Cincinnati Reds Season Recap

Cincinnati Reds Season Recap

by November 5, 2021 0 comments

The Cincinnati Reds had a rollercoaster ride in 2021. They hovered around .500 for most of the early part of the season before rattling off nine wins in 11 games to start July. During that time, they won series against division rivals Chicago (a sweep) and Milwaukee, in addition to Kansas City. They were then swept by the Brewers before putting together a 13-6 run that took them into August. That’s a microcosm of Cincinnati’s season, as that play continued throughout the summer.

The Reds finished 83-79 in 2021 and made a run at Milwaukee for the division title before fading down the stretch. In fact, they led the Wild Card race for several weeks over the Padres. However, as their play declined, the St. Louis Cardinals went on a 17-game winning streak to put everyone else away, aside from the Los Angeles Dodgers. That led to Cincinnati finishing third place in the NL Central. The season ended in disappointment as the Reds ran out of steam.

Cincinnati’s pitching was touch-and-go all season. The hitting was excellent but could not make up for what was happening on the mound. Unfortunately for fans in southern Ohio, even the hitting ran out of power towards the end. The loss of Jesse Winker and an injury stint from Nick Castellanos decimated the offense, despite heroics from a rejuvenated Joey Votto and rookie sensation Jonathan India.

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Season Recaps.

Key Info

Manager: David Bell

Record: 83-79

Position: Third in the NL Central

Postseason: Missed Playoffs

Overall Performance

The pitching staff in The Queen City (touted as their best in years) struggled mightily. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray were off during the early part of the season. Castillo could not get his pitches to bite, and Gray spent time on the injured list. Luckily, Tyler Mahle (13-6, 3.75 earned run average) and Wade Miley (12-7, 3.37) picked up the slack to keep the Reds in the NL Central race. Mahle racked up 210 strikeouts in 180 innings while carrying a 4.9 WAR on the season. Miley became the first Cincinnati pitcher to hurl a no-hitter since Homer Bailey in 2013, and the 17th in franchise history. 26-year-old Vladimir Gutierrez surprised in the fifth spot in the rotation at 9-6, 4.74 to the delight of many in the organization. He suffered numerous hard luck no-decisions, though, as did several starters.

The back end of Cincinnati’s pitching staff was a revolving door of personnel. Amir Garrett had been installed as the closer and pitched to a 1.57 WHIP and was removed from the role. Veteran Brad Brach was a successful reliever for half the season before completely bottoming out. He was eventually designated for assignment and subsequently released. The Reds tried numerous options at the end of games, but no one stuck. Eventually they traded for Luis Cessa of the Yankees and Mychal Givens of the Colorado Rockies. Givens proved to be the best option to close out games, although he ran out of opportunities as Cincinnati ran out of gas at the end of the season.

The offense had tremendous flashes in 2021. Castellanos and Winker were one of the most fearsome 1-2 outfield punches in the majors, racking up home runs and runs batted in at the top of the lineup. Votto began slow (though better than his last couple of years) but turned it up to 11 with the two stars missing. Simply put, the Canadian put the team on his back, smacking 24 home runs with 55 RBI since July 24. His OPS during that period was 1.063… a ridiculous number for the 37-year-old future Hall of Famer.

When Votto wasn’t churning out quality hits, India was. His Rookie of the Year campaign finished with him leading the team by playing in 150 games. He hit .269 with 21 dingers, 69 RBI, while swiping 12 bases and touting a 3.9 WAR. Rookie catcher Tyler Stephenson got into the act, as well. He had 100 hits (21 doubles) with 10 homers and 45 RBI while splitting time with Tucker Barnhart behind the plate.

Award Winners

Most Valuable Player: Jesse Winker

A number of offensive players could make a case for the award. Castellanos had a stellar year at the plate and worked diligently on his fielding, becoming a reliable right fielder. Votto makes a big case, considering the way he shouldered the load with the two outfield stars out. India is Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year, and came up with huge games for a newcomer.

With all of that said, it is awfully hard to argue against a player who was obviously the heart and soul of the team. Not only that, but his absence due to injury was immediately felt down the stretch. Without Winker as the catalyst, the Reds came crashing to earth when they had been in the playoff hunt. “Da Wink” missed nearly a third of the season and still had a year many players would dream of, slashing .305/.394/.556 for a whopping .949 OPS. He crushed 24 homers in 110 games, adding 71 RBI. Most importantly, his timely hitting kept the team in games they had no business being in, and his emotion on the field and in press conferences made believers out of a disenchanted fanbase.

Starting Pitcher of the Year: Wade Miley

Miley and Mahle were the saviors of the staff, and while the latter had one more win and 85 more strikeouts, Miley was Mr. Dependable for Cincinnati. At the top of the rotation, Castillo and Gray combined for 25 losses, as Miley pitched a workmanlike 163 innings with an excellent 1.32 WHIP.

The fact that The Man with the Hulk Tattoo tossed a no-no in a rain-delayed game, giving fans in Cincy a superhero-like moment doesn’t hurt his case either. He may have trailed Mahle by one win this season, but when the underrated Miley went to the mound, fans knew they had a great chance to win night-in and night-out. He was embraced by the public, which makes his leaving for the division rival Cubs in a cost-cutting move even more head-scratching.

Relief Pitcher of the Year: Tejay Antone

Again, the award could to go to any number of people, and none are particularly deserving. Some of the best relievers for Cincinnati had their seasons marred by missing significant time with injury. Not unlike starters Castillo and Gray, Michael Lorenzen and Garrett were to be the heavy hitters in the bullpen. Lorenzen missed the majority of the season recovering from injury. His return was bad, going 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Garrett was a wreck, too, at 0-4 with an ERA over 6.00. The additions of Cessa and Givens were a huge boost to a bullpen that ranked near the bottom of the standings.

Antone had a successful season, though again, an injury-riddled one. He spent some time on the injured list in June with forearm inflammation that kept him out for an extended period. Prior to that, “Captain Hook” had been pitching extremely well. He returned in August and after a pitch during a Brewers series, he grasped at his elbow. He would need Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. Antone still finished the season 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 23 games. He had a 2.1 WAR and 11.2 K/9. Antone was originally slated to be a starter in the organization. Given a second surgery, that seems unlikely now and he has a long road to recovery. Prior to the injury in June, he looked like an All-Star.

Best Hitter of the Year: Nick Castellanos

In his first “full” season in Cincinnati, Castellanos did miss 24 games, but still had 34 homers and 100 RBI while batting .309 over 585 plate appearances. He is the only one who should challenge Winker for the Reds MVP award in 2021. Castellanos came up clutch often, and was sincerely glad to be in the uniform, which was refreshing for fans. He is due for a huge payday in this offseason after opting out of his contract to test the market.

Best Fielder of the Year: Kyle Farmer

Since joining the Reds in 2019, Farmer has played every single position in the field, including pitcher and catcher. In 2021 he took hold of the everyday shortstop job, playing in 121 games at the position with a .988 fielding percentage, though he also got starts at third base (.929), first (1.000), and second (1.000). Aside from a surprising season at the plate in which he knocked 16 homers over the fence and plated over 60 baserunners, he was as tough as they come in the field and came up with huge plays on a regular basis.

Comeback Player of the Year: Joey Votto

By all accounts, fans in Cincinnati considered Votto “done” the past two seasons. When Winker and Castellanos both were out with injury, he changed his plate approach and turned it on. That resulted in a .266 average, his best since 2019. More importantly, he went on an unbelievable hot streak that included nine house calls in seven games, adding to his season total of a tremendous 36 homers. That is more than his previous three seasons combined and fell just one short of his career high. He scored 73 runs and drove in 99 baserunners, proving that he still has a lot more fuel to add to the fire.

What’s Next?

The Redlegs are a 2021-22 offseason mystery. Many fans have been calling for manager Bell’s head for two years. However, he was recently extended for two additional seasons through 2023. They also placed Miley on waivers, saving them $10 million. Castellanos exercised his opt-out and will hit the market. Is this franchise doing a full rebuild, or are they going to make a run at Castellanos and other free agents? Time will tell.

Hanging over their head is the underperforming Eugenio Suarez’s contract. The third baseman is due $11 million each of the next two years and $15 million in his 2024 option year, though there is a $2 million buyout clause. Suarez is carrying a .200 batting average over the last two seasons and has become a liability in the field. The home runs are a perk, with 95 in the last three seasons. That could make him an attractive trade option to fill a designated hitter role in the American League.

Right now, no one seems to know what the endgame for Cincinnati is, though placing Miley on waivers certainly indicates a rebuild. They will likely be open to moving Gray or Castillo in the offseason, as well. If there are two available open spots in the rotation for 2022, Reds fans are likely to see flamethrower Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo sooner than expected. Whether that will be enough to contend in the Central depends on what other pieces are added during the winter.

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Covering NFL, MLB, Fantasy Sports, and NCAAB. Cincinnati raised, Los Angeles resident with a stop in Philadelphia in between. Joe Mixon truther, fan of "The Answer". Joey Votto is an international treasure.

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