As you probably already know, the Colorado Rockies lead the National League in runs scored. That's not a big surprise. Another unsurprising thing is that the Cincinnati Reds are second to the Rockies in runs. They have an in-his-prime Todd Helton in Joey Votto (see below), and their acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians during the offseason looks genius at this point.
What separates the 35-22 Reds from the 30-27 Rockies is pitching; Cincinnati leads the NL with a collective 127 ERA+ while Colorado is tied for third at 117. The Reds have enjoyed fine campaigns from all six pitchers who have started a game for the team; each boasts an ERA+ of better than 100, they don't walk any batters and most of them strike people out at a very good rate.
For more on the Reds, we bring in Wick Terrell (a.k.a. Kevin Mitchell is Batman) from Red Reporter. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @wickterrell, and the site at @redreporter, for excellent Reds-related commentary.
You can also check out my answers to their questions about the Rockies here.
Bryan Kilpatrick: Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo get on base every other plate appearance and the Reds' pitching staff has been brilliant, led by Mike Leake, Mat Latos and a healthy Johnny Cueto. Which combination has been more integral to the Reds' success?
Wick Terrell: Shin-Soo Choo has been a revelation the likes of which Reds fans haven't seen atop a lineup in, well, ever. Barry Larkin hit leadoff often, but never with the power of Choo, and Pete Rose did the same. Willy Taveras and Drew Stubbs...well, I won't even go there. Choo is in the process of earning himself a massive payday that won't be cut from GM Walt Jocketty, that's for sure, and, ho hum, Joey Votto has returned to being the machine he was before injuring his knee last summer. We're watching what you all got to see in Todd Helton's prime, and it's glorious.
#19 / First Base / Cincinnati Reds
Sep 10, 1983
|2013 - Joey Votto||.336||.460||.533|
The pitching staff, however, has been more integral. It's funny, really. By xFIP, FIP, and fWAR, it's actually Homer Bailey who has been this year's ace, though Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake (and even Bronson Arroyo, to some extent) have all been fantastic in their own right. The Reds were ninth in the NL in runs scored last year, and these same starters led them to 97 wins, and we're seeing much of the same again.
BK: Even with the wonderful seasons being had by Votto and Choo, the Reds are still slightly below-average offensively (in terms of OPS+). In particular, they're being weighed down by Zack Cozart. How long is his leash?
WT: It sounds silly, but Cozart might have the longest leash of anyone on the Reds this side of Votto and Phillips. Why? Well, when Choo was acquired, the Reds parted with now-Diamondback Didi Gregorius, and the dearth of SS prospects in the system means it's only Cozart and Cesar Izturis and, well, Cozart will always be better than this version of Izturis. Hopefully, he'll get moved down in the order, but he's been better of late, at least. Cozart hit second exclusively in May, and he hit .278 in that month and has hit .271 overall this season when batting second.
Yes, I deliberately used batting average instead of OBP because, well, that's just pretty ugly. Thankfully, Cozy's a remarkable defensive SS, so we're not scratching our heads in both halves of the inning.
BK: Who gets the bulk of the playing time behind the plate down the stretch, Devin Mesoraco or Ryan Hanigan?
WT: Man, asking me to roll the Dusty Dugout Dice already! When the Reds were in the thick of things in 2010, Dusty rotated evenly between Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan, and both had success, and in 2012, en route to another NL Central crown, Dusty split playing time fairly evenly between Hanigan and Dioner Navarro, too. If you twist my arm, I'll tell you to expect the same, regardless of who is on a hot streak. Ryan Hanigan was off to an awful start to 2013 while playing through injury, but has thumped to the tune of .261/.358/.413 sense returning, and while Mesoraco has been solid, he's not blown the doors off the catching competition.
I suppose what we're really concerned with is who would catch in the playoffs, and I'm inclined to believe that if they both continue like this, Hanigan will get the nod. When you factor in defense, game calling, and pitch framing, it's really Hanigan's to lose.
BK: We all love prospects. What kind of help is on the way for the Reds, if they'll even need it?
WT: If it's the 2013 season we're speaking of, there's only one prospect of note the Reds can depend upon, and that's Tony Cingrani. Cingrani was called up for 6 starts earlier this season when Johnny Cueto hit the DL, and he did nothing but impress in his 33 IP at the MLB level. Cingrani was a consensus Top 100 prospect entering the season (#82 by Baseball America, #66 by mlb.com), and his 11.2 K/9, 4.56 K/BB, and 3.27 ERA didn't do anything to dent that status. He's heavily dependent on his fastball, and he was bit by being prone to allowing HRs, but he proved he and his left arm can be a serious asset at the MLB level.
As for beyond 2013, it's basically a two-man list headlined by Billy Hamilton. Hamilton, famous for his 156 steals in AA last season, got off to a slow start in 2013, but he's been heating up in AAA Louisville of late and has the early lead on starting CF and leadoff hitter for 2014 (with a likely September call-up this season). Joining him is RHP Robert Stephenson, a 2011 first rounder who has hit 99 mph with his fastball and has been cruising through A ball in Dayton. He'll be a consensus Top 30 prospect at year's end at this rate.
BK: It's hard to find a weakness with this team when looking at the roster and the performance thus far. If Cincy has a soft spot, what is it?
WT: It only takes one glance at the size 46 waist on the #51 pants (and the unused ones next to the #45 jersey) to see the soft spot on this year's squad. Jonathan Broxton has been a relative eyesore in high leverage roles in this year's bullpen, and Sean Marshall has been injured and DL'd twice. That's a ton of money to be ineffective and inactive, and with Aroldis Chapman pigeon-holed into only seeing ninth-inning action, suddenly what was a huge strength on the 2012 squad has become a slight liability on the 2013 edition.
Game 1: Monday, June 3 at 5:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Tyler Chatwood (3-0, 2.12 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (5-5, 3.75 ERA)
Game 2: Tuesday, June 4 at 5:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Juan Nicasio (4-2, 4.79) vs. Homer Bailey (3-4, 3.84)
Game 3: Wednesday, June 5 at 5:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Jon Garland (3-6, 5.81) vs. Johnny Cueto (3-0, 2.17)