Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Reds

David Bell
is the new manager. He replaces interim skipper Jim Riggleman (64-80), who took over from Bryan Price, who was fired after a 3-15 start last season. Bell’s contract is for 3-years.

For the past two seasons, Bell was the VP of player development in San Francisco. He previously worked as a bench coach with the Cardinals and as a third base coach with the Cubs (2013-17), and also spent four seasons as a minor league manager in the Reds system (2009-12).

A major league infielder with 6 different teams over a 12-year playing career, David is the grandson of former Reds outfielder Gus Bell (1953-61) and the son of former Reds infielder and current front office member Buddy Bell (1985-88).

The Bells are the 5th father-son duo to manager in the majors. Buddy managed in Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City.

The worst contract in baseball belongs to Homer Bailey: 6-yr, $105M.

And the Reds found a taker, shipping him to the Dodgers in Dec. in return for:
Yasiel Puig
Matt Kemp
Alex Wood
Kyle Farmer

Puig’s been an everyday player for the Reds (.212 avg., 7 HR, 22 RBI).

Kemp was released earlier this month (20 G, .200 avg).

Wood is dealing with a lower back issue and has yet to pitch.

Farmer (.231, 5 HR 13 RBI), a natural catcher, has found his way into 30 games, 11 starts, roving around the infield at 1B, 2B & 3B.

After 4-straight years of finishing last in the division, the Reds are more formidable than in years past.

After a Cub-esque (1-8) start to the season, the Reds have rallied with a (17-16) mark.

They’ve committed the 3rd fewest errors in the National League.

Have the 5th best fielding percentage in the NL.

And own a +28 run differential despite a losing record (18-24).

Over the last four years CIN pitching has ranked last in the NL in ERA (4.97) and WHIP (1.42).

That’s completely changed this year.

Entering this series, the Reds rank 1st in the NL in ERA (3.36) … and second in both strikeouts (393) and opponents average (.229).

Luis Castillo, 26, is having a breakout season (4-1, 1.76).

9 starts — 11 ER in 56.1 IP —24 BB, 70 K

2.5 – Castillo
2.1 – Marquez
2.0 – Eflin
2.0 – Corbin
2.0 – Davies
1.9 – Lester

Raisel Iglesias established himself as a top-end closer in 2018:
2.38 ERA

30 saves
Most multi-inning saves in the majors (10)
Most saves of 5 or more outs (12) … 2nd was Josh Hader (7)

Iglesias has struggled some in 2019:
(1-5, 4.12 ERA)

18 H in 19.2 IP
8/10 in save opportunities

Joey Votto, 35, is off to a terrible start:

.680 OPS
4 HR, 8 RBI

And remains under contract with the Reds through 2023.

Eugenio Suarez, 27, third base.

Led CIN last season in HR, RBI, Slugging & OPS.

He’s right there again this year:

.252 avg., 12 HR, 26 RBI, .883 OPS

Suarez is nearing the class of KB and Nolan Arenado at the hot corner.

Scooter Gennett, 60-day IL, exited a spring game in late March after suffering a right groin strain. The 2018 All-Star could return following this year’s All-Star break.

Nick Senzel, 23, Reds 1st Rd pick in 2016.

A top prospect in the organization since his arrival.

A natural 3B/IF, Senzel has transitioned to outfield duties in LF & CF.

Tuesday (0-3, BB, K) marked his 11th game in the majors.

Turner Ward … first season with Cincinnati as hitting coach … held same position with Dodgers from 2016-18.

Derek Johnson … first season with Cincinnati as pitching coach … held same position with Milwaukee from 2016-18 … first professional coaching position was minor league pitching coordinator for the Cubs from 2013-15.

Delino DeShields … 11th seasons in the organization … his first on the Major League staff … previous 10 seasons were in player development; eight as a manager:

Rookie League (2010)
Single-A (2011-12)
Double-A (2013-14)
Triple-A (2015-17)

Spent last season as the Reds roving bunting and base running instructor … his son, Delino Jr., was a 1st Rd pick of the Astros in 2010 … made his MLB debut with the Rangers in 2015 … has played all five seasons with Texas … daughter, Diamond, 1st Rd pick of WNBA Chicago Sky in 2018.

This year marks the sesquicentennial of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first all-salaried team in baseball history. To celebrate, the Reds will wear commemorative patches on their jerseys and caps and will feature 15 throwback uniforms to be worn at various home games throughout the season.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Cardinals

The Cardinals are trying to break a string of missing the postseason in three consecutive seasons, which hasn’t happened since 1997-99.

That failure led to another rare event in St. Louis: for the first time in two decades the club fired a manager mid-season, replacing Mike Matheny with a former scout-turned-coach, Mike Shildt.

Shildt, who has managed at three different minor league levels in the organization, finished the 2018 campaign (41-28) and later signed a two-year extension.

With a new manager, and two aging stars (Yadier Molina & Adam Wainwright) nearing the end of their contracts — and their careers — St. Louis went big this offseason trading for Paul Goldschmidt (later signed to a 6-yr extension) and signing Andrew Miller.

Goldschmidt, the six-time All-Star, is off to a promising start:
9 HR, 19 RBI
128 OPS+

Miller has struggled:
5.56 ERA through 11.1 IP.

The Cards posted the lowest starter-ERA in the division last year. This season the rotation of Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Michale Wacha, and Dakota Hudson have started every game except one (Daniel Ponce de Leon).

Bullpen arms John Brebbia, John Gant and closer Jordan Hicks have formed a formidable threesome having combined to allow 6 runs in 51.0 IP. Miller, meanwhile, has allowed 7 ER in 11.1 IP, including 4 HR.

Through five seasons in St. Louis second baseman Kolton Wong has played alongside nine different shortstops. Paul DeJong, 25, is the latest, and appears to be the staple going forward having signed a 6-yr extension.

DeJong missed six weeks in 2018 due to a fractured hand. He’s rebounded in a big way this year leading the team in hits (41) and doubles (14) …
5 HR, 13 RBI

Wong and DeJong are also the team leaders in WAR:
DeJong (2.1)
Wong (1.5)

Last year was miserable all-around for Dex. A fractured foot ended his season prematurely; and off the field speculation raised questions about his commitment to his craft.

So far so good in 2019. Fowler ranks third on the team in WAR (1.2) ahead of Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter and Molina.

2015 CHC 156 17 46 84 154 .250 .346 109
2016 CHC 125 13 48 79 124 .276 .393 123
2017 STL 118 18 64 63 101 .264 .363 122
2018 STL 90 8 31 38 75 .180 .278 59
2019 STL 26 1 7 12 20 .313 .415 127

Matt Carpenter, 33, who’s already achieved All-Star status at three different infield spots, has settled into a full-time role at 3B with the arrival of Goldschmidt. He’s played well defensively, but his bat lags behind from what was an MVP-level run in 2018:
36 HR
81 RBI
OPS+ 143

Carpenter through 29 games and 130 plate appearances this season:
.202 avg.
3 HR

Carpenter recorded one of the franchise’s greatest offensive games ever on July 20 last year at Wrigley Field:
3 HR
2 2B
4 R

Despite a nagging right shoulder, Marcell Ozuna, 28, played 148 games last year in his first season in St. Louis hitting .325, 23 HR, 88 RBI. With the shoulder repaired during the offseason, Ozuna has returned to his All-Star form leading the club in HR (10), RBI (29) and OPS+ (163).

There’s a ton of bench depth on the Cards roster led by slugger Jose Martinez; Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill and Jed Gyorko are all capable starters with plenty of pop. Pitchers Goivanny Gallegos, Tyler Webb and Ponce de Leon are all serviceable swing-men. Former All-Star Carlos Martinez is expected to return later this month; and setup man Luke Gregerson could return as soon as Saturday.

Yadi Molina, 36, started 27 consecutive games behind the plate last season, a new record for catchers older than 35.

Cardinals’ first basemen committed the most errors in the majors last season (20); Paul Goldschmidt (3 x Gold Glove winner) has committed 19 errors since 2015.

The Triple-A Memphis Redbirds have won consecutive Pacific Coast League titles.

Since the beginning of 2016, the Cardinals have spent a grand total of 22 days in first place in the NL Central, one day longer than the Reds (21) during that span.

Currently leading the Central entering Friday’s game (20-11), the Cards have spent 19 days in first place this season.

St. Louis has the third-best run differential in the NL (+35), trailing LAD (+36) and the Cubs (+38) … STL has not been shut out this year … and are (8-2) in their last 10 games.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Mariners

Was the last time the Mariners reached the postseason. It’s the longest active playoff drought in MLB; and would also qualify in the NFL, NBA, and NHL. Surprisingly, the M’s 253 wins are the fifth most in the American League during the past three seasons.

The year Seattle opened Safeco Field. The Safeco name is no longer after the insurance company decided not to renew its agreement with the club. The park’s now called T-Mobile Park — at least for the next 25 seasons.

Is when GM Jerry Dipoto began chopping older, expensive players from his 25-man roster. He made nine trades that moved players the likes of Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, Alex Colome, and Mike Zunino.

Is when Dipoto signed 27-year-old Yusei Kikuchi — one of Japan’s top pitchers. The lefty has 4 quality starts in 7 outings, but has allowed 17 ER in 33.2 IP, including multiple home runs allowed on three occasions.

Mike Leake has pitched 7 consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts and 50 or fewer walks — a feat matched only by Greg Maddux who pitched 13 such seasons consecutively.

Now in his 15th season, Hernandez makes his third career start against the Cubs on Tuesday; the last one coming at Wrigley Field in 2016. Hernandez has pitched to a 3.91 ERA in 5 starts covering 25.1 IP; he’s struck out 21 and walked only 3.

The Mariners lead all of baseball with 59 HR.

9 – Bruce
8 – Vogelbach
7 – Encarnacion
7 – Haniger
6 – Beckham
6 – Santana
5 – Healy
5 – Narvaez

La Crosse, WI native, Scott Servais, played his college ball at Creighton under then head coach (and former Cubs GM) Jim Hendry and eventually would play for the Cubs from 1995-to-98. He began his coaching career as the Cubs Roving Catching Instructor in 2003-04.

This is Servais’s fourth season skippering the Mariners, and he received a multi-year contract extension last July while the team was in the thick of the postseason race. Despite finishing with 89 wins last year, their highest win total in 15 seasons, the M’s ended up third in the AL West.

Seattle (18-13) jumped out to an impressive 13-2 start this year, but are 5-11 since; and scheduling appears to have a lot to do with it. The M’s are 18-5 against clubs with a losing record and 0-8 against teams with a winning one.

The discrepancy in win-loss records is one reason why we should expect Seattle to be sellers at the trade deadline. And there’s plenty of name value that will potentially end up on the trading block: King Felix, Edwin Encarnacion, Dee Gordon, Mike Leake, and others of course…

Jim Brower is in his first season as the M’s bullpen coach … the previous two seasons he was the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator.

Mike Cameron recently joined the staff as a Special Assignment coach. He’ll work with the club’s minor leaguers on defense and base running, two areas in which Cameron shined during his playing days with Seattle (2000-2003).

Ichiro retired following the Mariners opening series in Japan (a perfect sayonara). He currently resides in his home country but is expected to rejoin the Mariners organization as a Special Assistant to the Chairman.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Dodgers


It’s been 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series. But for the past half decade they’ve been knocking at the door having averaged 94 wins per year and winning six consecutive division titles; they’ve reached the NLCS in three consecutive seasons; and were painfully close to snapping the championship drought the past two years, losing two consecutive World Series: Houston in 7 games and the Red Sox in 5 games.

The Dodgers (15-9) enter Tuesday’s series at Wrigley Field with the best record in the National League … winners of 7 of their past 8 games … having scored the most runs (136) in the NL … The pitching staff is second in the NL in avg. against (.231) and strikeouts (209).

Dave Roberts is in his fourth season as the Dodgers manager and signed a 4-yr contract extension in the offseason … He was the first skipper in Dodgers history to lead the club to the postseason in his first three seasons … Won the NL Manager of the Year Award in 2016 and finished second in the voting in 2017. Roberts has been staunchly loyal, perhaps to a fault, to an analytics approach to his (or the front office’s) daily lineups … no manager called for a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement more often than Roberts did in 2018.

Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Yasmani Grandal.

During the past three seasons Clayton Kershaw has averaged 25 starts and 162 innings … his fastball tops out in the low 90s, and the past two years he’s been prone to allowing the long ball (40).

The Dodgers have an ace-in-the-making in Walker Buehler and three established starters to round out the rotation: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda & Rich Hill (Hill’s nearing a return from an MCL strain) … 2018 All-Star Ross Stripling is a solid swing-man … as is former top prospect, Julio Urias, who has successfully returned from shoulder surgery to start four games (19.2 IP, 3.66 ERA).

Kenley Jansen converted 38/42 save opportunities last year … but also allowed the most HR of any NL reliever (13) … this season he’s 7/8 in saves and has allowed 2 HR in 11.2 IP … free agent Joe Kelly was signed to a 3-yr deal in the offseason to support Jansen … Pedro Baez and former Cub, Dylan Florio, anchor the middle relief innings.

Cody Bellinger, 23, is having a season for the record books. Through the opening two months, he’s hit 11 home runs and knocked in 28 RBI … He leads the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS … and leads the NL in on-base percentage … he took Josh Hader deep in Milwaukee last week … and for good measure, he’s capable of winning a Gold Glove at first base or right field. Bellinger is a one-man wrecking crew and a clear-cut front-runner to win the NL’s MVP Award.

Justin Turner, 34, recovered from a fractured left wrist last spring to post MVP-level numbers in the second half. He’s slumped much of this season (.260, 0 HR, 8 RBI), and is currently in a 1-for-14 skid with 5 strikeouts.

Max Muncy led the club last season in HR (35), slugging, OPS and OPS+ …
This year: .233 avg., 5 HR, 14 RBI.

Had Corey Seager not succumbed to both Tommy John and hip surgeries last May, Manny Machado to the Dodgers may not have come to fruition in July.

Although Seager is back to full-time duties, he’s off to a somewhat expected slow start offensively: .265 avg, 2 HR, 7 RBI … at least, slow for a player who won the NL’s Silver Slugger Award at shortstop his first two seasons.

The Dodgers have experienced significant turnover in the front office and coaching staff the past two years. Former GM, Farhan Zaidi, now runs baseball operations for the rival Giants; hitting coach Turner Ward departed for Cincinnati; and former third base coach Chris Woodward is in his first season skippering the Rangers … Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, however, is back for his 14th season.

Mark Prior is in his third season as the Dodgers bullpen coach …
Former Cubs catcher (2018), Chris Gimenez, is a first-year game planning coach …
Brant Brown (Cubs OF: 1996-98, 2000) is in his second season as a hitting coach.

Dodger Stadium will host the 2020 All Star Game … It will mark the third midsummer classic to be hosted in Dodgers history, and the second ever at Dodger Stadium.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – D•backs

On Nov. 4, 2016, two days after the Cubs won the World Series, the Diamondbacks named Torey Lovullo manager. In his first season, the D-backs won 93 games, an improvement of 24 victories from the season prior, and Lovullo took home the NL Manager of the Year Award. The following year the club won 9 consecutive series to open the season, but lost momentum in the second half and finished one game above .500. Now in his third season, Lovullo is simply trying to keep his team afloat after losing three of his best players during the offseason: Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollack

Zack Greinke … 3-years, $95.5M remaining on his contract … he’s been better than you might’ve guessed with Arizona: 95 GS, 56 quality starts, 3.53 ERA … his 10.2 WAR over the last two seasons ranks among the league leaders. Robbie Ray … became the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 165 batters in 125 innings or fewer. Zack Godley … finished last season with 15 wins … but also had the highest WHIP 1.45 among NL qualifiers. Luke Weaver … arrived via the Goldschmidt trade. Merrill Kelly … spent the last four years pitching in Korea … he starts Friday’s game at Wrigley. Taijuan Walker … is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and is expected back midseason.

Archie Bradley … has led the majors the past two seasons in holds (61). Yoshihisa Hirano … signed last season as a free agent from Japan … his 32 holds set a franchise rookie record … is vying to be the everyday closer. Andrew Chafin … a lefty specialist who will try to neutralize Rizzo, Schwarber, Heyward, and Descalso.

Adam Jones … 2018: played 145 games; led Orioles in average, hits , doubles, RBI and multi-hit games … elected free agency after the season … no takers until the D-backs signed him—on March 11 … Since joining Arizona, Jones ranks second on the club in runs, hits, HR, RBI, BB, avg., and OBP … What a steal.

Shortstop Nick Ahmed won his first Gold Glove last year. Second baseman Ketel Marte’s bat finally matched his strong defense; he led the NL in triples (12) and set career highs in doubles (33), HR (16) , and RBI (70).

David Peralta had a breakout season in 2018: .293 avg., 30 HR, 87 RBI, .868 OPS … and won the Silver Slugger Award alongside outfielders Christian Yelich and Nick Markakis.

Familiar faces on the coaching staff: Eric Hinske … was the Cubs first base coach in 2014 … and the assistant hitting coach from 2015-17 … spent 2018 as the hitting coach for the Angles … joins the Diamondbacks as their assistant hitting coach. Dave McKay … Spent two seasons as first base coach with the Cubs from 2012-13 … is in his sixth season as the D-backs’ first base coach. Joe Mather … former Cubs outfielder (2012) … is the D-backs Minor League Field/Hitting Coordinator. Dan Haren … started 11 games for the Cubs in 2015 … retired after that season … now serves as the D-backs pitching strategist.

The Diamondbacks reintroduced the bullpen cart in 2018. It turns out they didn’t need to. The only home pitcher to hail a ride was Brad Ziegler, who has since retired. The first ride belonged to Houston’s Collin McHugh; Washington’s Sean Doolittle took advantage on three occasions.

The Diamondbacks (10-9) enter Wrigley having swept the Braves in a three-game set in Atlanta. Probable starters this weekend: RHP Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.79 ERA); Zack Greinke (2-1, 5.79 ERA); Robbie Ray (0-1, 4.64 ERA). A formidable threesome.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Marlins

Let’s get one thing straight. The home run sculpture is gone—and that’s a shame. The monstrosity will eventually be displayed for fan amusement outside the ballpark by 2020. Filling the sculpture void is a multi-tiered deck, complete with a cocktail bar; palm trees and ivy will adorn the left field bleachers; and the once lime-colored outfield walls have been painted blue.

Miami Marlins logos

But that’s not all. The Marlins have an updated logo and new threads to match. The visual re-branding is focused on embracing Miami’s “vibe.” I’m probably in the minority, but I was fond of the rainbow-color theme that’s being replaced; a look, I felt, stood out and was unmistakably Miami. 

Although I do appreciate the return of the marlin logo to the cap, the new color set is too heavy on black and too light on ‘90s teal. If Miami’s “vibe” is the glow of a neon bar sign, the Marlins nailed it. Maybe the new fashion grows on me, maybe not. That’s beside the point. What’s more important is that the Marlins stick with the brand for more than a half-decade instead of consistently reinforcing the perception that the entire organization is perpetually in a destabilized state of re-branding and rebuilding.

Don Mattingly is in his fourth season as manager, and the last year of his contract. Under his guidance, the Marlins are (219-265) and have seen their win total drop in three consecutive seasons: 79, 77, 63. Ownership hasn’t done him any favors. The trade departures of Giancarlo Stanton in December of 2017, and Christian Yelich a month later, left Mattingly with 24 rookie-eligible players in 2018. In the offseason, the Fish lost two reliable bullpen arms (Kyle Barraclough and Brad Ziegler) and failed to re-sign star catcher J.T Realmuto. It’s clear CEO Derek Jeter is committed to a complete rebuild with younger, inexperienced players who are years away from contending, regardless of whether it’s Mattingly at the helm or someone new.

The club did, however, add a couple of aging vets on short-term deals: Curtis Granderson, 38, Sergio Romo, 36, and Neil Walker, 33.

Then there’s Starlin Castro, 29, — part of the return package from the Yankees for Stanton — who’s in his second year in Miami. Castro suited up in 154 games at second (four games as a DH) and slashed .278/.329/.400 with 12 HR, 54 RBI, 48 BB, 124 K. Castro, in the final year of his contract, is likely on the move again via trade come July.

CF Lewis Brinson, 25 — part of the return package from Milwaukee for Yelich — has struggled mightily at the plate. In 382 at-bats last year, he hit .199 avg. with 120 Ks. — an improvement from his .106 avg. in 21 games during his lone season with the Brewers. He’s not one for drawing walks, either: 17 last year and 1 in 57 at-bats this season. All Yelich has done is win the NL MVP Award.

Ichiro’s swan song with the Mariners ended in March with the announcement of his retirement following the conclusion of MLB’s opening series in Japan. During his three-year tenure in Miami (age 41-43 seasons), Ichiro played in 432 games and slashed .256/.315/.325; and, of course, will be forever linked to the Marlins organization for recording his 3,000th career hit (MLB) with the club at Coors Field on August 8, 2016.

The Marlins are (4-12) heading into Monday’s game against the Cubs.

Know Thy Enemy

Know Thy Enemy – Angels

For the first time in 19 years, Mike Scioscia is not the Angels manager. During his tenure the Halos averaged 86 wins, had 12 winning seasons, reached the postseason seven times, and won their lone World Series title. Brad Ausmus takes the reins after managing four seasons in Detroit (.486).

Mike Trout led the majors last year with an 1.088 OPS, 199 OPS+, and a .460 on-base percentage—and improved in every defensive metric.

Last year shortstop Andrelton Simmons won his fourth Gold Glove Award, his fifth Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award, and his sixth consecutive Fielding Bible Award.

Former Cubs Trevor Cahill and Tommy La Stella are in their first seasons with the Angels. Cahill was the Angles Opening Day starter; La Stella is 7-for-38 with 3 HR and 7 RBI.

Garrett Richards and Shohei Ohtani are the tops two arms in the rotation. Neither will throw a pitch this season because both are recovering from Tommy John surgery. Ohtani is nearing a return this season as a designated hitter.

The Angels used 16 different starting pitchers in 2018, the most in franchise history.
All totaled, 60 different players suited up for the Angels last year, also a franchise record.

Albert Pujols, 39, has 3-years, $87M remaining on the contract he signed with the Angels in 2011. This weekend will likely be his last at Wrigley as a player.

It took the Cubs three decades to find a suitable replacement for Ron Santo at third (Aramis Ramirez). The Angels are halfway there in their own pursuit of a third base stalwart  to replace Troy Glaus. Dallas McPherson, Chone Figgins, Alberto Callaspo, David Freese, Yunel Escobar and Luis Valbuena each had a turn. Zack Cozart was supposed to be the guy last year. The Angels 2015 first-round draft pick, Taylor Ward, will get a look this season.