The 2015 season has certainly not gone as planned. As we head into the last two months of the season, we have enough of a sample to begin evaluating where the Reds are and where they need to upgrade this offseason. Of course, the Reds could also completely blow up the roster this summer, but that is a conversation for another time.

We can tell just by watching what the general problem areas are, but it helps to look into the numbers to understand the extent of those problems.Some (including a high profile broadcaster) have suggested that the core position players are part of the problem. While the Reds certainly have roster issues, the healthy part of their core has been extremely effective this season.

Coming in to the 2015 season, the optimists suggested that a lineup core of Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Devin Mesoraco coupled with a rotation top three of Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake could push the Reds into contention. The biggest caveat was that all those guys needed to stay healthy for the majority of the season. Unfortunately, the Reds faced major injuries before they even got off the ground. Early on, the Reds found out that Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco would not contribute significantly this season because of injury. These injuries left gaping holes in the Reds lineup and rotation that they’ve struggled to overcome.

Instead of Mesoraco (4.5 WAR in 2014), the Reds have employed Brayan Pena as their main catcher. Pena is a fine backup but a lousy starter, producing -0.1 WAR this point. Tucker Barnhardt, the Reds other backstop, has contributed 0.4 WAR. Regardless of who has played catcher, the Reds have experienced a significant downgrade in the position from 2014 to 2015.

I can still dream of what a 2-5 of Votto, Frazier, Bruce, and Mesoraco would have looked like. While the addition of Mesoraco wouldn’t have solved all the Reds problems, he would have significantly improved both the lineup and defense as Pena’s defense has rated poorly this season.

The Reds could very well have those four players intact next season and if so, that core matches up well with just about anybody. Here’s why.

Unsurprisingly, Votto, Frazier, and Bruce have produced the most position player WAR on the Reds team. Currently, there are seven teams in the National League with winning records. If we take the three top players by WAR from each winning team and stack them up against the Reds top three, we get the following results:

  1. Giants (Buster Posey, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford): 12.2 WAR
  2. Reds (Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce): 10.8 WAR
  3. Nationals (Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Michael Taylor): 9.9 WAR
  4. Dodgers (Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal): 9.8 WAR
  5. Cubs (Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Chris Coughlin): 9.4 WAR
  6. Cardinals (Jason Heyward, Matt Carpenter, Randal Grichuk): 8.6 WAR
  7. Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Jung-ho Kang, Starling Marte): 8.4 WAR
  8. Mets (Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores): 7.0 WAR

The Reds top three position players have played better the top position players from six of the seven teams that currently have winning records in the National League. Among the teams with losing records, only the Diamondbacks have a top three that trumps the Reds big three. This season, the trio of Votto, Frazier, and Bruce have stacked up well against the rest of the league. Add a healthy Mesoraco to that core, and it likely would look even better.

So if the Reds core has played on par or better than their counterparts, where on the roster do the Reds need to improve the most? First, let’s examine the rest of the starting lineup:

  • Billy Hamilton: 2.1 WAR
  • Zack Cozart/Eugenio Suarez: 2.4 WAR
  • Brandon Phillips: 1.4 WAR
  • Marlon Byrd: 0.7 WAR
  • Brayan Pena: -0.1 WAR

Outside of Pena, this group has been solid. Hamilton essentially obtains all of his fWAR from his elite baserunning and defensive skills. If you are skeptical that the defensive metrics are 100% accurate (they aren’t but likely close), then he may not be providing quite this much value. His defense certainly came up big against the Cardinals on Tuesday.

The Reds three middle infielders have played solidly this season. Only Brandon Phillips has hit below average (89 wRC+), but he continues to add value with his defense and baserunning skills.

The two weakest links on this list are catcher and leftfield. For 2016, the catcher position will likely get a major upgrade with a healthy Mesoraco. But once again, the Reds will need to address leftfield. Byrd continues to have a good offensive season. He is also one of the worst leftfielders in the game. Even so, Byrd hasn’t been a disaster.

The starters may be solid if unspectacular outside of the top three, but the Reds bench has just played awful. With 384 combined plate appearances, Jason Bourgeois, Skip Schumaker, Kris Negron, Chris Dominguez, and Brennan Boesch have produced -2.7 WAR, which includes their defensive and baserunning contributions. Ivan DeJesus has produced at Ruthian levels compared to his bench peers with 0.6 WAR since being called up.

Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece earlier this year about the value in not having bad players. The worse your players are on the back end of the roster, the better your good players have to be in order to make up the difference. The Reds had little margin for error coming into the season, and the benches shortcomings put more pressure on the Reds best players to carry the load.

While the bench is bad, the biggest issue with our beloved Redlegs is the pitching staff. Reds starters rank 10th in ERA (4.06) in the National League. ERA can be deceiving sometimes, and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is a better predictor of current ability and future performance. Unfortunately, the Reds starters have an xFIP of 4.14, meaning they have pitch slightly worse than their ERA.

Just like the bench, the rotation’s problems are related to a lack of depth. Cueto and Leake both pitched well this season while the rest of the rotation has largely faltered, even though some of the youngsters show promise.

The rotation that was once a team strength during the Reds recent playoff runs has become a glaring weakness. The young kids will spend the rest of this season competing for rotation spots in 2016. The experience those pitchers get in the majors this year is invaluable in their development.

The starters haven’t pitched well, but the bullpen has pitched just as poorly. The team’s struggles began early as the Reds gave high-leverage innings to the nefarious Kevin Gregg. The Reds best relievers have dominated, but outside of JJ Hoover and Aroldis Chapman, the other Reds relievers haven’t inspired much confidence. Reds relievers rank 14th in ERA (4.18) in the National League. By xFIP, they are the worst bullpen in the NL (4.10). Once again, the Reds have good talent at the top in this area and then there is a big drop off.

What should we take from this? The Reds have a number of really good players, but the back half of the roster matters as well, and those players have really hurt the Reds this year. The Reds have to find better bench and bullpen pieces. Those are the easiest players to acquire, and they can’t continue to employ these types of players. If those two units aren’t considerably better in 2016, the Reds really have no excuse.

The Reds core problem isn’t their core players. In fact, while many teams, even contenders, struggle to find middle of the order bats in a league where pitching rules, the Reds have four legitimate power bats in the middle of the lineup when healthy. The Reds core problem is a lack of depth throughout the roster.

As we watch the Reds rookie pitchers fight for a spot in next year’s rotation, we must hope the Reds find a way to upgrade the back of the roster this offseason. If they can’t, 2016 will likely look eerily similar to 2015. If you are going to war with a strong core, make sure you have the secondary pieces to take advantage.

79 Responses

  1. msanmoore

    Explained it well, even to a non-stats guy like me. You must have picked up more than a few things during your time at Cedarville (I’m a Cornerstone grad with many Cedarville friends).

  2. ncmountie1

    Good writeup. I have concern that Mez can come back as a full-time catcher. I would put him in LF, get a FA catcher like Soto to pair with Pena. That potentially solves one problem but is certainly a stop gap at backstop until Stephenson is ready. This assumes that you get back the Mez of 2014, not the Mez of 2013…which again IMO is a question.

    Can Cozart come back? Would Byrd be a good bat off bench? Certainly need upgrades there. Your bullpen question is big one—will any of these young arms be ready? What is Cingrani’s role-Starter, middle relief, or Set up?

    The elephant in the room is not only the roster–but who will be making & managing it? I can see no way Price survives even if WJ does.

    • VaRedsFan

      I mostly agree, especially about Mez. IMO, he is our biggest worry. I hope left field is the answer. He is not a very good defensive catcher.
      If Byrd is on the roster, then he will be starting in LF. No way can this team afford to pay $8 million for a bench guy.

      • ncmountie1

        I don’t think Byrd is going to qualify for his $8M option. I was thinking they’d resign him at much lower #…if he could provide pop off bench. Almost seems like a guy that needs at bats though to be benefical

      • lwblogger2

        I’m not sure why so many Reds fans find Mes a poor defensive catcher. I pay particular attention to catchers and would like to think that I’m a pretty good judge of a catcher’s defensive chops, coming from years, and years (and years) of experience. I’d call Mes an average defender who’s hands and pitch-framing could use some work. If he improved there, he could be above-average defensively behind the dish. Most defensive metrics would seem to agree that he’s average and I’ve seen a few metrics show him as a good defensive catcher.

      • JB WV

        Like others, I’m more worried that Mes may not be able to catch full time. But if he can learn LF it shouldn’t be a problem to rotate him with Barnhart, an excellent catcher, to keep him healthy. Not being mentioned is the exploding bat production of Suarez. Not nearly the fielder that Cozart is, but put him in at 2nd and he could turn into a gem there. I love Phillips. But his day is about over. It’s up to management this offseason to cut their losses with him and open up 2nd for Suarez. The we have a pretty intimidating lineup.

      • VaRedsFan

        @ LW…I’ll yield to your better knowledge of the position. He throws out 25% of base stealers (AVG is 28%). But like you said, his pitch framing seems poor to the eye test. He also drops (ball bounces out of the mitt a lot) an inordinate amount of pitches.

        I can live with the slightly below avg defense as long as he hits like 2014.

  3. RedsFaninPitt

    I don’t think the Reds can contend next year even if Mez returns and performs well for all or even most of the following reasons:
    1.) Young starting pitching top to bottom in the rotation. What are the chances that at least 4 perform well until Bailey returns in June?
    2.) Can’t expect Bailey to be a true ace or even a solid #2 coming off of TJ surgery.
    3.) What are the chances that all of Votto, Bruce, Frazier and Mez stay healthy and not have at least one be on DL for an extended period of time?
    4.) Who can we really expect to contribute and add fairly positive positive WAR in LF next year?
    5.) Who do the Reds have who can bat leadoff and expect an OBP of at least .340? (Sorry, I can’t see the current regime sliding Votto into that role; could Suarez do it?)
    6.) How do you make significant improvements to bench? (Maybe Duvall helps, but that’s a big if and certainly more needs to be done.)
    7.) How do you address the multiple pitcher problems in the bullpen?

    The question marks have only gotten more numerous since the rotation has gotten more young and experienced. And, we still have the all of the same questions we had going into this season that have been answered with inadequate solutions. Even trading a Chapman or Bruce cannot solve all or even most of these problems without adding more questions to the equation.

    Time to blow it up, but I don’t think the current regime will do it until after the TV deal is settled, and then it will be too late to get much value in return.

    • Steve Mancuso

      >>6.) How do you make significant improvements to bench? (Maybe Duvall helps, but that’s a big if and certainly more needs to be done.)

      They have to do a better job of scouting and decision-making on who to sign for spring training and then put on the roster in April. They can’t have the collective failure again of Boesch, Dominguez, Marquis and Gregg. (Parra and Schumaker from 2014).

      The over-reliance on two good weeks of spring training to determine roster spots was one of the main killers of the Reds this year. That and the injuries to Mesoraco and Bailey.

      This may be the single biggest difference between the Reds and Cardinals – the Cardinals ability to scout and choose role players who end up coming through. Check out Randal Grichuk and Mark Reynolds.

      • Tom Gray

        Boesch led PCL in hitting in 2014 (I think) is is currently hitting better than Duvall at AAA. (Duvall also hit well in PCL this year)

        Dominguez, Marquis, and Gregg were reasonable MilB FA signings. All did well in spring training. None did well since.

        The Reds bench in 2010, 2012, and 2013 was good. What turnip truck did those players fall off?

      • Steve Mancuso

        I guess you missed my point about Boesch, Dominguez etc.

        Lots of players have two good weeks at spring training or look good in the best hitter’s league in AAA. But the Reds decision makers ignored the major league track record those players had, especially recently. Falling for two weeks of spring training stats is a mistake fans make, not experienced GMs. It wasn’t hindsight, either. Plenty of people here were saying the Reds were making a big mistake with those players.

        I guess you didn’t read Chris Garber’s post “Last Gasps” about the other recent benches. If you are going to claim the bench was good in 2013, please provide facts to back it up.

      • Tom Gray

        Nope. Each was a reasonable FA signing. Each earned a roster spot in 2015.

        The Reds dumped a veteran 2B coming off his best MLB year in 1962 in favor of a young 2B coming off a great AA season and impressive spring training.

        It worked out well. Ditto Gary Nolan in 1967 or Wayne Simpson / Don Gullett in 1970. Just a FEW examples.

      • Nick Carrington

        Boesch, Dominguez, Marquis, and Gregg were reasonable if they stayed in the minor leagues and provided organizational depth. The fact that four non roster invitees made the opening day roster shows just how little depth the Reds had/have and is prime evidence to the shortcomings of the front office.

      • lwblogger2

        @Steve – I really thought Boesch and Satin would contribute. Dominguez, Gregg, and Marquis on the other hand…….

      • reaganspad

        Tom Gray, the reason that you think the Reds will be bad in 2016 is exactly what you write:

        “Dominguez, Marquis, and Gregg were reasonable MilB FA signings” They were not, they were poor and have cost us being a 500 team right now. Yes, those 3 players are worth 9 losses. And you continue to say Walt is a great GM.

        He is not, but as long as you like bad signings like this and then compare them to something on the big Red Machine or something from yesteryear, we can’t really have a conversation. Look at the Reds bench in the 70’s. Dan Driessen backed up Tony Perez and there was no Marquis or Gregg on any of those teams.

        and Sparky Anderson would have had Chapman starting but that is another rant

      • Steve Mancuso

        Not that much different from this year, allowing for the number of at bats.

      • Tom Gray

        I never said Jocketty is great. Howsam was. Jocketty is good, not great. Never said otherwise.

        Those 3 players were reasonable MiLB FA signings (namely, signed to minor league contract). The Reds sign players like them every single winter.

    • Tom Gray

      Agree for the most part. If Reds get 70 or 75 W next year, Manager deserves NL MOY honors.

      The Reds may contend in 2017 but more likely not until 2018.

      Face it, except for 2010-12-13 seasons, the Reds have sucked ever since 1990’s.

  4. Redgoggles

    This a great article. One that I believe shifts the responsibility from Price to Jocketty for this teams plight. When you have 2.5 decent bullpen options, the manager is going to look stupid in many games. (Price still hasn’t fully recovered credibility for starting Gregg in the 8th inning role, but Hoover was Groover last year and what other legit choices did he have?)

    • Coldheartedfacts

      He should have started the season using Cingrani as the primary set up guy, but Price relegated Cingrani to the ‘long relief’ role. As a result in the first two or three weeks of April Cingrani was barely used while the Reds lost several close games heavily utilizing Gregg and Badenhop.

      Cingrani did well when shifted to that role….until the arm/shoulder problems creeped in again.

  5. IndyRedMan

    If Mesoraco can catch? That’s the big question. I have a feeling Byrd might look like Eric Davis in LF compared to Meso? The young pitching will improve and so will the bench with DeJesus, Cozart (?), and maybe the infielder w/power from the Leake trade….his name escapes me?
    Jocketty could take the money from Cueto, Leake, Byrd, and Marshall and find a leadoff hitter (or platoon) that can play LF or switch Frazier or Suarez to LF if need be? Jose Reyes? BP got a single on a 3-0 pitch the other day…..what leadoff hitter w/no power hacks at a 3-0 pitch? I think the bases were empty or maybe just a guy on first? Bottom line the Reds could have a very dangerous lineup w/BP 7th and Hamilton 9th…..if Mesoraco can catch the majority of the time?

    • Steve Mancuso

      I feel pretty confident about Mesoraco’s hip not being an impediment to catching. I’m more worried about concussions and other injuries. If he can play left field a couple days a week, I’d like to see Barnhart catch those days (against RHP). But I’d start the season assuming full go for Mes.

      • ncmountie1

        Steve-Say Mez can catch, your point about other injuries is a valid concern. I still would question what bat we’re going to see after a year layoff? Rather than flip-flop positions why not try to make him an everyday LF (assuming he hit’s like 2014 & can play average defense).?

      • VaRedsFan

        If he comes back and hits like 2014, he could play Byrd-like defense and I wouldn’t care.

  6. Tom Gray

    The Reds going into 2015 had a good (veteran) lineup. Several All-Stars in it. 1 through 8, the Reds can compete with most MLB teams. Bench was lacking quality.

    SP was good but not deep. Bullpen good at the top but not throughout.

    The Reds problem remains the Manager (I think). Price is very good P coach but not Mgr.

    • IndyRedMan

      Price is a bright guy….maybe he’ll come around? He did move Votto to 2nd and Hamilton to 9th….Dusty was too old school to do either. The Reds are running a lot more and taking advantage of the pitcher which they didn’t do that much under Dusty. Its just Price’s handling of the pitching? Some of the stuff he does is mind boggling?

      • Tom Gray

        Dusty has actually won NL pennant and division titles. He was NL MOY 3 times.

        Price? Nope. Nope. And nope. Good P coach to be sure.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Dusty is old news, Tom. He also had one of if not the worst post season records in the history of the game. He didn’t make player’s any better. All of his team’s were given to him, not something he developed. The Cubs also went from first to worst under Baker. His teams have been on the losing side of two of the worst downfalls in baseball history. It’s quite apparent that his teams couldn’t “turn it on” when needed, the reason why his teams have only done as good as they have done as good as you have said. They should have done much better.

  7. peter ponds

    Nice article, but here is where numbers and reality clash.

    In 2012, the Reds had everything: health, the same core (younger and better versions), one of the best rotations/bullpen in MLB, excellent Defense and of course…. a lousy bench. What happened? one of the most embarrassing playoff performances in history. I’m not even mentioning 2010, because the excuse then was ” they are young & get it later”. In ’12 was “Dusty’s fault”.

    Thing is, this “core” is made of some good players that put out big numbers under low-pressure situations, but when the heat is on Votto, Bruce, etc. just freeze like Canada in January. Only BP keeps his swagger and even gets better. That’s why they only have taken the hatred cards ONCE since 2011 in Busch, got no hit in 2010, lost 3 in a row at home! in’12, were toyed in Pitt in ’13 and so on.

    That’s why everything in baseball cannot be measured by a calculator or a formula. The human factor has to be accounted for. You can say that X player has a .400 w/RISP and a .470 OBP and a 6 WAR, but how many of those were in 10-2 or 1-0 games or better yet, in games that really matter?.

    I remember people complaining for Dunn’s meaningless HRs. Well, this might be the case with this “core”: Not enough testosterone (to put it nicely) when it counts.

    • whodeythinkgonnabeatthemredlegs

      2012 happened because the cardinals brainwashed Rolen to sabotage us. Everyone knows that

      • peter ponds

        LOL. Now fanagraphs will make up a new stat: MindsWAR.

    • ncmountie1

      Great observation PP. I’ve thought for a long time that no one on this team plays like “their hair is on fire”. Not a lot of passion IMO. I thought that was Dusty and was hoping it would change under Price but it hasn’t.

    • Nick Carrington

      Unfortunately, you didn’t provide any evidence to back up your claims. Here are the facts:

      Bruce Career: .252/.325/.469
      Bruce High Leverage: .248/.333/.458

      Frazier Career: .259/.324/.469
      Frazier High Leverage: .274/.381/.486

      Votto Career: .310/.419/.532
      Votto High Leverage: .382/.510/.696

      Phillips Career: 272/.319/.421
      Phillips High Leverage: .285/.341/.415

      Bruce hits around career levels in the most important situations. Frazier and Votto have hit quite a bit better during the most important situations. Phillips has hit slightly better over his career during the most important situations.

      The narrative that they don’t hit when it matters is unsubstantiated.

      • peter ponds

        Unfortunately, you did not read my post precisely enough or you had encountered plenty of facts to back it up. Here are some of them:

        2010: GAME 1: NO HIT NO RUN. The stat line for the “core”: .000/.000/.000.
        Resume: They were defeated 3-0. Nice error in game 3 by Bruce btw.

        2012: As stated (and that’s a fact), one of the most embarrassing performances in playoff history. I don’t know if there’s a stat that measures fans’ disappointment and/or shame, but mine sure is like Trout’s WAR.
        Resume: Votto was great in that series, like the rest of the “core”, right?. Except BP (fact). Feel free to post numbers or better yet tell us the outcome.

        2013: See above. Just add Mr. Castellini in the disappointment section.

        You see, you missed my point entirely. Have the Reds had any equal or “higher leverage situations” than those mentioned in my posts? What are the numbers for the “core” in the most important games the Reds have played since 1995? or even against St. Lois??.

        As for other facts, like the overall record the last 5 seasons against the Cards, series won and so on, this narrator is too lazy to go and look for them. But I’m sure you and the nice people here know it very well.

      • Nick Carrington

        Bruce actually has excellent postseason numbers. .361 OBP. .516 Slugging. Excellent. Look at LWBLOGGER2’s post below. You are essentially arguing that the core wasn’t mentally tough in 2010, gained mental toughness in 2012, and then lost it again in 2013.

        Seems more logical that they just have a small sample size in the playoffs. Only 11 plate appearances for Frazier total. Bruce only has 36, but based on his numbers, you have to say he is one mentally tough dude. Or just a small sample size.

        The larger high leverage data is more telling.

      • Nick Doran

        Looks like you just want to cherry pick the stats from a handful of games the Reds lost while ignoring the excellent stats from the games they won. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are not the problem with the Reds. Don’t blame the team’s best players for the Reds’ failures as a team. The Reds need more players like Votto, Bruce and Frazier, not fewer.

    • lwblogger2

      In 2012, against the Giants in the post-season:

      Votto slashed (avg/obp/slg): 389/.500/.389 and had no power playing after returning from surgery. He did his part with that .500 OBP and .389 average.

      Bruce slashed: .263/.364/.526

      Frazier slashed: .167/.286/.167 but only had a measly 7 PA because Rolen was the starting 3B

      Rolen slashed: .250/.294./.250 starting 4 of the 5 games and I like Rolen but he made a critical error in game 3 that contributed to the Reds losing the game.

      Mes didn’t appear in the 2012 post-season. In 2013, he didn’t start behind the plate in the WC game as Pena was basically Cueto’s personal catcher.

      Phillips slashed: .375 /.360 /.625 !!! Outstanding!!

      The core wasn’t the problem in the 2012 post-season against the Giants.

      • peter ponds

        And please, do not take it as a direct attack to the God of OBP. Unfortunately (??) for him – because of the big bucks he makes- accountability starts with him. But I still feel he’s elite.

      • MrRed

        Based on the stats you’re using, he didn’t face a high leverage/pressure situation in those games. Actually, it looks like he did fine hitting with one good leg in that series. Unfortunately for you, this does nothing to advance your argument.

  8. jamesgarret

    The problem is that the core must carry this team all the time.We get little or nothing from the bench and the bullpen is well we know what the bullpen is.As stated 1-8 is pretty good but any time the core doesn’t come through we lose.Price has little or nothing to work with outside of the core and the young starters but he makes so many mistakes because he just gets out managed sometimes.Its easy for me(though wrong) to slam the core and Price but I expect them to offset the failures of the others.Last night when he put in Badenhop to pitch the 7th did anybody think it was the right move?I would have bet you and give you odds that the Cards would have scored.Walt built the bench and the bullpen, last year and this year are on him.

    • peter ponds

      It is very true for 2014 & 2015 , plus injuries, not enough depth. But this article is about whether the core is the problem or not. I say yes, they are not mentally prepared to win. I got that impression when I saw them in 2010 and confirmed it in 2012 after THE FIASCO. The shy away when it counts.

      • lwblogger2

        Not mentally prepared to win? Really? MLB players? They fold under pressure? Knowing a few folks who made it to MLB and dozens who played MiLB, I don’t think any of them are particularly prone to folding like a lawn chair just because the spotlight is on them.

      • ncmountie1

        I don’t know if I’d say they aren’t mentally prepared to play, but for me they don’t play with passion or fire. Majority are very low key. I don’t see many of the Reds players (with exception of BP) getting fired up. Long season, I get that, can’t play on emotion for 162 games, but come post-season you better play like you want it. Again, neither Dusty or Price are big rah rah guys. I would like to see some Giradi like passion from top down from the team.

      • docmike

        Are you really saying that just because a player makes an out in a crucial situation, that it means he’s not “mentally tough”?

        I’ve read some ridiculous things on here, but that takes the cake.

      • Matt WI

        Amen, Doc. Those narratives are always “after the fact, therefore because of the fact”… Winning result –> Leader, winner, tough, “cares a lot.” Undesired outcome –> Moody, doesn’t care, soft, not tough.

        It’s such poor attribution to connect mental toughness to a given result, especially when there around mountains of evidence of success that are being ignored for the sake of a very specific, microscopic sample size.

    • MrRed

      They looked pretty darn good the first 2 games in SF. Guess those don’t count though. And losing Cueto 8 pitches into game 1 and having to reshuffle their rotation and have Leake start a critical game really had no bearing on the outcome of the series. Last I checked, the other guys get paid too.

  9. lexbaseball

    The biggest reason the Reds are currently competing against good teams the last couple of weeks is timely hitting. Suarez in particular has been key in two victories in the past week. Not just with getting base hits, but sac flies and other little nuances to win games. Cozart, while he was having a good year, was terrible at putting the bat on the ball with runners in scoring position. This is why the Cardinals win games year in year out. They plate baserunners. Getting base hits is only a part of the game. Getting them on, which OBP is always discussed in this website, getting them over and getting them in, is the why the Cardinals win games. They do the little things. The Reds are starting to do that with the bottom half of their lineup. Like this article says, the Reds top 3, and I would even say 5 are on par with the best in the league, but the bottom 3 and bench are terrible. Suarez should stay the starting shortstop. I own a baseball school in KY and he has a picture perfect swing and puts the ball in play when it matters. Reds need more players like him!!

  10. CP

    Good article, it puts the focus where it should be. The funny thing is, if you listen to Reds fans and/or Marty complain about the Reds, it’s usually about the big 3.

    I also think there is probably an article somewhere, explaining why B-Ham has fWAR of 2.0, and bWAR of 0.3

    • Nick Carrington

      Holy cow. I didn’t realize there was that big a difference. That’s fascinating. I wonder which captures his value most accurately.

      • Yippee

        Not sure what it says about BHam that he has more SB’s than runs scored this season (51 to 47). A career .618 OPS, that’s just not getting it done. Hope he grows into at least average at the plate within the next couple of seasons.

      • IndyRedMan

        BH’s arm is even underrated…..or atleast he gets to the ball so fast and has a fast release. They should’ve won the game vs Pitt the other day on an assist from CF to 3B but Frazier mishandled it.

      • lost11found

        Neither could be the answer…

  11. Doug Wilson

    Good article, but I have to disagree with the first sentence. The season has gone EXACTLY as planned. One look at the opening day roster told you everything you needed to know about the season–they could not compete with the bullpen and bench they had cobbled together. The first three weeks they gave away untold games with lousy 6-7-8 inning pitching and pinch-hitters “hitting” .050. I don’t buy the argument that they don’t have the money–fans still filled the park for much of the season to watch these guys; what would they do for a winner?

    • IndyRedMan

      I don’t know? Everyone knew that counting on Gregg and Marquis was a big mistake and I guess they’ve should’ve known Byrd is a chronically slow starter but the other Bs getting hurt or being terrible in April was unexpected….Bailey, Bruce, Badenhop, and Boesch. Mesoraco too of course. Hamilton failing miserably at leadoff hurt too but I don’t know who was available instead of Byrd to leadoff?

  12. Dewey Roberts

    Without the statistical analysis you set forth in this article, I had come to the same conclusion a long time back. That is one reason, I was dead set against trading Jay Bruce. When you have a core of Votto, Bruce, Frazier, and Mesoraco, you have the makings of a very good lineup. The Reds need a left fielder who can hit for a good average and can field well. If Mesoraco comes back, that will solve their other huge problem. Phillips, Cozart, Suarez, and Hamilton are other good pieces, though some are limited.

    The money saved by trading Cueto and Leake needs to go to a serious upgrading of the bench and role players. No more bargain basement signings please. Some of the young pitchers need to get their feet wet by being relief pitchers. Hopefully, Cingrani returns to that role (where I think he is better suited due to his arm problems). Bailey will not be back until the season is well under way. A staff composed of first and second year pitchers will not be sufficient, in my opinion. Here is what needs to be done for the starting pitcher corps. The Reds need to sign or trade for a seasoned and good starting pitcher who can be like Bronson Arroyo was for so many years. Balance is so important in baseball. A rotation of all young pitchers will take the team no where. A veteran with some good years left would be helpful. But, once again, no Jason Marquis’s, please.

    I am not into blowing the team up. You might blow it up and be left with nothing.
    There are other things that need to be done. First, Walt Jocketty is simply not the man to build a good farm system. Scouting has never been his strength. He is a one horse pony for the most part. He will make the savvy trade to make a good team better. That is his one niche. A new GM who is good at building the farm and drafts is needed. The Reds have a lot of young pitchers and a few prospects to be position players. That is it.

    Second, paint me as one who does not believe that Brian Price will ever be a good manager. The Reds will never win with him at the helm. If managers are not important to a team’s record, then why does every team have one. Price is too laid back and when he does try to respond to things he explodes at reporters in vile curses. Enough of that. I want a manager, like Sparky, who says from the beginning, “My way or the highway.” I think Price is too close to the players and probably tries too hard to be their buddy.

    • i71_Exile

      While I was pleased at the time of the hire, my enthusiasm has soured to “wait and see” currently on Brian Price. I don’t want to see him fired. That said, teams often go with a fiery manager after a so-called player’s manager like Dusty. The Reds did not and it hasn’t exactly worked out. A Lou Pinella-type may have had better short-term success than BP—although not with the injuries/bench/bullpen the Reds have had.

  13. jamesgarret

    Dewey you said it much better then I ever could.Great stuff.

  14. Tom Gray

    Hard to find where to put this so I’ll just put it here.

    Jocketty is a good GM the best Reds GM since mid 1990’s. He’s NOT great. Howsam was. Dewitt maybe (or just very good). Each was responsible (in part) for BRM days.

    Jocketty was responsible for rebuilding Oakland A’s MiLB system in 1980’s. How’s that turn out? I remember the A’s being very VERY good in late 1980’s as a result.

    Jocketty as GM in STL built teams that won 7 division titles, 2 NL pennants, and 1 WS title in about 13 seasons.

    He has ben named MLB Executive of the Year 3 times. Crappy GM’s don’t get named that 3 times.

    With the Reds, he built teams that won 2 division titles and made 3 NL playoff appearances. In the 30 years BEFORE 2010, the Reds made 3 NL playoff appearances (1990, 1995, and 1999). So not great but not bad either.

    • Dewey Roberts

      The complaint from Cardinals fans about Jocketty was that he let the farm system go to pot. Maybe he had someone else designated to handle the draft and farm system in Oakland- though the GM gets the credit for everything the underlings do. I just know this- there were a LOT of major league prospects as position players under the previous two GM’s. There are almost none now. Personally, I don’t care what Jocketty did for Oakland 30 years ago. That is irrelevant to here and now with the Reds.
      Jocketty is not horrible. He just has not shown AT CINCINNATI any propensity to develop a team- pitchers and position players- through the farm system. The Reds cannot compete without such. This team must be rebuilt through the farm system.

      • Tom Gray

        He was not GM in Oakland. Sandy Alderson was. He was responsible for MilB, scouting, and drafting for Oakland A’s in 1980’s.

        The Reds have developed a fair amount of good MLB prospects since 2008. Some were traded to SD Padres for Latos. Others start for the Reds. Still others headed to the Reds someday soon.

      • Dewey Roberts

        Billy Hamilton is the only position player drafted and developed by the Reds since 2008 that is playing for the home team. Mesoraco was drafted before Walt became the GM. So was Cozart, Bruce, Votto, and Frazier. Walt has been here since 2008. That is certainly long enough to turn around the farm system. Which way have things gone? There are more pitching prospects, but far, far fewer position player prospects and almost none of the ones there are seem to have star potential. Perhaps Winker, but that is about it. The fact is that the Reds farm system is rated as very, very middling at best by reputable baseball analysts. Tom, you have a hard job if you are going to tout Walt Jocketty as building a great farm system. Here is a fact: If you have to depend on your farm system to build your team and it is very middling, then your MLB team will be very middling also. Hmmm… seems about right. The Reds have a team composed of a core drafted before Jocketty got here and augmented by bargain basement subs. The pitchers are all young, except for an injured Bailey. There are few position players in the minors that offer any help to the team. Big changes need to be made. Do you keep the GM who hasn’t built a good farm system? (Once again, I don’t care what he did at Oakland. That was then, this is now). Or do you go in a different direction? I vote for the latter.

    • ncmountie1

      Again you keep going back to 80’s and early 2000’s. It’s 21st century. Jocketty needs to move on. He WILL NOT have another GM job in this lifetime. He was not hired to be GM in Cincy originally. Keep beating the same horse about how bad the Reds have been when they are one of only 8 franchises with 5 or more rings.

      • Tom Gray

        2010, 2012, and 2013 are well into the 21st Century.

        The 1919 ring was a gift from the Chicago White Sox. 1940, 1975, 1976, and 1990 were earned.

        The Reds were very good (sometimes) and great in the 1970’s. But often (1950’s, 1980’s, or 2000’s) not even good. History don’t lie.

      • Dewey Roberts

        2010, 2012, and 2013. Let’s look at those teams. Those teams were almost completely of guys-both position players and pitchers- who were drafted by Jocketty’s predecessors. Jocketty made a trade or two, signed a player or two. But the core was drafted or signed before he got here- Bruce, Votto, Frazier, Hanigan, Phillips, Cozart, Bailey, Cueto, Arroyo, Volquez, etc, who all preceded Walt.

        Fast forward to 2015, some of those players are gone or traded. Where are the replacements that Walt drafted? Well, there is Hamilton. He drafted Leake and he is now gone. He signed Chapman. There are some young pitching prospects. And that is just about it. Compare what Jocketty has done in 7 years to what his predecessors did in the four years previous to him. Huge difference. Huge difference.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Tom, you are missing the point. There isn’t the minor leagues we had previously. It’s very obvious, Walt let it go down.

        The past is the past. Babe Ruth was a great baseball player, also, but I don’t want him on my team right now, not in his current condition. Walt’s getting there. It’s not a bad thing. It happens to all of us.

  15. Art Wayne Austin

    Saying Byrd is a lousy left-fielder is conception not reality speaking. Byrd, Bruce and Badenhop were three who weren’t in shape when the season opened. I’m sure there were more. They are now in shape but it’s like shutting the door after the horses are out. This is management’s fault. Hopefully, the Dusty era is not going to carry through the ’16 season. Sparky cracked the whip yet was well liked by the players because they knew he was all in. We’ve had a slew of nice guys down through the years who were failures as managers. There’s time for a change

    • Dewey Roberts

      Art, exactly. Sparky was a nice guy, but he was THE manager- period. His players both respected and loved him. He loved them in return. He was all in and he was extremely loyal.

      • Tom Gray

        It didn’t hurt that he had HOF caliber players (or close to it). Bench, Morgan, Rose, Perez, Foster, Seaver, Concepcion to name just a few.

      • Dewey Roberts

        Tom, that proves my point and disproves yours. Farm systems are the key. The Reds do not have a top farm system. Jocketty has been here since 2008. He is responsible and must go.

    • CP

      This is old-timey nonsense. Byrd was a well below average LF by virtually every measure. In addition, MLB players are responsible for their own conditioning nowadays. If they come into spring training fat & sloppy, that’s on them. That’s the reality of modern baseball.

  16. Carl Sayre

    Suarez has made me a believer at the plate, his fielding has me all in on can he play LF. The errors drive me nuts but even the plays that he makes scare me to death he doesn’t look comfortable. The sample size has me on the bandwagon with the stick and where does a major league team hide a suspect glove that can hit? Cozart has me spoiled with his glove and the severity of the knee injury may make Suarez the answer but he makes me nervous at SS.

  17. Tom Billings

    Our biggest worry to is of Frazier and Mesoraco are the real deals. Mesoraco has yet to play a full good season and Frazier is always hit the first part and declines a lot during the second half

  18. Bob Purkey

    Bullpen help is on the way!!!!!

    I see from an article this morning that Marshall had a bullpen session and is feeling “great!” Might pitch again this year. . . .

    Just in time for Walt to give him a 2 year extension!

    • Dewey Roberts

      Are you the real Bob Purkey that pitched for the reds in 1961? If so, I remember you very well. You are right about the 2 year extension idea though. Walt is probably all over it already.

      • Bob Purkey

        I hope that I am not the real Bob Purkey, as he passed away in 2008. I just liked him as a kid, Had a couple of great years for the Reds after he was traded over from the Pirates. Pitched a great game in the 61 WS and got beat by Maris on an HR in the 9th inning.

  19. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Entirely agree on the pitching, especially the relievers but that starters have to take some heat as well. I will agree on the depth, also. But, one must remember, we aren’t going to be able to get “starter quality” players who are willing to ride the bench for bench money. They are bench players for a reason, whether they can’t field or hit or have no intangibles or something or a combination of things. Bench players/depth is about as much a “shot in the dark” as setting up a bullpen. You put players out there and hope they work. Even if we had the depth at AAA, those would still be AAA players, no guarantee they can perform at the major league level (not all AAA players are Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant).

    That’s why I prefer to consider the “injuries” first. But, in this case, not only injuries but the medical/training staff. I can understand injuries happening. But, there just seems to be too many players of ours who either get off the DL and go right back or never are getting off the DL. How long was it that Votto never was 100%? We haven’t seen Marshall for almost 2 seasons. Same with Masset and Burton. Bruce supposedly played hurt last season. Devin sitting around for ever before we finally decided to shut him down. Homer sitting around for a while before we finally decided on TJS. The MASH unit our pitching staff was in 2011. Latos did call them out. Something just doesn’t seem right out there.