Don't get me wrong, I love the 9-6 start, however, unless the Reds' pitching and defense dramatically improves overnight this team is a time bomb waiting to explode. The only
reason we're 9-6 is because we're scoring an average of 6.33 runs per game, and that's a pace that would put this offense at 1,025 runs scored over a full season.
Our offense is great, yes, but we're not scoring over 1,000 runs this season. When the offense drops back down to reality - with reality being the still excellent average of about 5.00 runs per game - the losses will begin to mount. And don't we all know that's when a collection of idiots will begin blaming our hitters for the team's demise, just as M2 foreshadowed as a possibility earlier in the season. Batting average w/RISP and LOB totals will likely be the most cited reasons for the team's demise, and they will all be nothing more than ridiculous assertions, at best.
When the demise happens, and we're already seeing it beginning to unfold, it will be the sole responsibility of the pitching and defense. Unfortunately, what we've already seen through the first 15 games of this season on the mound and in the field isn't much different from what we've seen the previous three seasons. Here's a look at Reds' pitching this season vs. the league average as well as each of the past three seasons:
Sorry Pitching Staff
vs. League Average ERA dERA K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K/BB WHIP
2003 Cincinnati Reds 5.09 4.90 5.80 3.67 1.30 1.58 1.50
2003 National League 4.28 4.34 6.65 3.42 1.05 1.94 1.38
2004 Cincinnati Reds 5.19 5.00 6.19 3.57 1.47 1.73 1.50
2004 National League 4.30 4.38 6.74 3.38 1.11 1.99 1.39
2005 Cincinnati Reds 5.15 4.75 6.00 3.09 1.38 1.94 1.50
2005 National League 4.22 4.27 6.57 3.29 1.02 1.99 1.38
2006 Cincinnati Reds 5.66 4.89 7.43 2.93 1.77 2.53 1.53
2006 National League 4.76 4.70 6.56 3.59 1.28 1.83 1.43
dERA stands for Defense Independent Pitching ERA, and already this season we're back up to 4.89 in dERA, similar to each of the past three seasons. This season's early high dERA total, and high ERA, is thanks in large part to our staff's favorite hobby: giving up the long ball.
Probably the best news from those lines, if there is any, is that our BB/9 and K/BB rates have been slowly improving since 2003. In 15 games this season, our K/9 rate has jumped up to nearly 7.5 K's per nine innings, but I have a difficult time believing our pitchers will be able to hold on to that ratio.
The HR/9 rates our pitchers love to show off speak for themselves, and the arms take much more blame for that than our ballpark does. Given the way our park plays for home runs, an average pitching staff in HR/9 would still only give up about 1.15 to 1.20 HR/9 playing in GABP. Year in and year out, however, our pitchers have been dwarfing the park factor allowances for home runs allowed with totals well over 1.30 HR/9. Heck, this season we may even eclipse 1.50 HR/9, especially if Milton hangs around.
Here's another ugly stat for 2006: Opposing hitters are hitting .298/.351/.523 off Reds pitching. That's an OPS against of .874. The league average OPS is high compared to recent seasons, and it's only about .790 right now. Our pitching staff is taking league average hitters and handing them nearly 100 free points of OPS. It's absurd.
Add in the fact that the Reds' Defensive Efficiency Ratio through Tuesday night's game was an abysmal .682, good for 27th among all MLB teams, and the early returns are just more of the same with shades of misery from 2003-2005 creeping on in.
Either this pitching staff reaches out and grabs a magic cure, or we're in for yet another long, painful season, despite the mirage of our current 9-6 record. I want this team to win as much as everyone else, and I hope I'm entirely wrong here, but right now I just don't see our early success continuing for the rest of the season.