It is now July 1, 2010 and miracle of all miracles, the Reds are in first place in the NL Central and the Padres are in first in the NL West. While the Padres may have enough pitching to overcome flawed hitting and have a legitimate shot at the flawed NL West, the Reds just don't seem to have the horses to win the NL Central.
The Cardinals have been stumbling along. Pujols has struck out more this year and doesn't always look QUITE as dominant as ever. Holliday has awakened from his slumber. The Cards are having trouble with their fourth and fifth starters and the bullpen is shaky. But it's hard to believe that Tony LaRussa won't figure out enough magic buttons to get the job done when it is all said and done.
The Reds have out played their run differential by a couple of games. Joey Votto is a legitimate superstar having an outstanding season. Scott Rolen has shaken off some cobwebs and is a stud again and is a leader of much renown. Both of their catchers are hitting the cover off the ball. Brandon Phillips is a great second baseman. Jay Bruce is finally living up to his potential and Jonny Gomes is hitting well. They only have two holes in their line up. Orlando Cabrera is having a brutal year at the plate with a 66 OPS+ and Drew Stubbs strikes out too much and has an 86 OPS+. So, overall, the line up is probably going to be okay.
This Fan just doesn't believe in the Reds' starting rotation or their bullpen. Basically stated, the Reds just don't have enough pitching to maintain their position in the standings. The Reds ERA and homers allowed are 12th in a league of 16 teams. Only three teams in the NL have struck out less batters than the Reds. Only five teams have given up more walks and hits.
Let's look at the starting rotation. Cueto should be the ace. He has the best stuff and sure enough, he has the lowest WHIP in the rotation and the highest amount of strikeouts. But with his stuff, he really should be more consistent and his K/BB ratio should be higher than 2.55/1. But he has improved of late and is 8-2 despite a 3.74 ERA. He keeps the ball in the ballpark, which is always good. After Cueto though, it gets iffy.
Aaron Harang has looked better of late. But he gives up a lot of homers and his ERA is over 5. His WHIP of 1.455 is not great. He is a battler and a fiery competitor, but he's a question mark whenever he pitches. The one good thing is that he leads all Reds' starters in K/BB ratio. Arroyo is a lot like Harang. He hangs in there because he is a warrior but he performs better than his stuff and every game produces the possibility that he is going to get crushed. He has a 1.33 K/BB ratio and he only strikes out 4.4 batters per nine innings. His WHIP is much lower now than it will be by the end of the season.
Mike Leake has been a great story. He jumped right from college to the majors without any minor league experience. He won his first five decisions. But he hasn't won in a couple of weeks and there are a couple of problems here. First, his BABIP indicates that he's been a bit lucky and those hits should drop in a bit more. Second, his pitch count for the season and for each start must be limited and that means that a shaky bullpen has to be relied upon early in each of his starts. The Fan doesn't think Leake will regress much, but he will some and the Reds have to be careful of his innings.
The fifth starter has been a problem for the Reds much like it has been for a lot of teams. Homer Bailey has been out. LeCure hasn't worked out and now they will try another prospect (Wood). Fortunately for the Reds, the Cardinals have just as big a problem with the fifth starter.
The next big problem for the Reds is their bullpen. Other than the amazing Arthur Rhodes (who finally had a bad night the other night), there is not a whole lot to write home about. Masset has a big arm but he walks 4.3 batters per nine innings and has given up more hits than innings pitched. His ERA is near 6. The closer, Francisco Cordero, also walks too many and has a WHIP right near 1.5, which is way too high. Danny Herrera is replacement level at best. Logan Ondrusek has been brutal. Micah Owings (alas) is much more effective as a pinch hitter than he is as a long reliever.
The Fan also doesn't believe in Dusty Baker. If you were to compare him heads up to LaRussa, who would you choose? The Cards have the experience, the manager, two great starters and one good one and the best player in the world. The Reds simply don't have enough pitching to stay where they are.