Sunday, July 24, 2011

NL North - Part IV

Cincinnati Larry Anderson surrounded by a new cast sees Addition thru Subtraction

Want a definition of “turnover?” Look no further than Cincinnati.

Last season, 139 games were started by pitchers that this season no longer wear the Reds uniform. Cincinnati is building a reputation as one of the most active teams in the entire league, and as such, did not hesitate to trade or release more than 4/5ths of their starting rotation last year.

The lone returning starter is hardly a familiar face to fans. Larry Anderson pitched 79 innings last year before he blew out his elbow and landed on the 60-day DL. This year, he’s the veteran anchor on a staff of fresh new faces.

Cincinnati made some of these difficult moves because they felt they had an underperforming staff that was thin at the top and wanted to improve the overall depth. Out went last year’s coveted ace, Willie Diggins (14-14 in 38 starts, 1.25 WHIP) in a massive five-for-two player deal with Milwaukee. Out went workhorse Edwin Henderson (11-10 in 40 starts, 1.16 WHIP) to Houston. Lou Nance (9-4 in 33 starts, 1.33 WHIP) was released to free agency and remains unsigned. Ryan Fasano (5-5 in 16 starts, 1.48 WHIP) and Hamlet White (3-5 in 12 starts, 1.59 WHIP) were dealt to Oakland.

The changes were not limited to the starting pitching staff: last season’s aging closer Vinny Kwon, who saved 39 games in 48 opportunities, was sent to St. Louis taking his 1.43 WHIP with him. So in all, four starting pitcher spots and the closer role were filled by new players in Cincinnati, an offseason so busy that it was rumored to even cause some confusion with the team’s fan jersey supplier in China.

Aside from Larry Anderson at the top of the rotation, the Reds’ main stay will be joined by 36-year-old started Philip Payton, who went 14-11 in 31 starts for Cleveland last season while posting a 1.28 WHIP and respectable 3.52 ERA. George Foster who went 8-11 in 31 starts for Milwaukee while giving up 1.23 WHIP will likely join them on the mound, along with rookie Jim Baxter out of Milwaukee’s minor league system. The last spot in the rotation may go to Jason Gibson, formerly of Detroit, who went 4-13 in 32 starts last year.

Closing duties will likely go to Carson Yearwood, who last year posted some very respectable numbers in that role with the White Sox. Former Los Angeles Angeles set up man Kip Glass (1.24 WHIP, 1.64 ERA) will now front the bullpen duties. The Reds are hoping that the new staff will improve on their league average pitching stats as a team.

The Reds have built their offense around the long ball and lead the National League in homeruns. With so much power, they felt comfortable dealing aging star rightfielder Ricky Rose and obtaining a new centerfielder in the form of Carson James (.311/.391/.381) from Kansas City, whose OBP numbers were an attraction to a team that needed a lead-off hitter. Abdul Sweeney (.249/.314/.335) from Oakland will likely get the start at third base this season. The Reds are hoping for a more balanced attack out of the line-up this season.

dwb’s take: The Reds don’t hesitate to shake up the core of the team in an effort to produce results. It’s difficult to project if all of these changes will meld together however given the sizable turnover. The Reds are gambling that they will and have little to lose, as they picked up a few prospects in the deals, if they don’t. However, there are too many bats in this division not to have an ace fight thru them, and I see them looking up at a very tight race for the #2 seed in the division.

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