This week’s respondents are Matt Wilkes, Matt Habel, Jordan Barhorst, Jackson Thurnquist, and Jeff Gangloff.

Our Weekly Reds Obsession: Has the slow start to the season caused you to change your opinion of the 2018 Reds, and what will the team’s final record be?

Matt Wilkes: My opinion hasn’t changed much. The team is better than it is playing, and help is on the way. Eugenio Suarez’s recovery is ahead of schedule. Anthony DeSclafani should return by next month. Nick Senzel will be up at some point. Michael Lorenzen will provide some stability in the bullpen. The rotation should also continue to improve as the year goes on and Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Sal Romano gain experience. I won’t deny there are concerns offensively, but I expected some regression anyway. Zack Cozart’s absence is palpable. Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza are below-average hitters, and their struggles are amplified by batting at the top of the lineup. Scooter Gennett isn’t hitting 27 homers again and may not top 15 or 20 without the juiced baseball. Adam Duvall hasn’t hit since last June. However, Joey Votto will be fine, Jesse Winker has been fantastic, and Tucker Barnhart continues defying expectations. The return of Suarez, along with Senzel’s eventual arrival, will help even more. By June, I think the Reds are going to be playing much more exciting baseball.

Final record: 73-89

Matt Habel: I had managed to temper my expectations heading into the season, so there really has not been a huge change in how I feel about 2018, especially considering the injuries. I did not expect the record to be this bad and they will probably not avoid 90 losses like I had hoped for, but I think I knew deep down that this team was going to struggle. It has always been about developing the young players so now there is just no false hope of the postseason like in years past. It is definitely not a positive sign for the future but I guess it really isn’t the end of the world. Still a lot of untapped potential in a lot of players. Hopefully that starts to come to fruition by the end of the year and maybe the record will start to reflect that.

Jordan Barhorst: 2018 was the first year I got caught up in the wave of pre-season optimism. It’s the only time of the year all (or most) of the players are healthy, and that’s generally how the conversation sits for the entire offseason. I’ll raise my hand and admit I definitely got swept up in that mindset. It’s easy to do when you’re sitting around and dreaming of baseball for six months.

I predicted the Reds to be a .500 team, and I’m not ready to completely throw that out the window. With the hole the team is in now, there would need to be a pretty significant turnaround to break even in the W/L column, but there’s evidence that we’ll get just that.

If the timeline for Schebler, Suarez, Hernandez, Lorenzen, and DeSclafani are on the shorter end, this team can get back up to .500. This is provided the bats warm up a bit, which I believe they will. Final season record prediction is 78-84.

Jackson Thurnquist: I’d say…probably not? By the numbers, the Reds have been performing absolutely catastrophically on both sides of the ball, but there’s little reason to believe it’ll continue at this rate. The team is 3-20 with the bases loaded, and have the majors’ second worst ISO at .096. They’ve given Homer Bailey no real run support across four decent starts, and the young starters have looked promising despite their inflated ERA’s.

Lots of what has gone wrong have been things that will probably normalize, at least somewhat. I think so far this season we’ve seen a pretty bad team underperforming and looking like a very bad team. Before the season started, I had the Reds pegged for a 75-87 record, and they’ve certainly dug themselves into a hole to start the season (to reach that, they would have to go 72-70 from here), but I think a final win total around or above 70 wins is still feasible, if Votto goes back to hitting like he should, Senzel, and Suarez anchor a heavy hitting infield, and Castillo and Mahle start to capitalize on their promising peripherals.

Jeff Gangloff: The start of the season has absolutely caused me to change my opinion of the 2018 season. New information leads to new thoughts and new opinions. The Reds current record, injuries, overall talent, and the overall way they are playing leads me to believe that I bought into the false narrative that there would be significant progress made this year. I no longer look at 2018 as a year of “progress” but I look at it as a year of “hoping”. I’m hoping that some of these starting pitchers work out. I’m hoping that Jose Peraza learns how to hit and get on base. I’m hoping that Nick Senzel gets called up and is a beast. Hoping is rarely a good thing when it comes to sports. I hope the front office has a better idea of what the plan for 2018 is than me. Reds final record 62 – 100.

23 Responses

  1. Mason Red

    This was at best a 500 team which many thought would be a sign of progress in the “rebuild”. But in reality this was just a 500 team (maybe) period. The rebuild didn’t have the talent or the depth to be a contender from the get go. A few good parts but certainly not enough talent. Will the franchise continue to buy in or wave the white flag and start over?

    • Jeff Gangloff

      In my opinion I think we put a lot of stock into guys that were completely unproven. Mahle, Finnegan, Romano, Peraza, Gennette, etc.

      We assumed these guys to be good even though they dont really have a solid MLB track record either because they are young players or have had injury issues.

      “Oh, Tyler Mahle is a high prospect in the organization? He’s going to be a solid player, that’ll improve the pitching rotation and account for some progress this year”.

      Couple that with the Reds losing their second best offensive player (Cozart) and we should have seen this coming.

  2. Doug in Dallas

    You look at the schedule and realize there are no “gimmies” for the Reds this year because they are the team that everyone else wants to play right now. I dont think the FO really knows what to do at this point. 54-108 is my feeling but I will still watch every game and inning hoping to see progress. I am Billy’s biggest fan but he just plain can’t hit. I watch the Reds on one monitor (killed cable tv and dont miss it) and on the other I watch the MiLB package to follow the prospects. Too bad the process takes multiple years but this wont last forever and these other teams will get payback.

  3. eric3287

    Eugenio Suarez, despite playing in only 8 games (and finishing only 7 with a grand total of 33 PA) is the Reds leader in Fangraphs WAR. Tucker will likely pass him before he comes back, in which case he will probably be the team’s 2nd most productive player despite missing 3-4 weeks.

    Amir Garrett has also appeared in 8 games. He has pitched 9-2/3 innings. He leads the pitching staff in Fangraphs WAR.

    It’s mind-boggling how unprepared this team appears to be, from veterans to the guys coming up from AAA. You look at AAA and outside of Nick Senzel it’s just a vast wasteland of guys that have “MLB bench player” as their absolute ceiling. Call up Brandon Dixon for some power? He’s striking out 35% of the time in AAA. It’s embarrassing and a sign of failure that 4 years into a rebuild the Reds have 1 potential starter in AAA, 1 potential starter in AA, and frankly nothing else.

    The Reds rebuild plan:
    1) Lose
    3) Win

    Didn’t quite work. Well, except for step 1. They’ve got that down at least.

  4. Jeff Reed

    I also thought the 2018 Reds would challenge .500 this season. Winning teams win or split a majority of their series. With 45 series remaining, the Reds will be lucky to win or split 10 to 12 of those with a record loss season in sight.

  5. Charlie

    It is a bad feeling when your already low expectations are too high. Is this team capable of playing better? Yes, but that doesn’t mean much when you start off 3-18. I was hoping for 70 wins three weeks ago. I’m now hoping for number not less than 60.

  6. eric3287

    The depressing part is if the Reds turn it around and manage to play .500 ball the rest of the way, you’re still looking at a 73 win season. Woof.

  7. eric3287

    I agree in theory with the “if they don’t produce, bench them,” but Dick Williams hasn’t given anyone enough depth to actually follow through on that. The Cubs could bench Happ for a 24 year old who was the 6th overall pick in 2012 (Albert Almora) and who had 440 MLB PA prior to this year. In the Reds OF, the only one who should start every day is Jesse Winker. Unfortunately, you need to play 3 OFs still so two of Duvall, Ervin, Hamilton, and Schebler HAVE to play. Personally, I’d run out Ervin in CF just to see what he can do, but it’s not like he’s necessarily earned it.

    If you look at Fangraphs data on Castillo, it looks like his FB average is down a tick, but it looks like he may be using what Fangraphs is calling a hard sinker more often. His slider has been by far his best pitch, but he’s using it less often than he did last year. A lot of teams have been moving away from having their starters throw fastballs and have had them use their best pitch as their first pitch. Instead of tinkering with the sinker, Castillo would probably be better served as more of a slider/change-up guy who uses his fastball as his 3rd pitch. Alas, the Reds are never on the cutting edge of anything

    • Ernest

      It appears his FB was sitting around 98 all last season. It has been around 96 this year, which could be due to the weather.

      The velocity on the sinker, change, and slider all are down as well

  8. Mason Red

    My opinion is they’re just losing but it will turn into tanking with another try at rebuilding. Regardless it’s going to be very ugly.

  9. bouwills

    Besides Jeff ,it appears your panel is comprised of Rosey Red wanna-bees. The Nats, Cards,Pirates, & Brew crew are all playing over their heads while ” the boys just aren’t getting the breaks”. This team would probably win the AAA championship—- if their luck would change.

  10. scottya

    I agree with most of what you said. Although my confidence level in this group of guys has taken quite a hit.

  11. scottya

    My opinion of where the Reds are hasn’t changed much. I went with 77-85 as my record prediction prior to this horrific start. I tempered my record prediction by 2 or 3 games, because Brian Price was the manager.

    Already at 15 below 500 means I’m lowering my prediction to 73-89.

    This team has quite a deficiency at hitting home runs. Even with the slumps of Votto and Duvall and injuries to Schebler and Suarez to start the season.

    We have a significant deficiency on defense with Peraza, Gennett and Winker.

    A lineup with Bham, Peraza, Pennington, Ervin and the pitcher is really bad. Hopefully we don’t see that again the rest of the year.

    The Reds need to start winning some games and soon. The late May schedule is tough.

  12. Andy

    Some of these predictions mention 70+ wins; I don’t see any chance of that. No way this club plays .500 the rest of the way out. With any chance of postseason already gone, playing time will be given to suboptimal players as auditions rather than trying to win. I’m not so down on this group as far as future building blocks go, but this season is unmitigated disaster.

    Rotation has been bad, dead last in Fangraphs starter WAR by a comfortable margin.
    Bailey: 0.1War… doubt he stays healthy all year, would be surprised if he reached a 2War year. XFIP suggests we should anticipate regression.
    Castillo:0War, expect improvement and I think he can be a 2+War pitcher. XFIP suggests some bad luck, but still not good.
    Mahle: -0.1War, FIP suggests bad luck, has started games well but wheels falling off 3rd time through order, hope he can make adjustments. I think (hope?) he’s a keeper that will improve.
    Finnegan and Romano both have awful ERA’s and XFIP’s. Doubt Finnegan sticks as starter. Still hopeful on Romano, he should be happy Reds are awful because contending team wouldn’t let him near mound with those stats. Feeling like Reds need better.
    Reed: one bad start, smallest sample size, but it seems like he is running out of chances to be an MLB starter.
    Overall: Best case scenario: Bailey stays the same, Castillo becomes great, Mahle becomes good, Garrett joins rotation and becomes good/great, and Reds get something useful out of one of the underachieving group of Romano/Finnegan/Desclafani/Stephenson/Reed.
    More likely scenario: What we see is what we get. Worst rotation in MLB all year long.

    Linup: oof. Also dead last in team WAR, with -0.1 team War. We knew Pennington and Gosselin would be bad, and they are. We’ve seen all we need to see from Hamilton and Peraza. Reds have given Ervin and Blandino a shot and they have been just as bad. We need to see more of those two and hope really hard that they can improve to at least quality bench players.
    Votto will improve, and it looks like it already started. He was very aggressive with short at bats early and now walking all the time again. The next phase for him is capitalizing on mistakes. Not worried here.
    Suarez injury was deflating, but I’m confident in him as long-term piece.
    Barnhart looks like a good player Reds can count on.
    Winker is playing like he did in minors… lots of singles and walks, no power. Adequate lead off man, but a team full of Winkers will not win, they’ll just keep leaving bases loaded without scoring. I do think he can be a starter on a championship team, but only if he’s your 4th or 5th best hitter. If last year’s power surge can return, then he’s an all-star.
    Schebler looks good with small sample size. Need him and Winker in lineup every day this year to see if they stick.
    Duvall looks like a platoon option, decent power bench bat. Bad year so far but I won’t discount production from last two years. I’m worried but not ready to give up.
    Scooter without the power not looking like a piece I’d want to pay free agent (or even 3rd year arb) money to.
    Senzel: not exactly lighting up AAA. Happy when he gets here but I won’t expect big numbers to realistically improve this year’s team.
    Overall: Should see big improvement with healthy Suarez/Schebler paired with locked-in Votto, Winker has room to improve and Senzel is a wild-car. They won’t be negative-WAR all year and I think could be decent.

    So bad pitching, possible improvement to mediocre hitting… don’t add up to .500 here out. I’m guessing 60-81 from here out, final record 63-99. Real chance at 100 losses.

    Actually think core of Votto-Senzel-Suarez-Winker-Schebler could win in 2019 with FA SS and CF. Crossing fingers that enough pitchers are solid this year to think that 1 FA SP will make them 2019 viable. Will Reds shell out for 3 starter free agents next year? Not sold right now.

    • David

      Pitching, overall, determines wins and losses. The pitching, overall, is still pretty bad. This team loses 100 games, easily. They will “get hot” for a stretch and maybe play 0.500 ball for a while this summer, but will fall off again.
      This is, quite frankly, a stupendously bad baseball team. Most of us didn’t see it that way, based on what some of these players have done in the past. Maybe a bunch of guys will “get hot” soon and they will start winning.
      But I doubt it.

      They will find more ways to lose. 100 losses, at least.

  13. james garrett

    Going into the year I felt our starting pitching would be better with a much much higher upside.Young power arms excite me and they will get better but will struggle along the way.None of them were given enough starts last year to really find out anything but if they get 20-25 more starts then we know more about who can or can’t.They were good enough the last 5 games to win them all but our offense is just bad right now.We know where the holes are at and we know Scooter won’t repeat last years performance.Throw in Suarez and Schebler going down along with Duvall and Joey not really doing anything at all then you can say we have earned our record.Going forward if the guys in the pen return along with Disco we get better on the mound.Still too many holes on offense.If Peraza and Billy start 100 games or more this team will not score period regardless of what the other guys in the lineup do at the plate.Throw in the pitcher along with Tucker’s lack of power(but he does get on base) then you have 3 guys every night that won’t get on base and 4 with no power.You can’t win with a line up like this and nobody knows what this does to a young starting staff.My guess is they feel like they have to throw a shut out every time out.We could easily lose 100 unless the offense is fixed.

  14. big5ed

    This team is 1962 Mets bad. Getting Schebler and Suarez back may help, but Votto and Duvall have collapsed.

    Votto, slugging .257 and leading MLB in TOOTBLANs, has an exit velocity that is lower than the major league average. He still has a lower walk rate than Billy Hamilton. The Reds still owe Votto $150 million.

    There are now dead zones at 1B, SS, LF and CF, at 3B until Suarez gets back, and Gennett is playing only a hair better than replacement level. Winker walks a lot, but so far is a punch-and-Judy hitter. Team savior Nick Senzel has a .687 OPS in AAA.

    Hamilton, oddly enough, has scored as many runs with his .274 OBP, than any two other guys combined.

    Meanwhile, the high-WAR pitcher, Amir Garrett, is being used as a LOOGY.


    • David

      They are not very good, not being managed well, and not much down at AAA to advance to the ML roster to actually help the team. They’re stuck.
      Maybe they get better at some point; in fact, it’s a certainty, because they just can’t keep losing like this.
      But it is a bad team. Is this regression by Joey Votto permanent, or does he get warmed up soon? A few years ago, he got off to a terrible start, but had a tremendous stretch from June 1 to the end of the year. But by June 1, they will be 30 games out of 1st place, so really, what difference does it make?

  15. Timmy RedLeg

    I’ve said it before, & I’ll say it again. I really believe that this organization has at least 3-5ths of the future rotation in house. The pen hasn’t been bad, outside of a couple of let downs. What I have learned, is that there is no depth amongst the position players. Couple that w/ the fact that Gennett, Duvall, & Peraza aren’t as good as I hoped. I already knew what Hamilton was. The jury’s still out on Schebler. So over the course of the next 2 yrs., we’ve got 1 great pos player (Votto), 1 good pos player (Suarez), 1 player that looks like he will be good at his roll (Winkler), & 1 player that we all hope will be a stud (Senzel). It looks like an organization with no certainty or direction. We definitely have potential in the Minors, but, not 1 of those players (in Minors), are a “cant miss”. We also have to keep in mind, that Votto is getting older. So we may not have that superstar production out of him in a couple of years. We have got to have good leadership going forward. Unless,”the powers that be”,buy some talent, then we may be further away than I would have ever thought. Go Reds!

    • David

      I think this comment is about 95% TRUE! I do think that at some point, Duvall will get hot and pump out some HR’s, and raise his BA to about 0.250.

  16. davemoorewvu

    I’m guessing they’ll finish 55-107. And it absolutely crushes me to type that. They need to fire everybody and sell the club to Mark Cuban.. as long as he agrees to keep the team in Cincy.

  17. sezwhom

    I think Jeff is the only one who gets it. 62 wins is probably a best case scenario. I just don’t see any passion or sense of urgency with this team. A boring team to watch so far.

  18. KDJ

    On the bright side, the front office is saving money.