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Can the Reds keep it up?

June 26, 2010

As of my writing this, the Cardinals and Reds are currently tied atop the NL Central standings at 41-33. They are both eight games in front of Milwaukee, the third place team in the Central. St. Louis is the old-guard of the Central, having dominated the division in the 2000s. The Reds have been a sleeper pick in the Central for the last few years but have clearly failed to live up to that hype – until now. Can the Reds keep it up and continue to challenge the Cardinals through the dog days of summer? Let’s see.

The Reds have been relying on a dominant offense – one that is fifth in average and runs, fourth in homers and sixth in on-base percentage – to carry them this season. Two of their main contributors, Scott Rolen and Jonny Gomes, are experiencing a revival in Cincinnati; Rolen is batting .303 with 16 home runs, and Gomes is leading the team in RBIs with 51. Rolen is certainly a Hall-of-Famer, but the toll the season takes on a player’s body, as well as  his injury history, make me think he is due for a regression and/or a stint on the disabled list.

Gomes, he of the .247 career average, is playing way over his head and should be due for a regression, definitely in batting average – he’s striking out in over 25 percent of his at-bats. The Reds’ younger players – Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce – should continue to produce and grow, but the expected regression of two of the team’s best first-half hitters should reduce the amount of runs the team is scoring.

The Reds’ offense has been high-quality this season, but their pitching is about the same quality as Alan’s drug dealer from The Hangover. The Reds rank in the lower third of MLB in ERA at 4.40, while the Cardinals’ ERA is 3.19 – good for second in the league; The same goes for WHIP. The Reds’ best pitcher in terms of ERA is rookie Mike Leake. His ERA is great at 2.92, but his WHIP of 1.41 and batting average against of .267 suggest his ERA will soon be rising like Carlos Zambrano’s temper after a bad inning.

Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo would be nothing more than fourth or fifth starters on most teams. And while Johnny Cueto offers some promise for the Reds, he has been pounded the last two seasons in the second half to the tune of a 5.43 ERA. Edinson Volquez is rehabbing and expected back after the All-Star break, but it should take him a while to get back in top shape.

Yes, I know. I’m a Cardinals fan, but I think even if I weren’t biased I’d still have the same things to say about the Reds. Most of it is fact, and Mike Leake isn’t Stephen Strasburg. He’s not going to keep his current level of performance going. I like Votto, Stubbs and Bruce, and I expect them to keep going strong. But the other guys I mentioned I fully expect them to slow down a bit, and the Reds will fall back a bit in the standings.

Also, the Reds have a much better record at home but have eight more games on the road from here on out, while the Cardinals also play better at home, but they have more games at home the rest of the way.

The Reds will continue to challenge the Cardinals for the next couple weeks, but after the All-Star break I expect that the Cardinals will slowly but surely take over first place for themselves.

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From → Odds & Ends

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