The sweep of the Giants last weekend seems like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The Reds’ (56-74) trip to Chicago has gone about as well as you’d expect for a last-place team playing a first-place club. In every sense of the word, the Cubs (75-53) have dominated this series, taking the first three games by a combined score of 20-9. To avoid a four-game sweep, the Reds need a vintage performance from their $105 million pitcher. The series finale will again kick off at 2:20 p.m. ET.
The Reds are 1-16 in games Homer Bailey starts this season. Is there really anything else to say? He’s certainly deserved a better fate in some of his 17 starts, including his last outing against the Brewers. But at the end of the day, Bailey has a -0.3 fWAR. He’s tied for the second-least valuable pitcher who has thrown at least 90 inning this season (only the Cubs’ Tyler Chatwood is worse, for those wondering). Although he averaged 95 mph on his fastball in his first start back from the disabled list on July 24, that number has trended downward in each start since. That culminated in an average velocity of just 92 mph in his last start, which is his second-lowest mark in any outing this season.
On a brighter note, Bailey has an excellent 4.6 BB% and a respectable 20.0 K% since his return from a knee injury. Improved control is certainly a good thing to see, though he’s still missing his spots in the strike zone, as evidenced by his five homers allowed in his last four starts. His strikeout rate, at the very least, seems sustainable given his 10.5% swinging strike rate — putting him right at the league average — and above-average 36.1% swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone. Bailey’s splitter has also been excellent since returning from the DL, notching a 23% whiff rate.
Like others on the Chicago pitching staff, Kyle Hendricks has endured an up-and-down 2018 season. His dominant 2016, which netted him a third-place finish in NL Cy Young voting, seems like a long time ago at this point. The 28-year-old dealt with injuries for much of 2017 and has further regressed this season. Hendricks is sporting the worst ERA and FIP of his career, and his xFIP is at its highest point since his rookie year in 2014. Making matters worse, his strikeout rate has also declined for a second straight year, and his ground-ball rate is at an all-time low of 46.2%.
While Hendricks still does a nice job of forcing soft contact (only 12 qualified pitchers rank ahead of him on that leaderboard), he’s allowing hard contact more than at any other point in his career. Given the drop in ground balls, that’s led to allowing 20 home runs this season — already a career-worst by three. While it was highly unlikely Hendricks would replicate his 2.13 ERA from 2016 given his lack of dominant stuff, the Cubs have to be disappointed with his regression. This season, he’s looked more like a No. 4 starter than the potential ace he did two short years ago.
Scouting report: Velocity is not the reason the sinker-baller made it to the big leagues, but losing a few ticks has likely not helped matters. After averaging 88.1 and 88.9 on his sinker and four-seamer, respectively, in 2016, he’s down to 86.6 and 87.2 this year. His sinker, which has hovered around a 60% ground-ball rate at times during his career, is down to a career-worst 50.5% in 2018. The four-seam fastball is getting slugged for a career-worst .636, and his curveball pitch value is eighth-worst among all qualified pitchers. Hendricks’ saving grace has been the changeup, which continues to be his go-to putaway offering (20.5 SwStr%) and once again ranks in the top 10 in pitch value.
|1. Billy Hamilton (CF)
2. Jose Peraza (SS)
3. Scooter Gennett (2B)
4. Eugenio Suarez (3B)
5. Scott Schebler (RF)
6. Phillip Ervin (LF)
7. Tucker Barnhart (1B)
8. Curt Casali (C)
9. Homer Bailey (P)
|1. Daniel Murphy (2B)
2. Javier Baez (SS)
3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
4. Willson Contreras (C)
5. Jason Heyward (RF)
6. David Bote (3B)
7. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
8. Kyle Hendricks (P)
9. Albert Almora Jr. (CF)
News, Notes, & Pre-Game Reading
Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson will pitch out bullpen going forward. Cody Reed will likely be #5 starter. #Reds
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) August 26, 2018
Rotation vs Mil & StL beginning Tuesday:
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) August 26, 2018
Joey Votto still on DL and Riggleman says Votto may not be ready to return Tuesday, either. Called injury “way worse” than originally thought, but still says JV is doing much better than when he went on DL. #Reds
— Matt Martell (@mmartell728) August 26, 2018
— Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr) August 26, 2018
Stat of the Day
With his performance yesterday, Curt Casali eclipsed 1.0 bWAR for the season. The last time two Reds backstops got over that hump was in 2011, when Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan were splitting the catching duties. They also did so in 2010. Before that, you have to go back to 2005, when Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin both did it.
Bonus fun fact: During this research, it was discovered that Corky Miller led all Reds catchers in WAR in 2013.
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.