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