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Cincinnati Reds are battling for first place six weeks into 2017 season

Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports /
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For a Cincinnati Reds’ team that was projected to have trouble breaking .500, a first place race was completely unexpected.

The Cincinnati Reds were projected to win about 75 games this year.  Right now, they are on pace for 88 wins.  They are also within a game of both first place in the National League Central and the NL Wild Card.

The Reds have accomplished this with a combination of pitching, hitting, and defense.  The team was weak in pitching, OBP, and defense last year, so the complete turn around is a bit unexpected.  The turn around is especially surprising for the hitting and defense, where only Jose Peraza is a completely new starter and he replaced Brandon Phillips who was repeatedly overlooked for defensive awards.

On defense the Reds have the best fielding percentage in the National League and third best in all of baseball.  They have the highest defensive efficiency rating in the entire MLB, which takes into account balls hit out of play.  They also have the second lowest stolen base allowed percentage in the NL behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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The Reds’ offense, is also achieving at a high rate.  They are eighth in runs scored and fifth in OPS in the MLB right now.  The Reds are tied for first in baseball in steals to go with a third place ranking in slugging in the NL to get those base runners in to score.

While the defense and hitting for the Cincinnati Reds has been better than expected, it is the pitching that has kept them in the race.

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Despite some of their issues with control, the Reds are fifth in the NL in WHIP at 1.29.  Their weakness is walks.  Only the Miami Marlins have allowed more walks in all of baseball.

The Reds also allow an inordinate amount of home runs.  They have allowed the fifth most home runs in baseball and the most in the NL Central.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, by contrast, have allowed the third fewest in the NL and the fewest in the NL Central.

The Reds are in the middle of the pack in strikeouts, ranking sixth in the NL and twelfth in MLB.  They have similar rankings in save opportunities.  However, they are tied for sixth in saves in MLB and fourth in the NL.

What the Reds are doing well is not allowing hits.  Since they don’t allow hits, their WHIP and ERA are kept under control.  It means as long as they don’t get themselves into trouble with walks, they are fine.

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And that is really what the Reds have discovered in this race.  If they don’t get themselves into trouble, then they can compete.  Whether or not they can keep this up, the first six weeks of the season have been a blast so far.

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