Reliving the 2017 Season: Cincinnati Reds Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: 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 team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting 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 two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.


The Reds knew what they were coming into this season. They’re not dumb. The division they play within is perennially highly competitive stacked with teams that spend oodles of money and/or are at the forefront of cutting edge player analysis. The Reds don’t really do those things. What they do, though, is continue to find interesting players that are a tweak away from being borderline superstars. They’re quite good at developing, and aren’t averse to trading their more experienced players if they can get back some stuff they like.

This season started much like that as they flipped some extraneous pieces for future talent allowing the ever-present kids some time to shine. This more or less worked well as they might have found a couple solutions in the field, and on the bump. The biggest question going forward will be what they do with Joey Votto, but until then this is an up and coming team with an elite superstar in the lineup. Perhaps they have one out there on the mound, too.

Despite the presence of the Rated PG-13 Superstar the bats were quite putrid for much of the season. They approached an average offense at times, but rarely exceeded that bar by much. They pitched fairly well, especially as the season went along, using our expected analysis, but you can see large gaps compared to the actual production allowed over the bulk of the season. It is no secret that Great American Ballpark is one of the best places to hit homers in the game so it is entirely possible that park adjustments aren’t going to be as crisp here. Still, the results of their pitching was ugly, yet, when looking under the hood there might be some underlying things to like here.

The pitching came in around 22 runs better than average despite displaying well above average walk + hit by pitch rates. You can also see that they underperformed their expected production on balls in play by more than nine percent. The .353 expected level is incredibly good, however, you can also see how wide that gap is compared to what they actually allowed. Is this a harbinger for correction, and ultimately, future success or is this a blind spot in the analysis? Time will tell, but there are a couple of pitchers worth digging into more deeply in a bit. The bats went the other way despite having one of the very best hitters in the game. They walk and strikeout at above average and merely average, respectively, rates, but their issues seem to stem from the type of contact they are making. Again, you can see a fairly wide discrepancy between actual and theoretical, something that will be delved into as time permits, but even their shown performance lagged behind the league average.

Let’s start with the surprisingly adequate pitching performances led by a young ace in the making, Luis Castillo. It was just the prior offseason that the Reds turned Dan Straily’s fine 2016 performance into this young buck and a couple others. So far, this looks like quite the theft, as Straily was again more good than great. While Castillo does show an elevated walk rate he more than makes up for the downside by striking out over a quarter of all batters. Showcasing the type of contact profile typically seen by power relievers, however, is what really puts him over the top. Sal Romano was probably the next best starter on the team in his rookie season, but he doesn’t have the punchout ability to make up for the poor walk rates. Limiting contact looks like his path to success, but that could be something of a highwire act for him going forward.

Surprisingly, the team also boasts some of the better relievers in the game. While guys like Iglesias, Peralta and Lorenzen haven’t panned out as starters they have seen tremendous success in the bullpen. Every team would rather see them become strong starters, but this is a fine outcome, and with the way teams are overvaluing relief pitching I would not be surprised if the Reds were able to turn some of these guys into the next wave talent that could bring them that much closer to popping open their window.

It wasn’t all positive as former pretty good pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey showed that their ain’t a whole lot left in the tank. The other side of the coin shows former lukewarm prospects like Stephenson and Garrett look like they’re not quite ready. I get the aversion to pitching in the zone in this park, but you just cannot walk that many batters and expect to not get dinged when the opposition manages to scratch out a hit. As is, these look like a couple more solid bullpen arms that can probably go multiple innings. The team looks well situated to piggyback starters next year with so many that should be good for 4-5 most nights, but rarely able to give you much more than that. Perhaps this is the wrong team from a philosophical perspective to implement this radical notion, but they’ve got all the cards to play it.

Castillo was praised above, and you can see here how his season unfolded. Batters were rather fortunate to start the year before settling down into a highly admirable band, while expectations flowed from extremely good, to approaching league average, to back down in the rarified air. This is an extremely good pitcher that would probably get more hype if he was in a different market or had provided more than half a season of performance. I’d expect him to be one of the hottest commodities on draft day.

Lorenzen was a well-trod reliever who actually seemed to improve as the season went along lending credence to the notion that perhaps there is a higher calling than his current bullpen position. Many pitchers get fatigued as the year rolls on, and perhaps that shows up here in his actual performance. On the other hand, his exit velocity, launch angle and strikeout/walk rates indicate a guy that was only getting stronger. If the team views next year as another write off then it would make a lot of sense to transition him back into being a starter even if only for twice through a lineup before the cavalry comes. Lorenzen could represent a rather sneaky back end starter that can be had for practically nothing while providing good numbers on the road at a minimum.

His casual line shows nothing to get too sexed up about, but this was a strong debut for the 23 year old Romano. If you view him as an unfinished product that should get a little better as he continues to develop physically then the Reds might have another sneaky mid-rotation starter on their hands. Both perspectives show a guy that got better around the midpoint of his season following his second call up following an earlyish demotion. Whatever the issue was it is quite possible that he has ironed out that wrinkle as shown by his better than average results from that point forth. The Reds certainly aren’t a star factory or anything, but they’ve got an in-house ace, and quite a few other promising arms that could take a step forward to give them enough pitching to get through the season in an inhospitable home park. There’s quite a bit to dream on here, and Romano is a big part of that.

The surprising thing is that the offense didn’t show a little more, but park adjustments cut both ways. Votto is the clearly the mitochondria, which we all know is the powerhouse of the cell. Eugenio Suarez has been simmering for years just waiting for the season where he does more of the good and less of the bad to take that leap. Scott Schebler had a leap of his own this year showing himself as a flawed slugger that can really get into it at times. Perhaps most interesting is that solid contact hitter Jesse Winker acquitted himself well despite getting jerked around the lineup and organization so that he could never really get in a groove anywhere. Once again he was showcasing the power displayed many moons past that initially put him on the prospect radar. Perhaps the development team had been working with him to tap into his good contact more, but if this level of power sticks around he’s going to be the next good Reds lefty hitting outfielder.

Tucker Barnhart earned himself an extension in the waning days of the season, and you can see why. Catchers that can hit around league average are rare enough, but being able to do that while staying around league average with the glove indicates the kind of player you try to keep around. Good on the team for finding a price point that worked for all parties.

It’s not all roses and rainbows, though, as you can see from the bottom of this list. Duvall’s breakout 2016 proved to be the highwater mark on his career as the downsides to his skillset enveloped a lot of the very real good things he can provide. Obscene strikeout rates are fine when the contact is strong, but his batted ball profile looks closer to league average than what the team would prefer. Going the other way is slash and dash players Jose Peraza and Billy Hamilton who both look like they should never receive a plate appearance on a good team. These two profiled as two of the worst hitters in the game, while receiving a nearly everyday assignment. Yes, their defense and what they do on the bases are pluses, obviously, as they wouldn’t be in the game without that, but at some point they have to be able to hit even mistakes with authority.

If you have any sort of appreciation for baseball history then you know that there are countless players that thrived that you never got to see. In that sense, we’re lucky to be alive in the time of Votto. He is the quintessential hitter at commanding the zone as witnessed by his negative strikeout minus walk rate. Unlike many players that try to get by with their eye on feast on mistakes Votto is also an accomplished ball-striker that can do tremendous damage throughout the zone, while rarely leaving it’s cushy confines. This is why he is one of the best players in the game and a real treat to watch. I fully expect him to be traded this offseason, but if the Reds feel that they are closer than popular perception it makes a lot of sense to take him into next year to see if a hot start can parlay into a playoff appearance.

Few players can scorch like Eugenio Suarez. This past season showed a couple more stretches where he can carry a lineup by himself, but then a whole lot of other time as something closer to average. His walk rate took a tremendous step forward this year, which if it sticks around should help lessen some of the slumps to look more like this, but when he pairs that good eye with thunderous contact that is when he looks like one of the very good up and coming young sluggers in the game. If you feel that middle stretch was driven by ill health then there might still be some buy-low here. One issue, however, is that as a third basemen his peers are also incredible hitters in many cases so I would be leery to pay full price on the hopes that he could do more of the good and less of the average.

Duvall was mentioned briefly above, and you can see how his early fine, not great, but fine, start to the year was about as good as it got. He went through two extremely prolonged downturns in performance, which of course means there was a bounce back in the middle, but this just looks so scary to me from a fantasy perspective. Given that his glove is no great shakes, either, his real world team will have to be viewing this as a shit or get off the pot season, I would think. Here is a player I would prefer to stay away from at all but the lowest of prices. The unfortunate thing for the team is that their best hitters all hit left-handed so seeing Duvall get back to being Todd Frazier-lite would do wonders to help balance the offense.


With several teams now under our belt we can start to rank the reviewed players. Here are the top-20 hitters and pitchers for the already looked at teams. Below you will find the team totals.


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