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Dodgers vs. Reds preview: Q&A with Red Reporter's Wick Terrell

Wick Terrell (also known as "Kevin Mitchell is Batman") over at the Reds' SB Nation blog, Red Reporter, recently took the time to answer a couple questions for TBLA about the MLB team in Cincinnati.

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

The Dodgers and Reds surprisingly haven't faced each other this season. To find out more about Cincinnati, Wick Terrell (aka Kevin Mitchell is Batman) from the Reds' SB Nation blog Red Reporter took the time to answer a couple questions about Cincy.

DAVID: This question is pretty simple and on almost all of these Q&A's, who are the Reds' Cy Young and MVP as of right now?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: This one may seem simple, but the balance of both the pitching and offense makes it a bit harder to choose. For the Cy Young, the surface stats would dictate it should be Mike Leake, as he's 9-4 with a team-best 2.79 ERA, and he's genuinely pitched quite well; FIP and xFIP, however, don't seem to think it's a clear reflection of how good he is, though, and actually have Homer Bailey (he of the no-hitter) and Mat Latos ahead of Leake significantly. If you're really asking which pitcher I'd like to throw Game 1 of a playoff series, I'd go with Latos, his 3.11 FIP, and his career high 9.5 K/9, but that's a close one.

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: As for MVP, I'll go with Shin-Soo Choo in the slightest of victories over Joey Votto. Choo's been a revelation at the top of the order and has been, of late at least, passable in CF after some early struggles. Votto's been great, for sure, but he's not performed nearly to what we've come to expect.

DAVID: The Reds are probably in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, divisions in the league. What or who do you think they need to acquire at the deadline to leapfrog over Pittsburgh and St. Louis?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: For the same reasons the Reds were pretty universally picked to win the NL Central at the beginning of the year, I don't think they really need much aside from their healthy regulars. Ryan Ludwick is set to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday and presumably will be back soon, as will Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton (sigh) to help augment the bullpen. Assuming Johnny Cueto gets healthy soon, too, there's not a hole that can't be filled from within. Of course, they also just simply need better production from some of the guys already on the roster. If you can show me where the magic tree that grows shortstops is, I'd probably pluck one of those, too, but man that thing's hard to find.

DAVID: If the Reds don't manage to win the NL Central, what do you think they need to do to at least make it to the NL Wild Card game and ultimately, the NLDS?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: They're firmly in the mix for a Wild Card game as-is, and there just aren't a lot of options out there to mix things up; in other words, they need to just keep doing what they're doing and hope for some expected marginal improvement from Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier, and hopefully Joey Votto, because that coupled with the consistency of the pitching staff should see them reach the postseason for the third time in four years. With a pretty barren trade market and a depleted farm system from previous trades, there's also not a clear fix from outside that seems to work. It'd be nice to see them improve upon their collective .248 average with Runners On, too, since there's such a significant OBP presence at the top of the lineup, but I expect that number to rise.

DAVID: Joey Votto is having another solid season, but do you think he deserved to start the All-Star Game over Paul Goldschmidt? Why or why not?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: The All-Star Game and the entire way it's formatted is a crapshoot, so yeah, I'm glad Votto got the start despite being outperformed by Goldschmidt. Why? Well, look no farther than 2009, when Votto clearly had outperformed Ryan Howard, but barely made the team due to the way the voting system is set up to favor established name-brand stars, and Howard got the start. I'm happy Votto got a bit of redemption for that, but that doesn't mean I like the process at all. If Goldschmidt and Votto have similar 2014's to their 2013's, I'd expect (and vouch for) Goldschmidt to get the start in next year's game. That's a long-winded way of me saying that I think the All-Star Game has a billion things to fix to be more relevant.

DAVID: The Shin-Soo Choo trade seems to be working out well for the Reds. Did you like it at first glance, or were you not a fan? Why or why not?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: I was undoubtedly excited to add Choo's OBP ability and professional hitting to a Reds lineup that needed those traits desperately, yes. I'll also admit that I thought the price to pay was too steep for the Reds given the lack of SS depth behind Zack Cozart (who had struggled and still struggles) and the fact that Choo was merely a 1 year rental. I'd actually hoped the Reds would go after Dexter Fowler, since at least they'd have a MLB-caliber CF signed beyond 2013.

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: Losing Didi Gregorius and watching Cozart underperform has been tough to watch, as has watching future CF Billy Hamilton struggle in AAA. I'm not sure what the 2014 CF position will look like, but it appears that part of the plan hasn't quite materialized the way Walt Jocketty & Co. had imagined when they pulled the trigger. Regardless, the Reds would be lost this season without Choo, and I'm glad they have him.

DAVID: Todd Frazier is having a decent season, but maybe not as good as he did last year. Why do you think that's the case?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: Due to the fact that Frazier is playing Gold Glove caliber defense at 3B this season, his bWAR and fWAR totals actually dictate he's been better than last season, but while it's visible that he's improved his defense, I'm as skeptical as anyone of putting too much value in defensive metrics.

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: His bat has been worse in 2013 though, and that's not debatable. He's walking just as much as a year ago and his BABIP has dipped from .316 to .294, but there's one specific reason his overall numbers are worse this year. In 2012, he had an .871 OPS away from Great American Ball Park, which was actually significantly better than how he hit in the Reds' home bandbox (.786); in 2013, however, he's hit just .200/.303/.300 away from Cincinnati, and typing that just made me throw up in my mouth. Yes, away from GABP, Todd Frazier has been Wilson Valdez this year. Where's the Pepto...

DAVID: Mike Leake is having a very good season (9-4, 2.79 ERA), after a not so great one last year (8-9, 4.58 ERA). Why do you think that's the case? When he made it to the majors, did you think he had the potential to put up numbers like he is this season?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: Here are Mike Leake's xFIP numbers over the last 3 seasons: 3.68 (2011), 3.82 (2012), 3.97 (2013). Here are Mike Leake's K/9 numbers over the last 3 seasons: 6.33 (2011), 5.83 (2012), 5.58 (2013). So what's the difference? Well, the BABIP he allowed last year was at .306, and he stranded runners at a 71% rate. In 2013, his BABIP has dipped (say that out loud and see if you don't laugh) to .259, and he's stranding runners at a 81% rate. He's also reduced his HR allowed rate from 1.31 per 9 innings to 1.03, and that's undoubtedly helped his overall numbers. He's throwing his fastball and cutter less and is mixing in a slow curve and change up about 10% more often this year, and that's probably helping to drive his better results. Call it the Bronson Arroyo School of Pitching, if you will. I thought Leake had a shot to be a dependable innings eater when he was taken in the 1st round in 2010, and that's pretty much what he's been. I do think this year's a bit of a mirage, but I think 2012 was, too. I think his 2011 season is a bit more indicative of what we should expect out of an in-prime Mike Leake (which if you compare to his career numbers is exactly what you'll find).

DAVID: If he is ever able to come off the DL for a long period of time and avoid other injuries, what kind of impact do you think Johnny Cueto can have on the rest of the pitching staff and more specifically, the starting rotation?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: Tony Cingrani, Cueto's replacement thus far in 2013, has a 3.23 ERA, 3.42 xFIP, and a 10.83 K/9 in 10 starts for the Reds this season, and as weird as it is to say, I'm honestly not sure how much better Cueto could have possibly been.

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: That said, I still think I'd trust Cueto more than Cingrani down the stretch due to veteranyness and mind-bullets and the Tiant-turn and the power of the dreadlocks, but that's all superficial stuff that is less quantifiable than how weak our knees get when Joey Votto cracks a smile. If anything, having Cueto back might help the bullpen more than the rotation, since he's got a track record of pitching deeper into games than Cingrani, who has often struggled with high pitch counts and getting deep into games. Who am I kidding, though. Cueto's been worth over 7 wins the last two seasons. He's our ace, and I'm sure he'd help a ton.

DAVID: Series prediction?

KEVIN MITCHELL IS BATMAN: Reds in a sweep, because I won't be able to sleep with the idea that the Dodgers and their quadrillions of dollars are just a game or two behind the Reds in the Wild Card race.