Are the Reds for Real? They Tie the Cards for First Place in NL Central.

5/14/09 in MLB   |   Drakesrake_77   |   82 respect

The Cincinnati Reds are off to their best start in nine years.  Their record currently stands at 20-14 (tied for first place in NL Central) after wrapping up a three game sweep at Arizona.  13 of their wins have come on the road to lead the majors in road wins.  All this early success has many Cincinnati fans hopeful, but nevertheless hesitant to celebrate just yet.  The pause stems from the fact that the Reds have not made a postseason appearance in since 1995, and 15 years of failure doesn't leave fans' hearts and minds very easily. 

The Reds didn't make any huge moves this off season, and their stellar play has taken many around the country by surprise.  The one player that they signed this off season that has payed the most dividends is undoubtedly OF Willy Taveras.  In 32 games, Taveras is batting .325, with 10 stolen bases, and 26 runs scored.  Batting lead off, he has been instrumental for the Reds offense by getting on base (.377 OBP) and getting into scoring position for sluggers Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce.  Their offense got off to a slow start, but now their bats seem to be coming on strong.   Joey Votto currently leads the NL with a .374 batting average, and has driven in 26 runs.  Jay Bruce is only batting .244, but he has knocked 10 home runs to lead the Reds and adds 21 RBI.  Perhaps the slowest Reds slugger to come around this year was Brandon Phillips, who began the season in a dismal slump.  He has turned his season around with authority however, hitting .396 with 4 homers, and 19 RBI already in May.  They have also gotten good offensive production from newcomers, 3B Adam Rosales (.294), C/1B Ramon Hernandez (.274), C Ryan Hanagin (.310), and Lance Nix (.304).

Perhaps the most encouraging sign from this ball club, is that Cincinnati's pitching staff is performing well from top to bottom.  Combined, they have pitched six shut-outs (first in majors), which equals the number of shut-outs they recorded ALL of last year.  They currently rank sixth in the majors in team ERA (3.98), and wins (19).  Almost everyone on the Reds pitching staff has been impressive this year, but young fireballer, Johnny Cueto has been nothing short of unhittable.  In his first seven starts, Cueto is 4-1, with an ERA of just 1.75 (second in NL behind Johan Santana).  Other notable performers from this group are Francisco Cordero who leads the NL with 10 saves and has a 2.40 ERA, and Reds ace, Aaron Harang, who has a 2.93 ERA and has already pitched a complete game shut-out this season. The Reds have seven pitchers with over 10 innings pitched who have an ERA under 3.00.

The season is long, and there are many things that could slow this young team's charge to the postseason.  For the moment, the Reds look like a legitimate contender to win the National League Central.  And for a team that has been too long mired in disappointment and mediocrity, this team is finally playing with a passion and hunger that Reds fans haven't seen in their hometown boys in some time.              
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5/15/09   |   Drakesrake_77   |   82 respect

The Reds majority owner is Robert Castellini.  And kudos to him for going out and getting the Card's GM, Walt Jocketty too.  Great point about "big money" holding the cards.  I love to see the Yanks hovering around .500 while teams like the Reds and Rays (last year) doing great in much smaller markets and with miniscule payrolls in comparison.

5/14/09   |   THE_Smoot   |   70 respect

As long as they don't fall out of contention, I'll be happy.

5/14/09   |   Drakesrake_77   |   82 respect

americannightmare76 wrote:
A few key pieces in their bullpen and they could really contend with almost no issue. They're playing in probably the toughest division in the league right now seeing how the Cardinals are coming out of nowhere with their lack of bullpen depth, the Brewers holding strong despite having a truly weakened starting rotation, the Cubs who are just overall struggling in every possible way imaginable, and a team in Pittsburgh that can be really good if they remain strong and in form. It's going to be a fun race in the Central this season.

True, and I've been VERY pleasantly surprised with how the Reds bullpen has held up almost every single time they've been called upon this year!   I agree that the NL Central is starting to look like the big dogs of baseball.  I'm so hopeful that the Reds can at least stay in the race long enough to get me into NFL football season. : ) 

5/14/09   |   americannightmare76

A few key pieces in their bullpen and they could really contend with almost no issue. They're playing in probably the toughest division in the league right now seeing how the Cardinals are coming out of nowhere with their lack of bullpen depth, the Brewers holding strong despite having a truly weakened starting rotation, the Cubs who are just overall struggling in every possible way imaginable, and a team in Pittsburgh that can be really good if they remain strong and in form. It's going to be a fun race in the Central this season.

5/14/09   |   BearcatFan   |   6 respect

Great article.  Yes, the Reds do look good, but I'm not going to get too excited until we win some games after the All Star game.  For years I've watched the Reds come out strong, only to foul up the second half of the season.  I hope this does not happen this year.

5/14/09   |   fred77008   |   17 respect

These guys are arriving as a team.  There is no real super star and so the club as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  By getting rid of the unfulfilled promises of Griffey and Dunn, Cincinnati has made room for these kids to come into their own.

Right now they are playing loose and having fun.  Hopefully they can keep it that way or the biggest obstacle they face down the road may be themselves.