What is the real deal?
I had an appearance on Sunday night with Ken Broo on WCPO’s “Sports of all Sorts” and he asked me a simple question after back-to-back Reds wins over the Phillies.
Are these Reds the real deal? I answered that I didn’t know because the team has been a mystery all season. What I should have said was we’re likely about to find out what the real deal is.
Starting Monday, 14 of the Reds’ next 20 games, and 17 of the next 26, are against teams with winning records. There is a trip coming at division leading Milwaukee on Friday and another West Coast trip coming at the end of the month at San Francisco and San Diego.
Here’s what we do know: The Reds rotation has kept the club from having long losing streak. It has the fourth best ERA in the National League. While the front end of the bullpen has had issues, the back end trio of Sam LeCure, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman have been pretty air tight. They are the real deal.
On the other hand: The offense has kept the club from having a long winning streak. It’s ranked 13th in runs scored, 12th in batting, 13th in hits and 11th in home runs. It’s encouraging that Jay Bruce has shown some signs of emerging from a season-long lull. But he is still batting .211 with only four homers. Brandon Phillips has a .305 OBP and .393 slugging percentage — numbers too low for a No. 3 hitter. Ryan Ludwick has’t produced like he did in 2012 and isn’t a regular left fielder at this point. Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier have been big producers and need others to join them. Billy Hamilton is becoming more impressive (especially defensively) but still needs to get on base more to create more opportunity.
When the Reds have won their last six games, they’ve scored at least four runs. Three times, they scored six or more. In each of their last eight losses, they’ve been held to three runs or less including three shutouts. The largest deficit in a game they’ve come back from all season is two runs and that happened over a month ago on May 4 vs. the Brewers.
Pitching has kept them in games, but it’s the offense that can be the difference in close games. And it’s the offense that has not done a good job of coming back when the other team gets an early lead.
Joey Votto should be back, I’d surmise, by the end of this four-game series vs. the Dodgers. Mat Latos’ imminent return could put a pitcher in the bullpen to help with long relief and could bolster the relievers. The team will be at full strength for the first time all year.
It will be the best test yet if these Reds are the real deal.