Cincinnati Reds: Three Impressions from the Opening Day Win


All is right in the world for Cincinnati fans. Baseball is back and the Cincinnati Reds are undefeated after winning their Opening Day game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in exciting fashion after Todd Frazier smacked a game-winning, tie-breaking three-run home run in the eighth inning.

Here are some observations on the Reds’ first win of the season:

1. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce look healthy

A lot of the optimism for the 2015 season rides on Votto and Bruce, as well as their health. After one game, I think we can all say they both look plenty healthy, as they combined for three of the Reds’ five hits on Opening Day.

The Reds’ first baseman went 2-for-4 on the day, including a single in the eighth inning to contribute to the Reds’ three-run inning that broke up a 2-2 tie with the Pirates. That eighth inning single in particular was vintage Votto, as he got behind in the count at 0-2 and worked his way back to 3-2 before hitting a sharp line drive into left field.

Bruce hit the Reds’ first home run of the season, a no-doubter into the bleachers in right field. Better yet, the homer came against a left-hander, Francisco Liriano. Bruce is only a .226 career hitter against lefties, but was even worse last year, hitting only .161 against them. Yesterday was definitely a positive step forward for the 28-year-old.

More from Reds News

2. Kevin Gregg has no business being the setup man

This seems kind of obvious after yesterday’s game, but the setup position is not the ideal spot for Gregg. The right-hander got hit hard in his Opening Day outing, blowing the Reds’ two-run lead and Johnny Cueto‘s outstanding start. Frankly, Gregg is lucky to have only given up two runs. He can thank a great catch from Marlon Byrd for that.

If Gregg was younger and/or coming off of a nice year last season, it would be easy to say, “Oh, well he just didn’t have his best stuff that day.” However, Gregg is 36, coming off of a season in which he had an ERA of 10.00, and underwent elbow surgery last season.

The Reds brought him in on a minor league contract and he was a non-roster invitee in spring training. Gregg’s ERA in spring training? 6.23. Granted, most of that came in one outing (his final spring outing), but he wasn’t exactly blowing people away in his other outings. In total, he only struck out six batters in nearly nine innings and gave up 14 hits. What about that performance indicated to Bryan Price that Gregg was his best option in the eighth inning?

On top of that, I still can’t figure out why Aroldis Chapman wasn’t in the game in the eighth inning. He hadn’t pitched since April 3 and the Reds have an off day today. At the very least, he should’ve come in to face the Pirates’ best hitter, Andrew McCutchen. Why not counter the other team’s best weapon with your best weapon?

At the end of the day, it was very clear that Gregg is not the man for the setup job. The Reds have Jumbo Diaz and Tony Cingrani, two hard throwers, who would seem better suited for the eighth inning role.

3. Marlon Byrd needs to cut down on his strikeouts

Byrd certainly had a forgettable Reds debut, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. One of the main concerns that many, including myself, had when the Reds traded for Byrd was about his high strikeout numbers over the last several years.

For most of his career, Byrd’s strikeout rate was right around 16 percent every season. Not great, but not terrible either. In 2012, his K% jumped to 20.3 percent and has increased even more the last two seasons.

Last year, Byrd struck out in 29.0 percent of his plate appearances. To put that in perspective, former Red Adam Dunn (third all-time in strikeouts) struck out in 28.6 percent of his PAs in his career. However, Dunn also walked 15.8 percent of the time, which made the strikeout numbers easier to accept. Byrd’s walk percentage last year was 5.5 and is only at 6.3 percent for his career.

To his credit, Byrd said in spring training that one of his goals this season is to cut down his strikeouts and increase his walks. In spring games, Byrd struck out 11 times in 55 plate appearances (20 percent), which is an improvement on his numbers the last two seasons. Hopefully yesterday’s game was just an aberration for the Reds’ new left fielder.

More from Blog Red Machine