The Cincinnati Reds have made it through their first 100 games of the season. A lot of preseason predictions had the Reds winning the NL Central Division, but the Queen City club sits five games out of first place.
It’s not all gloom and doom for the Reds. If the playoffs were to start today, the club would make it as the second Wild Card team and face division rival Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, with the new playoff format, the Reds would face their biggest rival—the St. Louis Cardinals—in the NLDS if they were victorious in the Wild Card match.
The Reds are also trudging through one of the toughest road trips the club faces each year. The trip through the west coast has been a telling stretch over the last few seasons.
This year, the Reds have an 11 game road trip with the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. They’re currently 3-1, and soon have to face one of the hottest teams in the Dodgers.
If the club can last through the grueling west coast trip, the Reds will find themselves ready to face the Cardinals once they're home on August 1.
The Reds rotation has been completely dominant through the first 100 games of the season. Even with ace pitcher Johnny Cueto on the disabled list, the rotation holds the third-best ERA (3.40) in the majors.
The rotation leads the NL with 528 strikeouts and a 1.18 WHIP. Opposing teams are only hitting .245 AVG against the Reds, which is third-best.
It’s hard to believe the Reds have had so much success without their ace pitcher. However, pitchers like Mike Leake are having career-years.
Leake owns a 10-4 record with a 2.73 ERA. His resurgence has clearly given the Reds one of the best rotations in the league.
The Reds biggest problem is the other two rotations in their division. The Cardinals (3.32) and Pirates (3.24) both best the Reds and the rest of the league in rotation ERA.
Cincinnati’s bullpen hasn't accumulated outstanding statistics like it did a year ago. A lot inconsistency comes from the bullpen’s injuries. Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton are both still on the DL.
Even though the bullpen is missing some of its top pitchers, other unlikely guys have shined. Manny Parra has completely flipped his season around. Parra has gone his last 10 games without an earned run, while giving up only three hits with 12 strikeouts.
The bullpen has a collective 3.34 ERA and has allowed only 231 hits, which is second-best in the NL.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Reds might seek after another bullpen arm to ensure their chances of making the playoffs.
The Cincinnati Reds offense has mimicked the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some nights, the Reds can’t buy a run, and others, they can’t stop scoring them.
It’s been tough to really gauge their bats this year. Their .255 team batting average is 15th in the league. However, the Reds .331 OBP is fourth-best, but their .211 AVG with runners on and two outs is 28th in the league.
It seems as if the Reds have the power, but don’t use it correctly. A lot of offensive woes are due to injuries. The biggest injury for the Reds is Ryan Ludwick, and his absence throws the lineup off-kilter.
The Reds could try to acquire another left fielder before the trade deadline. However, names like Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rios are already being closely linked to other teams (per MLBtraderumors.com).
The team might not be able to see that drastic of a difference with a new left fielder that they can afford or likely obtain. They’ll wait on the return of Ludwick, as he recently started his rehab assignment and played professional baseball for the first time since opening day.
The bright side has been Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Even though Bruce has started to cool off, he had a fantastic May and June. In that time, Bruce batted .292 with 17 home runs, 45 RBI and 17 doubles.
Brandon Phillips has stepped up big with Ludwick out of the cleanup spot. Brandon Phillips promised 100 RBI for the season, and it seems like he’s well on his way with 81 already.
Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo have been on-base machines. Votto and Choo lead the majors in walks and have shown great plate discipline. The Reds would certainly like to see a bit more production from Votto, as he only has 19 doubles and 47 RBI. However, these are still All-Star caliber numbers.
The biggest question mark with the Reds' offense belongs to the sophomores. Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier have not put up great numbers in their second-year. Devin Mesoraco has shown promising signs as of late. He has a .371 AVG with eight RBI in his last 10 games.
The younger players will need to be consistent to make the Reds go deep into October.
The Reds can keep their playoff hopes alive as long as they keep winning the games they should. The club has beat up on sub-.500 teams this season. The Reds have a 42-19 record against losing teams (per baseball-reference.com).
The big question is, can they keep it up?
The Reds are a good club. Their excellent pitching and revamped bullpen are being shadowed by the success of the Cardinals and Pirates.
Expect the Reds to keep beating up on the teams with losing records, but pay attention to their upcoming matchups against the Dodgers and the Cardinals.
Don’t forget, the Reds have a chip on their shoulder from their early exit last year in the NLDS. The club has made the playoffs two out of the last three years.
The Reds will be a playoff-experienced club. This team should know what it takes to make it to the postseason and how to win it as well.
All statistics courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.