The Reds have somehow been one of the best teams coming out of the All-Star Break, winning all but four series. They came home to play a Rangers team that is coasting to an easy playoff spot and put up a pretty good fight, splitting the two-game set and ultimately the season series. Even though there were only two games, however, there was a lot to learn from this on both sides of the diamond and it deserves a breakdown.
Billy Hamilton should be a gold glover, fielding bible winner, etc; might also be one of the best center fielders to ever play
Since he came into the league, Billy Hamilton has gained a reputation of being the fastest player in baseball, if not one of the fastest in sports. This has unfortunately accompanied a reputation of being a weak hitter. This year, Hamilton has turned that narrative on its head. Reaching base at a .321 clip (a 27-point increase over last year), Hamilton has transformed himself from a defense (and base-stealing) first player into a legitimate all-around weapon. But this should not distract in the slightest from what he has done in the outfield. Because that has been, quite simply put, amazing. And it was on full display against the Rangers both games. First, there was this insane catch that definitely no one else gets to on Tuesday night.
Then, there was the gem that ended an inning and helped keep a close game close. In summary, Billy Hamilton is a marvel, at least when he has a fielding glove on his hand.
Adrian Beltre is a no doubt Hall-of-Famer
Adrian Beltre may have played for a lot of teams over the years, but his greatness should in no way be denied, especially when the time comes for him to get the call from Cooperstown. The guy is 37 and is still turning in great plays and swinging the bat. As long as he refrains from killing Elvis Andrus the next several times he tries to touch his head, Beltre’s (eventual) 3000 hits ought to easily earn him a spot among baseball’s immortals.
Reds pitching remains a mystery
On any given night, the Reds might throw a shutout, like they did on Tuesday. Or they might get blown out of the water with 18 runs like they did on Monday afternoon. The offense has been consistently great since the break with Joey Votto’s seemingly traditional second-half resurgence, but the team has at times been held back by the growing pains of pitchers returning from injury and the turnover resulting from rookies being sent down to the minors. And it does not look like the Reds will have an easier time, even when rosters expand in September. Because with the return of said rookies and the end of the season comes the new potential problems of managing immaturity and innings. The specter of bullpen relegation remains over the heads of Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed (with regard to the latter problem) and Brandon Finnegan (with regard to the former) and the Reds still have not decided on a plan (though the six-man rotation is apparently being considered, as it should). Yu Darvish hitting his first home run to contribute to a five-spot on pleasant surprise, Tim Adleman cannot make the Reds feel much better about their situation.
In conclusion, the Reds are putting an entertaining product on the field most nights, despite the skepticism of most of the fan-base. However, they still have a lot of questions to answer before they can take the next step and translate their recent winning ways into serious playoff contention, as the Rangers did, once again.