It’s a little late for a review of April’s performance and a little early for a first-30-games analysis. In either case, our Redlegs have begun to generate enough meaningful data that it’s worth checking in to see where they’re stand today and where they might be headed tomorrow.
The team's OPS is decidedly league average thus far, tilting slightly towards SLG versus OBP. The Reds are slightly below average (ninth in the NL) in scoring runs but decidedly above average in preventing runs from scoring. Cincinnati trails only the staffs in D.C., St. Louis (D’oh!), Miami, and L.A. in fewest runs allowed per game. While the starters have been good, and in some cases much better than expected (Thanks, Bronson!), the strength of the staff lies in a four-headed relief beast named MarshManOndruDondo that has been extremely stingy in the giving of runs. Chapman and Ondrusek won’t maintain spotless 0.00 ERAs forever (well, Ondrusek won’t anyway) but by all appearances the bullpen strength looks to have more than survived the loss of Ryan Madson before the season ever began.
The offense has been led by Bruce and Votto, which is precisely the way this machine was designed to run. To some extent, the two have complementary skills, with Bruce slugging his 9 bombs to Votto’s obscenely high .444 on-base clip. Suffice it to say that they will need to maintain this type of production on the whole if the Reds want to play in October. Behind those two troublemakers, Cozart has been the most delightful surprise, providing production on par with more famous young shortstops such as Starlin Castro and Elvis Andrus, especially when you factor in defensive contributions. The safe bet would be to figure on some regression from Cozart, as the length of his first full MLB season begins to wear on him and opposing pitchers adjust to the scouting report. But it’s a lot of delicious gravy while it lasts. The Hanigan/Mesoraco catching tandem continues to provide better than league average production as well, while Stubbs is showing signs of life with two doubles and two dingers in his last four games.
Individuals to worry about on offense include, first and foremost, Phillips and Rolen; secondly, the left field time-share situation. With the first month in the rear view mirror, Brandon is way off his career slash stats. I’m willing to attribute that to injury-related issues and move on with a healthy mixture of logic and hope. Rolen is significantly more worrisome because he has been declining offensively since approximately July of 2010. As long as Cozart plays above average, the Reds can probably abide a glove-first third sacker. But come June, if the aforementioned regression at shortstop arrives and/or Rolen still appears lost at the plate, it will be time to integrate Frazier into the starting line-up at least two or three times a week. In left field, Ludwick hasn’t yet made anyone forget about his semi-disastrous season in San Pittsburgh-iego last year. Outside of torching lefties to the tune of a .964 OPS (in only 10 ABs), Heisey hasn’t been a whole lot better. This is another logical location where Frazier could stand to pick up appearances if Rolen manages to find his stroke.
On the whole, things are looking up: The Reds have won or split their last five series. The last time Cincinnati dropped a set was mid-April, against the Cardinals. (Again, d’oh!) After finishing the series in Milwaukee this week, the Reds’ mettle will be thoroughly tested with three games against the Nationals, whose pitching staff is the class of the NL, followed by a run of 9 of 11 games against the Braves and Yankees, a pair of teams that score buckets of runs. Barring injury to a significant contributor, the home nine appears to be trending up to the challenge.
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