2 questions the Reds have already answered in 2024, 1 that still lingers

The Reds pitching has not been the problem this season.
Cincinnati Reds starter Nick Lodolo
Cincinnati Reds starter Nick Lodolo / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

The first month of the 2024 season is now in the rearview mirror. While the record isn't exactly where Reds fans had hoped it would be at this point in the season, given the number of injuries David Bell's ball club has suffered throughout the month of April, it's hard to complain.

The Cincinnati Reds, however, have been lacking consistency all season. While the Reds haven't dipped below .500 this season, they've managed to only get a few games above an even win-loss record. The Reds have had six come-from-behind wins, but have also blown five leads. Cincinnati has shutout the opposition twice this season, but have also been shutout twice in their own right.

The hope, of course, for Reds Country is that once this team returns all their players from the IL, perhaps Cincinnati will go on a run and start looking like the team that the fanbase envisioned seeing this season. The Reds have answered a few questions with their early-season play, but some remain.

2 questions the Reds have already answered in 2024, 1 that still lingers

Do the Reds have enough pitching to compete in the NL Central?

The Reds front office addressed the team's biggest need this offseason. After watching so many pitchers underperform or find their way to the IL in 2023, Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall was not going to let that happen again.

Krall went out this offseason and landed a bevy of both starters and relievers to help bolster the Reds' pitching staff. Frankie Montas, Nick Martinez, Brent Suter, Emilio Pagán, and Justin Wilson were all signed as free agents this winter, and the Cincinnati faithful have seen the return of Nick Lodolo.

Lodolo is the ace of the Reds' staff. That's undeniable after watching the former first-round pick absolutely mow down the competition during the outset of the 2024 season. If Lodolo stays healthy, the Reds have a Cy Young candidate on their hands.

The Reds don't need the rest of the pitching staff to be elite (though that would be nice). But if Bell can get consistently get five-plus innings from Montas, Andrew Abbott, Hunter Greene, and Graham Ashcraft while limiting the damage, the Reds bullpen will stay well-rested. There are more than enough quality arms in the Reds' organization to compete for the NL Central crown this season.

Will Elly De La Cruz make the necessary adjustments?

Outside of pitching, perhaps the biggest question for the Reds entering 2024 was the development of Cincinnati's budding superstar Elly De La Cruz. The speedy shortstop burst onto the scene in 2023, but opposing pitchers quickly discovered a hole in De La Cruz's swing. They then exploited it, and De La Cruz would oftentimes be flailing at pitches well outside the strike zone.

De La Cruz put in the work this offseason, and it shows. The 22-year-old has been laying off pitches that aren't in his wheelhouse, and when they are, De La Cruz has been obliterating them. According to Baseball Savant, De La Cruz is among the best in baseball in expected slugging percentage, average exit velocity, and barrel rate.

The biggest adjustment that De La Cruz has made, however, is taking his base. De La Cruz has a 13.5% walk rate, which is among the top 10% in the league. Last season, that number was just above 8%. With De La Cruz now reaching base more often, it allows him create chaos on the base paths and score more runs. De La Cruz has answered the bell this season.

How will the Reds fare against left-handed pitching?

This question continues to haunt the Reds, and it's one that Bell and the coaching staff need to address. The Reds have been pathetic against left-handed pitching this season. When Jake Fraley, a left-handed hitter who's historically struggled against southpaws, is your best left-handed bat, there's a problem. Fraley's .968 OPS is the highest of any Reds player against lefties this season.

As a team, Cincinnati is hitting just .224 against left-handed pitching, which is good enough for 22nd among all 30 major league teams. The Reds' 87 strikeouts against left-handers is the fifth-most in the league.

A lot of this can be attributed to injuries. The Reds are missing Matt McLain and TJ Friedl. Nick Senzel was the only Reds player last season who had a higher OPS against southpaws than the duo of McLain and Friedl.

The Reds have also been without Tyler Stephenson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand of late. The Reds' struggles against lefties may be a question mark all season until Cincinnati returns to full strength. But with McLain unlikely to return until after the All-Star break, Bell will need to find ways to supplement his lineup until the second baseman returns.

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