Cincinnati Reds: Is Derek Johnson the key to success in 2020?

MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27: Pitching coach Derek Johnson #36 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27: Pitching coach Derek Johnson #36 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Reds fans will Derek Johnson can build off last year’s success.

Whether we see baseball in 2020 is still very much up in the air, though it appears as though some progress was made yesterday. If the Cincinnati Reds are going to be contenders, it may not be a player, but a coach who’ll be the key to the team’s success. How well pitching coach Derek Johnson  performs could have a great deal to do with the success or failure of the Reds in 2020.

The Reds best signing in years wasn’t even a player. Cincinnati was able to steal top pitching coach, Derek Johnson, away from a division rival Milwaukee after three impressive years where the team’s ERA dropped (2016-2018) from 4.08 to 3.73. That came after his amazing college coaching career as pitching coach of Vanderbilt where he coached many future big-league studs.

Johnson had a big impact on guys in the rotation such as his former college pitcher Sonny Gray and Reds ace  Luis Castillo. Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo showed amazing improvement while also grabbing All-Star bids. Gray dropped his ERA from, 4.90 in 2018 to 2.87 last season, and Castillo saw his ERA decrease from 4.30 in 2018 to 3.40 while going 15-8.

In addition to the one-two punch of Castillo and Gray, Johnson will be reconnected with former Brewers southpaw, Wade Miley. Who had a great bounce-back year with Johnson in 2018. Miley went 5-2 in 16 games and dropped his ERA from 5.61 in 2017 to 2.57.

Anthony DeSclafani showed tremendous improvement. Pithing in 10 more games than he did in 2018, the right-hander finished in the Top 20 in both strikeouts and ERA in the National League while going 9-9.

It’s not just the starters that improved, it was the whole staff. The Reds pitching staff improved from a 4.63 ERA in 2018 to a 4.18 team-ERA and in 2019. That’s extremely impressive, especially for a team that was struggling for pitching help the past few years.

The one question mark is Trevor Bauer. Despite his struggles in Cincinnati last year, Bauer has the makeup of an ace. He’s also being paid like one, after signing a $17.5M contract last offseason. Hopefully Johnson and Bauer can form a solid bond and see the right-hander return to his All-Star form.

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Johnson’s résumé speaks for itself. If baseball returns in the coming weeks, a slow start from the offense could be mitigated by the brilliant work or Johnson and the pitching staff. Johnson is patient, consistent, and just good at what he does. While some may look at this as an asterisk season, it could be a very memorable one for the Cincinnati Reds.