What needs to be acknowledged whenever we’re discussing this 2013 Reds team is that this isn’t the real 2013 Reds team. The Real 2013 Reds team employs a Cy Young candidate as its ace – the other ace gets to face #2s. The Reds have a bona fide clean-up man that they expensed for $15 million. The team’s real catcher actually doesn’t have a career batting average of .187.
But the Reds are criticized as if they’re defined by the aforementioned. Losses to October favorites seem to confirm a lingering doubt that the Reds can’t play with the titans of MLB. And why not? They’re just 6-12 against teams above them in the NL overall standings (Wash, STL, Pitt, ATL). 13-3 against everyone else they’ve played (CHI, MIA, LAA, Philly). Of course, to make any absolute declarations about some of these teams, in May, would be ill-advised. But the fact remains, the Reds are currently cleaning up on the weak while struggling with the best.
And right now, that’s all you can ask.
Last evening’s 9th inning fireworks was a tangible defining moment for this team. Corky Miller, bless his heart, should have Louisville Slugger Field programed into the GPS. He got to bat in the 9th inning and of course struck out with little resistance. Xavier Paul, who is incredibly serviceable off the bench and in spot starts, has just nine RBI. This is the guy swinging the bat for a clean-up hitter who can realistically contribute anywhere from 80-90.
Of course, we are yet to see Ryan Ludwick routinely bat with baseball’s No. 1 and No. 3 OBP leaders. The opportunity to return to his 100+ RBI form would at least be there, no?
The overall records against teams above them in the standings isn’t good, but it isn’t entirely telling. Just two series against teams above .500 have been at home. They defeated the Nationals in a best of the three. They have a chance to steal a series from the Braves today. The Cardinals have feasted on the Reds, in two different series. They’ve yet to fly into CVG.
The product you’re watching on a nightly basis right now should reflect the key missing pieces. The Reds are missing their clean-up hitter. Although Brandon Phillips is 5th in RBI, it’s the #2 spot that often cripples the front-end of the lineup because of Cozart’s struggles. Phillips would once again be the guy benefiting from the protection of the 2010 MVP.
This Reds team seems to be capable of what MLB pundits everywhere thought they were – when at full strength. With three Opening Day starters on the DL, they’re hangin’ tough like New Kids on some Block. At 19 wins, they’re just two short of the most wins in baseball.
Wins like last night should make you think about what the team is capable of with all of its missing pieces. Without them, they still boast the 6th best offense. But what the team does lack is the long ball. Their 31 home runs makes them 21st in the category.
Could just be a reality. Could be the result of exceptional patience (Reds #2 in BB). Or, could be the difference between Ryan Ludwick and Xavier Paul.