The shortened 2020 season marked the first time since 2013 that the Cincinnati Reds finished with a record above .500. Not one to be satiated with a minimal achievement, the Reds also made their first postseason appearance since 2013’s Wild Card game.
The Reds were surprising in a lot of ways last season, now it’s just a matter of seeing if they can be consistently good in the upcoming season.
The Cincinnati Reds
2020: Record: 31 – 29
2020 Finish: 2nd in the NL Central, 7th in the National League
Surprises in 2020
Let’s be upfront about this: Trevor Bauer had zero doubt when it came to winning the 2020 NL Cy Young Award. His 1.73 ERA led the NL, as did his 0.795 WHIP, and his two complete-game shutouts. However, the notion that Trevor Bauer was virtually unhittable lives in his hits-per-9 innings, which sits at an MLB best 5.055, which is nuts. Even AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber had a hits/9 of 5.353 last season.
This award was his to lose, but now he’s the Reds to lose in Free Agency.
Trevor Bauer was the surprise of the season for Cincinnati. Full stop. The franchises first Cy Young Award came in a season where most thought the Reds were a year out from competing in the NL Central. The Reds made the postseason in 2020, which is also surprising.
Trevor Bauer’s 2020 season put a jolt in the Reds pitching staff that lasted a full 60 games last season. Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Tyler Mahle all had stellar seasons in 2020. The pitching staff in Cincinnati was humming, and Bauer was at the center of it. The man was invaluable to the team and put the Reds back on the map as a team to watch in the coming seasons, even if he does not return to the Great American Ballpark.
Disappointments in 2020
All that being said for Bauer and the pitching staff coming around in 2020, the Reds offense stalled out, which is a bit surprising. With a pitching staff that averaged over 120 ERA+ in 2020, the Reds bats countered by averaging 86 OPS+, 14 points below an average hitter at 100.
The Reds could have been better and could have won the NL Central as the Cubs staggered towards the finish line. This could have been a banner year for the Reds, but the bats never showed up. Even the phenomenally talented hitter in Joey Votto struggled in 2020, finishing the season with a .226/.354/.446 slash line and an .800 OPS. Half of that slash line is made up of career lows for Votto.
The Reds best hitter was Jesse Winker, who slashed a solid .255/.388/.544, with a .932 OPS and a 142 OPS+. While those numbers are good for the Reds, a .255 hitter cannot lead this team to a World Series, let alone an NLCS. The Reds need to find their bats in 2021, or else they’ll start looking like their opponent when facing the Reds rotation.
Looking Ahead to 2021
The Reds have all of the pieces, even without Trevor Bauer, to make a run for the NL Central crown. Without Bauer, the Reds still have a solid rotation in Gray, Castillo, and Mahle, with some reinforcements coming from the minor leagues in the next few seasons. We’re still waiting on the arrivals of Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene, the Reds’ top two prospects. That’s a silly rotation if those two live up to the hype. It’s still going to be tricky for the Reds if Bauer walks, but they have the arms on paper to pull through.
But really what the Reds need to get is a sense of consistency moving forward. It feels like every year the pendulum swings back and forth with this team. “The Reds are the hottest team in the league” turns to “the Reds are trash” and then back to “This Reds team could win it all!” It’s a lot.
But looking at their pitching staff which has been a bit of a mess over the years, you can see what stability brings to a team. The Reds need to find their groove and push forward. The Reds need to be consistent in 2021. If they can do that, then this Reds team could surprise a lot of people.
Projected 2021 Finish: 87-75, 2nd in the NL Central
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