Well, it got late awfully early in Cincinnati.
Not even three weeks into the season, the Reds look cooked in 2022. That’s what happens when you lose 13 of your first 15 games, including 11 in a row, like the Reds have. The losing streak ended Sunday when top pitching prospect Nick Lodolo outdueled Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals in a 4-1 victory, but that does little to alter the forecast for the summer.
There have been 25 previous occasions in Major League Baseball history in which a team lost at least 13 of its first 15 games. Only one team, the 1916 Giants, finished the season with a winning record. Only one team, the 1973 Cardinals, which broke even at 81-81, finished as high as fourth place. Fifteen times, teams with at least 13 losses in their first 15 games ended up last.
The Reds have some experience with that. Just four seasons ago, in 2018, they lost 13 of their first 15 and finished last in the National League Central with a 67-95 record. The 1931 Reds also went 2-13 and ended up 58-96, also last.
The team known as the Big Red Machine in its glory days is Broke Beyond Repair in 2022. The team batting average entering play on Sunday was a major-league worst .186. In the last 50 years, only one team has had a lower average through its first games. That would be the 2003 Tigers, who lost 119 games.
Cincinnati also began the day last in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored. Their 39 runs were their fewest in 15 games since the 1945 Reds scored 40. And that team was playing during World War II.
On Sunday against the Cardinals, the Reds snapped a streak in which they scored two or fewer runs in eight consecutive games. They avoided tying the club record of nine straight, set in 1992.
Joey Votto, a six-time All-Star and former National League MVP, has a .151 average, the worst start of his career, and is still looking for his first home run. It’s only the second time in his career he has gone this deep into the season without a home run. Incredibly, six of Votto’s teammates are off to a worse start. Reds right-fielder Aristides Aquino is batting .053 (2 for 38), with 21 strikeouts and two walks in his 40 plate appearances.
It’s not as if the Reds are hitting into bad luck. Entering Sunday, their hard-hit percentage was an MLB-low 29.6 with an exit velocity of 86.3 mph that also ranks last, according to Statcast.
The pitching? The team ERA is 5.40, just ahead of the Nationals’ major-league worst 5.41, and the staff is issuing the most walks per nine innings (4.73). Nine pitchers on the Reds roster have less than one year’s service time.
It’s not as if no one saw this coming. Last year, the Reds finished third in the National League Central with an 83-79 record, but they allowed slugger Nick Castellanos to pursue free agency, traded Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart to the Tigers and lost lefty Wade Miley to the Cubs on waivers. The departures accelerated after the lockout, as general manager Nick Krall, who declared the team needed to “align payroll to our resources,” traded pitcher Sonny Gray, left fielder Jesse Winker, infielder Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Amir Garrett.
Cincinnati received a couple of top-10 prospects in return (pitchers Chase Petty and Brandon Williamson), but that’s help for down the line. The Reds also have 11 players on the injured list, including Rookie of the Year second baseman Jonathan India (who’s due to come off the IL on Tuesday), 2021 Opening Day starter Luis Castillo, catcher Tyler Stephenson, top prospect infielder Jose Barrero and second baseman Donovan Solano. Those are not insignificant losses.
“It’s not an excuse. It’s just a fact,” Reds manager David Bell told reporters on Sunday. “We’re missing key guys we care a lot about on this team and are significant parts of this team. That affects everyone. Our focus is getting those back as quick as we can and winning games until that happens.”
But for too long, sustained success has been absent from Cincinnati, despite the pledge from owner Bob Castellini when he bought the club in 2006. “We’re buying the Reds to win. Anything less is unacceptable,” he said in January 2006.
The Reds have gone to the playoffs four times under Castellini and lost all four postseason series, dropping nine out of 11 October games. They have not won in the playoffs since Lou Piniella guided them to a four-game sweep of Oakland in the 1990 World Series.
Patience is wearing thin. A group of fans bought a billboard on the interstate urging Castellini to sell the team. His son Nick, the team’s CEO, caused a furor a couple of weeks ago when he chided the fans by saying “Well, where are you gonna go?,” “Sell the team to who?” and “Be careful what you wish for.” He later issued an apology through the team’s PR staff, but the reality is the Castellini family hasn’t delivered. And they won’t be delivering in 2022.
MLB Power Rankings
The Dodgers remain on top, with the Mets leapfrogging the Giants into the No. 2 spot. The top 10's biggest climber was the Brewers, who moved up to ninth from 19th. The White Sox, after their 0-6 week, fell from fourth to 21st.
|1. Dodgers (11-4)||1st||+44||.737 (6th)||2.22 (1st)||4-2 (2-1 vs. ATL, 2-1 at SD)|
|2. Mets (12-5)||3rd||+32||.736 (7th)||2.78 (4th)||5-2 (3-1 vs. SF, 2-1 at ARI)|
|3. Giants (11-5)||2nd||+37||.697 (13th)||2.51 (2nd)||3-4 (1-3 at NYM, 3-0 at WAS)|
|4. Blue Jays (10-6)||5th||+6||.727 (8th)||3.43 (14th)||4-2 (2-1 at BOS, 2-1 at HOU)|
|5. Yankees (10-6)||9th||+14||.694 (14th)||2.53 (3rd)||6-1 (2-1 at DET, 3-0 vs. CLE)|
|6. Rockies (10-5)||10th||+1||.759 (2nd)||4.33 (23rd)||4-2 (2-1 vs. PHI, 2-1 at DET)|
|7. Mariners (10-6)||12th||+18||.739 (5th)||2.96 (6th)||6-1 (2-1 vs. TEX, 3-0 vs. KC)|
|8. Cardinals (9-5)||6th||+19||.693 (15th)||2.88 (5th)||4-2 (2-1 at MIA, 2-1 at CIN)|
|9. Brewers (10-6)||19th||-2||.609 (27th)||3.28 (9th)||5-1 (3-0 vs. PIT, 2-1 at PHI)|
|10. Padres (10-7)||15th||+6||.666 (16th)||3.52 (15th)||4-2 (3-0 vs. CIN, 1-2 vs. LAD)|
|11. Angels (9-7)||7th||+7||.750 (3rd)||4.18 (22nd)||3-3 (2-1 at HOU, 1-2 vs. BAL)|
|12. Rays (9-7)||16th||+8||.708 (11th)||3.43 (14th)||4-2 (2-1 at CHC, 2-1 vs. BOS)|
|13. Athletics (9-8)||14th||+9||.619 (23rd)||3.31 (10th)||4-3 (3-1 vs. BAL, 1-2 vs. TEX)|
|14. Twins (8-8)||24th||+2||.661 (17th)||3.38 (12th)||5-2 (1-0 at BOS, 1-2 at KC, 3-0 vs. CHW)|
|15. Guardians (7-8)||18th||+13||.749 (4th)||3.62 (16th)||3-3 (3-0 vs. CHW, 0-3 at NYY)|
|16. Braves (7-10)||13th||-14||.722 (10th)||4.59 (25th)||2-4 (1-2 at LAD, 1-2 vs. MIA)|
|17. Red Sox (7-9)||8th||-6||.626 (22nd)||3.66 (19th)||2-5 (0-1 vs. MIN, 1-2 vs. TOR, 1-2 at TB)|
|18. Astros (7-8)||11th||-8||.647 (19th)||3.65 (18th)||2-4 (1-2 vs. LAA, 1-2 vs. TOR)|
|19. Marlins (7-8)||20th||+1||.707 (12th)||3.41 (13th)||3-3 (1-2 vs. STL, 2-1 at ATL)|
|20. Cubs (7-9)||17th||+19||.774 (1st)||4.11 (21st)||2-5 (1-2 vs. TB, 1-3 vs. PIT)|
|21. White Sox (6-9)||4th||-18||.615 (24th)||4.08 (20th)||0-6 (0-3 at CLE, 0-3 at MIN)|
|22. Pirates (8-8)||23rd||-28||.648 (18th)||5.02 (27th)||3-4 (0-3 at MIL, 3-1 at CHC)|
|23. Phillies (6-10)||21st||-11||.726 (9th)||4.73 (26th)||2-4 (1-2 at COL, 1-2 vs. MIL)|
|24. Tigers (6-9)||22nd||-5||.640 (20th)||3.22 (8th)||2-4 (1-2 vs. NYY, 1-2 vs. COL)|
|25. D’backs (6-10)||28th||-18||.612 (25th)||3.36 (11th)||3-4 (2-2 at WAS, 1-2 vs. NYM)|
|26. Orioles (6-10)||30th||-13||.595 (29th)||3.17 (7th)||3-4 (1-3 at OAK, 2-1 at LAA)|
|27. Rangers (5-10)||27th||-7||.638 (21st)||5.08 (28th)||3-3 (1-2 at SEA, 2-1 at OAK)|
|28. Royals (5-9)||25th||-24||.608 (28th)||4.57 (24th)||2-4 (2-1 vs. MIN, 0-3 at SEA)|
|29. Nationals (6-12)||26th||-38||.610 (26th)||5.41 (30th)||2-5 (2-2 vs. ARI, 0-3 vs. SF)|
|30. Reds (3-13)||29th||-41||.539 (30th)||5.40 (29th)||1-5 (0-3 at SD, 1-2 vs. STL)|