I guess I wouldn't have thought to consider that a team could go 13 - 5 over a stretch and not make up any ground in the standings, but here we are. The team will be a virtual lock for a wild card berth by the All-Star break, but the division won't come easily, it appears.
The short answer on this team is that they did what they had to do, running off a solid stretch of games against mostly bad opponents. There was a set of 17 consecutive games (16 of which fall within the 18 game period we're reviewing below) in which the Reds won 14 games, and the three losses the team was either tied or ahead in the 8th inning, only to lose due to bullpen malfunctions. Which: a) happens; but b) argh.
June will be a testy month, in two senses of the word. The team will be tested by a more difficult schedule, including sets against the Bucs, Cards, and Bucs again, as well as a trip west at the end of the month. Second, the view on your television will get fuzzier, as the team's success will be mildly inversely proportional to the quality of the teams they're playing. Put another way, they just finished a stretch in which they scored 94 runs and allowed 55. That's not only really good, it's tough to repeat. They'll struggle a bit in the weeks to come, but only relative to the games we just saw. If they can win a majority of games against the two teams they're fighting with for divisional control, it'll be a very large step towards the end game goal.
All stats through Thursday's games.
2013 Reds, Capsule 3
Wins/Losses: 13 - 5
Strength of Schedule: .489 (13th most difficult in NL; 26th most difficult in ML) [Prev: .500, 10th most difficult in NL; 16th most difficult in ML]
RPI (ESPN): .519 (5th best in NL; 8th best in ML)
[Prev: .514, 8th best in NL; 14th best in ML]
Baseball Prospectus postseason odds: 82.8% [Prev: 70.7%]
Baseball Prospectus division odds: 34.5% [Prev: 42.1%]
- .273/.348/.439 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the team, compares to NL average of .254/.313/.391
- Regulars for the period, as defined by number of plate appearances: Hanigan, Votto, Phillips, Cozart, Frazier, Paul, Choo, Bruce
- The team has played exactly two games in an AL park this year, and don't again for nearly a month, but I'm this close to openly advocating that the NL adopt the designated hitter rule, just so the team can appear to be remotely prepared for the construct.
- I shouldn't be negative. Let's talk about Joey Votto, yes? .414/.500/.700 for the period, so close to the platonic ideal of what a ballplayer should be, the team should plan on not fielding a first baseman for a season after he retires out of respect for the guy who will eventually have to fill his shoes. Over the last 18 games, Joey led the team in HR, runs scored, and was one of only three players to steal a base.
- When Jay Bruce wakes up and Joey/Jay (old-timers: see what I did there?) are both hitting, wins happen. 13 extra base hits, 16 RBI, 998 OPS.
- Coming in third in the depth chart of awesome was Xavier Paul, who platoon'd his way to a .325/.438/.500 mark. Seriously, what? Paul now owns an 808 OPS for the year, and the on-base percentage is .393. I understand not wanting to bat him 2nd, so as to not go L-L-L at the top of the order. But: Heisey's supposedly coming back soon, and Paul has earned the right to get a majority of starts against right-handed pitchers until he crashes and burns a bit. If Paul did start, and he batted 2nd, wouldn't you be using Heisey as a frequent LIDR anyway? Thus mitigating the susceptibility against late-inning lefties?
- Shin-Soo Choo struggled, batting only .246, but still managed 17 walks, plus 3 hit-by-pitches to augment the on-base ratios. He never gives up an at-bat, does he? The top of the Reds lineup is like going to the bar, ordering a glass of 10-year-old Pappy Van Winkle on the rocks, following that with a lime-flavored Bud Light, then nightcapping with another Pappy--this time a 12-year.
- Stupidity aside, where do you think this season ranks in terms of most pitches seen by a Reds lineup? Gotta be near the top, right?
- Nearly all of Todd Frazier's value comes from being able to take a walk and hit the ball out of the yard. The walk rate is still present: he walked in nearly 11% of his plate appearances for the period, but the long ball is missing-Frazier hasn't homered since April 24. As long as we're solving lineup problems, why not give Todd a go in the 2 slot to see if it wakes something up? .218/.323/.309 for the period.
- Brandon Phillips continues his assault on The Quest for 100 RBI and the Hearts and Minds of the Cincinnati Storytellers. 12 more ribbies, bringing the total to 43. The slash line was a serviceable .288/.341/.425.
- Mesoraco bounced back nicely in part-time duty, at .267/.333/.433. My suspicion is that he will outhit Hanigan in at least 5 of the remaining 6 of these 18 game capsules. Hanigan, by the way, hit 2 HR(!), but otherwise underslugged Mesoraco: .231/.318/.410.
- I'm convinced one of the reasons we find Dusty so maddening is that there are some things that he appears relatively stubborn on, and others where he appears to seamlessly adapt. Case in point: for this 18 game period, the Reds were on base a lot. Namely, singles + walks + HBP was somewhere in the 185 ballpark. The Reds, however, attempted just five stolen bases. Not that long ago, this was the self-described team of havoc. Well played, sir.
- Team ERA of 2.81, compared to league average of 3.79
- For the year, two pitchers have a WHIP under 1. The perma-injured Sean Marshall, and Sam LeCure. One pitcher has a season ERA under 2. LeCure. In this latest period, he allowed two baserunners out of 16 batters. Struck out 8 of ‘em. Incidentally, Sudden Sam ranks 10th on the team in innings pitched.
- It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong, and, well-the team kept the right guy out of the 5th starter options. Mike Leake (Mike Leake!) started three games, logged 21 innings, and gave up just one earned run. The 17-to-3 K/BB ratio is also exciting. My bad.
- Homer deserved much better numbers than he had (3.85 ERA, 25.2 IP), and most of that undeserved punishment came from one inning in Cleveland. Otherwise, this is the profile of a hoss: 5 walks, 26 K, 0 HR.
- Even when you're kind of mad at Chapman because he blew that one save with the two homers, you look up and notice that those were the only two runs he allowed, and he otherwise struck out 18 guys in 8 innings. I'll still take my chances with him.
- JJ Hoover has bounced back reasonably well from a rather disastrous open to the campaign. Most notably, he was HR-free in this period, posting a second consecutive sub-3.00 ERA for the period. He makes for a fairly decent backup closer although, as referenced above, LeCure should probably fill Dusty's brain space where Hoover currently does.
- Speaking of backup closers, it may be time to officially pre-worry about Johnny Brox. He now ranks next-to-last on the pitching staff in K/9 (Bronson is last, natch). And while 6.3 K/9 is not quite in the soft-tosser category, it is well below average. His period WHIP of 1.50 won't cut it for long if he's not missing bats. As referenced above, LeCure should probably fill Dusty's brain space where Broxton currently does.
- Team DER stayed steady at .709, and the YTD mark is good for 4th best in the NL and ML.
The next 18:
- 11 games at home, 7 on the road
- 15 of the 18 against divisional opponents
- 3 of the 18 against 2012 playoff teams
- .529 average winning percentage (2013) for the teams in the next 18 games.