The Cincinnati Reds have had a crazy ride through the first three months.
Nearly midway through the first half of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, the Cincinnati Reds have many season-defining statistics that have put them in second place in the National League Central.
The Reds have trailed the St. Louis Cardinals in the division for the majority of this season, thanks to the Cardinals' dominance. There's still a long way to go, and the Reds have stayed within striking distance.
Season-defining statistics can be both positives and negatives. The negatives will obviously stand out because the team is not in first place, but there's not much to complain about in Cincinnati these days.
If the Reds can turn around some of these numbers, they could find themselves atop the NL Central at the end of the season.
Let's take a look at some of the statistics that have defined the team's first half of the season.
*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com
Jonathan Broxton is one of many relievers who has struggled pitching in the eighth this year.
Stat: 4.86 staff ERA in the eighth inning
The Reds' bullpen has been the biggest disappointment in the first half, and there's no doubt about it.
Last year the Reds had the No. 1 bullpen in all of baseball. This year they are in the middle of the league, but it feels like it has been worse than that.
Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure and Sean Marshall have been steady for most of the season. The rest of the bullpen has had a lot of adventures, especially as of late. With setup men Marshall and Jonathan Broxton on the disabled list, the team's biggest weakness has turned into a major problem.
For most of the year, Broxton was the man in the eighth inning. He did a fairly good job, but he suffered a pair of collapses in Pittsburgh on getaway days. Outside of those two outings, he usually got the job done.
Now that both of the setup men are on the disabled list, it's been a day-by-day adventure in the eighth. LeCure has gotten the majority of the chances since Broxton went out, but he has struggled to close the door.
Let's take a look at the bullpen's numbers in the eighth inning compared to the rest of game.
|Pitcher||IP (in the eighth)||Eighth-Inning ERA||Overall ERA|
Yes, a lot of those numbers are based on a small sample size. However, those with multiple innings pitched have seen their numbers go up when they have pitched in the eighth inning.
The Reds need their setup men healthy. That will make the bullpen more stable, but they need guys to step up until they are back to full strength.
Cincinnati was tied for No. 6 in baseball last year with a 3.28 ERA in the eighth. With such a balanced team, the bullpen's struggles have been magnified this year.
If it weren't for a shaky bullpen, this team could easily be leading the division. The relievers have blown numerous games that were tough to swallow, but the bullpen could be getting key pieces back soon.
Mike Leake has surprised everyone this year.
Stat: 3.17 rotation ERA (2nd in MLB)
As expected, the starting rotation has been superb. It has outperformed what anyone would have guessed it would do this year.
The only issue, which will come up again later, has been the health of Johnny Cueto. No Reds' pitcher missed a start last year, but Cueto has missed eight already this season with multiple trips to the disabled list.
When he has been on the mound, he has been sensational. He nearly threw a no-hitter in Pittsburgh last month and he's keeping teams off the scoreboard. He has allowed one run or less in five of his seven starts.
The rest of the rotation has been nearly as strong through the first half of the season.
Here are the numbers the rotation has put together:
*Note: Cingrani's numbers don't include relief appearances.
Outside of an emergency start by Pedro Villareal, this rotation has been great.
Although Homer Bailey's ERA is much higher than the rest of the pitchers, he was under 3.00 less than a month ago.
For all of the Mike Leake haters out there, it's time to give the man props. Not even the biggest Leake supporter could have seen his performance coming. Leake had a decent season for a No. 5 starter in 2012, but he has shocked everyone by leading the staff in ERA. In fact, he is tied for No. 12 in all of baseball with a 2.64 ERA.
If Cueto's injury keeps flaring up, the Reds will be just fine with rookie Tony Cingrani filling in. He has done well in seven starts and he gives the Reds a reliable replacement.
Mat Latos has turned into an ace since joining the Reds.
Stat: 6-1, victim of five blown saves
The biggest victim of the bullpen's struggles has been Mat Latos.
Although he is currently 6-1, the right-hander could easily be at least 11-1. Those extra wins would have him as a virtual lock to make the NL All-Star team and be in the conversation for the Cy Young.
Mat Latos has set a Reds record by making 21 regular-season starts without a loss.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) June 17, 2013
With a streak like that, he is putting his team in a position to win every time out. The Reds had won eight of his 10 starts entering June, but the bullpen has coughed up the lead twice this month and the team is only 1-3 when Latos has pitched in June.
Latos is 20-5 in the regular season as a Red and he is showing why the Reds made a big deal to get him.
Outside of the blown saves, Latos has given his team a chance to win. In the two games the Reds have lost without Latos being the victim of a blown save, he has been the victim of little run support. He allowed a combined four runs in two starts, but the team scored a total of one run in those two games.
Cincinnati's bullpen has hurt Latos' chance to be recognized by the nation. A 6-1 record is nothing to be ashamed of, but five more wins could cost Latos any shot at individual awards.
Not only is Latos the victim of the blown saves, but the Reds have lost three games in the standings thanks to the bullpen's failures when Latos has pitched.
Homer Bailey has had very little room for error this season.
- 2.46 runs per game while Bailey is still in the game
- 2.14 runs per game while Bailey is still in the game excluding first start
Homer Bailey has turned into a pretty good pitcher the last couple of years, but his offense isn't helping him out at all.
Sure he has had a few rough starts, but he has felt the pressure to be perfect every game. Before this week, the Reds had been shut out only three times this season. Bailey had started all three of those games.
Let's take a look at the run support Bailey has received in each start.
|4/5||Washington Nationals||6||7||W, 15-0|
|4/10||St. Louis Cardinals||5||0||L, 10-0|
|4/16||Philadelphia Phillies||8||0||W, 1-0|
|4/21||Miami Marlins||6||2||W, 10-6|
|4/26||Washington Nationals||7||0||L, 1-0|
|5/1||St. Louis Cardinals||5.1||1||L, 4-2|
|5/7||Atlanta Braves||5||2||W, 5-4|
|5/14||Miami Marlins||9||6||W, 6-2|
|5/19||Philadelphia Phillies||7||2||L, 3-2|
|5/25||Chicago Cubs||6||5||W, 5-2|
|5/30||Cleveland Indians||3.2||0||L, 7-1|
|6/4||Colorado Rockies||7||4||L, 5-4|
|6/10||Chicago Cubs||8||6||W, 6-2|
|6/15||Milwaukee Brewers||7||0||L, 6-0|
|6/20||Pittsburgh Pirates||6||2||L, 5-3|
As the numbers show, he hasn't gotten much support while he's been in the game. Even some of those numbers have been inflated. The Reds have scored at least one run in the bottom of his last inning, including four runs in the bottom of the sixth to put him in line for the win on May 25.
The lack of run support doesn't stop just based on pure numbers. Bailey went from his last pitch on May 19 to his first pitch on June 10 without throwing a pitch with the lead. He pitched well in all but one of those games, but he didn't throw a single pitch with a lead in a game in three starts.
Bailey is tied for second on the team with 10 quality starts and is the only pitcher on the staff with a complete game.
He still has the occasional rough outing, but he is pitching with an enormous amount of pressure. Any run he gives up could cost his team the game with the run support he gets.
Some pitchers just get little run support for whatever reason, and Bailey has to find a way to keep pitching through it.
Shin-Soo Choo has been great against right-handers, but he has struggled against lefties.
- Choo vs. RHP: .332/.468/.583, 10 HR, 15 2B, 19 RBI, 36 BB, 12 HBP
- Choo vs. LHP: .160/.327/.198, 0 HR, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 13 BB, 7 HBP
Shin-Soo Choo has one of the most astounding splits in the league. Unfortunately for the Reds, it can be costly when they face southpaws.
As long as the Reds are facing a right-hander, they will get runners on base in front of Joey Votto. Choo is getting on base at an incredible rate against right-handers and he is hitting for power.
Nearly all of the leadoff man's run production has come against right-handers.
When a southpaw is on the mound, Choo has struggled mightily.
He hasn't faced a lefty as much as right-handers this year, but that's not a bad thing. As a left-handed hitter, Choo has chased the breaking balls out of the zone. He has had trouble making solid contact against left-handers.
His power numbers drop dramatically against southpaws. He has yet to hit a home run and struggles to drive runners in.
Despite his low average, he is still finding a way to get on base. Only other three players have been hit more times overall than Choo has by left-handers. The Reds are hoping he can start finding hits against left-handers.
Choo's struggles against southpaws has forced manager Dusty Baker to drop him down to the second spot a few times this year.
His numbers are likely to improve against left-handers, but the Reds need to take advantage of Choo's numbers when they face right-handers.
Brandon Phillips has had no problems driving in runs this season.
Stat: 107 RBI combined between Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce
Joey Votto doesn't get much to hit, especially in key situations. He continues to lead the league in walks (54) and he has been walked 21 times with runners in scoring position.
Shin-Soo Choo is second in the majors with 49 walks. With two guys getting on so much, the Reds need to have people behind them to knock them in.
Luckily for the Reds, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce are having monster years.
Phillips is hitting .413 with runners in scoring position. He doesn't focus on homers with runners on but he does whatever he can to drive the runner in. He leads the majors with a .319 average and 28 RBI with two strikes. He may take big hacks early in the count but he adjusts to make sure the run scores.
The All-Star second baseman is tied for second in the NL in RBI and is tied for the third-most sacrifice flies in baseball. He has come through for the Reds in key situations, including a few walk-offs.
Right behind Phillips is Jay Bruce. The right fielder had only one homer and 11 RBI through April, but he turned it up in May.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer has Bruce's stats from May through the most recent Pirates' series.
On May 8, @JayABruce hit his 2nd HR of the season. Starting that day, he's hitting .308/.349/.660 w/ 14 HR— ctrent (@ctrent) June 20, 2013
With Bruce hitting so well, the Reds have one of the best trio of hitters in baseball. Bruce is sixth in the NL in homers and he is working his way up in home runs.
Although he hasn't been consistent this year, even Todd Frazier has 37 RBI. Ryan Ludwick's absence means that someone has to step up and drive in runs behind Bruce, and Frazier has done that for the most part.
The Reds have benefited from playing the Cubs 13 times already, but they need to play better against winning teams.
Stat: 14-22 against teams at/above .500, 30-8 against teams below .500
Cincinnati has benefited from playing teams that are struggling, although it didn't look like a favorable slate when the schedule was originally released. Some teams have failed to live up to expectations, and the Reds have taken care of business.
It's good to beat the teams you are supposed to beat, but it is a little concerning that they have struggled against the better teams.
The Reds have played teams like the Atlanta Braves and the Colorado Rockies tough, but they have been unable to win the series. Cincinnati is 2-7-2 in series against teams with a winning record and it has lost all three series to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cincinnati has played Pittsburgh extremely tough but has had to settle for a 4-6 record (1-1-1 in series). That record could easily be at least 6-4, but the bullpen has hurt the team.
Meanwhile, the Reds have beaten up on the Cubs 10 out of 13 times. They have also blown two games in that series, so they could have a 12-1 mark against their division rivals. The two teams have only two more series this year, so the Reds will need to find wins else where.
The Reds are 10-1 in series against teams below .500, and it would be a perfect 11-0 had it not been for a meltdown by Aroldis Chapman in Philadelphia.
June and July will be much tougher. The Reds are currently four games into a 16-game stretch against teams with a winning record, including eight straight on the road. They are currently on their first trip to the West Coast and they will end July with an 11-game trip out there.
The next six weeks will define this team's season. The schedule gets tougher, and the Reds will have to do their best to keep pace with the Cardinals.
Opposing teams celebrating on getaway day has become routine.
Winning a series usually comes down to the final game, and the Reds have struggled to win on getaway day.
Cincinnati is 10-12 in the final game of the series—assuming the Indians series counts as only one series and not two. The Reds started off well on getaway day by winning six of eight, but it has been a struggle since that good start.
The Reds have lost seven of their last eight getaway days and four of their last five games on Sundays.
It's not like they play poorly on those days. They usually get off to a quick start but watch as the opposing team rallies late in the game. The bullpen has blown four of those games and taken the loss in five of them.
In final games that Cincinnati has had a chance to win the series, the Reds have lost nine times. Each St. Louis series has come down to the rubber game, and the Cardinals have come out on top.
Both collapses in Pittsburgh came on Sundays, and the Pirates have won the final game in each of the first three series.
Washington is the only team at .500 or better that the Reds have beaten in the final game of a series, and that happened both times the teams played.
Once the bullpen gets healthy, the Reds should start to see more wins in the final game of a series. They have been able to score early, but the offense goes quiet as the opponent usually comes back to steal a win.
Great American Ball Park has given the Reds a great home-field advantage.
Stat: 26-14 at home, 18-16 on the road
No team in the majors has more wins at home than the Reds. A 26-14 record at home shows just how important getting home-field advantage is for Cincinnati.
After getting off to a 1-8 start on the road, the team has turned it around to get to 18-16 away from home. From where it started, that's a huge improvement. There is still plenty of room to get better, but the team has performed well at home all year.
The Reds have lost only three series at home all year, and each of those series came down to the rubber game.
With a tough time winning against teams above .500, the Reds look like they need to get home field in the playoffs despite last year's disappointing finish.
They have played very well at Great American Ball Park this year and they have a balanced team that is built to play in Cincinnati. The offense can strike at any time, and the pitching staff overpowers hitters. The Reds' pitchers lead the majors in strikeouts so they don't get burned by the small park.
Eventually the team will have to win consistently away from Cincinnati and it will need to show that they can beat good teams at their park in the playoffs.
Johnny Cueto is one of many Reds who has dealt with injuries this season.
- Ryan Ludwick (73 games missed)
- Brandon Phillips (missed four games)
- Chris Heisey (out since April 29)
- Ryan Hanigan (trip to DL)
- Sean Marshall (multiple trips to DL, out since May 24)
- Johnny Cueto (multiple trips to DL, missed eight starts)
- Jonathan Broxton (out since June 15)
Every team deals with injuries, but it seems like the Reds have had to deal with more than most.
Left fielder Ryan Ludwick went down with a shoulder injury in the third inning of the season, and he is out until at least August. The Reds had to deal with losing a left fielder and a clean-up hitter.
As most fans have wanted for years, Chris Heisey got a chance to play in left field. He struggled for a while before he suffered a hamstring injury. He was close to returning last month, but he suffered a setback during a rehab assignment. It appears that he is close to returning, and he will give the Reds a boost in every aspect.
Heisey can hit home runs, steal bases and play good defense. The Reds don't currently have that combination in left field.
Ludwick's replacement in the No. 4 spot, Brandon Phillips, has even suffered an injury. He was hit by a pitch in the arm earlier this month and missed four games. He has played ever since, but he hasn't been the same.
The second baseman is hitting .163 with one homer and 13 RBI since returning to the lineup. The home run happened to be a grand slam, and he knocked in six runs in that game. That means he has seven RBI in 13 other games since being hit by a pitch. His six-RBI game is his only multi-hit game during the stretch.
Southpaw Sean Marshall has thrown only seven innings this year, and Jonathan Broxton has joined him on the disabled list. Broxton should be back soon, but the Reds aren't sure about Marshall. Until both are healthy, the team is going to need other relievers to step up.
Although Tony Cingrani didn't lose a start while replacing Johnny Cueto, the Reds still missed their ace. Cueto is able to go deeper into games than Cingrani and allow fewer runs. Pedro Villareal lost his only start in place of Cueto, but Cingrani has gotten every other start.
Cueto's injury is a big concern. It's the third time since Game 1 of the National League Division Series that Cueto has tweaked something. The good news is that it's not his arm, but it will be something to watch as the year goes on.
Not many teams can survive losing their No. 4 hitter, two setup men, catcher and an ace. Cincinnati has managed to survive many injuries, and they may start to get healthy in a hurry.