Defense wins championships. It may be old hat, but it still rings a ton of truth. Cincinnati has improved in most, if not all categories this year, which has allowed the Reds to put themselves in better position to win games.
You can tout a better offense, game strategy, veteran leadership, and more focused pitching. Although, for my money, I would have to say the Reds can point to their defense as the biggest reason as to why they will find themselves in Philadelphia Wednesday night gladly shaking off their numb limbs in the chilly October air eager to play some postseason baseball.
The Reds may not have overpowered every team this season, but they did keep the possibility of a victory close to their chest by simply doing what they are supposed to do.
Cincinnati committed just 72 errors this season in 162 games. That's the third-fewest in the National League, and their fielding percentage of .988 was second best in the NL.
The stat that might surprise you the most is the fact that Cincinnati had 106 errorless games in 2010. That mark is a new team record. The previous mark of 99 error-free contests was set in 1992.
The past two Dusty Baker led Reds squads had a penchant for booting the ball. Cincinnati had 89 flubs in 2009 and a depressing 114 in 2008 and their record showed their lack of a defensive prowess. If you are counting, that's 42 fewer errors than just two years ago... 42!!
What would the Reds say is the reason for the change?
Left fielder Jonny Gomes explained to Yahoo! Sports, "I think this team has really responded to Dusty's style of baseball, Dusty's style of managing. I think this is actually the first year where this it's his group of guys. He was able to catch them for the first day of spring and establish the style of ball he wanted to play."
I've heard all the comments from the Dusty Baker haters out there and I'm not about to disagree with them or defend Dusty in anyway. I can see their point, but I would also have to say that Baker took the Giants, the Cubs, and the Reds to the playoffs in a relatively short time with each of those teams.
That has to count for something, even if the following years with the Giants and the Cubs were not the greatest. Those teams did get the chance to experience success and taste the playoffs under Baker's direction.
The Reds are doing just that this year. Cincinnati got rid of the some cancers that attributed to their bad play and poor baseball in the past and returned to basics with a group of guys who truly believed in playing winning baseball.
The result is 91 wins, a division title and date with the almighty Phillies at 5:07 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the city of brotherly love on Wednesday in the National League Division Series.
Reds fans, where ever it is you take in the game on Wednesday, take the time to raise a glass and toast the fact that October baseball has finally returned to Cincinnati. If needed, toast a second time to hoping that we can experience a repeat performance in 2011.