In place of my usual weekly recaps of ups and downs I have decided to give a little insight on something that has been rolling around in my head for a few weeks. Just who are the Reds in this 2011 season?
We are now closing in on 27 games into the season looking to break the .500 plane of 13-13 regardless of the decision at the end of the bout with the Marlins tonight, and a picture of the type of team the 2011 Reds are has become clearer. Every season a team will forge an identity through its strengths, weaknesses, and personality. The 2010 Reds were a team that possessed prodigious offensive ability, inconsistent yet potential-packed starting pitchers, a stalwart bullpen, late inning theatrics, and big stage inexperience. A year later, little with the team personnel has changed but the identity is slightly different.
The strengths have stayed quite the same and draw they draw mostly from the heavy bats swung by the Redlegs thus far. These traits are:
- Offensive Production– This comes with a caveat. While the Reds rank second in the league in runs scored (138) and HRs (33) as a team, the team batting average (.266) ranks 11th and the team has been prone to streakiness, especially in the hitting with RISP area.
- Late Game Comebacks– The 2011 Reds carried over the same penchant for late game heart attack inducing theatrics from 2010. Thus far in 2011 the Reds have 6 comeback wins (with one big walkoff, remember Opening Day so long ago?) and are 2-0 in extra innings thus far. The team that never quits still is not quitting and as a fan that makes things exciting, gives hope, and makes me lose hair.
- Handling Pressure– With the new season bringing a division title defense to Cincinnati, one wondered if that pressure might get to the team to keep the performance up. The season started with a blaze winning the first 5 and going 8-4 in the first 12 and opening up as much as a 2.5 game lead in the Central. Since however, the going has been a little tougher going 5-9 and relinquishing the division lead. Overall though, this 2011 team has seemed to take the pressure of heightened expectations and a division title defense as a challenge and are not backing down.
The chinks in the armor however, have shown through…
- Bullpen– With Nick Masset becoming Reds fan public enemy number one for a stretch and a general lack of consistency, the Reds bullpen has been a weak link thus far. Aside from Francisco Cordero (you’ll still find a pissed off Reds fan ranting about CoCo though), Aroldis Chapman, and Bill Bray the bullpen has done nothing but make me nervous. With Masset being un-Masset-like for a stretch that solid and nasty setup man has been missing. That key cog gone has pushed a lot of pressure onto the likes of Logan Ondrusek and Jordan Smith who have performed admirably but will that added load now come back to haunt the pen later in the year?
- Starting Pitching Consistency– The injuries to Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey have not helped, but even then the consistency with the starters is not there and I don’t know if it will be. With Volquez having a mental block about the first inning and Wood, Leake, and Arroyo being up and down, it’s frustrating. It’s becoming more and more apparent that unless someone steps up and becomes a consistent stopper for this unit, you can go ahead and label this year’s team as one with a lot of pop but no reliable pitching.
The 2011 version of these Reds is a very similar but modified version of the team that endeared themselves to fans and became successful before many thought. Overcoming the shortcomings of inconsistent pitching however might prove tough and it certainly could be a season of streaks, streaks of great play and wins followed by streaks of cold bats or shaky pitching leading to losses. We have seen both of those versions of the Reds thus far. This could lead to a season that might ultimately culminate in an exciting but absolutely maddening rest of the season. At least we know who this Reds team is.