Reds Monthly Review: April
- Updated: May 15, 2011
You can tell there is a different perception of the Reds in Cincinnati when fans seem to be getting impatient and worried after a 14-13 start in April. The Reds had a very easy schedule, facing the Astros, Pirates, Padres and Diamondbacks twice, but were unable to capitalize because of injuries and all around inconsistent play. Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto will be just returned, which should provide a much needed pitching boost, but can the rest of the team play better as well? Last year the Reds were 12-11 after April, and ended up winning the NL Central, so there is no need to panic one month in.
C: Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez have almost split playing time right down the middle with Hanigan getting 50 at bats compared to Hernandez’ 49. The catching tandem has been pretty successful so far this year, but Hanigan has had a weak April with a .220 batting average. During the first three games of the season this duo combined for 9 hits (3 home runs, 7 RBI) including Hernandez’s walk off on Opening Day and Hanigan’s 2 home run game vs Milwaukee, but have since cooled down.
1B: Joey Votto follows up his MVP year with an incredible April, where he had a .504 OBP and reached base in every single game. Votto batted .370 and never had his OPS fall below 1.000 and also had 10 multi-hit games throughout the month. He also lead the team in runs scored (24), walks (23), and total hits (34). Votto performed much better than last year in April; with 5 more walks and 8 less strikeouts as well as 12 more hits and double the runs scored. Joey Votto leads the team or is second in every major hitting category with 5 home runs, 16 RBI, and a .504 OBP. ESPN analysts Buster Olney and Jayson Stark have declared Votto the Player of the Month for April in the National League, over Andre Eithier who has had a hit in nearly every game so far this year. It’s safe to say that if Votto performs anything like this all year he will be in the running for another NL MVP award and the Reds will be in the race for the NL Central crown.
2B: Brandon Phillips has been exceptional this April both offensively and defensively. His batting stats are much higher than his career numbers, which indicates a very hot Brandon Phillips as well as an improved one. At age 29, Brandon Phillips is in his prime, and from the stats one can assume that he has made mature adjustments at the plate this year. He went on a tear in early April where he scored 8 runs in 3 games where he got on base 10 times, and was in first in MLB in runs scored for the first half of April until he got hurt and missed 4 games. After looking at some numbers, it’s fairly obvious where Brandon has improved – his vision. His K to walk ratio is at 1.25, which is easily a career high. In his last two years he finished at a 1.70 and 1.80 K/BB ratio. Now we can look a little deeper to see maybe why that number has gone down. A quick glance at his plate discipline stats shows why Brandon has made improvements, with a 95.6% Zone Contact rate. That basically means of all the strikes that he swings at, he makes contact with 95.6% of them, which has a drastic increase from last year where he was at 88.7%. There are other factors for his improvement, but that stat alone shows that Phillips is putting more balls into play, which equals a better chance of getting more hits.
3B: Third base has been an issue for the Reds in April, where Scott Rolen, Juan Francisco, Miguel Cairo and Paul Janish have all started games. Rolen suffered a shoulder injury and has been out since April 21st, leaving it up to the other four guys to split time. Francisco was the original replacement until he also got hurt, and since then Cairo and Janish have split starts at 3rd. While Rolen was playing, he still had a very weak April with only 2 walks in 60 at bats, while striking out 11 times. This lead to an atrocious .250 OBP for Scott. Hopefully the time off for Rolen brings him back for a strong late-May return.
SS: Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria have been a decent tandem at shortstop, with Janish getting 86 at bats in April versus Renteria’s 51 at bats. Janish had a solid April with a .291 average and 25 hits when he started at shortstop. Renteria has been a sufficient back-up at short batting .255 with a .328 OBP when called upon. Nothing special from either of the guys, but pretty much what reasonable Reds fans expected out of this position.
LF: Jonny Gomes has been getting the bulk of the at bats in left field, with an occasional Chris Heisey appearance, and he had a very wacky April. Gomes sat right on the Mendoza line at the end of April, but had an amazing month in terms of getting on base with a .374 OBP. He also led the team in home runs with 6, while driving in 16 runs. Obviously Gomes’ average could be tolerable if he kept up this walk rate, but looking at his career numbers it’s highly unlikely he continues to walk at this rate. His rates are easily explainable by ridiculous changes in his plate discipline stats. The changes have occurred in his swinging % at balls outside of the zone and inside of the zone. His overall swing % has gone down from 51.7% in 2010 to 33.7%, his swinging at strikes % has gone down from 70.7% to 52.7%, and his swinging at balls % has gone from 37.7% to 19.8%. Notice the 18% difference in swinging at strikes, and 17.9% change in swinging at balls – nearly exact replicas. This tells me Gomes may just be guessing beforehand what pitches to swing at and not swing at, regardless of where they end up. This will be a fun trend to follow for next month’s edition of the review.
CF: Drew Stubbs had a decent April, following his career splits almost identically. He had a .250 average and had 5 home runs on 27 hits and was among the league leaders in runs with 20. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any improvement over the whole season from Stubbs, or if he will stay like this for his whole career.
RF: Jay Bruce had a very weak April, but did show some signs of improvement near the end. He ended up with a .228 and a weak .301 OBP. In the first half of the month he had 6 multi strikeout games, but showed signs of improvement in the second half with only 2 multi strikeout games. 7 of his 10 walks also occurred during this second half of April, which also shows Bruce is starting to see the ball better which may lead to a better May.
The headlines for the Reds’ rotation in April easily were Mike Leake stealing t-shirts from Macy’s and Edinson Volquez giving up at least a run in the first inning of 4 of his 5 starts. Reds’ starters were a combined 9-7 in the month of April, but really had an issue getting to the 7th inning – which only happened 4 times all month. Reds’ fans are hoping the return of Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey in early May provide a much needed boost to the rotation that will most likely demote Sam Lecure and Wood/Leake to the bullpen or AAA. The best starter has easily been Arroyo who is 3-2 and is the only Reds’ starter who has an ERA below 4.00 with a 3.64 ERA. He’s also the only starter to have an outing without giving up an earned run.
The bullpen has had its rough spots, but in general has been very strong despite slow starts from Nick Masset and Jordan Smith. Bill Bray, Francisco Cordero, Aroldis Chapman and Logan Ondrusek all had ERAs under 1.50. I have a little write-up on why I think Masset will turn it around on my blog, check it out here: http://redscheatsheet.blogspot.com/2011/04/off-day-masset-tidbits.html . Jordan Smith may not be a huge asset to this bullpen, especially with his slow start. With all of the depth (Lecure + Leake/Wood, Arredondo in minors, Fisher, etc) at the ML level and minor league level a player may not last very long if they don’t perform. Cordero had a solid April with only giving up 2 runs and not blowing a save in 4 chances, it’s safe to expect a great year from him as he is in a contract year.