From a 3-18 start and firing of Bryan Price, to interim manager Jim Riggleman guiding the Reds to a 43-53 record at the all-star break, 2018 has been a rollercoaster ride for Reds fans.
During the hot streak, the team appeared close to contending again. Yet the Reds have struggled since the all-star break, accruing a 15-25 record since July 15.
Through 134 games, the 2018 team finds itself with a record that mirrors the prior year.
The offense is not to blame for the swoons of the past five seasons. In fact, the Reds rank third in in hits and batting average at the national league, and rank second in on-base percentage.
Eugenio Suarez has emerged as a star with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, and Scooter Gennett leads the pack with a .317 batting average. Jose Peraza has made strides this year, raising his batting average from .259 to .286.
The Reds’ historical struggles have stemmed from the team’s starting pitching. They have allowed an MLB-worst 198 home runs and surrendered more hits than any other team in the league.
While Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani seem to have locked down spots in the 2019 rotation, other positions remain up for grabs.
Homer Bailey and Matt Harvey, two veterans in the rotation, have uncertain futures with the club. Harvey, acquired from the Mets in May, was at the center of trade talks at both the non-waiver and waiver trade deadline. The Reds opted to keep Harvey, even though he will soon be a free agent.
Bailey has the worst earned run average (ERA) among qualified starters in the league (6.13) and is locked into a $30 million contract through 2020.
With uncertainty surrounding the futures of veteran players, younger pitchers may have opportunities in the final month.
Sal Romano started the season in the Reds rotation and pitched well in opening months. However, he was demoted to the bullpen after rough starts against Cleveland and Milwaukee.
Lucas Sims, acquired from Atlanta in the Adam Duvall trade, was a first-round pick in 2012. Sims struggled throughout his 10 starts in 2017. But like Romano, he is young and has performed well in 19 Triple-A starts in 2018, posting a 3.11 ERA in 101.1 innings.
The Reds will give Sims a chance to pitch out of the bullpen in September, but it won’t be a surprise if he makes a few starts.
Cody Reed was acquired in 2015 from the Royals in the Johnny Cueto trade. He made his debut in 2016, finishing 0-7 with a 7.36 ERA.
He split time between Triple-A Louisville and the Reds in 2017. The sample size was small, but Reed left with a 5.09 ERA in 12 appearances.
In 2018, Reed struggled as a starter with Triple-A Louisville. But after a string of excellent starts in July, he earned a promotion to Cincinnati, where he’s pitched well in 12 appearances mainly out of the bullpen, posting a 3.26 ERA.
Reed has a career 5.95 ERA in the major leagues, but the Reds still view him as someone who can contribute to the back end of their rotation.
Bailey Dennis, a first-year exploratory student, is intrigued by the Reds’ young starters.
“I hope to see some of the young guys get more chances to see if they can make a difference in the future,” Dennis said.
Regardless of the Reds’ final record, the team’s future looks bright, said Dick Williams, president of baseball operations.
“We do believe that we’re creating a good core to invest around,” Williams told the Enquirer. “For the first time in a couple of years, I firmly believe we’ll have a raised payroll.”