The Cincinnati Reds are a tough team to figure. On paper, they should either be at (or at least near) the top of the NL Central. Instead, they've lost fifteen of their last 24 games to put them at 48-50 this season and are struggling to keep pace with the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals. Because of their weak division, though, they sit just four games out of first place.
(Just for fun, they'd be 13.5 games back in the NL East if they were in our division. Fun times.)
Anyway, let's take a closer look at Dusty Baker's club...
The Reds are one of the better offensive clubs in the game and they're led by former-MVP Joey Votto (.318/.427/.494, 153 wRC+). He's good at hitting baseballs and hitting them a long way. Outside of their slugging first baseman, Brandon Phillips (.278/.326/.409, 99 wRC+) continues to be one the better overall second baseman in the game and Jay Bruce (.266/.345/.496, 125 wRC+) is well on his way to becoming the star so many had him pegged to be as he made his way through the Minor Leagues. Drew Stubbs (.253/.330/.389, 105 wRC+) has had a breakout season in center field, though he is somewhat of a streaky hitter. He currently leads the team with 23 steals.
Outside of their big four, catcher Ramon Hernandez (.306/.358/.508, 132 wRC+) is having a big year behind the plate and Miguel Cairo (.288/.353/.410, 106 wRC+) has been a pleasant surprise while filling in at various positions. "All-Star" third baseman Scott Rolen (.242/.279/.397, 82 wRC+) is in steep decline at the plate. Former-Brave Edgar Renteria (.232/.306/.278, 65 wRC+) is pretty awful at the plate, though Dusty Baker continues to hit him near the top of the lineup.
Sounds like the two skippers in this series have similar philosophies.
That terrifies me.
A player to keep your eye on is Jonny Gomes, who has been linked to the Braves in recent trade rumors. He isn't a great hitter and his numbers won't impress you, but he pounds left-handed pitchers and could be dealt to Atlanta if we decide to not pursue a big-name bat.
Friday, 7:10EDT - Jair Jurrjens vs. Bronson Arroyo - MLB Network, SportSouth
|2011 - Jair Jurrjens||12-3||17||17||2||1||0||0||115.2||101||31||29||5||27||71||2.26||1.11|
|2011 - Bronson Arroyo||7-8||20||19||0||0||0||0||114.2||136||75||71||26||25||68||5.57||1.40|
Saturday, 4:10EDT - Derek Lowe vs. Homer Bailey - FOX
|2011 - Derek Lowe||6-7||21||21||0||0||0||0||119.1||123||59||58||7||43||83||4.37||1.39|
|2011 - Homer Bailey||4-4||9||9||0||0||0||0||55.1||52||25||23||8||13||39||3.74||1.17|
Sunday, 8:05EDT - Brandon Beachy vs. Dontrelle Willis - ESPN
|2011 - Brandon Beachy||3-2||13||13||0||0||0||0||72.0||67||31||30||11||20||81||3.75||1.21|
|2011 - Dontrelle Willis||0-1||2||2||0||0||0||0||10.2||9||4||4||0||5||9||3.38||1.31|
The Reds bullpen is not good at all. They may have a low ERA as a group, but they've been incredibly lucky (.234 BABIP, 4.17 xFIP) among relievers with more than ten innings pitched. Quite honestly, this is the biggest advantage for the Braves in this series. They need to take advantage of the weak bullpen if they hope to win the series.
Player To Watch:
#26 / Second Base / Atlanta Braves
Mar 11, 1980
Uggla is expected back in the lineup on Friday night after being pulled Wednesday with a sore hamstring. The Slump is officially over and he's pounded the baseball in July (.936 OPS). Great American Ballpark is one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball and Uggla should be able to take advantage of a short wall in left field.
The Reds are a good team who have underperformed all season. Their pitching staff is pretty lousy, but they can score some runs and score those runs in a hurry. I see Atlanta winning two out of three, though a reversal of fortunes could easily happen.