The Reds have shown steady improvement over the last three seasons and fans in Cincinnati think that this could be the year for their team. Not in the way you might think, however. Despite even MLB Network’s 30 Teams in 30 Days series labeling the Reds as the “sexy dark horse pick” to make the NL Playoffs, Queen City baseball fans don’t truly believe that the Reds will play in the postseason. But fans do believe that the Reds will win more games than they lose in 2010, which would end a 9-year streak of sub-.500 baseball.
The current streak is the longest for the Cincinnati franchise since the period between 1945 and 1955, when the Reds failed to reach the even mark in 11 straight seasons. Cincinnati came oh-so-close in 2006, going 80-82, finishing 3.5 games out of first. I jumped on the bandwagon in 2007 and bought full season tickets for the first time in my life. It was a bad choice. The Reds were a miserable 72-90 that season, their worst finish in the past eight seasons. The only bright spot was Brandon Phillips’s completion of a 30-30 season.
The next season brought a new manager in Dusty Baker. He improved on the 2007 mark by two games. OK, not so great, but it sure beats writing that the Reds finished 23.5 games behind the Cubs in the Central. The 2009 season saw General Manager Walt Jocketty have the reigns unencumbered, and the team started out well. But a July swoon – ok, heat stroke – saw the team drop 45 of 68 games and fall miserably out of the chase. Still, a young and hungry team fought back in the last few weeks and won 27 of their last 40 games – the best record in baseball from August 23 to the end of the regular season. It meant an improvement of four games from 2008. If they improve another four wins in 2010, they’ll finish 82-80. Baseball people and fans alike think the Reds can do this with the team they have put together.
STARTING LINEUP FOR OPENING DAY…
Chris Dickerson CF
He gets the nod over Drew Stubbs because of his past success against Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter. Dickerson is 5-for-10 in his career against the St. Louis ace… A second-year pro, Dickerson finished the 2009 season ranked sixth in rookie batting average (.275)… He’s raw, but he brings a lot of hustle to the lineup… Decent power, good speed, above average arm… never quits on a play.
Orlando Cabrera SS
With apologies to Paul Janish, Cabrera was an excellent acquisition by the team in February… He’ll add a much needed veteran presence to the lineup, complementing Scott Rolen… Makes solid contact and will use all areas of the field… A smooth fielder with a strong arm… Hit .284 last year for Oakland and Minnesota… Collected 77 RBI, the most of any AL shortstop in 2009.
Joey Votto 1B
Great player and all-around good guy… All-star caliber skills… Patient at the plate, he’ll work the count if needed… Power to all fields, quick hands, smooth stroke… He’s a clutch hitter who can come through when the pressure’s on… Has improved defensively… Still feels he has much to learn and something to prove… Hit .322 last year… Has 49 homers over the last two seasons.
Brandon Phillips 2B
A fan favorite with the brightest smile on the team… Fans don’t like to see him batting cleanup, but he has succeeded in that position… Great speed and power… Was a 20-20 man last year, while driving in 98 runs – the second-highest total for a Reds 2B behind Joe Morgan’s 110 in 1976… Led NL 2B with 25 stolen bases… Athletic 2B… Hammers lefthanded pitchers… Became the first player in Reds history to produce at least 20 doubles, 20 home runs, and 20 stolen bases in three consecutive seasons.
Scott Rolen 3B
Great veteran addition by Jocketty last season… A steady leader in the clubhouse… Celebrated his 35th birthday on Sunday… The Reds hope he can avoid the injury bug… Great contact hitter… Solid fielder at 3B… Hit a combined .305 between Toronto and Cincinnati in 2009.
Jay Bruce RF
Will be interesting to see if his hard work at the plate in Spring Training will pay off… Struggled at the plate in 2009 until he broke his wrist diving for a ball at New York on July 11… Spent time with manager Dusty Baker and hitting coach Brook Jacoby on the bench studying pitchers during games while on the DL… Hit .346 with 4 homers and 17 RBI in 18 games after coming off the DL… Finished the spring with a 5-game hitting streak (.538, 2 doubles, 2 RBI)… Hit .321 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in Spring 2010… Led the team with four stolen bases in Cactus League play.
Laynce Nix LF
Didn’t expect to see him here on Opening Day, but Stubbs struggles against Carpenter combined with Jonny Gomes trouble at the plate against righties and Nix’s powerful spring give him an Opening Day start… Non-roster invitee who made the team for the second straight year… Led the Reds with 60 starts in LF in 2009… Won the competition for the 5th outfielder spot from Vladimir Balentien, who didn’t make the club… Hit four homers and had 10 RBI in spring training.
Ramon Hernandez C
Better in the field than at the plate, but will give you solid at-bats… Great at handling a pitching staff and calling a game… Limited to 81 games because of knee trouble and surgery last year.
OTHER POSITION PLAYERS…
Drew Stubbs CF
Set the fans on their collective ear after his call-up last season… Has a chance to become an All-Star in a few years… Great power and speed… Looking to cut down on his strikeouts… Won the overall starting CF job in spring training by leading the Reds in runs (13), total bases (42), and doubles (7)… Was tied for the team lead in home runs (5)… His 12-game hitting streak was the third-longest in the Cactus League… Has Gold Glove potential in CF.
Jonny Gomes LF/OF
Hardest worker on the team and a clubhouse leader… Reds management still has a little wait-and-see attitude toward him… Great against lefty pitchers, not solid at all vs. righties… Will platoon with Dickerson in LF and spell Bruce in RF.
Paul Janish SS/IF
Have to feel for Janish after being marketed as the starting SS all off-season then seeing Cabrera signed in February… Low batting average, but drives the ball when he connects… Hits a lot of doubles… Last season, had 54 hits with 21 two-baggers… Had great success at the plate in spring training (.350, 2 HR, 9 RBI)… Gold Glove caliber defensively… After the Alex Gonzalez trade to Boston in August, he led all Major League shortstops with a .995 fielding percentage… Pitched twice last season in blowout games to help save arms in bullpen.
Miguel Cairo IF/OF
Beginning his 15th season in the Major Leagues… Signed a minor league contract in January and made the team as a non-roster invitee… Was given an opportunity because of his playoff experience… Has seen postseason action with St Louis (’01, ’02), the New York Yankees (’04), and Philadelphia (’09).
Juan Francisco 1B/3B/LF
Possesses great power… Was a Southern League All-Star at Carolina in 2009 and was called up to Louisville… Finished the season a combined .295 with 27 HR and 93 RBI… Hit .292 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in Spring Training… Was the Dominican League’s Most Valuable Player last winter while playing for Cibao (.302, 11 HR, 42 RBI).
Ryan Hanigan C
Excellent defensively… Led all NL catchers with .998 fielding percentage in 2009… Threw out 39% of attempted base stealers… Needs to connect better in run-producing situations… Had 11 RBI in 90 games last year.
Will make his 5th Opening Day start for the Reds… Struggled statistically through the spring… Coming back from season-ending appendicitis surgery… Is 12-31 over the last two seasons, but hasn’t gotten great run support… Comes up big in pressure situations… Strikeout specialist, averages nearly eight per game… 7th on Reds All-Time Strikeout list (1,043)… Throws fastball, slider, change and curve… All eyes will be on him.
Strikeout specialist… Averages over 7 K’s per game in his career… Throws fastball, slider, and changeup… Went into a slump when he wasn’t named to the NL All-Star team despite having great numbers at the time last year.
A complete inning-eater, has broken the 200 IP mark in each of the last five seasons… Will get beaten up in one start per season… Most consistent pitcher in the rotation, based on past success… Throws fastball, cutter and a changeup… Tries to out-think the opposing hitter… My favorite pitcher on the team to watch.
Great success over the end of last year… Has struggled with control over his career… Has tried to overpower hitters at times… Added a split-finger fastball in Louisville last year and it made him a much better pitcher… Best pitcher in the majors last September.
Mike Leake (He’s not on the team at the moment, but the Reds have said he’s the 5th man in the rotation.)
Former #1 draft pick made the team with an excellent spring training… Isn’t currently on the roster as the Reds won’t need a 5th starter until Sunday… Awesome numbers at Arizona State last year, going 16-1, with a 1.71 ERA.
Francisco Cordero (Closer)
Many questioned the wisdom of spending the cash on a closer for a team that had been under .500 for the past seven seasons, but now it looks like Cordero could be a guy who could help the Reds sniff the playoffs for the first time since 1995… Didn’t allow an earned run in any of his team-high nine appearances in Spring Training.
An intimidating presence on the mound… Opposing batters hit .198 against him last year… Struck out seven in 6.2 innings in Spring Training… 40 years old, beginning his 19th Major League season… Pitches like he’s 30.
Groundball pitcher… Resilient arm… Made a team-high and career best 74 appearances in 2009.
Daniel Ray Herrera
The little engine that could… Diminutive lefty who relies on a baffling screwball… Averaged 6.42 K’s per nine innings last season… Excellent vs. lefty batters.
Coming back from cervical disc replacement surgery last July… Didn’t have a great spring.
Tried to win the 5th starter race, but came up a bit short… Didn’t allow a run in five of six Spring Training appearances… Excellent offensively with good power.
Never expected to make this team, his Spring Training was too good to be ignored… Came up through the system last year, beginning in Class A Sarasota and finishing in AAA Louisville… Combined to finish 4-1 with 19 saves and a 1.50 ERA… Made seven appearances in Spring Training and didn’t allow a run… Final Cactus League numbers were 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 10 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, 8 K’s, and a WHIP of 0.60.
IN THE WINGS – Guys not on the team just yet
Aroldis Chapman RHP
No one in Reds camp received more publicity than Chapman… Was sidelined a bit by back stiffness… Still wound up throwing 10.2 innings with a 1.69 ERA and struck out 15… Beginning the season in AAA Louisville… Can pop 100 on the radar gun… Control is an issue as he threw seven walks in the spring… The Reds won’t rush him to the majors… He could get a call-up in May or June if Bailey or Leake struggle.
Edinson Volquez RHP
The forgotten man of this pitching staff as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery back in June… Had great velocity and movement… Reds have luxury to take it slow with him.
Personally, I am excited about the upcoming season. I always get a little juiced for the start of every season, but this one seems like it has a very good possibility of being memorable in all of the good ways. The pitching staff has some depth to it. If Harang gets the offensive support he’s been lacking, he could turn those poor win/loss numbers around. (Although I have to say that the way the Reds are acting in the press, they fully expect to struggle vs. Carpenter on Opening Day. The groundwork for a lot of excuses has been laid.) The bullpen is excellent and I’m rooting for Logan Andrusek like nobody’s business. The defense looks to have depth as well and the hitting could be just timely enough – although the Reds still rely a little too much on the longball. That still could be okay when the ballpark they call home plays very small. They’re in a tough division, but the Cubs are getting too old, I feel. The Brewers and Astros don’t have a lot of buzz. The Pirates were handled by the Reds all last September. I’d say the Cardinals are still the favorite to take the division crown, but they aren’t invincible.
I think the Reds will be in the race into the stretch. The pitching will have to get them to the playoffs. My Central Division prediction, as bad as I hate to write it, is:
I do think the Reds will end their streak of sub-.500 baseball this year. Baker is a better manager than he was when he arrived in Cincinnati. Jocketty is a proven influence. And owner Bob Castellini has shown that he can leave well enough alone and let the baseball people do what they do best. So enjoy the season, Reds fans. I’ll be right there with you and right here keeping you up to speed on the Cincinnati nine with updates, news, thoughts, and memories all through the season. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, and questions as well. How many wins do I see the Reds getting in 2010? At least 84 and maybe as high as 90.
About the Author
Written by Dave Allen
I'm a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan who has been following the Reds and Bengals ever since I can remember. My first Reds game was Game 6 of the '72 World Series and my first Bengals game was an October 1975 clash with the Steelers. I've been involved in sports media since Junior High, when I assisted with scores for Bob Trumpy SportsTalk in 1979 on WLW Radio. My biggest Reds highlight came in 1998 when I was chosen to be the public address announcer at Riverfront Stadium (then called Cinergy Field) for Opening Day and the entire first homestand. I am thrilled to be involved with PSB and I hope you enjoy my entries!