5 Ways the Cincinnati Reds Can Avoid a Slow Start to the Season
However, there are a lot of concerned folks in Redleg Nation. The anxiety comes from the number of players already on the DL and the amount of strikeouts the lineup has produced.
There are several ways for the Reds to battle through the month of April without it getting away from them.
Ranking from least to most pressing, here are the five ways the Cincinnati Reds can avoid a slow start to the season.
All 2013 stats are courtesy of MLB.com
All previous season stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
5. Fight Through the Long April Schedule
The month of April might be the toughest for the Reds in 2013, which is why it's so important to get going early.
But that joy quickly met a five game losing streak. The Reds have rebounded after being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds have to take advantage of the ease in the schedule while they can. If they dominate both series, the team will exit the first month with a winning record.
4. Rotation Needs to Step Up
Having Johnny Cueto land on the 15-day DL is certainly a blow to the Reds. Cueto was easily one of the main reasons the club made it to the postseason last year with his 19 wins and 2.78 ERA (per Baseball-Reference.com).
With Cueto out, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey have to step up their roles. Their last two outings were very encouraging and have respectable numbers to start the season (per MLB.com)
W L ERA IP ER SO AVG WHIP
Homer Bailey 1 1 3.32 19 7 18 .191 1.00
Mat Latos 0 0 3.26 19.1 7 19 .267 1.19
The question is whether or not Mike Leake can pick up the slack with the ace missing. Leake is already starting to resemble the player of last season, where he often had a miserable game followed by a masterful outing.
Leake was nothing but outstanding against the Phillies. If he can show back-to-back successful starts, Leake will help this team become a presence early in the season.
3. Stay Healthy
In 15 games into the season, the Reds have sent Sean Marshall, Johnny Cueto and Ryan Ludwick to the DL.
Injuries are piling up quickly for a team that rarely saw them last season (with the exception of Joey Votto).
For the Reds to have a good start, they have to stay healthy.
There’s no way for one club to stay healthier than any other, but the Reds are not necessarily stocked with minor leaguers who are major league ready and that can be a problem.
A good example of this is the absence of Ryan Ludwick in the lineup. His backup, Chris Heisey, is putting up a .157/.189/.275 slash line through 57 at-bats (per MLB.com). Heisey also has the second most strikeouts on the team with 16.
If the Reds can maintain their health and Cueto has a speedy return, the club will only increase its chances of starting off the season well.
2. Red Hot Players Need to Stay Hot
Without a doubt, Brandon Phillips should be in consideration for NL Player of the Month if he continues his surge.
Phillips is currently tied with a major league best 19 RBI. He posses an incredible .345/.381/.638 slash line with four home runs 20 hits (per MLB.com).
Phillips has stepped up tremendously in Ryan Ludwick’s absence. His continuous clutch hitting is helping the club and if the Reds want to continue to win, Phillips has to stay hot.
Shin-Soo Choo has been welcomed with open arms to the Queen City. Cincinnati fans haven't seen a Reds leadoff hitter bat .333/.463/.556 in a very long time.
Choo is proving to be a tough out in his at-bats. While his defense in center remains a question, Choo is absolutely raking at the front of this lineup.
If Phillips and Choo can continue their hot streaks, the Reds will ultimately prevail against this roller coaster April lineup.
1. Solidify the Lineup
The Reds lineup in 2013 has been nothing short of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The club collected 57 hits from April 5th through 8th, and only 25 from April 9th through the 13th.
Not only has the entire Reds lineup had its ups and downs, but there are some individuals causing immediate outs. There are too many holes causing quick innings for opposing pitchers.
The club is seeing a ton of instability with its number two, six, seven and eight batters.
The back-end of the lineup is creating serious concerns. Ryan Hanigan is batting a lethargic .086/.195/.086 with three hits in 25 at-bats (per MLB.com).
Hanigan, typically on-base machine, is having a very cold April. He’s not alone.
Chris Heisey has been recently moved to the seventh hole. He’s batting .157/.189/.275 with eight hits in 51 at-bats and 16 strike outs.
If the Reds want to avoid a slow start that could prevent them from a postseason run, they have to solidify the lineup.
There are simply too many spots in the lineup not producing. And if the Reds can tighten up the lineup, and get some of these guys going, the club will be one of the most powerful in the NL.