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Playoff Bound Cincinnati Reds Weekend Preview

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April don't mean jack, Jack. When we first met the Reds back in April we had the hottest offense in baseball with the hopes n dreams of the best outfield in Dodger history coming to fruition. Matt Kemp was soaring home runs to right center fielder with so much regularity that the question wasn't would he be a 30/30 man but would he be a 40/40 man. Back then the offense was scoring nine runs a game but the pitching was atrocious. By the time we left the Reds during that 1st series we had scored 28 runs but won only one game. It would be last time the Dodgers showed that kind of offense. Matt Kemp left Cincinnati with a slug % of .730. Since then he has this to show for his work in 2010.

Meanwhile the Reds righted their ship and would have to rank as the biggest surprise in the National League if not for those upstart Padres down south. While many have expected them to tail off, just like the Padres they keep chugging along. The Reds win a little differently then the Padres. They knock the crap out of the ball with one of the best one two punches in baseball. Joey Votto has had good years but nothing like this, while Scott Rolen hasn't hit like this since he was fighting Chipper Jones for the title of best 3rd baseman in baseball.

This season is no fluke:

Manager: Dusty Baker (70-51)
Scored 602 runs, Allowed 505 runs. Pythagorean W-L: 70-51

They lead the NL in OPS and wOBA. They have scored 602 runs, leading the league by 31 runs.

Joe Posnanski recently penned a book called "The Machine" about the 1975 Reds. Back then the Dodger/Red rivalry was the best in baseball but since the Reds have moved to the NL Central that rivalry is a distant memory for many of the new generation Dodger / Red fans.

I only mention this because right now because the Reds are hitting like the old Big Red Machine. Cincinnati fans should be excited about their team, as they sit in first place on August 20th, 3.5 games a head of the Cardinals. This is a fun team to watch. The outfield is patchwork but those corners are pure dynamite.

While the Cardinals were adding Westbrook, the Reds retrieved Edinson Volquez and Homer Bailey from the disabled list.

Position Breakdown

1st Base- As I said in the previous Red preview, 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, and is quietly turning into the best first baseman in the NL not name Albert. Votto has a legitimate claim for the MVP this year.

Rant - Also just because Joe Sheehan bugs me so much. For some reason he caught on as a roto writer in 2010 after his gig with BP ran out, in his first column this year he mentioned that Paul Konerko was going to suck. If you look at the link I provided on Votto above you will notice just how awesome Paul Konerko has been. I hope no one took his advice. In 2008 or 2009 he was singing the praises of Jeff Franceour. Joe Sheehan knows plenty about baseball, but when it comes to giving roto advice he should stick with what he knows. /Rant

2nd Base- Brandon Philips is struggling in August but overall he's had a fine year. If you want some giggles here is the Aug line for 2nd baseman in the NL. You will notice Carroll is listed as a 2nd baseman. You will also notice that Carroll has the 2nd highest wOBA in August and that old friend DeWitt is fifth. Maybe Eric and I were wrong about Carroll. Maybe the more he plays the better he will get. I'd have no problem with him being our starting 2nd baseman when Furcal comes back. Which is a far cry from my point of view on the day we signed him. I love Jamey Carroll. He's my own little Eckstein.

SS - I think Orlando Cabrera is due to come off the DL this weekend, but if he isn't able to go, Paul Janish will be the starting SS. Neither can hit.

3rd Base -At one time Scott Rolen was one of the best 3rd baseman in the NL headed toward a HOF career when injuries sapped him of his power. He missed significant chunks of time, and when he did play he was just a shell of the former great 3rd baseman. In one of the greatest trades in Red, history they dealt the troubled, and not that talented Edwin Encarnacion for Rolen. I don't think the Reds at the time realized they had just acquired the piece that would lead to their renaissance in 2010. At the age of 35 Rolen is having one of his best season among a career of great seasons but none of them had occurred since he was 29.

C - Ramon Hernandez is kicking ass in August and has the interesting line of 41 plate appearances with one walk and one strikeout. The man is putting the ball in play and when he does it finds some grass. His average in Aug is .395 and his BABIP is only .367. Ryan Hanigan came off the DL and is now just watching Ramon spray hit after hit.

CF - Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs are platooning (take note Ned) in CF and are doing the job. In August they both have a wOBA over .400. While neither would be a very good full time option, when platooned they seem to be a match made in Baltimore.

RF - Like Kemp, Jay Bruce has shown his moments but unlike Kemp the one time golden boy has not been able to put together a full season of above board production. He's been okay this year but I expect Red fans like Dodgers fans expected more then a .767 OPS from the guy they had hoped would be one of the best hitters in the league by now.

LF - Finally , a chink in the armor, LHP killer Johnny Gomes is struggling big time in August. Lance Nix is stealing some at bats and doing quite well with them.

Bench -Jim Edmunds(OF), Lance Nix (OF), Paul Janish (MI), Juan Francisco (3rd/OF), Miguel Cairo (Infield), Chris Heisy (outfield), Ryan Hanigan(C). Solid bench

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game One - Homer Bailey will be making his 2nd start since coming off the DL. In his last start on Aug 15th, he pitched six innings of shutout ball. The Reds have had to make their run without Homer for most of the year but he gives them a big shot in the arm by being here for the stretch run.

Game Two -.Johnny Cuerto makes his first start since being suspended for kicking during the melee between the Reds/Cardinals. Cuerto has been the best pitcher for the Reds for most of the season. His TSL of 3.38/3.85/4.36 is solid enough. The 24 year old is just one of the plethora of good young arms the Reds will have at their disposal for the future. With Cuerto, Volquez, Leake, Bailey, Travis Wood, and possibly Aroldis Chapman, they don't have to worry about who is going to be in the rotation in 2011. They have to worry about how to fit them all in.

Game Three - Bronson Arroyo keeps getting the job done. Many teams could do worse then having him to fill out the back end of the rotation.

Bullpen:Francisco Cordero is still the closer and still doing the job. All - Star Arthur Rhodes is drinking what Scott Rolen is drinking, and has been virtually un-hittable this year. Others we will see are Nick Massett, Bill Bray, Jordan Smith, and Logan Ondrusek. Rhodes and Bray will be the ones to shut down Andre and Loney. And we know they will.

The Reds are my favorite non Dodger NL team at the moment. Hate to say it but I like what Dusty is doing with this team. Votto is one of my favorite players. Rolen has always been a favorite. I'd love to see them knock off the Cardinals. This team can hit alot and pitch a little. They can also field. The Dodgers will be hard pressed to hold off the Reds from a sweep. Can our dominant duo of Kershaw and Chad shut down the high octane offense of the Reds enough to allow our offense to squeak by with a win? I feel like a Giant blogger, back in April who knew our high powered offense would turn from a howitzer into a popgun.