Cincinnati Reds Midseason Report Card
by James P. Conway (Analyst)
Heading into the 2008 season, expectations were higher for the Cincinnati Reds than they had been since 2000.
They had made several acquisitions in the off-season along with the hiring of manager Dusty Baker, though they werenít picked to make the playoffs, they would be improved.
At the All Star break the Reds are 46-50 and the first half of the season has been quite a bumpy ride.
The question for the Reds going into the season was: did they have the pitching from the starters and bullpen to keep them in games, so their offense didnít have to outscore their opponent to get the win?
However, that assumption was wrong.
Though their pitching has been inconsistent, it is much improved and has been the reason the Reds are close to .500 and still have a long shot to win the wild card.
The Reds hitting on the other hand has been atrocious. The identity of their offense has finally surfaced.
If the Reds arenít hitting home runs they usually lose, and most of their best hitters are swinging for the fences instead of putting the ball in play. If the Reds want to be considered a serious contender in the National League next season they must address these hitting issues not only from a personnel standpoint but a philosophical standpoint.
Nonetheless, here are the mid-season grades for the Cincinnati Reds:
Corey Patterson: F
The Reds attempt to have Dustyís guy be the lead-off hitter has failed miserably and it has come at no surprise. The question is how is he still on the team and for how much longer?
Adam Dunn: D
At the break Adam Dunnís numbers are on par with his career averages which are 40 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 walks, and 100+ strikeouts.
But going into a contract year you would like for him to hit better than .230, based on his low average and even lower average with runners in scoring position it seems likely than the Reds wonít re-sign him.
Ken Griffey Jr.: D-
Junior hit his 600th home run in June which was very special, but for the first time in his career it is apparent that age has finally caught up to him.
His swing isnít as quick as it once was and evidence of that is his batting average which is about 30 points lower than his career average and his defense in the outfield has been inconsistent at time.
It is highly unlikely that the Reds will pick up his option for 2009, making him a free agent.
Jay Bruce: B
Itís hard to put an exact grade on young phenom Jay Bruce as he has barely been in the big leagues for a month, but he has been as advertised. He is still figuring out the major league game, but the future looks very bright for him.
Jerry Hairston Jr.: A+
Many thought when Hairston was signed that this was another situation to bring in one of Dustyís guys, but I donít think anyone saw his performance this year coming.
Hairston is the Reds' best hitter and on base percentage player on the team, and had he not spent time on the disabled list the Reds might be at or a little above .500
Edwin Encarnacion: C+
After another sluggish start to the season that saw Edwin really struggle, he has turned it around and will often wow you with his glove and arm and then drive you nuts with throwing errors.
His bat has been up and down and you would like to see him take a few more pitches, but all in all he has been on par with his career averages.
Jeff Keppinger: B
When he started the season at shortstop most figured as soon as Alex Gonzalez returned he would be used in a utility role for the rest of the season.
On the contrary, Keppinger started the season hot with the bat and continued to make a case for himself as the starting shortstop. Unfortunately he fouled a ball off his knee cap that put him on the injured list for a while, but he is now back and is trying to get back to form.
Brandon Phillips: B
Continues to show that he is one of the best second baseman in the national league with his glove and bat. This season he leads the team in RBI and is one of their best on base threats.
I wish he would lay off that first pitch and not make as many errors running the bases, but he continues to make plays during clutch situations.
Joey Votto: C
In his rookie season Votto has shown many flashes of what made him a top prospect in the Reds farm system, but at other times has shown that he is truly a rookie.
He has tremendous power to all parts of the field and has surprised many with his exceptional defensive play at first base. He needs to improve his fielding and work on laying off the high fastball, but he is another piece that makes the Reds future look bright.
Paul Bako: C
Considering the fact that he is a journeyman catcher, he was a pleasant surprise in the early part of the season with his arm and his bat. As the season has gone on his bat has gone cold, but had he not been on the roster I donít think the Reds would be almost a .500 team.
David Ross: C
After starting the season on the disabled list he has split time with Paul Bako as the starting catcher, and his defense has been shaky at times along with his bat.
Javy Valentin: I
Has been used sparingly as a pinch hitter since the return of David Ross, and has only gotten a few at bats and played a few games at third and first base.
Edinson Volquez: A+
When he came to Cincinnati in the trade with the Texas Rangers for Josh Hamilton there was no doubt that he was a highly touted prospect, but few saw the first half he has had.
Volquez is 12-3 with an ERA of 2.29 which is the best in the National League and is a serious Cy Young contender for the Reds.
Johnny Cueto: C+
Since making a huge statement in his major league debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has had his share of ups and downs. But after several rough starts in June, he has really began to pitch very well consistently, and I think he might have the best second half of all of the Reds starting rotation.
Aaron Harang: F
At the beginning of the season the problem was that he wasnít getting any run support. Now the problem may be physical due to a tight forearm, but either way when your number one starter is 3-10, youíve got a problem.
Bronson Arroyo: D+
After a sluggish start to the 2008 season, Arroyo has regained some of his form as the number two starter and you would like for him to have a very good second half.
Josh Fogg: I
After earning a spot as a starter in spring training, he was relegated to the bullpen after two of his first three starts were really bad.
At that time it looked imminent that Fogg would be trade or released, but he hasnít been and after spending time on the disabled list and a few rehab starts he has looked very good in his last two starts.
If he continues to pitch well he could have some trade value come the trading deadline.
Homer Bailey: I
His first three starts were atrocious after spending the beginning of the season in AAA Louisville. At that time many wondered if Homer would ever live up to the hype after he was drafted in 2005.
On a positive note, he made a start at Milwaukee for Aaron Harang and looked very good in 5 2/3 innings in which he didn't walk a single batter. Hereís to hoping the second half of the season is bright for him.
Daryl Thompson: I
Many people had no idea who this kid was, going into the season, but he has made a lot of noise in the minor leagues, and created a stir when he was called up in June.
In his debut at Yankee Stadium he threw six shutout innings and looked very good, he struggled in his next start, and in his third start he got lit up, which resulted in him being sent down to the minors.
But this kid is very young and should make a strong push for a spot in the starting rotation in 2009.
Bill Bray: B+
Since coming over from the Nationals in 2006, the problem with Bill Bray has been staying healthy. After starting the season on the disabled list, he has been healthy and pitching very well.
David Weathers: B
After being the closer last year, David Weathers has been moved back to the setup role and has been consistent, but not flashy. He has been the subject of trade rumors that may come true at the end of this month.
Jared Burton: A-
The start of his 2008 season was also very sluggish, leading some to get worried, but since May he has regained his form from last season and has been the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen, and should have been an all star.
Francisco Cordero: A-
Many were quick to criticize his signing for what many deemed to be too much money, but he has been as advertised. He has converted 19 of 23 save chances and his ERA is two. The only problem regarding Cordero is getting him more save opportunities and maybe that will happen in the second half.
Gary Majewski: C+
It looks like his shoulder may have finally fully healed after being sent over damaged by former Reds GM Jim Bowden in 2006. He no longer has trouble staying in games and at times has been very good in the first half and I hope he continues to pitch well.
Mike Lincoln: C
Many werenít sure how much Mike Lincoln could contribute after not pitching for two years. However, he has been a pleasant surprise and a nice contributor for the Reds bullpen.
Jeremy Affeldt: C+
Affeldt has been another good role pitcher out of the bullpen, but has also been linked to several trade rumors and it is unknown whether he will be with the team at seasonís end.
Dusty Baker: C
There is no doubt that he is a proved winner, and the Reds have won ten more games at the all star break than they did at the same time last year.
The pitching is much improved, but the hitting has fallen off leading many to speculate on the future of several of the teamís position players.
If the Reds can have a winning season this year, then progress will have been made and all things would point to the Reds being serious playoff contenders in 2009.