As Thursday, September 10th turned into the early morning hours of Friday, September 11th, I wrote the following on KSR after the Reds fell 8-5 to the Cubs:
It might be the fact that I sat through a nearly 90 minute rain delay for a game that already wasn’t starting until 8:15 local time. It might be the fact that the game itself then lasted four hours and seven minutes. It also could just be feeling beaten down after watching nearly every inning of every single Reds game this season. However, at 1:38 a.m. in the wee hours of Friday morning I am pulling the plug on the Reds season.
The Cubs defeated the Reds 8-5 to earn the series victory and move to 6-4 against the Reds this season. Cincinnati is now 19-25 on the season and 3.5 games out of a playoff spot with just 16 games remaining.
Apparently, David Bell reads my articles and used my pessimism as bulletin board material because the Reds would finish the season on a 12-4 run.
The unpredictable finish to the 2020 campaign earned the Reds the #7 seed in the National League Playoffs, their first postseason appearance since 2013.
Wednesday at Noon Eastern Time on ESPN Cincinnati will take on the NL East Champion Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card Series. The best of three series will be played at Truist Park in Atlanta and the Braves will be the home team for each contest.
Game One will feature an outstanding starting pitching matchup between the Braves’ Max Fried (7-0, 2.25) and Trevor Bauer (5-4, 1.73) of the Reds. I’ll have more to preview tomorrow, but in this post I wanted to hit on the five biggest storylines of the 2020 Cincinnati Reds Regular Season.
Elite Starting Pitching
When talking about this Reds season you absolutely have to begin with the starting pitching. As a group, the Reds starters threw 311 1/3 innings allowing 121 earned runs, good for a 3.50 Earned Run Average. They also struck out 381 batters which was the second most in Major League Baseball this season behind the Cleveland Indians.
Trevor Bauer, the potential National League Cy Young winner, led the group with a 5-4 record and second best ERA in baseball at 1.73. He struck out 100 batters (3rd in MLB) in just 73 innings. Bauer also threw two complete game shutouts this season.
After a tough beginning to the season, Luis Castillo bounced back in the second half to finish with a 4-6 record and a 3.21 ERA. Castillo struck out 89 batters in 70 innings pitched.
Sonny Gray, the Reds Opening Day starter, had two bad starts before a stint on the Injured List, but was a steadying force all season long on his way to a 3.70 ERA and a 5-3 record.
Tyler Mahle asserted himself as a legitimate fourth starter with some excellent performances and others like Anthony DeSclafani, Tejay Antone, and Michael Lorenzen had great starts at different points of the season to make up one of the best rotations in baseball.
Reliance on the Long Ball
If you choose to measure success at the plate by “old school” stats such as batting average, the 2020 Cincinnati Reds were historically bad. Their .212 team batting average was the second lowest EVER and the worst since the 1910 Chicago White Sox hit .211.
Additionally, the Reds offense was the first team in baseball history to record more walks than singles. Cincinnati hitters drew 239 bases on balls while hitting just 221 singles.
Reds hitters finish the year with 221 singles and 239 walks. They are the first team in history to have more walks than singles.
— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) September 27, 2020
The one thing Cincy did well all season at the plate though was hit the ball out of the park. They finished seventh in MLB with 90 Home Runs. Eugenio Suarez (15), Nick Castellanos (14), Jesse Winker (12), and Joey Votto (11) all hit double-digit long balls.
All told, the Reds scored a historic 59.7% of their runs this season via the Home Run. The next closest in the league was the Dodgers at 51.3%.
A Season of Streaks
Nick Castellanos began the season by earning National League Player of the Week honors after hitting .429 with four Home Runs and 10 Runs Batted In.
Jesse Winker had a 21 game stretch from August 6th until August 29th where he slashed .415/.506/.969 and hit 10 Home Runs.
Joey Votto was “benched” for three games following a 0-4 with four strikeouts performance and responded by slashing .293/.384/.627 with seven bombs in his next 22 games.
In the final 17 games of the season, Eugenio Suarez got his bat going a little bit by hitting .246 and hitting seven Home Runs.
I like ya cut, ?eno. pic.twitter.com/lpakaZ3CsH
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 24, 2020
In six critical games from the 19th to the 25th of September, Mike Moustakas hit three Home Runs will going .391/.440/1.000 at the plate.
Lastly, Shogo Akiyama began the season batting just .189 in the first 32 games of the season. However, he led the Reds in the month of September in both batting average and on-base percentage. He hit .317 this month including a .340 stretch since September 8th.
Bullpen: Tale of Two Seasons
At the beginning of the season the Cincinnati Reds bullpen was on their way to making history as just the second team ever to allow more runs out of the bullpen than the starting pitching staff. However, after about 20 games things really changed course.
The bullpen unit finished the season with a 4.53 ERA in 192 2/3 innings pitched. Down the stretch in the final 14 games, they pitched 47 2/3 innings and allowed just 14 earned runs which equates to a 2.64 ERA, one of the best numbers in baseball during that time.
Lucas Sims was probably the most consistent reliever over the course of the entire 60 games season appearing in 20 games and allowing just 7 runs in 25 2/3 innings.
Archie Bradley was excellent since joining the team at the trade deadline allowing just one run in 7 2/3 innings pitched.
Michael Lorenzen and Tejay Antone both started games for the Reds but were excellent in relief roles as well. Lorenzen overcame a brutal start to the season to lead the team in appearances. In seven appearances from August 13th to September 6th Lorenzen didn’t allow a run in 14 innings while striking out 11 batters.
Closer Raisel Iglesias finished the season with eight saves and a 4-3 record with an ERA of 2.74. Before allowing a run on Sunday, Iglesias had pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings over seven appearances while allowing just one hit. Iglesias had a 5.59 ERA before September 1st and a 0.68 ERA since.
Playoff Baseball is Coming
After spending $166 million this off season primarily on Shogo Akiyama, Nick Castellanos, and Mike Moustakas, expectations were as high as they had been in a long, long time in Cincinnati. Making the playoffs was on every fans mind the Reds were a trendy pick to win the National League Central.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 26, 2020
Fast forward just a couple of weeks and things were already not going well. After an Opening Day victory, the Reds would stay below .500 until September 18th. They fell six games under .500, their season high that they hit several times, for the first time on August 25th at 11-17. Simply put, most of this season was a disappoint.
However, a six game winning streak in mid-September and winning 12 of the final 16 games turned everything around and earned the Reds a playoff berth in the expanded 2020 field.
The 2020 baseball season is obviously different than anything we have seen before. The playoff structure is different as well. However, the Reds have the talent across the board to be a really tough out in the postseason. It has been awhile (2013) since Cincinnati was in the playoffs and this year they are guaranteed to play at least one game in the month of October. I for one will be enjoying every second of it while I can!