There are certain teams where you look at them at the beginning of the season, and you realize that they could certainly compete for a playoff spot. It seems like I've been saying precisely that about the Cincinatti Reds for the better part of a decade. In college, I had a roommate who was a Cubs fan, and to start every season I would tell him that I thought the sleeper pick in the NL Central should be the Reds. The games would be played and the year would end without a good result for the Reds and I'd be right back at it making the same prediction the following year. Since I started calling the Reds my perrenial sleeper team, the Reds have showcased a solid hitting team for years, including Ken Griffey Jr, Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Josh Hamilton, Sean Casey, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, et al. I always assumed that they would be able to hit their way to a title while getting just enough from their pitching staff. Next thing you know, most of those guys above are now gone without delivering an NL Central title and the promise for the Reds suddenly became their suite of power arms. My rationale for picking the Reds to (again) be the NL Central sleeper was the pitching staff. The Reds came into the year with young arms Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, and Edinson Volquez (hurt to start the year then popped for steroids anyway.) Additionally, the Reds were hoping to get something out of Mike Leake who they didn't bother sending to the minors and had invested in Aroldis Chapman to provide a spark midway through the year if necessary. Rounding out the pitching rotation was old favorite of mine Aaron Harang.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that after all these years of following the Reds to a certain degree, I clearly am getting no better in identifying their potential strenghts. The truth of it is, I could have picked basically anyone in the NL Central as my sleeper team these past 10 years and certainly been more correct then my Reds prediction (except the Pirates.) The Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers and Astros have all advanced to the playoffs during that time as the Reds haven't qualified for post-season play since 1995. At this point though, the Reds do sit in the pole position and it's been the hitting, not the pitching, which has gotten them there. The Reds lead the National League with a team wOBA of .351 which has made up for the team being in the bottom quarter of the NL with their pitchers posting a team x-FIP of 4.46. For a point of comparison, the Dodgers are in the middle of the NL with the pitchers posting a team x-FIP of 4.20 and in the bottom half of the NL with a team wOBA of .324.
Hiroki Kuroda draws the pitching assignment tonight for the Dodgers and will square off against Aaron Harang. At first glance Kuroda appears to be the clear favorite in the contest as he enters with an ERA of 3.30 compared to Harang's 5.17 ERA. x-FIP though is quite a bit closer as Kuroda's x-FIP of 3.84 is much more comparable to Harang's x-FIP of 4.00 on the year. Great American Ballpark remains a home run haven, and Harang enters the game with a HR/9 of 1.41 (13th in MLB.)
As alluded to in the title, the Dodgers are going to be racking up the frequent flyer miles again as 15 of the next 18 games are on the road (though 3 of them are in Anaheim.)
Extreme weather is in the forecast tonight including a chance for tornadic activity. The forecast indicates the storms should be scattered, so it seems likely that the teams will get the game in.
Andre Ethier remains the only Dodger currently in-line to be voted into an all-star spot. He is third in the NL behind Jason Heyward and Ryan Braun. I would guess that Ethier and Jonathan Broxton will be the only two Dodgers represented in Anaheim.
Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts asks what the corresponding roster move will be when the Dodgers activate Vicente Padilla. Weisman believed the most likely candidate was a DFA to Justin Miller since he has no options but also brought up an "injury" to George Sherrill. At this point, with Sherrill posting an x-FIP north of 6 and Joe Torre having no confidence in him in high leverage situations, a DL move seems most likely and an outright DFA might not be far away.
Game Time 4:10 pm