The last few weeks of the Cincinnati Reds season have not been good. Because the team has lost seven straight series, people are going to be frustrated and they want to express that frustration. I understand. When a team that was in control of its playoff destiny starts a losing skid and then must both start winning games and relying on other teams to lose, fans can get a little heated. But even with the frustration, the Reds and their fans can still look back on the moments and players that gave the fans something to be happy about in 2021.

The Young Ones

Jonathan India is far and away the leader for the National League Rookie of the Year award, hitting .272/.378/.465 with 20 home runs, 85 runs scored, and 65 RBI. His wRC+ of 127 ranks 20th in the NL and first among all rookies. He’s done everything at the plate, as he’s the first rookie in MLB history to have at least 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 20 hit-by-pitches. He’s been a constant presence at the top of the Reds lineup.

But he’s not the only rookie to have success this season. Tyler Stephenson has made the most of his split duties behind the plate. He’s hitting .280/.365/.421 with a 112 wRC+ in 359 plate appearances. Behind the plate, the 5-year-old catcher may not be at the level of two-time Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart, but has shown himself to be fully capable at that position at a big-league level. Shortstop Jose Barrero only has four hits in 23 plate appearances in his short time at the big league level, but has shown flashes of brilliance with a few timely hits when he has played. The future is bright in the middle infield and behind the plate for the Redlegs.

A Family Affair

It’s safe to say that Nick Castellanos has had one of the best seasons of his career. His 146 wRC+ ranks sixth in the NL and is a career-best. He’s hit 29 home runs and driven in 82 in 122 games. Currently he ranks second in batting average, four points behind Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner. With two and a half weeks left in the season, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Castellanos wins a batting title.

And of course, who can forget his family’s Twitter presence, cheering on the Reds through all the highs and lows, and giving the fans a tiny fraction of a behind-the-scenes look at an MLB season. Of course, we can’t leave out his 8-year-old son Liam, who drew a portrait of Castellanos on a t-shirt for him to wear at the All-Star game. It garnered national attention and led to an excited young entrepreneur giving a large donation to the Dragonfly Foundation.

A Superhero Season

In spring training, a lot of fans were doubting what Wade Miley could bring to the Reds starting rotation. Well, with a 3.09 ERA, he’s got the lowest ERA of any Reds starter. His expected ERA is a little higher at 4.11 and his expected FIP is the same at 4.05, which means he’s performing a little better than one would expect, but it’s not that much higher. Miley also gave the Reds a shining moment in 2021 when he pitched a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in May, complete with a shiny Hulk tattoo from his son on his arm.

How has Miley done it? It wasn’t by striking out more batters, as his K% of 18.3% is very close to his career K% of 18.5%. He has, however, limited the walks and the home runs. His BB% is down to 7.3%, the lowest of his career since 2016 when he had a 6.9 BB% while pitching for the Red Sox and the Orioles. And In 160.0 innings, he’s given up just 14 home runs. He allowed 23 in 167.1 innings in 2020.

A Resurgence

At 38 years old, Joey Votto has shown that he still has something left to give this team. Votto became the oldest Reds player to hit 30 home runs. He’s just 13 RBI shy of his 100th, which would give him his third career season with 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in. His wRC+ of 136 is the highest of his career since his near-MVP season in 2017.

Votto’s BB% has been down about three percent this season, to 13.2%. Given that it’s Votto, fans could take one glance at his statistics and say he’s not the Joey Votto we all know, but the reality is he’s just swinging at more pitches. His Swing% is up to 43.7% from 36.2% in 2020 and 41.5% in 2019. His Z-swing%, which measures the percentage of times a batter swings in the strike zone, is up about 10 percent from a year ago, from 60% to 70%. That’s a large jump, but as long as he’s making contact when he swings, he’s going to get the results he wants.

I’m going to miss watching Votto play whenever he retires. He’s at that part of his career where fans realize there’s not that much time left to watch him play, and they start appreciating even more than they once did. I think that’s what the 2021 season was like for both him and the fans.

The Return of the Fans

The second I walked into Great American Ball Park for the first time on Opening Day, a sense of normalcy washed over me. Baseball games are just better when fans are in attendance. The atmosphere is livelier, and I know the players had to have appreciated the buzz of the crowd in the background and the roar when something excited happened even more this year than previous years. It was more enjoyable to watch on television too. Fake crowd noise is not fun to listen to. Going to games again made me appreciate it even more than I did, and I’m glad I was able to get to do that again in 2021.


Statistics current through September 14, 2021.

57 Responses

  1. Mark A Verticchio

    Sorry Ashley, but you are trying to make a skunk smell good these past 20 games have ruined what at one time was a pretty good season. What kind of positives can you put on a team that loses 7 {soon to be 8} series in a row at crunch time? I have been a Reds fan for a long time, I’m 63, and this is the most embarrassed I have ever been to admit that. The national Media is having a good laugh on a team that was given a lay up schedule in September and literally has thrown up all over itself. The only positive that might come from this nightmare is saying good bye to the worst manager in baseball.

    • Ryan

      Agreed Mark, “building a winner” for a future that never comes, with more WLW slobber about “down on the farms.”

    • jazzmanbbfan

      If this is the most embarrassed you have been to admit being a Reds fan were you in a coma during the early 2000s or the pre-2020 years under Price? This team provided me with entertainment and moments worth remembering, as Ashley identified. Those years did not.

    • 2020ball

      Maybe uts time to retire from being a fan then

  2. Klugo

    Sounds like your mailing it in, too. Cant blame you.

    • Mark A Verticchio

      My heart is hoping for a miracle turn around, the problem is I have a brain. LOL

  3. Doc4uk

    Really need to start a new rebuild with a new GM and a new manager. Bring up the best in the minors and let the play the positions that they are best at. Forget the lefty righty thing because it has not worked Play the best players and if they do not produce replace them and try something else.

    Look at Tampa as a model

  4. Mark A Verticchio

    I would like to see the Reds pull a 2008 Brewers, fired coach with 12 games to go and rebounded to make playoffs. I don’t think it would work but what is there to lose.

  5. SOQ

    Thanks Ashley. Hope rings eternal in Baseball. This year brought some very exciting moments, and we haven’t seen many of these the last few years. We have a good young core. There’s always next year. Keep the faith!

  6. LDS

    Yep, fire Bell today. A random pick from from RLN could do a better job. And a few picks in particular would likely do a bang up job. Alas, wishful thinking. If Bell isn’t extended, I’ll be stunned, happy, but stunned.

  7. KG

    8 Things the Reds Must Do to Turn It Around NOW:
    Find a way to get on base and drive in more runs.
    Insert the proper player at shortstop.
    Revisit what was working earlier in the season.
    Eugenio may have turned a corner! .381 in Sept.
    Believe in yourselves and get it done on the field.
    Expect the unexpected, but expect to win!
    Let Dauri Moreta make the jump.
    Lorenzen is our closer.

    • LDS

      I’ll bet dollars to donuts that Suarez hasn’t turned a corner. He does these streaks occasionally but always reverts. Hope you’re right but I’m skeptical. I’d certainly try to dump him in the offseason.

  8. Chris Holbert

    The future could be bright, if they let the development of the young players continue in the majors. From what we have seen as long as DB is managing that will not happen. When the “hot” young guys come up, or make the team legitimately out of spring training, we have seen time and time again, that they sit or are relegated to backup and utility roles, they will never develop that way. Any logical thinking person knows this. India only got regular time because Moose got hurt. He was put on he 10-day under questionable circumstances at one point, and if Moose had not gotten hurt, would have been sent back down, if the current management structure stays in place, it will be status quo, $$ contracts, nepotism, and service time will reign supreme. That is a unfortunate thought.

  9. Mark Moore

    Yes, these are highlights we can think of fondly. But nights like last night (and several nights before) just take most of the shine off the diamond for me.

    I’m considering cancelling my trip for the Nats games next week. I’d find it more than a little challenging to spend the time and money to see a team that is fading quickly out of the chance for Game #163.

    • Votto4life

      Mark, I hope you change your mind and come to the game.

      I understand your disappointment. But Cincinnati is a nice city and it’s still Major League Baseball. I really enjoy September baseball.

      Anyway, I hope you reconsider and enjoy your time here.

  10. RedsGettingBetter

    This article is very good and says true things and thanks to Ashley for her work. But ( no offense) I think maybe it being published in this sad moment of the Reds would not be so appreciated when the fanbase are so disappointing . Perhaps it would be better to have done it later when everything is already part of the story and resignation exists.

    • 2020ball

      why would you need to time an article based solely on a bunch of bloggers crying negativity after a tough stretch? We honestly need these posts more often. Good post Ashley, thank you for a different tone than most here.

  11. Mark A Verticchio

    The line up today, no Barrero, Moose at 3rd, Shogo in center = Bell is as good as gone he has lost whatever he had as a manager. I have no idea what the line up should be but Bell makes a lot of money to figure it out. Try something different Barrero in center is not the answer but it sure couldn’t hurt at this point, who cares. The Naquin injury is really hurting the line up. Just think right now the team is without 3 of their 4 outfielders from opening day and the 1 left seems to have checked out.

    • Roger Garrett

      Bob’s players play,Krall’s player’s play and Bell’s player’s play.Thats why we will never see the best players play.So far all of these guys are happy cause the Reds still have a a chance to make the playoffs and play 500 ball.That a win for all of them.Its all about power and ego in the board room and not about putting the best product on the field.No player any where would want to play for an organization like that but they will if you overpay them such as happened with Moose,Casty and Shogo 2 years ago.

    • 2020ball

      Barrero hasnt hit at all when hes played. que the conveniently easy to say “hell hit better with more playing time” argument.

    • greenmtred

      If you don’t know what the lineup should be, how do you know that this one isn’t good? They won, by the way.

      • 2020ball

        Them winning doesnt matter, they win “in spite” of all the negative stuff and when they lose its obviously because of it.

      • greenmtred

        If winning doesn’t matter, I confess that I don’t know why they play. I agree with the rest of your comment, 2020 Ball: it holds true for every win and every loss by every team.

      • 2020ball

        that first part was meant as sarcasm

      • greenmtred

        I suspected that. Probably trying to defend rational thought in an increasingly irrational corner of the universe has left me too reactive: I apologize for doubting you.

  12. Max BRAGG

    Bell seems to get ALOT of CRITICISM and rightfully so,but the ownership and group makes the call,and since they have been in charge NO LEADERSHIP! Someone has to stand up an be a LEADER we still have 2 weeks an we are only 2 games out DO NOT give up on the REDS!!!!

  13. Jeffery Stroupe

    Lineup comes from front office. They just want to dangle the carrot. No manager can be as inept as Bell on his own. Don’t forget about daddy. Bell will not be fired.

    • greenmtred

      When the team he manages is performing up to expectations, how would you conclude that the manager is inept? Because you wouldn’t make the same decisions? Well, first, you might if you had all of the information that the manager has. Second, the manager has been working in professional baseball his whole life. Have you? I know that if someone not in my field told me how to do my work, I’d try to be polite, but would take it for what it’s worth.

  14. Gpod

    last night after the game in the postgame, Bell said these games are “fun” games to be in….does this team look like it’s having fun?

  15. RedsMonk65

    Thanks Ashley. Yes, there are lots of good things about this year, especially considering the relatively low expectations this past spring. Until the last three weeks, it has mostly been a fun team to watch, and it has been refreshing to consider playoff possibilities late in the season (even as those odds now continue to dwindle), compared with recent years where everything was seemingly over for the Reds in June.

    India and Stephenson have been great. Votto has surprised. Winker and Castellanos, when healthy, have raked. The starting pitching has been mostly pretty solid. And, as you point out, it is great to have baseball and the fans back in ballparks — things we did not have most of last year.

    I have been disappointed with the roster composition and management. It has been befuddling at times. Mostly, I would have liked to have seen more of Stephenson and Barrero (not to mention Moreta in AAA). I would also like to have Jose Siri back right now, but that is water under the bridge.

    Anyway, a better season than most over the last 8 years. But still frustrating.

    (By the way, India has 10 stolen bases, not 20).

    • greenmtred

      Stephenson’s season has been all the more remarkable given that he’s too young for first grade! But it’s a great article, Ashley, and I’m sorry so many of my fellow commenters are no longer able to enjoy the team: they’ve created a mythical beast–a manager who has destroyed the season–and it has darkened their days.

      • 2020ball

        and created some mythical manager that will come in and save the day, but would just do most of the same stuff and then the cycle will begin anew.

  16. Roger Garrett

    Thanks Ashley and it wasn’t for these positives then well just think how bad we would have been.All of these positives were pretty much unexpected which is what makes this season so frustrating.Lets not forget Wink,Vlad and Santi and what they have done.If only the front office had helped the pen sooner or what about just awful years by Suarez and others that were counted on to help carry the team.Reds have a good young core going forward and with some help from the front office they can be better but I doubt under the current regime they will ever be better.

  17. Doc

    Only on this site could an objective analysis of what is good about this Reds’ season be met with the usual litany of negatives, the same negatives that have been spouted day after day whether they have anything to do with the topic of the article. Having to wade through these chronically negative comments to get to the positive and useful comments has been the worst part if this season.

    Thank you, Ashley, for a nice review of the positives we can take from the 2021 season. The team played hard, new faces emerged, and the team was better than most any of the detractors thought they would be. I think there are people out there pulling for this collapse so they won’t be embarrassed with how wrong their predictions were likely to have been.

    • jazzmanbbfan

      Doc: unfortunately what you pointed out is the reason I spend less and less time here. It’s the same vitriol and negativity spouted day after day. After awhile it’s mind numbing. It doesn’t have to all be rainbows and unicorns but, frustrating as this season has been at times, especially recently, I still have enjoyed it more than any of the Bryan Price years.

      • Doc

        Same with me. Fewer and fewer views. Wish Doug had a way that once “Fire Bell” had been mentioned some given number of times in a week, further mentions would be automatically blocked until the next week…or month.

      • 2020ball

        same, +1. Its actually been a pretty awesome season even if they fall short.

      • greenmtred

        I agree. I wonder if the literature of psychology contains instances of similar mass obsessions/delusions? Of course, it’s much easier to fire the manager than it is to fire the whole team. Just as pointless, too.

  18. LDS

    I’m starting to think we’re looking at a sweep here. As for Bell being gone as some have suggested, I’ll believe it when I see it. As for Barrero hitting better with more playing time, that would obvious to anyone that’s dealt with professionals in any endeavor, e.g., software developers, plumbers, electricians, engineers, etc. aren’t particularly good if they work one day per week.

    • 2020ball

      yeah, obviously lol. good ol straw mans.

    • 2020ball

      just like its obvious theyll ger swept right?

    • greenmtred

      Well, adjust your thinking, LDS: you were wrong. I hope you can temper your disappointment about the win?

    • LDS

      They tried to get swept. There was absolutely nothing in that serious that points to a good weekend. But we can all disagree on that. As obviously we will.

      • 2020ball

        “they tried to get swept” lol. No words.

  19. Votto4life

    The biggest positive for me this season has been Jonathan India. We have been in need of a competent lead off hitter for years.

    I also have enjoyed seeing Joey Votto play like it’s 2012.

    Overall though, the ending is what most people are going to remember.

  20. LDS

    Though they scored, that inning seemed to be substitutions for the sake of doing so. And while it worked out, is Cabrera really the go to guy in that scenario? And pull Stephenson for a PR? Just doesn’t seem the most economical use of the players. But then it gets more guys in the game and sets up the Bell double switch.

  21. BUCK

    bye, bye Bell! SUAREZ NEEDS TO BE PLAYING. Is Givens a “closer”? YOU WERE GIFTED TODAY BELL…tick tock.
    GO REDS!!

  22. JayTheRed

    Thank you Ashley for reminding me how fun this season has been. I do appreciate what the players we have, have done. Even some of the guys who contributed earlier in the year but are no long with the team or are injured. Some of them didn’t end up having full good seasons but some had good half seasons that helped.

    I pray we can be at the least a winning team this year. We are only 1 back in the wild card somehow even after this terrible play over the past few weeks. Hope they can turn it around. Getting Winker back I think will help a lot. He can’t be the savor though the whole team needs to pull together these last few weeks.

  23. Jim

    You’ve got a rookie hitting 330 that never plays on a team that can’t hit. How do you justify not playing Schrock daily?