View Full Version : Can the Reds keep it up? If they're healthy ... (FOX Sports, 5/3)

05-03-2006, 01:57 AM

Can the Reds keep it up? If they're healthy ...
Dayn Perry / FOXSports.com

The Cincinnati Reds just took two of three against Houston, swept a two-game set against the Cardinals, sit atop the National League Central (the toughest division in baseball thus far) and are on pace to win 110 games.

For fans of a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2000 and hasn't made the playoffs since 1995, this is no doubt a welcome turn of events. Still, none but the truest of believers expected the Reds to contend in 2006; so it bears exploring whether they can keep this up.
First, let's take a look at how the Reds stack up among their NL peers in a number of key categories:

Statistic Number NL rank
Run differential +24 3rd
Runs scored 158 1st
Runs allowed 134 13th
On-base percentage .363 1st
Slugging percentage .471 2nd
Starters' ERA 4.72 9th
Bullpen ERA 4.64 12th
Strength of schedule 5th

Thus far, two key factors are in Cincinnati's favor: a good run differential and a fairly demanding schedule. That means the Reds have been logging semi-comfortable wins against, generally speaking, the better teams in the league. It's far too early in the season to read too much into run differential, but so far so good.

As for the breakdowns, the nature of the Great American Ballpark must be considered. The Ballpark, of course, is probably the best hitter's environment in the NL outside of Coors Field. This fact serves to make the offense look better than it really is while making the pitching staff look worse than it really is. That said, even in a neutral context, run prevention will remain a concern for the Reds.

Bronson Arroyo has been tremendous thus far, posting a 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings, including Monday's complete-game gem against St. Louis. While it's highly likely Arroyo will regress modestly as the season progresses, a handful of Cincinnati starters are also underperforming their forecasts. Brandon Claussen (6.04 ERA) and Dave Williams (9.53 ERA) can't help but improve. Also, Eric Milton and Paul Wilson are on the disabled list, and once they return, they will at least give the Reds options (if not optimal ones).

Overall, Arroyo and Aaron Harang make a credible front of the rotation, at least for a team that scores oodles of runs. It will be a matter of bludgeoning the opposition to death — something the Reds are capable of provided they can get league-average innings from the middle of the rotation. Accomplishing this may require some creativity on the part of manager Jerry Narron. For example, starting the fly-balling Milton, once he returns from injury, only on the road (so as to spare him and the team from the homer-rich environs of Cincinnati) is a good starting point.

The bullpen is a mishmash of reasonably promising arms, but it's not a stellar unit by any means. Kent Mercker and Chris Hammond are fairly strong from the left side, but the right-handed corps is altogether less inspiring. Trying out a healthy Paul Wilson in the pen is one possibility, and, of course, it's rather simple to upgrade the bullpen come trade-deadline time. Also, Narron should be willing to play matchups in the ninth inning rather than ritually devoting himself to a flawed closer like David Weathers.

As for the offense, it's been tremendous thus far. Adam Dunn is putting up his customary numbers; the highly promising Edwin Encarnacion is showing impressive skills growth in the early going; Austin Kearns is healthy and hitting, and Ryan Freel soldiers on as a first-rate on-base threat. Perhaps most encouraging is that the Reds have thrived this season while getting only 31 at-bats from Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey is slated to come off the DL this week, and — as always — it'll greatly help the Reds' chances if he's generally healthy.

Brandon Phillips, while still a player of considerable abilities, is hitting over his head thus far. Yet, it's still encouraging that the Reds opted to cut bait on Tony Womack, which means Phillips will have to play himself out of the lineup. On the whole, the Cincinnati offense is an imposing one in any environment. But health will be the key, as Griffey and Kearns have long and grim injury histories.

Overall, the Reds' success will depend on winning the high-scoring affairs that are so common in their new home digs. They have a number of lavishly gifted hitters; so the runs will come. Keeping the rotation afloat will again be critical, but the Reds are better in that regard than they have been in years. In the long term, the Cardinals, barring serious injury, are the better team and should win the division. However, the Reds are absolutely a wild-card threat.

Nothing out West is of a concern, and the East right now is the Mets and a throng of mediocrities. They'll certainly receive intra-divisional challenges from the Brewers and perhaps the Astros, but the Reds, if healthy (a major qualifier, to be sure), have a lineup core that's capable of carrying them to the postseason for the first time in more than a decade.

Dayn Perry is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com and author of the new book, "Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones" (Available now at Amazon.com).


Pretty good analysis, but after reading a bunch of articles, I'm always left wondering why these guys never talk about the road record. Instead there's ALWAYS the comment about the GAB being hitter-friendly and allude that is probably the chief reason why the offense looks good.

05-03-2006, 11:03 AM
Good read, thanks for posting. If May turns out like we are hoping it will, there are going to be a lot more of these articles popping up.:thumbup:

05-03-2006, 11:09 AM
It seems like Coffey is the most overlooked in all of these articles regarding the Reds' surprising success. I have zero faith in this bullpen long-term, but it's pretty baffling to me to ignore his contributions thus far.

05-03-2006, 11:15 AM
I love how "homer-friendly" = "hitter friendly". Apparently nobody actually looks at the Park Factors. If they did they'd noticed the GABP has actually depressed run scor slightly over it's history...

I agree with you VP, I couldn't believe he didn't even mention Coffey.

05-03-2006, 11:39 AM
Basically, GAP is homer friendly but not much else?

Jr's Boy
05-03-2006, 12:10 PM
If Milton comes back pitching like he did out of the gate,then we have three solid starters.

05-04-2006, 02:04 PM
Reds for real? This month might tell
A manageable schedule, plus the return of Milton and Griffey, give the team a chance to keep momentum.
By Kyle Nagel, Staff Writer / Dayton Daily News

The Cincinnati Reds set a club record for wins in April (17). They started May with a complete-game four-hitter from Bronson Arroyo and beat the Cardinals 6-1. Tuesday's come-from-behind win over St. Louis raised their record to 19-8.

Two years ago, the Reds entered June with a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League Central Division, at 32-21. They finished 76-86.

Still, a hot start is a hot start. Now here's what the next month could hold:

The opponents
The Reds' May schedule (records entering Tuesday):
3-4 at Colorado (15-11)
5-7 at Arizona (13-13)
9-11 Washington (8-18)
12-14 Philadelphia (11-14)
16-18 at Pittsburgh (7-20)
19-21 at Detroit (17-9)
22-24 Milwaukee (15-11)
26-28 Arizona (13-13)
29-31 at Chicago Cubs (14-10)

Granted, any team in baseball can get hot for a few weeks, but this is not exactly a killer schedule, right? At least not until May 19, when the Reds travel to face the better-than-expected Detroit Tigers.

Plus, the Reds are 12-4 this season against teams on this list they've already played.

The Reds also play the Pirates in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Game, Cooperstown, N.Y. The exhibition is scheduled for May 15.

The rotation

There's a fair chance that by the end of this month, the starting rotation could look plenty different.

Eric Milton, who underwent left knee surgery on April 24, should be back by mid-to-late May. That might not be very exciting to those who saw him last year, but he went 2-1 before the surgery.

Then there's Paul Wilson. He's progressing slowly from June surgery to repair the torn rotator cuff and frayed labrum in his right shoulder. He's frustrated by his slow rehabilitation, but many Reds fans hope for a quick return so he can replace Dave Williams (1-2, 7.61 ERA).

Ken Griffey Jr.

And, the question remains, when will Ken Griffey Jr. play again?

He's still eligible to come off the disabled list from a strained biceps tendon in his right knee. But Reds manager Jerry Narron said he won't be making the trip to Colorado for a two-game series beginning today, which is just fine with some Reds fans.

With Ryan Freel (.271, eight steals) in center field, the team has gone 14-5 without Griffey in the lineup.

When Griffey returns, Freel will again become a utility player, and the Reds will miss his speed at the top of the order.

But, they'll add another power bat to a lineup that hit 29 home runs in April, three shy of the club record.

Best records in MLB
Cincinnati Reds 19-8 .704
Chicago White Sox 18-8 .692
Detroit Tigers 18-9 .667
New York Mets 17-9 .654
Houston Astros 17-9 .654