillo – Sat, 2:10 vs Nationals (Strasburg)
Sal Romano – Sun, 4:10 vs Nationals (Gonzalez)
Tyler Mahle – Mon, 4:10 vs Cubs (Chatwood)
Cody Reed – Tues, 6:40 vs Cubs (Lester)
The patched together Bullpen
The Reds bullpen will consist of Jared Hughes, Wandy Peralta, Amir Garrett, Austin Brice, Kevin Quackenbush, Zack Weiss, and Jackson Stephens to start the season. Iglesias is on the 3-day paternity list from Thursday, so he could be available Sunday. David Hernandez, Michael Lorenzen, and Kevin Shackelford are all starting the season on the DL. This is certainly not the optimal bullpen for the Reds, so it will be interesting to see how they get through the first couple weeks of the season with limited resources.
If you are looking for a good hype video to get you ready for the season, the one below is absolutely terrific. You should also check out Chad and Jason’s 2018 Reds preview on the latest Redleg Nation podcast as you are counting down to first pitch.
I supported the Reds 110% with the rebuild. I even called for the rebuild to start before the Reds actually went “all out.” I have been patient over the last four miserable seasons, and have even been happy the Reds lost in as glorious fashion as they did because it netted Nick Senzel and Hunter Greene. That all being said, the Reds need to do something this season. They don’t have to make the playoffs this season, but they have to at least make a major step in the right direction and figure out what moves are needed to get back to the promised land in 2019. We are wasting precious years of prime Joey Votto that we will never get back.
The Reds could also just start a magical season with a win today, and shock the world and win the 2018 World Series. That would be pretty cool too, huh? Go Reds!
Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.