At the Break: Cincinnati Reds

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Where do I start?  The Reds at the break…this is a team that is a bit confusing but depending on the way you look at them you are either convinced they should never lose another game this season or that they may never win a game again.

I start this report from a slightly different perspective than the one I used to evaluate the rest of the NL Central.  The Reds have successfully defended GABP against the St. Louis Cardinals (wow I referred to the Cards and didn’t even describe them as detestable!) in the first series after the All Star break.  My intent with this evaluation is not only to show where the Reds have been but to deliver my predictions for the Reds trajectory throughout the end of this season.

Batting

The Reds can hit.  This fact has been reported in detail by every blog and sports news outlet available.  Certainly there are positions that should be more productive but they are an effective team.  Right?  Presented here for your viewing pleasure are a few numbers that may be enlightening.

Team

Hits

Team

HRs

Cardinals

858

Brewers

106

Cubs

855

Reds

103

Reds

855

Cardinals

91

Astros

842

Cubs

81

Brewers

818

Pirates

62

Pirates

755

Astros

51

The interesting fact of note in this table is the reminder that the Pirates don’t hit very well.  The Reds, as I mentioned, can hit.

Team

Doubles

Team

Triples

Astros

193

Astros

20

Cardinals

175

Brewers

20

Cubs

163

Cubs

19

Brewers

156

Pirates

16

Reds

147

Cardinals

13

Pirates

145

Reds

10

This is the report that begins to force questions to the surface.  The Reds do hit with authority and in spite of having one of the fastest players in baseball they simply don’t collect as many extra base hits aside from Home Runs.

So what about additional ways to put runners in play or keep them moving around the bases.

Team

Walks

Team

SBs

Cardinals

328

Astros

72

Reds

318

Pirates

67

Pirates

294

Brewers

60

Brewers

282

Reds

55

Astros

227

Cardinals

35

Cubs

226

Cubs

32

So the Reds do have a bit of discipline at the plate but for every step forward they tend to take a giant step backward.  The Reds strikeout a lot, we all know that but when you actually look at the number it does seem a bit more intimidating.  In addition I took a look at both the number of times each team has been caught stealing and the ratio of steals vs. attempts.

Team

Strikeouts

Team

CS

Team

SB/Att

Reds

706

Reds

31

Astros

.82

Pirates

696

Pirates

29

Brewers

.76

Cubs

693

Cardinals

23

Cubs

.73

Astros

674

Brewers

19

Pirates

.70

Brewers

649

Astros

16

Reds

.64

Cardinals

574

Cubs

12

Cardinals

.60

This is an interesting mix of stats.  The Cardinals have the best plate discipline in the division but then have the worst ratio of steals vs. attempts.

So let’s highlight the Reds problems/opportunities.  They strike out at an alarming rate controlling this statistic alone is probably enough to win the division.  Next, the Reds must run the bases with more intelligence.  Steals are an effective way of gaining bases in the face of a lack of extra base hits but they can’t waste base runners by getting picked off napping or caught stealing.  A 64% success rate is nothing to get excited about.

Fielding

Fielding is what makes the Reds special in the NL Central and the Reds need to capitalize on this competitive advantage.

Team

Errors

Team

DPs

Team

UnER

Cubs

82

Pirates

91

Astros

48

Astros

72

Cardinals

90

Cubs

45

Brewers

66

Astros

84

Brewers

43

Cardinals

66

Reds

82

Cardinals

42

Pirates

65

Cubs

74

Pirates

39

Reds

50

Brewers

72

Reds

22

17 less earned runs and 15 less errors is an incredible advantage to have over the entire division.  Listening to the game Saturday night against the Cardinals I was struck with the realization that the Reds committed only 1 error against the Cardinals 3.  Games like that one should never be lost and yet it was.  I believe this advantage will produce results for the Reds as the season continues and give Cincinnati at least a half dozen more runs than the opposition.  The Reds lead the National League in fielding percentage at Catcher, First Base, Second Base and Third Base.  They are ahead of the league average at all but two positions:  Pitcher and Shortstop.  Watching Zack Cozart play at short leads me to the conclusion that the Reds will improve their fielding percentage at this position as the season progresses.  On the other hand, it is hard to believe that the Reds Bronson Arroyo won the Gold Glove for pitchers last year as he and the rest of the pitching staff have struggled to field the position committing 14 errors so far this season, tied for the league lead.

Starting Pitching

As good as the Reds fielding is, their starting rotation has been in constant flux and are consistently inconsistent with the exception of Johnny Cueto.  A quality pitching rotation is comprised of pitchers who can manage to pitch deep into games and remain competitive.  Travis Wood and Edinson Volquez have not done that for the Reds; neither average 6 innings per start nor do they have competitive ERAs which explains why they are both in Louisville currently.  The most exciting thing about the upcoming series with the Pirates is that when you compare the starters in each of the three games the Reds have the ERA advantage in every game.  Tonight Charlie Morton starts against Dontrell Willis, Willis only has one start under his belt this year but the hope is that he will blossom into the potential he has shown in the past and will again light up the opposing lineup.  Tomorrow will pit Mike Leake against James McDonald, and the series will conclude with Ace Johnny Cueto against Jeff Karstens.

Bullpen

Cincinnati Reds Relievers

Pitcher

RA

QRO

FRO

ND

QAR

FAR

Jose Arredondo

24

16

8

0

67%

33%

Bill Bray

46

32

10

4

70%

22%

Aroldis Chapman

24

17

5

2

71%

21%

Francisco Cordero

39

29

10

0

74%

26%

Carlos Fisher

10

6

4

0

60%

40%

Jeremy Horst

5

1

4

0

20%

80%

Mike Leake

3

1

2

0

33%

67%

Sam LeCure

15

13

2

0

87%

13%

Matt Maloney

5

4

1

0

80%

20%

Nick Masset

44

29

12

3

66%

27%

Logan Ondrusek

44

31

11

2

70%

25%

Chad Reineke

1

0

0

1

0%

0%

Jordan Smith

17

8

9

0

47%

53%

Reds Staff Totals

277

187

78

12

68%

28%

Data through 7/10/2011

RA   = Relief Appearances:  Total # of Relief Appearances

QRO = Quality Relief Outing:  # of Appearances where more outs are recorded than hits + walks and a 3.00 ERA is maintained for the relief appearance.

FRO  = Failed Relief Outing:  # of Appearances where earned runs are allowed, inherited runners score or no outs are recorded.  (See ERA allowance in the QRO description

ND =  No Decision.  Does not meet the criteria for a QRO or a FRO

QAR  = Quality Appearance Ratio:  QRO/RA

FAR   = Failed Appearance Ratio:  FRO/RA

The week before the All Star Game was a train wreck for the Reds bullpen and closer Francisco Cordero.  I was happy that he accepted responsibility for the three blown saves against the Reds rivals.  Cordero’s numbers are still good but not great anymore.  Sam LeCure has pitched well from the bullpen as have Bill Bray, Aroldis Chapman, and Logan Ondrusek but the problem is the starters don’t pitch far enough into the game to avoid using multiple relievers.  The more relievers you use the greater the chance one of them will fail and that has been the Reds biggest bullpen problem.  This bullpen can win games but they need help from the starters.

Prognosis:

The Reds have not fared well against the Pirates this season but a series win or even better a series sweep is critical for two reasons.  The first is obvious; the Reds are in fourth place and need to improve their position.  The second reason is a bit more symbolic.  The Pirates are gaining confidence with every win and at some point they will win on attitude alone.  If the Reds are indeed a contender, they need to act like one.  Tonight, the Reds starting pitching needs to perform well and allow the offense the opportunity to win (weather permitting).  Going forward the Reds must use the competitive advantages they have:  they are the best defensive team in the league and they need to take advantage of the rest of the miscues the opposition makes, they need to keep hitting but find ways to get more extra base hits, at the same time they need to reduce strikeouts and base running mistakes.  This team is solid and can win the NL Central, now they need to prove it.

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