Many here in Redleg Nation and elsewhere questioned why Manager David Bell had righthanded batting Matt Kemp in the lineup Saturday (and again today) against righthander Trevor Williams, with lefthanded batting Jesse Winker on the bench for starters.

“We need to have all these guys engaged,” Bell told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re going to need everybody, especially here early on. I need to find ways to get everybody starts. I wouldn’t call it a platoon or anything like that. To me, it’s just trying to get everybody as much playing time as possible and try to do it the best we can based on the matchups.”

Kemp is 3-for-5 against Williams in his career, but so is Winker. Along with Kemp’s track record of success against Williams, the apparent dearth of left-handed starting pitching for upcoming opponents may have played a role in Bell’s decision.

After Saturday’s rainout, the Reds now play six of their first nine games against the Pirates, who do not have a left-handed starting pitcher in the four-man rotation listed on their website’s depth chart. The other three of the first nine are against Milwaukee, who likewise don’t have a lefty listed on their team website’s depth chart five-man pitching rotation.

Games 10 through 12 are against the Miami Marlins, who have only one lefty (Caleb Smith) listed in their five-man rotation, so the Reds have about a 20 percent chance of facing a lefty in that series. Then come the St. Louis Cardinals for two games in Mexico. That team does not have a lefty in its pitching rotation. Then come the Dodgers for three in Los Angeles. Despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill are on the injured list, L.A. still has lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Urias in its rotation, so chances are pretty good that the Reds will finally see a lefty there if they don’t against the Marlins. Still, facing a schedule where you know you’re only going to see one or two left-handed starters in a 17-game stretch is an eye-opener.

Currently, the only team in the NL Central with a left-handed starting pitcher is Chicago, and the Cubs have three: Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Luis Quintana. The Reds will have one when Alex Wood is ready to come off the injured list. It’s never been a secret that left-handed starting pitchers are the minority, but in the NL Central, they’re only 13 percent of the starters at the moment. It’s a good division in which to have a strong left-handed hitting attack.

After Saturday’s rainout (which has been rescheduled as part of a Memorial Day day-night doubleheader), the Reds and Pirates go at it at 1:10 EDT today, with the Reds going for the two-game mini-sweep. The starting pitchers scheduled for Saturday have been moved to today.

Starting Pitchers

Trevor Williams (2018) 170.2 3.11 4.54 18% 7.9%
Sonny Gray (2018 NYY) 130.1 4.90 4.10 21.1% 9.8%

Of all of the new acquisitions by the Reds this off-season, Gray is the one that most excites this long-time Reds observer. He formerly pitched ace-quality baseball for the Oakland A’s, and he is reunited with his Vanderbilt University pitching coach, Derek Johnson. He was dominant in the Cactus League, which – though many discount the value of spring training statistics – is better than getting hammered.

Williams has developed over the past couple of years as a mainstay of the Pittsburgh rotation. The right-hander had 17 “quality starts” (allowing three or less runs in six or more innings) out of 31 in 2018. Note the xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) numbers, which normalize home runs across luck and stadiums. xFIP estimates how many home runs a pitcher should give up assuming normal luck. Despite having what has been largely characterized as a terrible year with the Yankees last year, Gray’s 4.10 xFIP was actually superior to Williams’ 4.54.

Starting Lineups

Pirates Reds
2B Adam Frazier CF Scott Schebler
CF Starling Marte 1B Joey Votto
LF Corey Dickerson RF Yasiel Puig
1B Josh Bell 3B Eugenio Suarez
C Francisco Cervelli LF Matt Kemp
3B Jung Ho Kang 2B Jose Peraza
RF Melky Cabrera C Tucker Barnhart
SS Erik Gonzalez SS Jose Iglesias
P Trevor Williams P Sonny Gray

Additional insights into the statistical history of the players in today’s Opening Day game is available all season long at

News and Notes

The Cubs lost Saturday as the Texas Rangers staged a late comeback, so …

38 Responses

  1. CFD3000

    Really looking forward to seeing Sonny Gray. Because Wood and Roark may be gone after 2019, Gray is the most important of those three new starters. This will also be a good test for the Reds outfield. If it’s cold and windy outfield defense may be at a premium. Here’s hoping that doesn’t trip up the Reds today.

  2. Tampa Red

    It was a terrible throw from Votto, you can’t be underhanding the ball from 20 feet away. Grey got an error on the play but he was going to be safe anyway. Bet that error gets overturned in the next 24 hours.

  3. Tom Mitsoff

    Gray’s pitch count is very high — 41 with one out in the second inning. He may have a hard time lasting five or six innings at this rate.

  4. AZRedsFan

    Sure hope this isn’t the Gray we extended….2 innings that were very painful to watch. Hope he’ll get it turned around quickly.

  5. MuttonLettuceTomato

    That could have been way worse as well in the 2nd, but the pitch count is looking like Gray won’t be long for the day. Good defense by Gray to start the DP to get out of the inning.

    • TyGuy88

      Won’t matter if we can’t get a hit off of Williams

  6. Roger Garrett

    So far we can’t hit it or catch.Got to get better for sure.

  7. BigRedMike

    Gray just cannot throw a strike
    Surprisingly, the Pirates swung at a lot of first pitches

  8. Still a Red

    How is it possible that the Reds can’t find pitchers that can throw strikes!?

  9. MuttonLettuceTomato

    Someone needs to tell Schebler to drop it down the 3rd base line instead of hitting into the shift.

    • Darrin

      He should do it every single at bat

  10. MuttonLettuceTomato

    Williams is getting the outside call big time. Dude is a control machine. Doesn’t seem like much difference between his FB and change up speed wise, but he’s got something else going on. Guys are late on a 91mph fastball. That says a lot.

    • Hanawi

      Was just looking at the gamecast to see what the difference between the pitch locations has been between the teams. Seems like the low strike for Reds’ pitchers is not getting called today. Though, as always, it’s wildly inconsistent.

  11. Roger Garrett

    All right who wants to grab a bat and show our guys how to hit.

    • Hanawi

      Schebler, Puig, and Suarez not a very formidable top of the lineup in the first two games

  12. FreeHouse

    It’s nice to see Schebler was able to win the starting CF position over Senzel.

  13. Paul

    Anyone know where to text the answer to the radio trivia question? 66128 doesn’t seem to be working now.

  14. FreeHouse

    I know it’s just one game but BobSteve looked great today. Really rooting for him.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      That’s the best I have ever seen Stephenson pitch — by far.

  15. Hanawi

    Defense is going to be a problem for this team all year.

  16. MK

    Votto spent to much time trying to be slick like BP and defensively he is very fundamentally unsound. His toss to Gray was poor. It was too soft and right at the spot where he had to find the bag. Gray should have caught it but would have missed first base if he had.

  17. TyGuy88

    Schebler may want to take notes from Frazier’s bunt to 3rd.

  18. MK

    Stephenson must have the sweatiest wrists in baseball. Can’t imagine he is getting much moisture on a cool day like today.

  19. Indy Red Man

    No kidding….I lobbied for Cain the year when it was obvious KC wouldn’t pay him. Then I was on the Yelich bandwagon with the rest of RLN, but Milw ends up with both of them?

  20. Frogem

    Have been on the fence wrt going away from umpires calling balls/strikes. Quickly changing that mindset the more I see terrible calls…today’s umpire is pretty horrible.

    • J

      Seems a little early in the season for guys to be just going through the motions, but that’s sure what it’s looked like with a lot of these ABs.

    • j

      Sorry, my previous comment wasn’t meant to be a reply to anything. It’s still spring training for me.

  21. Indy Red Man


    Not a good line for the ole Redlegs:(

    I don’t know about Schebler? He’s never going to be even average defensively and he’s Jay Bruce streaky. Not to mention he oftens halts a hot streak by getting dinged up and missing a big chunk of games. It is only game 2, but thats his pattern.

    • Matthew

      Schebler has looked uncomfortable in center during both games. He’s rushing his routes and has to frequently tweak his position where the ball comes down. Panicky is a word I’d use to describe the way he moves out there.

  22. MuttonLettuceTomato

    This game has gotten ugly, albeit quietly. Reds down 5-0. Nothing out of the bats. Erase this one from the memory banks and start fresh tomorrow.

  23. Rob Cheshire

    So, considering what we have seen from 3/5 of the Pirates rotation so far in this series, I take it that nobody is still seriously suggesting that the Reds gave any shot of finishing above them in the NL Central?!

  24. MuttonLettuceTomato

    Break out the rally caps for the 9th inning comeback…

  25. Hanawi

    More errors than hits sure seems like a Milton game.

  26. TR

    Momentum lost in 6th. with 2 outs and two on and Puig takes two called strikes and then whiffs.