The Cincinnati Reds took two of thee three games in the opening series over the Pittsburgh Pirates this past week. They need to win two of the next 19 games to top their 3-22 start from last season. There were some good things to take from the series, but there was a thing or two that stood out in a not-as-good way, too.

Off to a hot start

Jonathan India is swinging a hot bat to get the season started. He went 5-11 (.455) with two walks (.538 on-base percentage), and picked up a double and a homer (.818 slugging percentage). Oh, and he also stole a base. If he takes the field tonight in the Viking helmet and cape, we will all understand.

With Joey Votto out it’s been Jason Vosler taking the reins at the position to start the season and he’s trying to Wally Pipp one Joey Votto.  The two players share the same initials and Vosler is doing his best impression of the 2021 version of Votto. He went 3-8 with a double, triple, and a home run in the series against the Cubs and is currently sporting an OPS of 1.500.

Not to be outdone, Jake Fraley went 4-9 (.444) with two walks, a double, and a home run in his three games. In the second game of the year he came off of the bench after the Pirates left-handed starter exited the game and came through with a pinch-hit 3-run homer. That made it a 6-2 ballgame and essentially put the game away.

Graham Ashcraft made the most of his first game of the season, and he picked up right where he left off in the spring (2.60 ERA, 2 walks, 25 strikeouts). The big right-handed starter allowed one run over his league leading 7.0 innings, walked just one batter, picked up six strikeouts, and induced 10 ground balls on the day.

Where did the change up go?

In spring training Hunter Greene spoke about how he had been working on his change up in the offseason. Once spring training got going he was throwing it more, and in the two games he threw out in Arizona where there was pitch tracking he threw 17 change ups out of his 105 pitches. In both games he actually threw more change ups to right-handed hitters than he did in the entirety of the 2022 season (he threw just two all year to righties).

On Opening Day Hunter Greene threw 83 pitches. Not one of them was a change up. While the change up is likely to always be the third pitch that Greene goes to, and might not be a pitch he shows all that much until he starts facing guys for a second and third time in a game, not throwing a single one out of 83 pitches stood out. That only happened one time in 2022 – he didn’t throw a change up on May 21st against Toronto in a game where he threw 88 pitches. Only twice in 2022 did he throw 10 or more change ups. He threw 13 of them against Atlanta to open the season and then 10 of them against Pittsburgh on September 27th.

Where have the walks gone?

During the 2022 minor league baseball season Will Benson played in 89 games and he walked 75 times. The year before that he walked 60 times in 80 games at the Double-A level.

Will Benson has certainly struggled in his time in the big leagues. In 2022 he made his debut with Cleveland on August 1st and he saw limited action over the final two months with the Guardians, playing in 28 games but getting just 55 at-bats. He walked just three times. Benson was traded to Cincinnati in February. While he hit .327 during the spring, he didn’t draw a single walk in his 49 plate appearances. He played in two of the three games against the Pirates and went 0-8 with six strikeouts and no walks.

Major League Baseball is the highest level of play in the world. But the pitchers aren’t so much better that a guy who walked nearly once a game in Triple-A turns into a player who completely loses any and all idea of what the strikezone is. It’s worth keeping an eye on if Benson continues to get playing time.

Checking in on Joey Votto’s rehab

The Triple-A Louisville Bats have played in three games this season and Joey Votto has played in two of them (their opening night game was postponed and played a doubleheader on Saturday – Votto played in the first game that day but didn’t play in the second). He homered on the first pitch he saw, crushing the ball 448 feet. He would also walk later in the game before striking out in each of his final two at-bats. On Sunday he picked up another hit – this time a hard ground ball single up the middle. He would also strike out twice in that game. He’s 2-8 so far with a home run, walk, and four strikeouts.

33 Responses

  1. MK

    I really liked the enthusiasm the team showed over the weekend. Looks like they are having fun. As we all know, in our professional lives when we enjoy and/or have fun at work our productivity usually improves. India has become the leader on the field by example and voice, something they have not had for several years. They have had guys like Votto who could lead by play and others who had voice, but it takes both to be a true leader, just like #14 (in the 70’s), and Sabo (in ’90).

  2. CI3J

    2 questions:

    1. What’s the deal with the Viking helmet and cape? When did this become a thing? Are all teams doing it, or just the Reds?

    2. Why is Graham Ashcraft called a “big” righthander? He’s not that tall, clocking in at 6’2″. While that’s a little taller than average, I wouldn’t call someone that height “big”. Now, someone like Aaron Harang (6’7″, 280lbs), that’s a big dude.

    Heck, Ashcraft is actually the shortest of the Big 3, with Lodolo (6’6″) and Greene (6’4″) both taller than him. And if you’re talking weight, Greene is only 6lbs lighter (248lbs vs 243lbs). Maybe I’d call Ashcraft “burly”, but not really “big”.

    And yes, I’ve been baffled about Benson’s apparent inability to draw walks too. I thought he’d make a great leadoff hitter because of his OBP and speed.

    But if he can’t remember how to get on base, then maybe he needs a trip back to AAA to re-discover his batting eye. His defense is good enough for MLB, but if he doesn’t have the bat, he can’t be dead weight on the team.

    I’m willing to give him a few weeks to see if he can sort himself out at the MLB level, but I hope Bell will keep playing him to give him the opportunity to do so.

    • MBS

      Benson is confusing many of us. A return to AAA might slow things down for him, or he goes 3 for 4 today, who knows?

      2. I don’t call him the big righthander either, I call him a bulldog. I don’t have a good reason, except it’s what comes to mind when I see him.

      • LDS

        Benson won’t go 3-4 today. He’s on the bench along with Fraley. The OF is Friedl, Barrero, and Fairchild. Bell’s obsession with handedness is in full swing. Smyly is pitching for the Cubs. He had a lousy spring, a WHIP approaching 2.0, an ERA about 6.0, and HRs flying off the bat. Let’s hope he keeps up the streak.

    • redfanorbust

      That Viking helmet/cape routine was mildly amusing the first couple of times but come on do we really think this is going to fly for a full year?
      As far as Benson goes yeah not a good start but opening series and all I am sure nerves were in play. Never sure I saw the big upside of trading for him. He was their 21st ranked prospect I think. If it works out great if not it’s not like we gave up a ton to get him. On a side note glad India is raking and here is hoping it runs that way for the rest of the year. I am in fantasy baseball league and I had a choice to keep Dabney Swanson or drop him instead of dropping Indian before our actual draft started. I took India. A bit of a Reds fan bias there, LOL.

      • greenmtred

        The cape and helmet don’t bother me. What bothers me are the “baseball zen” and flashback promotional campaign. I’m sick to death of both of them. A few flashbacks would be fine if they went much further back in time than last season, but they could drop the zen shtick entirely and it wouldn’t bother me one bit. I don’t know what it has to do with zen, and even if it’s rational it’s still stupid.

    • mac624

      The Viking thing is likely the Reds version of what the Blue Jays did last season with the homerun jacket. It’s just a team thing. Glad the guys can be silly and enjoy moments.

    • Doug Gray

      One of his nicknames is Big Doug (Douglas is his first name).

      While he’s not extremely tall, he’s also 6′ 2″ and 250 lbs. He’s big.

      • CI3J

        Do you call Greene “big”?

        He’s 6’4″, 245lbs.

    • Tar Heel Red

      The Viking helmet and cape theme comes from Luis Cessa, who thought Jake Fraley looked like a viking. I am personally glad to see the Reds promote the “homerun celebration” like several other teams do. It’s fun to see and it promotes team unity, something missing from past Reds’ teams.

  3. JB WV

    Benson is pressing. Over the last couple of seasons I’ve been watching hitters heads when the ball is coming to the plate. He’s pulling off most of the time. He hit one hard yesterday and kept his head on the ball. Simple yes, very basic, but that is a sign to me that he’s pressing.

    • CI3J

      How come you can notice this, but the coaches can’t?

      • JB WV

        I’m sure they have. But that’s part of pressing, forgetting simple advice in the moment. By the way, I just got an email from Bell begging me to join the coaching staff.

    • Kevin H

      Not so simple though to hit a mlb pitch.

      I say it every year it seems. Blows my mind how these players can hit a baseball coming in so fast. In a instant.

      Just simply amazing to me

  4. SultanofSwaff

    This is a fun team so far!
    –you have to be really encouraged by the big 3, especially when looking at the front 3 around the division for comparison. Add in a lockdown closer and you have the building blocks of a .500 team.
    –I think Derek Law could contribute all year if used sparingly. Just a guy who’s more effective when rested (if last year was any indication).
    –Barrero is making hard contact, working counts, and showing good pitch recognition…not to mention excellent defense. Hopefully the coaches are praising the process over results.
    –I wanna like Vosler, but he’s swung thru a ton of center cut fastballs, seemingly overmatched. Still, you’ll take this production any day.
    –I like that they’re having fun, but I’m not sure the viking thing will be cool a month from now.
    –I think we’re seeing how valuable Steer, Fraley, and Friedl are going to be moving forward. You don’t have to squint to see each putting up 2-3 WAR.
    –Wil Myers hitting on saturday with no batting gloves and Lodolo battling the ump and the elements to go 5. Guts.
    –Not sure where Senzel fits in any of this…unless Benson doesn’t hit.

    • Tar Heel Red

      I have been, and continue to be very impressed with 2 of the “Big 3”. Lodolo and Ashcraft have already figured out that they don’t have to throw each pitch as hard as possible…and the results are showing. Greene, it seems, has yet to come to this realization, but he will in time. When this happens the team will really have a force to be reckened with.

  5. Tomn

    I’ve been impressed by Newman. He looks bigger to me than I remember. Has he done some weightlifting? That would explain his HR blast.

  6. Mike in Ottawa

    The Viking thing started last year sort of. Luis Cessa saw Jake Fraley and thought he looked like a Viking. This spring he went out and bought a cape and helmet. During spring training it became a thing. Didn’t catch all of the sword (bendy bat). They did a story during one of this weekends games explaining it….

  7. Rex

    bring on them Cubs…I hope our bullpen is ready

    4Stephenson, TDH

  8. Kevin H

    @LDS, sky is falling 2 for 2 on us agreeing. Hahahaha.

    I get caught up myself in why can’t they hit. Then I stop and go, oh yes, it’s truly hard to hit a baseball

  9. Mark A Verticchio

    I wish Fraley was starting instead of Friedl or even Fairchild.

    • LarkinPhillips

      Agree. Especially after his Left on left double the other day.