Cincinnati Reds' Biggest Winners, Losers of the First Half of the Season
The Cincinnati Reds season has been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. Some fans might feel a bit more nauseous than others, but the club is certainly not having a disastrous season.
The Reds will reach the midseason point after their series versus the Texas Rangers this weekend.
With that in mind, there have been some incredible stories so far, like Brandon Phillips' surge in the cleanup spot. But there have also been major disappointments with the multiple sophomore slumps.
Starting with the bad, let’s pull this like a Band-Aid and go through the Cincinnati Reds' biggest losers and winners of the first half of the season.
All statistics courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
We’ll start with the obvious. Missing Ryan Ludwick in the lineup is placing more pressure on other Reds hitters.
It's creating instability with the two-hole hitter, and the lineup drops off the cliff after Jay Bruce bats fifth.
The Reds offense was relying on .270 AVG and 30 HR season from its cleanup hitter. However, losing Ludwick after three innings in the first game of the season has been a huge disappointment.
There’s no one to blame for his injury, but his absence is taking a toll on the Reds' first half of the season.
I predicted earlier that Ludwick likely wouldn’t return until August. Hopefully, with a quick recovery, Ludwick can provide some offense to the club before the season ends.
After Todd Frazier’s impressive rookie year, he’s definitely falling into a sophomore slump. He’s not alone in that category, but since getting the chance to play every day, he’s been anemic in the lineup.
Frazier has the second-worst batting average of Dusty Baker’s usual starting nine (including Derrick Robinson and Xavier Paul for left field).
A slash line of .238/.336/.402 with 70 strikeouts isn’t desirable for the sixth hitter in the lineup. What’s worse is his ability to hit in the clutch.
Frazier will have time to improve his season. However, he needs to pick up his clutch hitting that helped the Reds to 97 wins last year.
It’s difficult to put Ryan Hanigan on the losers side because his defense has been impeccable.
Hanigan is boasting a .997 Fld%, which is his best since 2009's .998 season, according to per Baseball-Reference.com. He’s currently at a 52 percent caught stealing percentage, which is tops in the NL.
It's one thing if Hanigan were in the lineup solely for his defense. However, the disappointment comes from his offensive numbers versus last year's.
Hanigan had a .274/.365/.338 slash line in 2012 with 14 doubles and 24 RBI. Nearly midway through the 2013 season, he has a .183/.270/.260 slash line with four doubles and 13 RBI.
Last year fans fought for Hanigan to bat second in the lineup. So far this year, his ability to put the ball in play has made the back of the lineup a cakewalk for opposing pitchers.
There’s no doubt that one of the biggest problems from the first half of the season is with the Reds bullpen.
The Reds rank 19th overall in bullpen ERA (3.89) and second in losses (17). However, the Reds are ranked sixth in strikeouts (243) and opposing batting average (.229).
One could assume these aren’t horrible numbers collectively for a bullpen. But the biggest struggle has been the eighth inning, where the Reds rank 26th with a 4.67 ERA.
It’s too simple to blame everything on the Reds' setup man Jonathan Broxton. While he has the most innings pitched in the eighth, he’s not the only one giving up runs.
J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon and Logan Ondrusek have more earned runs than Broxton.
Even Aroldis Chapman has shown some signs of instability in the bullpen. Chapman was 38-for-43 in save opportunities with 12 earned runs last year. The Cuban pitcher is already 19-for-22 with 10 earned runs in 2013.
It has been a tough pill to swallow dropping from first to 19th in the league, and there’s no doubt missing Sean Marshall is a major cause.
That wasn’t so bad, right? Finding the positives for the first half of the season was just as easy as pointing out the negatives.
It would be impossible to have a midseason MVP discussion without naming Joey Votto.
The biggest fear coming into the 2013 season was his knee and power. Both issues seem to be a thing of the past.
Votto only trails Jay Bruce in home runs with 14, and he leads the club with a boisterous slash line of .322/.437/.519.
Votto only has 14 doubles for the season, which is a concern since he has reached at least 40 the last two years. However, pitchers aren’t treating Votto like a guy missing some power. He leads the MLB with 58 walks.
There was a lot more concern at the beginning of the season with Votto’s health. But it’s safe to say he’s having another impact season for the Reds.
Reds fans are absolutely spoiled with flashy defensive plays, and the majority is thanks to Brandon Phillips.
Phillips took on a huge task by batting fourth all season long with Ryan Ludwick injured. Although his batting average could use a major boost at .265, Phillips has been the Reds' RBI machine.
Phillips currently has a team-high 60 RBI with 11 home runs and 13 doubles and has displayed some clutch hitting, as his slash line with runners on is .310/.380/.469.
Phillips' defense has been a little shaky. He’s already committed six errors this season (only five in 2012) and has a .983 Fld%, which is his lowest since he joined the Reds in 2006 (.977).
Even with the subpar defensive numbers, Phillips has easily been one of the Reds' top players of 2013.
If there’s one pitcher who has proved his worth this season, it’s Mike Leake.
He’s quietly gone under the radar with a club-best 2.61 ERA and is tied with Mat Latos with seven wins.
Coming off a 8-9 and 4.58 ERA season, Leake has completely turned 2013 around.
Although Leake only has 63 strikeouts for the season, he’s still finding ways to get batters out. He currently has a 0.00 ERA with only eight hits while pitching in the fifth inning.
His sixth-inning ERA shoots up to 5.68, and Leake isn’t exactly lasting late into his games. But he is consistently showing a solid five innings per outing.
Leake’s ERA is likely effected by playing at Great American Ball Park. He’s 5-1 with a 2.32 ERA playing on the road. He has also only given up two home runs during away games versus six at home.
The Reds hope this trend will last all season as Leake continues to shine.
After a slow start, Jay Bruce is ending the first half of the season with a bang.
There isn’t a hotter hitter on the Reds than the Beaumont Bomber. Bruce is tied for fifth in the NL with 18 home runs.
He’s also tied for second with 24 doubles in the NL and it’s just further proof that his power is still surging.
Bruce is known for his streaky hitting, but he’s hit .288 with 17 home runs and 17 double since May. After a slow start, Bruce has completely crushed the ball.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he goes on a cold streak anytime soon, but for the first half of the season, Jay Bruce has been potent in the Reds lineup.
Comment below or follow me on Twitter!