Cincinnati Reds Preview - A team in disarray

After losing five games in a row, punctuated by being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds started the road trip with two extra inning wins against the Marlins but then lost five in a row. Only one game was a blow out, as each of the other four losses were by two runs or less, so this team is not doing as bad as the record indicates (5 - 8) and Pythagorean (5-8) suggest.

The offense is only scoring 4.08 runs a game putting them 14th in the league.  Several of their hitters are hitting into bad luck with BABIP's less < 25%.  The pitching is allowing 5.31 runs a game but just like the Dodgers that includes several blow outs. The Reds have a solid infield, a weak outfield, decent bullpen, some decent starting pitching but little depth. They are probably relying too much on an older left side of the infield, and a decaying Ramon Hernandez.  The outfield which looked so promising a few years ago is in disarray. Jay Bruce arrived with much fanfare and many LA media outlets complained the Dodgers never produced players like Bruce. Move forward a few years, Bruce has never gotten it going while Matt Kemp is the talk of baseball.

Help for the rotation could be on its way with Aroldis Chapman who is in the minors for some reason. The Reds signed the Cuba stud to a six year, 30.25MM deal this past winter. Latest scouting report on Chapman courtesy of Baseball America:

The Scoop: We knew he could throw hard. We knew he had as much upside as any left-handed pitching prospect in the game. We knew he was a potential No. 1 starter in the future. What we didn't know was how good Chapman was right now, as he showed in his first minor league start by dominating Triple-A Toledo. Chapman hit triple digits with his fastball, but Reds' brass has to be just as impressed that he only walked one batter. He'll still have to refine his command, but it shouldn't be long before Chapman takes his prodigious arm to Cincinnati.

Changes:

Notable Losses: They had no notable losses unless you consider losing Willy Taveras notable.

Notable Additions: Aaroldis Chapman, Orlando Cabrera, Jonny Gomes

Old Friends: Zero

Position Breakdown

1st Base- Joey Votto is not off to a sizzling start as my roto teams can attest but he is a big time talent. When healthy in mind and body Votto is just a tad behind Prince Fielder when it comes to 1st base production. I think part of the unhappiness with James Loney is that he's not Joey Votto. They were both drafted in 2002. The Dodgers got Loney with the 19th pick of the 1st round; the Reds nabbed Votto with the 2nd pick in the second round. Votto has outperformed Loney by leaps and bounds over the last two years but it is too early to say this dog hunt is over. At the moment Votto is an extra base hit machine as Brandon Washburn who sponsors his page at baseball - reference points out:

2009 Final NL Rankings: BA .322 (5th) OBP .414 (4th) SLG .567 (5th) OPS .981 (3rd) His at-bats/home run and at-bats/double ratios rate him as one of Major League Baseball's elite hitters. Better things to come in 2010!

2nd Base- Brandon Philips struggles in 2010 are another reason why the Red offense is having trouble scoring runs. Never a good OB player, Philips puts together a decent combination of extra base hits, speed, and defense to make him a better then average 2nd baseman. Right now his .224 BA is being affected by his .26% hit rate. 

SS - Orlando Cabrera came over as a FA after spending 2009 playing for the Twins. This old SS is consistent putting up an xBA of .259 - .268 over the last five years. Not a particularly effective offensive player his defense according to UZR also took a large dip in 2009 (-15).  

3rd Base -At one time Scott Rolen was one of the best 3rd baseman in the NL. His offensive and defense combined to make him a potent force when he was healthy. His age and shoulder woes have sapped him from the power he once had but even now when he's playing he's a good 3rd baseman. His defense is still a plus (5.8) and his offense should still tick in above a .800 OPS.

C - Four years ago Ramon Hernandez was a decent offensive catcher posting four straight OPS+ years above 100. That was four years ago and time has caught up to the 34 year old catcher.

CF - Drew Stubbs is trying to keep the job he won this spring. The former number one pick (8th overall) has several outstanding skills in speed and defense. Lacking however seems to be the ability to hit. Kind of important for a center fielder. So far this year he has struck out 41% of the time and his future as the starting CF seems tenuous. He has a sore back which might help explain his 2 for 24 in his last six games. Dickerson might see some time in CF against us. Dickerson has decent OB skills, excellent speed, and little power. He can do the job but he's really a fourth outfielder. Similar to Xavier Paul except he can play a good CF.

RF - Jay Bruce is the king of the poster children of Delmon Young, Andy Marte, and Alex Gordon. Top top tier prospects that have not gotten it done at the major league level. Bruce was expected to be the best of the best prospects but those expectations have not been met. He has plenty of time to turn it around, and probably will still meet those expectations but not as soon as they expected him to. He's having a dismal April as he carries.598 OPS into our series. Bad luck has plagued him, with a .19% hit rate, so things have to turn around for him. When he gets going he should give the Reds a solid above average right fielder for years to come.

LF - Gomes seems to have taken over the starting gig, even against RHP. Gomes has plenty of power, strikes out a lot, walks around 8% of the time, and is a terrible outfielder. If he's starting against RHP he's a huge weak link.

This might be a weaker outfield then the Giants. Only the potential of Bruce keeps them interesting.

Bench -Lance Nix (OF), Paul Janish (MI), Juan Francisco (3rd/OF), Miguel Cairo (Infield), and Ryan Hanigan make up the bench. Juan Francisco has some talent.

On the DL:Edinson Volquez

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game One -Homer Bailey - 7th pick in the 2004 draft Homer has never quite lived up to the lofty expectations. His control is awful, his dominance only adequate, and he lives up to his name. He had a nice nine game stretch to end the year last year which gave Red fans hope he had turned the corner. So far in 2010 that would not seem to be the case as he carries a FIP of 6.32 into Tuesday's game. Fastball (92.7), slider (85.5), and CB are the main part of his arsenal. He has a changeup but rarely uses it.

Game Two -.Aaron Harang  was widely discussed as a possible landing spot for the Dodger rotation. We might be lucky that didn't happen. He has a 7.82 ERA, a 6.59 FIP, but only a 4.32 xFIP, suggesting he's had some bad luck in the home run department. That probably won't improve after our outfield gets done with him. Fastball (91), Slider (82.8) is what he goes to war with. He also has a CB and Change up and uses both of the about the same 6%.

Game Three - Mike Leake jumped from college to the starting rotation and has a done a job in two starts in keeping base-runners from scoring.  He's gotten into the sixth inning in both his starts. We will kill him. That sterling 2.63 ERA will look very much like his xFIP (5.69) after Thursday Night. He does not belong in a major league rotation yet. At least not one facing the Dodger outfield.  On the plus side Leake does have three hits in his first five major league at bats. Also it is cool he jumped right from ASU to the Red Rotation. 

Bullpen:Francisco Cordero is still the closer and still doing the job. Hitting stud Micah Owings is doing the best work. The ex-starter seems to be thriving in the bullpen, to bad this reduces the times he will hit. Others we will see are Nick Massett, Daniel Herrera, Arthur Rhodes (yes he is still pitching),  and Mike Lincoln. Anyone else and that means the game is out of hand. Rhodes and Herrera will be thrown at Andre as they try to cool his late inning heroics.

I expect a sweep as our offense will overwhelm their pitching. Those close games they have been losing to the Pirates are about to turn into more then one run deficits. Unless our bullpen lets them back into the game.

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