Saturday, October 6, 2012

Five reasons the Reds will win the World Series

The road to the World Series starts tonight for the Reds as they take on the Giants in San Francisco in game one of the National League Division Series. The game starts at 9:37pm EST and features both teams' aces matching up against each other on the mound in Johnny Cueto and Matt Cain. Obviously the Reds will have to get past the Giants in order to win the World Series, but nonetheless I am here to offer you five reasons why Cincinnati will claim their first World Series title since 1990.

1. Cuatos
I've been wanting to use this term all season to refer to the 1-2 punch (or should I say 1-3) punch of Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, which is a formidable one. Cueto was 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA further cementing his place as the ace of the Reds rotation. Once considered the favorite, he'll surely garner some Cy Young attention, though he's likely not to win anymore. Despite a few rough outings late, he was as dependable as you could hope for a pitcher to be. He's good at home, on the road, during the day, and at night, so Reds fans should feel comfortable anytime Cueto is given the baseball.

Latos brought high hopes with him from San Diego. Fans felt he would be the perfect power pitcher to complement Cueto as a number two guy. Then the season started and some, but not all fans were ready to get a refund. His 4.19 ERA before the All-Star break left something to be desired, though he did go 7-2. After the break, Latos transformed into a beast. He matched his 7-2 first-half record, but posted a much better 2.84 ERA, holding opponents to a .219 batting average. It's safe to say Reds fans should feel very good when Latos takes the mound this postseason as well.

P.S. Reds starters were 5th in MLB in ERA and 2nd in innings pitched. Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey aren't aces, but it's not too shabby to have a guy who almost threw a no-hitter this year and a guy who did throw one this year to march out there the other two days. Both guys are vastly improved from last year and pitched quite well in the second half of this season also.

2. The 'pen is mightier than the sword
Cincinnati had the best bullpen in all of baseball, leading it in ERA (2.65) and saves (56). Sure those aren't the best stats to go by, but they look good and there's no question the Reds bullpen is awesome. They can shorten a game better than any team's relievers can. If Reds starters can go seven innings, it's all but over with Jonathan Broxton working the 8th and Aroldis Chapman working the 9th. If they go six, well there's a whole cast of relievers who can easily get the ball to Broxton and Chapman. The only caveat in the equation is that the Reds have to get the lead. You can't win without scoring more runs than the other team, but it won't take a ton of them with the quality of pitching the Reds have, especially at the back end of ballgames.

3. Domo arigato Mr. Joe Votto
The guy is the best pure hitter on the planet, with apologies to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Votto gets on base nearly half the times he comes to the plate, making him the most dangerous force to be reckoned with in the Reds lineup. He was sidelined for over a month with a knee injury, but when he came back things weren't much different except for his power numbers. Some say the knee is still bothering him, but Votto wouldn't have come back when he did if he wasn't healthy. He made that perfectly clear while he was rehabbing. Perhaps he's waiting for October to showcase the return of his home run swing? Only one thing is for certain: Votto will get on base (likely second base), so if the guys in front of him can be on when he does then many runs will be chased home. If a few of the guys behind him do too, then Votto will score many runs of his own and with the above-mentioned pitching, that's a formula for success.

4. The BROTHER-hood
You heard about it several times, especially while the Reds were winning games while Votto was on the DL. This team has an amazing chemistry starting with player-friendly manager Dusty Baker and radiating throughout the entire roster of good guys. A lot of the brotherhood could be attributed to newcomer Ryan Ludwick and his infectious positivity, from coining the "BROTHER" catchphrase, to sending out encouraging messages to his ailing nephew Cody, to suggesting the "cup idea" as a goal to shoot for while winning games. You can go here to read more about the "cup" motivation. These guys like each other and feed off each other's energy. Not only are they good guys though, they are good at baseball. Anyone can tell you, the more fun you have, the better you'll play and the better you play the more fun you'll have. These guys have embodied that spirit like no other in 2012.

5. These aren't your Cinderella, feel-good story, cliche Reds
Don't get me wrong. All the wins certainly made me feel good, but these are the 2012, win 97 games up in here Reds who are all in to win the championship. In fact, even that all-in story-line is defunct now that the Reds have locked up Votto and Brandon Phillips long term. These Reds were THAT close to having the best record in all of baseball. These Reds have been there before. The 2010 Reds were sort of a surprise and were the first team to go to the postseason in 15 years and that was an awesome thing for such a proud baseball franchise. Then they got swept right back out of it. Last year the team disappointed. This year the team was supposed to be here. Everyone knew this team should have been good. They did too and they proved it.

This year the playoffs have Oakland who shouldn't have been here, but not only did they make it, they overcame a 13-game deficit to topple the mighty Rangers and win the AL West. There's the Orioles who came out of nowhere behind Buck Showalter to battle the Yankees up till the end in the AL East to get in before also toppling the mighty Rangers in the AL Wild Card round last night. Don't forget about the Nationals who weren't supposed to be good till next year and then had to shut down Stephen Strasburg. Heck, even the Cardinals have a decent story-line since they lost Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa.

This year the Reds are there and are supposed to be. In fact, they are even tied with two other teams as the odds-on favorites. It's clear that just being there is not satisfactory. The goal is to win the World Series and by utilizing their strengths they will do just that.

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