Following a four-game series sweep of the Braves, the Cincinnati Reds find themselves atop the NL Central with a record of 25-19. Winners of six in a row overall, the Reds have mostly relied on pitching; during their streak, they have allowed more than three runs just once - a 6-5 victory over the Yankees in the Bronx. However, we all know that the Reds can hang with anybody in the National League offensively, which makes them a very dangerous club if their pitching staff continues to be successful.
#19 / First Base / Cincinnati Reds
Sep 10, 1983
|2012 - Joey Votto||.295||.448||.550|
The 28 year old Votto truly is this decade's version of Todd Helton, as the athletic first baseman has put up similar numbers through the first five years of his career. Votto has been well above average in every season, full or otherwise, and that is no different this year, as his 170 OPS+ leads his team and is sixth in the NL. The biggest reason why he is so similar to Helton in his early years is the on-base percentage; Votto is the two-time NL leader in OBP, and when the dust settles in 2012, he'll likely be at the top of the league this year as well. Despite seeing a decrease in homers last year, he led the league in walks and doubles, proving to be every bit as dangerous as he was in 2010 when he flirted with the triple crown. In 2012, his home run rate is down slightly again (both in terms of AB/HR and HR/FB %), but his walk rate is way up - to the point where he's walking more than he's striking out. Whatever numbers you choose to look at, it is undeniable that Votto is on pace for another MVP-caliber season.
The rest of the offense isn't bad either, albeit they're still trying to find their way as a whole. Jay Bruce isn't getting on base a whole lot (just a .301 OBP), but he still boasts a 119 OPS+, which is due in large part to his club-leading ten homers as well as a .522 slugging percentage. Ryan Hanigan is splitting time with Devin Mesoraco behind the plate, and Hanigan has been the better of the two, posting a 117 OPS+ in 98 plate appearances. Todd Frazier has added some big-time pop off the bench, as he has homered four times and is slugging .567 in 71 plate appearances, good for a 135 OPS+ (which is second on the team to Votto). Everyone else is below average in terms of OPS+, but history says guys like Brandon Phillips will come alive at some point (and he has been heating up as of late, anyway; his OPS is 1.040 during their winning streak).
Among starters, Johnny Cueto has been the Reds' best to this point. Although his strikeouts are down, Cueto has still been tough to hit, and he has had pretty good control, walking just 12 in 59.1 innings. The seemingly-rejuvenated Bronson Arroyo is enjoying a very fine season, as his 5.5 K/BB ratio is among the league leaders for starting pitchers, and is almost in Cliff Lee territory. Former Padre Mat Latos, for whom the Reds gave up considerable value in the offseason, leads the rotation in strikeouts but also walks more batters than any of their other starters. He hasn't been as hittable as, say, a Mike Leake, but the walks have caused his overall numbers to reflect poorly.
Aroldis Chapman is obviously their biggest story on the mound, rotation or otherwise. In 24.1 innings of relief, the fireballing Cuban has yet to allow a run, earned or otherwise. He has punched out 43 batters and walked just seven in those innings, and is currently maintaining a WHIP of 0.57. His level of dominance is rarely seen, and it will be interesting to see if he can hold it up for an entire season. Closing games for the Reds is Sean Marshall, who was acquired from the Cubs during the offseason. Marshall has been no slouch himself, striking out 12.4 batters per nine innings despite being fairly hittable. I don't envision the .444 BABIP-against continuing, though, so it's likely that Marshall's overall numbers will get a lot better as the season goes on.
Cincinnati's team ERA+ of 118 ranks second in the NL, and a lot of that is in correlation with how healthy they've been. They've only had five starting pitchers and eight relievers appear in games this season, which is about the bare minimum that you'll see in baseball these days. If they're able to sustain this kind of health throughout the season, they may very well beat out the Cardinals for first place in the division.
For more on Cincinnati, be sure to check out Red Reporter.
Projected starters and more after the jump.
Tonight at 5:10 PM MT (ROOT Sports/MLB Network)
Christian Friedrich (1-1, 5.00 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (5-1, 1.97 ERA)
Tomorrow at 5:15 PM MT (FOX)
Jeremy Guthrie (2-2, 5.55) vs. Mike Leake (1-5, 5.32)
Sunday at 11:10 AM MT (ROOT Sports)
Jamie Moyer (2-4, 4.99) vs. Mat Latos (3-2, 4.35)
Cincinnati Reds Roster