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Matt’s Take – June will decide the remainder of the season

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Matt McAdow and Jonathan India.

By Matthew McAdow
HCP columnist

As we all know, May was a horrific month of baseball for this Reds team, as Cincinnati finished the month with a record of 11-18. Their overall record now sits at 26-33 and things have finally started to look a bit brighter.  

The sweep over the Dodgers, the recent series victory over the Cubs, and our pitching continuing to keep us in games and gives the Reds hope that they can right this ship before the end of June. Should they fall apart in June and repeat another bad month of baseball, they will certainly be out of the race and possibly be sellers at the deadline.  That’s not going to happen though, as I truly believe the Reds win this Rockies series and the Cubs series this weekend, which should get us to 31-35 roughly.  

While the Reds are far out from the top spot in the NL Central, they are just 3 games back from a Wild Card spot, as the NL Wild Card is wide open.  By the end of June, I expect Cincinnati to currently be in a Wild Card spot, as they have a much easier schedule this month.

Catcher Issue

As we all know, Tyler Stephenson has been fantastic this season and is truly looking at a possible All-Star appearance. They certainly don’t have a problem with a .248 batter with 5 home runs and an OBP of .319. I do, however, believe there an issue when Stephenson is not starting.  

When Stephenson starts, the Reds have a winning record of 23-16. When Luke Maile starts, Cincinnati has a record of 5-17. Maile clearly is a massive drop off from Stephenson, is batting .174, has just 1 home run, and continues to be poor defensively.  It may be time to let Wynns take a chance behind the plate, as it cannot be any worse than what Maile has displayed throughout 2024. 
Spencer Steer is back

After a very rough stretch of games from our leader, Spencer Steer is back on track and competing at a high level over the 15 days. He leads the team during that span with 11 hits, a .275 average, 3 doubles, .383 OBP, and has started to look like his normal self again.  This team needs Spencer to be this type of batter and that is exactly what they are getting from him as of late. With McLain and Marte out, Steer is the most consistent batter that this team has.  He puts together good plate appearances, limits walks, and is a true utility player who can be placed anywhere on the field. Don’t take Steer for granted, as there are not many in the majors who can do what he does consistently, while being moved everywhere defensively.  

Strikeouts have to slow

With tall players, of course you have to prepare for many strikeouts, as they have a large strike zone. However, the strikeouts Elly De La Cruz and Will Benson are putting together have to slow down in a hurry. Cruz leads the league with 83 and Benson follows with 78.  This is unacceptable and while I am not worried about either of these batters regarding their future, they have to find ways to shorten their swing.  

Cruz is missing fastballs early and whiffing on low breaking balls routinely, while Benson struggles hitting outside fastballs. I do expect these players to strikeout a lot, as they both stand at 6 feet 5 inches. However, they both need to work on better plate appearances and shortening their swings. When looking at the Cubs series and how many runners were left in scoring position, a lot of it was due to strikeouts in key moments.  

Random Stats & Comments

    •    Jake Fraley is batting .295 in the oddest way imaginable.  All of his stats off his bat are way down and he is hitting groundballs at the highest rate of his career, yet he is nearly batting .300.  It is remarkable and confusing at the same time. 
    •    This year, Cincinnati had at-bats from Ford, Thompson, and Capel.  Include that with our slumping offense, it is wild that we are still in the playoff race.  I have a feeling we are going to break out soon!
    •    Jeimer Candelario is a career .242 batter for a reason and is proving doubters wrong from his early season struggles.  He has been the at-bat I look forward to the most for a couple weeks now.  
    •    Over the last 67 plate appearances, Elly De La Cruz is batting .117 and is striking out in over 40% of his at-bats.  His power has diminished and his average exit velocity is down 10 mph per Bryce Spalding.  
    •    As good as Lucas Sims numbers are, he cannot be trusted in another tied game or small lead from the 8th inning on until he proves he can do so earlier in games without giving up the homerun ball.  What should have been a sweep over the Cubs turned into just a series victory because of his beachballs on 0-2 counts.  
    •    Our defense doesn’t get enough credit.  As much as people like to discuss India’s defense negatively, he has been impressive as of late.  De La Cruz has been one of the best infielders in baseball, and Steer and Candelario continue to hold down the corners night in and night out.  Fairchild and Friedl in the outfield are a deadly combination as well, as they can cover a ton of ground.  
    •    The new celebration in private for home runs is boring.  The fans want to celebrate with you all and see you happy.  Bring back the viking helmet or a new helmet and celebrate in the dugout again, as fans want to join in on the fun.  

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