This feels normal, right? Well, no, not really. It’s July 24th and we are just now having Opening Day. But on the bright side of things, if we don’t think much about what got us here, we are here and we are getting Cincinnati Reds baseball today and hopefully for the next three months.
There’s a lot of new things for the 2020 season. There’s a 30-man roster to begin the year. We now have playoffs that will include EIGHT teams from each league (more on that tomorrow). Relief pitchers must face at least three hitters before being removed (unless they end an inning before that). The National League will have the designated hitter. For now there will be no fans in the stands. The Toronto Blue Jays are going to be playing their home games in Buffalo. There will be no outside divisional play, except with the same division in the opposite league. No west coast trips. No east coast trips. Embrace the weird. Embrace the different. There is going to be a whole lot of that going on in sports, and in baseball this year.
With the Cincinnati Reds specifically, 2020 is going to feel different, too. On the field there are additions to the team that are a part of the reason they are the favorites to win the division. On the pitching staff the team picked up left-handed starter Wade Miley, who until he began tipping his pitches in September, was one of the better arms in the American League last season. The bullpen saw the pick up of Pedro Strop, who prior to 2019 had dominated the National League Central for the previous six seasons. On the offensive side the team added outfielders Nick Castellanos and Shogo Akiyama, while also picking up second baseman Mike Moustakas in free agency. To say the team tried to improve their offense would be an understatement.
Off of the field things are a bit different, too. Marty Brennamen will not be on the radio for the call for the first time in many of our lifetimes. The broadcaster retired following the 2019 season. The new combination of Tommy Thrall and Jeff Brantley will be taking over the radio booth full time this year – something that we’ve heard before as Thrall has filled in during the past, but also something that might take a little getting used to for those who tend to follow the games on the radio a lot more often than they do on television.
There is no Findlay Markey Opening Day Parade. The Banks will probably be packed to the point of following the state guidelines, but it will be a very different look from the thousands packing the area around the ballpark on Opening Day that we are used to seeing and experiencing. The game is an evening one, which will make how those of us who aren’t at the ballpark take in the event quite a bit different, too. Once again – Embrace the weird.
The Match Up
Last year the Detroit Tigers were the worst team in baseball. It wasn’t even close. The Tigers won 47 whole games. Baltimore was the next worst team in the game and they won 54. Detroit had a .292 winning percentage, which…. well, it’s not good. They are once again expected to be among the worst teams in baseball – but they play the games for a reason, too. There have been World Series champions who were outscored in the regular season, and teams that hoisted the trophy despite winning just 83 games.
For the Reds, the offseason was huge. Cincinnati’s first true dive into free agency in 30+ years got the town, and the baseball world talking. They are the favorites to win the division this year. The rotation should be improved, and it was awfully good last season. The offense also looks to be improved, and it certainly needs to be better than it was in 2019.
When and Where
- Game time: 6:10pm ET
- Where: Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark
- Watch: Fox Sports Ohio, MLB Network (out of market only), Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.tv
- Listen: 700 WLW AM (Cincinnati area)
- Forecast: Sunny and 85° at first pitch, 0% chance of rain.
|Stats from the 2019 Season|
The 2019 National League All-Star and Cy Young contender gets the nod on Opening Day for the Reds for the first time. After a solid first half, Sonny Gray put together a second half where he posted a 2.12 ERA in 14 starts with 102 strikeouts in 85.0 innings. He had bone chips in his elbow removed following the regular season, but looked strong in Goodyear and back in Cincinnati once Summer Camp began.
Gray will bring hitters a lot of different looks. The right-handed pitcher throws a 4-seam fastball 28% of the time, a sinker 21% of the time, a curveball 25% of the time, a slider 21% of the time, a change up 3% of the time, and he will occasionally throw a cutter according to Brooks Baseball. According to the Pitch Values at Fangraphs, the sinker, slider, change up, and curveball are all above-average pitches, while the 4-seamer was below-average in 2019.
When you look at the stats above the clear edge last year went to Sonny Gray, but in some areas the edge was there for Matthew Boyd. The Tigers left-handed starter had a better walk rate – well above-average – and his strikeout rate was higher, too. Not shown above, though, is where all of the difference in the world came from with regards to the overall performance: Home Runs allowed. Boyd served up 39 homers, the highest number in the American League last year. Everyone in the game pretty much saw a boost in their home run rate due to the baseball that was used last season, but even in 2018 Boyd saw his home run rate climb.
For the most part, Boyd is a fastball and slider guy. His fastball, working around 93 MPH, comes to hitters 54% of the time. The slider is a pitch he threw 35% of the time in 2019. The lefty will bring a change up and curveball about 5-6% of the time. The Fangraphs pitch values had his slider as an above-average pitch, but everything else that he threw in 2019 as being below-average, with his curveball getting crushed.
|Nike Goodrum – SS||Phillip Ervin – LF|
|Jonathan Schoop – 2B||Joey Votto – 1B|
|Miguel Cabrera – DH||Eugenio Suarez – 3B|
|C.J. Cron – 1B||Nick Castellanos – RF|
|Christin Stewart – LF||Mike Moustakas – 2B|
|Jeimer Candelario – 3B||Matt Davidson – DH|
|Cameron Maybin – RF||Nick Senzel – CF|
|Austin Romine – C||Freddy Galvis – SS|
|JaCoby Jones – CF||Curt Casali – C|
|Matthew Boyd – SP||Sonny Gray – SP|
With a left-handed starter on the mound, David Bell is going with a right-handed heavy lineup. Phillip Ervin and his .349/.411/.628 line from last year against lefties will lead off. Matt Davidson, who was added to the 30-man roster this morning (more on that below) gets the start at the designated hitter position, too. He has a history of beating up left-handed pitchers in his career as well. Curt Casali is behind the plate instead of Tucker Barnhart, though that almost assuredly has more to do with Sonny Gray being on the mound than the lefty/righty hitter thing.
Among the Reds lineup only Mike Moustakas and Matt Davidson have more than six plate appearances against Matthew Boyd. Both have had some success, too. Moustakas is 8-21 (.381) with three doubles and a homer. Davidson is 4-13 (.308) with a double, triple, and a homer to go along with three walks (1.207 OPS).
News and Notes
It’s Opening Day and there’s a lot of news, so let’s dive on in.
The Reds have traded Scott Schebler to Atlanta
After being designated for assignment earlier in the week, Scott Schebler has now been traded to the Atlanta Braves. The return for Schebler is not yet known, but only players on the 60-man player pool can be traded – so that’s where the player will be coming from.
Matt Davidson, Christian Colon added to the 30-man roster
This morning the Reds added both Matt Davidson and Christian Colon to the roster. Both players were non-roster invites and required moves to be placed on the 40-man roster (and in turn, the 30-man roster). To create room the team designated relievers Justin Shafer and Josh Smith for assignment.
A Guarantee: The Reds will win the division
Chad Dotson, host of the Redleg Nation Radio Podcast, founder of this here wonderful website, and all around good guy wrote about Opening Day and the 2020 season for Cincinnati Magazine and he is guaranteeing that the Reds will win the division.
Opening Day is finally upon us, the start of a 60-game sprint unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And when the smoke clears at the end of this season, your Cincinnati Reds are going to be champions of the National League Central division, Sugar Bear. That’s my iron-clad, money-back guarantee to you, Dear Reader. Even better, you don’t have to take my word for it. The computers agree!
The Toronto Blue Jays will play in Buffalo
After Canada’s government said that the Blue Jays couldn’t play baseball in the country (because of the constant in-and-out of the country for both them and their opponents), Toronto’s baseball team had to search for alternate options. They wanted to play in a big league stadium for many reasons – and the Pittsburgh Pirates opened up PNC Park to them. There was a problem, though – the state of Pennsylvania said no. The search was back on, and despite it being the long rumored landing spot that was put on the back burner because of some facility questions and lighting that wasn’t MLB standard (this is mostly for television purposes), the Blue Jays have landed in Buffalo – their Triple-A home. The stadium is having it’s lighting upgraded before they begin playing there next week.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) July 24, 2020