Cincinnati Reds: (78-84, 4th place – NL Central in 2009)
Same old, same old for the Cincinnati Reds. It’s been a decade of mediocrity, and nothing was done a year ago to change that same old, same old mentality. True, they aren’t the Pirates, but they are close. The Reds have averaged just 74 wins over the past nine seasons, or, since their last winning season. That was in 2000 when they won 85 games. It go so bad, the Phillies managed to run up a 22-1 victory over Cincy in June. Just that kind of year.
In 2009, Dusty Baker’s crew was slightly unlucky. Injuries ravaged the club from top to bottom. Joey Votto, their young, slugging first baseman appeared in only 131 games, yet somehow managed a .322 average with 25 home runs. His .981 ranked third best in the National League behind only Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Votto is in some serious company. Now, if only the rest of his team could catch up.
Other injuries included ace pitcher Edinson Volquez undergoing Tommy John surgery after just nine starts. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion was walking wounded throughout his Reds career and ’09 was no different as he missed two months with a broken wrist, then was traded to Toronto for Scott Rolen. Their lineup was a merry-go-round of players, as only two regulars (Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips) reached 500 plate appearances. Yikes.
How will it get better for the Reds? Well, there are several “What-if’s”. What if the Reds get some pitching? Of course, it’s always about the arms race and a year ago they were just plain awful. Bronson Arroyo was the best tosser of the bunch, going 15-13 with a 3.84 ERA, his best stat line in four years. Johnny Cueto needs to do a 180 back to his sizzling rookie year and Homer Bailey finally needs to take a step toward becoming a major league pitcher. An Aaron Harang comeback couldn’t hurt either. He won 32 games in 2006 and 2007, then just 12 in ’08 and ’09 . They need him.
As for phenom rookie Aroldis Chapman; it’s a harsh reality that Dusty Baker might be handling him this year. Baker has been known to overwork his young pitching and wear out their arms, just as he did with Mark Prior in Chicago. Let’s hope he’s easier on Chapman.
Offensively, will anyone hit? It’s a basic question, but the answer is one that has eluded this Reds ballclub. As a unit, they managed a .247/.318/.394 split line, which was near the bottom in the NL for each category. They are led by Votto and Phillips and will need to be once again. However, Jay Bruce, Rolen, and new shortstop Orlando Cabrera need to make this a feared lineup. Easier said than done. Because it hasn’t been done since the turn of this century.
With the Central strong at the top with St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Chicago, it’ll be tough for Cincinnati to make a move up.