The Keys to Our Success
1. We're beating the tar out of our divisional rivals. We have the best team record against the NL Central -- 25-12. That includes going 5-1 against Houston, 5-2 against Milwaukee and 6-2 against St. Louis.
The story behind the story: Mostly offense, backed by serviceable pitching, buoyed by dependable SP heroics.
Reds pitchers have accumulated a nifty 3.05 ERA against arch-rivals Houston. Our most potent offensive weapon to unleash on the Astros -- Kearns, with a .538 OBP, .800 SLG and 7 RBI.
We have an acceptable 3.86 ERA against the Cards. Aurilia leads all Reds batters in making LaRussa swig Maalox, posting a .481 OBP, .870 SLG. and 9 RBI. Lending solid support in more limited action: Griffey, with a statement-making .800 OBP, 1.714 SLG. and 4 RBI, including two dramatic home runs.
So far, our bouts with Milwaukee have come closer to being classic slugfests. Our pitchers are only managing a 4.94 ERA against the Brewers. But Phillips has roughed them up, accumulating 11 RBI with a .500 OBP and .839 SLG. Griffey has added 8 RBI, fueled by his .917 SLG against Milwaukee. They have returned the favor by making brautwurst out of Claussen, but haven't figured out Arroyo, who is 2-0 against the Brewers with a 1.20 ERA.
2. We have the best road record of any NL team -- 20-13. And only one team in all of ML baseball, the Detroit Tigers, has outperformed us in away games, 21-9.
The story behind the story: Our two dominant SP, Arroyo and Harang, aren't at all affected by jetlag. Arroyo is 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA in away games, Harang is 5-2 with a stingy 1.86 ERA.
Arroyo is just as effective at home, 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA. By contrast, Harang has struggled more at GABP, going 2-2 with a 6.19 ERA, although the opening day blowout by the Cubbies accounts for a lot of that inflated ERA. Picking up the slack in the friendly confines: Claussen, with a 3.68 ERA at GABP.
On offense, both of our boppers, Griffey and Dunn, have done better so far this season on the road than at home. Griffey's splits are the most dramatic:278 OBP and .469 SLG at GABP, .425 OBP and .672 SLG on the road. It's early. We have every reason to hope that Griffey and Dunn can bring home the bacon.
3. We are leading the NL with an 11-5 record against LH starters.
The story behind the story: Freel has shellacked LH'ers, posting a .526 OBP, and Aurilia has touched them for a .709 SLG. In addition, running contrary to conventional expectations, Griffey and Dunn have both overpowered southpaws more effectively than they have so far punished RH pitchers. Dunn's differentials: .440 OBP vs. LH, .348 OBP vs. RH; .597 SLG vs. LH, .537 SLG. vs. RH.
It's really too soon to say if these trends will hold, or simply amount to statistical blips. But it's nice that we're seeing so many players contributing to the team's success, without even heavily factoring in the rock-steady performances by Encarnacion, Lopez, Hatteberg, Phillips and Kearns.
For the first time I can recall in what seems like a century, but is actually more like a decade, we have an exceptionally balanced, mature and motivated team. It's impossible to say if we can hang tough and go the distance this season, but one thing's for sure: We are much closer to being competitive than any of the experts forecast.
This team has the fever. We could start to wobble again and fall short in '06. But if so, we won't have enormous problems to fix, just a few tweaks to schmooze to keep Reds baseball exciting going into '07.
Here's to our Cinderella success, and rebuilding a proud tradition of baseball in the city that boasts the first professional franchise in the entire nation. What a difference a few months can make, with the right players and management-ownership team in place.
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