A little over a quarter into the season now, the Reds still can’t catch a break. Our team is seven games under .500; new signings Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley are under performing; and top prospect Nick Senzel has been demoted to AAA after hitting .133 over 67 plate appearances. Oh, and Joey Votto has nearly identical strikeout and walk rates. It’s not all bad (see: Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, and Philip Ervin), but it’s mostly bad.
If you missed the explainer of this little project, you can find it here and last week’s results here. To give the Sparknotes: I will be randomizing every Reds game by picking a historical box score and subbing in the current Reds. As you might guess, these randomizations are not meant to be realistic, unlike Tom Mitsoff’s Strat-o-Matic simulation exercise. I just want people to remember how absurd baseball can be and maybe learn about some guys from years gone by. Also, is it too much to ask for a couple of Reds wins this week?
Thursday, May 14: Reds vs. Brewers
Randomized Game: Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs, May 22, 1965
The Game (3-1 loss): Apparently, it is too much to ask. Anthony DeSclafani pitches a fine game, going into the eighth inning and allowing only three runs, but the Reds offense musters just a solo shot from Nick Castellanos. It’s the second game in a row that the Reds left fielder has gone long though, so hopefully he stays hot for the rest of the week. Mike Moustakas’ woes at the plate continue, as manager David Bell lifts him in the seventh for a pinch hitter. The strategy doesn’t pan out, but with another 0-fer day at the plate, Moustakas is now hitting .201/.288/.266 on the season. Expect to see more of Derek Dietrich going forward.
The Guy: As a high schooler in Seattle, Ron Santo worked as an usher and clubhouse attendant for the Seattle Rainers, then in the Reds farm system. Santo’s position with the Rainers should have helped the Reds land the coveted high school prospect, but even though the team offered him more money, Santo signed with the Cubs because of a friendship he had struck up with their scout Dave Kosher and because he felt he could get to the majors faster with the Cubs. He was right. Santo would say later: “I shined Vada Pinson’s shoes and then three years later I am playing against him.” Only 20 years old, Santo made his debut with the Cubs in mid-June and never went back down. For the next 14 years, Santo manned the hot corner in Chicago (switching to the city’s South Side for his final season), winning five Gold Gloves, making nine All Star teams, and collecting MVP votes in seven straight seasons. Santo was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, two years after his death.
Friday, May 15: Reds vs. Brewers
Randomized Game: Minnesota Twins at Tampa Bay Rays, April 22, 2012
The Game (6-2 win): It wasn’t pretty, but the Reds did get the win. Wade Miley gave up two runs and pitched into the sixth before turning the ball over to a surprisingly lockdown bullpen. At the plate, walks plus a home run from Shogo Akiyama managed to create six runs. It was a game dictated by small ball, as the Reds had four sacrifice flies and one failed sacrifice bunt on the part of Miley. To be entirely honest, this would have been a miserable game to watch and I’m glad I was spared having to do so.
The Guy: Evan Longoria burst onto the scene way back in 2008 as one of the best third baseman in baseball, winning Rookie of the Year with a .272/.343/.531 slashline. He maintained that level of production for his first six years in the bigs, winning two Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and three All-Star nods. Then, he started to fade. Instead of finishing seasons with an OPS in the high .800s, it was the high .700s. It’s not that Evan Longoria hasn’t been productive, he just hasn’t been the Evan Longoria we’ve always known.
Now 34 and with the Giants, Longoria probably still has some good years left in him (and definitely has a contract that runs through 2022). Last summer, he told FanGraphs he’s had to change as he’s gotten older. “I’ve had to make some adjustments to my position in the box, and to what I’m thinking going into an at-bat, to put myself in the best position to hit,” Longoria said. “As a younger player, there’s a lot more see-and-react. Your raw ability can help you through some situations where you’re maybe a little bit late, or in a little bit of a bad position, when the ball is coming toward you.
Saturday, May 16: Reds vs. Brewers
Randomized Game: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays, September 1, 2002
The Game (7-6 win): For as boring as yesterday’s game was, this one more than made up for it. The Brewers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, putting across single runs in three of the first four innings. But in the sixth, the Reds started to string a few hits together, going single, strikeout, single, single, double, strikeout, double to push across four runs. The next inning, they did it again, with another three singles and a double to score three more. Eugenio Suarez and Aristides Aquino powered this offensive outburst, collectively going 6-8 with three doubles on the day.
With a three-run lead now, Luis Castillo came back for the eighth only to walk the first batter and give up a single to the second. The leadoff man eventually came around the score, but the David Bell could still hand his closer a two-run lead in the ninth. Raisel Iglesias made it interesting by giving up a solo shot to Christian Yelich, but ultimately the Reds won.
The Guy: Fun fact about Josh Phelps: Of all Major League Baseball players born in Alaska (there are 12), Phelps played in the second-most career games at 465, only behind Curt Schilling’s 569 games played. Phelps does lead the state in home runs (64), hits (380), RBIs (244), and runs (198) because, well, only a pitcher played more games than him. When an ESPN writer informed Phelps of his state-topping feats, Phelps replied: “I only spent maybe six or seven months as an Alaska native before we moved. I consider myself from Idaho. There’s a lot more hits to take that record — everyone from there knows that Harmon Killebrew is from Payette, Idaho, and the 573 home runs. So it’ll take quite a bit to get into the books in Idaho.” Before Phelps was drafted in the 10th round of the 1996 draft, he graduated fourth in high school class with a 3.94 GPA and intended to study engineering in college. Last week, he turned 42 years old. Happy Birthday, Josh.
Sunday, May 17: Reds vs. Brewers
Randomized Game: Washington Senators at Detroit Tigers, June 22, 1935
The Game (7-0 win): A series win! The Reds have stopped the skid and are somehow second in the Central! Sonny Gray went the distance in this game, scattering five hits and striking out a lone batter for a complete game shutout. On the offensive end, Aristides Aquino had another big game, going 3-4 with a triple, and Joey Votto did the same with a triple AND a double after his day off on Saturday. With his eighth double of the season, Nick Castellanos edged past Shogo Akiyama for the team lead in OPS, the first time all season Shogo’s been displaced. And in less happy news, Mike Moustakas officially fell below the Mendoza line. Hitting two out of three on signings ain’t bad I guess.
The Guy: Alvin Floyd Crowder earned the nickname “General” as a 26-year-old pitcher for the Class A Birmingham Barons because Crowder was technically still an enlisted man and he shared a last name with actual General Enoch Crowder, who instituted the World War I draft. At 20, the baseball Crowder signed up for the Army because he wanted to see the world. The Great War had just ended, so Crowder didn’t expect to see combat. During his service, he reluctantly played ball for the 27th Infantry and made a reputation for himself. Upon his discharge, the San Francisco Seals signed the righty, and after a few years bouncing around the minor leagues, Crowder made his major league debut with the Washington Senators.
Known as a rubber-armed, warm-weather pitcher, Crowder won at least 20 games in three different seasons, despite sportswriters labeling him a “disappointment” when he inevitably stumbled out the gate. After he retired, Crowder owned and operated his hometown Winston-Salem Twins for a couple of decades, determined to keep professional baseball alive in North Carolina.
Tuesday, May 19: Reds at Indians
Randomized Game: St. Louis Browns at Cleveland Indians, August 13, 1952
The Game (5-2 win): Just like last September, something has awoken in Aristides Aquino. With another 2-4 day plus his first homer of the season to boot, Aquino is now hitting .323/.323/.548 on the season, and 7-13 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, and five RBIs this week. To complement the Punisher, Trevor Bauer throws a complete game against his former team, stymieing the Indians bats to only five hits and two runs.
The Guy: It’s only natural to assume that Duane Pillette has an unbeatable name. At least, until you meet his father Herman Polycarp Pillette that is. The pair of Pillette’s both made it to the pros as pitchers and both lead the American League in losses at least once. The older Pillette didn’t want his son playing ball, calling baseball “a bum’s game,” but Duane pitched anyway. Despite the younger Pillette’s lengthier career (eight seasons to Herman’s three), he only accumulated 0.6 more WAR than his father (6.9 to 6.3). “My father was always my hero and I wanted to be just like him,” Duane said in 2010, a year before his death. “I knew that was impossible, but I swore to myself I would make the majors, although it was against his wishes.” And to cap things off, here’s your trivia tidbit of the day: Duane Pillette started for the St. Louis Browns in the game that Bill Veeck sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to the plate in one of the most famous baseball gimmicks of all time.
Wednesday, May 20: Reds at Indians
Randomized Game: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies, April 12, 1992
The Game (6-1 win): A sweep! I don’t know what got the Reds to break out of their three-week funk, but this team is back, baby. After going 5-1 this week, the Redlegs are tied for second place with the Cubs and only 3.5 games back from the Pirates. Anthony DeSclafani threw the Reds third consecutive complete game in this one, again only allowing five hits. Aristides Aquino also continued his torrid streak with another 3-4 game, and Nick Castellanos reached base every time he came to the plate, adding a three-run dinger to boot. This is the Reds team we were promised.
The Guy: Lloyd McClendon spent his whole career in the NL Central, starting with the Reds before a stint with the Cubs and finishing with the Pirates. While interesting as that is, McClendon’s baseball career is probably best known for everything except his days in the bigs. During his Little League days, McClendon earned the nickname “Legendary Lloyd” after he homered in five consecutive at-bats and was subsequently intentional walked in the rest of his plate appearances. That team was the first all African-American team to reach the Little League World Series finals.
Once McClendon retired from playing, he started coaching, beginning as the Pirates hitting coach and later becoming their manager. In his second season at the helm of the Pirates, McClendon famously stole first base after line umpire Rick Reed questionably called Jason Kendall out. A few years later, he told a Pirates beat writer that he didn’t like that his ejection got replayed during games, saying, “I don’t want to be defined by that, and it should be over with. I don’t like any of that stuff. There’s another side to me other than just arguing.”
Season Stats and Standings
Look who’s back, back on top of the Reds batting leaderboards. That’s right, after a 10-17 week with five extra base hits, Aristides Aquino has reclaimed his rightful thrown as king of the Reds sluggers. With Aquino, Castellanos, Akiyama, and Suarez leading the team in OPS, the hitting side of things finally looks how we all thought it might. And the starters haven’t been slacking either! The Reds rotation has combined for a 3.60 ERA, with only Wade Miley dragging the collective down.
Polycarp? And that’s not even a nickname, it’s his given name? Fantastic. Keep these coming Wesley. In hindsight I’d have voted to limit games to 19th and 20th century only but these looks back at the weird wonderful history of Major League Baseball are delightful.
It’s a great name right? And I agree with you, the modern players just aren’t as fun to write about but them’s the rules (I set) I guess. Also thanks for your comments each week! Has been nice to see that someone’s enjoyed this little exercise
I know I’ve told you before, but I too absolutely love this stuff. I feel like I learn 10 new things with each piece.