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Washington Nationals Series #16 Preview: Reds Opposition Research

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The Reds have lost 10 of their past 11 games. This may be the weakest looking opponent the Nationals have faced to date. To prepare you for this series, here is a primer on the Cincinnati Reds. Learn their strengths and weaknesses and take your job as armchair manager to new heights.

Score early and often to avoid seeing Chapman.
Score early and often to avoid seeing Chapman.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody likes losing nine games in a row like the Reds recently did, but it happens.  The Reds primarily suffer from poor pitching.  Their bats are noticeably stronger than those of the Phillies, though both of those teams currently have 19 wins.  The Reds rotation has been plagued by injuries.  Homer Bailey is out entirely (Tommy John surgery).  Johnny Cueto has not pitched since the 19th (elbow), but may be ready by Sunday.  Jason Marquis is "banged up" and is the fall-back option for Sunday.

The Reds have done noticeably better at home and since this series is being played at the Great American Ball Park they probably won't go down easy.  The Nationals have been relatively quiet of late, and Scherzer won't be pitching this series.  Root for offense.

Friday, 7:10 pm - Stephen Strasburg vs Anthony DeSclafani
The righty DeSclafani came up with the Marlins last year but really struggled.  Here with the Reds he has been solid with a 3.46 ERA through nine starts. His last start against Cleveland was a strong one, but he allowed six runs in three innings against the Giants the start before that. DeSclafani is death to righties, but struggles against lefties. Strasburg has averaged five innings and 3.5 earned runs per game this season.  You all know that anything is possible.

Saturday, 4:10 pm - Gio Gonzalez vs Raisel Iglesias
Iglesias is a Cuban defector who signed a seven year deal with the Reds and now has all of 19 major league innings under his belt split between the rotation and the bullpen.  So far, so good, sort of.  He has not crashed and burned, but Iglesias has only managed to make one truly successful appearance.  He is still working out his command, so there is opportunity for the Nationals to strike hard and support Gio, who managed to pitch a great game against the Phillies last time out after stinking it up his two previous outings.

Sunday, 1:10 pm - Tanner Roark vs One of Johnny Cueto or Jason Marquis (or Lorenzen (or Moscot))
Roark vs Marquis would be a nice happy matchup.  Roark vs Cueto is nice in the sense that it gives the Reds a fighting chance. Cueto took a start off because of his elbow but when he is healthy he is annoyingly good.  He is also by far the best option the Reds have, so keep your ear to the ground come Saturday to see who Roark will face. Roark can obviously handle any challenge, and in this case his biggest challenge will be himself as he stretches out from his short start to take on the full responsibilities of a Nationals starter.

*Update on Sunday's starter* - Sunday's started for the Reds has been confirmed to be Michael Lorenzen, with Marquis joining the bullpen.  Lorenzen is a rookie who has a 3.12 ERA after 26 innings.  In SSS, he appears to have control issues (14K, 13BB in 26 IP) and be prone to the long ball (has allowed 5 HR).


The Reds Lineup

The Reds have a couple of great players, but it's a steep drop off from there.

2B - Brandon Phillips
- bat
++ glove
+ speed
Phillips has missed several games due to a sprained toe, but he has recently been the leadoff man with his .335 OBP.

1B - Joey Votto
++ bat (lefty)
- glove
+ power

Votto has rebounded from a shortened 2014, and his .275/.373/.461 line with 7 HR places him a notch above Danny Espinosa on the offense scale, though he can not pick it like Zim.
3B - Todd Frazier
++ bat
++ power
+ glove

Frazier is having a career year.  He may not be Bryce Harper, but his 14 home runs are duly impressive.  Tip: Do not let him hit the ball hard.

RF - Jay Bruce
average bat (lefty)
average glove
Bruce does have 7 HR, but his stats are quite sub-Espinosa otherwise.  His bat has been heating up though recently, with 16 hits in his past 10 games.
C - Brayan Pena
average? bat (switch)
decent glove
Pena is having a career year.  His unusually high walk rate has helped to drive his OBP to .375, though he lacks power.  He hits righties much better than lefties.

LF - Marlon Byrd
+ bat
++ power
- glove

Marlon Byrd is having tough luck this year (.214 BABIP), but he hasn't let that sap his power.  He has 10 HR despite only batting .208.
SS - Zack Cozart
+? bat
++ glove
Cozart is having an uncharacteristically strong year at the plate.  His .260/.319/.445 line is well above his career .655 OPS.
CF - Billy Hamilton
+++ speed
++ glove
-- bat (switch)
He bats 9th (pitcher goes 8th) because he just has trouble getting on base.  He has a .588 OPS (that's really terrible), but has still managed to steal 18 bases and is second on the team in fWAR thanks to his stellar defense in center.



The Reds Bullpen

The Reds bullpen is rather inconsistent.  On the one hand you have your Aroldis Chapman, who is his stellar self (1.77 ERA, 15 K/9).  On the other hand you have Jumbo Diaz, whose name is admittedly really cool but also descriptive of his ERA.

Burke Badenhop falls into the stinker category right now.  Luckily, there are other bright spots in this bullpen for the Reds.  There are a pair of solid lefties available, Tony Cingrani and Manny Parra.  On the right side there is J.J. Hoover trying to hold down the fort in the middle innings.

The key to beating the Reds bullpen is working walks.  They hand out nearly as many walks as the Phillies bullpen, leading to the second highest WHIP in the league (again behind the Phillies).


Can They Be Swept?

The Reds have lost a lot of games recently.  Their morale is low.  There is no reason not to pile on and take advantage of that.  The Nationals are the better team and even if Strasburg and/or Gio struggle, they have what it takes to win.  The Nats have won a lot of series recently, and it is not a big step from winning a series to sweeping a series.  It's time to take that next step and win three games in Cincinnati.

If the Nats don't  win every game then the season will not be over.  They will still have a winning record. However, one does not win 143 games by losing games.  The Nats have been fighting tooth and nail in a string of close games recently.  They clearly don't like losing, so the only option left is to win.

Never give up!  Never surrender!  Score early and often and relentlessly!