The Cincinnati Reds are in dangerous territory as we head into the All-Star Break. Not only are they 4.5 games back of the division but they have lost six out of their last ten. The offense is struggling as they have scored two runs or less in four out of the last six games. People have speculated about Zack Cozart being put into the seventh spot in the order instead of the second and moving Joey Votto to the two hole. I agree with getting Cozart out of the two hole but I don’t agree with Joey Votto moving up. Yes, Votto draws plenty of walks and gets on base the best in the National League but the only person producing besides Votto is Brandon Phillips on most nights. If it isn’t Phillips, Votto, or Shin-Soo Choo producing this team doesn’t score. Something has to be done and here is what I think needs to happen.
Todd Frazier after a shocking season in 2012 hasn’t been the same in 2013. Batting him in the sixth spot isn’t giving him any justice either. He is only hitting .238 with 10 Home Runs and a lousy 42 RBI. I know you can’t expect great numbers every year out of a guy like Frazier but he has to do more than what he is doing. I think Frazier should move to the two hole to replace Cozart and maybe he will see more fastballs. No pitcher wants to put guys on in front of Joey Votto so they will go after him more. He has to do a better job of being more patient at the plate and taking better swings than he has been.
Losing Ryan Ludwick on Opening Day to a hurt shoulder really put Dusty Baker in a bind. He had three choices to replace Ludwick. Xavier Paul, Chris Heisey and now Derrick Robinson. Those three aren’t your middle of the order type of guys that can replace Ludwick’s production from last season. Xavier Paul is a lot better when he comes off the bench in the late innings and Chris Heisey has been hurt as well for most of the season so it falls into the lap of rookie Derrick Robinson. Robinson for the most part has been solid but he isn’t going to hit you 30 Home Runs. He could be another guy you put in the two hole which Dusty has done at times. The fact of the matter is losing your second biggest bat from last season on Opening Day had trouble written all over it and that’s the way it has been in the first half for the Redlegs.
Next is starting pitching. The starting pitching has been solid but when it becomes September and into October how do we know that Johnny Cueto will be healthy? He has been sidelined much of the 2013 campaign and it has seemed to really hurt the Reds at times. Mat Latos has stepped up tremendously having an 8-3 record along with a 3.53 ERA. He has been the bright spot most of the year besides the Homer Bailey no-hitter. Now to Bailey, he is either hit or miss. One day he can go out on the rubber and be lights out and other days he is giving up six or seven runs. There is no in between with him and it is really hurt the Reds bullpen. The surprise has been Mike Leake. In his fourth season out of Arizona State he has had a tremendous first half. He has done everything you want out of a fifth starter for Baker and the Reds. Being more consistent is going to be the key for the starting rotation the rest of the year as they try to climb out of a hole in the National League Central.
Other than the starting pitching the bullpen has been shaky at times as well. Losing Sean Marshall for an extended period of time has really hurt and having to pitch J.J Hoover and Manny Parra in pressure situations doesn’t help either. Aroldis Chapman hasn’t been needed as much and when he is needed he has trouble throwing strikes. If the Reds want to turn this thing around in the second half the bullpen has to be better and the starters have to do a better job of going deeper into games. It has been better of late not allowing a run in over ten consecutive innings out of the pen.
To wrap it all up the Reds need something drastic to happen to this club if they are going to win the division. If it doesn’t go well the first three series’ after the break I suspect they go for a Wild Card berth. It will be disappointing after the season that they had in 2012 but we all know all it takes is making the playoffs to have a chance at a World Series Championship.