I haven’t written anything about the Reds this year because I was waiting for the team to begin to live up to my expectations. Today, as we begin the second half of the season, I believe that time has come. Having gone 9-2 thus far in July, the Reds are four games behind the first place Brewers and a full four games in front of the Cardinals and Cubs, who are tied for third. Both of those teams seem to be fading.
I think there are many reasons for Reds’ fans to be hopeful that the team will win the Central, and here I list ten of those reasons.
- The resurgence of Joey Votto
Anyone who knows anything about my take on the Reds knows it begins with Joey Votto. Yes, he’s 37 now, and my thoughts that he would win another NL MVP have dwindled, but he’s still the leader of this team, and I believe the teams’s chances of success begin with him. With a couple of injuries behind him, Joey has now raised his average to .257. In his last ten games, Votto has hit .333 (12 for 36) with three doubles, three homers, six runs, and seven RBI. It bodes well for the Reds if he keeps playing like this.
2. The bullpen is stepping up
Through much of the season, the bullpen has been the Reds achilles heel, but that has all changed in July. In 31.2 innings, Red relievers have allowed only seven runs for a 1.99 ERA. With Tejay Antone (1.87 ERA in 33.2 innings) set to return at the end of the month, it isn’t unreasonable to think that they won’t perform even better.
3. 68 percent of remaining games verses clubs with losing records
Of the 70 games the Reds have remaining, only 22 of those are against clubs with winning records. The Brewers, on the other hand, have 28 games left against teams with winning records.
4. Nick Castellanos is chasing the MVP award
I was surprised recently when CBS sports didn’t rank Castellanos in its top five midseason picks for the NL MVP. If he stays healthy, I believe he’s certainly going to be a consideration, but, with the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jason DeGrom in the running, he might not be the popular choice just because he’s not as flashy in the headlines. Castellanos currently leads the NL in batting average (.331) and doubles (29), while he is second in hits (111), third in slugging (.585), and fourth in OPs (.969). Castellanos’s most MVP type stat, however, is that he has 24 RBI after the sixth inning.
5. Luis Castillo is back on his game
After struggling for the early months of the year, Luis is finally finding his groove. He has had quality starts in six of his last eight outings and has lowered his ERA from nearly eight runs a game to 4.65. Reds’ opponents will tell you that they don’t want to face Luis Castillo if he’s on top of his game.
6. Reds have 13 games left against the Pirates
While the Pirates have been playing better ball lately–they’ve won 11 of their last 23–they’re still not as good as the Reds. The Reds have won five of the two teams’ six games thus far, and they should fare well over the 13 games that the two clubs have remaining.
7. Reds have 38 games left against division rivals
Not only do the Reds have the division’s best record in the division at 25-13 (the Brewers are next at 24-17), but they have a winning record against all four of the other teams in the division. Those two factors suggest that the 38 inter-division games they have remaining will be a plus.
8. The Reds are done on the West Coast
Over the last decade, Reds teams have not fared well against the NL West, especially when traveling to the West Coast. This year has been no different; the Reds are 10-20 against the West this year. Fortunately for them, they are done with West Coast games and only have three games left against the three NL West teams with better records, the Giants, Dodgers, and Padres. Those three games, against the Dodgers, will take place at GABP on September 17-19.
9. The Starting Roatation
Sonny Gray (3.19 ERA in 62 IP), who has been maligned by nagging injuries throughout the year, is slated to return for Sunday’s game against the Brewers. I’m hopeful that Sonny can come back healthy and fill his roll as a 1-2 starter. Still, even if he can’t, this is not a bad rotation, and it’s certainly good enough to help the Reds win the division if they perform as expected in the other areas. I’ve mentioned Castillo. After him, you have Wade Miley has a 2.80 ERA, and he has been charged with two or fewer runs in eight of his last nine starts. Tyler Mahle has a 3.68 ERA in 95.1 innings. Rookie Vladimir Gutierrez has joined the club and pitched admirably. He has a 4.29 ERA over 50.1 innings and has lasted six or more innings in five of his last seven starts. If Gray can’t come back healthy, another rookie, Tony Santillan, has filled in well. In limited play (16.2 IP), Santillan is 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA.
10. The Reds just seem to be the best team in the division right now
The Reds have won 14 of their last 16 games against the division, and none of those games have been against the Pirates. More importantly, over that span they have swept series from the other three teams who still have hope of competing for the division crown, the Brewers, Cubs, and Cardinals. The sweep of the Cards was in a four-game series even.
So, there you have it. I could be wrong, but I think that the Reds are the team everybody is going to be chasing in the Central. No matter what, the second half of the season begins tonight, and I’m jazzed at its prospects.
See you soon, baseball lovers. Be well.