Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are the Reds in trouble without Votto?

It's amazing how quick fortunes can turn whether it be for the better or for the worse. In the case of the Reds, things took a turn for the worse on Monday as it was announced that their premier player was to be sidelined 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. The player I'm referring to is none other than 2010 National League MVP, 3-time All-Star, and the front runner for this year's NL MVP Award, Joey Votto.

A wide-spread panic has swept over Reds Nation since the news broke of Votto's injury -- this coming less than 24 hours after the fan base was celebrating a sweep of archrival St. Louis to stretch their season-high winning streak to six. But now the Redlegs are left with the harsh reality with how to cope with Votto's absence. While they certainly won't be able to fully reconcile for his lost production, I for one believe that they'll alright. Here's why.

The Reds play 24 of their next 27 games against teams currently with losing records, including 17 straight. The only time they do play someone with a winning record during that stretch is August 3-5 when they play host to the Pirates at GABP. Furthermore, 19 out of their 25 games after that are also against teams with sub-.500 marks. In fact, Cincinnati's second-half schedule is so soft that it ranks as the easiest among all NL clubs -- making it very conducive to absorb a major injury such as Votto's. If there was ever an ideal point in the season for the club to be without Votto, it would be now.

Building upon that last point, it's also key to know why each of those teams the Redlegs will be playing against have indeed been so bad -- for the most part it's been their pitching. The Reds are slated to play the Brewers, the Cubs, the Astros, and the Rockies for a combined total of 16 times over the next three weeks. Not surpisingly, those four comprise the worst four pitching staffs in the entire league as they rank 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th, respectively, in team ERA. This may prove to be a great time to get guys like Drew Stubbs and Chris Heisey back in the swing of things (no pun intended), offensively. Again, if the Reds had to do without their best hitter for any one stretch of 2012, the time would be now.

Cincy will also be relying more than ever now on the great pitching they have received in 2012. They currently rank first in all of MLB in bullpen ERA (2.63) and third in the NL in team ERA (3.35). Aside from the injuries sustained to Ryan Madson, Bill Bray and Nick Masset prior to the year, the Reds pitching staff has been blessed with sustained health. Their starting rotation has remained fully intact and their bullpen has been nothing short than lights out, especially Aroldis Chapman at the backend.

The defense should hold up just fine too despite losing their Gold Glove first basemen. Entering Tuesday, Reds defenders boasted the best fielding percentage in the league (.986) while having committed the fewest errors (45) as well. The likes of Scott Rolen at third, Stubbs and Bruce patrolling the outfield, and the always-steady Phillips at second should continue to make Cincinnati one of the best fielding teams in the NL.

I'm not saying Cincy won't struggle a bit by not having Votto for the next 3-4 weeks, but what I am saying is they will at least stay in the thick of things while he's gone. And once the Reds' $225MM investment does return to the lineup in mid-August, they'll have a hungry and (hopefully) fully-charged player to assist in their pursuit of a playoff berth for the last two months of the season.

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