The Reds were bad for their third straight year in 2016. Boringly bad, in fact. Joey Votto is great, but really was the only consistently exciting part of a club that wasn’t apocalyptically awful. Burdened with an awful pitching staff, Reds games became awful slogs.
The good news, I suppose, is that they planned for this to happen, having fully committed to a rebuild, and so managed to take a few steps forward toward respectability. It will still be a while before the Reds have a good team on the field, but they’re getting a lot closer to at least not embarrassing themselves or their fans.
When it was over:
Well, in fairness, it never really actually started for the Reds in 2016. They traded Johnny Cueto last year at the trade deadline and then Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier this offseason. So the Reds were never planning to be competitive. The Reds went 9-15 in April, 8-20 in May and were 19 games out in the NL Central before you could blink.
Still, if you’re going to pinpoint a moment when the spark died, you’d probably pick April 21st, against the Cubs, when Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter at Great American Park, while the Cubs offense clobbered four Reds pitchers for 16 runs on 18 hits, five of which were homers. This was in the middle of a ten game stretch where the Reds lost seven of ten games, and allowed 80 runs. Never had the fundamental differences between two teams been so starkly laid bare.
The staff would struggle for the rest of the season as the Reds covered for injuries and shuffled through young options in the rotation, primarily at keeping the ball in the ballpark. And the club never found acceptable production at either second or third base. Even Adam Duvall, who hit 31 homers and was the club’s All Star Game representative, was barely an above average offensive player because of his inability to reach base.
What went well:
Joey Votto’s monster second half, where he’s hit .410/.494/.640 with just 29 strikeouts in 269 plate appearances is a wonder, and suggests he’s probably still the best first baseman in the National League, apologies to Paul Goldschmidt. Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart bounced back from awfulness and injuries respectively to prove that they can be part of the next good Reds team (if Cozart is retained). And Raisel Iglesias established himself as an incredibly strong reliever, if the club keeps him there.
Jose Peraza, the main piece from the Frazier trade, debuted and looked ok. Brandon Finnegan, the main piece from the Cueto deal, held his own in the starting rotation all year. Anthony DeSclafani stepped up to possibly become a solid mid-rotation starter, as did Dan Straily. And the Reds finally managed to get some value for Jay Bruce, landing Dilson Herrera for him.
A second opinion:
The 2016 Reds will be remembered for their historically bad pitching staff, and rightly so. They used a team record number of pitchers this year (currently at 32), and set the major league record for home runs given up (244, with two weeks left in the season). The offense sputtered for most of the year, outside of a certain first baseman.
That said, the team did accomplish their main goal of 2016, which was figuring out what they have and building prospects for the next contending team. They look to have hit on a couple of lottery tickets in Adam Duvall and Dan Straily, and the foundation for the next era of Reds baseball will begin for real in 2017 as Jose Peraza and should Dilson Herrera take starting spots.
What’s in the future:
It’s going to be another season of building in Cincinnati, after the teardown over the last two years. The rotation should look better next year, lining up behind a healthy Homer Bailey and without Alfredo Simon. Plus, Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed figure to be better in their sophomore campaigns, Amir Garrett is nearly ready, and Jesse Winker should probably join the outfield in early May. Even this year’s first round pick, the fast moving Nick Senzel, could be part of the club’s plans by September if they choose to be aggressive.
The point is that the Reds could look very different by the end of next year. And far, far more interesting in 2018 and beyond.