Cincinnati Reds: Bryan Price's Smartest Moves of the 2014 Season
It's been a tough first season as manager of the Cincinnati Reds for Bryan Price, but he has made a few very good decisions this season that have kept his team in contention.
Although this is a team that has made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, it's tough to blame Price for the team's "disappointing" season. The team's season is by no means over, but it hasn't been what fans had hoped for. Injuries to nearly every player on the roster have made for some tough times.
Price has made plenty of head-scratching decisions this season, especially during games. However, fans need to give credit where it's due. Without some of the decisions he has made this season, this team wouldn't be above .500.
Keep reading to find out what some of Price's best decisions have been.
Batting Todd Frazier Second
Cincinnati doesn't have a prototypical No. 2 hitter on its roster, so Price has had to try a handful of options in the spot this season. When the team's offense struggled early on, his decision to move Todd Frazier to the second spot was a big reason as to why the team began scoring runs.
The third baseman was hitting only .247, so it wasn't an obvious decision to move him up in the lineup. However, it turned out to be the right option.
In 38 games batting second this year, Frazier is hitting .294 with eight home runs, five doubles and a triple. He also has a .343 on-base percentage batting in that spot, which helps set the table for the middle of the lineup.
With Billy Hamilton leading off and Frazier right behind him, guys like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce had plenty of at-bats with runners on.
Unfortunately, injuries to Votto and Phillips has forced Price to juggle the lineup again. Frazier was moved out of the second spot and put third. The decision to mess with the top of the lineup, which was producing, didn't make much sense. Frazier is hitting only .265 with a .311 on-base percentage in 28 games batting third this season.
As long as Votto and Phillips are out, the Reds don't have many legitimate options to put in the top half of their lineup. Batting Hamilton and Frazier at the top with Bruce third appears to make the most sense for the time being. The offense has had trouble scoring consistently since the All-Star break, so the manager should consider going back to what was working earlier this season.
Frazier was thriving while hitting second and even made the National League All-Star team for the first time in his career. Moving Frazier right behind Hamilton was a brilliant move by Price, so hopefully the skipper will move the third baseman back up to the second spot.
Choosing Alfredo Simon for the Rotation over Tony Cingrani
Injuries in spring training forced Alfredo Simon to the starting rotation, and without his presence in the rotation, who knows where this team would be right now.
When Mat Latos returned in June, Price had a tough decision to make. Either Simon or Tony Cingrani had to be bumped out of the rotation. Simon's 2014 numbers spoke for themselves. Cingrani had a promising 2013 season but struggled this year (2-8, 4.55 ERA).
Staying with Simon—who had 19 career starts entering 2014—may have been better for this season, but keeping Cingrani in the rotation may have been the better option for the future. Considering this team is built for now, going with Simon was the choice.
Simon is currently 12-7 with a 3.08 ERA. Before the All-Star break, the right-hander posted a 12-3 record with a 2.70 ERA. Those numbers were enough to get him selected to the National League All-Star team.
Price choosing Simon over Cingrani was the right call at the time, but now, the manager may have to make another tough decision. Before this season, Simon had thrown more than 87 innings only once (115.2 innings in 2011) in his career. He is currently at 143 innings through 23 starts.
It was only a matter of time before the increased workload caught up to him. In five starts since the All-Star break, the 33-year-old is 0-4 with a 4.78 ERA in 26.1 innings. He has made it past the fifth inning only once during that stretch.
Price's decision to keep Simon in the rotation gave the Reds one of the deepest rotations in the majors. However, if the veteran is unable to get back to notching quality starts, Price may need to explore other options.
Replacing Joey Votto at First Base with Brayan Pena
When Joey Votto went on the disabled list indefinitely in early July, it left the Reds without a primary first baseman. The team had a few young players in the minors who could play the position, but those bats weren't ready for the majors.
The lack of a primary first baseman put Price in a tough spot. Todd Frazier had played some first base in the past, but it doesn't make sense to move him from his primary position when his replacement would be Ramon Santiago. Price, for whatever reason, decided to give Gold Glove-caliber right fielder Jay Bruce a shot at first base for a couple of games. That experiment went exactly as one might expect.
In the end, Price has pretty much given Brayan Pena—who had very limited experience at the position before this year—the majority of the playing time at the position.
When it came down to it, this team could sacrifice a little bit of defense (Santiago at third) for more offense (Pena at first). The rest of the defense is so good that the Reds could afford to have an inexperienced first baseman. However, Pena has looked fairly strong at the position.
Pena has only one error in 34 games at first base. He may not make every play, but he doesn't botch many plays. He has also shown the ability to pick low throws out of the dirt with ease, which has been the biggest surprise.
The switch-hitting veteran is hitting .277 with five home runs this season. When the Reds lost Votto and Brandon Phillips to injuries in July, Pena stepped up his game. He hit .294 in July and is hitting .444 in August. With a couple of key players out, Pena's bat has to be in the lineup.
Price didn't have many great options for the position. He experimented for a bit and could have continued to rotate players at first base, but he made the right decision in putting Pena there on a daily basis.
*All stats are via MLB.com.