Reds Review: May


The second month of the 2013 season is in the books for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds finished the month of May 19-8 and stand 2-1/2 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. With a third of the season already behind them, the Reds have a good idea of where they stand going forward.

After treading water in the month of April, the Reds found a groove in May and took advantage of playing some bad teams. The return of Johnny Cueto and Ryan Hanigan helped bolster the rotation and catching position. Furthermore, the platoon of Xavier Paul, Derrick Robinson, and Donald Lutz held there own in left field.

Phillips and Votto continue to lead Reds

Phillips and Votto continue to lead Reds

Despite playing some very good baseball over the last month, the Reds actually lost ground in the division. Entering June 1, the top three records in all of baseball played in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds are making the NL Central a national storyline. With nobody backing down or fading from the pack, it appears the division crown will be as competitive as ever.


The Good

Joey Votto has returned to his 2010 MVP form and once again looks like the best hitter in the National League. Votto currently leads all of baseball in runs scored (45), walks (46), and on-base percentage (.465). More importantly, he is driving the ball to every corner of the field and hitting for power when opposing managers actually decide to pitch to him.

The starting rotation continues to produce quality start after quality start. Johnny Cueto looks healthy and strong after spending time on the disabled list in April. Mike Leake produced one of the best months of his young career while going 3-1 with an ERA of 1.87. Nobody on the current rotation has an ERA over 4 and the Reds have Tony Cingrani in the wings if anything should happen going forward.

The Bad

Todd Frazier has hit a sophomore slump in a big way. Frazier didn’t hit a home run in the month of May and hit only .220. The Reds managed to produce enough offense from other positions to make up for the lack of production at third base, but there is no doubt they will need more from Frazier throughout the remainder of the season. Jay Bruce and Frazier supply the power this team needs in the middle of the lineup.

Should Sam Lecure get a chance as the setup man?

Should Sam Lecure get a chance as the setup man?

Jonathan Broxton has looked uncomfortable in the setup spot. Even when the big guy does his job, it isn’t easy. Relievers have ups and downs just like hitters throughout the year, but perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let Sam Lecure try his hand in the eighth inning.

Lecure has been near dominant this season and he has the mindset to succeed in that role. There is no shame in giving Broxton a break for a few weeks until he finds his stuff both mentally and physically.

Although Cueto and Hanigan returned, injuries are still a concern for this team going forward. It looks like Ryan Ludwick will be out until at least the middle of August. Sean Marshall is back on the disbaled list with a sore shoulder and Chris Heisey continues to rehab his hamstring. The Reds are continuing to get by with the active players on the roster, but at some point the injuries could catch up.

Looking Forward

As mentioned in a recent column, the Reds took advantage of a weak schedule in the month of May and established themselves as a force in the National League. While it’s somewhat depressing to go 19-8 and still lose ground in the division, the Reds have done a great job of keeping pace with the Cardinals and staying in striking distance.

June brings two big series at home against the Cardinals and Pirates as well as the first west coast trip of the year. The Reds have played extremely well at Great American Ballpark and need to take advantage of the seven games against St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.

With the first two months behind them, the Reds find themselves in the heart of what looks like a very exciting division race. Strong pitching, good defense, and clutch hitting from Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips has been the recipe for success so far. Strong pitching and remaining healthy will be the key going forward.

Stay tuned.

Here Come the Redlegs….

The Cincinnati Reds won their fourth straight game last night and improved to 8-3 in the month of May. Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto pitched five innings and gave up no runs, three hits, no walks and struck out four during his second rehab start in Class A Dayton. All signs point to Cueto returning to the Reds rotation as soon as Sunday in Philadelphia.

For a team which was bitten badly by the injury bug in April, the Reds find themselves seven games over .500 and only two games out of first place in the NL Central. Sean Marshall, Ryan Hanigan, and now Johnny Cueto have all returned from the DL over the past few weeks and have been major contributors to the recent wave of success.

JOHNNY CUETO IS SET TO RETURN TO ROTATION

JOHNNY CUETO IS SET TO RETURN TO ROTATION

Perhaps now would be a good time to give Dusty Baker some credit. With left fielders Ryan Ludwick and Chris Heisey still on the disabled list, Dusty has done a good job of juggling Derrick Robinson, Xavier Paul, and Donald Lutz.

Rather than panic after losing his clean-up hitter on Opening Day, Dusty has kept the pulse of the team and guided them to the 4th best record in baseball.

The Reds find themselves on day two of a 9 game road trip against three teams with losing records. Is it premature to think they can go 6-3 or 7-2 on the road trip? The month of May was the springboard for a team that won 97 games in 2012. With key contributors returning from the disabled list, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce heating up, and sub .500 teams in their near future, the month of May could prove to be fruitful yet again.

This team certainly isn’t perfect, but nobody is perfect in May. They have suffered too many injuries and personnel changes to establish an identity. That’s why a 23-16 record is so impressive. They have beat the teams they’re supposed to beat and played near .500 ball against everyone else. That’s a recipe for reaching the playoffs. Once they make the playoffs, anything can happen.

IT'S TIME TO GIVE DUSTY SOME CREDIT

IT’S TIME TO GIVE DUSTY SOME CREDIT

For now, give Dusty Baker some credit for remaining calm and collected during a somewhat strange start to the season. Teams often take on the personality of their manager. Watching this Reds team the last few years should prove how valuable Dusty has been in that regard. The players never get too high or too low and they always believe they have a chance to win.

With four of their next five series against sub-.500 teams, don’t be surprised if the Reds surpass the Cardinals by Memorial Day. As previously noted, the month of May has been kind to this team in years past.

Now is the time to take advantage of a weak schedule and healthy pitching staff. Now is the time to make a run. Now is the time to trust Dusty Baker.

Reds Review: April


The first month of the 2013 season is in the books for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds finished the month of April at 15-13 and stand one game back of the division leading St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, injuries have been the storyline during the early part of the season for the Reds.

The famous saying goes “you can’t win the division in April, but you can certainly lose it”. The Reds did a good job of surviving their most difficult month on the schedule without their starting left fielder, number one pitcher, and starting catcher for a majority of the time.

Choo and Phillips have carried the Reds in April

Choo and Phillips have carried the Reds in April

As of May 1, Ryan Ludwick, Johnny Cueto, Ryan Hanigan, and Chris Heisey are all on the disabled list. With seven games against the Washington Nationals and six games against the St. Louis Cardinals (two of the best teams in the NL) in the month of April, the Reds proved they can survive without some of their best players.


The Good

The starting pitching has been sensational. There is no doubt the Reds starting rotation has carried them through the month of April. Despite losing their ace, Johnny Cueto, Reds starters posted a 2.95 ERA and accounted for 20 quality starts. Tony Cingrani has been lights out since taking over for the injured Cueto and the Reds are among the tops in all starting pitching statistics.

Shin-Soo Choo is everything the Reds could have hoped for and more. Choo leads the world in on base percentage and leads the Reds in nearly every offensive category. Through the month of April, Choo has posted a .337 BA, scored 20 runs, and is tied for second on the team with 4 home runs. It’s hard to believe Choo can continue at his current pace, but even a slight decline in production is a huge upgrade over what the Reds received the past few years in Drew Stubbs.


The Bad

The bullpen is a legitimate concern through the first month of the season. The Reds bullpen posted a 3.98 ERA in the month of April and lost several games set up by the dominant starting pitching. J.J. Hoover appears to have recovered from some early miscues, but Manny Parra and Jonathan Broxton have been horrible. Hopefully the return of Sean Marshall and possibly Jose Arredondo will give the bullpen a much needed facelift.

The Reds need more from Jay Bruce

The Reds need more from Jay Bruce

The offense has been subpar so far in the 2013 season. They rank near the bottom of the league in batting average and slugging percentage and near the top of the league in strike outs. Brandon Phillips has been a life saver in the clean up spot and helped lead the Reds to a winning month. However, with Ryan Ludwick out until at least July, the Reds need Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier to carry some more weight.

Additionally, it still doesn’t seem like Joey Votto is locked in at the plate. Pitchers are so careful when pitching to Votto that he really has to pick his swings and decide whether or not it’s better to take a walk. There is no need to be worried about Votto, but he still doesn’t quite seem like the MVP player of the 2010 season.


Looking Forward

The Reds played mediocre baseball in the month of April and still managed to produce a winning record and maintain striking distance in the NL Central. It looks like Johnny Cueto and Ryan Hanigan will return soon and hopefully the offense can produce like it has in years past.

As previously mentioned, the baseball season is long and arduous. It’s full of ups and downs and peaks and valleys. The key is to survive the slumps, injuries, and other obstacles to still be standing come October. As we’ve seen the past few years, anything can happen in October. There is no reason to panic that the offense is off to a slow start, just like there is no reason to believe Shin-Soo Choo will lead this team in home runs.

The Reds have done a great job of overcoming obstacles in the first month of the season and have left themselves in a good position going forward. The Reds will look to build on some positives going into the month of May and reaching their ultimate goal: October.