With the all-star game now over, it is time for teams to start looking to the future. For the Cincinnati Reds a move has to be made at the trade deadline. When the season began it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Cincinnati would end up winning the division; with the core of players returning as well as the exodus of Pujols and Fielder from the National League it was the Red’s and everyone else in the Central.
But at the midway point of the season the prohibitive favorites sit a game back of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The season is still young, but with such high expectations coming into the year not leading at the break can be considered a huge disappointment. I still have little doubt the Reds will end up running away with the division but for now the fans have a sour taste in their mouths.
It is always hard to grade a team like this on their performances. On one hand you have the overall decent performances of the Reds players so far this season, but on the other there are the expectations that haven’t been lived up to.
I am going to attempt to give them a mark based on the player performances as well as a few other categories. I will end things with an overall grade that takes everything into account, including the preseason expectations.
So without further ado here are the grades for the Red’s in the first half.
Starting Pitching: The Reds rotation this year has been a bit of a surprise. Even with the addition of Mat Latos in the offseason it was expected the weak spot for Cincinnati would be its pitchers. Latos has stepped up his game though as the season has gone on, recording a record of 7-2; and Johnny Cueto has been phenomenal, with 10 wins and a 2.39 era at the break he is in line to compete for the CY Young award. Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey have also had respectable seasons in their own right, with Mike Leake being the weak link in the rotation. While they haven’t been the best in the league the rotation has had a very respectable season so far. Grade: B-
Relief Pitching: The big story for the franchise this year has been Aroldis Chapman. Early in the season there were rumors that he would be moved into the starting rotation, lucky for Cincinnati that never came to fruition. Instead the “Cuban Missile” just played in his first all-star game as a closer and looks to be on the road towards an incredible future for the club. Despite being a little inconsistent it is a good start and a huge improvement for the Reds over previous closer Sean Marshall. With Chapman, as well as a decent group of relievers, the relievers could be the difference for Dusty Baker’s squad this season. Grade: B+
Batting: Do I really need to say anything other than Joey Votto. He has been on a tear since signing his monster contract extension before the season and looks to be headed for his second MVP award. Aside from their superstar the Reds have a plethora of talent at the plate. Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce continue to be fantastic second options and Zack Cozart has had one of the best rookie seasons in the majors. Cincinnati’s strength has been its bats over the past few years and they don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Grade: A
Offseason acquisitions: It was a bit of a quiet offseason for the Queen City. With the major news coming out of St. Louis and Milwaukee the Reds were comfortable just sitting back and making small moves. Bringing in Mat Latos was the headliner, along with Ryan Ludwick and Sean Marshall. Even though Marshall was demoted from closer to reliever he has still had a fairly good season and Latos has been impressive as we got closer to the break. Ludwick has started a good number of games in the outfield but there is a feeling around the organization that he is the major hole both offensively and defensively. Not bad overall though for a slow offseason. Grade: B
Consistency: If you exclude the rough start to the season there has not really been a long losing streak for the Reds. They have always counter acted a tough stretch with a win here or there to make things look better. If they can keep this up and avoid a long drought then the division should be easily theirs. But if they do lose their concentration for a week or two then St. Louis and Pittsburgh will smell blood in the water and not allow Cincinnati to recover. Grade: B
Overall: Like I said earlier this has been a really well played season for the Reds. But despite all the positive grades the fans are left with a sour taste in their mouths. That is what expectations will do to a talented club; it doesn’t matter how well you play if you don’t live up to expectations. So if I had to give a grade to the play of the Reds so far this season I give the a pretty easy A. But until they can make that push to the playoffs and do what they were supposed to do this year it will be considered a disappointing season. Grade: C