A year ago on this date, the Cincinnati Reds’ record stood at 42-34 and the team was in San Francisco playing the Giants. In the top of the fifth inning, with a 3-0 lead, Jay Bruce singled on a sharp line drive into right field off of Matt Cain.

And Joey Votto slid awkwardly into third base.

Every member of Redleg Nation knows what followed that infamous slide. The torn meniscus in his left knee led to Votto hobbling around the field for a couple of weeks, including a questionable appearance in the All-Star Game; disastrous medical management, and not one but two surgeries. Plus Joey Votto didn’t hit another home run in 2012.

Yet, despite all that, the team rallied to win the NL Central.

As we struggle to keep the faith during the current … um, slide … it’s worth remembering that no adversity the team faces right now remotely compares to the club’s loss, last season, of its MVP first baseman. And that surprising heroes, like the 2012 versions of Super Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick can appear.

As much fan as it would be, the Reds don’t have to be the best team in Major League Baseball on June 29. It’s October that matters.

One way or another, by October the Cincinnati Reds will have become a wholly different team than the one that stands 45-35 today. Maybe they’ll be worse, overcome by the injures and hindered by the headwinds of complacent management.

Or maybe they’ll be healthy, with Johnny Cueto, Sean Marshall and Big Brox on the mound. Ryan Ludwick might be back batting fourth and launching homers into the second deck of GABP. Walt Jocketty might have pulled off one of those trade-deadline moves that he has throughout his career. And Joey Votto, with two healthy knees, could be swinging the MVP bat we know he has.

Whether the Reds can consistently beat the first and second-place teams in the other divisions right now really doesn’t matter. The Reds don’t have to be the best team in MLB now. They have to be the best team in October.

Right now, they just have to find a way to win the NL Central.

34 Responses

  1. RedForever

    Right now, they just have to find a way to win the NL Central.
    Right now, they have to find a way to score a run. Baby steps.

    What was the last big trade-deadline move that Walt Jocketty made for the Reds? I can’t think of one. They got Broxton last year but I’d consider that a small move.

    • Jason Linden

      @RedForever: Hasn’t been a need for a big trade. Even now, LF is the only obvious hole.

      Deadline deals are overrated. There’s only so much difference a player can make in 2 months.

      • RedForever

        @Jason Linden: Agreed. The right player can make an impact but not always. The Pirates went all in 2 years ago, picking up Ludwick, among others, and still tanked. i think the earlier they can acquire someone, the better.

      • steveschoen

        @Jason Linden: Several obvious holes. LF, 3rd, SS, pen. I just don’t see a trade for LF until Ludwick gets back. Maybe one of the others, but not LF.

      • Jason Linden

        @steveschoen: 3rd and short aren’t holes. Frazier is an average hitter and has been excellent on defense. Cozart isn’t a good hitter, but he’s good enough for short.

        Caozart is on track to be a 2 WAR player. Frazier is aiming at 4.5. You aren’t going to get anyone better than them for a reasonable price. They’re fine.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @Jason Linden: Thank you, I have been having to say that every day it seems. Todd Frazier is a top-5 NL 3rd baseman offensively, and a top-3 defensively. He also is doing this at a whopping $528k. You simply won’t get a better player, let alone at that price.

      • Hank Aarons Teammate

        @ToddAlmighty: Can we please stop with this line? It’s just not true.

        I’ve no problem with Frazier and wouldn’t look to upgrade or anything. But he’s not a top-5 NL 3B offensively. He’s behind:


        So he’s 6th out of 9 qualifying 3B. Then there are 3B who have been injured: Freese, Ramirez. They are hitting better than Frazier.

        Then there are 3B who just don’t have enough ABs to qualify, such as Chris Johnson and Luis Valbuena. For these guys I’m not sure if they have mostly hit against opposite handed pitchers, so there’s that. But still, there are at least 7 3B who are hitting better than Frazier, and possibly 2 more. It all leads to Frazier being an *average* hitting 3B in the NL. That’s fine, but that’s what it is. He is not above average, to date.

      • ToddAlmighty

        @steveschoen: You’re basing everything off of batting average. It doesn’t mention how among NL 3B, Frazier is 6th in runs scored, 5th in doubles, 7th in hits, 6th in triples, 3rd in home runs, 4th in RBI, 2nd in walks, 3rd in stolen bases… then if you count only qualifiers, he’s 4th in OBP, 6th in SLG, 5th in OPS… and yes, qualifiers matter. Frazier goes out there and plays against every pitcher despite which hand they throw with. Without looking at qualifiers, you could end up with someone like Derrick Robinson who gets .277/.360/.347 because he’s going up against good matchups only.

        Then you look at his glove. Sure he’s 4th in fielding percentage. But you also have to look at the fact that the guys ahead of him all have played less innings. I hardly feel like a .980 in 330 innings is better than a .976 in 630 innings. Fact is, Frazier is playing great defense, and he’s doing it nearly every day. The only NL 3B who has more innings defensively than Frazier? David Wright. It’s easy to keep your mind defensively in the game when you get frequent days off and only play 60/80 games or so. Todd Frazier has grinded through 73/80 and still has managed to keep at a high level of defensive play.

        So yes, if you base a player’s value solely on their batting average, then yes. Todd Frazier isn’t good. If you actually accept all of their stats combined as a whole picture (which is what they’re there for), then he’s slightly above average offensively, and great defensively, and I will take that every single time from every player for $500k.

      • Hank Aarons Teammate

        @ToddAlmighty: I’m not basing anything off BA. You are ignoring home park, which puts Sandoval ahead of Frazier by a lot, and you are ignoring guys who don’t qualify because of injury, who are better than him. He is an average 3B offensively in the NL, as he’s either 8th, 9th, or 10th, depending on how you weight guys who don’t qualify and weren’t hurt (and so it can be argued are platoon players). I don’t see how this can be disputed, based on the numbers.

      • steveschoen

        @ToddAlmighty: Even though I didn’t base it all on BA, alright, Todd. Frazier’s OBP 9th out of 15 3rd basemen in the league, SLG 10th out of 15 RC27 11 out of 15, walks per K 9th best out of 15. The stats you include don’t consider that there are also a couple who simply have been injured who Frazier would of course have more hits (thus doubles, HR, RBI’s, etc.).

      • ToddAlmighty

        @steveschoen: I feel like staying healthy is a respectable skill all in it’s own. There’s serious value to a player staying healthy, so no, I don’t consider people who got hurt. If Frazier got hurt, Jack Hannahan would be an everyday starter for the Reds. Imagine that.

        That’s why Bronson Arroyo is so good. Not just because he puts up solid #3 numbers, but because he ALWAYS does it. Who’s better? A third baseman who puts up a .800 OPS but is hurt for a third of the season, or a third baseman who puts up a .730 OPS and plays almost every game? The thing you’re not taking into account.

        If you want to compare Frazier’s numbers against a guy who’s been hurt, then you need to take the guy who’s been hurt, and combine his numbers with the guy who replaced him. Then compare it against Frazier. Otherwise a guy might come in for 82 games of the year and get a .900 OPS. Then his replacement comes in and Jack Hannahan’s a ~.500 OPS for the other 82 games. Now who is better? The guy who puts up .900 OPS for 82 games, or the guy who puts up a .750 OPS for 150 games?

        Suddenly it becomes a more interesting question.

      • steveschoen

        @ToddAlmighty: A lot of difference between being healthy and being healthy “and” effective.

      • steveschoen

        @Jason Linden: Per all the batters that qualify, per baseball-reference.com, Frazier is 61 out of 72 batters. Per all the players in the league, qualify or not, baseball-reference.com has the average as 251, Frazier is at 238. In either respect, Frazier is below average. Per all 3rd baseman in the NL, for 150 PA, Frazier is 14 out of 15. All show Frazier not being an average hitter, position-wise or not. Frazier is 4th in the league at his position in fielding, however, out of 13, which would help his WAR. But, his WAR is also the same as BP’s. I don’t think anyone would say Frazier is just as good as player as BP is.

        Cozart is closer to being average, per the top 72 that qualify on baseball-reference.com, Cozart is 51 at 247 (remember, 251 average), and per 150 PA, Cozart is 8th out of 15 SS in the league. Fielding, Cozart is 7th in the league out of 13 at his position. If you consider WAR, his WAR is still 11th out of 15 players at his position and tied for 142 out of 160 players in the league.

        Also, one must remember, being “average” doesn’t get a team to the playoffs. As in, one of the things that got us to the playoffs last season was Frazier being better than an “average” hitter. One of the things that got Cozart up to this level was being than an average hitter for a couple of months at AAA.

        Now, if one takes into consideration their price, they are doing fine. But, it’s obvious, compared to the rest of the league, they are in fact right about average.

      • yoobee

        @Jason Linden: I don’t think anybody is projecting him to reach 4.5. Fangraphs currently has him on pace for 3.2 fWAR using both Steamer and ZiPS, so I think that is probably where he will end up. Also, Fangraphs does a MUCH better job of valuing defense. Still, I agree that 3 WAR is pretty good for a player making $500k.

        On the other hand, as others have already noted, Frazier an average third baseman. His wRC+ is currently at 103, and he is projecting at 97 by the end of the year. In other words, he is about as close to average as you can get. That doesn’t mean that the Reds should try to upgrade there, as long as they can get better than average production at the other positions.

      • steveschoen

        @yoobee: Agreed. All teams have average somewhere. Where are our positions we could use improvement the most? LF, 3rd, SS, and pen.

  2. steveschoen

    From what I remember of last year, all of our feelings were very similar as to what they are now, “Oh, my God, hell hath frozen over”. But, those Reds did pull out of it. The thing is, last year’s pitching was much better than this year’s pitching. Last year, we had Super Todd and a rejuvenated Ludwick. This year, we have more regular Todd and an injured Ludwick. Last year, though, at around this time, the Reds stepped up. If they are going to, they need to do it soon if not now.

  3. ToddAlmighty

    There’s no Ludwick-of-last-year, this year. The candidates are Hannahan and Izturis (who remind me more of Valdez/Cairo than Ludwick).

    There’s no Frazier-of-last-year, this year. The candidate is Robinson, who is only okay-ish (93 OPS+) while in a platoon role. Even then he has zero power.

  4. RedForever

    Hard to believe the Reds have 3 players with 0 HRs through half the season. Izturis, Hannahan and Robinson are all powerless. hard for me to believe that the Reds gave Hannahan a 2 year contract.

  5. ToledoRedsFan

    Re: the trade deadline, I only hope they trade for a bat (*cough* Stanton *cough*) and not bullpen help. To trade for another bullpen arm I think would be a panic response–this pen is good, when healthy, and it hasn’t been healthy all year, really.

  6. JerBear

    Choo has really dropped off recently. It’s a long season and with him getting use to NL pitching I wonder what the rest of his season will look like.

    It looks like it’s going to be a lost year for Cueto the way things are going. Maybe they should shop for a bigtime starting pitcher?

    Things aren’t heading their way like last year. The Reds offense is ok overall, but it seems like it’s filled with too many similar type of hitters. Cozart and Frazier are decent young players I think. But when you add a struggling Hannigan/Mesoraco, hot or cold Bruce, low OBP guy in Phillips, and the left field situation…you have a inconsistent offense!

    Man it’d be nice to have some consistent hitters come up from the minors in the future that don’t strike out a lot. I read somewhere that organization realizes this and looking into drafting different types of hitters.

    So far the team doesn’t look as good as last year. But they are still 4.5 games up in the wildcard race. So I kind of agree at the end of the day with this thread. How will they be playing in September? My biggest concern would be their getting whooped by the better teams. That is disconcerting.

  7. Hank Aarons Teammate

    It’s interesting how when Choo and Phillips are both playing way above their typical performance (which they were through 1.5 months), and then both regress (as expected), then the meme is that we’re done with Choo, but Phillips is hurt.

  8. laus Deo

    Steve, I agree 100%!

    We have a 100% chance to win today!

    Another great baseball day! laus Deo

  9. ToledoRedsFan

    If we’re gonna think outside the box, what are the arguments for and against calling Billy up early?

  10. ToledoRedsFan

    If we’re gonna think outside the box, what are the arguments for and against calling Billy up early?

    • ToddAlmighty

      @ToledoRedsFan: For: He literally couldn’t make the team any worse.

      Against: Do we really want to expose his development to Dusty Baker/Brook Jacoby?

      • ToledoRedsFan

        @ToddAlmighty: Haha, fair enough.

        I guess my thinking was that this team lacks speed, outside of Robinson, that is, and in an environment where the bats aren’t hot, manufacturing runs often requires speed.

  11. RedForever

    Mark Shledon reporting that they still don’t know anything regarding Cueto (do the Reds have a competent medical staff?) and if Cueto goes on the DL, the Reds will recall … wait for it … Logan Ondrusek! Ondrusek is a complete failure. Why would you recall him?

    Call me officially depressed. 🙁

    I don’t know what the Reds odds are tonight but they have been utterly futile against pitchers they have never seen. I’m not expecting too much. I’d be happy if they just don’t get shut out.

  12. kywhi

    Some good observations by Steve Mancuso. As painful as this current slide has been to watch, if it had to occur it couldn’t have come at a better time if the battle for the Central Division ends up being between the Reds and Cardinals, as many believe will be the case. While it can also be looked at as a terrible case of missed opportunity, I don’t believe very many of us would have believed St. Louis would lose six of their last 10 at the same time the Reds were managing to only win only three of 10. So if we’re looking for a positive, there’s this gift we’ve been given by the Cardinals. I still look for Cincinnati to have a big second half, beginning with (as Mr. Mancuso says) Joey Votto “swinging the MVP bat we know he has.”

  13. NastyBoys3

    I’m TIRED of people comparing this year’s team to last year’s. The Cardinals and Pirates are A LOT better, and even though the Pirates pen is overused, I don’t think they’ll slow down this time. This year’s Reds team has to step it up, because I don’t see any major moves coming the the Cards or Pirates won’t make too.

  14. vegastypo

    I’m nobody’s optimist, but c’mon, it’s still June. Kinda sad if people are genuinely throwing in the towel already.

  15. preach

    I’m not ready to throw in the towel, but I don’t find it very comforting that this time a year ago as well as today we are dealing with a possibly mishandled medical situation with one of our star players. I would have felt much more encouraged reading this post without being reminded of that fact. Kinda melts some confidence.