In defense of the Reds’ defense

When this season started, the expectations for the Cincinnati Reds defense were not high. The loss of a perennial Gold-Glove contender, center fielder Billy Hamilton, appeared to leave this team’s defense significantly weaker up the middle, where neither shortstop Jose Peraza nor second baseman Scooter Gennett are known as standouts at those respective positions.

The first approximately quarter of the 2019 season has produced many surprises for this team, both positive and negative. The performance of the defense would have to be classified as a positive surprise.

For example, in rankings among the major league teams, the Reds are:

  • tied for 6th in fewest errors committed with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks (20)
  • 6th overall in double plays turned (42)
  • tied for 15th in stolen base percentage allowed (.724)
  • tied for 5th in fewest passed balls (2)
  • 1st overall in fewest wild pitches (7; presumably this is listed as a defensive statistic to measure how effectively catchers block pitches in the dirt)
  • tied for 3rd in fielding percentage (.988, a number matched by four other teams)
  • 17th in defensive efficiency ratio (.696)

Defensive Efficiency Ratio is a statistic used to evaluate team defense by finding out the rate of times batters reach base on balls put in play. The formula for Defensive Efficiency Ratio is: 1 – ((H + ROE – HR) / (PA – BB – SO – HBP – HR)). Depending on who you ask, that might be the most telling statistic of the bunch. But based on what the expectations were for this defense prior to the season, rating in the middle of the pack is a very pleasant surprise.

The insertion of Jose Iglesias as the everyday shortstop has made a big difference, as has the stablization of center field — a position at which Jesse Winker (he of the -4 Outs Above Average metric for outfield defense) was at times being asked to defend. Now Nick Senzel has stepped in as the everyday starter in center. Honestly, he has looked average at best defensively, but he has the potential to grow into the position and develop. He’s certainly a better center fielder in all phases of the game than anyone else on the major league roster at the moment.

Winners of five of their last seven, the Reds open a three-game home series against the team with the best record in the National League, the Dodgers (29-16), tonight at Great American Ball Park. Winning two of three from the first-place Cubs provides some hope for the fan base and hopefully some confidence for the team. Taking at least two of three from the Dodgers would keep the positive momentum growing. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Eastern time.

Starting Pitchers

Rich Hill 15 4.20 4.59 21.2% 4.6%
Anthony DeSclafani 41 4.17 4.25 26.4% 8.1%

Statistically speaking, this looks like a very even pitching matchup. Hill is a lefthander, one of two the Reds will face in the three-game series (neither of whom is named Kershaw, by the way). Hill has a history of pitching effectively when healthy, but the healthy part has been a challenge for him over his 14-year career. Hill began this season on the injured list, and has started only three games in 2019 as a result. In DeSclafani’s last two starts, both against San Francisco, he allowed seven earned runs in 10 innings, so he’ll be looking to right the ship tonight.


It has become clear that the bullpen is going to be counted on to pitch at least three to four innings per game for the Reds on a daily basis. Manager David Bell has a clear strategy of not allowing his starting pitcher to get too far into the third time through the opposing batting order — unless of course that pitcher is dominating. To help with this high level of bullpen use, Cincinnati has for the second time this month recalled lefthander Cody Reed from Louisville:

Six of the 13 position players on the Los Angeles roster bat lefthanded, so it makes sense that having four lefthanders in the bullpen could be useful in this particular series.

VanMeter started two games during his two weeks with the team, while primarily pinch-hitting and being used in double-switches. But he showed no signs of the hot bat he had at Louisville, probably due to lack of use.

We may not see Raisel Iglesias tonight, after 1.2 and 1 inning outings the past two nights. David Hernandez and Amir Garrett have both also pitched back-to-back nights, with an asterisk by Garrett’s name because he only threw one pitch Wednesday evening. Reed will certainly be the man called upon if long relief is needed tonight.

Starting Lineups

Dodgers Reds
LF Joc Pederson CF Nick Senzel
1B Max Muncy 1B Joey Votto
3B Justin Turner 3B Eugenio Suarez
RF Cody Bellinger RF Yasiel Puig
SS Corey Seager SS Jose Iglesias
CF Alex Verdugo 2B Kyle Farmer
2B Enrique Hernandez C Curt Casali
C Austin Barnes LF Jose Peraza
P Rich Hill P Anthony DeSclafani

It appears that, at least for the moment, Winker is a platoon player. Against lefties this year, Winker is 2-for-18 (.111) with three walks and no extra-base hits. He also struggled last year vs. lefthanders, 12-for-57 (.211).

Without VanMeter, the Reds are down to a three-position-player bench: Winker, Derek Dietrich and Tucker Barnhart.

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

News and Notes

Jonathan India getting hot in Dayton …

From the “It’s time to break this streak” file …

For your pre-game viewing pleasure …

and for EVEN MORE, check this out.