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
- 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.
- 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?