The morning after the Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs for the first time since 2013, I sent Dave Bristol a text.

As many of you know, Dave Bristol managed the Reds and is now a member of the Reds Hall of Fame. I got to know Dave while doing some historical articles for Redleg Nation. And so I sent him a text and asked how he would have like to have The Big Three (Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray) on his 1969 Reds pitching staff.

Dave didn’t text back, he called. Like me, he was thrilled the Reds are back in the playoffs.

I was as hard on this Reds team as I have been with any other. They drove me crazy. Made me angry. A .212 team batting average? Are you kidding me? Traditionally, the Reds are a good hit/no pitch franchise. Ask Dave Bristol about that. But .212? That’s Darrell Chaney territory.

And when the Cardinals blew them out by a 16-2 score in Cincinnati on September 1, I was fit to be tied. Not at Sonny Gray, who had pitched his heart out for the Reds to that point but at the Reds in general and David Bell specifically. Brad Miller drove in seven runs that night. Akiyama was hitting all of .189.

I, like a few of you, was frustrated by the lack of playing time Aquino got. I was ready for Garcia to be playing weeks before he was brought in. I was hoping Akiyama would at least hit .260 this year.

Look, I wasn’t desperate enough to want Bob Boone back. Or Bryan Price. But I might have taken a second look at Russ Nixon or Vern Rapp.

But, to their credit, the Reds didn’t get buried. They stayed close to the .500 mark. And then by a miracle, they got hot at the perfect time. I’ve seen other teams do that; so have you. This time, it was OUR team that got hot. And they have the Big Three for a playoff series, when pitching is everything.

The Reds have had three stud starters before in the same rotation; it just didn’t happen very often. Like once a decade, or even longer.

There was Purkey/Jay/O’Toole. Cueto/Bailey/Latos. Gullett/Nolan/Billingham (or insert Norman for any of the three).

But this Bauer/Gray/Castillo trio is dynamite. No sane baseball team would want to face a rotation like that. For a Reds fan, it’s an embarrassment of riches. It’s going to Jack Ruby’s instead of a mid-level restaurant. It’s first-class instead of a coach seat. It’s good Kentucky sipping whiskey instead of a Miller Lite.

When Trevor Bauer takes the mound, I have a chip on my battery. Or a battery, like tough-guy Robert Conrad in the EverReady commercials. “Go ahead — knock it off. “

If Trevor Bauer doesn’t win the Cy Young Award, I promise you a scathing article here at the Nation on that injustice. So be ready for that, Doug.

But first business first.

The playoffs and the Big Three. I’m sure Dave Bristol will be watching. When I asked him about Bauer, Castillo and Gray being on his staff in ’69, Dave just laughed.

I’m sure he’s thought about it, too.

31 Responses

  1. Terry Pahls

    Exciting season. Particularly the final sprint to the playoffs. Much needed enjoyment and diversion from the pandemic and national discord of 2020.

    70 year Reds fan.

  2. Dick H

    Jack Ruby’s? No thank you, sir. That sounds like trouble waiting to happen.

  3. Tom Mitsoff

    John, they drove me crazy too — until the last two-plus weeks, which reminded me how fun it is to follow a team that gets the big hit, makes the big pitch or the big defensive play at a key moment. It took nearly two months for the roster to self-sort, but they are set up now to where anything is possible with a “big three” starting staff and a reliable bullpen.

  4. Mark Moore

    Yep … same here. Very frustrating to say the least. But watching this run was more than a little magical. We weren’t frustrated at the losses … we were now sad like regular fans of good teams.

    5 straight series wins and some good teams in there. That’s something to get excited about.

    • Slicc50

      Yes, it was different…..even if they were down a couple runs, you had the feeling that they could come back. Plus, they stopped blowing leads late in the ball games like they had earlier in the season. They were a much more solid team down the stretch. My hope now is…..with the fresh start of the playoffs, some of these guys will go back to hitting like we know they are capable of doing. If they could do that, this could be the year for our Cincinnati Reds!

  5. CFD3000

    Here’s the funny thing. The Reds haven’t even peaked yet. Gray and Castillo both had some rough starts (for them). Winker has cooled off and Senzel hasn’t found a groove. Castellanos has been hot and cold. Votto has been better, but rarely great. But except for Senzel and the youngest Reds – Garcia and Aquino especially – the hitters have all shown glimpses of greatness. Which says to me that as food as the Reds have been the last two weeks, they could be even better. They could – not the same as will, but it’s possible – burn through the playoffs and shock the baseball world.

    Imagine if Bauer, Castillo and Gray are all on. If Mahle and Antone and Lorenzen are all solid. If the bullpen studs plus DeSclafani and Miley are sharp. And if a few hitters get hot at the same time. Maybe Akiyama refuses to make outs. Maybe Castellanos and Suarez and Moustakas go all bash brothers. Perhaps Votto and Winker and Aquino all click at the same time. The Reds were a nightmare already, for five straight series against some really good teams. And there’s still room to improve. How much fun would THAT be? Go Reds! I can’t wait.

    • CFD3000

      * as good as the Reds have been…

    • SultanofSwaff

      The pitching as you describe would be a huge advantage in a 7 game series but not against the Braves, who have a deep enough bullpen to cover ~15 innings in a 3 game set.

  6. Charlie Waffles

    Seven playoff teams from the Central Divisions. The Reds have been playing a playoff schedule more or less since Sept. 1. And they got hot against playoff teams winning 5 straight series. The Reds are not going to be a typical #2 vs. #7 underdog. They have a legit chance to take the Braves down. It will depend on which Reds offense shows up. The winner of the #2-#7 series then plays the winner of #3 Chicago vs. #6 Miami. Being at a neutral site, the Reds would be a very slight underdog there, if one at all. The road to the NLCS will be tough, but it won’t be impossible. The Reds have just as good a shot to make it that far as any of the #2 through #8 teams as they stack up now. The Reds are pretty healthy right now and that is going to be a very important ingredient for the Reds.

  7. Melvin

    I said from the beginning, with six years of losing, 160+ million spent, there is, right or wrong, fair or not, only one thing acceptable for us fans now……WIN. That will slowly make all of the criticism decrease and mean less and less. Even though we had to sneak in with the expanded playoffs, this is a lot more fun. 🙂 For me the most frustrating part was, and still is to a certain degree, the underachievement of so may players and therefore the entire team most of it do to incorrect thinking. It’s frustrating because of the potential this team has. I will go as far to say that, if players reach their potential and things are managed properly (that includes putting and keeping the correct players on the active roster), we have as good chance to win it all as anyone. We have to swallow our pride and do that little things it takes to win besides the home runs. We have to take “the shift” personally as an insult to our integrity and our skills and make them pay for doing it. We have to take a team .212 batting average personally and be ashamed. We have to start taking strikeouts personally again. That’s the attitude that’s needed most when it comes to offense. That’s the attitude that will get us to our potential. Our pitching is as good or better than any other team.

    • Indy Red Man

      I wasn’t too far off I guess

      “I’m going to say 35-25 and a game behind the Cards. Either the 4th or 5th seed”

      I didn’t take into account the fact David Ross would probably be a pretty good manager. Reds still got where they needed to be which is all that matters!

  8. SultanofSwaff

    No doubt the Braves can hit, but I wonder if the gaudy offensive numbers are a product of the Covid circumstances in the NL East this year. 10 times they scored more than 10 runs, with a 15, 14, and 29 run outburst in there. Clearly there was some stat padding going on as the opposition already waved their white flags. For the first third of the season the Phillies and Marlins struggled to field teams much less compete….the effect on those teams and how they manage their pitching is obvious. You’d have to think the Braves were direct and indirect beneficiaries.

    The media narrative will probably be that the Braves have the hitting edge, the Reds have the starting pitching edge, and the bullpens are probably a push. I don’t disagree.

    • Indy Red Man

      To be realistic we don’t have anyone thats half as good a hitter as Freeman, Acuna, or Ozuna. They’re really scary, but so is Bauer when he’s at 95-96 with nasty breaking stuff. If he has what he had in that last one vs Milw then Atlanta could be in trouble.

      I still see us as a big longshot. More so then what Vegas thinks. I don’t fully trust our pen with a 1 run lead in the 7th (if we have one) and we don’t play small ball. Their park is pretty big! At the same time Fried has a 4+ era in September. We could get hot and the pressure is on them. Atlanta usually chokes in every sport. I think St. Louis put 9-10 on them in the 1st inning last year in the deciding game?

  9. LeRoy

    The Reds finished great but their hitting was still suspect. Even with 3 excellent starters I don’t fell confident they can win much at all. The hitters aren’t hitters just swingers for home runs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Red’s starters allowing only 5 or 6 runs in the 3 game wildcard series and scoring even less. If the win, they will go down in history as the hitless .214 team that was carried by their pitching.

    • SultanofSwaff

      ……and the Braves pitchers are good at limiting the long ball.

  10. RedsFan11

    Asking for a friend: As a thirty year old man working in a business casual establishment, is it acceptable to wear my Joey Votto jersey into work on Wednesday ?

    I think its worth a potential first visit to the HR department 😉 Go Reds!

  11. west larry

    The reds have been great down the stretch, I was really impressed taking series the from two good teams, the white sox and twins, who were both fighting each other for the American central. The reds have great pitching, an adequate defense, and a poor hitting offense that has been descent the last three weeks of the season. I look for them to go deep into the playoffs. Go reds!

  12. Rut

    Not sure I would go with ecstatic, but very enthused.

    Want to win a playoff game this millennium before i get too giddy!

  13. ClevelandRedsFan

    Braves might be a little bit feast and famine offensively.

    I figure Reds should be able to get 3 tomorrow off Fried, who is banged up and hasn’t pitched consistently lately. I’m thinking 3 is a solid bet for a win. 4 is close. 5 plus from the Redlegs should do it.

    Here are runs per game numbers for the Braves:
    Shutout: 3 times
    One run: 5 times
    Two runs: 10 times
    Three runs: 1
    Four runs: 7 times
    Five or more: 34 times

    So Braves score 5+ in about 50% of games beating up on Marlins, Phillies, Nationals pickings. Mets have good pitching.

    They’ve also only scored 2 or fewer 18 times. So in a purely statistical world, Braves have about a 30% chances of scoring two or fewer. Facing the NL Cy young, I like those chances.

    • Wayne Nabors

      I agree Cleveland, them encouraging numbers if reds starters pitch like they capable of

    • Indy Red Man

      I watched the Braves play Miami on Thursday. It was pouring rain, but Pedro Lopez shut them down over 5 innings on 2 hits with 6 Ks. You can get them out like anyone else, but when you see a lineup with a guy like Nick Markakis batting 8th then you know they’re dangerous.

  14. Don

    The frustration was well deserved and I am hoping it does not happen in the playoffs but during the winning streak of September the Reds have not really been great offensively.
    Runs per game improved to 4.12 in Sept from 4.0 in July August

    Reds hitters in Sept ranked by AVG with OBP and OPS listed
    Akiyama 0.317 0.456 0.821
    Casali 0.25 0.385 0.791
    Farmer 0.25 0.348 0.598
    Barnhardt 0.243 0.349 0.943
    Galvis 0.234 0.333 0.674
    Moose 0.23 0.333 0.914
    Suarez 0.228 0.326 0.883
    Votto 0.226 0.369 0.857
    Stephenson 0.2 0.294 0.694
    Castellanos 0.185 0.235 0.604
    Garcia 0.185 0.185 0.37
    Goodwin 0.163 0.236 0.563
    Aquino 0.147 0.293 0.616
    Winker 0.104 0.302 0.552
    Senzel 0.08 0.08 0.2

    There was some timely hits but overall only Akiyama was actually consistent. Catching was above league average.

    The Reds scored 4.12 runs per game in Sept. A marginal improvement over the 4.0 runs per game in July and August.

    For the season the only position which the Reds rated in the top 5 for WAR was catcher. Relative to the rest of all of MLB, the Reds Catchers were the best position for the 2020 Reds.
    DH tied for 10th
    3B tied for 13th
    LF tied for 15th
    Every other position was below 15th and none with a positive WAR.
    The total Non-Pitching WAR for the Team was 0.7, 24th in the league.

    Pitching and Defense is the reason for the winning streak
    Runs allowed per game 3.52 in Sept vs 4.4 in July/August
    Earned Runs per game 3.2 in Sept vs 3.2 in July/August
    HR allowed per game 0.84 vs 1.31

    Starting Pitching (been great all season)
    Runs allowed per game 2.12 in Sept vs 2.37 in July/August
    Earned Runs per game 1.92 in Sept vs 2.08 in July/August
    HR allowed per game 0.44 vs 0.67

    Relief Pitching
    Runs allowed per game 1.4 in Sept vs 2.05 in July/August
    Earned Runs per game 1.28 in Sept vs 1.86 in July/August
    HR allowed per game 0.40 vs 0.67

    Pitching beats hitting in the Playoffs and the Reds have the Pitching.

    Hopefully they offense can scrap enough runs to allow the pitching to carry the team.
    I have my fingers crossed but do not expect much offense in the playoffs.
    I expect a lot of 3-2,2-1 games

  15. 2020ball

    I was more disappointed they were underperforming given their talent than I was frustrated, but I prefer a never get too high or too low approach to baseball fandom. I was always saying they just needed a run and they’d be there, and they sure took their time but they finally found that run. Certainly made it all the more fun this past few weeks.

  16. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Definitely plenty of blame to go around with the Reds for the frustrations fans have been feeling all season, especially from the offense. Even from our top offensive performers, I don’t know if any one of them, or anyone, can justifiably say they had a season they felt they should have had. So, I find it hard to blame any one player for that.

    (As well as, we all have to understand and consider, this year has been an adjustment, for everyone. I mean, in baseball, how many teams were hit hard with COVID, only having to make up games? Even the Cards didn’t get all of their games in. I wouldn’t be surprised if this negatively affected players’ performances.)

    So, I close with two things. First and foremost for now, we are in the playoffs. These can easily be a different story. I do the odds that we can roll out the top 3 every game. But, it is still a team game. The pitchers can’t score runs, and you can’t count on them keeping a “0” on the scoreboard every inning. We are still going to have to score.

    And, on that note, second, for after all of this, I still feel we will have to address the lack of offense in the off-season. Don’t get me wrong; I hope we do re-sign Bauer. But, we have to address the lack of offense.

    • Indy Red Man

      It might sound crazy, but I would look for a new hitting coach with a preference for Asian style hitting! I was hoping Shogo would smack the ball around and it would rub off on guys, but it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.

      Suarez came up and hit .280 and now he’s trying to golf everything out to left. Atlanta hits the ball the other way. You have to hit the ball all over the park and be able to beat these shifts. You have to be patient and take walks. Maybe this was just a bad stretch, but maybe they just bad approaches have spread like the virus.
      Personnel wise I can’t see them doing anything much. Surely they can find someone better then Goodwin? I swear I’d rather have Lorenzen at the plate.

  17. seadog

    Anything can happen. It is 3 and out.

    Doug never did answer? Is the BABIP historically low? If it is…OK. Just admit it is…
    This team has to find a way to score runs. Pitching will be there.

  18. RedNat

    I guess I am more frustrated with the game of baseball than the reds themselves. To be successful in today’s game you have to have pitchers that strike a lot of people out and hitters that hit a lot of homeruns. There is really no other ” way to win”. I just think it is a shame because to me there is just so much more to the game.
    The 2020 version of the reds are not very good. They don’t get a lot of hits. Their defense, while improving, is not good and their baserunning still remains atrocious ,as displayed this weekend.
    However they do hit a ton of Homers and strike a lot of people out so they have a shot to make a deep run in these playoffs.

    • MK

      This was Ty Cobb’s frustration with the changes brought about by Babe Ruth.

  19. JayTheRed

    I will lay it out there…. A month ago I said the team had no chance to make the playoffs and now I’ll eat those words. Honestly it has been a miracle in my mind but here we are not the 8th seed but the 7th seed and I cannot be more happy.

    The hitting finally started to hit some. and not just all home runs either. That was one of the most exciting things to me was that they were getting on base a lot.

    The bullpen stopped blowing leads, that was huge. Do I think we have an elite bullpen heck no. But I will say this. Getting Bradley sure helped and it might have helped more if he had been used a little more when we first got him.

    As big of a Galvis fan as I am I honestly have to say I was happy when Garcia got to start playing more. He may have not hit much but he did a nice job overall for a rookie who we all know was going to have growing pains. I have always liked Galvis better at 2nd base anyway.

    Iggy became the Iggy we knew and loved again. Nailed it down really well in the final month.

    Again just happy we are here cause I really didn’t think we had a shot after the really mediocre start we had.