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Series Preview # 38: D-backs @ Reds

Fortune favors the bold Diamondbacks!

Eugenio Suarez signs autographs
Eugenio Suarez signs autographs
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

What’s the Reds’ story?

One weakness stands out: Reds’ starting pitching ranks 28th in the Majors. Although it improved from 30th last season, it remains a serious weakness.

Eventually, their outstanding pitching prospect should transform that weakness into strength. Their top-100 prospects are Tyler Mahle, age 23(on 3 August was optioned to AAA after 109 innings in the Majors this season), and Hunter Green, age 19. Other excellent prospects are Robert Stephenson, age 25, Vladimir Gutierrez, age 23, and Tony Santillan, age 21.

The Reds are rebuilding towards contending in 2021 & 2022, when most their starting pitcher prospects should be in the Majors. Core position players retained through that window are Joey Votto (first base), Eugenio Suarez( third base), and Tucker Barnhart (catcher). Scooter Gennett (second base) will be a free agent in 2020. Although it is possible the Reds will extend Gennett through 2022, top-100 prospect Nick Senzel is a possible replacement. Jesse Winker (outfield), a top-100 prospect, had a 2017 debut in the Majors. He has hit very well.

The top priority is the future. At the trade deadline, the Reds traded Adam Duvall (power hitting outfielder) to the Braves for two young pitchers who are controlled through the window, plus a replacement outfielder.

  • The future star of the trade was Lucas Sims, who was drafted in 2012 in the first round. His debut in the Majors was 2017. So far, he was the starter in 10 games and entered from the bullpen in 10 games.
  • Matt Wisler’s debut in the majors was 2015. So far he was the starter in 49 games and entered from the bullpen in 25 games.

Who is favored to win the series?

After starting the season badly (8-27 through May 7th), the Reds had better results (42-37 after May 7th). Just because the Reds are rebuilding, that doesn’t mean an easy sweep, especially when the Reds have home-field advantage. They have a strong infield.

Lady luck is notoriously mercurial, bouncing teams between favor and snubbing on a whim, only to turn her attention elsewhere. July was a tale of lady luck smiling on the Reds and frowning on the D-backs.

  • The D-backs had a positive run differential (5.04 runs/game minus 4.69 runs allowed per game), which was not reflected in their win/loss record of 13-13.
  • The Reds had a negative run differential (4.96 runs/game minus 5.25 runs allowed per game), which was not reflected in their positive win/loss record of 13-11.

Let’s compare the teams:

  • Runs scored per game. For the season, the D-backs scored less runs per game (4.48 vs 4.61). In July, that difference was reversed, with the D-backs scoring more runs per game (5.04 vs 4.96). Because in July, the D-backs scored more runs per game, advantage D-backs.
  • Runs allowed per game. For the season, the D-backs allowed less runs per game (3.91 vs 5.07). In July, that difference was cut in half, with the D-backs allowing less runs per game (4.69 vs 5.25). Because in July, the D-backs allowed less runs per game, advantage D-backs.

The D-backs are favorites to win this series for more reasons than better run differential. First, the D-backs made several improvements at the trade deadline. Second, the D-backs are boldly attempting to win the NL West and it is common knowledge that, “Fortune favors the bold!” Despite the D-back advantages, this series could be hard fought, with the pitching match-ups a deciding factor.

Who will pitch in this series?

Friday, Anthony De Sclafani (4.98 ERA, 7.5 SO/9, 2.7 BB/9) vs Clay Buchholz (2.68 ERA, 8.1 SO/9, 2.2 BB/9)

Anthony De Sclafani’s ERA for July was 6.66. His first game in August was a new page, with only 1 earned run in 7 innings. Perhaps his 7 days rest that made a difference. On Friday, how will he pitch on only 5 days rest?

In May, the D-backs signed free agent Clay Buchholz. That signing was a great move. A couple weeks later he was called up to the Majors and has pitched very well. One key to his success is he makes adjustments mid-game based on advice from Mike Butcher. Another key is faith in his catcher’s game calling.

“To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.” — Wilson Mizner

Saturday, Matt Harvey (4.79 ERA, 6.7 SO/9, 2.2 BB/9) vs Robbie Ray (4.92 ERA, 12.0 SO/9, 4.7 BB/9)

Matt Harvey likely has his bags packed. In May, after an unhappy move to the bullpen, he was traded from the Mets to the Reds, where he is in the rotation. At the trade deadline, after a “flurry of trade discussions,” he remained with the Reds. In August, Phil Acre and Time Dierkes wrote that he remains a trade candidate. He is a free agent at the end of the season.

Last season, Robbie Ray’s strikeouts per 9 innings of 12.1 was All-Star great. This season, that stat was astounding (14.6) before he suffered a strained oblique. In his 5 August start against the Giants, he struck out 8 batters in 5.1 innings. I’m hoping his pitching is back at the All-Star level.

Recovery begins from the darkest moment.” — John Major

Sunday, Luis Castillo (4.91 ERA, 8.4 SO/9, 2.9 BB/9) vs Zack Godley (4.35 ERA, 9.5 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9)

When the teams played in May, Castillo allowed 4 earned runs in 5 innings. His start was the difference maker because the Reds only scored 2 runs. On the other hand, his July ERA (2.25) indicates he is pitching better than he did in May.

In July, Zack Godley pitched 34.2 innings without allowing a home run! On 31 July, he pitched well against the Rangers - in 7 innings he allowed zero runs, 2 hits, 10 strikeouts, and 1 walk. He has pitched well!

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein

Player in the Spotlight

Like many children in Venezuela, he had a role model. His role model was Omar Vizquel, 3 times All-Star and 11 times Gold Glove.

So he played baseball with the goal of signing with a professional team. He was talented and easily saw himself playing professional baseball.

In Venezuela, teams normally signed prospects at age 16. Signing was his ticket to a life journey like Omar Vizquel. His next step was to tryout successfully and be offered an opportunity to sign. That step was a challenge.

His tryouts did not go well. Several organizations told him no because of his speed. He continued to play baseball. He continued to tryout. Especially notable was he always ran his best even though he knew speed was his weakness. Dreams never die - dreams live forever in the land of what was imagined.

One day started out like every other. It wasn’t. It was another tryout day. At the end came the compulsory 60 yard dash. This time, the player in the spotlight ran 60 yards in 6.4 seconds. He crossed the finish line in first place. He impressed the scouts with his speed – a truly spectacular accomplishment! Albeit he hit well and made some nice defensive plays, too – but those were not weaknesses. He signed!

His debut in the Majors was 2014. He was remarkable. “As a player, he handles himself well. He looks like he’s been at the Major League level longer than he has by the way he carries himself, his body language.” – Omar Vizquel, June 10, 2014

Two more things are remarkable about the player in the spotlight.

First, he is positive. When he speaks English, although it his second language, he easily communicates his optimism and energy.

Second, he identified a weakness (speed) and didn’t let it stop him. Perhaps because it reminded him of the possibility of a shattered dream, it wasn’t fun to work on his weakness. His mental strength did not allow that possibility to diminish his natural attitudes of hard work, optimism, and energy. He always ran his best – diminishing his weakness instead of his attitudes.

In March 2018, the Reds signed a 7-year extension with the player in the spotlight, making him part of the core players who will contend in 2021 and 2022.

What did his manager say about him? “He’s positive, he comes to work every day, he makes the clubhouse a good place to be.” -- Bryan Price, Reds Manager, April 8, 2018 One fun example: “Upon request, he can imitate the noises made by many animals, with his turkey calls generating howls of laughter around the room.” – Omar Vizquel, June 10, 2014

In case you have not guessed, the player in the spotlight is Eugenio Suarez!

Mark Twain said, “A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” Let’s look at what Eugenio Suarez has said.

  • ”You know what - this season is in the past. Now, I got to be ready for the next season. To do better in next year - that is my goal. So now I got to work more hard to be better in next year.” – Eugenio Suarez interview on Fox Sports, Sep 30, 2017
  • “We’ve got a good team. We’ve got a good offense. We’re hot right now. We’re playing good baseball, and we’re trying to enjoy this moment. Now we’ve got an opportunity to win a lot of games.” – Eugenio Suarez June 28, 2018
  • ”My dream [of being an All-Star] came true... I feel so happy. It’s amazing. Hard work pays off.” – Eugenio Suarez July 2018.