Monday, September 7, 2015

Next Up: The 1927 New York Yankees

OK, not really. But the 2015 Cincinnati Reds have played the Pirates as if they were the 1927 Yankees. They're 9-4 against the Pirates, outscoring them 64-45. Against the Reds this year, the Pirates:
  • Were swept in Cincinnati in the season's first three games.
  • Dropped two of three at home in May.
  • Did it again in June. 
  • Split four games in Cincinnati a little over a month ago.
As I pointed out last week, among National League Central teams, the Pirates have had the most success against the Cardinals, who have the best record in baseball. They're now 8-8 against the Redbirds. They've had the most problems with the Reds, who currently have the fourth-worst record in the majors. In fact, if you take away the Reds' games with the Pirates, Cincinnati's record would drop to 47-75, a .385 winning percentage that would be the worst to date.

How Are They Doing Lately? The Reds are 8-20 over the past 30 days, a record that would be the worst in the National League were it not for the almost unfathomably bad Atlanta Braves, who are 4-23. The Reds haven't really played as badly as their record would suggest, though. They've scored 4.5 runs per game, eighth in the league, and given up 5.0 per game, the fourth most. That's not a great record, but it's more indicative of a 12-16 team than one that's 8-20.

What's Going Right? The Reds' bullpen has a 3.23 ERA over the past 30 days, fifth best in the National League, though with the second lowest strikeout rate and sixth highest walk rate in the league. 

What's Going Wrong? The bullpen's compiled that spiffy ERA despite pitching 103 innings over the past 30 days, the second highest total in the National League. That's a reflection of how bad the Reds' all-rookie starting pitching has been: 6.01 ERA, second-lowest rate of ground balls induced, highest rate of fly balls going over the fence. The offense has been nothing special: twelfth in batting average and on base percentage, eleventh in slugging percentage.

Who's Hot? Reds fans haven't had a lot to cheer for, but first baseman Joey Votto's been one of them. He's having a historically great second half, and over the past 30 days, he's tied for second in the league in batting average (.356), is second in slugging percentage (.700), and leads the league in on base percentage (.536). The team's also gotten good offensive performances from second baseman Brandon Phillips (.349/.395/.500 slash line) and shortstop Eugenio Suarez (.274/.325/.519). Raisel Iglesias, Tuesday night's starter, has been one of the league's best pitchers over the past 30 days: 2.38 ERA, 44 strikeouts and just 26 hits and walks over 34 innings. Closer Aroldis Chapman has been his usual self: five saves, 16 strikeouts over his last 9.2 innings, but setup man J.J. Hoover, despite a 3.09 ERA and five holds, has played with fire, with eight unintentional walks and three homers in 11.2 innings.

Who's Not? Right fielder Jay Bruce has been the anti-Votto: .202/.242/.399 since the All-Star break, .168/.204/.318 over the past 30 days. With center fielder Billy Hamilton disabled and former left fielder Marlon Byrd traded, the Reds have struggled to get production from their outfield. Outside of Iglesias, the Reds' other rookie starters have combined for a 7.11 ERA over the past 30 days. 

What's the Outlook? The series with the Reds gives the Pirates a chance to pick up ground on their two National League Central foes, the Cardinals and Cubs, who'll battle each other over three games at Wrigley Field. But for that to happen, the Pirates will have to figure out how to beat one of the worst teams in baseball. They haven't been able to so far this year.

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