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Preview: Prepare for Offense in Cincy

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I hope you like runs

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some numbers to prepare you for the weekend series the Braves will play with the Reds in Cincinnati:

  • 2 - the number of homers allowed by Mike Foltynewicz in his last start
  • 1.60 - the number of homers Mike Foltynewicz has allowed, per nine innings, so far this season
  • 73 - the number of homers the Reds have hit so far this year, good for fourth in the National League
  • 12.1 - the total position player fWAR for the Reds, which leads all of baseball (yes, it’s true)
  • 6.62 - Bronson Arroyo’s ERA so far in 2017
  • 7.24 - Bronson Arroyo’s FIP so far in 2017
  • 3.19 - Bronson Arroyo’s homers allowed, per nine innings, so far in 2017
  • 40 - Bronson Arroyo’s age
  • 2012 - the last time Bronson Arroyo was a league average pitcher
  • 113 - the park factor for homers for Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, which is tied with Coors Field for the highest such factor

In other words, hold on to your butts.

Jeff Sullivan already summed it up: the Reds of 2017 are really, really weird. (That link is highly recommended.) They have the best crew of position players, led by a Zack Cozart that’s hitting better than Matt Kemp, a Joey Votto that’s hitting like Matt Kemp, and a crew of guys like Eugenio Suarez, Scott Schebler, and Scooter Gennett that are hitting way better than they have any right to.

If it wasn’t for the really poor hitting performances of Billy Hamilton (who is still fielding and running so well as to be very valuable), Tucker Barnhart (who gets a pass because he’s a catcher), and Jose Peraza, the Reds would be downright terrifying on the position player side. Adam Duvall also exists and has 14 homers already this season, which matches Votto’s total. I also have absolutely no idea who Scott Schebler is, but he has 16 homers, which leads the National League. He also has a .228 BABIP and a 26.7% HR/FB%, so yeah, mysteries abound.

Less mysterious is why the Reds are just 24-28 and despite their position player powerhouse performances: their pitching is awful. The Reds have the worst rotation, and therefore the worst aggregate pitching staff, in the majors. Their team pitching FIP is 5.09. Their rotation’s FIP is 5.96 (matching their rotation ERA of 5.95). It was even worse in May. For what it’s worth, though, the Braves had a comparably bad starting pitching performance last month, so... duck and cover!

Bronson Arroyo has been a big part of why the Reds rotation has been so awful. He’s not the worst starter in baseball right now (Jered Weaver still exists, in some sense), but he’s arguably next on the list. He’s rocking a 6.62 ERA, 7.24 FIP, and a looks-good-by-comparison-I-guess 5.50 xFIP. He’s become an ineffective fly ball pitcher in a park that exalts them, allows a ton of hard contact, and ranks awfully in most advanced metrics regarding contact quality (including a current tie for the longest distance traveled by batted balls [with Justin Verlander?!], and ranking among the top/worst for barrels allowed).

Weirdly enough, Arroyo has given up 12 homers in his last five starts... but they’ve also been solo home runs. Just imagine how ugly his ERA could have looked if the sequencing were a bit different for him.

Mike Foltynewicz has not been Arroyo-esque, but continues to struggle to showcase consistency. He’s had three straight underwhelming starts so far, and was destroyed by the offensively woeful Giants in his last outing, where he allowed five runs (including two homers) in four innings. Foltynewicz has definitely shown flashes of brilliance, including a seven inning, one run, five baserunner, nine strikeout game against the Phillies earlier this year, but in aggregate, has been pitching like a fifth starter.

Weird fact: the Reds have scored at least one run in the first inning for their last six games, and nine of their last 10. Given that the top of their lineup Cozart, Votto, Duvall, Suarez, and Schebler, that’s not too surprising. (Although Bryan Price keeps batting Billy Hamilton leadoff, because major league managers, am I right?) However, the Braves have won seven straight series openers, but have gone only 4-9 in the other games of that span. So, something’s gotta give. Hopefully it’s not the sky, with all the longballs that might be flying out tonight.

(Of course, this means Arroyo will pitch seven scoreless tonight. Sigh.)

Game Info

Friday, June 2, 2017

7:10 pm ET

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH

TV: Fox Sports South

Radio: Braves Radio Network, 680 AM / 93.7 FM