AP Photo/Alan Diaz
The Cincinnati Reds look primed to win the World Series this year. They have all the making of one of those rare seasons.

Young guys have stepped up greatly, veterans are producing, and they sit on an 11 game lead in the N.L Central.

Can they win the World Series? They have a good chance.

With that being said, they aren’t merely the clear-cut favorites. That honor goes to the Washington Nationals in the National League or the Texas Rangers in the American League. But outside of those two clubs, it’s anyone’s best guess as to who will win the pennant in each league. This means the Reds would likely be one of the multiple favorites come October.

Words really can’t describe how big of a step Cincinnati has taken this year compared to last year. Last season, they were nothing but sluggers. Their motto was to outscore their opponents with the long ball and hope that their wobbly pitching staff stayed somewhat in tact in the process.

Well, that formula didn’t fare well. A year after being a playoff team, they missed the ultimate goal of playing late into October. Nevertheless, it was a disappointment.

However, no longer do the Reds purely rely on the long ball. Of course they can still slug with the best of them (3rd in N.L with 144 home runs). Yet, they’re now a feared pitching cast. Yes, the Reds are a feared pitching group.

Maybe even as feared as Aroldis Chapman’s fastball. But seriously, they rank second in the National League with a 3.44 ERA as an entire pitching staff. Their starters own a 3.80 ERA which has them as the fifth best starting staff in the N.L, and their bullpen has the best ERA in the majors (2.61). All of those marks are vast improvements from 2011.

During their pitching deprived 2011 campaign, the stats didn’t justify how bad their staff truly was. The talent was there though which makes their stats so surprising. Anyway, here we go.

Last season, their starters totaled a 4.47 ERA, the fourth worst mark in the N.L. Meanwhile, their bullpen wasn’t much better, posting 3.55 ERA line, earning them the ninth best slot in the N.L. Or, more simply, they struggled.

The likes of Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo have been two significant factors in the turnaround. Both own sub-four ERA this year, as opposed to last season where they both had ERAs north of 4.40. Those two alone make a significant difference on the overall landscape of the starting rotation.

Manager Dusty Baker can now forge some trust on the backend of his rotation, another key attribute in World Series’ hopefuls. To go along with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos as the two aces on top of the rotation, as well as Mike Leake, the Reds appear to have a starting rotation built for the World Series.

Unknown players tend to step up when a team carries momentum through the 162 marathon, through the first couple round of the postseason, and finally, through the World Series. The Reds are also covered in this regard.

Todd Frazier, potentially the N.L rookie of the year, has been a vital variable for the banged up Reds. The dwindling Scott Rolen has bounced in and out of the lineup all year, and Frazier has been a stellar replacement. As Rolen continued to be ineffective, Frazier continued to prove that he should bump Rolen out of his starting job.

Then, All-Star first baseman Joey Votto hit the DL for 49 games. His void allowed Frazier to coexist with Rolen, as he manned down first base, while Rolen did the same at the hot corner. Frazier’s numbers aren’t shabby either.

He has smacked 18 home runs to back his .283/.345/.517 triple slash. Note that this impressive production has come with inconsistent playing time. Although, that inconsistency is slowly vanishing as Frazier continues to spark Cincinnati’s powerful lineup.

Let’s take a slight step back. Like aforementioned, Votto was sidelined for 49 games with a knee issue. Losing an all-star is obviously rough, but Votto was in line to set records with his combination of power and consistency.

The general assumption was that Cincinnati would crumble without their cornerstone piece, but that was far from the truth. They went 33-16 without the slugger, and ultimately jumped way ahead in the N.L playoff chase.

Having a deep lineup that includes Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Ryan Ludwick, Zack Cozart, Devin Mesoraco and Ryan Hanigan, means that there is plenty of offense to go around in case any pieces suddenly become unavailable.

Jumping ahead is doing the Reds well now, as they lead the second place Cardinals by 11 games entering the final two weeks of the season. One word; rest.

More importantly, it bolstered the morale of the team. Winning without someone of Votto’s caliber is impressive, especially over a long stretch of games. You would have to think that they thought the same thing, which gives the team a ton of confidence going into October.

The Reds posses very few holes. Chapman’s durability has been questioned, and is certainly a major concern. Considering that he’s logged 67.2 innings this year, which is more than his first two seasons in the league combined, it should very well be a concern.

However, Jonathan Broxton can assume the closer’s role should Chapman experience fatigue over a prolonged span, with a deep pen to back up the closer including Sean Marshall.

The only other obvious concern is if the Reds’ steady pitching staff can hold the fort down. Great American Park favors hitters by a hefty margin. Rarely do the small dimensions suppress any fly balls, yet, the Reds’ staff has kept opponents in the park for the majority of the season. Again, will they keep it up through the postseason is the nagging question.

Other than those two concerns, the Reds seem destined for a successful playoff ride behind manager Dusty Baker. They clearly have a good enough team to win the championship. But remember, there is still lots of baseball to be played.

If the core assets stay healthy and their surprising pitching staff continues to impress, there’s no telling how deep the 2012 Reds can go in this year’s playoffs.

This article was originally published at MLB Reports.  

MLB Reports is a partner of FootBasket. You can see more about them at their website. Follow them on Twitter @MLBReports


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