The Cincinnati Reds have shown dramatic improvement in 2010 and they have shown it quicker than most expected. When the Reds changed ownership it was clear that the goal of the entire organization was to not just win but excell. Walt Jocketty was given the general manager job and has been making moves to infuse the team with proven professional players. Last season’s aquisition of third baseman Scott Rolen was a move that a lot of fans in Cincinnati questioned because of age, but what it turned out to be was one of many solid improvements. Rolen has been to the playoffs and been on winning teams. The same can be said of catcher Ramon Hernadez and shortstop Orlando Cabrerra. The Reds did have solid veterans in the field in second baseman Brandon Phillips and left fielder Johnny Gomes, but the rest of the team was unfinished and uncertain before this season began.
An infusion of young players with a core of veterans is always a formula for success in my opinion. Baseball is certainly a game where pure talent is highly valued and experience is always underwhelming to most fans. The fans in Cincinnati have seen a lot of young players come and go in the last ten years because, for the most part, the team has been out of the pennant race in the second half of those seasons. Players would come up from the minors to get a look in the pros and a lot of them didn’t seem to stick around with the exception of Jay Bruce. Solid infield defense is a huge part of the winning formula in baseball. With the signing of free agent Orlando Carbrerra and addition of Roman Hernandez, the team is now solid in the infield. Brandon Phillips has given his best to the Reds for a handful of seasons and Joey Votto is a solid defender at first base.
Young players like center fielder Drew Stubbs just needed to do enough to fill the gaps. So far the youth on the team has done just that. Stubbs may have a mediocre batting average hovering around .250 for most of the season, but his speed in the outfield plugs up another hole for the defense. Pitching is the other spot where young players have boosted the Reds’ performance. Rookie pitcher Mike Leake provided a lot of solid innings in the first half of the season while veterans Volquez and Harang were out with substantial injuries. The most reliable pitcher this season, however, has been Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo has posted his third consecutive season of atleast 15 wins and that is something extremely valuable. He may not have the most impressive arm in the majors, but he presents hitters with a wide range of pitches and arm angles that gives him a great advantage and allows him to rack up a lot of innings.
The NL Central may be a weak division in 2010 but credit still has to be given to the Cincinnati team, coaches, general manager and ownership. Nine consecutive losing seasons is a long drought in professional sports and it has caused the Reds’ fan base to stop turning up at the games. The city of Cincinnati is starving for a winning professional team and the Reds have given them that in 2010 with a mix of young talent, timely hitting, and veteran experience. Having league MVP candidate Joey Votto hitting third in their line-up isn’t a bad thing either. Whether this team can make a splash in the playoffs is yet to be seen, but you can’t win it all without getting to the post-season, so the Reds have done everything they need to to give themselves a chance for a World Series birth in 2010.