Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 7:00 PM
If the playoffs started right now, the Cincinnati Reds would be on the outside looking in. They’re well off the pace being set by the surprising Milwaukee Brewers at the top of the NL Central. The two Wildcard spots are currently in the possession of the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals…two teams who are capable of playing championship caliber ball if they can get their ducks in a row.
In other words, a playoff spot isn’t likely to fall into the laps of the Reds…a team that entered their weekend series on the road against the San Francisco Giants just two games over the .500 mark. It might take at least 90 wins to earn a Wildcard spot…meaning Cincinnati has to get from barely over .500 to 18 games over .500 between now and the end of the season.
It can be done…but a sense of urgency is not something that can be put on the back burner until September in this sport.
This weekend’s test against the Giants will give fans and andicappers a very good sense of whether or not the Reds are playoff material. Sure, San Francisco isn’t in the best of form lately. But, it’s a road series against a playoff caliber team. If Cincinnati wins at least two of the three, (with a great shot Saturday in the game we’re previewing against struggling Matt Cain), then you can be confident that the potential is at least there for a meaningful run. If the Reds can’t beat Cain, and ultimately lose the series…then it’s much harder to see the Redlegs as any sort of contender.
Much of their early-season issues have involved run scoring…
Cincinnati: 3.92 runs per game, .305 on-base, .384 slugging
San Francisco: 4.14 runs per game, .310 on-base, .401 slugging
The single biggest factor in run-scoring involves getting guys on base. Cincinnati currently ranks #12 in the 15-team National League in that stat. You can’t ask your pitchers to do THAT much over the course of a six-month season. San Francisco grades out fractionally better across the board above. But, the Giants play their home games in a great pitcher’s park. The Giants have a bigger “same site” edge over the Reds than the full season numbers would suggest. So, an edge in this series goes to the San Francisco bats…and poor offense is a clear point of concern for Cincinnati’s playoff hopes.
Alfredo Simon: 2.92 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 5.6 K-Rate
Matt Cain: 4.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.1 K-Rate
One of the big positive surprises for Cincinnati this year has been the stellar work of 33-year old former reliever Alfredo Simon. He wasn’t supposed to do anything like this as a starter in the Majors. Baltimore gave him 15 starts back in 2011 and decided he wasn’t somebody they wanted in their rotation. Cincinnati had him in their bullpen the last two seasons before turning to him as a desperation starter here in 2014. Worked out great! Though, that low K-Rate is a cause for concern.
You really have to worry about Matt Cain. He’s doing an NL version of Justin Verlander, falling off the charts after a fantastic run. From 2009 to 2012, Cain’s ERA’s were 2.89, 3.14, 2.88, and 2.79 in full season work. He seemingly never got hurt…and was consistently an ace caliber pitcher. Last year, his ERA rose to 4.00 as he started looking mortal. This year, DISASTER! His WHIP is still fine, but he’s allowing way too many big blows (almost one HR allowed per game). If THIS is what Matt Cain is now in terms of true talent, then the Giants have a hole in their rotation that could prove troublesome down the stretch.
As we go to press, it hasn’t been determined yet whether this late night affair will be part of the Saturday ticket. There are several intriguing pitching matchups running all day and night on the busy slate. You can purchase the final word for Saturday right here at the website with your credit card before first pitch of the early games. If you have any questions about extended service, call us Saturday morning at 1-888-777-4155.
Back Sunday for the prime time renewal of the Boston/NY Yankees rivalry on ESPN. Coming up very soon will be our annual July gauntlet of college football conference previews.
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