Cincinnati Reds were bored of losing. Their offseason was active, as they tried to lurch from high draft pickers to postseason contenders. They are 6.5 games out of first place in the National League Central and six games under .500.
It was a winter of movement, reflecting a team trying to push their way into the conversation at the top of the division. Competing with the Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs was always a tall order, and the first month of the season hasn’t been good.
Cincinnati can always trade Puig, Wood and Roark away at the deadline if they’re out of it. Kemp has already been released, and Gray, who had a rough outing against the Giants this past weekend, has been tied down with an extension.
It could, of course, all turn around. With 34 games played and sitting only a handful out of first, it’s not like it’s time to sell all pieces. It is, however, a worrying start for a team who were hoping for something better in 2019. The Reds have won less than 70 games for five consecutive seasons, finishing bottom of the Central in each campaign.
The concern over those five years has primarily been pitching. Great American Ball Park heavily favours hitters with its close fences and short walls, but the Reds’ guys on the mound have, for the most part, been good. Their FIP is second in all of baseball. Luis Castillo has been impressive, and all the starters are performing well above average.
Peculiarly, and perhaps positively, it is the offence that has held them back. Their team OPS+ is 75, one of the worst marks in the Majors.
This offence will not be this ineffective all year. Puig, Jose Peraza and Joey Votto have had horrible starts. Eugenio Suarez will likely improve and the arrival of top prospect Nick Senzel gives a notable boost after Scott Schebler’s early season woes.
Combining what was expected from this offence with the solid starting pitching gives a foundation for success. In an immensely competitive division, though, the Reds need to put those two elements together sooner rather than later, while getting solid outings from the bullpen.