The Reds are playoff bound!
Despite a 2-1 series loss to the New York Mets earlier this week, there is plenty of reason for optimism in Cincinnati. The team possesses a deep lineup with plenty of power, and they added the biggest speed threat in the game when they called up Billy Hamilton.
The thing that could ultimately be this team's saving grace is the fact that multiple players are capable of picking up the slack and delivering the Reds a victory on any given night.
This attribute will be crucial to the Reds success because now, more than ever, the team will have to rely on one another when every game is a must-win.
The five players on this list have demonstrated an impressive ability to come through in clutch situations. Some have done so in an incredibly short time period, while others have had years to prove their worth in a game's final stages.
So, without further adieu, here are the five players who could be playoff heroes for the Cincinnati Reds in 2013.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com—unless otherwise noted—and are current through Sept. 26, 2013.
Aroldis Chapman is in an obvious situation to be a postseason hero for the Cincinnati Reds. The flame-throwing lefty has closed out 77 games in his career, 38 of those coming this season.
Much like we'll see with another player on this list, Chapman has the opportunity to come into a game late and almost single-handedly determine its' outcome.
The 25-year-old hasn't quite been at his best this season, but even a notch below his best is still quite good. In 68 appearances this year, Chapman owns a 2.54 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, while averaging 15.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 3.86 K/BB and 5.2 H/9.
As you'll see, the members of this list all have something in common, that being that they're getting hot at just the right time.
Chapman is arguably the hottest of them all. In his last 13 games, Chapman has logged 14.1 innings with a 0.61 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP and per-nine averages of 16.4 K/9, 5.03 BB/9 and 3.1 H/9. Though the walk rate is hardly desirable, his ERA, WHIP, K/9 and H/9 figures are all off the charts.
Late-inning pressure-filled situations are Chapman's forte. The Cuban native and hometown favorite will certainly get the call in one of these situations, making him a nightly candidate for postseason heroism.
With the way the rotation is set up over the season's final three game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, it's becoming more and more evident that Mat Latos will be the starter in the Wild Card Round.
While I've been an advocate for Homer Bailey to fill this role—for a look at this take, visit my co-writer Kyle Newport's article on the topic here—the case for Latos is surely a sound one. The 25-year-old has done an outstanding job stepping in for the previously injured Johnny Cueto, and has earned the right to lead the Reds' rotation in a one-game playoff.
In just his fifth professional season, Latos has set career bests in innings pitched and HR/9. Beyond that though, he's pitching within his capabilities, as evidenced by his 3.10 FIP—good for 13th best in the league per Fangraphs.com.
As it stands, the Reds would take on the Pirates in the NL Wild Card round. Latos' history against the Pirates suggests that the Reds could walk away as the victors in the one-game playoff.
Over 11 career starts against the Bucos, Latos boasts a solid 2.93 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, while averaging 9.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 2.52 K/BB and 7.1 H/9. Though he's struggled slightly against them this season—4.08 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP—he's got a solid track record against them over his career.
Latos' impressive season, combined with the position he'll find himself in as the play-in game starter makes him an obvious candidate for this list.
Jay Bruce's spot on this list is rather self explanatory. The 26-year-old has put together one of his best all-around seasons as a big leaguer and is improving on a near game-by-game pace.
Bruce is going to set his single-season best in games played, as well as runs scored—he's tied both marks already with 157 games played and 89 runs scored. Bruce has also set career highs in RBI, doubles, WAR and outfield assists.
Over the past 10 games, Bruce, like the next member on this list, has been on a solid roll. The young right fielder owns a .286/.375/.452 slash line with a home run, four doubles, 14 RBI, seven runs scored and an impressive 6:6 K/BB ratio over 48 plate appearances.
Bruce has shown improved patience over the last 10 games, walking at a 12.5 percent clip. While part of this was a byproduct of hitting directly behind Joey Votto, it's impossible to discount the fact that Bruce seems to be getting hot at just the right time.
One final thing to consider.
In the 2012 postseason, Bruce logged 22 plate appearances over five NLDS games against the Giants. In those 22 plate appearances, Bruce managed a .263/.364/.526 triple slash with a home run, a double, four RBI, two runs scored and a 2:2 K/BB ratio.
Bruce's recent hot streak, combined with his postseason experience should serve him well in the Reds' quest for a World Series victory.
On the surface, Todd Frazier seems like an unlikely candidate to become a playoff hero for the Reds. In 147 games played, Frazier is the owner of a paltry .235/.314/.405 slash line, with 18 home runs, 29 doubles, 72 RBI and 62 runs scored.
Despite his somewhat disappointing season, as of late, Frazier has been on an absolute roll. The 27-year-old boasts a significantly improved slash line—.257/.304/.500 over his last 19 games, and his contributions also include five home runs, three doubles, 10 RBI and 11 runs scored over that same span.
Frazier's home run rate has improved drastically over that same span. On the season, Frazier owns a 3.1 percent home run rate, but over the 19 game stretch mentioned above, that percentage has ballooned out to 6.3 percent.
This recent upturn in his performance, combined with his improved home run rate, could brew up a perfect storm of offensive production. If the improvements in his home run rate and batting average weren't enough, he's done that all while his BAbip over the 19 games sits below his season average—.264 down from .273.
Frazier has enough power that if he runs into a fastball, he could certainly drop it into the left-field bleachers.
No team in baseball possesses a more dynamic, late-inning threat than the Cincinnati Reds. In a late-innings situation, the Reds have the ability to bring Billy Hamilton off the bench as a pinch-runner, in an attempt to create instant offense.
With just 12 games under his belt, Hamilton is already the game's biggest base stealing threat. The 23-year-old made his mark in the minors, swiping 100-plus bases in consecutive seasons, while setting the professional record in 2012 with a whopping 155 stolen bases.
Hamilton made his big league debut on Sept. 3, and has already compiled 13 stolen bases on 14 attempts. The speedster was successful in each of his first 13 tries prior to his most recent attempt on Sept. 25, however, we've seen that Hamilton's speed is hardly a sideshow.
In five of his 12 appearances, Hamilton has entered the game as a pinch runner, while going on to score either a game-winning, go-ahead, or game-tying run.
In addition to that, the young center fielder logged four stolen bases in his first major league start, on Sept. 18, against the Houston Astros. Hamilton also scored two of the team's six runs that game, with the final one being the go-ahead run.
We've seen it multiple times in his very short big league career, that Hamilton has the ability to impact a game, even if he's not called to play until the game's latter stages. If a runner gets on base in the latter stages of a close game, Hamilton could come around to score a crucial run, making him a prime candidate to be a postseason hero.