Over the past five seasons, no team in the National League has lost more games than the Cincinnati Reds.

That fact bears repeating. As of the morning of August 24, since the beginning of the 2014 season, the Reds have won eight fewer games than the second-worst team in the league and 10 fewer games than the third-worst team in the league. Meanwhile, they’re sitting 116 wins behind the best team in the league and 106 back of the top team in the Central.

In the past four seasons, nine of the 15 teams in the NL have reached the playoffs, with two of the remaining six clubs (some combination of Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee) likely to make the postseason this year. That will leave just four NL teams who haven’t played past game #162 since Opening Day 2014 – the Padres, the Marlins, the Reds and whichever of the three drought-busters falls short this year.

Like the Padres and the Marlins, the Reds have not finished a season with a .500 record during this stretch, making them the only three teams in the league that have failed to do so. The closest they came was in 2014, Bryan Price’s first year on the job, when they went 76-86. (San Diego won 77 that same year – a number they haven’t topped since – while Miami’s best attempt was in 2016, when they won 79.)

As those numbers imply, the Reds have been the most reliably bad team in the league over the past five years. If you project clubs’ 162-game 2018 records based on their current winning percentages, the Reds have the lowest variance and standard deviations over the last five years – which is basically a fancy way of saying that they’ve been better at being consistently lousy than any of their NL peers.

We hear about “positive momentum” and “winning culture,” but the numbers don’t lie. The Reds have neither, and the inexplicable decision to retain Matt Harvey for the balance of the current lost-cause season shows they still have no inclination to change that. The only possible justification I can see is that management fears Harvey might like it better in Milwaukee – a team on its way to a second-straight 85+ win season, as well as a possible playoff berth (in other words, a club with actual positive momentum) – and the Reds would have less of a chance of signing him in the offseason.

To which I say, so what? Yes, the recent performances of Robert Stephenson have been discouraging, and Tyler Mahle was obviously sent down for a reason, but still, Harvey has averaged just 5 1/3 innings per start – the same exact amount he threw just hours after the Reds decided to keep him around. Even if you ignore his first two games after joining the team (when he was pulled after just four innings), he’s still averaging less than 5 2/3 innings per start and has pitched into the 7th just three times.

For the sake of comparison, here’s how the Reds’ other starters have fared this year on average:

Mahle: 5 innings
Luis Castillo: 5 1/3 innings
Homer Bailey (pre-injury): 5 innings
Bailey (post-injury): 6 innings
Sal Romano: 5 1/3 innings
Anthony DeSclafani: 5 2/3 innings

In short, Harvey isn’t doing anything that the rest of the rotation isn’t doing already, and with one exception, the others are doing it for a much more economical price.

The best spin I’ve seen on the Harvey trade is that it led to the signing of Curt Casali. Even if you buy that argument, though, there’s no way to justify Harvey taking away starts down the stretch from Stephenson, Mahle, Cody Reed, Lucas Sims and others who, barring a trade, will definitely report to Goodyear next spring. If Harvey ends up doing the same, don’t get me wrong – I’ll cheer him on as much as the next guy and hope from here to Gotham City that he’ll give the Reds have a fighting chance of winning every fifth game – but the powers-that-be seem to think that by holding onto him, they’re making a down payment toward the future. Unfortunately, that payment has come with a hefty opportunity cost.

49 Responses

  1. David

    Oh, for the most part, Harvey has pitched consistently better than anyone else in the rotation besides Desclafani. Mahle had a stretch of about a month and a half where he was pitching pretty good.
    Keep him, though? No, not really.
    But the Reds FO is full of a bunch of really bright “baseball” guys.

    Top Men.

    Top. Men.

    And now the consensus of Redleg Nation is competitive by 2021 or 2022. Someday.

    Sure.

    • Scott C

      To say he has pitched consistently better than anyone else in the rotation is setting up a straw man. Harvey has consistently pitched below league average at the cost of starts to younger pitchers that actually have a future wit the Reds.

      • sezwhom

        Which ones actually have a future? Honestly, I don’t have faith in any of them but I do with Harvey and Disco. It’s time the Reds signed FA starters or made trades. This grooming of young starters hasn’t worked out so well.

      • David

        Straw men are quite easy to knock down. So yes. of course.
        The Reds are in last place because their starting pitching stinks. Harvey has been only marginally better.
        At one time, he was a quite a good pitcher. Perhaps another season and he will be close to that again physically. The Cardinals took a chance on Chris Carpenter in 2004 (?), And as he recuperated from TJ surgery, it paid off for several years.

      • greenmtred

        You can ignore that Harvey, coming off his surgeries and rebuilding stamina, is a work in progress. He isn’t the same pitcher now that he was when he first joined the Reds. Citing his stats for the season doesn’t take this into account.

    • Dewey Roberts

      I think Castellini has changed his mantra from, “The losing must stop” to “The losing must NEVER stop!”

  2. Ernie Howerton

    That’s a crying shame that our starters aren’t capable of pitching into the 7th,or three times through the lineup.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      so far this year, per baseball reference, only two teams, Cleveland and Houston, average more than 6 innings/start and they are at 6.2 and 6.1 innings. In this day and age, going regularly into the 7th inning and beyond just isn’t happening. So, it can be a crying shame but no one else’s pitchers are consistently going into the 7th or longer either. The average is 5.5 innings, Reds at 5.2.

      • Chris Miller

        Glad you brought that up. That’s the 1st thing I was thinking, but didn’t have the data in front of me. Rarely do you watch a game where a starter completes 7 innings. Also, if one hasn’t noticed, starters on the Reds these days constantly get the quick hook. I would say, just by watching that Harvey seems to get the quick hook more often, when he’s really got plenty left in the tank, and with his veteran status and abilities would most often be able to get out of the inning he’s in. Who knows though, the game has changed. I personally would really be looking to sign Harvey.

      • lwblogger2

        I’ve been saying that and used last year’s pitchers as an example, saying that only a small portion of starting pitchers were averaging 6 IP/GS. Glad you put the averages out there. Also would point out that Houston and Cleveland play in the AL, where you won’t pull your SP in a close game for a PH when you could get another inning or 2 out of him.

    • Phil

      Maybe they are capable, not just allowed to. They can’t control when they are pulled.

  3. Still a Red

    Is anything better than nothing? Why give him away, especially to a team in your division. Does a middling AA prospect (or 2) help the Reds any better in 2019 or 2020 than letting him walk? If he walks, the Reds might have a chance in signing him (I wouldn’t pay much for very long, but he hasn’t been so bad that he couldn’t help again next year).

    • sezwhom

      I agree. I seriously doubt Milwaukee or anybody else offered much in return. Probably a prospect we’ll never see. I’d offer a two year deal with incentives to Harvey. He throws strikes! Jeez, what a concept.

  4. WVRedlegs

    Nice read Clay. But painful too. It stacks up just how horrible the Reds have been.
    What this whole Harvey saga has demonstrated is that the Reds front office does not want to spend any prospect capital for starting pitching this winter. And they are trying to get a leg up on signing Harvey without trading away any prospects for a different starter. All the while they are letting the trade values of Robert Stephenson and Dilson Herrera evaporate right before our eyes. Two players who had regained a little bit of luster at AAA this year. Two players who will be out of options in 2019 and probably out of the Reds 2019 plans, but are still on the 25 man roster.
    We hail the minor trade for Curt Casali, but then have to look at this mess that was self-created by the front office. Why is it always one step forward and two steps backwards with this Reds front office??
    Something good or positive happens, and then we have to sit around like a dog crapping razor blades and wait for the other shoe to drop.
    Flip flops are for the beach. Flops are what the Reds front office does. Bigger flops than LeBron flops. Bigger than the Fosbury flops.

    • Chris Miller

      I really don’t get your post above. You seem to be ripping the Red’s brass for no good reason. How long are people going to be worshiping a bust of a #1 pick, that is Stephenson? What do you want the Reds to do with him? Give him magic dust so he actually pitches well in the Majors? The only people responsible for Stephenson and his horrible results is Stephenson. This kid is a head case, and yes, at some point on another team, maybe he wakes up, but that’s not the Reds front office’s fault. As for Herrera, again, this guy was dumped off the 40 man roster at the beginning of the season. Free for anyone to grab. Did you hear the shouts from other organizations picking him up? I sure didn’t. It seems to me, often Reds fans tend to overvalue their own prospects, and with all due respect, it seems you fit that mold.

  5. RedsFaninPitt

    This whole Harvey debate is getting old. There are valid reasons on both sides. He’s become a league average pitcher which has value if you want to resign him, and I think the reason you pointed out is the biggest reason they did not trade him(they want him to stay interested in being a Red, not a Brewer). Riggleman is probably the biggest reason many of these pitchers aren’t going deep into games.

    If Castellini is truly making the player/coaching decisions in spite of any input from Williams/Krall, then we might as well find a different team to write about and root for because teams like that never succeed.

    • RedsFaninPitt

      I should clarify that they don’t succeed with that degree of ownership control unless they are a deep pocket team like the Yanks (Steinbrenner) who can cover their dumb ownership mistakes with more money.

      • David

        When was the last time the Yankees won the World Series? When was the last time they were in the World Series? Throwing a bucket of bucks has mostly kept the Yankees somewhat competitive, but really, they buy players actually “past peak” at a premium price.

        The Reds could build a good team (Competitive) through mostly drafting, and then shopping around for good FA when they were close.

        But there was a black hole of drafting results from 2011 to 2015.

        Mike Leake was drafted and went right into the ML team, as I recall.

        There were some good amateur drafts and drafts in Latin America from 2004 (Joey Votto) up through 2010.
        Mike Leake, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Drew Stubbs (he did have a good year in 2010) Bruce Boxberger, Yasmany Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Devin Mesoraco (unlucky player), Travis Wood, etc.
        The drafts lately have been good. But the Reds are in a hole right now. And ownership and Top Management don’t have a clear plan at all. The Rebuild is a catchphrase, a slogan to beguile the fans that something is actually happening.

        Last place again , this year.

        So it goes.

      • big5ed

        That isn’t really true since Steinbrenner died. Lot of younger guys, with Torres, Judge, Sanchez, Didi, Severino, etc. They did more or less buy Stanton and Chapman.

        The Yankees, unfortunately, are now being managed like they should have been managed for 30 years.

      • David

        True, but they still have lingering roster problems to clear out. Much like Theo Epstein did with the Cubs for two years.
        The Yankees have plenty of money, but money alone WILL NOT BUY TALENT!

        You actually have to scout and draft players, and create some value in the minors and some competition for starting positions on the team. You ALWAYS have to have one or two young players pushing up from the minors to the ML team. Every year.

        And Didi Gregorius was another Latin Player drafted by the Reds in the 2005-2010 era. That was an era when the Reds seemed to draft and select players better.

  6. jreis

    I would be interested in our rankings for this century. Only 4 winning seasons and 2 playoff wins,( no home playoff wins).

    I blame our recent failures on Camden Yards. We were sooooo good at RIverfront stadium, then after Camden was built everybody and their grandmother wanted to go retro and now we have this tiny American League style park in gabp and we cant have a winning season.

    lets change the dimensions of the field 410 in center and 380 in the allies, lay down some astroturf or at least that fake grass they use in Tampa and see if we cant turn things around!

    • Jeff Reed

      And keep 325 down both foul lines?

  7. KDJ

    This entire analysis was centered on innings per start. It left out the facts that Harvey has the lowest ERA and the lowest WHIP of any Reds pitcher who has started more than one game. Maybe these were omitted because it is depressing to think about.

    • Clay Marshall

      Thanks for reading/commenting. The goal wasn’t to do a deep dive on Harvey’s stats (although as Steve’s recent “Culture Problem” post noted, his ERA, FIP, xFIP and SIERA are all below league-average), so apologies if the IP/start #’s I cited made it seem otherwise. When I wrote this on Friday, I just found it ironic that he made an “average” (5 1/3) start right after waivers were revoked that did not result in any sort of positive momentum, etc. I then thought it’d be interesting to look at how deeply he pitched as compared to his teammates… but now that you mention it, yes, it’s quite depressing.

      • No Sparky, No Spark

        Clay,
        Notwithstanding your goal for this article, your first sentence, “Over the past five seasons, no team in the National League has lost more games than the Cincinnati Reds” serves as a profound, irrefutable and resounding, but for us fans, sadly true, refutation of the “positive momentum” propaganda/hogwash/bs. For that, I thank you.

  8. roger garrett

    Last I looked Harvey has over 200 starts at the big league level and a couple or more arm injuries.So is he on the way up or way down?Comparing him to younger arms with 50 or fewer stars is well.

  9. Jack

    Just out of curiosity what is the average innings for all starting pitchers in the league? Let’s compare that to our staff.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      5.5 innings across all of MLB. Reds at 5.2. The only two teams above 6 innings are AL teams, Cleveland and Houston.

      • Jack

        Maybe that should have been put in the article. Doesnt make our pitchers that bad then if they only go 5 and 1/3. Nobody else is going 6 except 2 teams.

      • roger garrett

        Each of those teams have former Cy Young winners and good pitchers in the two and three spot.There just aren’t a bunch of aces or top of the line pitchers.Boston has Sale.Price and Porcello as well.The Reds just need average starting pitching and in our park that’s about the best we can hope for but we better load up on offense because in the game today you better be able to outslug some teams.

  10. big5ed

    Harvey has a 3.29 FIP in August. For what it’s worth, Harvey has told Welsh and others that he feels like his injuries are behind him. Welsh says that he can see the difference between now and May with Harvey. Riggleman says, based on what he’s seen, that he expects Harvey to be better next year.

    They may be all wrong. But I don’t buy that his starts take away from anything important. They want to see Cody Reed get starts, and they may want to see Lorenzen or Garrett get a start or two. They may even want to see Stephenson back up there again. But not really much else. Reed is already in the rotation. If they want to free up some starts, then they should bench Homer Bailey, who has no more chance at being on the next good Reds team than does Jack Billingham.

    • RedsFaninPitt

      Here, here!!! Totally agree with that, Bailey is the one who needs to be put in the pen or released, but again if Castellini is truly calling the shots on who stays and who plays. We are truly wasting our time discussing anything Reds-related because it no longer matters what we or DW or Nick Krall think – only what Bob C. wants done. If that is the case, then the Reds will not sniff the World Series until he retires.

      • Chris Miller

        Too many good deals have been made for Castellini to actually be calling the shots. I think way too much has been put into the comments that Castellini made about Hamilton.

      • Colorado Red

        Not really,
        He has been calling some of the shots.
        Also, I a few good trades, but not many

  11. Indy Red Man

    Yeah lets pile on Matt Harvey like he’s the problem? I’ll give you that he doesn’t go deep but that 80% of the guys out there now. Show me a guy that goes 6.2+ consistently and I’ll show a guy the Reds can’t afford….or wouldn’t come to Cincy in the first place

    3.58 over his last 11 games (Reds are 7-4)
    2.54 if you throw out 1 bad game. A 2.54 era in 10 games out of 11 qualifies for Sandy Koufax levels in Reds land. We don’t get good pitching. 1 guy a decade at best that could go 2.54 for 10 of 11 games.

    3 hrs allowed in 10 starts if you throw out that Pitt game

    Those #’s say he’s improving! Lets see what happens tonite! Who are these young wizards of the diamond that are supposed to be better then him? We’re all waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

    • Indy Red Man

      That being….I will hedge my comments somewhat. I wouldn’t be shocked if Thames knocked the Toyota truck out into the stands and crushed some empty seats. He’s no ace and his fastball is straight as an arrow, but I think he could pull off a 3.70ish era for 170 ip next year if his health held up. That should have some value for someone?

  12. WVRedlegs

    It is being reported that the Cardinals are going to name their interim manager as the full time manager. Uh oh. Castellini will try to keep up with the Cardinals. I don’t like where this might be heading.

    • Jeff Reed

      Is the owner of the Reds going to give the reins of the team to an up and coming young manager who is fluent in analytics? I doubt it.

  13. Bill j

    WVREDLEGS I believe you’re right, the exhaustive search is complete and Riggleman will be the next manager. What about Homer taking starts away from the young pitchers and isn’t he making about 3 times as much as Harvey.

  14. eric3287

    I’m sorry, but there really is no logical reason for the Reds to have kept Matt Harvey. The reasons tossed about are frankly insulting to Matt Harvey. He’s going to choose some combination of most money/longest years/best fit for him. The idea that he’d be so pissed at the Reds for LETTING HIM PLAY PLAYOFF BASEBALL in 2018 that he would refuse to sign as a free agent is simply ridiculous. If your fear is that he is going to go to a different organization and like it so much better than your organization, maybe work on fixing what’s wrong with you first.

    We literally just saw a few years ago a rebuilding team (Chicago Cubs) trade an impending free agent (Jason Hammel) and then turn around and sign him in the offseason. We are talking about someone who is going to be 30 years old come Opening Day. The Reds aren’t going to “trick” him in to re-signing. And for crying out loud we aren’t even talking about like a top 10 arm in baseball or anything. This whole thing is frankly ridiculous. There’s a reason the Reds have been so consistently bad; Bob gets too attached to players and is too cheap to get legitimate upgrades so you are left with a roster full of mediocre players that Bob won’t trade when they temporarily exceed expectations, complemented with “reclamation projects” that don’t pan out.

    2019 Reds: The Same Team That Lost 90 Games in 2017 and 2018, But With Positive Momentum!

    • big5ed

      The logical reason was that the Brewers did not offer them anything worth the plane ticket, and the Reds didn’t want to give a decent pitcher to a division rival.

      I don’t like the flippin’ Brewers, any more than Clemenza liked Barzini.

  15. BigRedMike

    Harvey has moved from the Curve to more Sliders the past two seasons. The slugging % on his Fastball has increased the last two seasons and % on the Slider has improved this season.

    The chase rate continues to decrease and the Hard hit % is quiet a bit higher this season.

    Harvey is nothing special and has a low Strike Out per 9 innings. A one year deal would not hurt or help the Reds next season.

    As noted, the Harvey discussion is not necessarily just about Harvey. It is an example of a team that has been the worst in the NL for many years and it seems that the opinion of many Reds fans is that the team needs to keep the player. Not sure why the worst team in the NL continues to overvalue the players generating the bad records

    • Chris Miller

      I guess for the same reason Reds fans want to continually overvalue their prospects that quite often aren’t that good. Reds fans want to keep Harvey because they were offered nothing for what appears to be their best starter right now. Plain and simple.

      • BigRedMike

        Harvey is a free agent, right? Is that plain and simple?

    • Mike C

      “Harvey is nothing special”, while that is true for roughly 85% of the teams, that is unfortunately not the case for the Reds. Many knowledgable Reds fans are allowing their understandable frustration with ownership to interfere with their value analysis. I don’t think any knowledgable fan is trying to make the case for Harvey as an anchor to this rotation, but could he be a more consistent #3, #4? Yes, I think that answer if painfully clear. It was obvious that he was a boost to the rotation this season.

      This is a potential small deal that they can make, but it is one that should have a favorable opportunity cost, and they must take gambles and most of those gambles must pay off if they expect to compete.

      What little they left on the table by retaining him isn’t worth getting worked up over. The owner feels like it increases his chance of signing him to a favorable deal by keeping the name plate on his locker in September. Much ado about nothing.

  16. George

    Clay writes;
    “the Reds have the lowest variance and standard deviations over the last five years – which is basically a fancy way of saying that they’ve been better at being consistently lousy than any of their NL peers.”

    At this point the thoughts and discussion about one pitcher (Harvey) are a result of the frustration that most Reds fans have. There are no saviors in the Reds system. The overall thoughts, based on the last 5 years, seem to be that if “Big Bob” is alive or involved, there is no help coming or that there are no non-producers going. No matter what he may have done in the past, not related to winning on the field, means little other than enhancing his business legacy and employing friends and family.

    All I want to do is to be able to attend a baseball game and watch professional ball-players showing their multiple skills and winning. I guess that simple wish is too much to hope for.