The 2019 season was one of triumph and tribulation for Derek Dietrich. What grade can we put on the enigmatic season of the Cincinnati Reds slugger?
This may be one of the hardest grades to hand out for Blog Red Machine‘s Year in Review. As we look back on the performances of the 2019 Cincinnati Reds, there’s no way you can omit what we saw from Derek Dietrich during the first two months of the season. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can unsee the debacle that befell him over the second half of the season.
Was there a bigger moment during the entire season than the Opening Day go-ahead pinch-hit home run from Derek Dietrich? I’ve racked my brain and cannot come with a single moment that was more iconic than that during the 2019 Reds season.
With Tucker Barnhart and José Iglesias aboard and the Reds knotted at two runs apiece with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Dietrich stepped to the plate in place of Zach Duke and launched a 2-1 pitch into the seats in right center field. As Dietrich rounded the bases, pumping his fist in jubilation, the sold out crowd at Great American Ball Park went bananas.
Dietrich emerged from the dugout following his trip around the bases, tipped his cap to the fans and roared while beating his chest in excitement. The Reds would go on to win the game 5-3. Unfortunately, that was all the Reds fans had to cheer about for the first couple weeks of the season, as the team went on an eight-game losing streak.
But you can’t lay any of that at the feet of Double-D. In fact, in the first nine games of the season, Dietrich belted three home runs, including one he stared down at PNC Park which incited a riot on the field, and also slugged .682. Dietrich was the only member of the Reds doing anything early on.
That trend continued for the first two months of the season, as Dietrich took Major League Baseball by storm. With his gold chains and a bit of swagger, Dietrich dominated the headlines in April and May. In fact, Dietrich had an OPS of 1.073 after the first 54 games of the season and sent 12 balls out of the park during the month of May, including a three-homer game on the 28th.
But, Dietrich’s time at the top was short-lived. After receiving his fifteen minutes of fame, the 30-year-old came crashing back to earth with a resounding thud. From June 1st until his final game in September, Dietrich slashed .117/.294/.227 with just 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. Dietrich was hit by 17 pitches during that span, which is two more times than he reached base via a walk or base hit.
What happened to Derek Dietrich? I for one believe it was more related to his health rather than an adjustment made by opposing pitchers. While Dietrich was wildly swinging at breaking balls out of the strike zone, he also went on the IL twice with shoulder problems, the latter ending in arthroscopic surgery.
In the end, Dietrich ended his 2019 with a .187 batting average, 19 home runs and 43 RBIs. Also, despite a dismal end to the season, Dietrich still owned an OPS+ of 100 in 2019 and a .462 slugging percentage.
Does Derek Dietrich deserve a second chance? I for one say yes, but being in the final year of arbitration, it’s hard to the Cincinnati Reds front office bringing him back at the figure he’d likely receive. Perhaps the two sides can work out a mutually beneficial deal with incentives that will give Dietrich another chance to dazzle Reds Country in 2020.