After dropping two of three to the Cubs, taking the final game of the series to avoid the sweep, the 88-51 Cardinals look to regain some of the ground they lost with a four game set against the 57-81 Reds. The Reds, having been officially eliminated from the playoffs, are using September as a chance to see young players. As a result, the usual faces that make up this division rivalry may not be featured so prominently. This does not mean this series will be easy for El Birdos, however. Whenever these divisional foes meet there is bound to be some extra intensity and with pride on the line and younsters looking to prove their worth, there is no telling how this series will go as the Reds look to play spoiler.
Here to talk some Reds baseball with me is Wick Terrell, writer at Red Reporter. Wick is another one of those folks that seems to have been writing about baseball forever - at least to me! His articles are usually very funny and you should totally read what he and the other writers are Red Reporter are up to!
Viva el Birdos: Alrighty Wick, so for starters, since this is the first Cardinals-Reds matchup since rosters expanded, would you mind giving a crash course on some of the new and possibly unfamiliar faces? Anyone interesting that might be a thorn in my side in the future?
Red Reporter: While rosters officially expanded on September 1st, the Reds have been operating with an ever-expanding roster since before the trade deadline, even. After the trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, the Reds turned over their rotation to a bevy of rookie pitchers, and each of Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, John Lamb, and Michael Lorenzen figure to take the mound in the series with the Cardinals. Each has flashed promise at times this year, with Iglesias having dazzled for seven consecutive starts prior to his dud of an outing on Tuesday vs. the Pirates.
As for newly promoted top prospects, well, the Reds ain't got a lot to offer. Jesse Winker's going to be kept in AA with Pensacola as they tackle the Southern League playoffs, and Robert Stephenson is off to instructional league ball in Arizona to get his innings up instead of at the big league level while on the 40-man roster. All in all, it's a pretty boring round of promotions in Reds land.
VEB: Well then, looking at current thorns in sides, Joey Votto is having a really spectacular year, particularly the second half of the season, and that might be actually be an understatement. He is currently walking more than he ever has and his ISO is at a career high. So I guess my question here is:
1) Is there still some resentment towards him from Reds fans about not having enough RBI? and
2) Can the Cardinals borrow him for a little bit?
RR: Barring an awful finish to the season, there's a very real chance that Joey Votto will post his highest career single-season bWAR and fWAR in 2015, and that's somewhat hard to fathom given how amazing his 2010 MVP season was and how painful it was to watch him struggle with knee/leg issues through much of 2013-2014. It's as if he rediscovered his confidence once his strength returned, and he's back to tormenting opposing pitching in vintage Votto fashion.
Regarding 1), there's always going to be some resentment from a portion of Reds fans about anything Votto does, and that's purely because he's operating on a quarter-billion dollar contract. Since he's lavishly paid, any area that opens itself for scrutiny will be scrutinized, and in a Reds world where the team isn't winning, that's bound to happen. Yes, he'll get his fair share of criticism for not being more of an "RBI guy," but he'll probably get it from fans who don't realize that Andrew McCutchen has never once driven in 100 runs in a season or from those who fail to realize Votto hit 2nd for the bulk of the season behind the worst leadoff OBP in all of baseball.
As for 2), good gravy, no. The Cardinals have blown through a bevy of 1B options since waving goodbye to Albert Pujols, and they're still nearly 200 games ahead of the Reds in the standings. I've got to have something to hang my Reds hat on at night!
(Good for Joey. I have always liked him -he just seems so mild-mannered and nice and and... Oh dear.)
(No news yet on whether this will lead to a suspension.)
VEB: On the flip side of that, what the hell happened to Todd Frazier? Is Votto draining his life force or something?
RR: Todd's shown his streakiness often in the past, and his 2015 season is a tell-tale example with pretty defined endpoints (despite his decline having started just prior to his HR Derby exploits). He backed his breakout 2012 season with a dud of a sophomore year in 2013, and more of those inconsistencies have played out in his up and down 2015 year.
Lots of folks forget that Todd was the #1 prospect in the Reds system, a generally agreed upon Top 100 prospect in his early 20's, and a former 1st round draft pick, but his sputtering spurts in the minors relegated him to being a 26 year old rookie in 2012. While he's never been an everyday .790 OPS guy, I think it's evident that he's that over a large sample, and for the next two-three years his plus defense coupled with that should hopefully make him a 4ish WAR guy.
Hot dang, with as streaky as Frazier and Jay Bruce are, it would be something absurd to see the two of them actually hot at the same time with Joey Votto being healthy Joey Votto, for sure. Factor in what could've been a healthy Devin Mesoraco in 2016, and it's worth giving Walt Jocketty at least a bit of credit for giving the core one more year to see if everything could fall in place in the same year before the great pitching the team has had finally ran out of team control. It obviously didn't, of course.
VEB: Along that same line, this year the Reds seem to have officially begun their rebuilding effort. What should we expect from the Reds in 2016 and beyond?
RR: Pain. Lots and lots of pain.
It's always rough to watch a team go through a rebuild, but it will be especially rough to watch this Reds edition since each of the Cards, Pirates, and Cubs can boast a powerful and young core group. The Reds have stockpiled a bevy of talented arms that are MLB ready, and the likes of Raisel Iglesias and Anthony DeSclafani have shown that they've got the talent to be rotation cogs in the near future. Add in Robert Stephenson, and the staff and bullpen should have ample arms to be formidable for the next handful of years.
That said, they're in a serious state of flux. Each of Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman were in trade rumors daily, and neither appears to be in the team's long-term picture. They've already shed Cueto, Leake, Mat Latos, and Alfredo Simon from their rotation, and the rebuild is on in full force. While there's always the chance that both Homer Bailey and Mesoraco come back in ridiculous form for 2016, odds are it will be one more transition year.
VEB: Okay, I gotta get some sort of prediction from you. The Cards' pitching has been a little sloppy as of late - will they be able to rebound to slow down Votto? Will Frazier get his groove back just in time to crush me emotionally?
RR: I'll predict that Votto walks 8 times in the 4 game series, Iglesias bounces back to pitch phenomenally in his start, and that the Reds inevitably lose 3 of 4 in this here series. GIMME THAT 2016 DRAFT POSITION!
I just want to give a huge thanks to Wick for taking the time to answer my questions! Again, check out Red Reporter for all things Reds, like this article: Five bits of optimism born from the 2015 Cincinnati Reds season.
Thu, 9.10, 1800: Jaime "Hotme" Garcia (8-4, 1.76 ERA)vs. John Lamb (0-3, 6.11 ERA)Fri, 9.11, 1800: John "Peanut" Lackey (11-9, 2.90 ERA)vs. Michael Lorenzen (4-8, 5.54 ERA)Sat, 9.12, 1200: Michael "Lance" Lynn (11-9, 3.12 ERA)vs. Anthony DeSclafani (8-10, 3.75 ERA)Sun, 9.13 1200: Michael "Wachamole" Wacha (15-5, 2.96 ERA)vs. Raisel Iglesias (3-7, 4.18 ERA)