Reflecting on Reds Opening Day
Despite the fact that it didn’t officially sell out until just days before the event, the atmosphere at Reds Opening Day was exactly as you would expect. GABP was rocking as usual, and the entire city event still packed the same punch we all know to expect every year. To outsiders that were unaware of the recent controversy surrounding Reds ownership, it would’ve appeared almost as if nothing were wrong. It seemed merely like just another Opening Day, filled with the same excitement as every other year.
In fact, the actual Opening Day attendance ended up being better than even the most optimistic expectations. The Reds brought in a crowd of 44,063, a new Great American Ball Park regular season record. The eye test supported the numbers. The Banks were absolutely packed before the game, and the parade saw a nice crowd as usual. Moving around the concourse at the stadium was a challenge. Concession lines were as long as ever, and they reportedly even began to run out of some food items by the end of the game. Traffic leaving the ballpark was possibly the worst I’ve ever seen.
That being said, it would be a surprise if those crowds become a frequent occurrence this season. Expectations for the team are still low, and crowds will likely be small for the majority of the year as well. Still, it was a refreshing sight to see fans in Cincinnati flock to the stadium for the team’s biggest event, one that even Todd Frazier mentioned that no other team can match.
It was the first “true” Opening Day since 2019 before the pandemic. 2020 of course was a shortened season with no fans in attendance. 2021 still had limited fan capacity, so the atmosphere didn’t seem the same as what we are all familiar with. 2022 saw the season delayed by a lockout, and “Opening Day” was just the Reds’ home opener, rather than their actual first game of the season. 2023 was back to everything we all expected, from the festivities before the game, to the crowd, and getting the whole city truly invested in the event again.
The game itself didn’t exactly go as planned of course, with the Reds falling to the Pirates 5-4. The pitching staff showed some cracks, and the offense showed some mixed results. Still, there’s a lot to be excited about with this team this year, even if the win/loss record may not reflect it in the end.
Meet Reliever Alex Young
Left hander Alex Young is one of eight relievers to have made the Opening Day bullpen. The 29 year old came into the season having pitched parts of four seasons in the Majors for three different teams.
Young began his career in the Arizona organization as a starter, and 23 of his 32 appearances in 2019 and 2020 were as a starter. While his 3.56 ERA in 83 ⅓ innings in 2019 initially seem impressive, his 4.81 FIP and 4.66 xFIP that season painted a quite different picture. Those subpar peripherals quickly caught up to him, and he struggled mightily in 2020 and 2021 at the Major League level.
Young pitched just a third of an inning for Cleveland last season before going to San Francisco and making somewhat a name out of himself in the bullpen. In 26 ⅓ innings with the Giants, he posted a 2.39 ERA, backed by a 2.96 FIP, though his 3.64 xERA and 4.05 xFIP were a bit less optimistic. He struck out batters at a solid but unimpressive 25% rate, while walking far too many hitters, with 16.7% reaching via free pass. He also gave up more than a hit per inning.
Young features primarily three pitches: a curveball, sinker, and changeup. His changeup seems to be universally accepted as a solid pitch, as opponents hit just .209 with a .309 slugging percentage off the pitch last season. Statcast’s xBA and xSLG also support that success. The actual results and the expected results differ with Young’s other two pitches. His sinker was crushed by opponents last season to the tune of a .471 batting average and .706 slugging percentage, though Statcast is much more optimistic with a .277 xBA and .384 xSLG. The curveball was somewhat the same, but to a lesser extent, as his .282 batting average against and .359 slugging percentage against were both worse than the expected numbers.
Young made his first appearance for the Reds on Opening Day, going 1 ⅔ innings, allowing just one walk and recording one strikeout. He did not allow a hit or a run.
Though he certainly isn’t an exciting offseason addition, his past track record indicates at least some potential of becoming a solid bullpen piece for the Reds. He does have fairly drastic platoon splits, with LHH posting a .726 OPS and RHH posting an .842 OPS against him, so Young is certainly better suited for a bullpen role than a starting role at this point in his career.
Featured Image: Twitter
Alex Young Photo: Twitter