Frank Victores | US Presswire

Cincinnati Reds: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

After twenty-four games, the Reds are 15% of the way through the 2012 season.  After a rough start, the Reds managed to get back to .500 against Chicago earlier this week.

With apologies to Clint Eastwood, here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from the first twenty-four games.

The Good

Jay Bruce has been outstanding.  The Reds scored 92 runs in their first twenty-four games.  That’s an average of 3.833 runs per game.  Bruce either scored or drove in 31 of those runs (34%).  He hit .299 and put up an OPS of .953 which ranks among the Top 10 in the National League.

Aroldis Chapman has not given up a run since September 10, 2011.  Opponents are hitting just .111 against him this season.  Most importantly, he’s only surrendered four bases on balls.  He’ll be in the rotation eventually.  We know that.  It appears to me, however, that the Reds are trying to keep his innings count down during the first few months so that he’s fresh down the stretch.

Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo have been outstanding out of the bullpen.  Combined, they’ve pitched 23 2/3 innings with an ERA of just 1.14.

Ryan Hanigan has played outstanding defense behind the plate.  He calls an outstanding game and has thrown out 5 of 11 attempted base stealers.  Only Miguel Montero has a better stolen base percentage among NL regulars.

Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto have performed consistently well.  They are the foundation of this Reds club.

The Bad

Offensively, Drew Stubbs has had a very bumpy beginning.  He was hitting just .186 through his first twelve games.  After a pair of three hit games on April 19 and April 20, Stubbs raised his batting average to .264.  Since that time, he’s gone 7 for 35 dropping back to .231.  He’s struck out in 27% percent of his plate appearance, which is a marginal improvement over his 31% career strikeout rate.  He’s walked just four times.  His pitch recognition continues to be a problem.

Opponents are hitting .307 against newly acquired Matt Latos, versus just .231 last season.  Through his first five starts, Latos posted a WHIP of 1.57.  Latos’ WHIP through his first two full big league seasons was just 1.13.   He is striking out 5.65 hitters per nine innings this season.  He struck out 8.88 hitters per nine innings in his first two full big league seasons.  He is a notoriously slow starter, however, this April represents the worst start of his career.  Are the expectations getting to him?  Is GAB getting in his head?  Time will tell.  His command must get better if he’s going to put up the kind of results he achieved in San Diego.

The Ugly

Mike Leake managed to have a worse start than Matt Latos.  Opponents hit .326 against Leake.  Neither his command nor his stuff have been up to snuff.  Consequently, Leake started the season 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA.  If the Reds decided today it was time for Chapman to enter the rotation, Leake would probably be the odd man out.

The Reds are getting very little production from the leftfield combination of Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey.  Combined, the pair is hitting .200 with 7 runs and 26 strikeouts.

Scott Rolen is hitting .178 with an OBP of just .238.  On the bright side, he’s played in all 24 games and remains healthy.  His defense continues to be outstanding.  Nonetheless, the Reds cannot afford to get so little production from the hot corner.

On the whole, the Reds have failed to do the little things needed to win close ballgames.  That explains, in part, why they’ve lost seven games by a total of 10 runs.  Bad baserunning, failed sacrifice bunt attempts, and a team OBP of just .299 have contributed to a woeful offensive start.

The Future

Fortunately, the Reds have 85% of the season left to play.  They’re sitting at .500, just 3 1/2 games behind a Cardinals club that is second in Major League Baseball in hitting behind only the Texas Rangers.  The Reds aren’t going to hit .232 as a team.  They hit .272 and .256 in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

The Reds have more pitching options than they had in 2010 and 2011.  Eventually, Chapman will enter the rotation.  Jeff Francis is pitching very well in AAA.  If the injury bug hits, we are likely to see Francis in Cincinnati.

Young players like Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco, and J.J. Hoover are only going to get better.  Brandon Phillips appears to be healthy after missing six games with tightness in his hamstring.  It’s a long season and the Reds play in a weak division.  There’s still plenty of reason for optimism.

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Tags: Aroldis Chapman Chris Heisey Devin Mesoraco J.J. Hoover Jay Bruce Jose Arredondo Logan Ondrusek Miguel Montero Mike Leake Ryan Hanigan Ryan Ludwick Scott Rolen

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