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Fun with early season Cincinnati Reds numbers

An early look at some standout April performances.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, it's early.  Yes, I'm aware that we're still firmly in the heart of the 'Small Sample Size' portion of the year.

But while the numbers listed below aren't necessarily at all predictive of what to expect out of the Cincinnati Reds for the rest of the season, their beauty is that they're facts.  These stats have been compiled and filed to memory, and are 100% representative of what these three players have accomplished to this point in the season.

For now - at least - they're real, and they're spectacular.

Joey Votto

If you were an avid Reds fan back in 2007 and were diligent enough to watch most every single game they played for the next five years before pulling the plug and touring the world beginning on, say, June 29, 2012, the Joey Votto you're now back home and watching shouldn't surprise you at all.  For everyone else who has watched him in the two plus years since he injured his meniscus sliding into 3B against Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants that June day, Votto's 2015 April is both tremendously exciting and nostalgic.

Yes, he was still otherworldly in 2013 when he led the league in walks, PA, OBP, and posted an OPS+ of 156 (which is actually higher than his career 155 mark).  And heck, even when he'd wince while swinging on basically one leg in his shortened 2014 season, he still logged an OPS+ of 126.  But the combination of swings, power, patience, and confidence we're watching him put on display so far in 2015 is the kind not seen since his MVP days, his .600+ SLG days, and his 'on pace to break the all-time MLB record for doubles' days.

In fact, the 1.285 OPS he's currently sporting would be the single best monthly mark he's ever had in his 9 seasons in the big leagues.  No, the Joey Votto who won an MVP and laid multi-year claim to being the best left-handed hitter in all of baseball has never had a month quite like the one he's currently having, as the 1.274 OPS he had back in May of 2009 is his current career best mark.

He's currently leading the NL in both dingers (6) and walks (12), hinting that the #approach at the plate he has chosen is one that yields far more success than those who have never had a PA - much less an OPS - have tried suggesting for him.  He's tied with Adrian Gonzalez atop the NL leaderboard for runs created (23), leads the league in times on base (32) and win probability added (1.8), and he's on pace for  just over 150 runs batted in, meaning those who insist on being hypercritical of him will be forced to find something else to by hypercritical about.

The cherry on top?  The guy fresh off multiple seasons of a bum leg holding him back even leads the National League in Bill James' Power/Speed number.  After reading through that, the least surprising thing you'll read about Joey Votto is that once again, he's on top the National League leaderboard in bWAR at 1.3 just 14 games into the 2015 season.

Welcome back, Joey.

Anthony DeSclafani

The off-season trade of Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins wasn't necessarily unexpected.  The Reds had four established starters entering their last year of team control, which meant both that eventual turnover was inevitable and that service-time salary increases had reached an unsustainable level.  One, if not two had to go, and the Reds' penchant for holding on to players they drafted and developed gave off the impression that Latos - the team's solid #2 starter for three seasons - would likely be the one to go.

And, he went, but the most common reaction when everyone saw the players coming back in return was "that's it?"

Walt Jocketty keeps things awfully close to the vest, but even he would probably admit that while the team was high on Anthony DeSclafani's present and future, they didn't envision him hitting the ground running the way he has.

Through his first 3 starts, Disco leads all of Major League baseball in WHIP (0.619), leads the National League in hits allowed per 9 innings (3.9), and sports an ERA (0.86) that sits just fractionally behind league-leader (and signer of a $210 million contract) Max Scherzer's (0.83).  He's tied with ace teammate Johnny Cueto and perennial Cy Young bridesmaid Adam Wainwright with 21 IP so far in 2015, each of whom sit just 0.2 IP behind Scherzer atop the National League leaderboard.

Roll all of that together, and his 1.1 bWAR is second only to Scherzer among all National League pitchers.

No, the Reds didn't pry away the next Bob Gibson from Miami, and DeSclafani's crazy strand rate and BABIP against are going to normalize to where these numbers will likely be just a distant memory, but these are the kind of top end numbers in small sizes that should make everyone who cited his poor 33 IP performance in his MLB debut in 2014 as reason to hate the trade at least shuffle their opinion deck and start anew.  For a Reds rotation that was in flux enough to have two guys who had never pitched above AA, Paul Maholm, and Jason Marquis all legitimately in consideration for starting spots as the season began, DeSclafani's April has done wonders to help solidify things, and he's a huge reason why the Reds sit at 7-7.

Zack Cozart

While not quite at the level he's produced so far in 2015, we've seen Joey Votto do things similar to what he's been up to through 14 games this year, and while Anthony DeSclafani probably won't hold his ERA under 1.00 for the entire season, there was enough to like about him based off minor league stats to think that, at some point, he'd be able to put 3 games in a row together where he holds opponents completely in check.

They're both surprising, but not shocking.  What Zack Cozart has done so far in 2015 has been shocking.

Among all 146 qualified players in 2014, Cozart logged the single worst wRC+ among all of them at just 56.  Back the minimum PAs down to just 400, and out of 209 qualified players, he was worsted by only Jackie Bradley, Jr.'s wRC+ of 47.  Were it not for strong baserunning ability, a dearth of other options in the Reds' minor league system, and a glove at shortstop that is second to almost none, Cozart's 2014 season was bad enough to realistically consider whether he was worth his raise in arbitration.

The Reds knew that.  They watched it all, and they even sought out a talented shortstop this winter in Eugenio Suarez, who came back to them as the centerpiece of the Alfredo Simon trade with the Detroit Tigers.  While the Reds had seen Cozart's entire track record since being drafted in the 2nd round out of Ole Miss in the 2007 draft and knew that he was better than his 2014 displayed, it's obvious that they had enough reservations about his ability going forward to at least make sure they had a contingency plan.

So far, Cozart couldn't possibly have answered their questions with a better start.  He leads all Major League shortstops in OPS (1.036), and it isn't even really that close, since Suarez's former teammate in Detroit, Jose Iglesias, sits second nearly .100 points behind him (.938).  His 4 dingers are tops among shortstops, too, as is his 187 wRC+ (which sits cozily at 12 among all 193 currently qualified big leaguers).  Surprising as those stats all are, he's unsurprisingly atop the SS leaderboard in both bWAR (1.2) and fWAR (0.9), with his bWAR good enough for 4th best among all players of any position in all of Major League Baseball.

Yes, it's just 14 games into Cozart's rebound season, but in those 14 games he's already gone from a player many considered a potential non-tender candidate to one who may be one of the Reds bigger trade chips should they fall out of the race by the July 31st trade deadline.

★★★

A quick 0 for 10 skid or back to back walks and a dinger allowed will happen, and they'll likely happen to all parties spoken of above.  That's baseball, and it'll probably happen two or three times to each.  Regardless, that's three crazy awesome starts to a baseball season from Votto, DeSclafani, and Cozart.

High five, guys.