Realistic Expectations for Cincinnati Reds Second Half
With just days until the MLB trade deadline, the Reds are creeping up the standings in the NL Central. At 51-47, fresh off of back-to-back wins against the rival Cardinals, Cincinnati trails the first-place Brewers by 6.5 games. However, they have also taken a massive hit in the lineup, as right fielder Nick Castellanos went on the IL this week with a fractured wrist.
In what is sure to be an exciting couple of months for Reds fans, here are some realistic things they can expect from their club in the second half of the season.
Castillo Keeps Rolling
One of the best turnarounds of the season has been starting pitcher Luis Castillo. Expected to be the ace of the staff, Castillo’s first six weeks of the season were miserable, culminating with an eight-run outing on May 13 that raised his ERA to an embarrassing 7.71.
However, since that start, Castillo has gone no fewer than five innings. Even more impressive, he has gone six innings or more all but twice in June and July, lowering his ERA to 4.20 and not earning a loss since June 20.
Clearly, Castillo has improved from his early-season struggles, as now he looks more and more like the All-Star-caliber arm he was in years past. Seeing how long his good stretch has gone, Cincy can likely count on him to be a solid innings-eater for the next couple of months as they attempt to push towards the playoffs.
Suarez Improves From the First Half
While Castillo has rebounded from his bad start, the struggles have continued for third baseman Eugenio Suarez. Before last season, Suarez hit a whopping 49 home runs and cemented himself as one of the league’s top power hitters. However, despite a reasonable 18 home runs this season, the 30-year old is hitting .172 with bad defense to boot, giving him a -1.9 WAR.
Things have definitely been bleak for Suarez, who also has 119 strikeouts in 349 at-bats. Especially since there has been no real improvement at the plate over the last few months, with a .691 OPS in May being his top-performing month. However, there is some evidence to show that the veteran third baseman thrives in the late months of the season.
We’ve recently seen a multi-hit game from Suarez, roping two hits last Tuesday against the Mets for the first time in roughly a month. But looking at 2019, Suarez’s wRC+ jumped up from 136 in July of 2019 to 138 in August before shooting up to 199 in September. Last season, his September wRC+ was 127, a nice increase from the 108 he earned in August.
For one reason or another, Suarez has been able to close seasons out in a big way. While that may not help his defense or his strikeouts too much, there is at least a little bit of hope in the slugger being a positive or at least a neutral player for the Reds down the stretch.
The Reds Win the Division
Now, this isn’t something that I’m saying is going to happen. But being 6.5 games out with just over 60 games left at least allows a window for Reds fans to expect meaningful baseball in September and even a surprise division title.
This season, Cincinnati went a combined 3-17 against the Giants, Padres, and Diamondbacks, three teams that they will no longer face in 2021. That means that against every other opponent, they are a combined 48-30, which would make them an easy playoff contender. In fact, aside from those three teams, only the Mets at 2-1 have a winning record against the Reds this season.
Cincy boasts a winning record both at home and on the road, joining the Brewers and the top-three NL West teams as the only ones in the National League. They have also found some magic in the bullpen with Heath Hembree closing games while All-Star outfielder Jesse Winker continues to hit well.
Right now, FanGraphs gives the Reds a slight 6.5 percent chance to win the division and a seven percent chance at a Wild Card spot. However, with a few lucky breaks and a September that includes three series against the last-place Pirates, it’s worth believing that this team can make a run at their first division title since 2012.
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