Cincinnati Reds v Colorado Rockies

Springtime Storylines: Can the Reds do it again?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2011 season. Next up: Your Cincinnati Redlegs.

The Big Question: Can the Reds pull off back-to-back division titles?

Holding the top spot in the division for a total of 115 days last year, the Reds basically ran away with the National League Central crown — their first since 1995. The perennially relevant Cardinals hung around until early September and finished only five games back in the final standings, but Cincinnati did not let up down the stretch and turned in the organization’s first 90-plus win season since 1999, when a young Mike Cameron led an explosive offense to a second-place finish under manager Jack McKeon.

Cameron was traded to the Mariners after that stellar ’99 campaign for Ken Griffey Jr., who brought his hometown team an 85-77 record in 2000 before things turned really ugly in the Queen City. With Junior beginning a long battle against the injury bug, the 2001 Redlegs finished near the bottom of the Central with a putrid 66-96 record and did not top 80 wins for the next eight seasons.

Which brings us back to present day. How will sudden success greet this edition of the Cincinnati Reds and will the good times last longer than they did at the turn of the century?

The offense is there. It’s youthful and powerful, and the Reds are going to field a lineup this season that will rival any batting order in the National League Central division. First baseman Joey Votto beat out Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols for MVP honors in 2010 with a .324/.424/.600 batting line, 37 home runs and 116 RBI. He even stole 16 bases. Right fielder Jay Bruce was also explosive, registering a cool .846 OPS and 25 home runs. From top to bottom — with the only exceptions being shortstop and (maybe) catcher — the Reds are primed to put runs on the board with ease again this season.

But every great team needs pitching, and the rotation in Cincinnati is far from intimidating. Edinson Volquez is still regaining his arm strength from August 2009 Tommy John surgery, Johnny Cueto battles inconsistency on a near-nightly basis, Homer Bailey hasn’t proven capable of remaining effective for an entire big league season and Bronson Arroyo is sliding quickly into his mid-30s.

Every National League Central team has gaping holes, but Cincinnati’s can be found in the starting rotation and that’s a frightening situation for a club that calls Great American Ballpark home.

So what else is going on?

  • Where are the fans? Great American Ballpark drew just over two million people last year and the daily average attendance was only 25,438. The 101-loss Mariners drew better, as did the Astros, Tigers, Brewers, Mets and Padres. For a town that once hosted Opening Day annually and produced raucous crowds during the Big Red Machine era, last year’s showing was a disappointment. The stadium is new and the team is good. It’s time for the Skyline-devouring residents of southwestern Ohio to do their part.
  • The maturation of dynamic outfielder Drew Stubbs has begun. The eighth overall pick in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft, he slugged 22 home runs and stole 30 bases in 150 games last season for the Reds. If Stubbs can limit his strikeouts and show a little more patience at the plate, he could develop into a reliable long-term leadoff hitter. His on-base percentage in four minor league seasons was a healthy .364.
  • Rookie starters Travis Wood and Mike Leake deserve real credit for helping the Reds to their division crown last season, but what can we expect in 2011 out of the rising sophomores? They are both going to draw starts for the first couple weeks of April until Cueto recovers from shoulder inflammation. With Wood, it’s about continuing the momentum that he built up over the final few months of 2010. With Leake, it’s about proving that his hot start before the All-Star break was not a fluke.
  • The Reds handed Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman a six-year, $30.25 million major league contract last winter in the hope that he might quickly became an ace of their starting rotation. He was fine last season in a setup role and will probably post dominant numbers again in 2011 as an eighth inning reliever behind closer Francisco Cordero, but it’s nothing short of a letdown that he is not yet making starts. Having a quality setup man is nice, but the Reds need rotation help and they’re clearly not confident yet that Chapman can provide it. A good starter is always more valuable than a good reliever.

So how are they gonna do?

Winning the National League Central isn’t going to be nearly as easy it was last season. The Brewers’ rotation is suddenly formidable, the Cubs made two smart offseason additions in Carlos Pena and Matt Garza, and the Cardinals have no plans of folding. But the Reds have a lineup that carries major upside and they’re going to be in the hunt all summer. If everything goes right, they can get to 90 wins for a second straight year. And that should net them either a consecutive division title or the National League wild card.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

DENVER, CO - JULY 20:  Starting pitcher Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays delivers to home plate during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Chris Archer will take the mound for the Rays on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, opposing Dodgers right-hander Bud Norris in a 10:10 PM EDT start. It’s convenient that what could be Archer’s final start could be right in front of the team with which he eventually lands.

A rival executive told ESPN’s Jayson Stark last week that he believes there’s a “70 percent” chance Archer winds up with the Dodgers. It makes sense, as Archer is arguably the best pitcher — current won-lost record and ERA aside — available heading into the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The Dodgers need an impact pitcher if the club is to keep pace in the NL West and the NL Wild Card races. Entering Tuesday’s action, the Dodgers are 56-44, 2.5 games behind the first-place Giants and holding the first of two Wild Card slots.

The Dodgers, notably, are without Clayton Kershaw, who is dealing with mild disk herniation in his lower back and may require surgery. Hyun-Jin Ryu landed on the disabled list earlier this month after making his only start of the season. Alex Wood underwent an elbow procedure recently and may rejoin the team in mid- to late-September.

Archer is 5-13, with the 13 losses leading all major league starters. He also has an uninspiring 4.60 ERA, but his total of 147 strikeouts is best in the American League. ERA retrodictors like FIP, xFIP, and SIERA believe Archer is anywhere from much better to significantly better than his ERA indicates.

Not that the Dodgers are pinching pennies, but Archer is also relatively affordable through as late as 2021. He’s earning $2.75 million this season, $4.75 in 2017, 6.25 million in ’18, and $7.5 million in ’19. He also has a $9 million club option for 2020 with a $1.75 million buyout and an $11 million club option for ’21 with a $250,000 buyout.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez) @ New York Mets (Noah Syndergaard), 4:05 PM EDT [Game One]

St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia) @ New York Mets (Bartolo Colon), TBD [Game Two]

Colorado Rockies (Chad Bettis) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Felix Hernandez) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano), 7:05 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Kyle Hendricks) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Mike Pelfrey) @ Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jerad Eickhoff) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez) @ Cleveland Indians (Danny Salazar), 7:10 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray) @ Texas Rangers (Nick Martinez), 8:05 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Lucas Harrell) @ Minnesota Twins (Ervin Santana), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs) @ Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee), 8:15 PM EDT

Cincinnati Reds (Cody Reed) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

Cardinals place Trevor Rosenthal on the disabled list

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Closer Trevor Rosenthal #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Texas Rangers in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have placed reliever Trevor Rosenthal on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports. The club recalled Dean Kiekhefer from Triple-A Memphis.

Thus continues a terrible 2016 for Rosenthal, who lost his grip on the closer’s role last month. The right-hander has recorded the save in 14 of 18 chances with a 5.13 ERA and a 48/27 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings. Seung-hwan Oh has handled save situations  for the Cardinals in July.

As the Cardinals are playing a doubleheader against the Mets on Tuesday, the club also recalled Sam Tuivailala to serve as the 26th man on the roster.