Krall ponders a potential turnaround for Reds

May 15th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PHOENIX -- In a season that came with postseason expectations, the Reds’ struggles have seen them plummet below a .500 record and sink further away from their autumn aspirations.

After Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks, they are 18-24, but with just a 4-14 record over their last 18 games.

Cincinnati was 16-14 at the end of April despite not having and because of injuries, and losing to an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. A steep offensive downturn has also contributed to the club's troubles.

This week, I spoke to Reds president of baseball operations Nick Krall about the club's performance and what can be done to turn things around.

Some answers have been edited for length and clarity. What is your level of concern right now?

Krall: It’s the middle of May. We haven’t had TJ, Marte or McLain most of the year and Christian [Encarnacion-Strand], obviously, is newer. I know it’s cliché, we’ve just got to take this one game at a time and try to keep grinding at-bats out and scratching in some runs. We’re six under .500 and our run differential is [-2]. We’ve played better than where we are, but hey, your record is your record, and you have to figure out how to dig out of it. Besides the injuries, there’s been struggles offensively, defensive miscues, mistakes on the bases, etc.

Krall: I’ll start with the baserunning. We’ve got an aggressive baserunning team, but that also leads to positive outcomes. You might get thrown out on the bases. If you statistically look at it, we’ve got the best baserunning team in baseball. It’s hard to say you don’t want to have an out and you don’t want to be aggressive, but you want to score runs. That’s tough. From an offensive standpoint, we’ve had some ups and downs. It is hard to miss three of your best on-base guys and three guys that can play in the middle of the diamond -- both defensively and offensively -- who take quality at-bats. That’s just tough. … Hopefully this is just a bad stretch and we come out of it. Starting in mid-May last year, you started having players come up, like McLain, , Encarnacion-Strand and others. Is it tougher going through this stretch knowing there are not a cavalcade of guys you can bring up to change the direction of how things are going?

Krall: You look at your pitchers and those are the guys that are going to carry us. And you’ve got to figure out how to scratch out enough runs to win games. Is Marte too inexperienced to look at him as a boost to your team when he does come back from suspension?

Krall: No. He plays really good defense at third base, he can back up at shortstop. He’s got the speed to play second base. He has a chance to add a quality at-bat. Is he going to be the be-all, end-all? No. We have got to play better as a team. The Trade Deadline is still far away, but it is more motivating now to try to make trades? Is there more urgency to make a deal?

Krall: I think the right trade would be great to make -- but it’s got to be the right trade. We’ve got to make sure we’re not making a trade just to make a trade and put somebody here and put somebody there. We have to make sure we’re balancing what’s smart and right as opposed to, "Hey, we’re making a trade just to make a trade." It doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re giving up prospects just to get [somebody] similar. Anything happening on the field that you’re happy with?

Krall: First off, our pitching staff has been tremendous this year. Starting pitching has been really good. We've had guys in the rotation go down and [Nick] Martinez has stepped in. We’ve had some guys pitch real well at Triple-A [Louisville] that have come up and helped us. We’ve had some real tough decisions to make, but our pitching staff has been lights out most of the year. We’ve run the bases pretty well. We’ve taken some pretty good at-bats. We haven’t overly chased balls. We’re still grinding at-bats. You have low chase rates but still a high strikeout rate as a team. Why is that?

Krall: David [Bell, the manager] and I were talking about this. When you look at how you’ve been pitched, opposing pitchers have done a great job of living on the corners -- both in and out. It’s really affected where we are.