10 Bold Predictions for Cincinnati Reds in the Second Half of the Season
Despite constant criticism, manager Dusty Baker has led the Reds to a 47-36 record (standings via MLB.com). It's the fourth-best record in the majors, but it just happens to put the team in third place in the NL Central.
The Reds have coughed up a handful of games that could have them in first place right now, so they have some ground to make up.
There have been plenty of positives and negatives through the first 83 games of the season, but the negatives have seemed to outweigh the positives.
Let's take a look at some bold predictions for the rest of Cincinnati's season.
*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com
Reds Will Have Four All-Stars
The Reds have had at least three representatives on the All-Star team in three straight seasons. Ironically, 2010 was the first time the National League All-Stars won the game in 13 years and haven't lost since.
Whether or not the Reds players have had anything to do with it, that's still a quirky achievement.
In 2013, the Reds will have four players selected to the team.
First baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips are in position to start the game.
Right fielder Jay Bruce doesn't get the fan vote, but the coaching staff will have a hard time not picking him. He is hitting .281 with 18 home runs, 25 doubles and 56 RBI. Those power numbers are near the top of league.
His defense will also get him serious consideration, and he will end up as the third player picked from the Reds.
As good as the Reds' starting pitchers have been, none of them will make the team. Mat Latos could easily be 11-2. Mike Leake is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA, which is 10th in the majors. But does anyone think a guy with Leake's stuff is going to be picked over other pitchers in the league?
Which leads us to this point: If every pitcher picked is a hard-thrower, wouldn't it be advantageous to have at least one guy who doesn't throw 95 mph?
The fourth All-Star picked from the Reds' roster will be Aroldis Chapman. The closer has been solid for most of the year, but he has had trouble throwing strikes lately. Can anyone blame Bruce Bochy for picking a guy like Chapman to face all-stars?
When the team is announced on Saturday, look for Votto, Phillips, Bruce and Chapman to all be on the roster.
Ryan Ludwick Will Be out Until September
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that left fielder Ryan Ludwick will be out until at least August. That's a timetable that is being optimistic.
Good news for Reds fans: Ludwick is scheduled to start resuming baseball activities on Wednesday.
It's one thing to play part of a season and then get hurt. Ludwick didn't even make it three innings this year before tearing his labrum.
He wasn't able to get in a groove this season, and it will have been nearly 11 months before he gets to play meaningful games every day when he returns.
Unless the Reds are on the outside of the playoff picture, they will take their time with him. Ludwick can be a powerful bat to have in the lineup, but rushing him back too soon could be bad for everyone involved.
When he is back in the lineup, he will be put in the No. 6 hole. Brandon Phillips has earned the right to be in the No. 4 spot, and Jay Bruce isn't moving down in the order. Todd Frazier can easily move down one spot to make room for Ludwick.
The Reds have Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson and Xavier Paul filling in for Ludwick. The replacements have done just fine, so the team can be patient with its injured left fielder.
No Starting Pitcher Will Have an ERA Above 3.70
This is a bold statement for a few reasons. This includes six different starting pitchers and no, Pedro Villarreal does not count.
Here are the rotation's current statistics:
*Note: Tony Cingrani's ERA only from games he has started.
Mike Leake surprised many by being good, but he has shocked nearly everyone by being one of the best pitchers in the majors. It will be tough for him to keep up his current pace, but it's not a bad sign that the No. 5 pitcher is leading the staff in the major categories.
The Reds had four starters with an ERA under 3.75 last year, but they have gotten even better this year. Leake was the only one above that mark last year.
Five pitcher finishing with an ERA under 3.50 is probably unrealistic, but 3.70 is a reachable number. Only Homer Bailey is currently above that mark, which is due to some big innings every once in a while.
The starting rotation has been among the top three teams in ERA all year long, so there are high expectations for the rest of the season.
Every Starting Pitcher Will Be at .500 or Above
Leake was again the only pitcher who did not reach .500 last season, but the rotation is in great shape to pull of the feat this year.
Homer Bailey is 4-6, but the team is scoring barely over two runs per game for him—while he is still in the game. The team has been shut out five times this year, and Bailey has been on the mound for four of them.
With a little bit more run support, Bailey will easily have a winning record. He won 13 games last year and has the potential to get close to that mark again this year.
Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos didn't lose a game until June, and rookie Tony Cingrani has still yet to lose a game.
The biggest question mark will be Bronson Arroyo. He usually hoovers around .500 because he goes deep into games and gets a decision.
With a more consistent offense, the Reds will not have a starting pitcher finish below .500 this year.
Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo Will Lead the NL in OBP
The Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo to get on base. He has done that at an incredible rate.
Choo's OBP (.414) is second only to Joey Votto (.437). Both are on pace to get on base over 300 times this season, a feat that has been accomplished only twice by teammates, according to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
The duo is nearly impossible to get out for right-handers. Choo has a .323 average and a .467 OBP against right-handers, and Votto has a .348 average and a .462 average against right-handers.
Choo is struggling against southpaws. He is hitting .143 and has a .303 OBP this year, which could put this prediction in jeopardy. If he can improve those numbers some in the second half, he should be able to finish near the top of the league in OBP.
Cincinnati got more than it expected when it acquired Choo. He has been getting on base and providing some power. With Choo and Votto getting on base, the offense will continue to score runs.
Cincinnati Will Not Be Active at the Deadline
The Reds could be in the market for two things come July 31: bullpen help and a left fielder.
Chris Heisey is now healthy, which means the team will likely keep what it has. Heisey gives the Reds something they were looking for in a right-handed bat in left field. He is also the best defensive left fielder the Reds have.
Heisey brings speed, power and contact to the team. Now he will have to take advantage of the extended playing time.
Derrick Robinson has been a good fit with the team and has even been the leadoff hitter against southpaws. He is a switch-hitter and can run better than anyone on the team.
Xavier Paul has the most power of any of the options, but that's about all he brings to the team. He will do well coming off the bench.
With the return of Heisey, the Reds no longer need to go after a left fielder. Heisey will split at-bats with Robinson until Ludwick returns.
The only move the Reds might make is for the bullpen.
There aren't going to be many relievers in the team's price range, but they could still make a minor move. The bullpen is starting to get it together as of late, but the relievers haven't been used in close games recently.
Jay Bruce Will Not Top His 2012 Home Run Total
Jay Bruce is the only player in major league history to hit 20 home runs as a rookie and then increase his total in each of the next four seasons.
The 26-year-old is currently on pace to equal his 35 homers from a season ago. For him to even be on pace to match his total from last year is incredible after his slow start
Through 34 games, he had only one home run. He responded by hitting seven home runs in May and 10 in June. He got on a hot streak and hit seven home runs in seven games. All of his hits in that span were homers.
Bruce has shown the ability to streak like. He is likely to be more consistent throughout the rest of the season, but he would have to hit 18 more home runs to continue his incredible streak.
Although his streak is in jeopardy, he is starting to put it all together this year. He is second in the NL in extra-base hits with 44, and he is making contact more.
His strikeouts are still among the most in the league, but he also has the fourth-most at-bats in the majors. Not many other players with that many strikeouts have played nearly every game.
Bruce has eliminated his 0-for-19 streaks and has used the entire field. As long his average stays around .280, the team can afford a slight drop in home runs out of its right fielder.
Two Reds Will Win a Gold Glove
Cincinnati his several candidates to win a Gold Glove. Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Bronson Arroyo all have Gold Gloves to their credit, but the defense has had some rough stretches this season.
Votto currently leads the league in errors by a first baseman. Phillips has made a few more errors than he usually does, but he also gets to more balls and makes more plays than any player in the league.
Jay Bruce will finally win the Gold Glove after being snubbed in each of the past few seasons.
Overtaking Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves won't be easy, but Bruce deserves the award. He limits runners on the bases by getting to balls quickly and has a cannon for an arm. He also has had to cover more ground without Drew Stubbs in center this year.
That leaves one more player on the team who will win a Gold Glove. That would be Phillips. The managers stuck it to the flashy second baseman last year, but now they can give him the award that belongs to him.
Errors are irrelevant when it comes to him because they usually come from him trying to make an incredible play. For the amount of ground that he covers in the outfield, he deserves consideration for a Gold Glove in center.
OK, maybe not. He does, however, routinely make plays deep into the outfield that no other players come close to matching. His range is incredible.
Cozart could work his way back into the conversation at shortstop, but it's a long shot at this point.
There could be a sneaky winner. Pitchers are tough to predict, but Mark Buehrle is no longer in the NL. Arroyo could take home another Gold Glove, or Mike Leake could grab his first.
Unless a pitcher wins one, the Reds will have to settle for two Gold Gloves.
The Reds Will Have a Winning Record at Home and on the Road
The Reds are 27-14 at Great American Ball Park. However, the team is only 20-22 away from Cincinnati.
For whatever reason, the Reds have struggled when they leave home. The team started 1-8 on the road and went 2-6 on its recent trip to the West Coast. The recent slump cost the team six games in the standings.
Outside of those two streaks, the team is 17-8 on the road. The Reds need to eliminate those slumps, but they have shown that they can also get hot on the road.
Cincinnati still has another trip to the West Coast at the end of July, and that trip could define the season. A strong showing out there can keep the team in the division race. A repeat of the first West Coast trip could knock the Reds out of the race.
Once the team gets healthy in the bullpen, the wins will be more consistent on the road. Relievers have coughed up numerous leads this year, and that will be fixed, at some point, by the returns of Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton.
The Reds Will Win the NL Central
This is an obvious prediction, but it will still be tough to accomplish. A Wild Card spot was almost the pick here, but let's look at where the team currently sits.
Why will the Reds win the division and not one of the two teams above them in the standings?
As previously mentioned, the Reds have blown many games that they had under control. A healthy bullpen should eliminate those collapses and help the team make up ground on its division rivals.
The Pirates have suffered historic collapses in back-to-back seasons. Until they show that they can finish strong, they aren't serious threats to win the division.
Pittsburgh's pitching is among the best in the league. The rotation has the second-best ERA and the bullpen has the third-best ERA in baseball. However, the offense is awful. It's tied for 20th in runs and 23rd in average. The offense puts a lot of pressure on the pitching staff to be perfect.
The race will come down to the Reds and the Cardinals.
St. Louis' starting pitching has come back to earth, and the team has struggled lately. To be fair, the Reds struggled, too. The Cardinals are relying on rookies to carry the rotation because of injuries.
The Cardinals have the better offense, but the overall pitching edge tilts slightly in favor of Cincinnati.
As of July 2, the Cardinals lead the Reds by three games. That's not a huge hole to dig out of, and the Reds will find a way to get past their archrival.