After a rough start, the Cincinnati Reds have managed to string together consecutive series victories over division rivals and now find themselves just two games from the .500 mark. There are plenty of reasons why the Reds have seen a turnaround, ranging from the kind of pitching they're seeing now to certain guys finally contributing.
Each week, I'll focus on the Reds' biggest contributors, guys who are the focal point of everything that's good happening with the team.
1. Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto has started four games. In four games, he's pitched 30 innings. And in 30 innings, he's allowed five earned runs. In this short span, Cueto has thrown against three playoff teams from last year: the Tampa Bay Rays, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
His 1-2 record has very little to do with his performance; he's boasting MLB's sixth-best WHIP. In fact, of any pitcher to start four games this season, Cueto has more innings pitched and fewer earned runs allowed.
2. Devin Mesoraco
Devin Mesoraco is off to an insane start to 2014. His .515 batting average is just a facet of what he's really done. Mesorace has played in roughly half the games of most of the Reds' core—in nine games, he's amassed 17 hits, just three short of team-leading Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto.
They both have played 18 games. His six doubles have doubled Jay Bruce's performance, who along with three others is second on the team with three. On top of all that, he leads the team in OBP with a .553 mark.
3. Alfredo Simon
In just three starts, Alfredo Simon has made the most of his opportunity and has kept Mat Latos as an afterthought for the most part, which is a good thing, considering he isn't available. He shares the No. 4 ERA in all of baseball and has the best ERA of any Reds starting pitcher.
It's worth noting that in three games, he's faced the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. But in his one game against a playoff-contending Rays team, he allowed just one run in eight innings, which was arguably his best start of the year.
4. Joey Votto
Joey Votto is picking up right where he left off in 2013. We're three weeks into the new season, and Votto has the No. 5 OBP in all of baseball. His .450 OBP is actually second to Mesoraco's, who has remarkably played just half the games Votto has.
But that does mean Mesoraco benefited from missing the Cardinals and their No. 7 MLB ERA. For those concerned with power and RBI, Votto has mashed since entering the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Votto has had 38 plate appearances batting second—in those 30 plate appearances, Votto is hitting .393, has three home runs and has seven of his nine RBI.
5. Mike Leake
Since his poor start in New York, Leake has faced two playoffs teams from last year (Cardinals, Pirates) and has wins over both. After three starts, his ERA stands at 2.95. On top of a promising start on the bump, Leake has been instrumental at the plate. His home run and two RBI against Pittsburgh proved to be the difference in a 7-5 Reds win.
6. Ryan Ludwick
Perhaps no one is need of a resurgence more than the 35-year-old right-hander coming off of shoulder surgery. So far, he's doing just that. In 14 games, he's hitting .306 and has an OBP of .352. He's No. 6 on the team in RBI.
7. Jay Bruce
Though Bruce is sporting a pretty poor batting average by anyone's standards (.220), he's actually having a quietly prolific beginning to the year. He's second on the team in RBI with 10, but more notably, he's tied with Votto as the leader in walks; each has 14. Because of that, Bruce's OBP stands at an impressive .365. He also leads the team in runs scored.
8. Tony Cingrani
Cingrani is 1-2 with a 3.22 ERA because two of his four starts have been poor. He had impressive outings against the Cardinals and Rays, but he was also chased early by the Cardinals (the second time they saw him) and was beat up by a struggling Cubs team. Cingrani will need to be more consistent, but he's showing promise. He's third on the team in strikeouts.
9. Jonathan Broxton
Broxton is holding down the Reds' closer spot until Aroldis Chapman is cleared to play. In three games, he's pitched three innings and has allowed no runs. He's picked up two saves in that time. The only troubling thing about Broxton thus far is that in three games, he has three walks, making those saves a lot more stressful than they needed to be.
10. Sam LeCure
Questions regarding LeCure's health have circled, but in eight innings pitched, he's produced good results. Batters are hitting just .185 against the right-hander, but it hasn't been easy for LeCure. In eight innings, LeCure has surrendered four walks and five hits. Still, despite stressful work, he's allowed just one earned run and has been one of the lone bright spots in a tattered Reds bullpen.
(All stats provided courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com)
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