The Reds Are On Pace To Be Historically Bad

Image credit: Tyler Stephenson (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

When the Reds lost a game in which they didn’t allow a hit Sunday, it marked another low point in a season quickly becoming full of them.

The Reds are 9-26, a .257 winning percentage. That equates to a 42-120 record over 162 games, which would be worse than the 2003 Tigers (43-119) and tie the 1962 Mets (40-120) for most losses in a season.

While there is still a lot of season left to be played, the Reds are tracking to be every bit as bad as those 2003 Tigers and 1962 Mets, the two worst teams since integration.

Through the first 35 games of the season, the Reds are 9-26 with a minus-65 run differential. The 2003 Tigers were 8-27 with a minus-63 run differential. The 1962 Mets were 12-23 with a minus-50 run differential.

Yes, the 2022 Reds have a worse record and worse run differential through the same point of the season as the 1962 Mets, and are only one game better with a worse run differential than the 2003 Tigers. And that’s with the Reds winning five of their last eight.

That the Reds are in this place is not a coincidence. Their showing comes after 18 months of salary dump trades and transactions that effectively strip-mined the roster. While the Reds are hardly the first team to shed payroll and tank, the lack of talent they received in return for their veterans is startling.

  • For standout closer Raisel Iglesias, the Reds received reliever Noe Ramirez and minor league infielder Leonardo Rivas. Ramirez was released before ever throwing a pitch for the Reds and Rivas, who was not a Top 30 prospect in a bottom-tier Angels farm system, is currently batting .210 in a repeat season at Double-A.
  • For Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart, the Reds received minor league infielder Nick Quintana, who did not rank among the Tigers’ Top 30 prospects and has hit .193 in his minor league career without advancing past the Class A levels.
  • For starting pitcher Wade Miley, the Reds received nothing after putting him on waivers following a season in which he led the team in ERA.
  • For starting pitcher Sonny Gray, the Reds received pitching prospect Chase Petty, an undersized, hard-throwing righthander recently drafted in the first round out of high school. A pitcher of Gray’s stature being dealt one-for-one for a hard-throwing, undersized high school righthander—the riskiest profile in baseball—would have been shocking enough, but the Reds even threw in another prospect in the deal, hard-throwing reliever Francis Peguero.
  • For all-star outfielder Jesse Winker and starting third baseman Eugenio Suarez, the Reds finally received some semblance of a top prospect, acquiring Top 100 lefthander Brandon Williamson and hard-throwing righthander Connor Phillips, who ranked in the top half of a top-ranked Mariners farm system. They also received career. 186-hitting outfielder Jake Fraley and righthander Justin Dunn, who was coming off a season-ending shoulder strain last year and promptly suffered another shoulder injury in spring training.

For two starting pitchers, three starters in the lineup and their closer, the Reds received one Top 100 prospect, two organization Top 30 prospects and little else. 

Rarely has a team traded away so much and received so little in return.

For comparison, the A’s similarly tore down this past offseason, trading first baseman Matt Olson, third baseman Matt Chapman and starting pitchers Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea. In return, the A’s received two Top 100 prospects (catcher Shea Langeliers and outfielder Cristian Pache) and nine team Top 30 prospects (righthanders Ryan Cusick, J.T. Ginn, Gunnar Hoglund, Joey Estes, Adrian Martinez and Adam Oller, lefthander Zach Logue and infielders Kevin Smith and Euribiel Angeles).


When asked in an April radio interview on 700 WLW-AM why Reds fans should maintain trust in ownership and the direction of the team, team president and COO Phil Castellini responded:

“Well, where are you gonna go? Let’s start there … if you want to have this debate, you know, if you want to look at what would you do with this team to have it be more profitable, make more money, compete more in that current economic system that this game exists, it would be to pick it up and move it somewhere else. And so be careful what you ask for.”

Castellini followed up in a television interview on WLWT Channel 5 later that day, saying:

“Well, then the answer is, are you going to abandon being a Reds fan? Are you going to abandon following this team? We haven’t abandoned it. We haven’t abandoned investing in the team and the community. So the point is, how about everybody just settle down and celebrate and cheer for the team? You can hate on us all you want. We’re not going anywhere. We haven’t abandoned our commitment to winning and investing in this franchise and in this community. So the point is, stay tuned and be a fan celebrate these guys … ”

The Reds have given their fans little to celebrate in the month since those words were spoken. Entering Tuesday, they are on pace to be one of the worst teams in major league history.

There is hope they can avoid that fate. The 1988 Orioles famously began 0-21 and went on to finish 54-107, finishing in last place but avoiding a historically bad record. Top starter Luis Castillo recently came off the injured list while franchise icon Joey Votto and reigning National League rookie of the year Jonathan India are due to return soon from the IL. Heralded rookie righthander Hunter Greene took a big step forward with 7.1 hitless innings against the Pirates in his last start and blossoming young catcher Tyler Stephenson is heating up after a so-so beginning to the season.

But even so, the Reds are more than one or two pitchers and one or two hitters away from turning their season around.

The Reds’ 6.04 ERA is worst in baseball by more than a full run. Their lineup is batting .216 with a .641 OPS, both of which rank 25th or worse out of the 30 teams.

A little over one-fifth of the way through the season, the Reds have not just been bad—they have been historically bad.

There is little hope the franchise can look forward to in 2022. The only question now is if the Reds can get off their current track and avoid joining the 2003 Tigers and 1962 Mets as one of the worst teams of the modern era.

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