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Cincinnati Reds: Entering the final week

2018: A Season to Mostly Forget

As the 2018 season comes to a close, the midseason excitement that had Reds fans feeling like the long rebuild was almost complete, has faded. The 3-18 start made the Reds look like an awful team, when in fact they were one of the better teams in the midseason. The hot streak that made the team look like a respectable team has ended, and the Reds are back to reality.

The health of the team has played a huge factor in the Reds overall record, but in baseball, a few injuries should not cause a team to drastically change their ability to play. Baseball is a weird game. Teams can go from the hottest team in the league to looking like a minor league team.

Good teams find a way to win games when they are suffering from injuries. the Reds seem to only be able to compete with a fully healthy lineup. This does not mean if they can land quality pitchers in the offseason and remain healthy that they can not compete, but it is concerning that they have shown signs from years past.

Failure to Improve on Hot Streak

At the non-waiver trade deadline, Cincinnati stood idle with many options to trade. The belief was that players such as Scooter Gennett, Matt Harvey, Billy Hamilton or Scott Schebler would be moved. The result of the deadline was sending only Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves.

Many were puzzled by the lack of moves, but the Reds appear to be run by people who cannot decide if they are on the rise or in a rebuild. The Reds emphasized they were going to continue to ride the positive momentum they endured during the middle of the season.

The idea to ride the positive momentum proved to be a poor choice, something Cincinnati seems to be all too familiar with. The Reds have five games left, all at home against sub .500 teams, and will need to go 2-3 in those games to remain a third straight season with a 68-94 record. They have already reached four straight seasons with at least 90 losses. That is generally not considered positive momentum.

The Main Reason for the Record

Throughout the season, the Reds biggest problem has been the starting pitching. Tyler Mahle showed signs of being a part of the Reds future rotation. Anthony DeSclafani has always been thought of as a major role in the Reds future, despite his trouble with injuries. Luis Castillo has had a fantastic finish to his season, similar to his 2017 campaign.

(Photo Courtesy: Call To The Pen)

Mahle and DeSclafani both missed significant time with injury, adding to the Reds starting troubles. Castillo forgot that he was potentially the future for the first half of the season. Aside from those three, the remaining starters will play no role when the Reds are ready to compete.

Michael Lorenzen has been given a second chance. His first start consisted of just four innings but he pitched well in his time on the mound. His second start which took place on Sunday, mirrored those of most Cincinnati starts this year, with just four innings, four runs, nine hits and two walks.

The key for the offseason in Cincinnati will be to target a starting pitcher or two. If the Reds try to roll with the starters they have now, 2019 will be ugly and it will show Bob Castellini has no desire to improve his team. Instead, it proves he is just here to collect money from the people of Cincinnati.

Someone Wake Up the Bats

Over the last few weeks, a new problem has risen. The Reds have apparently decided to step into the box without any bats. Since their 10 run outburst on Joey Votto’s birthday on September 10, the Reds have scored 16 runs in 12 games. That was not a typo. On top of that, they have been shutout in five games, including two to the National League’s worst team in the Miami Marlins in their most recent series. That also was not a typo.

You can point fingers to the injuries or playing September call-ups, but they still mostly put out a lineup that should be able to average more than 1.3 runs per game over two weeks. Votto and Jesse Winker have been the Reds two most valuable players when it comes to getting on base, but the loss of those two does not explain the drastic downward trend in Cincinnati.

If the Reds stay healthy in 2019, they will have sluggers like Gennett and Eugenio Suarez backing on-base machines like Votto and Winker and may form a formidable offense. Jose Peraza still needs to work on walking more often, but has proven he can hit, as he leads NL shortstops in hits. Schebler has improved his hitting, even hitting out of the leadoff role at times.

(Photo Courtesy: NBC Sports)

Top prospect Nick Senzel should join the roster at some point if they can find a position for him. But if this team’s offense disappears whenever one or two of these players disappear, they will not compete without a massive improvement on the mound.

2019 is Not Over Yet

The Reds are not quite there yet, but a successful offseason and a healthy roster may surprise other teams in 2019. Playing in a division with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers does not help, especially when the Pittsburgh Pirates are always capable of a miracle run. However, the Reds have the potential to have the pieces necessary.

Perhaps hiring a new coach may help the team gain motivation when the offense hits a rough patch. Positive momentum is not the answer, because clearly it took the slightest bump in the road to send the Reds back to early season form. With one week left in the season, the Reds can only hope the bats prove they still have some life left in them.

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