Team Profile – Cincinnati Reds
The Reds play in a very tough division. Between the Cardinals, Brewers, and Reds, the N.L. Central is very tough to play through. Add to that the fact that perennial punching the Houston Astros is leaving the division for the A.L. West, and that means that the Cards, Brew Crew, and Reds will have to play each other even more every season, making things that much tougher. And now, to complicate matters further, the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing like a championship-caliber team, with award-winning talent. Which makes it that much more surprising (impressive?) that the Reds have a commanding 10.5 game lead over the next nearest division opponent.
The true success of the Reds is, undoubtedly, the starting rotation. The first, and most important, point is that no one in this rotation has missed any extended amount of time this season. There has been only one spot start by Todd Redmond, but otherwise the starting five hasn’t missed a beat. Johnny Cueto is 18-9, with a 2.84 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo have ERAs near 3.60, teetering a bit on the high side for the National League, but still completely respectable. It’s a rotation where the worst guy isn’t even that bad, and all the others are more than a match for any starting lineup in baseball.
Joey Votto is still, by and far, the offensive leader of this team. He is a consistent threat at first base for both power and average, and despite the fact he’s only played in 100 games this season, he still leads the team with a .341 average. To go with it, he’s racked up 17 home runs, five stolen bases, and an OPS of 1.050. That’s an incredible production out of a key piece of the lineup.
Brandon Phillips, Ryan Hanigan, and Todd Frazier are right behind in the offensive charge, batting .286, .285, and .283, respectively. Here we have a lineup that includes a lot of above average (but not great) hitters behind one superstar. That’s going to bring you a lot of success. It’s not perfect, but it means you’re going to win a lot of games. Luckily (and what probably gives the Reds that edge, making up for the lack of a second .300 hitter) none of those four lead the team in home runs. That honor would go to Jay Bruce, with 34, and Ryan Ludwick, with 26. So mixing the power in with the five starters that aren’t average leaders means your lineup gets a heck of a lot deeper.
A couple years ago, Aroldis Chapman was the biggest foreign rookie coming into the game. There were problems with his Visa, and everyone and their mother were attached to him in some way. It seemed like every week there was another team in the hunt. But, ultimately, the Reds came away with the win. He was praised for his athletic ability, his potential, and what he could mean to a team immediately upon entering the big leagues. He certainly hasn’t disappointed, either. Now in his third season with the Reds, Chapman is proving to be one of the best closers in the game. He’s 35/40 in save opportunities, has a 1.57 ERA, and a 0.80 WHIP. He is an unbelievable closer, and can only keep getting better.
The rest of the bullpen has been quite good, as well. For the most part, these pitchers have kept the ERAs well under four, meaning there are no weak links in the chain. When you can bring out absolutely anyone in the ‘pen, and know that the game will be locked down, you can’t help but end up being good.
Keys to Success
The Reds are in the playoffs, so there’s no more need for “keys”. After really opening up a serious lead on the division in the last two months, the Reds pulled into the playoffs with plenty of time left to go in the season. Interestingly enough, the National League seems to be all but set in its playoff teams, but the American League is still totally up for grabs. Anyway, the Reds have made it. If they’re going to go far in the playoffs, it’ll continue to rely on the shoulders of their fantastic pitching corps. If the pitchers stay strong, the Reds will make a run deep into the postseason.