The critics are, in fact, correct. The Reds' big guns are not producing, at least the way they should, either per the projections or the payroll ledger.
The critics are also completely missing the mark. There is absolutely nothing going on with this team that would lead a rational person to despair. On pace for 90 wins? Check. Weathering the injury storm? Check. Staying afloat amidst the choppy first two waves of the season (read: a relatively difficult part of the schedule)? Check again.
The glassy seas are just ahead, and this team is due to bury the throttle right through ‘em. The best part is that this team has actually been a bit lucky, already 5 games above .500 in one-run games. Guess what? Any theoretical or abstract regressions to the mean will be offset by the progression to a full roster, healthy.
I'm serious when I say I'm downright giddy about where this team is right now. Maybe I'm overconfident and underinformed, right down to not bothering to read (ever) a certain daily columnist for a certain newspaper (which: I mean, c'mon. No one should read that guy unless you're a highly paid consultant charged with figuring out ways to severely improve the local fishwrap. It's like feeding candy to the very worst parts of your soul. Part of this team's perception problem is that so many people seem to honestly care what certain people write or broadcast over the airwaves. Why?), but the tea leaves sure seem to be pointing to a fun ride coming up.
Rant over. We're going cruising and redbird hunting. Who's on board?
All stats through Friday's games.
2013 Reds, Capsule 2
Wins/Losses: 10 - 8
Strength of Schedule: .500 (10th most difficult in NL; 16h most difficult in ML) [Prev: .468, 12th most difficult in NL; 23rd most difficult in ML]
RPI (ESPN): .514 (8th best in NL; 14th best in ML)
[Prev: .490, 8th best in NL; 16th best in ML]
Baseball Prospectus postseason odds: 70.7% [Prev: 72.5%]
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 42.1% [Prev: 57.8%]
- .227/.313/.351 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the team, compares to NL average of .246/.313/.391
- The regulars for the period, as defined by most plate appearances: Mesoraco, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier, Paul, Choo, Bruce
- Primary reason for optimism: the team continues to blow away the league average in walk rate: 10.1% against 8.0%.
- The BABIP thing will always be a bit of a red herring to me, because I don't believe that the mean average is the same for every player. Joey Votto's BABIP will always be higher than Paul Janish's because duh. That said, I do look at the guys who swing hard and have a low BABIP. And: Todd Frazier, .225 for the period; Devin Mesoraco, .219. Balls will drop and all will be well.
- Shin-Soo Choo carried the offense at .273/.422/.515, leading the team in walks, runs, and ding-dongs for the stretch. I never thought I'd say this about any man, woman, or beast, but did you ever think you'd see another player who conducts himself with as much poise and intelligence on the baseball field as Sir Joey? Sign this guy, Walt.
- Votto's getting there, but he ain't all the way yet: .311/.378/.486. Pretty good run for most players, but it'll likely be the worst stretch of the season for Votto, if history is any guide. Seven doubles are a good sign, 18 K's and 2 HR are not.
- At least twice that I can remember, a pitcher was done or nearly done and still batted for himself in the Reds' half of the inning. On a completely unrelated note: Izturis OPS'd 330 for the stretch, Miller 425, and Hannahan 544.
- Brandon Phillips wasn't altogether good or bad (.266/.319/.422), but he led the team again in RBI, and is now at 31, YTD, staying well ahead of pace to break the century mark.
- If the theory is correct, hitting behind Choo and ahead of Votto leads to more hittable fastballs, thus leading to a bump. Most correct theories generally are supported by some level of evidence. Cozart either is not producing any evidence, or is not a major league hitter. .210/.261/.274, two extra base hits.
- The best stat line of the period belonged to Ryan Hanigan: 2-for-4. Welcome back, hoss.
- Finally, Jay Bruce. We've seen him struggle before, and an OPS of 608 for the period is disturbing, but not yet distressing. Even the power outage (2 HR YTD) is partially mitigated by the fact that he leads the team in doubles. However, in 150 at-bats on the year, he's struck out 50 times. Come Heisey's return, or even before, Bruce is due a rest-probably for 3-4 games-and an attempt to reset the swing and the batting eye. He looks pretty lost in the meantime.
- Team ERA of 3.78, compared to league average of 3.78
- We'll lead the way with Mat Latos, who picked up three victories in three starts, and allowed just three runs to boot. Most of this success is real, and it's plenty fun to watch.
- Also good, but a bit unlucky perhaps, was Homer Bailey. His eleven runs allowed in 23.1 innings meant he didn't come across like an ace, but the singular home run allowed means that we're probably seeing a new and evolved Bailey.
- The 7&8 frames are filled again, ably. Broxton and Marshall combined for 13 innings and 3 runs against. Also, 9 whiffs and 3 walks. It's a well-constructed team, y'all.
- The argument du jour is Leake v. Cingrani, to be decided upon Johnny C's imminent return. My position is for Cingrani in the short-term, and my reasoning is two-fold. First, most observers agree that the league is likely to figure Cingrani out as they see him more. It makes sense. Until they do, though, why not stick with the guy with the better control and double the strikeout rate? Second, there's been some buzz about how a Leake demotion would play in the locker room, etc., and my internal reply has been that the two times that the Reds have advanced to the postseason in Leake's short career, he was left off the roster completely. Both times, he managed to show his face at the following Spring's Training. It's a kid's game, says the cliché, but it's populated by grown-ups, capable of adapting to relatively minor hardships. Let the better guy run his course until he has something specific to work on in the minor leagues, and don't let the guy who won't make or break a World Series run derail an unexpected windfall.
- None of which is to say that Leake has pitched poorly. This last period, he was hittable (.330 average against), but pitched respectably (4.36 ERA). I'm simply a sucker for upside, and it's limited with Leake.
- Predictably, the team's DER tumbled from its early season heights, and is now .709, YTD (previously .725). Still above average, but this means that the team hit poorly, pitched exactly at average, and didn't field the ball that well. And still had a winning record. Giddy, giddy, giddy...
The next 18:
- 7 games at home, 11 on the road
- 5 of the 18 against divisional opponents
- 0 of the 18 against 2012 playoff teams
- 4 of the 18 against American League teams (2 of which will use the DH rule)
- .430 average winning percentage (2013) for the teams in the next 18 games.
- Another note for optimism, if you still need it. The Cardinals are currently hitting .348/.450/.496 with runners in scoring position and two outs in the inning, for a total OPS of 946. League average in that split is 671. That won't continue.