Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce and Mike Leake
written by Robb Hoff
COMMENTARY | Overall, the Cincinnati Reds' 2013 season was one marked with frustration.
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The expectations were set for the 2013 team to improve upon 2012 results, which included an NL Central title and the second-best regular-season record in baseball. Instead, the Reds finished third in their division and were bounced from the postseason with a lopsided wild-card loss.
The Reds' offseason has also proven to be frustrating for Reds Country with the loss of Shin-Soo Choo and Reds' fixtures in Bronson Arroyo and Ryan Hanigan. Furthermore, trade rumors surrounding Brandon Phillips and the inevitable free agency of Homer Bailey have soured an offseason that otherwise featured the hardly inspirational signings of Skip Schumaker and Bryan Pena.
Here are the five Reds who are the most frustrating:
As one of the most likable Reds to ever grace the uniform, Todd Frazier is a fan-favorite and impossible to dislike. But Frazier tested the patience of Reds Country on the whole with his inability to hit in 2013. The frustration was made even more pronounced as the season progressed because Frazier had started the season with solid power production -- 6 homers and 19 RBIs in the first month of the season.
But over the course of the next four months and a total of 93 games started, Frazier hit .225 with just seven more homers and 41 RBIs.
Frazier did have a decent final month -- 6 HRs and a .261 average -- but his season at the plate was on the whole considerably less than the expectation Frazier had set with a promising rookie year in 2012, in which he proved his worth filling in for inured stars Joey Votto and Scott Rolen.
Frazier finished 2013 with the same HR output (19) as he did in 2012, but it required 135 more plate appearances to reach that total in 2013. Likewise, his RBI total only increased by six from 67 to 73. His strikeout total jumped to 125 in 2013 and his batting average dropped almost 40 points from .273 to 234.
The one silver lining in the 2013 for Frazier was his defensive play over the course of the whole season. Frazier committed just 10 errors in 147 games at third base in 2013 after playing third just 79 games in 2012.
When the Reds lost left fielder Ryan Ludwick for most of the 2013 season to a shoulder injury on opening day, Chris Heisey got the chance once again to prove he could be the Reds' everyday left fielder.
Heisey had been passed by twice for the opportunity, first in favor of Jonny Gomes in 2010 and 2011 until Gomes was traded, and then in 2012 when the Reds decided to sign Ludwick instead of turning the position over to Heisey.
Heisey started slow in 2013 as Ludwick's replacement, hitting just .173 in 23 games before a hamstring sidelined him from April 27 to June 27. He was the primary starter in left field for over a month before Ludwick returned and did manage to hit .281 with a .344 on-base percentage, but the Reds decided to plant Ludwick back in left field -- all of which made Heisey's inability to claim the left-field job for the Reds even more frustrating after Ludwick flopped the last two months of the season.
Overall, Heisey hit just .237 in 2013 but floundered against right-handed pitchers as a starter, hitting just .202. Heisey may not be a five-tool outfielder, but he does possess outfield versatility (including center) and the ability to hit for power and average.
Homer Bailey has pitched two no-hitters and a masterful playoff game in 2012, but that same Homer Bailey has also taken a long time to develop to the point where he is a reliable, if not always dominant starter. Bailey has given the Reds back-to-back years of 200-plus innings with ERAs of 3.68 and 3.49, which was a long time coming for Reds Country, which has endured the substantial growing pains of Bailey -- ERAs of 4.53, 4.46 and 4.43 from 2009 through 2011.
The most frustrating part about Bailey now is that 2014 will almost certainly be his final one for the small-market Reds. Just when Bailey is reaching his full potential as a frequently dominant pitcher, it's going to be time for the Reds to wave goodbye instead of perhaps forking over more than $80 million for Bailey's services past 2014.
When will Reds right fielder Jay Bruce put it all together at the plate? Perhaps no other question in Reds Country is more asked or answered with more frustration. It's not that Bruce doesn't produce at the plate. Each year since he arrived to take over right field for the Reds, he's had more RBIs each year culminating with a career-best of 109 in 2013 and had successively more home runs each year until last year when he still hit 30.
But it is true that Bruce just can't quite get over the hump to the stardom that seems like is well within his grasp. Bruce hit for his highest average (.262) since 2010, but he also whiffed a career-high 185 times, often looking as over-matched at the plate in his sixth season as he did earlier in his career.
Until Bruce puts up monster numbers, the frustration will remain.
Throughout his four years as a starter in the Reds' rotation, there have been games where Mike Leake just didn't look like he belonged in big league rotation, yet he managed to survive. Sporting ERAs of 4.23, 3.86 and 4.58 in his first three years, Leake surprised every one in 2013. His 14-7 record and 3.37 doesn't tell the story of just how surprisingly effective Leake was because his ERA was a sparkling 2.59 after his final start of July, which marked his 21st of the season.
That's when the hopes that the Reds had found their new-and-improved version of Bronson Arroyo for the future crashed and the frustration set in. In August, Leake was bombed in five of his next six starts, giving up 26 earned runs in 26.2 innings. Leake's final start of the season seemed to make the point that the frustration may be returning for 2014 after he gave up eight hits and four runs in less than two innings.
These five Reds -- and the rest of the returning team -- will have yet another chance to turn frustration into celebration.