The Cincinnati Reds are cold. Real cold. They will enter the series finale in Los Angeles later this afternoon with a record of 3-14 over their last 17 games. They’ve fallen to last place, a game-and-a-half back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the 4th spot in the division and 8.5 games back of the first place Milwaukee Brewers. We still aren’t finished with the third week of May.

But while the team as a whole is cold, not everyone on the team is. Tyler Stephenson was hitting .211/.321/.380 on May 5th after he started the month 0-6. Since then he’s hit .368/.385/.632 with four doubles and two home runs in 12 games and raised his season OPS by over 100 points.

Stephenson isn’t alone in that stretch. Jeimer Candelario began May by going 2-13 in the first four games of the month. But since then he’s hit .326/.341/.512 with five doubles and a homer in the 11 games.

Then there’s this afternoon’s starting pitcher. Hunter Greene has allowed five runs over his last four starts, posting a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings. He’s given up just one home run in that stretch and has his season ERA down to 3.27.

Of course, there’s an opposite site of this and that’s the players who are cold, and it might start with the guy who got out to the best start of the season. Spencer Steer went 3-4 on April 20th and raised his OPS to .999 that day. In the 25 games since then he’s gone 13-90 while hitting .144/.250/.222 and watched his OPS drop from .999 to .706.

Maybe it should begin with some of the relievers. Alexis Diaz has been downright bad this season (and that dates back to last season, too). The Reds closer has a 7.47 ERA this year with 12 walks and three hit batters in 15.2 innings.

The team’s set up man isn’t doing so hot, either. Fernando Cruz was outstanding in April as he allowed two runs and had a 1.59 ERA. But in May his ERA is 10.57 and he’s got seven walks in 7.2 innings pitched as his ERA has ballooned up to 5.21 on the year.

Will Benson, who got out to a poor start in 2023 and was sent back to Triple-A before returning and crushing the ball over the final four months of the season for the Reds, is out to another poor start in 2024. He hasn’t had a multi-hit game since April 29th. He went 5-12 in March. Since the start of April he’s hit .174/.269/.348 in 156 plate appearances.

And then there’s just the outright confusing situation revolving around how Mike Ford was not good enough to be on the club two-and-a-half weeks ago, but one injury turned him into an every day player who has been inserted regularly into the 3-spot of the lineup. And he’s been there despite the fact that he’s hit .175/.195/.300 through 41 plate appearances with the club.

Things don’t exactly get a lot easier moving forward over the next week. After the Reds finish up their series in Los Angeles they’ll head back to Cincinnati and after having Monday off, they’ll host the San Diego Padres and then get another series against the Dodgers. They get a short reprieve when the Cardinals come to town for a 3-game series, but then the Reds head off to Chicago to face the surging Cubs. A short series with Colorado is then followed up by hosting the Cubs and Guardians before heading off to Milwaukee.

While there was a lot of talk about how tough May would be on the schedule – and boy was it tough on the Reds – the first half of June isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either. This team is going to have to turn things around and quickly or it’s going to be the middle of June and they’re going to be looking at being entirely eliminated from playoff contention with no hope short of a miracle occurring.

34 Responses

  1. doofus

    Sal Stewart’s arrival: this season or middle of 2025?

    • Doc

      Why not Tony Santillan for a closer trial?

    • JayTheRed

      If Graham is going to the bullpen, I see him more of a set up guy. I’d like to see what Santillan could do as closer.
      What I really want is for them to find out why Diaz is so hit or miss this season.

    • jmb

      They need to stop thinking of Phillips as a starter and start teaching him to close.

    • jmb

      Diaz for Baty, remember that one? Should we do it?

  2. Tim Johnson

    All the questions I have are what were the statistics before along with the scouting projections. Spencer Steer is the embodiment of this. Good. Nothing special. A +2 in WAR in most years.
    Personally, I think he is the base of an organization, not All Stars.

  3. LDS

    I’m starting to suspect that Cleveland had a better handle on Benson’s potential than the Reds seem to have. Maybe he can turn it around. He’s still young enough. Part of the problem is lineup construction. Keep India at the top for now. Drop Benson and Ford to the bottom. Slot Steer in 3rd with Stephenson behind him. Fraley, Candelario, Espinal, Ford, and Benson to follow. Benson and Ford don’t need the extra ABs that batting at the top of the order affords. And hang up the L/R obsession, especially given some of the reverse splits by both the pitcher and the batter. Finally, hiring a decent pitching coach and send DJ back to the college ranks. As for Bell and the rest of the crew, fire them all as well. Get some in there that will kick butts and take names. These routine Little League fundamental errors are absolutely inexcusable by professional ballplayers making at least 6-figure salaries. And no matter how many apologists on here say otherwise, that defect falls squarely on Bell’s shoulders.

    • Harry Stoner

      I think the Reds, and Reds fans, were thinking / hoping that Benson would turn out to be another steal from Cleveland a la Phillips, who they certainly gave up on too soon.

      Benson has shown EDLC level of talent (and pretty much out-performed him last season.)

      But he’s back to being lost again, as he likely was in the Cleveland system, and doesn’t seem like he’s either getting the help or put in the situation he needs to straighten it out.

      Sure a trip back to AAA would be humiliating, but what’s Bell / Krall’s Plan B?
      We know, because Bell mumbles through it in every post-game interview: “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and things will turn around.”

      Rather than simply juggling lineups around, I’d opt for Bell having this kind of plan:

      “The way our pitching is going, we’re going to need 5 runs a game, and if we can get those, we’ll be winning more than losing. Here’s my plan and line up and situational strategy for getting those 5 runs.”

      And stick with it: a strategy for each ab (such as Freeman described LA having), situational hitting, bunting, strategic SBs, smarter baserunning, reminding Candelario that it’s okay to hit a sacrifice fly. EDLC doesn’t need to hit a 6 run homer.

      Treat each inning as a part of the plan.

      “You score one of those 5 runs, you get to put on the stupid viking helmet.”

      Yeah, I know the Bell-istas here will say “You’ve never been an MLB manager!” or “Bell knows things!” or whatever.

      Maybe he does.

      But night after night of aimless play and his mumbling about “This is who we are!” don’t seem to be ‘turning things around’.

      • LDS

        Couldn’t agree more @Harry. And if it was only this season, that would be one thing. But it’s a recurrent theme of his tenure as manager, regardless of the roster. And today’s lineup is a perfect example of approach. The team is having a lousy May. They’ve lost 2 of 3 to the Dodgers so far. He benches Steer and Stephenson. If Stephenson needs a break from catching, let him play 1st or DH. Other than handedness, there’s no reason to start Ford ahead of Stephenson. And Capel is this year’s Hopkins. He just isn’t getting the PAs. Both he and Hurtubise are LH’ers and yet he goes with Fairchild. Bell doesn’t “know things” and that’s the problem. He has no strategy other than coddling the players. I can’t imagine the Reds with a strategy that says “let’s run up the pitchers pitch count”. They’d rather jump on the 1st pitch. As best I can remember, guys like Rose seldom jumped on the 1st pitch.

      • JayTheRed

        Both you and LDS seem to have a good idea. Change needs to happen. Lineups need to be thought out not L/R splits. Let guys do what they do well. aka Benson at the bottom and India at the top of the batting order.

        If a hitter is coming around let them play in the middle of the lineup

    • DaveCT

      DJ’s success stories:

      Castillo, Mahle, Gray, Bauer, Greene, Lodolo, Abbott, Ashcraft, Williamson, Gibaut, Farmer, Cruz, Young, Law, Antone, Iglesias, Disco, Gausman.

      Fire DJ.

      Remember, it’s also DJ’s pitching development program in the minors that is cranking out pitcher after pitcher. Your *opinion* may differ, but facts are facts.

    • jmb

      Cleveland is in 1st, Cincy in last. That’s it in a nutshell. They are a better judge of talent. Benson is a platoon/back-up guy.

  4. Old-school

    Reds hitting is terrible

    India isnt getting it done year 4
    Benson is a K machine
    The DH combo of Nick martini harrison Ford is awful

    Injuries to friedl and mcLain are devastating. Bad bullpen from “high leverage” guys Diaz, sims and Cruz has poured gas on the fire

    Hitting across baseball has similiar dumpster fires. Arozarena in TB, Springer in Toronto, Goldschmidt in STL and Castellanos in Philly are struggling mightily

    Votto isnt saving anything but hes taking BP and starting a rehab assignment soon in buffalo. Toronto is 11.5 games behind the Yankees and arent catching the 0’s either. Bring him back this summer as DH and end the martini-ford experiment and wrap his career up the right way.

    • DataDumpster

      Did I want them to make an offer to Votto before this season, absolutely not. Do I think your novel idea to bring him back as DH is plausible and a decent idea given the state of the team now. Absolutely yes. Ownership would probably go along as a loyalty thing, fan fav, distraction, and shift from the prevailing narrative.

      • Rob

        The last thing the Reds need is another Mendoza-Line hitter, i.e. Votto. They’ve cornered the market on that. And they don’t need a distraction or to shift from the current narrative. What they need is to find as much playing time as possible for the younger players to see what, if anything, they’ve got for the future.

    • Rob

      Nick Martini is in Louisville.
      Harrison Ford is a better actor than hitter.
      Just say “no” to Votto. He’s done.

    • MBS

      I think it’s a bit late to bring JV back. I do however completely agree that our DH spot has be an absolute joke this year. It’s even worse now with Ford batting in the 3 hole.

      I’d go India DH, Espinal 2B, and Ford PH. That would improve the defense, and offense at the same time. Espinal is a masher, but with regular play, his contact rates will be more valuable than the occasional HR that Ford can find in his 4 AB’s per game.

      • MBS

        lol, it was supposed to say “Espinal isn’t a masher”

    • Melvin

      You count me in for bringing Votto back if he’s healthy. It’s just stupid that they’d have to trade for him when they could have had him on a minor league contract.

  5. MBS

    We only have 4 hitters EDLC, Stephenson, Fraley, and Steer who are at mlb average or better OPS+ on the year. It’s a bit misleading since Steer has stunk since he was moved up in the order. However Candy is taking his place with a .312BA since 4/29.

    The good news is our 2 best offensive players are playing at premium positions. Stephenson was our 4 hole hitter in the past, so it does seem as if last year’s mediocrity was him getting healthy, and stronger once again.

    There’s no easy button to fix this offense, but I’d put Steer, and Benson back into the 7/8/9 spots in the order to take the pressure off of them. I’d put India back to leadoff since it’s the only place he’s ever hit well. He’s not hitting great this year, but he still has a .333 OBP in the leadoff spot.

    Hopefully a returning Friedl, Marte, and hopefully McLain will be enough to get us back into the hunt for a playoff spot.

  6. Michael B. Green

    I don’t enjoy the rants of firing people, etc., but something needs pointed out: there apparently is not a good organizational structure for throwing strikes. AA Chatanooga is leading the AA Southern League in walks allowed and its not even close. AAA is 5th in most walks allowed. A+ is 4th.

    CIN needs a reset in pitching philosophy. Limiting walks and perhaps inducing more ground balls should curry favor over strikeouts.

    • VaRedsFan

      What are you expecting from this pitching coaches regime?

      2021 – 30th in walks allowed
      2022 – 30th in walks allowed
      2023 – 26th in walks allowed
      2024 – 18th in walks allowed

      Pitchers that arrive here are good for a minute, then get worse.
      Pitchers that leave here immediately get better.

      • Old-school

        C’mon VA

        Stop

        They are missing bats!!!!

    • jmb

      Petty had a bad April but has been better in May. Could he bring Jo or Jazz?

  7. Beaufort Red

    Other teams must be licking their chops when they see our leadoff hitter is leading MLB to in strikeouts. Why not try Hurtubise or Capel at leadoff or at least take Benson’s place. I don’t think they could be any worse and can at least hit the ball. And if you send Benson down it isn’t to punish him or wake him up, it’s to try and figure out his approach and swing. He’s just being overmatched.

    • JayTheRed

      Plus, the few home runs he has run into are not because he has figured something out. I’s called luck at this point with how often he is striking out.

  8. Michael Wilson

    Of all the frustration stated above I tend to agree with Harry. There is none to very little situational hitting going on here. It’s just 9 guys doing their own thing. Taking walks and working the counts needs to be done. Hurtabise has shown a knack for getting on base, give him a shot. The Ford thing is an embarrassment. Realistically many of the Reds would be depth pieces on good teams. EDLC is our lone all star, pitching excluded.

  9. Doc

    Consensus seems to be that first 5-6 weeks were a soft spot in the schedule, the current stretch of 4-6 weeks are as tough as it gets. Will be interesting to see if the rotation was feasting on the softies or if they are the real thing. These are the guys they have got to be able to beat before we know they are truly ready for the playoffs.

    • jmb

      Yes, they are a dull team overall. What happened to “the most exciting team in baseball” with “the most exciting player in baseball”? 2nd season blues for some guys. And India is not the leader he was last season and seems completely expendable…now that he’s received a nice contract. On the bright side, could this season be 1989 all over again (solid pitching, but lots of injuries which stifled the offense)?

  10. Melvin

    “This team is going to have to turn things around and quickly or it’s going to be the middle of June and they’re going to be looking at being entirely eliminated from playoff contention with no hope short of a miracle occurring.”

    You said it and then it will be another “wait till next year” again.