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Cincinnati Reds Series Preview: A hopeful’s season is in trouble

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There’ll be no Moose sightings, but there might be a World Series hero playing second for the home team this week.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I predicted the Cincinnati Reds to win the World Series in my Baseball Prospectus predictions. Why? They made some shrewd signings to improve an offense that already had some good pieces. They have a fantastic rotation and a great pitching coach. And the back of the bullpen figured to be a strong point for this team. In a short, weird season, why not get weird and pick the Reds? They got seven games out of Mike Moustakas before he hit the IL. Joey Votto isn’t striking out, but he also isn’t hitting. Eugenio Suarez (my weird choice for MVP) also isn’t hitting after popping nearly 50 homers last season. It’s not everybody struggling, but it’s a lot. Nicholas Castellanos is not in that struggling group, but he can’t do it alone. On the pitching staff, the rotation has been nails, but that bullpen. Woof. They have a 7.77 ERA in 48.2 innings, and if that doesn’t improve, they’re not going to be able to make up enough ground for them to get where they want to be this season. This is a pivotal stretch for the Reds to try to get their season on track.

Royals vs. Reds Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Reds
Category Royals Reds
Winning % .412 .438
Team wRC+ 107 96
Team xFIP 4.10 3.27
Run Differential -5 -10
Highest fWAR Jorge Soler, 0.7 Trevor Bauer, 0.9

Reds Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Shogo Akiyama LF 47 .238 .319 .333 8.5% 31.9% 85 -0.1
Nick Castellanos RF 66 .293 .379 .724 9.1% 25.8% 196 0.8
Joey Votto 1B 56 .196 .339 .391 17.9% 3.6% 104 0.0
Eugenio Suarez 3B 66 .132 .303 .283 18.2% 28.8% 74 0.0
Jesse Winker DH 49 .275 .408 .400 10.2% 24.5% 134 0.2
Nick Senzel CF 36 .233 .314 .467 11.1% 19.4% 111 0.2
Tucker Barnhart C 25 .167 .200 .167 4.0% 24.0% 1 -0.1
Freddy Galvis SS 51 .205 .314 .386 11.8% 15.7% 97 0.3
Christian Colon 2B 19 .167 .211 .222 5.3% 15.8% 19 -0.1

Reds Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Curt Casali C 33 .143 .273 .393 9.1% 24.2% 86 0.1
Kyle Farmer C/INF 23 .190 .261 .238 8.7% 17.4% 42 0.0
Matt Davidson 1B/3B 19 .222 .263 .444 5.3% 26.3% 92 0.0
Phillip Ervin OF 26 .100 .308 .100 23.1% 19.2% 41 -0.1
Travis Jankowski OF 12 .091 .167 .091 8.3% 33.3% -24 -0.2

Reds Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Raisel Iglesias 5 5.1 1 1 45.5% 0.0% 5.06 0.93 0.2
Amir Garrett 6 5.2 0 0 45.0% 10.0% 1.59 2.14 0.1
Nate Jones 6 5.1 0 1 38.1% 4.8% 5.06 2.46 -0.1

Probable Pitchers

August 11, 5:40pm - Kris Bubic vs. Luis Castillo

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 2 10.0 0 2 22.5% 7.5% 3.60 3.95 0.1
Luis Castillo 3 17.0 0 2 35.1% 8.1% 4.76 2.15 0.8

Luis Castillo is probably the Reds ace (though they have a lot of really good starters), and yet he has the worst ERA of any of their pitchers with 10 or more innings. After an excellent debut against Detroit, he’s been roughed up against the Tigers and Indians in his last two starts. One thing he always does is get strikeouts, good or bad performance, and he has 15 of them in 11 innings over those last two starts. How does he do it? He has one of the best changeups you’ll ever see. This year, he has a 47.8 percent whiff rate on his changeup. Last year it was 48 percent, so that’s no fluke. Where he’s gotten in trouble is when he throws his sinker, which he’s done 15.6 percent of the time. He’s allowed a .667 average and .833 SLG. That’s just seven plate appearances, but in this early part of the season, it’s enough to be causing him real issues. Last year, it got a bit too, though not this much, so the Royals should be on the lookout for it and should pounce when they can. In spite of a great changeup, Castillo does have a traditional platoon split, which means the lefties may need to carry the freight in this one, so the Royals should be hopeful that Ryan O’Hearn can get back in there.

There’ll be a great changeup on both sides for this one with Kris Bubic getting his third big league start and first outside of the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium. I loved Bubic’s last start against the Cubs, even though he ended up taking a loss. He started off on fire with three perfect innings before running into some trouble in his second time through the lineup, but he powered through it and had 12 swinging strikes on 88 pitches. He looked very good against a very good lineup. The Reds have hit lefties better than righties this year, and Great American Ballpark isn’t exactly known for its pitcher friendly dimensions, so Bubic will have a bit of a challenge in this one, but it’s one I think he’s up to as the Reds are just 2 for 16 this year on changeups from lefties. If he has that working, he has a chance to have another nice start.

August 12, 5:40pm - Brad Keller vs. Wade Miley

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 1 5.0 1 0 35.0% 10.0% 0.00 2.10 0.3
Wade Miley 1 1.2 0 1 23.1% 15.4% 27.00 7.66 0.0

Wade Miley will get his second start of the year in this one. The first didn’t go well. He gave up six runs in just 1.2 and then hit the IL with a groin injury. But he has a 3.52 ERA in 49 starts for the Brewers and Astros over the last two years, so they’re hopeful he can be a nice piece in their strong rotation this season. He works heavily with a cutter, having thrown it nearly half the time last year. He also has another very good changeup and a fastball that is just good enough to use when he uses it. He has a traditional platoon split, so the righties should be ready to do some damage against him, and it’s probably fair to say he won’t be expected to go especially deep in this one coming off an injury. Plus, if you look back to last year, he was great against lineups the first two times, but as soon as he faced them a third time, the wheels fell off, allowing a .297/.359/.514 line, and if you were wondering, that’s not good.

Brad Keller will also be getting his second start of the year, but he’s coming off an excellent start to his 2020 season. The biggest surprise might have been the strikeouts. He had seven in five innings and had a 12 percent swinging strike rate against the Cubs. It was the slider. It was truly outstanding with a 53.3 percent whiff rate and a spin rate that was about 150 rpm higher than last year’s slider. If that continues, the ceiling for Keller has changed, but we’ll have to see if that’s the case in his second start. His ability to keep the ball in the park will be both useful and challenged in this ballpark, but I’m excited to see what he can do his second time out and find out if that slider is a real weapon this year.

Prediction

The Royals are playing much better, so it doesn’t feel like quite as much doom and gloom. I think Castillo is a tough draw for them, but if they keep putting up good plate appearances, they might be able to get to them. I’m going to say the two teams split their series this week before the Royals head to Minnesota for another round with the Twins.

Poll

How does this quickie end?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Royals Sweep
    (86 votes)
  • 55%
    Split
    (122 votes)
  • 5%
    Reds Sweep
    (13 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now