This morning ESPN asked their panel of 11 “insiders” a bunch of questions about the rest of the Major League Baseball season. The first question that they asked was this: Which team currently not in the playoff field is most likely to make it? Four teams got a vote. The Cincinnati Reds got seven of them. Anyone who watched the disaster from last night that saw the Cardinals beat the Reds 16-2 is probably asking themselves how crazy those seven “insiders” are. There’s less than a month left in the season, the team is in a tailspin, and they’ve never actually looked good for more than a game or two at a time all season.

Five writers weighed in on why they picked the Reds – including Buster Olney and Jeff Passan. They all mentioned how unlucky the team has been this year. Everyone thinks that the team on paper is actually quite good. Alden Gonzalez was the one who was a bit more hesitant, but still voted for the Reds.

I initially listed them as a team that should sell because their record presented an opportunity to extract some real value out of Trevor Bauer, a pending free agent. Clearly, they didn’t. Instead, they added closer Archie Bradley and outfielder Brian Goodwin to bolster their roster for the final month. That should be enough to make it. The Reds began September two games behind the Colorado Rockies for the eighth seed but also had a slightly better run differential. The top of their rotation is excellent and their lineup should be better. In a watered-down National League, the Reds are good enough.

Now, given the write up, it seems that all of these votes were had before the games were played last night. Maybe that would change how everyone would have voted and what they would have written. The loss was ugly. And it was painful if you have any rooting interest at all. But it’s still just one game. Of course, it’s one game in a season with only 60 of them, and it was one game when there were only 25 of them remaining.

Sam Miller has a take on the Reds that feels like it should be rather true, but also notes the reality of the situation given the nature of the 2020 season – bad luck would normally stabilize, but there may not be enough time for it to happen.

Reds hitters are third in the National League in homers, second in walks, and right in the middle of the league in strikeouts — yet they’ve scored the second fewest runs per game. That’s because they’ve hit into horrifying luck, with the second-lowest batting average on balls in play in the past century — 20 points lower than any other team this year, 45 points lower than they themselves hit last year. Many a gambler has gone broke waiting for bad luck to even out, and the Reds might, too. But this is a strong lineup on paper, and the pitching staff — on pace to demolish the record for strikeouts per nine innings — is already doing its job.

Here’s the truth of things right now – the Reds are 15-21 and they have 24 games left. They are 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot. Only three teams in the National League have a worse record – the Diamondbacks, the Nationals, and the Pirates. Cincinnati is going to have to play a lot better moving forward than they have to this point in the season if they’re going to have any chance of getting into the playoffs. The final playoff spot right now belongs to the San Francisco Giants, who are 18-19. If they hold that same pace the rest of the season they will finish 29-31. For the Reds to also finish 29-31 they would need to go 14-10 the rest of the way. To finish at .500, Cincinnati would need to go 15-9.

There’s no time left to get things right. The Reds have to start winning tonight, and they’ve got to keep winning. Just about every game moving forward is a must win. They need to not only play up to their potential that everyone seemed to feel they had before the season began – they need to probably play better than that moving forward if they’re going to have a chance to make the playoffs.

45 Responses

  1. JoshG

    on offense it seems like they only ever have one or maybe two guys get hot at the same time. If a few guys get clicking at the same time the wins will start piling up… hopefully just not too little too late

    • Charles Lackey

      Been a Reds fan for over 60 years. This team, by far, is the the worse that have ever had. Outside of WINKER can hit at all. The. Bullpen is awful, no closer yet, only 2 decent starting pitchers, perhaps 3. Defense is so-so, if Reds accidently get someone on, the runner doesn’t know what to do so that part is terrible. There is no way these LOSERS can turn things around as they do not have the winning spirit. That’s why the team LOSERS. REDS are an embarrestment to MLB, Actually Reds should opt out of the remaining games.

      • Charles Lackey

        Only 2 and 1/2 games out of a Wild card birth, might as well be 100 out they haven’t the will power to win, there is no drive to win. Just a pitiful, sloppy team.

  2. JB

    The playoffs for the Reds start tonight. Things havent gone their way and they have put themselves in a hole. But, like you said, they are only 2.5 out.
    On MLB Network this morning Mark DeRosa called the Reds out. Stating they need to step up because they are better than the effort they are giving. I couldn’t agree more.
    Every player and coach needs to be better. Do your job. Slow the game down to every pitch. Take it one pitch at a time and for the love of God put your best nine on the field every night and stop going by the numbers because they aren’t working.

    • Charlie Waffles

      I like DeRosa. His name was bandied about early last winter as a possible manager candidate for teams. But he decided to stay with his job at MLB Network and not seek any openings. If Bell gets canned, soon I hope, I would hope the Reds go after him. Good baseball guy. His personality is outgoing and the polar opposite of David Bell and his monotone drone talk.
      There really are not many attractive managing candidates out there that are/could be available this offseason. Bruce Bochy and that is about it. AJ Hinch comes off his 1 year suspension from the Astros cheating scandal. Apparently he didn’t know much of what was going on but did let it continue. With that baggage, Hinch might not be a match in Cincinnati. Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran should not get any considerations whatsoever. There is old Atlanta skipper Freddie Gonzales. Old Red Sox skipper John Farrell and old Orioles manager Buck Showalter? Mike Scioscia? Mickey Callaway?
      If/when they hire a new manager, they must stay away from past Reds connections (Larkin). Sweet Lou didn’t have those and he worked out fine.

      • That that had had

        Terry Franconas bench coach Brad Mills

  3. Coachgates

    Jeff Brantley was routinely praising the approach by the Cardinal hitters last night and their ability to hit the ball where it is pitched. I have seen a lot said about how hard the Reds are hitting the ball (aka Bad luck) but that doesn’t do any good when they are hitting the ball at the short right field shift player. I would love to see a stat explaining where the hard hit balls are going which apparently is contributing to the “Bad Luck”. It seems the swings that our guys take are all or nothing.

    • Melvin

      Was kinda thinking the same thing. When you stack your lineup most of the time with LH hitters, who mostly pull the ball, and the defense is mostly shifting that way, that’s not bad luck. That’s poor hitting, and poor managing.

    • mudpuppie

      Jeff also said last night something to the effect of “when will the players become embarrassed?”

      • Mark Moore


        I’m wondering the same thing.

  4. Steven Ross

    Those “experts” are outside the bubble. Those of us inside know it’s not going to happen.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    I read it on twitter—the Reds will go on a winning streak the final week of the season…………….and miss the playoffs by a game.

    Yep, that feels about right.

  6. RebBaron

    On paper yes….by the eye test no. I want them to be right but my eyes say otherwise.

  7. Klugo

    Same stuff that some hung hopes on last year. Run differential and HRs. How’d that work out?
    Ask the Cards and Cubs about hard hit stats. You cant win a division on solo HRs. And you cant depend on walks to get the job done. Cubs and Cards (and Royals and Tigers, for that matter) have shown us that hitting the ball where the defense is not is a skill. Not luck.

  8. Klugo

    People adapt and then they re-adapt only to re-adapt to the re-adapt and so on down the line. That’s why expectancies and trends and so forth can tell you and predict only so much.

  9. RedNat

    Jim Mora’s rant comes to mind.

    Playoffs?!, playoffs?!

    We may not win another game this year!!!

  10. kevinz

    -Kind of a tough spot like you mentioned only a few teams have a worse record in the NL.
    -Either play well to sneak in the PO or get a Better Draft Pick.
    -Not sure which rather have Honestly with the Reds Recent History.

  11. kevinz

    -Stuck in between a better Pick since only a few NL Teams have a worse Record.
    -Could prolly lose Nick and Trevor after this Year.
    -Doubt make any Noise if made the PO.
    -Get the higher Pick but who Knows with that going off Past History of the Reds.

  12. DataDumpster

    Well, we can all agree that the Reds on paper are clearly the best team in their weak division or at least an “almost sure” playoff bet. But, I don’t understand all this talk about bad luck regarding BABIP. Their exceptionally low average for this stat indicates to me that the players/coaching have not made adjustments to the defense that is presented to them. You mean an elite MLB player can’t spot a few pitches to the opposite field where nobody is playing? It’s called timing, bat control, situational awareness, etc. As for as management, why don’t they try to “manufacture” a run every once in a while. Nothing gets a team more excited than a well executed hit and run, stolen base, squeeze play, etc. or a hustling player taking an extra base. I believe there is still a decent playoff chance because of the “paper” team but until David Bell starts rallying this team and implements some different strategy instead of spewing empty platitudes and the “stay the course” nonsense will they succeed. Maybe our big bombers will unleash a massive amount of home runs to bail out a few games but this team has never sustained any kind of winning momentum since Bell was hired. Since the beginning of 2019 there has only been 2 significant winning streaks (4 and 6 games). They were both promptly followed by 4 game losing streaks. Now, that at the least has got to change immediately and that takes energy, guts and competence.

    • Klugo

      JUST BUNT IT, for Pete’s sake!! If nothing else, just practice bunts to the 3rd base side. I, for the life of me, cant figure out why more people dont do it just to get them out of the shift.

    • David

      Games are not played on paper. Advanced metrics can give you some insights (retrospectively) on why a player or a team was good or bad, or where the weaknesses are. Intelligent and descriptive scouting can do the same thing.
      Prospective predictions using advanced metrics are just so much fiddling with numbers and spreadsheets.

      We are deluding ourselves if we think this Reds team is that good. It is not.

      As the late Sparky Anderson used to say, ” The cream always rises to the top. If you don’t rise to the top, maybe you don’t have no cream anymore.”

      The Reds have a few good players and pitchers, but by no means is this enough. Their bullpen has been just bad, almost every day. They are not a good team, offensively, defensively or pitching wise, and will not be going to any playoffs. The front office and ownership have to take full responsibility for the roster, the field management, and the problems and weaknesses of the minor league system.

      It will be interesting to see how Bob Castellini speaks about this after the season is over.

      • mudpuppie

        Remember the old adage “The fish rots from the head”

  13. Charlie Waffles

    In hitting coach Don Long’s last year as HC in Cincinnati in 2018, the Reds offense most notably ranked fourth in the NL in OBP (.328) and fifth in batting average (.254).
    The Reds offense has not been the same since Don Long was not re-hired at the end of 2018. Baltimore snatched him up before 2019.
    In 2020, Baltimore hitters rank 2nd in the AL in batting average (.263) and are tied for 5th in OBP (.325). In all of MLB, that is good enough for 6th in BA and are tied for 14th in OBP. And this is a team in the infancy of their rebuild.
    Read it and weep.

    • DataDumpster

      Interesting point. I have been a little curious about Baltimore’s vast improvement this year but didn’t realize the HC angle. I do remember that Bell’s replacement last year (Turner Ward?) did poorly and was released. Bell’s new man has obviously not shown much promise thus far either (or maybe just bad luck as they say). But, that’s not to say that the Reds owners haven’t given Bell something to work with. According to MLB personnel files, the Reds have 14 coaches, more than any other team except the Giants. Several teams, like Milwaukee get along with 11 or 12.

    • TR

      Wow, your comment and the article in the Balti. Sun really hits home to me. The Reds offense in 2018 seemed to have been smoothed out and was not dominated by homerun or nothing. Then, the hitting coach, Don Long was gone. Perhaps he didn’t want to continue with the Reds, or maybe he asked for too much money. Whatever, the Reds offense hasn’t been the same since and the effort of the FO in the offseason has, so far, come to naught. If the Reds can’t make the playoffs, I hope Baltimore does. Prior to 1954, they were the St. Louis Browns, the laughing stock of the AL.

  14. jim walker

    I haven’t a clue why or how to fix it; but, night in and night out, the Reds simply appear not as wel prepared and ready to play as their opponents. As the games progress to decision points, they appear not to want to win as much as their opponents or at least do not know how to effectively channel that desire if it is there.

    It is popular to point to bad luck. But why are the Reds almost always the team on the bad end of the luck scale or the opposition better able to overcome their bad luck than the Reds theirs??

    • Daytonnati

      It has been mentioned here before, but it seems like the team has no visible leader. The Big Red Machine had four! The ’90 Reds had Larkin on the field and Sweet Lou on the bench. The 2010 – 2013 Reds had Scott Rolen from 2010 to ’12. Sonny Gray shows leadership but it’s tough for a pitcher to own the clubhouse. TV cuts to the dugout shows everyone sitting, no one exhorting anybody. Tucker Barnhart could be the guy, if he were more productive? I don’t know. There is no fire. No passion. I really thought that comeback win against the Cubs would turn things around. Alas …

      • DataDumpster

        Yes, I have noticed that too. But, I would expect that some urgency, fire, and motivation needs to come from the manager. But, David Bell is the most low key and dispassionate manager I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, he’s just not inspirational in any way and he makes it easy for the players to drink the Kool Aid, emulate his silly talk, and wait for the mediocrity to pass as if its just a chest cold.

    • SultanofSwaff

      From a pitching perspective, Bell doesn’t play to win each inning. He’s always one batter too late pulling a pitcher which turns small deficits into insurmountable ones.
      By the same token, any deficit after the 5th inning automatically triggers the ‘preserve the bullpen’ approach, meaning lesser pitchers are used to preserve deficits of less than 3 runs. I wonder where the Reds rank when it comes to tying/taking a lead. These moves signal to the players that the white flag has been waved and preserving energy for tomorrow is the top priority.

      Offensively, I can’t think of a team that doesn’t position their defense perfectly against the Reds. Clearly they know something. Balls that are sure hits from the beginning of time but that are sure outs now has truly sucked a lot of the fun out of the game for me. We need rules changes about shifting. I’d also make most stadiums into Green Monster bandboxes to decrease home runs and increase action so the emphasis becomes contact.

      • Melvin

        We don’t need to change the rules. All the shift does is show how stupid hitters are these days. A commitment to beating the shift, just slow lazy ground balls the other way, will get rid of the shift for any player who really has a heart to do so.

      • Jack

        I wouldn’t mind if they eliminated the shift but agree that hitters can change their swings in time. The shift doesn’t impact Winker with his approach and hasn’t impacted Votto since he changed his swing either.

      • Melvin

        Those who actually WANT to HIT and not just swing for the fences can beat the shift if they really have a heart to do so.

      • mudpuppie

        Melvin, when the Reds hit right into the teeth of the shift time after time, they call that hitting into bad luck. But man the exit velo was amazing. Dumb…. You know I called out Suarez last year for swinging for the fences and striking out, when just contact would have scored a run from third with one out. I got my knuckles smack pretty good for saying that. I love Suarez, but just seems to me to be only interested in his own number instead of what helps the team…. This seems to be the mantra of the whole team, only interested in their own stats. Then after the game they rouse Bell from his nap and he tells us all if well…. Bull-oney

    • jim walker

      As several of the comments to me infer, as much as about “leadership” and desire to to win, I am thinking about preparation of how to actually play against the specific opponent in game situations.

      How do I attack this hitter in this situation or this pitcher in that situation? In both instances, the response should in part depend on an expectation of how the opposition is likely to attack me (as a hitter, pitcher, or fielder). Opponents often seem to know how the Reds will pitch and play them more than vice versa. Or at least the actions of the opponents reflects this more than the actions of the Reds.

      • Melvin

        It’s almost like they’re outsmarting us huh? 🙂

    • RojoBenjy

      Who’s the guy that said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”?

  15. SultanofSwaff

    I’m wondering if the bad luck argument holds water. Here’s a look at some statcast numbers–

    Hard Hit %: Reds have 2 qualified hitters in the bottom 20th percentile (below 30%) (Votto/shogo), but we know our part timers would be down there if they qualified.
    Cards have 5. Cubs have 4 hitters in the top 30 (out of ~260), Reds have Jesse (24) and Nick (45) but no one else in the top 150.

    Not a pretty picture!

  16. Jack

    2 wins in a row and I’ll be ready to jump back on the bandwagon and have my heart broken again.

  17. zigbee

    Reds haven’t hit all year nor played good defense and all of a sudden with under 30 games left it’s going to change? I hope but I’ll be surprised. I’ll be surprised they win tonight.

  18. IndyDoug

    Its a pretty soft emotion-less bunch and has been for awhile. Can’t see them making the playoffs.

    • DataDumpster

      You are right, a major attitude change is necessary but the situation is not hopeless yet. Picking up from some general observations of other contributors, I think the last resort is to replace the guy with the monotone drone talk with the dog carrying a note in his mouth.

  19. Charlie Waffles

    The Reds have to overhaul the offense after such a lousy display so far this year.
    Where do you begin?
    To begin with you re-build the offense around Winker LF/DH, Castellanos RF, and Garcia at SS. There are 3 veterans at 1B, 2B and 3B that will be in the lineup. Pretty much stuck with that. So, there are 3 openings then at CF, LF or DH, and C.
    A 5 player bench rebuild would have Farmer, Shogo, Barnhart, and Davidson. And that leaves 1 opening for an OF backup. Aquino, Goodwin, Payton, N. Williams, and Jankowski all fighting for 1 spot. Not really any new blood for the bench.
    Does Senzel take the starting CF role? (Probably).
    Does T. Stephenson take the starting C role? (Probably).
    That pretty much brings us back to the same offensive team as this year almost.
    Making the assumption that the DH will be in next year.
    Do you bring in a true DH next year, someone like a Nelson Cruz type? Or one that can DH and play the OF? Or do you want your new OF to be a CF and leadoff batter with Winker and Senzel to cover the LF and DH spots? Or can the Reds move Votto to DH and go out and get a power/high average bat for 1B??
    Where do the Reds go to fix this offense for next year? Plugging in Garcia and Tyler Stephenson helps some, but one big move will need to be made.

  20. Indy Red Man

    I watched Atlanta @ Philly on Sunday. Acuna started off the 2nd with a single to right. They worked Arietta and took some walks on close pitches. A couple more hits opposite field or up the middle and it was 5-0. I went to the bathroom and came back it was 10-0! Approach means everything. They’re not hackers

  21. Don

    The way the team plays makes me remember the Votto interview on Jim Day’s podcast back in February. Votto stated that the Reds team has lacked mercenaries the last few years. Players whom come into the club house do their job and go home. No motivation needed, they have a job to do, understand the job and just do the job.

    Votto also thought that this team with the players just really needed to show up for all 162 games and they would win 85 without any real effort s this would be their floor for performance.

    At the time that sounded good, now it just makes me think that it was a warning that the team will not play with emotions and thought they only needed to show up and they would win.

    This is how they are playing and being managed.

    The experts say we are good, we think we are good, why are the opponents not recognizing that we are better than them and just giving up so the Reds win.

    • DataDumpster

      That’s a very interesting observation. Regardless of Joey’s performance the last few years, you have to admire that he is a real thinker, worker and keen observer of the game. His unvarnished assessment rings true. I still fault David Bell mostly for not setting a good tone and just giving into the slothful playing that characterizes this team. Also, how on earth (in probability) could over 80% of your team be clearly under performing while only a precious few exceed expectations? I did not consider the possibility that the laziness, selfishness, and lack of urgency of an entire team could dominate to such an extent that the thrill of winning and teamwork would mean so little.