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.
|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.
|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 BaseballSavant.com.
News and Notes
The Cubs lost Saturday as the Texas Rangers staged a late comeback, so …
There’s only one undefeated team left in the NL Central.
— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) March 31, 2019