The future is bright, and Jay Bruce is poised for an MVP season.
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The 2012 Major League Baseball season came, and has now gone. Gone with it is another disappointing Cincinnati Reds postseason appearance. But remember Reds fans, dwelling on the past is what losers do. Winners move forward.
Though it may not yet feel like it yet, the 2013 season looks very bright for the Cincinnati Reds. Why is that you may ask? Let's review a few key facts about the season past.
The Cincinnati Reds had the second best record in baseball this season. They finished 2012 with a 97-65 record.
It takes a culmination of things going right for any team to win 97 games. It flat out takes talent to win 97 games despite a few major things going very wrong wrong. In order to find out what went right, let's take look at what went wrong.
The leadoff position was well, horrid to say the least. Reds leadoff hitters compiled a measly .208 BA with an even more palatable .254 OBP. But, in spite of coming in last (by a long shot) with these two stats, the Reds still managed to finish at least 21 of 30 in runs scored. Maybe not impressive, but more than adequate given those numbers, wouldn't you say? When your table setters aren't setting the table you can only do so much.
Let's also not forget that Cincinnati lost Joey Votto in the midst of an MVP campaign. Yet they still scored enough (key word here is "enough") runs to manage an even better record without Votto in the lineup. They went 38-16 in his absence vs. 59-49 with him in the lineup.
So what are we getting at here? Simple, espite major offensive handicaps, the Cincinnati Reds were one run and three outs away from a sweep of the eventual Word Series Champions and a chance to take their place in the NLCS.
How did the Reds manage to win with such handicaps? Pitching and defense, that's how.
Returning to the team, intact, will be a defense that has produced six Gold Glove finalists (Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, and Bronson Arroyo) along with a pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the NL while producing the seond-best team ERA at 3.34.
I must remind you, Reds pitchers did this while pitching in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
Let's tie what we have so far, all of this together. It's like a domino-effect. The Reds play brilliant defense. That brilliant defense backs up a pitching staff that is above average and who often pitches to contact. Such pitching staffs thrive off of strong defense.
It is this combination that allows for some inadequacies in the Cincinnati offense. When your team is allowing opponents to score the fewest runs in the league, being 21st of 30 teams in offensive runs scored isn't quite as bad as it could be otherwise.
All six of the Gold Glove finalists are due to return in 2013. Todd Frazier, who arguably played as good a third-base as Scott Rolen did, will be taking over at third. The only true unknown is in left field. Let's just say that the club seems to have learned their lesson with Adam Dunn and the Yonder Alonso experiments. Defense does matter.
What about the pitching staff in 2013? The Reds will return Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, a strong and formidable one-two punch, to the top of their rotation. 2013 will be the year that Homer Bailey doubters disappear. Look for Homer to take over the third spot in the rotation.
The reenergized Bronson Arroyo will hold down the fourth spot while Mike Leake and newcomer Tony Cingrani will battle it out for the fifth rotation spot.
All of this leaves Aroldis Chapman to anchor the best bullpen in all of baseball.
So, let's review again, what all we have covered means? It means, that for the first time in a long time, the Cincinnati Reds really have only one need - help at the top of their batting lineup.
They can fill this need with a slick hitting left fielder, or center fielder, or both. The Cincinnati Reds are that close to becoming the best team in baseball.
The best thing for Cincinnati Reds fans is that they have a GM and an owner that understand this need and will fix it. Folks, Bob Castellini has already put his money where his mouth is. He did that after getting a taste of championship baseball that was foiled by standing pat in 2011.
In 2012 he invested heavily, then was given a glass of fine whiskey that was yanked from him just after he had taken a few sips. Do you think he is going to let 2011 repeat itself? I think not.
The 2013 season looks bright my friends and it will only get brighter as pitchers and catchers prepare to report. Do not dwell fellow fans, do not dwell.