Recapping 2018: Cincinnati Reds Edition | The Process Report

Recapping 2018: Cincinnati Reds Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each. The order will mirror the final team rankings running in reverse order so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get one to two of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts. Here’s a link to the report for this club from last offseason.

Past:

30 – 21: BAL CWS MIA TEX KCR SFG SDP DET MIN CIN

After years of mediocre or worse results the Cincinnati Reds finally experienced a solid run when they won 90 or more games three times in four seasons from 2010 – 13. The strong performance stands out for it’s out of nowhere appearance, but more so for its brevity. The team tried to pry the window open a little bit longer, but it looks like too little, too late, in retrospect. The money train culminated in 2015 seeing both the highest payroll of this term relative to 2018 dollars that happened to coincide with the fewest team wins of this recent history. Only once you’ve found true bottom can you hope for salvation, however, it seems the Reds have been scuttling along that seafloor while missing the hook that could take them back to the light. It hasn’t shown up in the team win totals, yet, but the team has quite a bit of controllable talent to get excited about with, perhaps, another wave or two on the horizon. Boasts of forays into free agency might merely be to push ticket sales, but another good player or three would go a long way for a team in an ultra-competitive division.

Despite two fairly abrupt troughs the first half or so of the season showed an above average offense more often than not. You can infer from my arbitrary endpoint that the second half did not follow suit. In fact, it mostly had to throw off-trump cards that led to average offense on a good day and far worse the rest of the days. Part of this was the trade of Adam Duvall. Some more can be attributed to good hitters like Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker both succumbing to shoulder injuries. Schebler missed six weeks right after the All Star Break with poor results upon his return, but at least he was able to avoid the kind of surgery that cut short the season for Winker. The offense suffered noticeably. Surprisingly, the team did not ship out Scooter Gennett who has been able to mightily outperform more pedestrian expected production on balls in play these past two years. Long enough that he might be one of the rare players that can consistently defy expectations. Addition by subtraction is already underway as Billy Hamilton was non-tendered. You can see below what that might mean even if the team loses some ethereal defensive production in centerfield.

The Queen City has been fortunate enough to enjoy the contributions of one of the very best hitters the game has ever seen for many years now. Face of the franchise Joey Votto has seen it all since his debut in 2007. The lean early years, the strong, albeit, brief, contention cycle, and the more recent nearly half-decade of approaching one hundred losses lead me to believe Mr. Votto isn’t being altogether truthful with his beard coloration. While (mostly) Rome burned around him, Votto has continuously been an offensive force on the field. This past season was no different with expected production coming in mostly among the elite level, though there was continual falloff over the second half of the season. You’ll notice significant gaps during some of his best sections, which suggest his actual results weren’t quite getting to the prodigious expectations. This wasn’t the case in 2017, and leads one to believe he was playing through an issue after mostly benign knee concerns in the past. This manifested in gradually rising strikeout rates to go along with accelerating falloff in his exit velocities. Winter can only help, but you have to wonder when it will be time for Votto to move to the American League where he can designated hit from time to time. He would be adored in Toronto and an extremely strong fit in New York, but alas, the Reds may just have to be stuck with an incredibly nice person who is really good at his job.

Joey Votto

Despite sparse national acclaim, Eugenio Suarez has blossomed into one of the most complete hitters in the game. Already one of the best trade fleecings in recent memory, he’ll be sticking around a good deal longer after signing an extremely friendly extension to be one of the better combinations of production and value. This past season showed a second half downturn not all that dissimilar from Votto above. His strong below average strikeout rate ballooned to around 30% and sustained at that level for the rest of the season. The timing of his exit velocity decline, itself coming off a peak so probably some natural fall in there, as well, suggests a guy that wasn’t fully healthy, but doing what he could to help the team. That’s admirable, and leaves one to ponder how good this offense might look if these two guys are healthy and playing to their ability.

Eugenio Suarez

To round out the corners where the old guard is proven more right than wrong that it pays to have bats over gloves you’ll find an once highly touted prospect, and another that flew under the radar until getting scooped up by the club. Jesse Winker has long been touted as a hit over power over glove corner outfielder that looked like an everyday player. He delivered on a good deal of that hype this year, but it took him some time to get there, and it took a long time for the actual results to catch up to the mostly average or above expectations. Once that actual performance caught up they were twinned on an upward ascent into the stratosphere. Until shoulder pain turned into surgery abruptly out of nowhere.

He’ll have had six-plus months to mend and rehab before the season starts, but it adds a ton of variance to a player that looked on his way to taking the league by storm. The extremely low strikeout rate with well above average walk reminds of a certain someone we’ve already covered, though Winker does see his production manifest more as low liners with most of his higher trajectories being a good deal slower off the bat, which does detract some from playing in one of the better homer parks in the game.  The player he might have been pushing out the door, who has been an above average hitter for the club as a similarly left-handed, so-so defender, Scott Schebler, stands to benefit as his presence can help balance the risk of a slow go from Winker. He has had his own injury issues, and the team may be ready to move on if he is unable to get off to a good start next year if Winker can show readiness.

Jesse Winker

Scott Schebler

This next group came in roughly below average, but playably so, and especially with Barnhart being a most days catcher. Scooter Gennett certainly gets more of the fanfare. His actual production is leaps and bounds better, though you can see in the table above that it looks pretty out of whack with expectations, and you can see where those gaps existed below. He’s like the reverse Joey Votto with long stretches of wild overperformance, and when lightning crashes he tends to merely meet expectations. It was a similar story last year suggesting that Gennett is able to maximize the utility of his speed, consistently turning outs into singles and singles into doubles. It helps that so many of his balls cluster right on the lip of the nitro zone of his spray, while playing in a park that helps those cheapies show up more often. He seems like a player to sell high on, but the market is flush with guys that can hit and play second base, either in free agency or via trade, so it would probably be difficult to walk away happy giving up an everyday guy that your fans probably love.

Luckily, Tucker Barnhart is ready to step into the breach as yet another young, talented player that the team was able to extend for non-exorbitant prices. The front office might deserve some flak for not being realistic enough in moving set to expire pieces, but they have done a pretty good job of identifying, which hitters they want to extend on reasonable terms. It probably doesn’t offset the Homer Bailey contract, but you can’t win them all, and some battles are bigger than others. Barnhart is something of a high walk, medium strikeout guy that can hit the ball around without showing a ton of heat off the bat. If he reminds you of Ryan Hanigan, then welcome to the club. That’s a serviceable player whose ability to credibly switch hit has to help his backup look a little better.

Scooter Gennett

Tucker Barnhart

I’m not going to delve into the recently aforementioned Billy Hamilton, but you should search for his images below, because, wow. He delivers production in other ways, but hitting is still the main driver, and he just cannot. Instead, let’s wrap up the batters by looking at Jose Peraza. Like Hamilton he can provide production in other ways. His actual production was fairly close to Hamilton, but the model likes him a good deal better on the expected-side. Where he really separates was with his ability to put the ball in play as he doesn’t strikeout or walk much, instead, fully leveraging his skills for a slash-and-dash approach. He does a reasonably solid job of keeping the ball off the ground instead hitting the kinds of low liners that routinely clear the infield and get down in front of an outfielder. Playing at age 25 next year we could see the emergence of a very useful top of lineup hitter that can play up the middle. Another reason for hope even if the numbers don’t quite understand what makes him better than it thinks.

Jose Peraza

The bats came in around average if you remove Billy Hamilton, but the more interesting challenge for the team will be finding enough arms to get through the season. It’s not that the team didn’t see some sprinklings of success. There were several sustained stretches of better than average pitching, and especially in the second half they were only briefly interrupted by poor shorter stretches. That doesn’t erase the fairly bad start where things were reversed, but does bode well for a team trying to find roles for talented, but not quite polished arms. Not skipping a beat after trading Dylan Floro was also nice to see, but the biggest coup on the year has to have been salvaging Matt Harvey even if the bigger story was that they failed to trade him. If a third team on the year would have soured him on any sort of free agency signing then maybe that’s worth the cost of whatever they could have received. More below, but he’s not alone as a burgeoning bright spot.

Somewhat surprisingly, Jared Hughes came up as the alpha dog after the Reds became his third team in three years. He got there without the typical big strikeout numbers you see from bullpen aces, but his ability to utterly suppress hard contact allows him to breeze by. There was a bit of overperformance at the tales, but both perspectives were much more agreeable throughout the middle of the season. His ability to burn worms shows that there will always be a place for the sinkerballer in the game as long as he can nullify batters as well as this. David Hernandez was another bullpen signing coming into the year for a team many didn’t see going very far. He proved quite good striking out more batters without losing anything on the walk, though he did get hit a little harder and showed a fairly large platoon split making him more of a matchup guy when possible. He further differentiates from Hughes by being much more of a flyball guy, which can, perhaps, make him more prone to over or under-production as balls cluster in staying or leaving the park. Both should be back next year to provide production until they get flipped.

Jared Hughes

David Hernandez

Two guys the team had hoped could become starters, but pitched so well as multi-inning relievers are Cody Reed and Amir Garrett. The dream of starting is probably gone for Garrett, who looked worn out over the second half, though the team did let Reed make half a dozen or so starts to close out the year. You can see little change in his actual results despite the stretched out workload, though the gap did close a good deal as his expected production rose. However, the strikeout rate jumping is nice, and at those higher levels can support a walk rate that was a touch above average for much of the season. If the plan is to continue to stretch him out then it would behoove the team to have a good defensive infield behind him as it looks like he generates groundballs with aplomb. Garrett goes the other way as a flyballer, and it’s fair to say that during his lesser second half he was seeing outsized actual production relative to his rising, but still average or better expectations. His bigger issue was the strikeout rate going from roughly 30% down to more average levels without gaining any improvement to his walk rate. His role is suitable and he excelled for long enough it should continue, but the team will have to find a way to get him more rest. A second version in Reed would go a long way if they go that route.

Cody Reed

Amir Garrett

Part of the reason that is less enticing is due to the team’s real need for pitchers that can go twice through a lineup or more, but before touching on some of those starters below, the other reason to continue starting him is due to the current depth of this bullpen, which hasn’t even mentioned Raisel Iglesias. The team recently bought out his arbitration indicating he will be the guy that gets saves going forward. His actual results were as good as ever last year even if the actuals saw him as more like an average pitcher. He still gets tons of strikeouts and often does so without many walks. While he gave up a handful of shots, it seems that so much of his contact rendered comes along that low liner level where the ball often goes for hits. So despite strong exit velocities, the trajectory with which the ball is hit is often on ideal angles for that softer contact. This is why you can see the gap in his performance, but might be something that goes a little better next year.

Raisel Iglesias

Let’s start with the two that weren’t around at the much worse beginning of the season. Matt Harvey was a New York Met and Anthony DeSclafani was sidelined with an oblique issue, that after his 2017 was riddle with missed time. Both showed solid performance with Harvey’s actuals looking a little better thanks to an early buffet that he only gave back slightly down the stretch, while DeSclafani was more volatile showing extended periods in heaven and hell, but mostly around the average once the withdrawals subsided. The ball off the bat data shows fairly similar guys, too, and they both ran average or better strikeout rates for long stretches. Of course, Harvey is a free agent and DeSclafani is still in house, so who knows how it goes. Matt Harvey certainly looks like an interesting mid-rotation option in free agency even if the team already has a guy that looks pretty similar.

Matt Harvey

Anthony DeSclafani

Before getting to the rest of the starters we should touch on Michael Lorenzen who looked like a near league average bat in way too few plate appearances to say that sort of thing, but also looked like a league average pitcher in a much larger sample at the thing he’s supposed to be good at. Lowering the walk rate later in the year with a gradually increasing strikeout rate is nice to see, though the production wasn’t really any better for the effort. He’s an interesting piece in a league that routinely requires a pinch hit appearance that often takes a player out of the game. Being able to pinch hit and then run him out at the pitcher spot should be something the team plays with, though it requires buy-in from the player.

Michael Lorenzen

Finally, we get to the crux of the team getting over the hump and back in the right direction. If two of these next three guys can become mid-rotation or better pitchers then it becomes a lot easier to build out everything else. The problem is that none of them were really able to give a full good season last year. Luis Castillo tantalizes with his strong ability to garner punchouts, and when he is at his very best, like the end of this season, he’s doing so without walking anybody, as well. The uneven season looks to be mostly due to his bouts of higher exit velocity. When those coincided with lower strikeout periods then you can see how the production would suffer. It’s easier to walk off mistakes when you’re able to sit down 30%. When he puts it altogether, which isn’t some myth like with so many, he’s one of the better arms in the game. The team will just need to see more of that if he’s going to take the jump to the next level.

The lesser heralded, but no less important young arms are Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle. Both saw protracted stretches of being around the average, but enough struggles to soak the overall line. This should leave them in a bit of a buy-low position for fantasy, but shouldn’t be going anywhere in MLB. The team will continue to give both plenty of opportunity to see if they can continue to refine their game. There is a lot of promise here, but further development will be necessary for this club to make up so much ground. They look like a group that could really use an upper echelon starter that can push everyone back a day, but time will tell if the Reds make the kind of splash that will allow all these players that much more margin to get better.

Luis Castillo

Sal Romano

Tyler Mahle

Below you will find the rest of the prominent players from this past season and how they broke out in four different ways. I will save the commentary here as the charts speak for themselves once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking at, and by cutting down on the verbiage it allows for looks at more players. Each chart looks at a rolling 100-plate appearance (or ball in play) average with the top left showing each player’s true and actual wOBA* over the course of the season. Top right shows the rolling strikeout and walk plus hit by pitch rates, and the bottom left shows the exit velocity and launch angle combinations for every ball in play. Lastly, the bottom right quadrant shows each player’s exit velocity and launch angle over the course of the season. Feel free to start a conversation on twitter if you have any questions or want to talk about any of these players. More than happy to have those chats.

Homer Bailey

 

 

 

Adam Duvall

Phillip Ervin

Dylan Floro

 

 

Billy Hamilton

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandy Peralta



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