NL Contender Watch: Cincinnati Reds
NEW YORK– By Jason Greenfield
Strengths: Starting Pitching, Bullpen, and Hitting
Concern: Joey Votto injury, Inexperienced
The Cincinnati Reds sit on top of the NL Central by five games. One of the main strengths with the Reds this season has been the starting pitching. Led by Cy Young candidate and All-Star team snub Johnny Cueto, who leads the team in wins (15), and era (2.45), and the other leader of the starting pitching is Mat Latos. Latos is having a very solid year coming to the Reds in a trade with the San Diego Padres this offseason. Latos leads the team in strikeouts with 130, and has an impressive record of 10-3. Two of the other starting pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey each have records over .500.
The real strength with the Reds is in their bullpen, which is the best in the MLB. The Reds lead the league in era (2.66) and rank third in batting average against (.217). The X-Factor in the bullpen is Cy Young candidate Aroldis Chapman. Chapman, who has looked unhittable at times, has 28 saves and leads the team with a 1.26 ERA. Chapman’s dominance can be seen in his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9), which is an astounding 16.74, leading the MLB. But the bullpen is not only composed of Chapman. Sean Marshall who came over this offseason from the Chicago Cubs, is having a very good year with 15 holds, 9 saves and an impressive era of 2.89 and Jose Arredondo who’s also been solid in his outing of the bullpen with a 2.56 era and nine holds. The Reds also got more help for their already great bullpen during the trade deadline by acquiring Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton.
The Reds offense is in the middle of the majors, ranking 16th in runs, 18th in batting average, and 19th on base percentage. What’s most impressive about these stats is that they have not drastically changed since Joey Votto’s knee injury. Votto, the 2010 MVP and this year’s All-Star and the heart and soul of the Reds offense, was batting a team leading .342 batting average and also had 14 home runs and 49 RBI before his injury.
Many outsiders expected the Reds to crumble without Votto but they have done the opposite, going 19-8 since the injury. The Reds are receiving contributions from both players they expected to step up during this tough time, and players they didn’t expect to step up. The players who were expected to step up and have are Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Phillips, who won the silver slugger award last year, is having another very solid season, batting .296 and leading the team in hits (119).
While Phillips is doing the work with hits, Jay Bruce is doing it with power. Bruce leads the team with 22 home runs and 69 RBI. The Reds expected the contributions they are getting from Bruce and Phillips, but they are very pleased and somewhat shocked in with the work that Ryan Ludwick and the two rookies (Todd Frazier and Zach Cozart) have done. Ludwick who is 34 years old now, was overlooked by many teams this offseason, is making everyone pay with his performance this year. Ludwick already has eight more home runs than he did last year (21 to 13).
The two rookies also contributed much to the teams on going success. Todd Frazier, the rookie of Rutgers University, is off to a great start to his career and has filled in admirably for Joey Votto. Frazier is batting .280 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI. Frazier’s time may be limited when Votto comes back off the DL, although the way he is playing he may see some time at 3rd base because of back injuries Scott Rolen is dealing with. The other rookie is SS Zach Cozart. Cozart plays shortstop for the Reds, and is second on the team with hits with 107 and games played, 108.
The only concern’s that may plague the Reds from a World Series run is Votto’s injury and a lack of playoff experience. For now it seems the Reds are okay without Votto, but it is very hard to replace the former MVP of the league. Also, like the Nationals, the Reds don’t have much playoff experience except for the 2010 team that got swept by the Phillies.