The Cincinnati Reds completed a 3-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs over the weekend and in the process they flew right past them and into second place as they improved to 43-40 on the season. How they did that may be considered a miracle if you had told yourself how the games played out just a few weeks ago. On Friday five different relievers combined to throw four shutout innings and hold onto a 2-1 lead to start the series. Saturday afternoon saw another four shutout innings, this time by four relievers as the Reds held on for a 3-2 win. Behind Wade Miley on Sunday afternoon the Cincinnati bullpen only needed to cover 2.1 innings, but they did so in shutout fashion as they again held on for a 3-2 victory.
10.1 innings by the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in close games and they allowed no runs. They didn’t give up any inherited runs nor did they give up any runs on their own. The bullpen was lights out during the series.
Your past self almost doesn’t believe you, right? Since June 25th the bullpen has covered 31.0 innings for Cincinnati and they’ve allowed just four earned runs. That’s a 1.16 ERA.
Cincinnati’s bullpen has been bad in 2021. Real bad. Even with the run they’ve been on, the team’s bullpen ERA is at 5.25 on the season. But not everyone has struggled. Tejay Antone, of course, has been lights out all year – but he’s also missed time on the injured list and isn’t expect to be back until the end of the month. Brad Brach has been locking things down out of the bullpen since he was called up from the minors. The 11-year big league vet has now pitched in 20 games and thrown 20.0 innings with a 2.25 ERA. Art Warren has now pitched in 15 games with the Reds this season and he’s posted a 2.03 ERA in his 13.1 innings.
After months of throwing guys at a wall and seeing who sticks, perhaps Cincinnati has found the right combination of guys. And there could be more help on the way. Jeff Hoffman has been rehabbing his way back with Triple-A Louisville, throwing 12.0 shutout innings for the Bats in three starts, but his role when he returns hasn’t yet been established – at least publicly. It would seem a decision needs to be made to either place him in the bullpen or to move Vladimir Gutierrez out of the rotation in favor of Hoffman. The lack of commitment by manager David Bell on that decision would seem to have the context clues you need to see which way they are leaning.
When asked today about what's next for Jeff Hoffman, David Bell said this: pic.twitter.com/g2SxaGcHQk
— Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) July 3, 2021
Michael Lorenzen began a rehab assignment this past week with the Arizona Complex League Reds in Goodyear and threw a perfect inning in his only appearance so far. He’s expected to continue his rehab assignment with Louisville, with an outside possibility that he could return before the All-Star break – though it’s more likely he returns after. Michael Feliz is also on the rehab trail as he just began his assignment in Triple-A this past week, too. Lucas Sims hasn’t begun a rehab assignment yet, but like Tejay Antone, he’s expected to return near the end of this month.
And then there’s Tony Santillan. He made four starts for the Reds this year, but when he was optioned to Triple-A last week as Sonny Gray was ready to return to the rotation, the plan was to move him to a relief role in Louisville in order to perhaps help the bullpen in the second half. His first outing as a reliever came last night and he tossed a shutout inning with two strikeouts – allowing just a bloop hit in the process.
Things are going right in Redleg Nation at the moment. The team is playing well and the weakest aspect of the squad has been getting things done. Just past the mid-way point of the season, the Reds are in second place, but still need to make up ground in both the division and the wild card race.
Strengthening the bullpen could go a long way towards those goals and with things working well right now and what appears to be several quality arms coming back soon, the team has to feel good about things moving forward. But the question is, or at least should be, did they wait too long? The Reds still haven’t made any real moves to acquire outside talent, even when the bullpen was getting hit around like Bronson Arroyo in his once-a-year 11-run, 2-inning performance on a nightly basis.
Cincinnati is currently seven games back of the Brewers. If they go .500 the rest of the way, the Reds would need to play .600 baseball the rest of the way to catch them. That’s not an impossible task, but it’s a very tough one on just the Reds end of things, much less having to also have the Brewers play .500 the rest of the season. The wild card is a bit closer with Cincinnati being 5.5 games back of San Diego for the second wild card spot. That’s still a fairly big deficit to overcome, but perhaps a little easier – though the Reds don’t have the benefit of playing them like they do the Brewers where they can directly effect what happens on those days in the standings between the two teams.
Still, one wonders how those standings would look if at the end of May the team would have gone out and tried to acquire some help for a bullpen that was getting taken to the cleaners just about every night and outside of Tejay Antone, left David Bell with no answers.
Yes, the BP is getting it done at the moment (hope that doesn’t jinx them — not that I’m superstitious or anything …). But long-term, I still don’t absolutely trust them when the game is on the line in the late innings. Those first couple months of the season were brutal. To be fair, a lot of those early BP pitchers are gone now, and others have stepped in and done reasonably well (Brach, Warren, etc.), but the BP still makes me nervous — especially when Doolittle, Hendrix, or Garrett come into the game.
Yes, the Reds probably waited too long. I would have felt much better if the front office had attempted to address this in late May (for all I know, maybe they did try, and failed, who knows?). So, paint me very cautiously, tentatively, and hesitatingly optimistic (whatever that means).
A lot of ground to be made up against the Brewers. Reds need to do well in the seven upcoming games against them. I am praying for a COMPLETE collapse of the Brewers — perhaps a nine-game losing streak, followed shortly thereafter by a seven-game losing streak, then a four-game losing streak, etc. May it come true — while the Reds keep winning, of course.
Yes, the bullpen improvement has been remarkable. Brach and Warren are still looking impressive and there is utility left in a repurposing of Hoffman, Santillan, and Gutierrez to fill some gaps. As far as the playoffs, they need to win 5 of 7 against the Brewers and we will know in 2 weeks whether its game on. Will the ownership and FO provide additional support for this fledging effort as David Bell reaches for a pinnacle in his managership?
I’m glad the bullpen has seem to have found their way recently. Winker and Castellanos have certainly cooled down which was inevitable of course. Some other bats have stepped up some and will need to continue to step up, but It’s clear the bullpen and pitching overall is the main reason for the teams recent success.
Bob isn’t going to approve getting any help whatsoever. We ride or die with what we got. Go Reds
The Reds need a lefty in the bullpen.
Trade for a proven lefty with team control. Gregory Soto Tigers would cost a lot but the new All Star would be worth it.
Ok, Doug—if this article is a jinx I know you’ll own it.
But seriously—the guys going out there in relief really have been doing the job right lately.
The only Jinx that’s real is the cat from Meet The Parents.
I’m pretty sure that any cat has those powers.
Hey wait you’ve already used that line this season…
If it fits, it fits.
Now that we know the bullpen DOES have a few guys who can get people out, will it be fair to start criticizing Bell’s illogical pitching decisions?
Oh, I don’t know. I mean, the Reds do seem to have the third highest fWAR by the pitching position in the MLB: 4.4. The starting pitching is second in baseball with a 5.8 fWAR. The relief pitching ranks above average (-0.9) and right on the median at 15th.
Seems like that would mean David Bell is making some darn fine decisions, even if they don’t meet your definition of logical.
I run into this circular argument quite often whenever I criticize a manager. When the players are doing well, people insist the manager must be doing a great job, so it’s unfair to criticize him. When the players suck, people insist the manager can’t be held responsible because he’s only got lousy players to choose from, so it’s unfair to criticize him. One of the points I’ve been trying to make in some recent comments is that managerial decisions shouldn’t be evaluated in terms of whether the manager has good or bad players to work with. Some of the decisions are good and some are bad, period. If the manager makes an illogical decision that happens to work out because he has several great players to choose from (or just gets lucky), it’s still a bad decision. If the manager has a bad player or an even worse player to choose from, there’s a better decision and a worse decision even though both options are probably going to fail. Looking at the players’ overall stats will NEVER tell you if the manager is or isn’t making smart decisions.
I’ve mostly seen the circular reasoning used in the other direction: bad things are the manager’s fault, good things are in spite of the manager. There’s also the problem of logic: who decides that a decision is illogical? The manager has much more information than we do (think Antone and Sims just before they were injured and we all wanted them used much more). Than there’s also the issue of how much impact a manager actually has on wins and losses.
The Reds have an under talented bullpen and that bullpen is performing a bit above average. They have a talented group of higher performing group of starting pitchers. That helps. But use of the bullpen is determined by Bell and Johnson and they’ve been putting pitchers in a position to pitch well. In Johnson’s case, I think he’s helped a number of the relievers either back on track OR salvage a career. He’s also helped Miley salvage his career. I think we can always be critical of the manager’s decisions in the micro. But stepping back, David Bell had most of the Reds playing really good baseball. Other than Suarez, who’s underperforming over the last month?
Greenmtred, I don’t mean to sound hostile (I try to keep my debates as civil as possible), but I’m getting tired of hearing about managers having much more information than we do. Yes, it’s true that on occasion their decisions are guided by insider information, such as Antone being hurt, but more often than not when they’re asked to justify their seemingly ridiculous choices (to the extent the media ever bother asking for justifications), the response isn’t some sort of insider information, it’s some sort of nonsense about “they had a lefty due up next, so I wanted to leave my lefty in the game — it just didn’t work out,” or “I thought it was important to have a quicker runner on second in a tie game, so I replaced Votto with Freeman — it just didn’t work out” or some such thing. I really believe a lot of people overthink these things to find convoluted ways to give managers credit. It’s not that complicated. Managers sometimes do dumb things. Some managers do more dumb things than others. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point these things out — especially when you’re stuck with a manager who seems more prone to doing dumb things than most.
I’ll admit that I’m certainly guilty of not giving Bell much (if any) credit for the things he does right. Perhaps that’s just a personality glitch, but I think it’s mainly because I EXPECT managers to do MOST things right. So, when he makes what seems like a fairly reasonable decision and the pinch hitter gets a hit or a relief pitcher gets out of the inning, I don’t Bell any credit. Guilty as charged. I expect major league managers to make mostly correct decisions, and when they do, I tend to give credit to the player, not the manager.
Consider this: how often does ANYONE ever bother giving credit to umpires for all of the correct calls they make? Would anyone ever say “wow, this ump at first base got every call right today except for the the out/safe plays he got wrong. When you consider all the calls he has to make during a game, it’s amazing he only blew five! That’s over 90% accurate calls! And maybe he saw or heard something we didn’t, and that’s why he got those calls wrong. After all, he’s the one standing right there with the best look at every play, so let’s cut him some slack.” Nope. We’d all demand that MLB fire him immediately. We EXPECT major league umps to get almost every call right. Missing a few out/safe calls per game is the sign of a BAD umpire, not a good one. The same standard should be applied to managers. The vast majority of Bell’s decisions are perfectly reasonable, but that’s not the standard I think we should be using to judge his performance.
Tom, if we’re supposed to give these guys credit for the way the bullpen has been pitching lately, does that mean it was reasonable to criticize them when the bullpen was absolutely abysmal? Because it seems to me that a lot of people were just saying “meh, these guys are terrible, and there’s nothing Bell can do about that. This is ownership’s fault. Bell is stuck with the players he’s stuck with.” But now that some of them are pitching better, we’re supposed to be praising Bell for putting them in positions to perform? Did he just suddenly learn something about how to manage better in the last couple weeks?
Well, I suppose before I criticize a manager or professional athlete, I ask myself if I’m absolutely confident I’m doing a better job in my job than they are in theirs. I also acknowledge that no one is actively trying this beat me in my job, like the other manager is with David Bell.
I think David Bell is doing a great job with this team. I think he’s grown into his role. I think he has players playing hard and there doesn’t seem to any quit.
Apart from how it always goes on balls & strikes, the majority of umpire calls are going to be objectively either right or wrong. They’re really not supposed to be making judgement calls. Either a guy was out at first or he wasn’t. The umpire’s correctness is not dependent on someone else’s actions. “See thee call, make thee call” as Doggie would say, and there’s even mechanisms to get help in certain situations or even replay overturns when they do get one wrong
Not so with manager decisions, as they’ve got access to reams more matchup stats in the dugout than just Fangraphs and there sometimes are multiple and sequential options and considerations, knowledge of transient injury limitations of the players that they’re just *not* going to share for obvious reasons, plus keeping track of matchups sometimes 4 or 5 innings ahead of the current play on the field, plus they’re working without a net. Then sometimes it’s just gut feeling or intuition … or blind luck or a forced hand … plus the other side of the field is likewise countering furiously trying to screw with your best intentions, sometimes meaning the best move can be actually not even making the obvious rational move to make the best of what comes next after leaving this lefty to face that righty. You’ve got potentially cascading decision trees sometimes dependent on curveballs based on the what other side capriciously dictates, not just stark black or white alternatives
People have been constantly reaming for Bell not pitching Antone 2 or 3 innings or else the ‘come out for the start of the next inning at least’ every game the Reds led from the 6th inning for 3 months, yet i bet you’ll find Bell made sure Antone was very rarely ever wasted on very many 7-8-9 hitters at all and even his inning warmup pitches were super controlled and Bell gets lambasted for what he knew he had to do there yet no way would he ever tip his hand down the road by truthful explanation … and still Antone became overworked enough to need down times
It’s just logical fallacy to equate these two things
dude, this is a chat board. not your personal thesis on how to manage a major league baseball team. enjoy the marathon that is baseball a little more.
J, it’s all cool. I think what Bell learned is that his players were playing better and the team was winning. It’s perfectly reasonable to disagree with a manager’s decisions when they don’t turn out well, but the problem is that your (or my) preferred decision wasn’t tested: it may well have failed, too, since the decisions, once made, are executed by fallible humans. Of course managers have more insider information than we do, and they aren’t obliged to divulge it. That’s why it’s called “insider.”
The Brewers will probably play around .500 the rest of the season. Playing .600 for the Reds is hopeful but doubtful. Ownership blew it by not getting relief help. This has hurt the club more than not getting a SS. Unfortunately, the momentum of this season while bolstered by India and Stephenson will be somewhat diminished by losing Nick when he opts out and the pen will be a bigger mess unless a real effort is made to improve it next off season. Will they sign Mikey Biceps and will AG learn to “sling poo” as he said Miley does? They have a winning 8, but too bad ownership wasted it. I’d like to be wrong, and hope they can overcome ownerships failures.
The Brewers have the second-worst team batting average in all of baseball (.221), but the best pitching in the NL Central by a good margin — including a lights-out late-inning bullpen. If the pitchers all hold up, chances are pretty good the Brew Crew will hold on. But we have no idea what will happen in the second half, as pitchers across the sport cross and surpass their innings total from last year.
I get the mantra this season about pitchers surpassing their innings pitched from last season, but the opposite could also be said for pitchers having less wear on their arms from decreased usage last year.
I guess my brain is muddled with the primary or recency effect. Early in the season when the pen came in the game they taught me to call it a game and turn it off because they consistently blew it. Although there has been a parade of relievers marched through the door, I still get that queasy feeling of here we go again. All I know is that learned behaviors are hard to extinguish, and despite the recent pen’s success, I see it a blip on the radar and nothing more. I hope they prove me wrong because besides the pen this is the best team the Reds have had in about a decade.
Reds are unbeaten in the second half; Brewers are not!
“Though the Reds don’t have the benefit of playing them [the Padres] like they do the Brewers”. Based on the last couple weeks and our history vs the Padres, I wouldn’t use the word “benefit”. Let someone else beat the Pads because we sure can’t. Also, I don’t think anyone has mentioned that we now have four lefties in the bullpen. How many times has THAT happened in the history of the Redlegs? Darn few, I would think. (I don’t really trust any of them, but that’s another subject!)
And yet an earlier post says BC needs to get a lefty BP. Seems like some people live in a data free environment.
Amir Garrett and Cionel Perez have ERA’s over 7. Josh osich has 6 + innings total all year and as of 2 weeks ago Sean Doolittle had the worst inherited runners allowed % in all of baseball at 85% per nick Kirby and Matt Wilkes.
Is there an update on Sean Doolittle’s status as the worst reliever in MLB allowing inherited runners to score? Thats kind of an important stat for a reliever
I dont think Doug’s post was singing the praises of cionel perez Amir Garrett and Sean Doolittle- but maybe so. Doolittle did start throwing a slider and changeup and working with DJ
Or it was a reflection on the trustworthiness of the four lefties..
Yeah, I’d gladly take the Reds chances at making up 5.5 games versus the Padres over ~80 games with the Reds playing ~25 versus Pirates/ Marlins/ Twins/ and Tigers and only 9-10 games with teams currently with winning records from August 1 thru the end of the season while Padres are playing 20 vs Dodgers and Giants over the same interval.
Even if the Padres split those 20 games down the middle, the Reds could easily make up the entire margin on these 2 groups of games. let alone the other 60 or so
Yes, the BP got it done against the slumping Cubs. Looking forward to the returns of Sims, Lorenzen, and Antone.
y’know, i see Sims and Antone (also Mahle) in all of the articles detailing whose spin rates are the most down recently … maybe that’s partly due to their arms hurting though .. could also be vise versa lol
That’s why I’ve really been pushing for arm strength acquired via trade of late. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, though. Maybe if they make a run at it?
The Brewers had 2 great runs recently. I doubt they play over 500 to finish the season. I think it’s possible they regress, because of their offense. Also Peralta’s arm is going to fall off. He threw 29 innings last year, and 85, and 78 the 2 prior seasons. This year he’s already at 93, and we have half a season yet to go. I don’t know if we’ll catch them or not, but with an average pen we’re a really good team, and with a good pen we’d be great. Looking forward to see how it plays out.
All good, MBS. But I believe we also need someone or someones to step up in the bottom of the batting order. Suarez and Farmer have to do it (or Lopez, Moose…). Whatever it takes.
Hard to argue with that, the Suarez Farmer combo is not working.
IMHO there are two factors to consider:
a) the SPs are doing better lately going as far as 7th inning in some cases…
b) the Defense is being better as well.
c) hitters have had their ups and downs, but they have appeared very opportunistic lately.
Here’s a different way of looking at things: If the Reds had simply played .500 ball against the Diamondbacks and the Padres, they’d be much closer to the Brewers than they are now. The bullpen has been bad, but there is no excuse for their dreadful record against certain teams.
Solid article as usual, Doug. Thanks for the work you and the team do to keep this site humming.
BP is definitely looking better at the moment. The more recent additions may have the effect of pushing the “regulars” to be better. I cringed when Dolittle came in, yet he performed. I hope they can get some down time soon (I know the ASG break is coming). I’m thinking they’ll all get in a lot if innings in the 2nd half.
I’m doubtful we can overtake the Bernies, but I’d love to see it happen. I think NLC champs is the only way we get to play beyond the regular season. And if we do that and draw the Padres, all bets are off.
It will be interesting to see what the Reds do at the trading deadline.
I think they will keep Nick C. for fear of alienating the fan base even more than they have already. Trading an MVP candidate with the team only a few games out in July would not be well received by fans.
Keeping Nick for two months and then having him walk would be even worse. Glad it’s not my call.
Interesting line up for today…. According mlb.com
Lopez 3B (at 9th in the order)
Very, very interesting that Bell is getting a look at how things might go with Suarez at SS and Lopez at 3B. Will Suarez’s defensive resurgence at third translate to shortstop?
I don’t read much into Suarez at SS other than a chance to give Farmer some rest and also get Lopez back in a game. Farmer has played some great defense recently and it seems he hasn’t missed a game cause there are no other SS except for Suarez at the moment. Just hope that Suarez can at least do a decent job tonight. I expect to see Farmer back tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. Sure hope Winker can start getting some hits again. Need to take care of the Royals.
I originally thought Lopez could steal 2 days from Farmer, and 2 days from Suarez, 1 day from Votto 1 week, and 1 day from India the alternating week. That would be 5 games a week, reducing the games our most problematic bats (Farmer, Suarez) are in the order together.
BTW I have backed off of this line of thought, because Suarez’s defense at 3B had been so good, I didn’t want to mess it up. Hopefully @Tom is right, and Suarez’s good D, will transition to SS.
I’ve been wondering when we’d see this variation. We need to see if Lopez can perform on a regular basis. And as Tom M. said, we can all hope Suarez’ defense is stepping up based on what we’ve been seeing and that will translate over to SS.
The Reds, on their occasional visits to Kaufman, have rarely done very well. A series win, at least, in K.C. is needed to keep the momentum going.
Farmer’s turn for a day or 2 off now since he leads the Reds in games played (by 2 now after the 2 Geno just got) and Aquino gets the spot in LF to maximize RH batterers since KC is starting LHP
Albeit Farmer’s splits vs LHP are far superior to Geno’s but lots of people have been commenting on how worn down Farmer has appeared lately … not sure if that’s true or not
I’d also be strongly tempted to go ahead and insert Lopez at the #2 slot but 9 is OK for now
Plus Eugenio is suddenly on a hot 3 for 9 .333 roll …
It is all scrambled now because India is scratched with “right ankle soreness”. Lopez to lead off and playing 2B. Freeman at DH batting 9th.
The Reds could really use another right handed bat because they have to play either Naquin or Akuyama versus a LH starter in the DH situation. Yeah, if it was Hieneman maybe not; but, a competent RH bat would be nice.
By my count Farmer has played all but one game in the last 6 weeks and gotten 3 team days off in that period. Prior to this year his maximum plate appearances for a season was 197 97 games. He is already at 257 in 81 game appearances this year. He will be running on empty or an injury waiting to happen by mid August if not sooner if they don’t get him more time off.
Freeman at SS
@beelicker> thanks. When I saw it they didn’t have a spot next to Freeman’s name and I blanked that he was already at 3B not DH.
This is what happens when you go into a season saving money by pillaging the bullpen and playing a soon to be 31 yo utility player at SS who has never played SS professionally and afraid to get a quality RH hitting bat to back up Votto at first base because Votto just told Stephenson take it personally when an organization intentionally walks the guy ahead of you.
Caught with your pants down on the road against a bad AL team and no CF against a lefty and no SS and Winker at DH when its the perfect game to rest him against Minor and play the RH power bat 1b you dont have at DH.
An $80m loss for last season for the team (that the ownership group had to cover) probably had a tad to do with the lack of off season signings.
Brach, Warren, yes. No mention of Hembree? Or did i miss it?
Y’all making it sound so hard….
Don’t worry about what percentage the Reds and Brewers play.
Just make up 1 game in the standings a week for the next 2 months. Then when Labor Day rolls around, the Reds are in first.
Stop over complicating things. 1 game a week is possible.
Brewers vs 1st place Mets x3
lackluster KC in a 2-1o slide vs Reds x3
so why *not* shoot for an instant 4 back to square off against the Brewers ?
Gutierrez vs grizzled LH with 12oo career IP today looks like the high hurdle
Castillo vs TBD tomorrow
Gray vs 24 yo Brady Singer 4.74 era
bank up some cushion and keep sharpening the hot steel
Fortune Favors the Bold!
Yes. Great opportunity here. We shall see, though, won’t we?
this, 100%. We can catch the Brewers no doubt. Even if we don’t, this team is going to be fun to watch until they are mathematically eliminated. Its so fun to see a Reds team play with passion and they are really set up to be competitive for years.
I think the Reds are closer to the Brewers right now than the standings indicate.
Games left with Teams who have won more than half their games.
Cincinnnati – 13 (6 at home – LAD 3, NYM 3 and 7 on the road – 3 NYM, 1 CLE, CWS 2)
MIL 19 (9 at home – CWS 3, NYM 3, SF 3 and 10 on the road – NYM 3, LAD 3, SF 3)
Huge advantage Reds.
Vs. last place teams
CIN 23 (11 at home – PIT 7, MIA 4, and 12 on the road PIT 6, MIA 3, KC 3)
MIL 11 (3 at home vs. PIT, 2 vs. KC and 6 in Pittsburgh)
Two separate trips to the west coast for the Dodgers and Giants.
if the Reds can win 75% of their bonus games vs. last place teams and the Brewers win 50% in the same timeframe they gain 3 games. If the Reds win 50% of their games when the Brewers are in LA and SF the Reds should gain a game or two there.
That’s a lot of “ifs”, brother. lol If the Reds can hit starting pitching, get consistent relief pitching against good teams, if Winker gets out of his slump, if Suarez and Farmer wake up at the plate, etc. Want me to continue?
I sure hope they do well against the sub par Royals.
there are a lot of if’s in every sport. But there are no if’s in my summary.
Let me simplify it. The Reds have a much easier schedule than the Brewer’s in the second half. No “if’s” necessary.
Hopefully Vald will leave them with only one choice after tonight.