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MORNING SPIN (9.18)

MORNING SPIN (9.18)
By Reds Content Plus • Issue #148 • View online
In today’s MORNING SPIN:
  • The Postseason Race
  • Jesse Winker Re-Injury?
  • Reds Lose Key Development Staff
  • Recap: Reds Slay Dodgers (and that payroll)
  • Preview: Max Scherzer, Dodgers SP
  • Stat OTD: xFIP, NL Starters
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The Postseason Race
14 games remaining for the Reds
14 games remaining for the Reds
The Cardinals keep winning (annoying!) this time taking advantage of the Padres extreme pitching woes. Think back to the tough San Diego teams that beat the Reds six of seven games earlier this year. You see wisdom in the cliché that it’s not who you play but when you play them. St Louis does face Yu Darvish today. The Phillies beat the Mets 4-3 to keep pace with the Reds and Cards.
Reds News and Analysis
Want the short-term or long-term bad news first?
Going with the near-term …
Jesse Winker Re-Injury?
News: After last night’s game, manager David Bell said there was “a little bit of concern” about whether Jesse Winker had re-aggravated his rib muscle strain on a swing right before he was hit by a pitch in the 8th inning.
Analysis: Gulp.
So many good feels about the game last night, hate to throw cold water. But this sounds ominous. Bell is usually overly cautious on the “he’s OK” side when speculating about a player’s injury. Do I need to say out loud that if Winker did re-injure his intercostal muscle he (and maybe the rest of us) can start looking ahead to 2022.
Reds Lose Key Development Staff
News: Several guys in the Reds development department announced they and the club had reached a “mutual” agreement to part ways. To translate that if anyone needs help, that means the front office told them the Reds were no longer interested in employing them. Most notably, the list of exiled included pitching guru Kyle Boddy.
Analysis: It’s after midnight. I have a lot more to say about this than I have fortitude to write at the moment. But this is a discouraging development of the first magnitude.
If you think it’s important the Reds be a smart, modern, up-to-date organization, well, each of these departing fellows noted in their resignation letters that the front office had decided to move in a “different direction.”
For the moment, I’ll leave it to you to fill in what the opposite of smart, modern and up-to-date is.
More on this coming, promise.
Reds Slay Dodgers (and that payroll)
How about that.
For one beautiful late-summer Cincinnati evening, a $282 million payroll didn’t matter. The wobbly Reds beat the mighty Dodgers.
Renaissance artists sculpted statues to honor such events, works of art that have been revered for centuries. Michelangelo’s David is the more famous. But Donatello’s tribute to Goliath’s slayer more resembles Luis Castillo.
The exciting 3-1 win in front of nearly 29,000 fans moved the Reds back to six above .500 and gave David Bell’s team of misfit toys a modest two-game winning streak. Truth be told, we’d have all gladly taken a single win in this series and now it’s in pocket with Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle to go.
Luis Castillo threw 111 pitches in chiseling his masterpiece. Castillo has matched or exceeded that number before, but not in 2021. And his team, still struggling to find its hitting shoes, needed every filthy changeup and darting slider, not to mention Castillo’s fastballs that topped out at 99.9 mph and averaged 98+.
The 28-year-old Castillo outdueled his Dodger counterpart Walker Buehler who will deservedly receive many, if not the most, NL Cy Young Award votes this fall. Castillo’s whiff rate was 36% compared to Buehler’s 23%. Castillo recorded a CSW (called strikes plus whiffs) rate of 34% versus 31%. The Reds right-hander doubled Buehler’s strikeout count (10 to 5).
After the game, Buehler, a Lexington, Kentucky native, said this: “It’s just what (Castillo) does. He’s obviously got a good fastball and a really, really good changeup. I think it’s pretty well-known that he’s one of most talented guys in the league.”
Castillo lasted 6.1 innings which meant the Reds bullpen, spotted a 3-0 lead, had to cover the final 2.2. Bell brought in Luis Cessa, who the Reds acquired in a deadline deal with the New York Yankees, to pitch in the 7th with a runner at first and one out. Six pitches and two fly ball outs from Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor later, the Reds were back in the dugout.
With the top of the bullpen stretched thin due to pitching the previous two games, Cessa came back for the 8th. The 29-year-old cut through the heart of the Dodger lineup, retiring the side in order. Cessa has a nifty 3.59 xFIP since coming to the Reds.
That left Michael Lorenzen to close out the 9th. Lorenzen had pitched the previous two games but only thrown a total of 24 pitches.
Plus, have you seen the guy? He’s an actual Michelangelo David.
Lorenzen gave up a hit batter and run-scoring two-out single to make the score 3-1. Then, in a moment that reminded every Reds fan of a certain age of the countless times Albert Pujols broke their hearts in a stupid Cardinals uni, the Dodgers summoned the 41-year-old nightmare maker to pinch hit. On Lorenzen’s second pitch, Pujols indeed lined the ball into center field. But thankfully, Delino DeShields Jr. was positioned there to catch it.
The Reds offense scraped together three runs, mostly thanks to Kyle Farmer. Farmer and Tucker Barnhart teamed up to snap a 0-0 deadlock in the 5th inning. Farmer’s double and Barnart’s looping single to center produce the game’s first run. Barnhart had to fight off a 79.7 mph knuckle curve for the hit. An inning later, Farmer followed singles by Joey Votto and Nick Castellanos with yanking a Buehler fastball into the left field corner for his second double of the night. It drove in two runs and finished the Reds scoring.
The crucial run production must have felt extra-sweet for Farmer, who had been drafted in the 8th round by the Dodgers in 2013. Farmer was then told by the Dodger brass he wasn’t good enough to play shortstop as he had done at the University of Georgia. Farmer has put together an excellent season in the field at short for the Reds.
Farmer came to Cincinnati as part of the blockbuster Homer Bailey-Yasiel Puig trade before the 2019 season. Farmer is the only one of the seven players in that deal still with either club.
[The best player the Reds acquired in that trade, Alex Wood, got hurt and only pitched 35 innings in 2019. Wood has started 23 games and having a terrific 2021 season starting for the first-place San Francisco Giants.]
When you write previews of starting pitchers all year, you get a lot of Adrian Overton and Connor Sampson. Or was it Adrian Sampson and Connor Overton?
The point is, every once in many whiles you get Max Scherzer.
Of course I recall Scherzer pitching early in his career for the Detroit Tigers. But I didn’t remember which major league team he pitched for before that. (It was the Arizona Diamondbacks.) Scherzer went to a Detroit in a huge three-way trade in 2009 that involved the New York Yankees. The Yankees got Curtis Granderson. Detroit was rebuilding and it was a toss-up whether Scherzer or OF Austin Jackson was the top prize for the Tigers. The D-Backs were looking for starting pitchers (irony alert) in the deal and got Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy.
[You know the joke that starts: Max Scherzer, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy have three Cy Young Awards between them … ]
That 2010 Tigers team was 23 years removed from having won its division in 1987 with Sparky Anderson (!) as manager. Early that season, Scherzer was assigned to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens.
But for the years of 2011-14, the Tigers averaged 92 wins and finished first in the AL Central all four seasons. Sure, they had Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. But by 2014, Scherzer was their best player.
Then Max Scherzer signed a gigantic 7-year free agency deal with the Washington Nationals spent 6.5 seasons in DC, where he won a World Series in 2019. With his free agency pending again this fall, Scherzer was traded to the Dodgers at the deadline. Former Reds prospect Josiah Gray was part of the Nats’ return.
So where to start describing the pitching career of Maxwell M. Scherzer? Three Cy Young Awards is a good place to start. He also finished second and third other years. Scherzer received league MVP votes in five seasons. He has more than 3000 career strikeouts and led the league in that three times. Scherzer has two no-hitters. He struck out 20 batters in a game. He’s as sure of a lock for the Hall of Fame as there is. And Max Scherzer has earned more than $220 million (and counting) playing baseball.
And yet, the best part of Scherzer’s storied career has been his eight starts in Dodger blue the past month and a half. In those 51 innings, he’s struck out 72 batters and walked only five. His xFIP in those eight games is 2.40. Scherzer’s last four starts, covering nearly 30 innings, have been shutouts. In those four games he’s struck out 41 batters and walked one (1).
Red = elite
Red = elite
Scherzer has a five-pitch portfolio. His three most-used pitches have an xBA below .200. Four of his five pitches have whiff rates over 30% (his cutter lags at a mere 27%).
Right-handed batters will see fastball-slider. Scherzer has thrown 98% of his sliders to RHB. Lefties will stare down fastball-change-cutter-curve.
The Reds faced Max Scherzer once this year and lived to tell about it. They played the Nationals in DC on May 25. Scherzer struck out nine and walked one. The Reds managed just five hits and two runs. Kyle Farmer and Eugenio Suarez hit solo homers. Tyler Mahle and Tejay Antone (sigh) combined for eight shutout innings. The Nats got a run off Amir Garrett in the 9th, but Lucas Sims came in for the final out and the Reds won 2-1.
Works for me.
Stat OTD: xFIP, NL Starting Pitchers
Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is a stat that evaluates a pitcher’s run prevention based on strikeouts, walks and fly balls. It assumes average defense, parks, home runs per fly ball and luck on balls in play. It’s scaled to ERA for the purpose of familiarity.
For N.L. starting pitchers with at least 100 innings, average xFIP is 4.12. Here are the top ten through Thursday night:
  1. Corbin Burnes (MIL) 2.31
  2. Logan Webb (SFG) 2.87
  3. Zack Wheeler (PHI) 2.88
  4. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 2.92
  5. Brandon Woodruff (MIL) 3.06
  6. Max Scherzer (LAD) 3.13
  7. Charlie Morton (ATL) 3.25
  8. Kevin Gausman (SFG) 3.29
  9. Pablo Lopez (MIA) 3.35
  10. Aaron Nola (PHI) 3.38
Milwaukee, the LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are well represented. Each of those rotations has another pitcher in the top 20 (Freddy Peralta, Walker Buehler and Alex Wood).
The Reds top three starters fare well, too.
  • Sonny Gray (3.55) - ranks #15
  • Luis Castillo (3.69) - ranks #21
  • Tyler Mahle (3.79) - ranks #27
  • Wade Miley (4.05)
  • Vlad Gutierrez (5.09) - ranks next-to-last
Wade Miley checks in just above average. The only pitcher below Gutierrez is Jon Lester (remember, 100 IP required).
About MORNING SPIN
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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