Things to Know about the Cincinnati Reds

The Mets travel to Ohio to play a four-game set against the Cincinnati Reds this week. Here are some things you might want to know about them:

Record: 50-51, fourth place NL Central
Manager: Dusty Baker, lifetime 1,454-1,335 (.521%) managerial record, three time manager of the year, 1993, 1997, 2000. Baker is well-known for his occasionally counter-logical manager speak, but he has resisted overmanaging his Reds this season. Cincinnati isn’t in the top of the league in sacrifices, intentional walks, or pitching changes, and Baker hasn’t pushed a pitcher past 116 pitches in a start this season (almost every other NL manager has).
Park: Great American Ballpark. Bandbox. The Reds’ park isn’t as much of a hitter’s park as one might think, but there are a lot of home runs.

Can they hit? Yes
Can they pitch? Not so much
Can they field? Yes
Who’s their best player? Joey Votto. The 27-year-old Canadian leads the National League in on-base percentage and walks drawn.

CF – Drew Stubbs – R
SS – Edgar Renteria – R
1B – Joey Votto – L
2B – Brandon Phillips – R
RF – Jay Bruce – L
LF – Fred Lewis – L
3B – Miguel Cairo – R
C – Ryan Hanigan – R

Taken as a whole, the Reds can hit. They rank second in the NL in runs scored with 465, and they’re tied for third in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging percentage. But as a righthanded heavy team, the Reds are otherworldly against lefthanded pitching and just average against righties. They lead the NL with a .816 team OPS against southpaws – the Cardinals are a distant second at .755 – but they rank ninth against righthanded pitchers with a .709 OPS, only a tick above the NL average of .705 vs righties. Their two best hitters, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, are lefty sluggers, but part-time outfielder Fred Lewis is the only other lefthanded bat on the team, allowing righthanded pitchers to work around the big bats as they carve through the rest. Still, the Reds will catch the Mets’ two lefties this week, and home run prone Chris Capuano looks to be a favorable matchup for the Reds in their home park.

The Reds are depleted on the left side of the infield this series, with rookie shortstop Zach Cozart and third basemen Scott Rolen both hitting the DL this past weekend.

Pitching Matchups:

July 25: RHP Mike Leake (8-5, 4.11 ERA) vs R.A. Dickey (4-8, 3.80 ERA)

Leake made headlines earlier in the season after he was arrested for shoplifting, but on the field, he’s been one of Cincinnati’s better pitchers. (Cincinnati’s pitchers haven’t been very good.) The Reds’ first round pick in 2009, he debuted with the major league club in 2010, skipping the minor leagues entirely. The California native, 23-years-old this season, is a control pitcher with a varied arsenal, throwing a mix of cutters, sinkers, sliders, changeups and curveballs.

July 26: RHP Johnny Cueto (6-3, 1.98 ERA) vs Jon Niese (9-8, 3.76 ERA)

Cueto has been the Reds’ ace this season, but he might not be pitching as well as his ERA suggests. His strikeouts have dropped while his walk rate has stayed about the same – the biggest difference this season has been his batting average against on balls in play, which has fallen from about .290 to .216 this season. This isn’t necessarily reflective of good luck: It’s worth noting that the defense behind the Reds’ pitchers is the NL’s best. Cincinnati’s fielders leads the league in defensive efficiency and park-adjusted defensive efficiency, they’re tied for the second best fielding percentage, and lead in every advanced fielding metric. As a team, the Reds are eighth in runs allowed per game, despite being 12th in ERA and 15th in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).

July 27: RHP Bronson Arroyo (7-8, 5.56 ERA) vs Mike Pelfrey (5-9, 4.73 ERA)

If you miss the steroid era, this is the game for you. Arroyo leads the league in home runs allowed and runs allowed; Mike Pelfrey is tied for fourth in home runs allowed and seventh in runs allowed. Both pitchers are coming off winning seasons and had good ERAs last year, but 2011 has been cruel to these contact-reliant pitchers.

July 28: RHP Homer Bailey (5-4, 3.67 ERA) vs Chris Capuano (8-10, 4.26 ERA)

The seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft, named a top 50 prospect by Baseball America four straight seasons, Bailey is finally getting results in 2011. A fly ball pitcher named “Homer” pitching in Great American Ballpark is about as bad a mix as it sounds, but Bailey has upped his control this season and started throwing more sliders (per Fangraphs’ count). Still, the biggest difference for Bailey this season is likely just the improved defense behind him – his FIP has jumped from 3.74 last season to 4.13 this year as his ERA has fallen from 4.46 to 3.67.

The Mets miss LHP Dontrelle Willis.

C – Ramon Hernandez – R
IF – Todd Frazier – R
SS – Paul Janish – R
OF – Jonny Gomes – R
OF – Chris Heisey – R

With Cozart sidelined, the no-hitting-allowed club of Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria should split time at shortstop. Jonny Gomes or Chris Heisey will likely start in leftfield against the Mets lefties, with Fred Lewis getting the call against the righties — Heisey, a relative non-prospect, now has 20 home runs in his first 390 major league at-bats.

Wait, wait, wait, Dontrelle Willis?

RHP – Francisco Cordero
RHP – Nick Masset
RHP – Logan Ondrusek
LHP – Aroldis Chapman
LHP – Bill Bray
RHP – Jose Arredondo
RHP – Sam LeCure

The Reds bullpen is fifth among NL bullpens in ERA, but again, it’s more the fielders than the throwers: They’re 11th in FIP, and they have the biggest difference among NL bullpens between their ERA (3.20) and FIP (3.86). The big problem is walks, 144 of them, with the worst offender being Aroldis Chapman (24 walks in 26.1 innings). Francisco Cordero has been shaky as the closer despite his low ERA, with five blown saves and a diminished strikeout rate.

The Reds are a hard team to get a read on. They’re a game below .500 and in fourth place in the weak Central, but their run differential is nearly identical to the Cardinals’ and better than Pittsburgh’s and Milwaukee’s run differentials. They’re also just three games behind the three-way tie atop the division. They can hit, but mostly against lefties. Their pitching is unimpressive, but they catch the ball better than anyone. It’s a weird team at all sorts of extremes – they’ve lost more one-run games than any other team this season. I think they’re better than their record shows, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they catch fire sometime soon. But that’s just me — like the Human Torch, I’m rarely surprised when things around me catch fire.

And those were some things to know about the Cinncinati Reds.

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