How has the season gone so far?
A little over a month ago, I thought this review would be exclusively Joey Votto-focused in an effort to remain positive with the Reds mired deeply in last place at 23-43 – not only last in their division, but in the entire National League. Since then, the team enjoyed an 18-8 spell, the best record in the NL, before levelling out a bit to 48-61, and it has hardly been a fluke. They averaged more than six runs per game over that time and outscored their opponents by 46 runs. It’s hard to be particularly generous with a mark out of ten given the fact that they are still in last place. Still, the comeback over the past month turns what would have been a one, or maybe a zero, into a five.
Stars and flops
Votto remains an otherworldly on-base machine with the game’s most exceptional judgement of the strikezone. His power does seem to have declined a bit, however, and he has been eclipsed offensively so far by the stunning performance of Eugenio Suarez. The Reds third baseman missed a couple of weeks early on with a fractured thumb and somehow still has 25 home runs through 400 plate appearances, slashing .300/.382/.579 and leading the NL in RBI. Scooter Gennett is right behind Votto with a 131 wRC+, proving his offensive breakout from last season was for real.
The pitching is still what lets this team down, most disappointingly in the form of Luis Castillo, who flashed such incredible talent in a half-season as a rookie and has followed that up by limping to a 4.98 ERA. There was far less expected of Sal Romano, but he too has a five-plus ERA and has still remained a constant member of this rotation. The staff once again leads baseball in home runs allowed, although the bullpen is much improved over 2017.
The win on July 11th is right up there, as the Reds rallied from a 4-0 deficit with two outs in the ninth, scoring seven runs in the inning to beat the presumptive AL Central champions Cleveland. Cincinnati has had plenty of big moments this year with the bat: they’ve gone grand slam crazy, tying MLB’s first-half record as well as the club’s full-season record. While Billy Hamilton’s bat is still a source of great frustration, his speed produces many of the club’s best moments in the field, such as this near-impossible catch against the Pirates last month.
Revised Win-Loss Prediction:
As good as the lineup has become, it’s still hard to see the team overcoming this rotation, particularly in the context that they are far more likely to trade present assets away to contenders. I’ll say 74-88, a terrific achievement given their dismal start and still far off the pace in the NL Central.
Darius Austin, @DariusA64. You can find me writing about fantasy at Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs at BP Wrigleyville, random baseball things that interest me at Banished to the Pen, podcasting about fantasy at Friends With Fantasy Benefits, and of course both writing and podcasting on the UK side of the game at Bat Flips and Nerds.