Reds must find offense in 2nd half

Published 3:17 am Monday, July 13, 2009

The Cincinnati Reds are still alive, and they’re not even hooked up on any life support system. They are actually breathing on their own.

As Major League Baseball reaches its halfway point, the Reds are still alive in the National League Central Division. It doesn’t matter if it’s because none of the other teams can pull away or if they’re all just mediocre. The fact remains, heading toward the dog days of summer the Reds just 42-45 but only five games behind division-leading St. Louis.

While the Reds were built on the concept of pitching, speed and defense, it’s mostly the pitching that has enabled them to stay in the hunt. And the pitching will have to continue to carry the team in order to make the postseason playoffs.

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But even with starting pitching and the flashes of defense the Reds’ have shown, the offense must contribute.

Teams making the playoffs usually score around 750 runs a season. The Reds are at 356 which means they have to pick up the pace by 50 runs in the second half, or at least play Mr. Rogers and be in the neighborhood and hope the pitching continues.

Joey Votto was sorely missed when he was on the disabled list for stress problems. His absence caused Reds’ fans a lot of stress of their own. Despite playing in only 57 of their 87 games, Votto leads the team with a .351 average to go with 11 home runs and 42 runs batted in.

The problem with the rest of the offense is the lack of discipline at the plate. Jay Bruce is a prime example of not knowing his strike zone and swinging from his heels — he has 63 strikeouts. He leads the team with 18 home runs, but he’s batting a meager .207 and has one less RBI than Votto even though he’s played in 26 more games.

Bruce will be out of the lineup until his broken wrist heals, but his absence won’t be as visible offensively compared to the loss of Votto.

Brandon Phillips has been steady, but Willie Taveras has been disappointing. He’s batted .245 and more stolen bases (17) than walks (16). Those are not good for a leadoff batter which is why he’s now in the No. 2 slot.

The only other .300 hitter on the team is backup catcher Ryan Hanigan who is hitting .338.

Trading away Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn led to an expected decrease in home run production, but the decline might be more than expected. Pitcher Micah Owings has three home runs in 45 at bats which is more than Taveras, Chris Dickerson, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion, Hanigan and Adam Rosales who have between 94 to 286 trips to the plate.

As you can see, the pitching must remain the key and it has had problems of its own.

The Reds must have Edison Volquez in the rotation. Aaron Harang has to return to his dominating form he exhibited two years ago. Johnny Cueto as been the most consistent starter and Bronson Arroyo the most inconsistent. Even Owings as the No. 5 starter has out-pitched Arroyo.

The ace in the hole might be Homer Bailey who seems to have found the right mental approach toward pitching in the big leagues. He has always had the physical tools, he just needed to work things out between the ears.

The bullpen is arguably the best in the league and it will have to remain that way considering the offense and uncertainty with the starters.

And even though it seems the problems are abundant, the Reds remain alive. And after eight straight losing seasons, that’s a breath of fresh air.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.