runningrainman

When you’re in your early 20s and convinced that time goes fast and that you must live in the now or risk losing the future, you forget that a baseball season takes a lifetime. Or, to be less melodramatic, a gestation period at least.

Since the Reds’ season began, I have started dating a girl, won some awards for student journalism, been accepted to graduate school, graduated from college, stopped dating the girl, moved into a new apartment, started writing for The Hardball Times, and met Reds GM Dick Williams. Like full handshake and all.

Yes, this is a humblebrag and I can’t work my way around it, but my point in listing all of this is more to say: I’ve lived a lot in the last six months and the only thing that’s stayed constant is the Reds (non-existent) playoff hopes. I guess some grounding did me good.

What I’m saying is there’s another month left in the season, which means it’s too early to write a postmortem and too late to enact meaningful analysis on the Reds that hasn’t already been covered in one way or another. The body is dead; the question becomes should you bury it in its Sunday best (Matt Harvey) or not.

Instead, I will give you with a series of notes, some more logical and coherent than others, that look forward to 2019. Will the Reds win the Central next year? Maybe. I don’t know. There’s always a chance. I think it all depends on:

— The pitching. *Cue exasperated sigh from the readership.* The pitching?! Of course the pitching! Anyone doofus with a pulse knows the pitching is the problem!

Yes, and it’s going to continue to be a problem. As long as the Reds employ Homer Bailey in any capacity, the pitching will only be 80% as effective as it can be. BUT, Luis Castillo has been lights out since the All Star Game, Anthony DeSclafani has too (outside of last night), and Tyler Mahle looks like he’s recovering his form down in Louisville. Don’t believe me?

  • Luis Castillo (5 GS, 30.0 IP): 2.70 ERA, 27.7 K%, 4.2 BB%, 12.6 SwStr%
  • Anthony DeSclafani (5 GS, 30.1 IP): 2.37 ERA, 24.4 K%, 5.0 BB%, 9.0 SwStr% (doesn’t include last night because stats hadn’t updated)
  • Tyler Mahle (3 GS, 17 IP AAA): 3.18 ERA, 15.9 K%, 8.1 BB%

You get those kinds of numbers for a season and you have a strong, strong staff top to bottom. Even if all three of those guys pitch closer to a 3.50 ERA than a 2.00, I’d have immense confidence in running them out every day. Sign a frontline starter, a No. 1 or No. 2, and Homer Bailey’s deadweight looks less cumbersome.

— Team chemistry. There’s a chance I’m only bringing chemistry up because I’ve been on a RomCom binge of late and chemistry is just important, dangit! My Netflix habits aside, the highlight of 2018 for me has been watching this team have fun together. Be it Eugenio Suarez and Jose Peraza or Jesse Winker dancing or Joey Votto’s usual antics, the team knows how to have fun.

While that chemistry should translate to next season, there are some causes for concern. Matt Harvey seeming to be a big clubhouse guy is one that comes to mind. Young guys not knowing what the heck they’re supposed to be preparing for is another. If the 2019 Reds can pull together and frankly just have some fun, I think we’ll be in business. If not, the Astros might be able to offer some advice.

— The outfield.

Sometimes I say things on Twitter simply because I have the ability to do so but other times I say things with the intent of baiting a reply and this tweet is definitely an instance of the latter, which is nice because Jason Linden so kindly took the bait.

I cannot undersell how euphoric it is to hear Phillip Ervin strike a baseball. It’s as if the outfielder has managed to distill the art of hitting to nothing more than its purest state, super heated that resulting liquid, and allowed it to course through the wooden grains of his bat before unleashing a human-wielded anvil on an unsuspecting ball. It’s the Thor hammer of bat sounds. The Wonderboy carved out of a lightening tree. The one thing giving me irrational faith that the Reds’ outfield next year will just tear the ball to smithereens.

I’m not worried about the infield at all. When the biggest question is “Do we start an All Star from last year or this uber-prospect we have,” there’s not too much to keep you up at night. Geno will hit. Jose Peraza is young and looking better by the day. Joey Votto is old but still a force.

The outfield though could give this team some fits. If Winker and Schebler hit as expected, this lineup will have some thump. Add in Ervin’s potential Herculean bat and that’s some serious firepower, even if he comes off the bench.

— The Scooter Conundrum. So, uh, about that question I just mentioned. I don’t have a good answer. Sorry.

Since the All Star break, Scooter has crashed back to earth, posting a 90 wRC+ in 123 PAs. For the more counting stat inclined, that’s a .263 average with only 3 home runs. It hasn’t been pretty.

But that’s a small sample and Scooter has been very good for the Reds over the past couple years. Even if I think it’s a flash in the pan, there’s a better than zero chance Scooter’s for real and should stay in the lineup for one more season. Also, Nick Senzel could potentially add some depth in the outfield if he can indeed field the position.

More than anything, I think the Scooter Conundrum just needs an answer. This goes back to the players not knowing what the vision is for the team because the fans are also pretty out in the dark. Some indication regarding Scooter and Senzel would be appreciated. It’s not that either option makes the Reds worse in 2019; it’s the uncertainty that breeds contempt and in-fighting that will hurt the team. (I’ve watched enough RomComs at this point to know that uncertainty makes for a good plot but a bad relationship.)

This season has taken a lifetime and next season will take another, but hopefully the excitement next summer will stay on the field. Please.

runningredshawaiiman

Prospect to Watch: If he’s still available in fantasy leagues, I’d be surprised but Touki Toussaint is worth all the hype. He’s got No. 1/No. 2 potential with some serious third time through the order issues, but he looked very sharp in his debut. Look for him to grab one or two more starts through September, a good way to add some points for the home stretch.

With only a month before the season wraps up, it seems unlikely that I will garner the 36,000 views needed to get to 100,000. But there is hope. There is always hope. (And Matt Wilkes is still looking up.)

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17 Responses

  1. greenmtred

    Wesley: You may be convinced that time goes fast but, believe me, when you get much closer to the end than the beginning, it really does. I’m not very worried about the infield hitting, but I’m pretty worried about their defense. Suarez has seemingly forgotten that he’s 2nd only to Arennado as a gloveman, Peraza still makes dumb errors and throws and Joey will be a year older with some strengths (digging out low throws) still there and some weaknesses (strange decisions on balls hit to his right) in high relief. Senzel might help a lot, but if Scooter is playing 2nd–and I like Scooter–that’s all four infielders with questionable gloves, and that will have a direct negative impact on the pitching. Add an outfield that might rake but might be substandard defensively (both possibilities open to question) and you’ve got anxious pitchers who cringe when the other team puts wood on the ball. Still, I assume that the Reds will compete in 2019. This is the only thing in the world I’m optimistic about.

    • Jeff Gangloff

      Once I started having kids my life flew by. Weeks seem like days and years seem like weeks. Its unreal.

    • Steve Scott

      I agree, our infield defense will be mediocre for sure and an outfield of Ervin, Winker, and Shebler will be horrific defensively. Combine that with lousy starting pitchers, be ready for football scores all year. They will hit, but everything else will be crazy.

  2. Jeff Gangloff

    I wouldn’t say Scooter has crashed back to earth…I would say he’s slumping. I think his health and his shoulder has a lot to do with it. I think he over performed in the first half and is under performing in the second half. I think he falls somewhere around a true WRc+ of 124 – which is what he posted last year and what he is around for the full year this year (126). That’s almost 2 full years worth of data, not a small sample size.

    It’s funny…I would say Votto and Scooter have had comparable years. Scooter has hit for more power and has a 3.8 WAR compared to Votto’s 2.8 WAR. Votto has him in OBP and WRc+ with a 132 compared to a 126.

    Its debatable who has played better this year. The funny part is that so many people want to claim age curve and regression with Scooter (who is only 28) and completely ignore Votto (who is 34). Obviously Votto’s sample is larger and more consistent over a longer period of time…but if we are going to talk about age curve and regression in regards to Scooter, why are we ignoring Votto who is six years older and who’s power numbers have been sapped this year?

    I think the regression and age curve thing in relation to Scooter is over stated. He’s posted solid numbers for two straight years now and is only 28.

    I’m not saying sign him to a ten year extension, but I’m absolutely bringing him back next year (arbitration year) or trading him if its a slam dunk. Bring him back next year, evaluate him another year, and offer him an extension if you like what you see.

    • Wesley Jenkins

      Yeah I think I agree with you entirely, I just can’t write off my hesitance. Personally, I’d say Scooter is closer to a 110 wRC+ hitter but I don’t have much to back that up. He rode a torrid April and May to where he is now, but you’re right, last year’s number do say this current version is more accurate. Idk I still think trade and let Senzel do his thing makes the most sense but I don’t there’s a bad option to be had anymore.

  3. cfd3000

    I posted essentially the same thing on Jason Linden’s thread, but play Senzel / trade Scooter is a no brainer. Senzel is a professional hitter with a very good glove. He’s younger, has a higher ceiling and a higher floor, cost controlled for six years, and has some potential position versatility. Scooter offers none of that. And to those who say Senzel is an injury concern, see shoulder – Gennett. And to those who say Senzel is unproven – really? You want to hold back one of the top ten prospects in baseball for a slightly above average Scooter? That’s like saying don’t call up Jay Bruce, we have Jonny Gomes (or something like that).

    As for pitching, I do think Disco, Castillo, and one of Mahle and Reed will be good to very good next year (if Reed ever gets a real chance). That means the Reds are probably two pitchers short of a full, solid rotation next year. IF they find those two starters and IF everyone stays mostly healthy then I think the Reds will make some noise in the NL Central. If not, break out the sad emojis again.

    One last thought. You heard it here first. Joey Votto will make adjustments and have a very good September and a very good 2019. Won’t that be fun?

    • Jeff Gangloff

      Senzel is going to be on the roster next year whether Scooter is here or not. The Reds could find a way to play them both. It can be mutually exclusive.

  4. james Jennings

    I hope what u say is true, contending 2019…worrisome is reds dependence on Schebler, good player yet injury prone and feeling the same with Senzel always hurt. Don’t love Harvey but as soon as they trade him they will b looking for someone just like him! Chemistry is key, they have played well for a team way out of contention from the beginning and took series from the national leagues best teams. They need two free agent pitchers and a backup outfielder for those injury prone Winker, Schebler, and Senzel should they try that experiment, as they should. I have confidence in Ervin to come around and perform.

  5. jreis

    I waver back and forth with Scooter and Senzel. I tend to favor Senzel just because of his athleticism. We are not a Homerun hitting team and we have nobody coming up in our system right now with a ton of power so we are going to have to rely on good base running to generate runs.

    We have 4 built in sloths with Votto, Suarez, Winker and Barnhart so we need above average speed everywhere else. With Ervin finally showing potential this will help but still the more speed the better.

  6. WVRedlegs

    Who exactly is going to lead this merry band of Reds brothers to the NL Central title in 2019? That needs addressed. Front Office buffoonery says Riggleman or Larkin.

    As long as Bob Castellini, Walt Jocketty, and Dick Williams run the Reds front office, the last 4 years ARE the future of the Cincinnati Reds. Last place finishes and sub-.500 teams are the expectation. It is our new normal. With this group, the Reds best chance at winning a Central title is if the MLB Commissioner would swap out Cincinnati and Cleveland. Cincinnati could be in the weak AL Central with 4 other rebuilding teams.

    • Steve Scott

      Totally agree, nothing will change till this clown show of a front office is changed. And i like clowns, just not for making baseball decisions.

  7. Bill j

    As for time, sometimes I feel time goes so fast there isn’t much use to get out of bed. I guess we’ll hear at the end of the year the reason for Votto’s lack of power is he’s been hurt most of the year. With Senzel vertigo I wouldn’t want him running into the outfielder fence. I still like Harvey in the rotation next year.

  8. Mike Adams

    Are you serious?

    Without major changes this franchise won’t compete for the division next year.

    Major changes defined as much less FO/ownership interference, better starters than Bailey and the young guys on the roster, better field manager, fewer mental errors on the field, and power batter(s).

    Major change could be brought about by trades or unanticipated player development. The latter would be things like young starters suddenly developing outstanding control, or a needed pitch (Romano), or a young batter developing into a hitter like Suarez.

    I really want to be wrong this time next year about not competing for the division.

    • Sliotar

      Tell them, Mike.

      Feels like Cupid has gone from touching Wes’s heart to affecting his very creative mind.
      (Not a knock. Love is a wonderful thing).

      But, there’s hope and there’s reality.

      If you can’t name with much certainty who the starting 8 hitters will be for the start of next season, you still have “sorting” to do. Hamilton – here? Senzel – when called up, where to play? Gennett – extension? Who are the starting OFs?

      Barring injury…Cubs will have Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Contreras, Schwarber and Heyward in their lineup next season. All under 30, all competent to great.

      • Mike Adams

        Yeah, we went from sorting starting pitching to still sorting starting pitching.
        As you pointed out the Reds are sorting the 8 starting hitters, and that is a backwards step from the start of the year.

      • greenmtred

        They’re still sorting pitchers, and that’s what they need to do. I’m not sure why sorting the starting 8 is a backward step: There were issues with the starting 8 at the beginning of the year and getting looks at alternatives only makes sense. Things can change quickly, and if the pitching improves, the change in 2019 will be for the better. Maybe not the playoffs–change is often incremental–but solidly above .500 would be a good step toward contention in 2020.

  9. eric3287

    This is probably going to come out much harsher than I mean, but the only way for the Reds to win is to get better players, and to actively try to find ways to improve at literally every position on the field, at all times, every year. The Reds have shown exactly zero inclination in doing that, instead falling in love with mediocre to bad players at every turn. Until that changes, they will remain in last place, with occasional appearances in 4th place if they get lucky.