5 Ways the Cincinnati Reds Can Avoid a Slow Start to the Season

Alexander York@myoldclothesContributor IApril 18, 2013

5 Ways the Cincinnati Reds Can Avoid a Slow Start to the Season

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    There’s no doubt that the Cincinnati Reds are already facing issues this young season. After sweeping the always-tough Philadelphia Phillies, the Reds have put some momentum back into April.

    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

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    The month of April might be the toughest for the Reds in 2013, which is why it's so important to get going early.

    Managing to take the best of three from the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals was a good sign.

    But that joy quickly met a five game losing streak. The Reds have rebounded after being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Sweeping the Phillies this week was a huge boost. It was a rare occasion; one that hadn’t happened since 1996.

    The Reds have to face the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals again, and both series are on the road. The Reds will also face the unbelievably hot Atlanta Braves in early May.

    What will keep the club from having a slow start is dominating weaker teams. The Reds face the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs next. Those teams have a combined record of 7-21 (per MLB.com).

    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

    In his last seven games Todd Frazier is batting .167/.238/.389 with three hits and two RBI. Zack Cozart isn't quite lighting up pitchers by hitting .228/.237/.491 with 13 hits in 51 at-bats.

    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.