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.
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.