If you would have asked me to do a NL Central mangers power ranking before the start of the 2018 baseball season, it would have gone something like this:

  1. Joe Madden
  2. Craig Counsell
  3. Clint Hurdle
  4. Mike Matheny
  5. Bryan Price

This sort of arbitrary exercise comes with a lot of qualifiers, but I’ve always been of the mindset shared by Our Esteemed Creator John Fleming:

Yes, indeed, all managers are bad. My ranking places Joe Maddon first not necessarily because of his managerial prowess, but mainly because he happened to screw up a lot less than everyone else in being the most recent NL Central manager to win a World Series. The fact that he had a impossibly talented team didn’t hurt either.

Still, you will have noticed that 40 percent of the above ranked names are no longer employed. And as luck would have it, their two replacements will be squaring off this week.

Since Jim Riggleman took over the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse, the Red Stockings are 35-34, a big improvement over the horrific tenure of Bryan Price, but not enough to drag them out of the Central’s cellar. Being swept in their first post-ASG series against the Pirates surely didn’t help. But, lucky for them, they will be playing host to the team currently trending toward the aforementioned cellar, our dearly beloved St. Louis Cardinals, led by the division’s newest manager Mike Shildt.

The Reds are working to salvage another seemingly lost season, and aren’t doing too shabby a job under their new leader. And the Cardinals are working to fight their way to the top of a crowded National League playoff picture, sitting 8.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot. And under Mike Shildt… well, it’s still too early to tell. Certainly this three-game set at the beginning of the week will give us all a better idea of where these two teams are headed.

My usual method of previewing a series is to examine the pitching matchups and opposing lineup. I’m going to continue this format, but in an abbreviated way. At this point in the season, there’s very little we can learn about the Reds. So lets just take a look at what the Reds have accomplished since last these two teams met.

  • Luis Castillo (vs. Daniel Poncedeleon, Monday): This will be Castillo’s first start since facing the Cardinals nine days ago before the All Star break. He went 5 innings, giving up 2 runs.
  • Homer Bailey (vs. Austin Gomber, Tuesday): Bailey will be making his first start in nearly 2 months on Tuesday after missing time due to a knee injury. When he was injured, Bailey had posted a -0.5 fWAR with a 6.29 FIP and 18.3 percent Home Run to Fly Ball rate. Only one more year on that contract, Reds fans!
  • Sal Romano (vs. Jack Flaherty, Wednesday): Romano relieved Anthony DeSclafani in the Cardinals win against the Reds on July 15, Mike Shildt’s first game as Cardinal manager. He pitched 1 and two-thirds innings only giving up one hit.
  1. Jose Peraza (R): Peraza is 4-11 since the All Star break with two doubles.
  2. Scooter Gennett (L): The All Star hero struggled in his first series back against the Pirates, going 0-8 with two strikeouts and two walks.
  3. Joey Votto (L): Votto only played two games in the past series, going 0-6 with a walk and a strikeout.
  4. Eugenio Suarez (R): The struggles continued for the sluggers in the heart of the Reds’ lineup. Suarez went 2-11 against the Pirates with four strikeouts.
  5. Jesse Winker (L): Winker had a nice series, going 5-11 with a double and one RBI.
  6. Adam Duvall (R): Duvall had a very Duvall series, going 2-12 with two doubles and four strikeouts.
  7. Tucker Barnhart (S): Barnhart played two games, but pinch hit in the other, going 0-9 with two strikeouts.
  8. Billy Hamilton (S): Poor Billy Hamilton. He went 0-12 with six strikeouts.

So, yes, the Cardinals 2-3 series against the Cubs was disappointing, especially with the continued struggles of the bullpen. But the National League’s collective mediocrity has afforded them several chances to get back in the playoff hunt. A good series against Cincinnati could go a long way toward gaining some momentum under Shildt.

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