The Cincinnati Reds' 2012 season came to an abrupt halt Thursday afternoon at the expense of the San Francisco Giants. Buster Posey and the Giants handed Dusty Baker's Reds a crushing 6-4 loss and took their NLDS series three games to two.
With such devastating losses in both 2010 (being swept and no-hit by the Phillies) and 2012 one must ask themselves, where do they go from here?
The Reds followed up that embarrassing 2010 postseason appearance with a very disappointing 79-83 record. Some believed the team came out a bit flat and played like they expected the division to be handed to them—it obviously was not. But let's not forget that Cincinnati was hampered by injuries to their pitching staff all last season.
Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez all spent time on the DL. Mike Leake only started 26 games while Bronson Arroyo led the staff with 32 starts, but suffered from what was believed to be mononucleosis most of the season. Aroldis Chapman suffered arm fatigue and was not the guy we came to know this year. And let's not forget who the closer was—the ever unpredictable Coco Cordero.
So where do the Reds go from here? To answer this, let's look at some basic stats from this most recent 2012 NLDS collapse that may startle you.
We will start by comparing offensive numbers by both teams during the five-game series. The Reds actually outscored San Fran 22 to 18. They also outhit the Giants 47 to 32. Now look at this comparison: Reds batters compiled a respectable .261/.327/.389 slash line. Giants batters compiled only a .194/.266/.339 slash line.
How do the pitching number compare, you ask? Well, Reds pitchers put together an excellent 3.13 ERA to go along with their 1.04 WHIP—excellent numbers. Giants pitchers ended with an above average 4.11 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.
To look at all these comparisons on paper, the sure-fire series winner would be Cincinnati. But in reality, that wasn't the case. It is here that Cincinnati should look to avoid another epic collapse next season.
The Cincinnati Reds lost because they couldn't take care of business. When runners got on base, they couldn't get them in. When runners got on base, they made critical errors. When runners got on base, they made poor strategic decisions.
The Reds left 29 men on base in Games 3, 4, and 5. The Giants left 14.
The Reds lost Game 3, a game in which their pitchers gave up only one hit through nine innings. The turning point in this series was when Brandon Phillips made the first out of this game at third base while attempting to take two bases on a wild pitch. The Reds went on to score one run in the inning after Phillips' baserunning blunder—they should have scored at least two. The Giants went on to manufacture one run without the aid of a single hit—enabling them to take the game into extra innings and claim the victory.
The old baseball adage tells us that "pitching and defense wins championships." The adage should read, "pitching and defenses are only as good as your offense's situational hitting."
The Reds left at least two runners on-base during an inning three times during their Game 5 loss. They didn't lose because Mat Latos gave up six runs—they lost because they couldn't execute with runners on base.
In order to to avoid a 2013 hangover, Cincinnati needs to address this issue. It starts with the top of their order. A combined sub-.300 on-base percentage from your No. 1 and 2 hitters doesn't cut it. Drew Stubbs in the everyday lineup (even when batting eighth) will not cut it in 2013. His -0.2 WAR is unacceptable, as is his 166 strikeouts.
What should be the Reds' number one concern this offseason?
If this team struggles to score runs early in 2013, the season could spiral out of control quicker than a skydiver with a malfunctioning parachute.
The offseason needs to be spent dealing with this very issue. Much will be made of Mike Leake vs Aroldis Chapman in the starting rotation, but that is the absolute least of their concerns. They ended the season with a 3.34 team ERA, second in the league, and there will be no rush to fix what isn't broken.
Improving the pitching is not going to help this club score more runs. Walt Jocketty and crew have their work cut out for them. It's going to be a long a grueling winter—loses like this should not and will not be taken taken in stride.
That's what happened in 2010. Let's hope history doesn't repeat itself.
You can follow Josh Ramsey on Twitter @JRamCincy