Are the Cincinnati Reds the best team in baseball?
Valid arguments could be made against it, but they are the hottest. Since the All-Star break they are 29-14, going 21-8 through the month of August, the best record in MLB.
They never give up, winning 19 games in their last at-bat. Don't turn the TV off until the fat lady sings.
They are the youngest team with playoff aspirations, with an average age of younger than 28.
The Reds boast arguably the best player in the National League this year in first-baseman Joey Votto. In only his third full season in the majors Votto is among the top in virtually all offensive categories.
He is currently second to Carlos Gonzalez in BA at .325. He is third in HR with 32, and leads the league in RBI with 97. He is third in runs scored, first in OBP, second in SLG and first in OPS.
He has a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown, along with St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols and Gonzalez.
The bench has probably been the strongest point for the Reds this season. When players have gone down with injuries or needed a day off, their subs have done a tremendous job.
Miguel Cairo has filled in at every infield position this season and the team did not miss a beat. The same holds true for shortstop Paul Janish. Orlando Cabrera was stuck on the DL and Janish filled in as though he belonged at the big league level.
Rookies Chris Heisey and Chris Valaika have played important parts in backup roles as well.
They have played 10 rookies so far this season, and most have been sensational. Mike Leake began the season and pitched good enough to be under consideration for Rookie-of-the-Year.
Southpaw rookie Travis Wood flirted with a perfect game until the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Sam LeCure pitched so well during his first call-up that he is now the long man in the bullpen.
They have a very solid rotation, in Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey and now Aaron Harang (if they don’t re-assign him to the pen).
Arroyo has been the workhorse of MLB the last few years, pitching over 200 innings five seasons consecutively. He now has 181 and is well on his way to the sixth season of 200 IP.
They have one of the best infields in all of baseball. Votto, Phillips, Cabrera and Scott Rolen have made plays all season that would fill a highlight reel.
The outfield is good but not great. Jonny Gomes is lacking in defensive skills but has power and is a good clutch hitter. Drew Stubbs is the fastest man on the team and an excellent defensive center fielder. He has power and should develop into a 30-30 player in a couple of years.
Jay Bruce is finally playing to the potential he possesses. He is arguably the best defensive right fielder in the National League, if not the entire MLB. He has awesome power and when he matures completely, I believe he can be a 40 home run man.
Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez have shared the catching duties all year. They both have done exceptionally well. Hernandez is batting close to .300 and is playing some of the best ball of his career.
Hanigan just won a game last night with a three-run shot in the upper deck.
The relief corps of the Reds has been bent a few times but refuses to be broken. Arthur Rhodes, 40, and Nick Masset have done a fabulous job in the setup role and Cordero has settled in and is now doing what he is paid to do – save games.
And last but not least, they possess the Cuban Missile. Rookie Aroldis Chapman has garnered so much attention in the baseball community due to the heat that he brings to the mound.
In this first appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers he pitched a perfect inning, with one strikeout and one pitch clocked at 103 mph. Of the eight pitches he threw, seven were strikes and at least three of them were arriving in triple digits.
So, are they the best team in baseball? I say yes.