The Beer-League Softball Reds are officially dead. May they continue to RIP, please.
The Reds have nearly completed a transformation from a team built around slow sluggers to a pitching-and-defense club. Witness the evidence of this transformation:
1.) The Reds' pitching staff is first (!!) in the majors in strikeouts, and it isn't even close. They lead by a wide margin--more than a half a strikeout per game than the #2 team. This pitching staff has some serious talent, and I can't remember the last time I said that, if ever. The overall pitching progress appears to be legitimately real, so long as the key contributors remain healthy. [/knocking on wood]
2.) The defense has actually been good so far, and progress is evident across the board. The Reds are positive (+8) in THT's plus/minus system, which is probably a first since the Cameron/Pokey defense left Cincinnati. The club also has the third-best revised zone rating in the NL, which is major progress beyond last year's atrocious performance. More importantly, the infield and the outfield are both performing well. I think the new additions in CF and 1B, plus Keppinger at short have had a positive net impact.
3.) The offense has atrophied on many different levels, a point that I won't belabor. Let's hope the bats come around.
Overall this year reminds me of the 1988 Reds. Throughout the mid-1980s, the Reds boasted a wondrous offense, but no real pitching. Nineteen eighty-eight was the year that everything changed; the team traded for Rijo and Danny Jackson, Dibble came up and dominated, Charlton took a big step forward, and the offense took a step back.
That year, the club's transformation laid the foundation for a serious title run. It was an amazingly quick evolution from a team built around offense to one built around pitching and defense.
Let's hope this club has such a transformation in them. If so, a title awaits.