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Cincinnati Reds Series Preview: No Moose homecoming this week

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The long-time third baseman won’t make his return, but Brad Brach will make his much awaited trip back to see his old team.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

It sure looked like Mike Moustakas might have been able to make his return to Kansas City, but he was transferred to the 60-day IL a couple weeks ago, so no such luck. Instead, the Reds are coming to KC in a position that it sort of seemed like the Royals would be in up until their complete nosedive over the last month. They’re on the general edge-ish of the playoff race, hovering around .500 and hoping for a hot streak that puts them into the bigger picture. You can argue whether it’s better to be hovering with faint hope or to be bad enough that you get a top ten pick, but during the season, I think I’d take the Reds situation. Long-term is another question, but it sure is a long season when it’s essentially meaningless before the break.

As for the Reds, they can really score some runs. But what’s interesting is they only really are getting huge production from two guys - Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos - but they’re at the top of the league in pretty much every category but stolen bases and triples. Jonathan India has been really hot lately and while he’s not hitting for much power, he’s getting on base at the top. With Moustakas out, they’re missing a little pop, but they hit some homers with or without him. Their pitching has been surprisingly poor a lot of the time, which is due a bit to Luis Castillo’s struggles, but also the bullpen just hasn’t gotten the job done after having a nice season last year. The talent is there for them, but it’s just not getting it done, and it’s causing them to hover around average when they could be better than that if the pitching would just come around.

Royals vs. Reds Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Reds
Category Royals Reds
Winning % .422 .518
Team wRC+ 89 103
Team xFIP 4.54 4.20
Run Differential -81 -1
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 2.3 Nick Castellanos, 3.5

Reds Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Jonathan India 2B 289 .265 .382 .399 12.5% 22.1% 118 1.5
Jesse Winker LF 332 .310 .389 .565 9.9% 16.6% 157 2.6
Nick Castellanos RF 339 .339 .392 .587 7.7% 20.9% 161 3.5
Joey Votto 1B 217 .258 .336 .474 9.7% 22.6% 120 0.8
Aristides Aquino DH 39 .212 .333 .636 15.4% 35.9% 148 0.4
Tyler Naquin CF 256 .243 .309 .461 7.4% 24.6% 105 0.4
Eugenio Suarez 3B 330 .177 .261 .369 8.8% 30.9% 70 -0.1
Tucker Barnhart C 212 .269 .354 .419 9.9% 29.7% 113 1.3
Kyle Farmer SS 257 .214 .285 .319 4.7% 17.5% 67 -0.2

Reds Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tyler Stephenson C/1B 206 .271 .374 .424 11.7% 18.0% 120 1.1
Alejo Lopez INF 10 .500 .500 .500 0.0% 20.0% 180 0.1
Mike Freeman INF/OF 31 .214 .290 .214 9.7% 19.4% 35 -0.2
Shogo Akiyama OF 85 .218 .282 .256 5.9% 18.8% 52 -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
Amir Garrett 34 25.2 0 2 28.1% 14.9% 7.01 4.51 -0.8
Brad Brach 20 20.0 0 0 28.6% 10.7% 2.25 3.79 0.4
Heath Hembree 27 26.2 2 3 41.7% 9.3% 5.06 3.21 -0.1

Probable Starting Pitchers

Monday - Vladimir Gutierrez vs. Mike Minor, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Vladimir Gutierrez 7 38.1 3 3 17.6% 11.2% 4.93 5.57 -0.1
Mike Minor 17 96.1 6 6 23.2% 7.1% 5.33 4.36 1.4

Vladimir Gutierrez made his big league debut earlier this season after a solid start to the season in AAA, and he’s been okay enough on the whole, but has struggled recently. He started his career with a 2.74 ERA in 23 innings through four starts, but the peripherals told a bit of a different story and offense’s have caught up with him. In his last three starts, he’s gone 15.1 innings with an ERA of 8.22 with just 11 strikeouts and nine walks. That includes six home runs. Those three starts have been against good offenses, but that’s still a rough stretch. He comes at opponents with a fastball, curve and a slider. The fastball is pretty average at about 93 MPH and with slightly below average spin. He’s given up a .301 average and .616 SLG on it, so it hasn’t been effective. His curve and slider have been much better. He’s had a reverse platoon split, with a .905 OPS allowed to righties and when he gets behind in the count, it’s pretty much a disaster with a .342 average and .895 SLG allowed. He’s also gotten rocked the third time through the order.

I was wondering if Mike Minor was a guy who was being impacted by not being able to use the sticky stuff based on his performances the last couple games, but he hasn’t seen a huge difference in his spin rate. That doesn’t mean he isn’t impacted as it can hinder his command, but it seems like he’s just going through a bit of a slump. He’ll go as far as he can with both his fastball up in the zone and his changeup. If the change is working, he can handle guys like Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez (though Suarez has really struggled this year outside of power). If the fastball is working, he can neutralize Winker a little bit. But if it’s not working, he’s going to find some trouble with this good Reds lineup just like he found trouble against the Red Sox and the lesser Rangers.

Tuesday - Luis Castillo vs. Kris Bubic, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Luis Castillo 17 90.1 3 10 21.5% 9.5% 5.08 3.97 1.5
Kris Bubic 14 52.1 2 4 19.2% 11.8% 4.99 4.97 -0.5

I mentioned Castillo’s struggles earlier, but it’s kind of puzzling what’s going on with him just from looking at the numbers. His velocity is down a touch, but not a huge amount. His spin on his four-seamer is actually up a bit. But he’s striking out fewer batters than ever before and walking more than he has outside of 2019, when he still had a really good season. The big difference is that when hitters are chasing, they’re making more contact than they have in the past, which has often resulted in foul balls, so he’s not putting hitters away. He’s also had his sinker absolutely crushed, so that’s a big issue as well, but he’s just not getting the swings and misses that he had gotten in the past. Even with the struggles, he has the big fastball and the nasty changeup, so this’ll be tough. And it’s probably worth mentioning that he has a 2.30 ERA over his last 43 innings spanning seven starts, so maybe things are about to really peak for him.

Kris Bubic gets another chance and this lineup isn’t any easier to face than that Red Sox team he struggled against on Thursday afternoon. It’s really pretty simple for Bubic. He just can’t leave his changeup in the middle of the plate where he has so much over the last month or so. When he was pitching well, he was doing it with the changeup being an absolutely nasty pitch and that allowed his fastball to play off it, even without elite velocity. If he’s going to hang the changeup, nothing else really matters and this lineup, even though it’s lefty heavy, will likely have no issue against him. But if it’s back to doing what it did in May, Bubic can get any lineup out.

Wednesday - Sonny Gray vs. Brady Singer, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Sonny Gray 11 55.0 1 4 30.8% 8.9% 3.27 3.05 1.1
Brady Singer 17 79.2 3 6 23.3% 9.6% 4.74 4.12 1.3

Sonny Gray is such an interesting story. He had a great start to his career with the A’s and ultimately went to the Yankees as a big addition where he just struggled mightily. He was then dealt to the Reds and has pretty much gone back to being a very good pitcher once again. He missed some time to start the year, but has been good again, getting tons of strikeouts and walking a few more than you’d really like but you don’t worry about it while he succeeds. He’s always been a ground ball guy but hasn’t gotten as many this season. That might be a bit of a fluke that’ll even out because he’s throwing his sinker just as often as he always has. His curve and slider continue to be really good swing and miss pitches, but opponents have hit his four-seamer. He’s also had a reverse platoon split, with much worse numbers against righties than lefties. I would expect the Reds to get him out of the game pretty quickly after two times through the order as he’s shown a typical progression from first time through to the third time through, getting worse each time. It’ll really depend how the first two games go with the Reds bullpen to determine if they are able to get him out quickly.

Brady Singer had another short start and another tough first inning against the Twins his last time out. He was hurt by 0-2 pitches in the first, which is a recurring theme with this entire team but especially him. And then he was hurt by bad decision making and bad defense, which is a theme with him. He did get 11 swings and misses on 72 pitches and I know the Royals are backing off him a little and not worrying about the innings, but he simply has to get some more innings out of his pitches than he has. He was able to get through five against Texas, and it would be great if he could do that again.

Prediction

The Reds aren’t great, but their offense against this pitching staff seems like a recipe for some very real trouble. I think the Royals will get a win in this series, but I don’t see much else.

Poll

Can the Royals win another series?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Not only can they win it, they’ll sweep the Reds.
    (6 votes)
  • 20%
    They absolutely can and they absolutely will.
    (24 votes)
  • 50%
    They can’t win the series, but they will win a game.
    (61 votes)
  • 24%
    Haha, they won’t even win a game. Reds sweep.
    (29 votes)
120 votes total Vote Now