There probably is not a more thrilling way to win a Playoff Birth than how Jay Bruce and the Reds did it on Tuesday night. In the bottom of the 9th, knotted up at 2 with the Astros, Bruce launched a bomb to win the game and the National League Central Division in walk-off fashion. Bruce's performance throughout the year has been just one of many that has enabled the Reds to claim their first Playoff spot in 15 years.
2010 MLB Playoff Preview - Cincinnati Reds
Thursday September 30th, 2010
After each team clinches a playoff spot, Baseball Press will break down their strengths and weaknesses as they head into the post-season.
You have to start this discussion with MVP candidate Joey Votto . He has been able to stay healthy all year, missing only a few games at the end of May. His bat and presence in the middle of the line-up has allowed other players the opportunity to step up their game at the plate. Most notably is veteran third basemen Scott Rolen , who has also been able to stay healthy and effective this year reaching the 20 home run mark for the first time since 2006. Other guys, who have been streaky but contributed solidly at the plate and on the bases are Jonny Gomes , Drew Stubbs , the a fore mentioned Jay Bruce and don't forget Brandon Phillips . All have had a hand in making the offense click, or even at times putting it on their backs, throughout the season to win the games necessary to knock off the pre-season favorite St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.
Overall the Reds are an average but solid defensive team. This years two best defenders can be found in center, Stubbs, and right field, Bruce, which like some other teams, allows them to have the offensive minded Jhonny Gomes in left. The infield is solid up the middle with Brandon Phillips and Orlando Cabrera . Phillips, a 2008 Gold Glove winning second basemen, and an aging Cabrera still makes for one of the better double play combos in the National league. Scott Rolen at third base can still pick it like it is 1998 and his arm is as strong as ever. Joey Votto is the weak link but with the exceptional infield defense around him it is not so noticeable. Behind the dish Ryan Hanigan is superior defensively to the aging Ramon Hernandez, but late season struggles at the plate have cut into the once consistent playing time Hanigan was seeing. Look for manager Dusty Baker to insert him into games after Hernandez grabs his final at-bat around the 7th inning.
Cincinnati's bench has been a carousel of players throughout the year but the two main stays that have been in a Red's uniform all year have been Paul Janish and Miguel Cairo . Dusty Baker has been able to count on these guys to fill in anywhere on the infield in just about any situation. They have both even been effective at the plate - Cairo came up with some key hits when filling in for Votto and is carrying a .290 average, Janish has not been as good but a .267 average with 5 home runs out of your back up defensive minded short stop is better than most. Adding Jim Edmonds on August 9th added some needed outfield depth to the Red's bench down the stretch, but unfortunately a DL stint at the end of August and now an Achilles problem has limited his production for the team down the stretch and into the playoffs. Overall this season the bench has been above average when called onto pinch hit, carrying a .249 average while hitting 10 home runs and driving in 34. The subs that they will take with them into October are above average to most others at the plate and on the field.
Some unknown names heading into the 2010 season have been big contributors and made a huge difference this year when on the bump. As our Dan Port says, for a team to have a special season you need guys to step up beyond their expectations. For the Reds staff this year you have to look at rookies Mike Leake and Travis Wood . Even though he is not in the rotation now, protecting his arm from too much of a work load, Mike Leake was phenomenal for the Reds. His final numbers may not reflect it but through July he was 7-2 with a 3.57 ERA, not bad for someone that skipped the minor leagues entirely. Travis Wood has been just as impressive, posting a 3.54 ERA with a 5-4 record through 16 starts. The only two guys that have been consistently in the rotation from opening day have been the innings eater Bronson Arroyo and ace of the staff Johnny Cueto . Both have dodged the injury bug that Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey caught - both now are back and healthy. And you can't forget Edinson Volquez , who now appears to be right again after recovering from Tommy John Surgery at the start of the season. The Reds don't have the shut down type of rotation heading into the playoffs that some other teams have, but they have a tremendous amount of depth. The starters that Dusty leaves out of the rotation come playoff time should head to the bullpen to add strength to that facet of their team.
As just mentioned, heading into the playoff the Reds' bullpen should get stronger with the exile of some starters heading out of the dugout and setting up camp in the pen. Those ousted rotation guys will be joining a fairly effective bullpen that is now lead by the exciting rookie flame thrower Aroldis Chapman . Funny how a bullpen can be lead by the set-up guy, but essentially since being called-up Chapman has been the most effective relief pitcher the Reds have. Closer Francisco Cordero saw another year of falling production, posting a 4.06 ERA with 8 blown saves, 2 of which have come in September. All-Star Arthur Rhodes , even though still effective, has come back to earth in the second half with a 3.79 ERA and a .243 average against. Another notable that will surely make the playoff roster throughout is Nick Masset . He has struggled in September but in July/August he was their best guy out of the pen with a 0.58 ERA through 31 innings, while striking out 33 of the 114 batters he faced.
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