Today is Wednesday which means the third and final game of the current series between the Reds and Indians is on tap tonight at GABP. The Reds chances of garnering the 2018 Ohio Cup are gone, washed down the Ohio river by a deluge of  Indians runs in the first 2 games of the series.  However with  a win tonight, the Reds can avoid a home field sweep and also secure a 3-3 split in the season series with the Indians. Game time is 7:10pm Eastern.

Starting Pitchers

Tonight’s game will feature a pair of righthanders looking to establish themselves as MLB rotation starters, Robert Stephenson for the Reds and Shane Bieber for the Indians.

What’s not been said about 25 year old Robert Stephenson over the last three years or so here at RLN and on other media outlets?  The prior first round (#27 overall; 2011) draft choice has flashed moments of brilliance but has been unable to establish himself in MLB. Stephenson closed out 2017 with an 11 game run in the Reds rotation during which he graded out ~25% better than league average in ERA and right at league average in FIP despite having a BB/9  of 5.55. He then missed making the 2018 rotation because of a poor spring but went to AAA and posted dominant numbers in June and July. So, here we are again. Keep an eye on Stephenson’s pitch selection tonight. Last week in his first MLB start of 2018, he threw his fastball an amazingly low 25% of the time and threw sliders on almost 50% of his pitches. This is almost exactly an inverse of his pitch selection at the MLB level in 2018. The bottom line for Stephenson is if he keeps his BB% under 10 and HR/9 around 1, he will probably succeed because of his high K%.

Shane Bieber is having his first go at the MLB level in 2018. The 23 year was a 4th round (#122 overall) pick of the Indians in the 2016 draft. Tonight will be his his twelfth MLB start to go along with 13 AAA starts in 2018. At the MLB level Bieber has compiled an ERA of 4.24 but a much better 3.02 FIP. He averages about 1 strikeout per inning  while limiting his walks to just under 2 per 9 innings. He has been generally stingy with home runs averaging less than 1 per 9 innings.  Bieber throws his fastball on nearly 60% of his pitches at a velocity in the low to mid 90’s. His main secondary pitch is a slider which he throws  just over 20% of the time at an average speed about 10MPH below his fastball.  He rounds out his arsenal with an 80MPH curveball (15%) and an occasional changeup at just under 90MPH.

Comparative Stats

PITCHER FIP IP/ Start HR/9 BB% K%
Robert Stephenson
2018 AAA
3.95 5.2 0.96 12.2% 28.9%
Shane Bieber
2018 MLB
3.02 5.2 0.85 4.8% 24.3%

If the Reds could just wave a wand and turn Stephenson’s BB rate into Bieber’s, they just might have that #1 we are yearning for.

Bullpens

Michael Lorenzen saved the Reds pen from total disaster Tuesday night by pitching 4.1 innings (66 pitches; 22 more than the Reds starter, Sal Romano) and certainly won’t be pitching tonight. David Hernandez, Jared Hughes and Raisel Iglesias each pitched an inning Tuesday and should be available to do at least the same tonight, especially with an off day coming Thursday.

Neil Ramírez has thrown 2.0  innings (33 pitches) in the last two nights and may be unavailable tonight for the Indians. Everyone else in the Indians pen should be good to go.

Lineups

            INDIANS            REDS
1. Francisco Lindor (SS)
2. Michael Brantley (LF)
3. Jose Ramirez (3B)
4. Yonder Alonso (1B)
5. Melky Cabrera (RF)
6. Jason Kipnis (2B)
7. Greg Allen (CF)
8. Roberto Perez (C)
9. Shane Bieber (P)
1. Jose Peraza (SS)
2. Joey Votto (1B)
3. Eugenio Suarez (3B)
4. Scooter Gennett (2B)
5. Preston Tucker (LF)
6. Tucker Barnhart (C)
7. Phillip Ervin (RF)
8. Robert Stephenson (P)
9. Billy Hamilton (CF)

The Reds hottest hitter since the All Star Break, Phillip Ervin, returns but once again is consigned to the #7 spot in the lineup. Be thankful for small pleasures, at least he is playing; and, if you don’t play, you can’t win.

News and Notes

Nick Carrington echoes the thoughts of many of us in this RLN post

Confirmation that our eye test was all too correct

Who do you know that might fit this description?

Final Thoughts

My initial intent was to talk some more about Robert Stephenson here; but, I’ve realized I’m all talked out where he is concerned. Whether Stephenson should have been up with the MLB team earlier this year is water under many bridges and over several dams because Stephenson is at MLB now; and either he gets the job done or he doesn’t.  Let his bottom line performance speak for itself (but since old habits die hard I will add WHIP is more important than simply BB rate in judging his bottom line).

I’ll ask instead, “Did we witness a sea change in Micheal Lorenzen’s career path Tuesday night?”   His extended effective 4.1 inning appearance in relief of Sal Romano’s meltdown had  the sort  of feeling to it that it left me wondering. How about you? GO REDS!


Stats and data courtesy of Fangraphs.com and MLB.com