Why the Reds are the National League’s Best Team

The Reds won the division in 2010 (Image:isportsweb.com)

The Braves have added Dan Uggla. The Cardinals have Wainwright, Chris “The Jerk” Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia. The Brewers got Greinke, and the Cubs got Garza. The Phillies have the big 4, but the Reds have the big 30.

Each player on the Reds roster will be pivotal to the Reds success. All 25 players on the active roster and the 5 or 6 players who will start the season in Louisville that are good enough to be a major leaguer make up what is easily the National League’s deepest team.

In 2010, the CIncinnati Reds led the National League in team fielding percentage. The Cincinnati Reds scored more runs than any other team in the NL. In short, the Reds not only had the best offense in the National League in 2010 but also the best defense. And what is most exciting for Reds fans…the Reds will be better in both areas in 2011.

Yadier Molina does not want to be Brandon Phillips' friend (Image: kypost.com)

First defensively, the Reds will be better for one main reason Paul Janish. Janish is in my mind the best defensive shortstop in the National League but he has yet to play a full season as a starting shortstop. Janish made just four errors in 2010 in 211 opportunities and was used as a defensive replacement for Orlando Cabrera late in games.

Janish accumulated 13 runs saved above replacement in 2010. Also in the outfield, Drew Stubbs will be more comfortable in center field as he tries to garner his first gold glove in 2011. To Drew Stubbs‘ right, Jay Bruce nearly won a gold glove in 2010, and some analysts believed he deserved to win. Furthermore Jonny Gomes may not be great defensively, but the recently signed Fred Lewis only made 6 errors last year, making him above average compared to the normal everyday outfielder. Arroyo, Phillips, and Rolen will look to continue what was a gold glove 2010 for them.

Offensively, the Reds have a lot of young players who figure to improve. However, the biggest improvement for the Reds offense will be Drew Stubbs‘ success as the leadoff hitter. Stubbs, 26, will enter his second full season in the majors. In his first full season in the majors, Stubbs batted .255 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI’s, and 30 stolen bases. His bat handling will improve in 2011 and expect the batting average to rise. I see Stubbs hitting around the .270 mark in 2011 with 20 home runs, and 40 stolen bases.

If Stubbs can cement the leadoff position, Brandon Phillips will be able to slip into the second slot in the order where he is best. Votto will be great again, and expect the youngster Jay Bruce to have a breakout season. 30 home runs and 100 RBIs are not out of the question for the potent Bruce in 2011.

All of those stats are well and good, but let’s examine the rest of the National League. The Phillies have been declared the NL champion already in 2011 by a majority of baseball fans. Halladay, Hamels, Lee, and Oswalt are better than the top four of the Reds, but the Phillies lack any semblance of depth. If Oswalt struggles as he continues to age or if Hamels, Halladay, or Lee get hurt then the Phillies do not have an established player to take their spot.

The Reds, on the other hand, have a myriad of starters beginning with Arroyo, Volquez, and Cueto. After the top three, the Reds have Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, and Travis Wood followed by Matt Maloney. Cueto is 25. Volquez is 27. Bailey is 24. Wood is 23, and Mike Leake is 23. All will continue to improve and any of Cueto, Volquez, Bailey, Leake, and Wood could emerge to be the ace of the staff. The Phillies have experience in the playoffs but so do the Reds now. Finally many people would point to the potent offense of the Phillies but the Reds outscored the Phillies in 2010 and will do it again in 2011.

The Braves have acquired Dan Uggla but with Chipper Jones still clogging the middle of their lineup, I dont think they are as good as the Phillies or Reds.

Now in the NL Central…the Cardinals will be a good team in 2011. After all, they still have Albert Pujols. Their starting pitching is top heavy. Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook are average 4 and 5 starting pitchers. In a three game series, the Cardinals can beat anyone with Chris “The Jerk,” Wainwright, and Garcia but over the course of the season all three will have to stay 100% healthy for the Cardinals to reach their potential. And let’s be honest, LaRussa and Carpenter are overly intense oftentimes, and Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay have both hinted that they are not completely happy being in St. Louis. There was a rumor at one point in 2010 that Rasmus wanted out of St. Louis. Without, total commitment in the clubhouse, the Reds will beat the Cardinals. Brawl or not brawl…the Reds will beat these guys one way or another.

The Brewers have added Greinke and with Gallardo already in town, the combination of pitching and hitting in Milwaukee may be the best in the NL Central. The question is are SS Betancourt, C Lucroy, and CF Gomez good enough to help out the stars…..no. Milwaukee is star heavy but not a deep squad.

And the Cubs, they do not have near enough pieces to win consistently.

And finally…Giants fans….2010 was a dream season but if your dream is to repeat with Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz, Aaron Rowand, and Aubrey Huff having the same production…dream again. It seems like a long shot for the Giants to repeat in 2011 despite the excellent rotation they will boast.

The Reds will be the hunted in 2011 in the NL Central for the first time in a long time. It cannot be stressed enough though the leadership that Dusty Baker will once again provide as the Reds march back to the playoffs in 2011.

Tags: 2011 Preview Adam Wainwright Albert Pujols Andres Torres Atlanta Braves Aubrey Huff Brandon Phillips Brawl Bronson Arroyo Buster Posey Chicago Cubs Chipper Jones Chris Carpenter Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati Reds Preview Cliff Lee Cole Hamels Dan Uggla Drew Stubbs Dusty Baker Fred Lewis Houston Astros Jake Westbrook Jay Bruce Johnny Cueto Kyle Lohse Mike Leake Milwaukee Brewers National League National League Preview New York Mets New York Yankees NL Central NL East NL West Paul Janish Philadelphia Phillies Pittsburgh Pirates Prince Fielder Roy Halladay Roy Oswalt Ryan Braun San Francisco Giants Scott Rolen St Louis Cardinals Tim Lincecum Travis Wood Yovanni Gallardo Zach Greinke

  • http://wix.com/applea/alexapple Alex Apple

    I think the NL West will be very wide open this year. Colorado…i guess…would be the favorite

  • Frumphilly

    Wow Your dumb.

    • Steve Engbloom

      A stunning analysis…

  • beeker

    LOL Steve. Typical east coaster.

  • J. Scott

    Very interesting points, Alex. I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Reds by saying that they havent improved at all. But the young players on the Reds squad will all be getting better hopefully. I think the point about Stubbs at the leadoff spot is very true. I think he and Bruce are gonna be lethal with the bat and out in the outfield

  • Will

    As a Reds fan I love your optimism. But as an unbiased fan of baseball and objectivity I think you need to consider some other things.

    #1 – The Reds catchers combined for one of the better OPS’s for the position in the NL in ’10, will that occur again, eh doubt it.

    #2 – Janish the best defensive SS in the NL? Hmm, perhaps he is the discussion, not sure he is (his range is good not great). But for the sake of argument I’ll concede it but he also might be one of the worst offensive SS’s in the NL. I won’t get into numbers so much because I don’t know you can extract much from the small sample he had in ’10. I know he does a great job of working the count, making contact and accepting a walk but the fact is he has a stunning lack of pop and going from rarely used to an everyday player might have an even bigger draw on his power. And IMO power helps to drive luck which means he isn’t gonna get a whole lot of it. If he hits .230 I’ll be shocked and his walk rate suggests if he does hit .230 he’ll only OBP% around .300 which isn’t real good. Could be a major black hole and Renteria is worse than Cabrera defensively these days, just FYI.

    #3 – Gomes hit like a gnome after May/June. Rolen hit for power like a gnome after the AS break. And those are Dustys choices for Votto protection. What happens when the opposition starts working around Votto?

    #4 – Stubbs does have a really high ceiling but he also struggles with contact which will likely ’cause him a great deal of consistency. I don;t necessarily expect him to improve perse’, he could but I don’t find it to be a certainty. I think he could just as easily regress a bit when teams keep feeding him a steady diet of curveballs and change ups.

    Those are just the offensive questions and there are more than a few of the pitching variety as well. Sure I do believe we are the deepest team in the NL but some of those teams that COULD suffer with injuries may not have many of them either. And without injuries we lose our advantage.