Even the most ardent Reds fans have to be feeling the angst of this early baseball season. While the team hasn’t fallen out of contention just yet, one obstacle after another seems to come their way. The worst culprit: injuries.
For comparison, after 33 games in 2013, the Reds were 18-15. At this same point, after the past two days of gut-wrenching, one-run losses, in 2014, the Reds have a mirrored record of 15-18. They trailed by 3 games a year ago and trail by 6 games as of today.
The starting pitching has truly been a highlight, even without the presence of Mat Latos who has yet to start a game in 2014. The bullpen, however, has felt the effects of the injuries, particularly without Aroldis Chapman and the shifting of Alfredo Simon to fill the hole in the rotation. The impact of also losing Tony Cingrani hasn’t been felt yet … and, fortunately, with timely days off, has been avoided. With all of that in mind, I thought I’d travel down the road of hitting the positives (Three Up) and the not-so-positives (Three Down) after one month of Reds baseball.
One Up: Johnny Cueto
Is there any superlative that can’t be applied to the Dominican hurler? His ERA is baseball’s best at a miniscule 1.31 while notching 60 K vs only 15 BB in some 55 IP. Throw in that he’s had two complete games already. Forget the W-L record, Cueto is delivering everything and more than could be asked of him. With even a hint of better run support on the season, he wouldn’t likely be losing a game.
One Down: The Injury Bug
This is too easy of a catch-all for what has plagued this team. Look at the laundry list of players who have spent at least some time on the DL: Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani, Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco, Jack Hannahan, Skip Schumaker, Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Brett Marshall, and Trevor Bell. Add to that the lost playing time for Billy Hamilton (still suffering) who hasn’t been DL’d. Do the injuries provide the only excuse? Of course not … but to ignore their impact would be a disservice. There simply isn’t enough ancillary depth to make up for this extent of lost playing time. The Bruce impact remains to be seen.
Two Up: Brayan Pena
Okay, I’ll admit it, I didn’t expect that the back-up catcher would become so vital in the early going. Pena has helped fill the void of Mesoraco while putting up occasionally gaudy offensive numbers. Stack the bonus defense of Tucker Barnhart along side him … and this has been a pleasant surprise. Pena has a team-leading .896 OPS of active players (Mesoraco had even higher at 1.297 before the injury took him out again) while clubbing 3 HR and 8 RBI … and even a little surprise speed (two SB in three attempts).
Two Down: J.J. Hoover
I really liked a lot of what I saw from Hoover as 2013 progressed, starting out roughly and getting stronger as the season moved forward. 2014 hasn’t seen Hoover turn that corner, with results that have been a continuous struggle. He’s taking the brunt of the staff losses, sporting a weak 1-4 mark with an unsightly 9.31 ERA. What could go wrong has gone wrong for the hard thrower, but his ability to hit spots (and stay within the zone without getting hammered) has been a difficulty. The wildness shows with 10 walks against 12 strikeouts; Hoover has to make strides or find himself back in Louisville very, very soon.
Three Up: (This spot left blank … intentionally)
There really are some other bright spots on this team, the performances by Jonathan Broxton and Sam LeCure (both with sub-1.00 ERA … JB at 0.00 and LeCure at 0.59) come to mind. There are no other offensive names I want to reward at this point (Votto is struggling despite a decent start, Phillips started poorly but has at least been surging recently). Who probably deserves this mention most? Alfredo Simon. A 4-1 record on the back of a 1.99 ERA might be most honorable mentioning. His supporting numbers may not indicate he can sustain the performance, but he’s done the best in a difficult situation. At the very least, he has made the pain of losing Latos far more palatable.
Three Down: Homer Bailey
This one pains me to write, as David Dewitt Bailey as been the whipping boy du jour of the Twitter crowd (maybe only slightly less than Hoover) throughout the season. His contract really has nothing to do with why he’s down, but possibly his own personal demands on himself more indicative of why his command just hasn’t been quite there. History, at least, is on the side of Bailey. He has had some historically rough starts – with an ERA north of 4.00 for Aprils and Mays of his career, last season notwithstanding. His career progression shows he has had the ability to lower that ERA as the seasons have gone on: 4.53 in 2009, 4.46 in 2010, 4.43 in 2011, 3.68 in 2012, and 3.49 in 2013. The latter half of the season is where Bailey has historically shown brightest, but he has dug a bit bigger hole to start 2014.
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Tags: Cincinnati Reds