Yes, the 2010 Reds finish came as a surprise but no one thought their luck would run out like it did in 2011.
Last year the Reds finished in third place in the NL Central with a 79-83 record, 17 games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals. One difference between 2010 is that the Reds were 8-7 compared to 6-12 in 2011 interleague play; and teams they had feasted, like the Pirates and Mets that helped them win the division in 2010 crushed them in 2011.
The team’s numbers dropped in almost every stat but they did hit 183 homers in 2011, which is just five less than 2010. The rotation’s ERA barely moved going from 4.01 to 4.16 and their strikeout total scarcely fell from 1130 to 1114. So, at least the team still has power in their bats and it would seem that the pitching is fixable.
Now the question is are the Reds good enough to bring baseball glory back to Cincinnati in October 2012?
Let’s take a peak….
Improved weaknesses…At first I was stunned when the news broke that the Reds had traded for Padres pitcher Mat Latos because of the amount of talent the Reds surrendered, three of their top 10 prospects and Edinson Volquez. Latos joins a pitching rotation that features emerging-ace Johnny Cueto who went 9-5, 2.31 in 24 starts last season, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey. Latos is a 24-year old righty, who threw 194 innings with 185 strikeouts in 2011. Latos has kept opposing hitters to a .226 batting average and posted a 3.37 ERA in his three-year career. In hindsight the trade now looks like a rather smart deal considering the free agent market and the potential for Latos to become consistently dominate.
The bullpen also got a needed boost by signing closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $8.5 million deal, and trading for a rock-solid left-handed reliever Sean Marshall. Madson save 32 games for the Phillies in 2011 and will be looking to make an impression in 2012 so he can secure a bigger contract; and Marshal pitched 75 innings, posted a 2.26 ERA with 79 strikeouts for the Cubs last season.
Win now attitude…. During the off-season the Reds owner and GM went with the win now instead of trading guys like All-Star first baseman Joey Votto and others for younger players to build on. They picked up star second baseman Brandon Phillips’ one-year, $12.5 million option for 2012 so he could be a goner after this season; Votto in two years and in 2013 the Reds younger stars like Drew Stubbs and Latos are eligible for arbitration. So, this leaves the Reds with technically a one-year window to get it done because of 2012 is anything like 2011 my guess is Votto will be traded. I do like the improvements the Reds made but Madson will most luckily also be gone after this year, so the pressure will be on. You have to consider this is a huge risk because of how black and white the Reds last two seasons turned out.
PLAYER(s)/GAME-CHANGERS TO WATCH:
1) Jay Bruce needs to have another big year at the plate. Bruce finally displayed the bat everyone has waited for in 2011 by putting up career highs with 32 homers and 97 RBIs, but he needs to improve the 158 strikeouts and raise his batting average and OBP by 40+ points each. A successful season from the right fielder aka ‘the Natural’ is a vital part of the Reds making 2012 a winning one.
I really like the look of the 2012 Cincinnati Reds.
And when you consider how much easier the NL Central will be sans the bats of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the idea of winning now does sounds better and seem quite possible.
Yes there is a chance that the Reds fail to live up to expectations like last season, but I am going to predict that they won’t in 2012.
The Cardinals will give them a run in the NL Central but I think the Reds will bring October glory back to Cincinnati again either by winning the division or earning one of the Wild Card spots.
Am I saying World Series kind of glory?
Sorry, my answer is no, even though Joe Sheehan at Sports Illustrated begs to differ, but from what I saw in 2010 the Reds fans seemed happy enough just to be there; and you can’t really blame them.