Cincinnati Reds: David Bell’s approach is paying huge dividends of late

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 06: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds is greeted by manager David Bell after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ball Park on May 6, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 06: Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds is greeted by manager David Bell after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ball Park on May 6, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell is constantly shuffling the lineup card. While it may be frustrating for fans, it’s hard to argue with the results.

Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell plays to the numbers. While often criticized for it, Bell’s constant shuffling of the lineup has paid dividends lately and it seems as though the players are buying in. Will the fans be next?

When things don’t go as planned, it’s always easy to point to the manager as the reason for the team’s struggles. However, with the the recent success this team has enjoyed, I think it’s time for fans to show some more appreciation to their first-year skipper.

As is often the case on social media, fans vent their consistent frustration when the team is not performing up to par. Usually the manager, not the player, gets the brunt of the blame when something goes awry. However, of late, David Bell seems to be pushing all the right buttons.

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Fans can now expect to see more of Curt Casali behind the plate. Bell announced yesterday that he’s looking to split the catching duties more evening between Casali and Tucker Barnhart. Though Barnhart has struggled at the dish, to me, this is more about Casali earning the opportunity. Casali’s comments, via Reds.com, reflected the belief this team has in their skipper:

"“Obviously as a competitor, I want to play. I feel like I’ve done a good job, but at the end of the day, whoever David decides to roll with behind the plate, I have full faith it will be in the best interest of the club.”"

The move to a more balanced split of the catching duties is just the latest example of Bell’s managerial approach. We’ve seen Bell very regularly pull the starting pitcher before he’s able to face the opposing lineup for a third time. While it drives some parts of the fanbase nuts, last night’s game was a classic example of why Bell does it.

Sonny Gray allowed 1 run on 3 hits through the first 4 innings of last night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Gray labored through those innings with 3 walks as well, including one to the opposing pitcher.

When Gray toed the rubber in the fifth inning, the Brewers teed-off on the Cincinnati Reds’ starter. It began with a five-pitch walk to Ben Gamel, followed by a two-run home run from Christian Yelich. After Yelich’s 29th homer of the season, Gray punched out Lorenzo Cain on three pitches, but then surrendered a home run to Mike Moustatkas and a single to Eric Thames before Bell finally came out to stop the bleeding.

So, while some fans would like to see the starter go six or seven innings every time out, outside of Luis Castillo, that seems very unlikely to happen. Thus the reason why Bell typically carries 14 pitchers and is unafraid to turn to his bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, we’ve seen recently that David Bell has no problem turning to players other than Raisel Iglesias to close out a game. Michael Lorenzen was called upon twice this week to get the final outs of the ninth inning and did so successfully.

While Iglesias voiced his displeasure earlier this season with the way he was used out of the bullpen, both he and Bell seemed to have put that issue aside and Iglesias is being used just as it was described during Spring Training. Iglesias is essentially the ace in the bullpen and Bell is going to use him in high-leverage situations late in ball games.

The shuffling of the lineup has been a constant criticism all season long for Reds’ manager. So many fans have said that the consistent shuffling of the lineup never allows players to get into a groove and that Bell should stick with the same lineup night in and night out.

While I believe there is some truth to getting consistent at-bats, especially for younger players, today’s game is based on numbers and Bell is playing to the numbers. Regardless of who’s riding a hot streak, Bell is going to rely on the lineup that he thinks is going to give his team the best opportunity to win.

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The analytics approach that David Bell and his Cincinnati Reds’ coaching staff have towards the game of baseball is relatively new to the fans in the Queen City. But, it’s hard to argue with the results, especially when the team is riding a 6-game winning streak.