In recent years, the Cincinnati Reds have been one of the better teams in baseball, making the playoffs three out of the past four years. However, each trip has ended in disappointment, with the Reds not being able to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Last year they did not even make it past the wild card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2012 they had an early exit in the National League Divisional Series against the San Francisco Giants in five games, and were swept by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2010 NLDS. The Reds are past due for a deep playoff push, and these are three keys to make this year the year it happens:
1. Get everyone healthy- The Reds played their first game of the season on Monday with eight key players one the disabled list. Among those were starting pitcher Mat Latos, catcher Devin Mesoraco, relief pitchers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall, and closer Aroldis Chapman. For most teams, these injuries would be devastating. The Reds however have enough talent and depth on their roster to fill their spots with little drop off in production. The Chapman injury is the one that has been most felt so far in this young season, especially when pitcher JJ Hoover gave up a walk-off grand slam to Ike Davis of the New York Mets on April 5. The Reds have been able to compete in every game this season even with these injuries, but the return of all four pitchers on the DL will give the extra boost this club needs.
2. Solid starting pitching- It’s no secret that the key to the Red’s success in the past four years has been their outstanding starting pitchers. In 2012, the five man rotation that started the season did not miss one start en route to a National League Central Division title. The Reds tend to go through offensive dry spells, but have still been able to pull out wins when their bats aren’t hot with the help of their starters going deep into games and giving up few runs. Johnny Cueto needs to return full force, after only making 11 starts last season with multiple stints on the DL. Lefty Tony Cingrani dazzled in his 2014 debut against the Cardinals in the opening series, and it seems he hasn’t missed a beat from his solid 2013 debut in the majors. Right now Alfredo Simon is filling in for Mat Latos in the rotation, and once Latos returns from the DL the Reds will have once again one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. It’s important that the starters are able to put together strong, deep games in the beginning of the season because of all the injuries the Red’s bullpen has suffered. Once Latos, Broxton, Marshall, and Chapman return to the lineup, I don’t see why this Reds team can’t have the best pitching staff in all of the MLB.
3. No streaky offense- Every player goes through their own slumps during a season, but the Reds almost always go through slumps as a team. They say hitting is contagious, and that could not be more true to this ball club. The Red’s bats cooled way off at the end of last season and that was what ultimately doomed them from winning the NL Central and going deeper into the playoffs. If Cincinnati wants to be serious contenders, their bats need to stay active. I don’t expect them to put up five plus runs every game, but if their pitching can be as good as I know it can then they have the upper hand in low scoring, close games.
The Reds have one of the most talented line ups in the MLB. If they can put that talent to the right use, they can go far in the playoffs this season.