Big-market teams will always be contenders — that will never change. But it’s nice to see the smaller-market teams like the Cincinnati Reds make some noise once again.
With all the talk directed at Washington’s and San Francisco’s impressive runs, and the wild card-contending All-Star team known as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati is a far cry from being an everyday headliner. But if anything, they should be considered the most dangerous team in the National League.
Since their last appearance in 2010, they have re-established their bullpen and have perfected their lineup and rotation with the likes of right-hander Mat Latos, infielders Zack Cozart and Ryan Ludwick, and utility man Todd Frazier.
The similarities to their last division-winning season is shocking. Let’s go back to 2010.
The Reds clinched the NL Central in dramatic fashion with a walk-off home run from Jay Bruce on September 28. They finished the regular season with a 91-71 record. This marked the first time since 1995 the Reds made the postseason. They were eventually swept by the Phillies in the NLDS.
2010 notable team leaders
Joey Votto led the league that year with a .429 OBP and a .600 SLG, which earned him his first NL MVP. This was the first Reds player to win it since Barry Larkin in 1995.
Bronson Arroyo was the club’s best starter. He ended the regular season with a 17-10 record and finished the year with his first Gold Glove Award.
Johnny Cueto gave us a hard look at what he would turn into. This was his second season with the club, and he posted a 3.64 ERA in 31 games, leading the staff with 138 strikeouts.
Comparison to 2012
Joey Votto to Joey Votto: The first half of the season, Votto was on a tear. With 7,343,110 fan votes, he walked into his third All-Star appearance at Kansas City. Who could forget his May 13 game against Washington, where he went 4-for-5 with three home runs, the last being a walk-off grand slam, and 6 RBIs? We won’t see Votto bring home any personal awards this season, but his presence alone gives the Reds the best advantage going into the playoffs.
Votto is 11 games in since his return from a knee injury. He’s batting .306 with 11 hits in 36 at-bats, but has yet to bring in a run. No need to worry, because the lineup is struggling to get on base overall. And let’s also not overlook his 12 walks these past 11 games. This would explain his .489 OBP. Is it safe to say opposing teams are still fearful of #19?
Francisco Cordero to Aroldis Chapman: Both closers couldn’t be more different, but the one thing they do have in common is saves. Cordero ended 2010 with 40 saves and Chapman sits at 35 currently. Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel’s impressive season and Chapman’s five blown saves might take the young pitcher out of any reliever-of-the-year talks, but his blown saves are still fewer than Cordero’s eight in 2010. However, Chapman’s 119 strikeouts are still a league best.
Brandon Phillips to Brandon Phillips: Since he joined the team in 2006, Phillips and Philadelphia’s Chase Utley have been the only NL second baseman to collect the most starts at the position with one team. When Votto went down, Phillips and Jay Bruce became the obvious go-to guys, leading the club to a 32-16 record in Votto’s absence. Lately, Phillips is having lineup woes since his shift from the three-spot to leadoff once again. He performed very well in Votto’s place (.298/.324/.466), and since the swap, he’s still trying to ease back in to normality atop the lineup.
The Reds sit atop the Central at 89-51. If all goes well, this will be manager Dusty Baker’s sixth postseason appearance. He and his Reds are hungry. This could be a season to remember in Cincinnati.