The Cincinnati Reds in the World Series this year? Am I out of my mind? Am I on a pile of drugs?
(Well, I’m probably a little bit out of my mind–but I always have been. And, define “pile”…)
Here’s the dope. This is the most stacked Reds ballclub I have seen since 1995–the last time Cincinnati advanced to the doorstep of the World Series (lost 4-0 to Atlanta in National League Championship Series).
Stacked? This Reds team? Seriously?
I already know what you’re thinking. The hitting. The bats. The leaving men on base. The leadoff doubles that never ever ever score (or so it seems). That bench full of non-threats and re-treads. I mean, come on, Jux, how can a team that struggles to score runs get to the f***ing World Series?
1) Starting Pitching
Take a look across the National League, and tell me which team’s starting pitching staff you’d rather have. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Oh, you don’t feel like looking at everybody’s pitching staffs? Okay, then you’re going to have to take my word for it.
Johnny Cueto (1.43 ERA) has been Cy Young Master every single time he’s pitched this year. His command is video-game-like, his MPH is top qualified, his cutter and change-up are pure filth. Then you’ve got Mike Leake (3.09 ERA), who is quickly turning into Greg Maddux Lite. Lefty Tony Cingrani (3.34 ERA) looks like a dynamo. Homer Bailey has been up and down, but I’d bet on him being up when it counts down the stretch. And Mat Latos, the team’s most imposing starter, hasn’t made his season debut yet. That is a nasty five-some. Plus Alfredo Simon (2.89 ERA) has filled in like a yeoman; and when Latos comes back, Simon makes the team’s bullpen even stronger.
It’s nearly impossible to have a starting staff this strong and not make the playoffs.
2) Young Guns III
Three young fellas in the lineup will play pivotal roles. Havoc-wreaker Billy Hamilton in the leadoff spot, while he won’t get on base as much as you want, is dynamic and can turn anything he puts in play into him standing in scoring position. Catcher Devin Mesoraco just might be the best hitting catcher in the game–at least he has been when he’s been healthy this year. Small sample size, yes, but his approach, discipline and strength appear to equate to a Mike Piazza-like scenario. And then you’ve got third baseman Todd Frazier, “The Toddfather.” Frazier is sure-handed in the field, and, after some offseason tweaks to his batting style (lowered hands, went from big leg kick to simpler step-and-twist action), the kid from Tom’s River, NJ looks like a potential All-Star. Todd can hit a ball 485 feet; he can also hit the ball hard to all fields and work a walk.
Say what you want about Shortstop Zack Cozart’s hitting ability; you can’t dispute the kid is slick and reliable in the field. The whole team is reliable in the field. The Reds have been at or near the top in the NL in fewest unearned runs allowed. Playing in a lot of one-run ballgames, that’s a big key to pulling those nailbiters out.
4) Law of Averages
The Reds have been pretty bad in one-run games so far in 2014. Okay–really bad. They’re 6-12. But..BUT..let’s take into account the fact that A) The bullpen hasn’t been healthy (set-up men Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton as well as closer Aroldis Chapman have all missed time) and B) It’s been key injuries to position players: Jay Bruce (torn meniscus), Billy Hamilton (bunch of little shit) and Devin Mesoraco (hamstring).
It’s tough to win one-run games when you don’t have five or six of your best ten guys.
Might as well get your losses in these games out of the way early in the season, so that the old Law of Averages can even out and then you’ll win those ballgames late in the season and into the postseason (and in the World Series, right??).
5) Skip Schumaker
Okay, you’re saying, now Jux really is on a pile of drugs. How can he say that SKIP SCHUMAKER, by himself, is a reason to bet on the Reds to get to the World Series this year…especially when he was about to quit rooting for the Reds because they signed him! (I’ve always hated Skip Schumaker.)
Here’s the thing, buddy. Skip’s one of those fellas that you hate when he’s on the other team, but you like when he’s on yours. He’s a pesky hitter. He’s one of those guys that will foul off a bunch of pitches and draw a walk, or punch a tough pitch into the outfield somehow to knock in a big run. And he is competitive as hell, something a lot of the Reds players haven’t seemed to be. When he struck out on Sunday, he slammed his bat down and split it. That’s something new for this team. That’s something I believe this team needs. Enough already with the happy-go-lucky “we’ll get ‘em next time” type of stuff. Get pissed and hold yourself and everyone else accountable. This is a guy who hates to lose; and a guy who’s been on a World Series winner. Not only that, he’s versatile–he can play infield and outfield–and he’s a tough left-handed bat off your bench late in games, versus right-handed and left-handed pitchers.
He’s the type of guy that can change the attitude of a team. And this team needs the shit out of a change of attitude, especially after last year’s passive (pussive) meltdown.
6) This lineup is not as bad as you think
We’d all love to have a lineup like the 2011 Texas Rangers or some shit like that–but it’s not realistic. We’re all sick of stranding leadoff doubles. We’re tired of seeing Cozart seemingly ALWAYS come up in important spots. I get it. It’s frustrating. But just take a quick trip with me to August, when this team is healthy and General Manager Walt Jocketty has made a deal or two at the trade deadline…
Here’s what we’ll be working with:
CF Billy Hamilton
1B Joey Votto
3B Todd Frazier
RF Jay Bruce
C Devin Mesoraco
LF Ryan Ludwick
2B Brandon Phillips
SS Zack Cozart
Bench: Skip Schumaker, Brayan Pena, Ramon Santiago, NOT CHRIS HEISEY, NOT ROGER BERNADINA, NOT NEFTALI SOTO
That lineup may be a spot or two off since somehow Brandon Phillips is assumed to be a top of the lineup hitter no matter what (even though his numbers strongly suggest the 6- or 7-hole) and because it seems like Mesoraco will be lower down in the order even if he mashes like Yogi Berra. Either way, that’ll be your eight bats. And while a lot of those guys are streaky, you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty decent lineup. Much better than the Giants’ lineups have been for their World Series runs, that’s for sure.
As for the bench: Jocketty is no fool. He saw Heisey’s unstellar performance on Monday night..and he’s seen that unstellarness for years now. He will find a better option somewhere. Bernadina’ll be gone ASAP. Neftali Soto, a.k.a. “Chief Longswing,” will not be on this bench come playoff time. I don’t know who the replacements will be, but you can bet they’ll be better options than Heisey, Bernadina and Soto.
So now you’re healthy at the right time, you’ve got a starting pitcher on the mound ever single day that can get you to the 8th inning, you’ve got a filthy Sam LeCure-led bullpen, you’ve got a fairly strong lineup and you’ve got a guy steering the ship (Bryan Price) that these players all love to play for.
That’s World Series right there. Easily.