Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cincinnati Reds 2011 Preview

Last year the upstart Cincinnati Reds won the National League's Central Division Championship. ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd will tell you the Reds were frauds because they beat up on bad teams and couldn't beat the good ones. Yeah, that maybe true but so what? If you're going to lose games, you should lose to the good teams and beat up the bad ones. That means you're better than average. And what does that make the runner-up and former champs St. Louis Cardinals? (Here's their nickname.) They couldn't beat the bad teams. But I digress.

The 2011 Cincinnati Reds will repeat as Central Division Champs. They will win the National League Pennant. And go on to win the World Series. Too confident? If the Reds stay healthy and play to their potential, they have as good a chance as anybody. Afterall, who would have guessed the San Francisco Giants would win the World Series. So, get ready for the Big Red Machine, part 2.

1. Pitching Former Cincinnati sports talk host Alan Cutler said baseball is about "pitching, pitching... piii.tch...iiing!" Yep, it sure is. The Reds don't have an ace like Felix Hernandez. What they do have is great depth. There are eight arms that can fill the five starter stops. Rookie phenom Mike Leake who had a great first half last year, can't make the team. And with Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey down with minor arm troubles, the Reds will use that depth. Matt Maloney and Sam LeCure who pitched for the Reds last year will help out. The beauty of having good arms for all five starter slots is that your pitchers will keep you in the game. The Reds will win a lot of games.

a. Starting Pitching- Let's go over the starters for the Reds. Edinson Volquez has electric stuff. But he needs to throw strikes and bear down when runners get on base. This is a maturity issue and let's hope he's grown up. Bronson Arroyo doesn't have overpowering stuff. What he does do is change speeds. He'll keep you in games and give you two hundred innings a year. His veteran presence will help the kids. Johhny Cueto had a very good season last year. He can win twenty games. Travis Wood is the lone left hander. He has the moxy of a veteran. Homer Bailey has finally grown up. He knows he cannot blow his fastball by major league hitters. Changing speeds and location will take him far.

b. Bullpen- Closer Francisco Cordero returns. He'll scare you by letting guys get on base. But he did have forty saves. Nick Masset hsa nasty stuff. He looks to be a future closer. Aroldis Chapman has the fastball with the best velocity in baseball. Fans of all teams routinely look at the radar gun to see how hard he can throw. He's hit a record 105 m.p.h. Bill Bray will get left handers out. Logan Ondrusek, Matt Maloney and Jared Burton all have good stuff. And by that, the last three guys are not journeymen dregs. They will be able to get in the game in the middle innings if needed and keep the Reds in the game.

2. Infield- Let's go with the right side of the outfield first. What can I say about first baseman Joey Votto. Consumate hitter. Power to all fields. Hits with runners in scoring position. (RISP) Oh, Votto is also MVP. Second baseman Brandon Phillips is fantastic fielder. He can also hit for power and steal bases.

The left side of the infield has questions. Shortstop Paul Janish can field with any shortstop in the league. The question is can he hit. I'll take a .250 average with the ability to hit with runners in scoring position. If he does that and the rest of the team hits, the Reds will be okay. At third is Scott Rolen. Not really a problem but at thirty five, he's showing his age. Bad back could keep off the field. That's why it's time to groom Juan Francisco who has prodigious power from the left side of the plate. Francisco can also play outfield and first base.

Miguel Cairo will be back as a reserve. He did a bang up job. The Reds signed World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. He'll be an insurance policy if Janish fails.

3. Catching- Solid. Ramon Henandez brings veteran leadership to the pitching staff. Excellent bat control. Ryan Hanigan is a great back-up and has an excellent arm.

3. Outfield- Here's something you may not know. Right fielder Jay Bruce hit .281 last year. He's a great outfielder with a cannon for an arm. Left fielder Jonny Gomes goes out everyday and plays like it's his last game. That maybe his problem. He needs to calm down when he needs to hit in the clutch. Reserve Chris Heisey could probably start with any team.

That leaves center fielder Drew Stubbs. (Pictured.) And I hope I don't put pressure on the guy. But he's one of the keys to the success for the Reds. I'm assuming that the pitching will be there. And I'm not counting on offense from Paul Janish. So if Stubbs can put the ball in play and use his speed; there will be more hits and runs scored. He must cut down on his strikeouts and hit with runners in scoring position. If he can do that, I'm excited. Last year he had twenty two home runs and thirty stolen bases. As far as his defense, he's an excellent centerfielder.

4. The Front Office- Players love playing for manager Dusty Baker. His wisdoem will guide the young players. GM Walt Jocketty keeps wielding his magic. For example, many thought it was a big mistake to trade for an older Scott Rolen. But it is what he Reds needed. Veteran leadership. He made good acquisitions of Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman.

5. Conclusion- The temperature highs for this opening day game will be fifty degrees. It gets that cold in October. The Cincinnati Reds better get used to it.

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