The first half of the Reds 2019 season was…interesting. It was littered with inconsistent offense and a consistently good pitching staff. We saw Joey Votto’s slow start morph into a more Votto like season. The first half allowed us to witness Luis Castillo continue to walk the road that leads to Ace City. We waited for, and eventually watched, Yasiel Puig catch fire and hit bombs (and also fight people).

If the second half of the season can replicate even a fraction of what the first half produced, then we are in for a fun (and sometimes frustrating) summer. Below are my top 5 storylines heading into the second half of the season:

1. Can the Reds stay in the race (any race)

The Reds are still in it! After being out of the divisional race by what seemed like the end of April in previous years, the Reds are still hanging around. They currently sit 4.5 games back in a division that apparently no one wants to win. They also sit only 4.5 games back in the Wild Card race. It will be interesting to see if the Reds can continue to grind away and make headway in the NL Central. The division is one of the most competitive in baseball and is clearly not as top heavy as it has been in years past. Every team seems to have a weakness. Whether or not the Reds end up winning the division or even make the playoffs – it’s fun and refreshing to even be talking about it in the middle of July.

2. Trades (of course)

It’s been a second half storyline for years now. Because the Reds are kind of in it but kind of not, they have an array of different directions they could take. They could add players, trade away all or some of their one year rentals, or stay put and let the season play out with what they currently have. Come next month, the living addresses of Scooter Gennett, Yasiel Puig, and/or Tanner Roark could be completely different from what they are now. It’ll be interesting to see how the Reds front office navigates the waters at this year’s trade deadline. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important and complicated deadlines the Reds have had in years.

3. The continued success of the pitching staff

It’s no secret that the Reds’ pitching basically carried the team through the first half of the season. They are currently second in the NL in ERA, FIP, and xFIP. The Reds have also given up the fewest runs in the league. Their starting pitching and bullpen have been better than most imagined. David Bell has been very thoughtful with the way he has managed the staff and I think the results speak for themselves. I’m interested to see if this pitching staff can continue to produce the way that it has. We already saw signs of the bullpen’s production somewhat declining as the All Star break approached. It will also be intriguing to see how a healthy Alex Wood fits in with this team and the repercussions that come from him taking someone’s spot in the Reds’ starting rotation.

4. Jesse Winker’s second half

Jesse Winker is interesting to me. He is currently slashing .250/.327/.460 – somewhat of a drop off from his 2018 slash of .299/.405/.431. He isn’t having a terrible year by any means, but I’m still waiting for the former number one prospect to take the next step. The Reds are pretty much using him exclusively against right handed pitching. It’s obvious that the lefty struggles against left handed pitching (.428 OPS), but you kind of have to wonder what the end game is here. Is Jesse Winker destined to be a platoon guy his entire career? Will the Reds give him more chances to prove himself against left handed pitching as the season goes on? Will Jesse Winker’s overall offensive productivity bounce back in the second half? Hopefully Jesse answers these questions (for the better) in the second half of the season.

5. Luis Castillo’s Cy Young run 

La Piedra (La pyeh-drah) Translation: The Rock

  1. The solid mineral material forming part of the surface of the earth and other similar planets, exposed on the surface or underlying the soil or oceans.
  2. Luis Castillo

Luis Castillo has been awesome this year. He’s taken the next step towards “Ace” status. Castillo is currently second in the NL in ERA (2.29). That being said, he has also missed some opportunities to really solidify himself as one of the best pitchers in the NL. He struggled at times in the first half when the Reds gave him run support. I’m interested to see how Luis Castillo continues to blossom in the second half and if he can fix some of the things that would deter him from being a serious Cy Young candidate.

There you have it. My top 5 storylines and the things I will be paying attention to in the second half of the season. What are some of the things you will be paying attention to in the second half?

40 Responses

    • ToBeDetermined

      Gary
      Is that Reggie Jackson ?

    • Barbara

      I’ve never seen the Reds have so much fun together. It would be a big mistake to trade Puig. He gives 100% every game he’s in.

    • W.Lackey

      Reds need 2 or 3 very good hitters. Why not trade for a very g o of hitter plus bring up a couple up from the minors. Reds need at least one very good starter, forget about Wood helping out as it seems he never wanted to pitch for the Reds period.
      Plus the much used bullpen could certainly use a couple of pitchers for the bullpen. BUT AS FANS OF THE REDS WE ALL KNOW THIS FRONT OFFICE WILL MAKE NO MOVES AT ALL WHICH IS THEIR USUAL ATTACKS and also why the team will always be cellar dwellers.

  1. Klugo

    Nice. My list would sub Suarez’s 2nd half in place of Winker’s. Can Suarez put two halves together? He hasn’t done it yet in his young career. We’ll need him to help Puig carry the load.

  2. CI3J

    The main thing I want to know is, if the Reds trade people, where do they look to upgrade? I guess catcher would be a start, but do you want to mess with that when they also are so integral to the success of the pitching staff? Votto isn’t going anywhere. Who could they trade for that would be an upgrade on Scooter at 2nd? Iglesias has kind of cooled off after a hot start, but I still think he’s one of the better fielding SS in the whole league. Suarez? HAHAHA!!!!

    Then there’s the outfield. Winker in left is a work in progress, but it would be silly to give up on him so soon. Same for Senzel. And who could the Reds trade for that would be better than what Puig gives them in RF these last 2 months?

    I’m stumped. I know the offense hasn’t been good, but I’m paradoxically hard-pressed to see where they can improve through trades, unless they want to stock up on younger talent that’s only a year or two away from the big leagues. But I sincerely doubt the Reds have the kind of pieces to get those kind of players.

    • Pete

      Are the catchers so integral to the pitching success? I really don’t know but I would hate this to tie the FO’s hands if the right deal presents itself. IMO, Derek Johnson is the integral ingredient.

      Good list Jeff, 2 is probably dependent of the outcome of 1 over the next couple of weeks. I do fear if management presses too hard on 2 (buy), they could do long-term damage to 1. For me, it’s what do they do with Puig & Roark. Theoretically they could be traded and resigned after the season. The reverse doesn’t work. Important decisions to make.

    • Matt WI

      I know what you’re saying C13J, but outside of Suarez and Senzel staying on the team, I think the right way to frame the question is “where couldn’t the Reds improve?” I believe it’s been the thinking of the front office to be in line with what you’re saying… “what’s to improve, this is a good ball club”… but if it was a better ball club, maybe they’d stop see-sawing. More talent is always better. The only question is whether or not the improved talent is available/worth the cost.

      We have to be able to acknowledge that as much as we’d like this team to be successful, they aren’t being as successful as they need to be. If they were, they’d be over .500 right now. Either that, or we’d just really have to believe the 2nd half is going to be different.

      • RojoBenjy

        ” I believe it’s been the thinking of the front office to be in line with what you’re saying… “what’s to improve, this is a good ball club”… but if it was a better ball club, maybe they’d stop see-sawing.”

        I think you’ve managed to crystallize the unimaginative thinking of the Reds’ front office with this sentence. And I tend to agree with it, unless I see something that tells me otherwise.

  3. doofus

    The front office will not make any significant trades. They may move Hernandez and or Hughes for nondescript minor leaguers.

    Bob “We will bring championship baseball to Cincinnati” Castellini is still principal owner. He does not believe that the FO should trade players when their value is high (Puig, Roark, Garrett) he prefers the FO to move them when their value is low.

    Fifth place again because front does nothing.

    • Jeff Gangloff

      I’d actually be 100% fine with it if the front office didn’t make any major trades at the deadline.

      • Seadog

        Derek Johnson is the MVP of this team in the first half. Just amazes me what he has done. Pitching/shifts on D. Should b your #1 story line period. Period. Period.

  4. George

    Jeff;
    Your article is the hope that most Red fans have, but until ownership is motivated to join your thoughts it will be 5th place again. The real question that someone in the media (not bloggers) needs to ask ownership is how much money will be budgeted for player salary next year.

  5. Matt WI

    A lesser story is also whether or not someone like Dietrich can get the right amount of at-bats and stay effective. Right now it feels like having Adam Duvall all over again, without the plus defense.

  6. Steve Schoenbaechler

    So far, from what I’ve seen, the Reds, whether you think they are or not, have been getting the results of a “young team”. From what I mean, losing a lot of close games, not sure just how to “crack” that bubble. For instance, so far, they have played 500 ball for May, June, and July. They need to step that up, to 550 ball, 600 ball, etc. Good teams find ways to do this.

  7. jreis

    thank you Jeff. I agree this is make or break time for Winker and (Ervin for that matter). Just too much talent in our minor league system in the outfield for them to continue to perform with average offensive stats.

    I actually think both guys have improved defensively this year from last year which is a good sign.

  8. Pete

    My storyline for the second half: can the Reds bats recover from a dismal first half.

    These are the numbers and they are hard to fathom. Even the dire pessimists couldn’t have seen this happening sine Opening Day. The following is the wRC+ for each of the players who has enough data to do the comparison. The first number is for 2018, the second 2019:

    Winker: 102, 128
    Votto: 103, 131
    Suarez: 106/135
    Puig: 101/123
    Peraza: 57/97
    Barnhart: 55/89
    Iglesias: 80/90
    Dietrich: 126/109

    If these guys can reverse their fortunes and the pitching holds up, things could get interesting. I knew it was bad but not this bad.

    • Pete Blowers

      First number is from 2029..now it makes sense!

    • Centerfield

      Isn’t the first # for 19 and the second for 18?

    • Grand Salami

      Those numbers are shocking. One must think that a 2nd half correction is on the horizon. Even accounting for aging curves, Puig, Suarez, Winker, Peraza should be putting up higher numbers in 19 if Votto’s is expected to decline.

      Is this down hitting across the board a symptom of coaching? Or Is it the result of Bells tinkering? I think the latter is unfounded bc Suarez and Votto have had the most consistent spots and starts in the lineup and are two of the biggest regressors. I still seems to be something systemic.

  9. Centerfield

    I see the Reds optioned VanMeter and signed Ciuffo (to a minor league contract.)

  10. TR

    Will at least two or three Reds hitters step up to spark the offense to get runners in scoring position across the plate with a hit, not necessarily a homerun. Will the Reds win more series than they lose or split in the second half? So far winning three of three series against the Cubs and recently three of four games against the Brewers are good omens in the quest for .500 and beyond.

  11. daytonnati

    Sports Illustrated had a piece on the moves each team should make. Here is what they said about the Reds:

    Cincinnati Reds (41–46, fifth place in NL Central; 4.5 GB of second NL wild-card) — Trade for Blue Jays SS Freddy Galvis

    Cincinnati may be in last place in its division, but it’s not by much—just 4 ½ games out of first. And while the Reds are below .500, their Pythagorean record puts them at 47–40, which would be the second-best record in the NL. The math, in other words, suggests they may be buyers. If so, they can snag an easy upgrade on a problem position by adding Galvis, a well-traveled veteran. He’s not nearly the defender that incumbent Jose Iglesias is (to be fair, most aren’t), but he’s a far more capable hitter, with a .270/.309/.467 line and 107 OPS+ compared to Iglesias’ .282/.315/.390 and 80. If Cincinnati decides to sell, though, it can shake up the market in a big way by putting Yasiel Puig on the market. He’d make a lot of sense for the A’s or Indians.

    • Grand Salami

      If the Reds can move Iglesias and land Glavis in a three team trade, that would probably justify moving Puig for a controllable bullpen arm and decent prospect to the Indians.

      I think the Reds should consider Wilson Ramos from the Mets. He’s pricey but offers an extra year of control and probably isn’t as costly as a name like Frazier. He also clearly upgrades a position.

  12. Steven Ross

    Get five games OVER .500 then we’ll talk.

  13. Jreis

    I do think we need a spark in the second half. Hopefully it is Scooter but if he comes out of the gate slow do we dare move Senzel to second and bring up Trammel in center?

  14. Tom Mitsoff

    I’d be surprised if the Reds make any deals of any significance. There aren’t any positions at which they have a surplus of above-average talent to deal from, with the possible exception of starting pitcher. They’re not going to get an everyday major leaguer who can help this year for Roark. I don’t even want to think about trading Reds veterans for prospects, because that will mean they have collapsed after the all-star break.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I agree. If we make any trade, I believe it’s going to be more of a position for position type of trade. Not saying it would be this specifically, but something like Puig for a cheaper OFer.

  15. MARK MOORE

    I’m thinking Division or bust. Too many other teams from East and West play into the WC race. Central only sends one team forward this year. And it appears to be up for grabs.

    Get just a couple over .500 and then let’s talk about it.

    • Roger Garrett

      Yep and does anybody think we are better then the teams in front of us?How many of our 8 position players would start for the Cubs?Or the Cards?Or the Brewers?Talent always wins out in the end.These teams have much much better talent.

  16. Barbara

    I agree that Puig needs help offensively but who is better than him in right field. He’s quick and gives 100% every game.

  17. matt hendley

    Division is the target, but WC is within reach as well. Many of these isses will be resolved shortly. Despite the end of the worlders on here, I do not want to see a massive sell off. Scooter needs to get it going, I hope he got some work in during the ALS break.

    Castillo will be a finalist for the CY. To early to say if he will win it.

    The Horse goes on a tear and gets MVP votes. As a red.

  18. jreis

    maybe it is time to put Joey back in the 3 hole. I know he isn’t putting up the power numbers you would like but Suarez isn’t cutting it. he hits best in the 5 hole it seems.

    Hopefully Scooter can get healthy quick and maybe he can hit 2nd. realistically if Scooter can’t turn things around our playoff chances are zero so if he struggles out of the gate I say the future is now for our reds and we bring up Trammel and or Siri and move Senzel to second base.

    • Grand Salami

      I agree about Scooter. If he doesn’t return to a semblance of his former ‘18 self then the push for a playoff appearance is forced and probably destined to be unsuccessful.

      Cards fans seem genuinely split about seeing their team buy or sell despite being a better team in the standings. The common refrain is their stars need to start hitting before they start leveraging farm pieces for temporary pieces.

      If Reds fans weren’t so starved for the post-season this should be our refrain too. Unless Scooter has a healthy groin and speedy bat, unless Suarez is recovered from his run in with Hurdle and has solved the riddle of ‘low and outside’, and unless Votto can be 2’nd half Joey, then don’t force it!

  19. Paula Edge

    The team is a joy to watch. I haven’t been so interested in Baseball in years. My husband and I were there for Senzel’s second game and enjoy keeping up with him. We were there when Derrick Dietrich helped move the swarm of bees. I call him the Beewhisper. He is great to watch on the the field and at the plate as is Senzel. Sonny Grey is my favorite pitcher. He is awesome. We havel come to 4 games and would have come more if we didn’t live 3 hours away. We will be there at least 4 more times and hopefully more
    Let’s go Reds
    Paula Edge