‘Fangraphs’ pegs the Reds to go 72-90 this year, the fifth-worst record in baseball. But for now, the cycle of optimism that comes with baseball and a positive start has thrown Reds fans a life raft. Grab on, while you can. And enjoy it…while you can!
CINCINNATI — Bryan Price calls himself a realist and as such he knows that jumping to conclusions about his team’s sprinter’s start is premature evaluation.
The Cincinnati Reds won seven of their first nine starts when most prognosticators fed the fans gloom and doom about the 2017 season.
Price knows that printing playoff tickets would be fool’s folly and that the Reds might be playing with fool’s gold. But he is thoroughly enjoyed the burst out of the gate that has his team leading the pack at the first turn.
“Most people in baseball understand the cycles of a season,” said Price. “I was listening to something the other day and they were talking about the Cardinals and the Blue Jays and Texas, three good teams that have gotten off to slow starts. They aren’t suddenly bad teams because of the first seven to 10 games.
“We know how it is,” he said. “The questions come based on how the team is playing, ‘Hey, you guys are playing real good’ and we talk about how good the players are. Then the team goes into a struggle and we talk about who is not playing well. It is the nature of the beast.”
The beast, so far, is the Cincinnati Reds, owners of the best record in baseball after nine games, owner the best run margin in the game, owner of the best bullpen in the game.
And, of course, it has the fans prancing-and-a-dancing, full of optimism. They see the positive vibes that emanates from a team when it is winning and everything is picture-perfect and advancing swimmingly.
“I’ve had people who come to games and people who watch on TV talk about that,” said Price. “We’re just trying to manage and coach the game. There is no doubt that this breeds a much more positive attitude. But we’ve had a good attitude ever since we got together in the spring out in Goodyear. Winning helps, but this is a good bunch and it isn’t a high-maintenance bunch.
“We just focus on playing great baseball and when that’s the focus you aren’t worried about the peripheral stuff that isn’t really significant unless you make it significant,” he added. “It lends to a much better environment in which to work and play.”
Price isn’t wearing blinders. He knows what baseball can do to you. It can lift you high and then body-slam you to the concrete with staggering quickness.
“One thing we have learned here is that we just stay on an even keel on ourselves and just try to get a little bit better every day. That’s probably the best recipe for us.”
So far the recipe has been a delightful dessert with lots of icing and some ice cream on the side.
But the so-called experts remain unconvinced.
ESPN’s evaluation isn’t optimistic about the Reds maintaining their quick steps around the basepaths and on the pitching mound.
Their words of doubt:
“The Reds have outscored opponents 48-23 in nine games this season, an impressive beginning to the season, with a 7-2 record that matches their 1990 start, when they won the World Series. And there may even be a feeling of,
‘Wait until Joey Votto gets going,’ given that their star isn’t even hitting .200 yet.
“But there’s a lot in this win-loss record that appears aberational. Eugenio Suarez is hitting .429. He wasn’t even a .260 career hitter prior to this season. Similar cases could be made for Zack Cozart (.417), Tucker Barnhart (.333) and Billy Hamilton (.306). None of them ever hit better than .260 in a full season.
“The excitement comes in the form of the youngsters in the starting rotation, such as quick-starting rookie Amir Garrett, who has a 1.42 ERA in two starts. But they’re still asking a lot out of the likes of veterans Scott Feldman and Bronson Arroyo. The bullpen has a 1.23 ERA another number that likely won’t last, though it should be massively better than the group that posted a 5.10 ERA, unless injuries get in the way.
“The projection systems still haven’t bought in. Fangraphs pegs the Reds to go 72-90, tied for the fifth-worst record in baseball.”
And there you have it, a big dose of pessimism just when fans are talking positively about the Reds at the water cooler, at the gas pumps, at the grocery checkout counter and, yes, even at the urinals.
“I don’t think anybody should define this team over nine games,” said Price. “Everybody is enjoying playing baseball, but it is early and the challenges will get bigger as things go on. It is just a good start to the year, winning the first three series. If we don’t that with enough consistency it will end up being a great year.”
But, at the time Price spoke there were 153 games left. That’s not a small road to cross, that’s a wide, sandy desert to cross.