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By Reds Content Plus • Issue #147 • View online
In today’s MORNING SPIN:
  • The Postseason Race
  • Save Us, Jesse Winker
  • Strong pitching helps Reds snap losing streak
  • Previewing the Dodgers
  • Dodgers SP Walker Buehler
  • Stat OTD: Chase Rate (Pitchers)
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The Postseason Race
Thursday’s win saw the Reds gain half a game on the Cardinals, who had the day off.
The Padres beat the Giants 7-4 to stay ahead of Cincinnati.
The stupid Cubs blew a 7-0 lead against the Phillies and went on to lose 17-8.
Jesse Winker Returning Today
News: Jesse Winker will return from the injured list and be back in the starting lineup tonight against the Dodgers. (Kelch, Rauch)
Analysis: You don’t need us to say how huge this is, but we will anyway. This is HUGE. The Reds offense has taken a significant step back without Winker in the lineup, and while it’s not entirely due to his absence, his return will unquestionably provide a boost. The team went 12-16 without him and has averaged just 4.1 runs per game since he went on the injured list a month ago; only the Pirates, Twins, Padres, and Marlins have been worse.
Winker leads the Reds with a 152 wRC+, which ranks fifth in MLB behind only Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bryce Harper, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Juan Soto.
Winker was originally scheduled to play a rehab game for Triple-A Louisville on Thursday night in Memphis. However, he reportedly decided to head back to Cincinnati instead, telling former Reds and current Bats broadcaster Jim Kelch, “It’s time.”
Indeed. Welcome back, Jesse.
Tyler Naquin will most likely head to the injured list to make room for Winker on the active roster.
Strong pitching helps Reds snap losing streak
It wasn’t pretty, but the four-game losing streak is over. The Reds beat the Pirates 1-0 on Thursday afternoon, avoiding a sweep against one of the worst teams in baseball.
As we all expected with Tyler Mahle starting for the Reds and the mighty Connor Overton taking the mound for the Pirates, it was a pitcher’s duel. The Reds couldn’t score in three innings against the 28-year-old rookie in his first MLB start. They couldn’t score against Sam Howard in the fourth inning, either. Or the fifth and sixth innings against Cody Ponce.
Luckily, Mahle went toe to toe with the fearsome trio of Pirates pitchers. He threw six shutout innings, allowing five hits and a walk. Mahle didn’t have his best stuff. He allowed at least one baserunner in every inning but the fifth, struck out only four batters, and got just five swings and misses. However, he mostly stayed around the edges of the strike zone and induced his fair share of weak contact.
Mahle's pitch heatmap
Mahle's pitch heatmap
The Reds offense finally gave Mahle some run support in the seventh against Ponce. Tyler Stephenson started the inning by hitting a double off the left-field wall; it would’ve been a home run in 10 MLB stadiums. Kyle Farmer followed by drawing a walk. With the weak-hitting Shogo Akiyama coming to the plate, David Bell opted to play small ball.
Delino DeShields entered as a pinch-runner for Stephenson, and Akiyama laid down a sacrifice bunt. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch-hit for Mahle, and while he didn’t get his first hit as a Red, he did hit a sacrifice fly to left-center field to score DeShields.
Lucas Sims, Michael Lorenzen, and Mychal Givens kept the shutout going over the final three innings.
Sims again looked dominant, striking out two as he worked around a two-out single in the seventh. Half of his 16 pitches were either a swing and miss or called strike.
Lorenzen retired the top of the Pirates lineup in order in the eighth, striking out Ke'Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds.
Givens struck out Colin Moran to start the ninth but got himself into trouble by walking the next two hitters, Ben Gamel and Kevin Newman. In fairness to Givens, the first walk should’ve been a strikeout. Umpire Jim Wolf called pitch #5 a strike as it barely clipped the zone. Pitch #6 was thrown in almost the same spot, and Wolf called it a ball.
A flyout moved the tying run, Gamel, up to third base. Newman then stole second base to put the winning run in scoring position. Givens got behind 3-0 to Hoy Park but battled back to strike him out. The last pitch of the game was clocked at 97.9 mph, Givens’ second-fastest pitch of the season.
Previewing the Dodgers
After losing a series to one of the worst teams in the National League, the Reds return to Great American Ball Park to face one of the best. The Dodgers (94-53) are in town this weekend as the Reds begin their final homestand of the regular season. The defending World Series champions have already secured a playoff spot and have reeled off six straight wins as they try to catch the Giants for first place in the NL West and avoid the Wild Card game. The Dodgers are currently one game back of the division lead.
Needless to say, the Reds are going to have to start playing much better baseball this weekend to compete. The Dodgers have a dangerous offense, but their strength is in their pitching staff. They’ll send out their top three arms this weekend:
  • Tonight: Walker Buehler
  • Saturday: Max Scherzer
  • Sunday: Clayton Kershaw
The teams met way back in April in Los Angeles as the Reds took two of three games. The Dodgers have only gotten better since the Reds last saw them, acquiring Trea Turner and Max Scherzer at the trade deadline.
Here’s the Dodgers projected (and absolutely loaded) lineup:
There aren’t many weaknesses in that lineup aside from the former MVP Cody Bellinger, who is in the midst of a miserable season. The Dodgers have been platooning him against left-handed pitchers.
The Dodgers have a few notable injuries that have tested their depth. Outfielder A.J. Pollock is on the IL with a right hamstring strain. But the majority of their injuries have come for the pitching staff. Starters Dustin May, Danny Duffy, and Cole Hamels are out for the season. In the bullpen, Garrett Cleavinger, Jimmy Nelson, Jimmie Sherfy, Scott Alexander, and Caleb Ferguson are out for the year.
Clayton Kershaw had missed a huge chunk of the season with left elbow inflammation, but he returned on Monday. The team also just activated Tony Gonsolin off the IL, but the Reds will not see him this weekend.
Dodgers SP Walker Buehler
After the Reds struggled against Connor Overton on Thursday, they’re really gonna need Jesse Winker today — and the rest of the weekend, for that matter.
Tonight, the offense is tasked with solving Walker Buehler, who has more than lived up to his first-round billing. He was taken with the 24th overall pick in the 2015 draft, the same year the Reds selected Tyler Stephenson. Buehler was recruited to Vanderbilt by current Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson.
Buehler has blossomed into one of baseball’s best pitchers and is one of three Dodgers starters you could comfortably call an ace. Buehler is already a two-time All-Star and finished in ninth place in Cy Young voting in 2019. The Dodgers bought out two of his arbitration years prior to the 2021 season, signing him for a bargain two-year, $8 million contract.
The Lexington, Kentucky native will undoubtedly get Cy Young votes at the end of the year, as he’s fourth in the National League in fWAR (4.6) and bWAR (5.8). His strikeout rate is down from his career norm but is still comfortably above league average (65th percentile). It hasn’t made him any easier to hit. He’s held hitters to a .192 average this season. His xBA ranks in the 76th percentile, and his xwOBA is in the 87th.
Buehler's 2021 stats
Buehler's 2021 stats
Buehler has a deep pitching arsenal, using six different pitches: a four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, sinker, and changeup. All six pitches have a negative run value (negative is good for pitchers).
Buehler's pitch mix
Buehler's pitch mix
It all starts with Buehler’s four-seam fastball, which he throws nearly half the time. Last year, it averaged a little under 97 mph (88th percentile). He’s lost about 1.5 mph this year, but the heater’s velocity is still in the 70th percentile. Its spin rate is still elite, ranking in the 94th percentile. His whiff rate on the fastball is down from 26.1% last year to 20.8% in 2021.
Buehler throws a cutter a couple mph slower than his fastball (91.7 mph) and primarily uses it to jam left-handed hitters inside. He’ll throw a slider down and away to righties.
Buehler’s curveball also has a high spin rate (92nd percentile) and a healthy 34.6% whiff rate. He likes to throw it to lefties, but he’s not afraid to mix it in against righties. Buehler will throw a sinker here and there, and he saves his changeup for lefties.
Buehler has allowed two runs or less and thrown six or more innings in 11 of his last 12 starts. Up until two starts ago against the Giants, Buehler’s worst out of the season was against the Reds in April. Although they struck out 10 times against him, they scored five runs in 6.1 innings. Winker homered against Buehler in that game, a 6-5 Reds win.
Stat OTD: Chase Rate (Pitchers)
Chase Rate is the percentage of pitches out of the strike zone that a batter swings at. It can be used to evaluate a hitter’s plate discipline, but it can also show how well a pitcher can fool hitters into swinging at bad pitches.
You’ll find starting pitchers such as Corbin Burnes, Sandy Alcantara, Clayton Kershaw, and Gerrit Cole at the top of the chase rate leaderboard. You’ll also find Wade Miley, who has lamented throwing too many pitches in the zone in some of his recent poor outings.
The league average chase rate is 31.1% in 2021.
Here’s how Reds pitchers stack up in chase rate:
  1. Luis Cessa (39.4%)
  2. Art Warren (36.0%)
  3. Michael Lorenzen (35.9%)
  4. Wade Miley (34.8%)
  5. Luis Castillo (33.6%)
  6. Lucas Sims (32.7%)
  7. Tony Santillan (31.1%)
  8. Amir Garrett (29.6%)
  9. Tyler Mahle (29.6%)
  10. Sonny Gray (29.4%)
  11. Mychal Givens (29.0%)
  12. Vladimir Gutierrez (28.6%)
  13. Jeff Hoffman (28.2%)
  14. Justin Wilson (26.3%)
MORNING SPIN is a daily newsletter (Monday-Saturday) written by Matt Wilkes and Steve Mancuso. We are co-owners of and writers at Reds Content Plus.
Stats Glossary
Need a quick refresher on what a certain stat means? You can find definitions here at our glossary at Reds Content Plus. If you run across a stat in MORNING SPIN that we don’t have there, please let us know by email at redscontentplus at gmail.
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