The NL Central has no sure fire winner in 2010. However, the Cardinals appear to be the most talented team followed by the Brewers. The Reds though have potential to play themselves into contention as well.
Here is how I see the division shaking out.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Let’s be honest. The Pirates are the consensus pick for last. Yes they have a budding all star in Andrew McCutchen who had a great rookie season last year, but they have a rotation that features Ross Ohenlendorf and Cub reject Kevin Hart.
That is simply not good enough to contend. Pedro Alvarez, the team’s top prospect, will probably get some time to play at third this season, so the two interesting things for this team will be monitoring the development of future studs Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.
5. Houston Astros
The Astros sill have some very good players on their team. Having been perennial contendors over the last 5-6 years, the team still has the likes of ace Roy Oswalt, sweet-swinging Lance Berkman, and Carlos Lee. Hunter Pence will also look to take another step forward in 2010. The ‘Stros will be able to hit but in looking at their roster from top to bottom, they simply have too many holes to compete.
Roy Oswalt could be a blue chip summer trading piece if the team is out of contention and he could bring back good prospects in return.
4. Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans think that the departure of Milton Bradley will be a form of addition by subtraction, and it will. However that will not simply return there team to 2008 form.
They have not adjusted to the loss of Rich Harden, and with Ted Lilly out atleast a month, there rotation is set to start out Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny, and who knows who else.
The back end of that rotation is simply not up to standards and Lou Piniella will have his work cut out for him closing out games as well. Carlos Marmol was atrocious last year with his control. Too many holes=not enough wins.
3. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have perhaps the most potential in the division, but I believe they will still be a year away from putting everything together. However, I do think this is a year where the Reds will hang around and make some noise in the division. The signing of Cuban-phenom has energized the Reds base and at Spring Training all eyes will be glued on the Cuban lefty. Whether he starts in the majors or not, the Reds just may not be able to click totally this year. The loss of Edinson Volquez until mid-summer at the earliest hurts, but the Reds have plenty of young pitchers waiting in the wings. Contending or not, I think the Reds will unload Harang before 2011 so this is his last hoorah in a Reds uniform. That will allow the Reds to unload 12 million of payroll and make room for them to make key additions to what should be a solid team down the road. The Reds front office is unified in the direction is wants to go, and Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Cueto, Bailey, and Chapman give them the horses to get there.
2. Milwaukee Brewers
Braun and Fielder. Braun and Fielder. Braun and Fielder. Alcides Escobar and Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers have a great mix of established stars and young athletes coming up through the system. They get the nod for the two spot because they just simply have fewer noticable holes than the Reds or Cubs. Casey McGeehee another Cub reject will look to build on his strong rookie season, and Ricky Weeks is still looking to breakout. I think he will, and Gallardo will be a star, leading to a 2nd place National League Central finish.
1. Champion-St. Louis Cardinals
A full year with Matt Holliday and another year with one of the best hitters ever will equal a NL Central title for the Cards in 2010. Also the Cards have one of the best one two punches on the mound in baseball if both Wainwright and Carpenter stay healthy. They were both stellar last year down the stretch. Expect youngster Colby Rasmus to hit lefties better than he did last season and be a strong complement in the lineup to the power of Holliday and Pujols. Too much offense and a great rotation with the best pitching coach in the game will help the Cards overpower the rest of the NL Central.
No one really knows whether the Reds are buyers or sellers yet, but we are under the 72 hour mark until the trade deadline. The Reds main trade bait would be Harang, Arroyo, and Weathers or Rhodes in the bullpen.
The Reds need to keep the bullpen intact as that has been the major strength of the Reds club. Rhodes is sitting on a comfortable 2.08 era and Weathers on a 3.15 era (by the way, Paul Janish has a 49.50 era in his two relief appearances this year).
Arroyo is still a nice pitcher for anyones rotation and because of the nature of how he throws, he will be able to pitch effectively for many years to come. His fastball is complemented by a variety of off speed breaking balls. Harang on the other hand is a shadow of the 16 win pitcher he was 3 and 4 years ago. His fastball velocity is down from 93-94 mph to 89-90 miles per hour. His leg drive is also noticably weaker than it was when he was younger in his career. Since he is no longer able to throw the ball by people, he has to be able to locate his pitches better which he has often struggled with.
However Aaron Harang would still be good for a contending club and could serve as a solid third or forth starter. The Reds could trade Harang and still make an improvement to the club this year.
A good fit for Harang would be the New York Yankees who need starting pitching badly (esp. with Chien-Ming Wang out for the year).
As opposed to trading Harang for a variety of single A prospects, I think it would be smarter for Walt Jocketty to try and get one or two players in AAA who are almost ready for the major leagues. Ian Kennedy who is pitching for the Yankees AAA team and has made a few major league starts would be that tyle of player, a guy who could play this year if need be.
The Reds have explored adding Toronto Blue Jay Scott Rolen. Rolen has had a resurgence this year after battling injuries since leaving the St. Louis Cardinals. He has batted around .300 for most this year and has shown increased pop in his bat.
A Rolen package would also probably include Edwin Encarnacion but beyond that it is not known what else would be involved.
Also another package has been rumored to have been talked about with the Yankees.
Neither the Reds nor the Yankees have said if there is any truth to the rumor but the Yankees have discussed aquiring David Weathers and Aaron Harang for youngster Phillip Hughes. It seems odd that the Yankees would consider giving up their great young prospect Hughes which is why I’m unsure if this rumor has any truth to it.
The Reds are on their longest homestand of the year. The Reds really need to hang an 8-2 or better record if they are going to continue to climb back in the NL Central race that is staying tight. Go Reds!!!
It seems as if Bud Selig and Major League Baseballl might finally be coming to their senses. Sportscenter reported this morning that Bud Selig might finally be nearing a decision to reinstate Pete Rose.
It seems to me that Pete Rose represents the biggest folly in baseball history. There has never been anyone play the game harder than Pete Rose. No one has ever done more with lesser talent. He was a winner. He demanded 100% from himself and in turn demanded it of everyone else around him. If a runner needed to be moved over, he got him over. Runner on third less that 2 outs; that run got in. The Big Red Machine could be renamed the Pete Rose Machine.
He and Sparky Anderson accepted nothing less than the best.
Pete Rose never juiced up, never took HGH, never took a play off, never cheated the game he loved so much. He played the game clean and came out as baseball’s best hitter ever.
However, Pete Rose has served a 20 year ban. A 20 year sentence for betting on baseball. Let me be clear! Betting on the game was wrong. But to ban him and take him away from the game he gave so much to for 20 years, is an outrage. It is a disaster. He played the game 100% clean yet served a 20 year ban when steroid users are only getting a slap on the wrist 50 game suspension.
Commisioner Selig, think about this situation. Pete Rose deserves a front and center plaque in baseball’s hall of fame.
Pete Rose gave baseball and its fans years of excitment and dedication, and baseball has given him nothing back. Administering such a harsh punishment to Pete Rose while giving steroid users little more than a slap on the wrist ought to be seen as a dark spot in baseball’s history.
He taught so many of us how to play the game and was a role model for so many as he was a self made player. Rose gave anything to win. He like others is human and made a mistake, but he gave his life for baseball and would have never cheated the game like some players today.
Mr. Selig, you have a chance to right this disaster and take a stand. To me and many other baseball fans: PETE ROSE IS BASEBALL!!! Let’s get him in the hall of fame!!
Joey Votto is back and still swinging. Votto hardly missed a beat when he came back after his month layoff. Votto is collected 18 hits over his last 10 games.
Votto’s success has me comparing him to Big Red Machine great Tony Perez. He and Perez spray the ball all over the field, banging the ball off the wall. Neither were “home run hitters” but they are such good hitters they still hit the ball out of the ballpark. Why is no one talking about Votto as an ALL STAR SNUB. I know he was hurt but he is batting .364!! How can you ignore that from a guy whether he has played 2 months or 3 months.
Also Reds fans: Take a hint. Lay off Dusty Baker. A recent commenter off a reds.com news release said the following:
“Dusty Baker is clueless and has to go! I feel better now that I’ve
finally said it. I’ve said before on here that we should only pitch to
Pujols if we are up 5 runs or down 5 runs. Otherwise he should be
walked every time he steps to the plate. Some reasons Baker must go: 1.
Continuing to pitch to Pujols 2. Using a DH for Owings rather than any
one of our position players who are hitting under .240 3. Batting
Taveras at lead off 4. Letting Taveras play at all 4. Pitching Weathers
against Pujols…duh 5. An entire team that lacks fundamentals
(bunting, moving runners, patience at the plate, etc…) 6. Thinking
that Corey Patterson had major league talent 7. Playing Hernandez over
Hannigan 8. Playing Hairston over Janish 9. Not demanding that we keep
Keppinger 10. Pitching to Pujols yet again…. arrgghhhhh!!!!“
I cannot disagree with the first reason, but Albert Pujols is the best hitter ever in my opinion. As far as the second reason, everytime a pinch hitter comes into the game, he is not going to get a hit and when that player does get out Dusty Baker is not to blame! Willie Taveras ought to bat first or second. He is just in a slump let him get out of it.
For the fourth reason, this commenter is just ridiculous, Taveras might be the fastest person in the game. As for the commenters second number four (impressive) NO ONE has good numbers against Pujols. No matter who you bring in, Pujols still has a great chance getting a hit.
Fifth, the team is getting better defensively and is near the top in the NL in sacrificesSixth, Baker was not the idiot who signed Corey Patterson, after all he does have big league talent (or used to) as he was once another top Cubs prospect. Seventh, both are great talents and deserve to play (no argument there).
Hairston over Janish?? Come on Janish bobbled the ball that loaded the bases before Pujols hit the grand slam. That would have been the third out. Jeff Keppinger is an average utility man . And you have to pitch to Pujols with the bases loaded.
Reds fans need to chill. Dusty is not the one out there not hitting. That is on the players. The Reds need to add another bat and with more talent, Baker can lead any team to the playoffs.
Ill give Walt Jocketty a hint on a bat to add. (see below). GO REDLEGS!!
Vote for Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips for the All-Star game. All Reds fans must vote and vote often. Let’s get out guys in the All-Star game!!!!
VOTE VOTTO and PHILLIPS. Both are very deserving. The play speaks for itself.
VOTE VOTTO and PHILLIPS
If the Reds are going to continue to play good baseball and put more wins on the board there are four small keys to the Reds success that aren’t necessarily just hitting the ball well.
1. Pitch well and Pitch Efficiently- Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez have been pitching well along with Aaron Harang. Volquez and Cueto have cut down on their pitch counts so far this year which has allowed them to go deeper into ballgames. The Reds lead the National League with six shutouts already. The Reds last had over twelce shutouts in 2003.
The Reds offense has been lethargic at points this year so continuing to dominate teams with good starting pitching and then with Arthur Rhodes and Coco Cordero will be key. Cordero is 9 for 9 in save opportunities this year.
2. Turn the Lineup Over- At the beginning of the season the Reds 7,8,9 hitters were not getting on base and not able to flip the lineup to get back to the likes of Taveras, Votto, and Phillips at the top of the order.
It is important to be able to clear the pitcher when the fifth or sixth man in the order leads off the inning. One or two batters need to get on so the pitcher does not have to lead off the next inning as an automatic out. Taveras or Hairston are by far better leading off an inning and giving the Reds a chance to score.
3. Use the Run Game- Willie Taveras is getting the job done at the top of the Reds order, and he is followed up by Chris Dickerson or Jerry Hairston Jr. All three can run the base paths well. When these guys get on, they can create scoring chances with their legs if they can get to second and get themselves into scoring position. Taveras has 6 SB’s so far this season and may want ot run a little more. The Reds are 9th in the National League in stolen bases so far, so Taveras and others could run a little more. Especially with Votto batting behind them, as he is batting over .400 with runners in scoring position this year.
4. Take the Fight to the Other Team-The Reds have a very good record when scoring first this year and have not lost when they have gotten a three run or more lead. The pitching staff also needs to continue to attack hitters. They have given up 115 walks so far this season and need to put more hitters away when they get ahead as that number is 7th best in the NL. When runners get on the Reds need to get ’em over and get ’em in. That is a cliched phrase but with less power than Reds teams past, playing a more aggressive strategic game is important.
There are few pitching staffs in baseball better top to bottom than the Cincinnati Reds. As a 12 man pitching staff, there is no doubt in my mind that the Reds have one of the best staffs in the NL. Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker both share the belief that teams may have a better one or two than the Reds top men, but few teams are better from one to twelve.
The Reds starting rotation has depth like the Reds haven’t had in years. I will bet anyone Aaron Harang will return to the Harang of 2, 3 and 4 years ago. The sky is the limit for Volquez and Cueto and Arroyo is one of the more underappreciated pitchers in the league. And Micah Owings, having won the 5th starters spot has great talent and just has to find consistency for a whole season which is easier said than done.
The Reds have depth as well in the bullpen. Two good lefties are down there for Dusty Baker: Arthur Rhodes and Bill Bray. Rhodes was a nice signing by the Reds this offseason to give the Reds plenty of options. Also in the pen is bright young star, Jared Burton and David Weathers. Burton is the guy who will get the ball in the eighth inning to get the ball to Fransisco Cordero to lock it down in the ninth. Burton finished last year with a 3.22 ERA after bursting on to the scene the year before with a 2.51 ERA. An interesting stat is that when Burton came in in the 8th inning last year and the Reds had the lead, the Reds lost only once. Cordero saved all but 2 games last year when Burton came in before him.
The wild card of the staff is Cueto though. He showed flairs of greatness last year like when he started the season off with a 10 K performance. Keeping pitch counts down and attacking the hitters when he gets ahead will be keys to his success. Go Reds! Its Skyline time! Feel free to comment