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Rival Staffs (Part 5 of 7): Cincinnati Reds

Mood Music - Unforgiven by Metallica

If you're keeping track at home (you aren't, but I like to flatter myself), you may currently be saying "The Cincinnati Reds?? But the Cardinals were supposed to be next!"  That was my original plan, yes, but when it takes you months and months to complete a seven part series, some flexibility is required.  I was banking on the Cardinals being better than the Reds, but as of today, the Reds have a 5 game lead in the NL Central and are much more likely to make the playoffs, so I decided they were more worthy of my attention.

That, and Joe Morgan informed me that if I was a blogger for a really great team (the 1976 Reds, the greatest team of all time), I would have known who was going to win the race, and could have planned accordingly.  But, enough of this tom foolery and idle chit chat, I hereby dedicate the rest of this bandwidth to make disparaging remarks about the inferiority of the National League:

The Reds rotation, anchored by Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto, and supported by Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, and Aaron Harang isn't the rotation of a first place team.  Yes, Joey Votto (and his 32 HRs, .423 OBP, and 1.013 OPS) is an absolute monster and probably has my vote for NL MVP, but he's still just one hitter.  As a plus though, the Reds will be getting back Edinson Volquez, and everyone knows my general rule of "any time you can add a Lil Wayne lookalike to your rotation, you do it" (not that Volquez has been particularly effective this year). 

Here are some totals and MLB rankings for the Reds pitching so far in 2010:

ERA: 4.14 (18th in MLB)
FIP: 4.31 (24th in MLB)
Strikeouts: 929 (21st in MLB)
WHIP: 1.35 (16th in MLB)

Maybe, if we're being generous, we could call that mediocre.  And a cumulative 4.17 ERA by the starters says that they are an equal part in said mediocrity (although the bullpen now contains 105 MPH (Mancrushes Per Heater) Aroldis Chapman).  The analysis will get more individual after the jump, but my general air of "this is why no one respects the NL Central" will remain.

Johnny Cueto has been the best starting pitcher on the Reds this season, but at this point in his career (24 years old, third year in the majors) you have to wonder how ready he is to carry a staff.  His numbers, while certainly advanced for his age, and certainly indicative of his talent and potential, aren't "ace" like.  I don't think it's strictly necessary to have an "ace" to be a winning team, but in Game 1 of the World Series, the Reds would be best off throwing a pitcher with the following statistics:

27 starts, 12-5, 3.45 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 4.35 xFIP, 6.52 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, 41.6 GB%, 164.1 IP.

Solid.  Johnny Cueto has improved each of his three years in the big leagues, and I expect him to be a very solid pitcher for years to come.  Next in the rotation after Cueto is our old friend, Bronson Arroyo.  This season, Arroyo has continued to do what he has always done.  He has perfected the art of having an extremely entertaining leg kick, no strikeouts, and eating innings while posting a mediocre (4.09) ERA.

After Cueto and Arroyo, things get even murkier until it's basically Dusty Baker playing Pin The Tail On The Starter Whose Arm I'm Going To Ruin (a visual, this should be one).  Exhibit A:

Mike Leake (Sun Devil), the Reds 1st round pick (8th overall) last year has been their third best starter this year, and has just returned from the DL with .....  shoulder fatigue!  Maybe he could have used some time in the minor leagues and some training wheels?  But if he can come back and pitch effectively down the stretch before his arm falls off, that'd certainly be a plus.

Aaron Harang used to be good, but the last three years of his career have been appalling.  This year he's sporting a rotund 5.15 ERA and .301 BAA, which is shockingly bad for someone who has logged 106 innings on a 1st place team.  Rounding out the Reds rotation, Harang, Travis Wood, and Homer Bailey have combined for a pretty paltry 4.2 WAR this year.

The overall reason that I write these Rival Staffs posts is for us to ponder how the Yankees pitching matches up against some of our top contenders.  If we happen to be fortunate enough to make the World Series, and if our opponent is the Reds, I think that we can be confident that we can handle their pitching staff.

Parts 6 and 7 of this extravaganza will be the Rays and Rangers, which should be a barrel of fun.  Those posts will be done at some point before the end of time, as I plod methodically through the ocean of procrastination that has come to define this project.  Stay tuned!