10 Reasons the Cincinnati Reds Have Enough Pitching to Win the World Series

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2012

10 Reasons the Cincinnati Reds Have Enough Pitching to Win the World Series

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    As the MLB playoff picture begins to get clearer, the Cincinnati Reds are poised to make a run at the World Series thanks to a great pitching staff.

    The team focused on improving the staff in the offseason, and it has paid off as the team sits in first place in the National League Central. Management made a couple of deals involving prospects for starter Mat Latos and reliever Sean Marshall to bolster the team's pitching. 

    Cincinnati has only made the playoffs once since 1995, but they have a young core to work with. Although offense has been the strength of the team for years, the pitching has the team in position to make the postseason for the second time in three seasons. The Reds currently sit 7.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.

    Pitching at Great American Ball Park is no easy task. The stadium is built for hitters, but the Reds have been able to keep the ball in the yard. 

    Championships are won with great pitching, and Cincinnati has had great pitching through the first five months of the regular season.

    The Reds are looking to bring home the World Series trophy for the first time since 1990, so the team will need its pitchers to continue to perform well.

    *All stats are from MLB.com

Johnny Cueto

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    Entering his start against the Philadelphia Phillies, Johnny Cueto has put up some of the best numbers of any pitcher in the major leagues.

    MLB.com breaks down his numbers compared to every other pitcher.

    Cueto's 16 wins are tied for the most in the majors, and he has the second-lowest ERA in the bigs. His 2.44 ERA would be great for any pitcher, but it is even more impressive considering he pitches at Great American Ball Park.

    Of the 20 lowest earned run averages in the major leagues, he is the only starter to allow fewer than 10 home runs.

    His unique windup has made him nearly unhittable. As he twists his body away from the hitter, it makes it difficult for the opponents to pick up the ball as it comes out of his hand.

    While most of the top pitchers get strikeouts, Cueto no longer focuses on blowing hitters away. He came up as a strikeout pitcher, but he is now learning to pitch to contact. 

    Runners have not had any success against him. He has picked off seven runners this season, which puts him among the most in the majors. Thanks to a quick move to the plate, the 26-year-old has only allowed one stolen base this season.

    He is holding right-handed hitters to an average below .200 on the season, which helps him go deep into games. The right-hander has gone at least seven innings in 17 of his 25 starts in 2012.

    Cueto has quietly become a No. 1 pitcher, and he is working his way into the Cy Young conversation. 

Mat Latos

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    The Reds were in the market for a starting pitcher in the offseason, and they were willing to part ways with some prospects in order to acquire Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres.

    Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez all went to the Padres in exchange for the 24-year-old starter. Early in the season, the trade did not look so hot for Cincinnati. After April, the team has gotten the better of the deal.

    It took some time for Latos to settle in, but he has been great ever since a rough first month. He went 1-2 with an ERA of nearly 6.00 in April.

    Latos has won nine games in four months since then, and he has lowered his ERA to 3.56. In his last 22 starts, the right-hander has lost only one time. He has fit in nicely behind Cueto, which is why he was acquired.

    He has gone at least seven innings in each of his past five starts. He threw back-to-back complete games earlier this season, so he can go deep into games as well.

    Not many pitchers can say they have had the kind of success Latos has had in the past four months, and he has been the victim of several blown saves.

    With Cueto and Latos at the top of the rotation, the Reds are in great position to compete in the postseason. Now that Latos is living up to his billing, he gives Cincinnati a great one-two combination.

Back End of the Rotation

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    The top of the rotation is set, but the Reds have plenty of options to pitch a potential third game of a series. 

    Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake all have pitched well since May. 

    Arroyo and Bailey have both won 10 games this season, which gives the Reds four pitchers with double-digit wins.

    After going 9-12 last season, Arroyo has rebounded nicely in 2012. His 10-7 record is respectable for a No. 3 starter. He has his ERA under 4.00 for the third time in four seasons, mainly because he has kept the ball in the park.

    Like Latos, Bailey has been the victim of blown saves. Through July, he was arguably the team's No. 2 pitcher. He has struggled in four of his past five starts, and it could be the result of finally staying healthy for a full season. He has been injured for the past few years, so he has not pitched this many innings (153.1 IP) since 2009. 

    Leake has turned his season around since a poor start. The numbers are not great for the 24-year-old, but he went through an 11-game stretch of allowing fewer than three runs in all but one of those starts.

    At this point in his young career, Leake is still learning to pitch in the majors. It is his third season in the league, but he is still trying to figure out how to get hitters out. 

    While Leake probably will not start a postseason game this year, the Reds can choose between Arroyo and Bailey to start the third game of a series. Arroyo is a safer bet, but Bailey has the potential to have stretches of greatness.

    The bottom of the rotation has performed better than expected this season. The team sits in first place thanks to great starting pitching, and it will be a battle between these starters to see who can earn a spot in the postseason rotation.

Innings-Eating Starters

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    Despite playing in a hitter's ballpark, the Reds have seen great starting pitching.

    According to MLB.com, the team has one of the best starting rotations in the majors. The rotation has an ERA of 3.71 and ranks sixth in baseball. The biggest reason for the team's success is the ability to pitch deep into games.

    As previously mentioned, Cueto and Latos have each pitched deep into games this season. Bailey has pitched a career-high in innings (in the majors), and Leake is on pace to pitch more innings than he ever has.

    Arroyo is on pace for his usual 200+ innings. He has pitched at least 199 innings in every season since 2005, and he has made every start since then.

    Cincinnati's starters have pitched 786 innings this season. That ranks second in the majors behind the Phillies, so the starters are getting it done.

    By the time the All-Star break came, each of the five starters had already thrown a complete game. The Reds lead the majors with eight complete games.

    Until last weekend, the Reds were the only team in the majors to use only five starting pitchers this season. A doubleheader forced the team to use a sixth pitcher, and the streak ended at 120 games with only five starters. 

    Healthy pitchers have kept the team in first place for much of the season. Pitching deep into games helps limit the innings pitched by the bullpen, and it allows the starters to earn wins without worrying about blown saves.

Aroldis Chapman

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    Before the season started, Aroldis Chapman was being stretched out to become a starter. Injuries forced him into the bullpen, and he was named the closer by mid-May.

    Fans may want Chapman to join the starting rotation, but he is right where he needs to be.

    He struggled during June, but he has allowed only one earned run in the other four months of the season. Until recently, manager Dusty Baker rarely used his closer in three straight games. The team has been winning a lot lately, so the manager has had no choice but to use him three straight games twice this month.

    The All-Star closer is on a historic pace. He has 112 strikeouts in 62 innings this season, and he has only allowed 30 hits. His control has improved this year, and he has only walked 15 hitters so far.

    Since a blown save on June 24 against the Minnesota Twins, he has tied a franchise record by converting 23 straight save opportunities.

    He fell in love with his fastball earlier this season, and hitters began to catch up to it. His slider has been used more frequently lately, which has made hitters uncomfortable at the plate.

    ESPN's Jayson Stark has even made the case for the left-hander to win the Cy Young.

    Could he be a dominant starter? Probably.

    However, there is nothing better than the Reds handing the ball to the Cuban Missile in the ninth inning of a close game. Fans go crazy when he enters a game, and it creates an impossible challenge for opponents.

    When he is on his game, there is not a more dominant closer in the majors. Chapman's dominating stuff will help lead the Reds to a deep playoff run.

Veterans in the 'Pen

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    Cincinnati has a young starting rotation, but the bullpen has a couple of veteran players to help make a run in the postseason.

    Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton bring experience to this young bullpen. 

    Marshall, who was the team's closer for the first six weeks of the season, has become a great setup man. He can be used the seventh or eighth inning of a close game, or he can be used to get lefties out in key spots of a game. 

    The left-hander was one of the league's best setup men while with the Chicago Cubs last season, and he is beginning to find his groove in Cincinnati. He has a great curveball and throws it to get strikeouts.

    At the trade deadline, the Reds acquired Broxton from the Kansas City Royals. He used to be a closer, and he can fill in for Chapman when needed.

    He has struggled in August, but he will pitch better as he gets used to his new situation. Pitching in Great American Ball Park will take some time to adjust to, and he has the stuff to be a good setup man.

    Marshall and Broxton give the Reds flexibility. Both relievers are capable of being setup men or closers. Their experience in different roles will prove beneficial to the team in October.

Young Arms

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    The Reds have an extremely young pitching staff, but they have all been in the big leagues for a while.

    Bronson Arroyo and reliever Alfredo Simon are the only pitchers who are older than 30 years old. All four starting pitchers are 26 years old or younger. 

    Young arms allow the team to use pitchers who do not have hundreds of innings on their arms. 

    While young pitchers can cause teams headaches, Cincinnati is getting good pitching from their young guns. The starters are all performing very well, and the bullpen has pitched well when needed.

    Logan Ondrusek, J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure and Jose Arredondo are all young relievers in this bullpen. Not only are they youthful, but the team is able to rest this group as the starters go deep into games.

    The Reds are hoping to get Nick Masset healthy for September and October. When healthy, he is a good setup man. He has a lively fastball and a good curveball to keep hitters guessing. 

    According to MLB.com, Cincinnati has the best bullpen in the major leagues. Bullpens help finish games off, and the team will rely on a young group of relievers to help win games in October.

Hard Throwers

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    The pitchers on this staff have nasty stuff, and the team has several players who can light up the radar gun.

    Aroldis Chapman is the "Cuban Missile" for a reason. He routinely hits 100 miles per hour with his fastball, and he rarely throws one under 96 miles per hour. An arm like that is rare, but he has been able to control his pitches while throwing hard.

    Logan Ondrusek, Jose Arredondo and Jonathan Broxton can all throw 95 miles per hour or faster. When he is activated off the disabled list, Nick Masset is also capable of joining that group.

    Relievers are usually the hardest throwers on the team, but the Reds have several starters who can hit mid-90s.

    Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey can each get their fastballs above 95 miles per hour. While Cueto and Bailey do not try to throw that fast every pitch, Latos finds himself in that range.

    Hard-throwing pitchers are a valuable asset. They are even more valuable when they have the repertoire that some of Cincinnati's pitchers have.  

Great Control

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    In 2011, the Cincinnati Reds struggled with throwing strikes. That has not been the case this season.

    The Reds are tied with the Detroit Tigers for the fourth-fewest walks in the majors, according to MLB.com. Walks can lead to extra runs for opposing teams, and Cincinnati has done a good job of avoiding free passes.

    With an average of only 2.6 walks per game, the pitchers on this staff are learning to eliminate unnecessary jams.

    The biggest improvement has been from Chapman. He has found the strike zone consistently, and hitters are still unable to hit him.

    Not only are the Reds one of the best at avoiding walks, but the starting rotation is also near the top of the league in this category. Just like in innings pitched, Cincinnati starters trail only Philadelphia's rotation for the fewest walks allowed in baseball. Since both teams lead the league in innings pitched, it is easy to see how important it is to throw strikes.

    Bronson Arroyo continues to pound the strike zone. In 158 innings this season, he has walked only 27 batters. He has always been good at keeping avoiding walks, and he is on pace to decrease his total for the fifth straight season.

    Walks often lead to rallies, but this team has been able to avoid big innings by throwing strikes.

Playoff Experience

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    Although the pitching staff is young, most of the players have experience in the postseason. 

    Some of the pitchers on this team were on the team when the Reds won the NL Central in 2010. 

    Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo each started in the 2010 NLDS against the Phillies. Cueto was charged with a loss, and Arroyo was the victim of a meltdown by the bullpen. 

    Arroyo also has postseason experience from his days with the Boston Red Sox. He was a member of the 2004 team that won the World Series, so he is the most experienced pitcher on the roster.

    Although he did not start a game in the 2010 playoffs, Homer Bailey entered the game in relief in Game 3. He pitched very well in two innings after coming in for Cueto, but he will be looking to start a game this time around.

    Aroldis Chapman, Logan Ondrusek, Nick Masset and Bill Bray all made appearances during that series. Although the team was swept, the pitching was not the problem. Defensive mistakes and lack of hitting cost the team a chance to make a deep playoff run.

    A quick exit in 2010 will have this team hungry for a series victory. 

    Sean Marshall (Chicago Cubs), Jonathan Broxton (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Jose Arredondo (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) all have postseason experience.

    Postseason experience is important to have, and Cincinnati should feel confident in its pitching staff. Most of the pitchers on this team have pitched in the playoffs, and they have done well in their outings.

    This pitching staff is one of the league's best, and postseason experience will lead the team deep into October.