Series Record: 6-1-1
Pythagorean Record: 14-11
Extrapolated Record: 110-52
Record if win half of remaining games: 86-76
Runs Scored (NL rank): 149 (1st @ 6.0 r/g)
Runs Allowed (NL rank): 131 (T-13th @ 5.2 r/g)
April was an amazing month for the Reds. Still reeling from a host of changes in the front office, the Reds went into the season with fairly minimal expectations. Most predictions in the media as well as among the stat-heads indicated that the Reds would be battling Pittsburgh for last place all season long. Everyone thought they would hit, but few gave the team much of a chance due to the Reds' very poor pitching staff. Nevertheless, after getting smacked around on Opening Day, the Reds would go on to win 17 of their next 24 ballgames. The pitching and defense remained shaky, but the offense was unreal, scoring an average of 6.0 runs per game. Nearly all of their hitters got off to good starts, but few seemed to be playing so far above their heads to predict a dramatic fall in production.
And so, as the month rolled on, the Reds just kept on winning. Aside from a 2-game split with the Cubs and a very close defeat against the Cardinals thanks to King Albert, the Reds won every series in April. None was more important, however, than the final series of the month vs. the Houston Astros. Going into that series, Houston and Cincinnati were tied for first in the division and the Reds were coming off a sweep of the struggling Washington Nationals. There were many questions about the legitimacy of the Reds success, and many expected the talented Astros pitching staff to shut down the Reds hitters while their offense feasted on our pitching. Instead, the Reds took two out of three games, defeating both the neigh-immortal Roy Oswalt and the always-dangerous Andy Pettite. With those victories, the Reds found themselves in first place, setting an all-time team record for wins in April. All of the sudden, a lot of people, myself included, wondered if this team might just be a legitimate playoff contender.
The Reds still have a lot to prove. It's unlikely that their offense can continue scoring at this rate, but with Griffey Jr. returning soon, there's every reason to expect their offense to continue going strong. The key to their success for the rest of the season will revolve around the performance of their two aces, Harang and Arroyo, as well as the remaining members of their rotation. If the Reds can get league-average pitching -- which no longer seems completely out of the question -- they might just be able to hang in and battle for a playoff berth.
Statistical Hitter of the Month:
Adam Dunn: 0.265/0.432/0.614/1.046, 9 HR, 12.0 VORP
Despite suffering through an 11-game homerless drought near the end of the month, and hitting a poor 0.143 with runners in scoring position (albeit with a 0.350 OBP and a 0.464 SLG), Adam was enormously productive the first month of the season. From April 11th to April 17th, he hit 6 home runs in 23 at bats while maintaining a 0.433 OBP and a 1.043 SLG (that's a 1.476 OPS!). Even during the "slump" that followed, Dunn maintained his high OBP by drawing walks and getting the occasional single. He really is a remarkable player; if fact, he is so consistent that a lot of Cincinnati fans seem to almost take this sort of production from him for granted...if they appreciate it at all.
Runners Up: Brandon Phillips, Edwin Encarnacion
Impact Hitter of the Month:
Edwin Encarnacion, 1.159 OPS w/ RISP, 17 Runs, 27 RBI, 97% total Win Expectancy Earnings
EdE was our best hitter in spring training, and he carried this success forward into the first month of the season. Despite struggling in the field (8 errors in 21 games), he was a major clutch force for the Reds in April. In game after game, he seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Perhaps the most dramatic was his 9th-inning double to win a key game on the April 19th game against the Marlins. There's reason to believe that we're just beginning to see what Encarnacion can do; Reds fans appear to be in for a treat at the hot corner.
Runners Up: Brandon Phillips, Adam Dunn
Statistical Pitcher of the Month:
Bronson Arroyo, 34 2/3 IP, 2.34 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 12.0 VORP
When the Reds began spring training, they essentially had one starting pitcher, Aaron Harang, who could be counted on to keep his team in the game during most of his starts during the season. In his first major move as general manager, Wayne Krivsky traded young stud outfielder Wily Mo Pena for Boston's #6 starting pitcher, Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo was coming off of a 2005 season that fell short of his very promising 2004 season with the Sox which saw his ERA rise a half point and, more concerningly, his strikeouts fall from a very respectable 7.2 k/9 in 2004 to a well below-average 4.4 k/9.
In the first month of the year, Arroyo validated Krivsky's decision to a greater degree than anyone could have predicted. While he was rather hit-lucky (0.213 BABIP), his FIP was still below 4.00 for this month. He also threw four quality starts in five tries, including two eight-inning performances his last two starts of the month. This sort of production is exactly what the Reds needed from their #2 starter. Can he maintain it for the rest of the season? At least one sign indicates that he is in for a very solid season: his strikeout rate was a very healthy 7.8 k/9 innings in April, which much closer to his solid 2004 numbers than those from his weaker 2005 season.
Runners Up: Aaron Harang, Todd Coffey
Impact Pitcher of the Month:
Todd Coffey, 1 Win, 0 Losses, 7 Holds, 0 Blown Saves, 1.59 ERA w/ RISP, 112.6% Win Expectancy Earnings
In game after game in April, Todd Coffey ran in from the bullpen to shut down opposing teams' rallies. None was more important than his show-stopping performance on April 14th against the Cardinals. Aaron Harang had thrown seven shutout innings against the reigning Cy Young Award Winner Chris Carpenter and was holding a slim 1-0 lead, but allowed a walk to Aaron Miles to start the inning. Kent Mercker came on in relief, but after retiring Schumaker on a sacrifice, he walked David Eckstein to put the tying run in scoring position. Coffey came in to strike out Juan Encarnacion and, after allowing a weak infield single to Albert Pujols, he also struck out Jim Edmonds to end the threat. While clearly looking like the closer of the future, the Reds are benefiting tremendously from having a guy like Coffey who can come in at any time and protect a lead.
Runners Up: Bronson Arroyo, Kent Mercker
Other April Notes:
No recap of April could be complete without acknowledging Brandon Phillips' amazing debut with the Reds. When Krivsky traded for him, we knew we had received a young player with great potential. But he was also a player with a somewhat checkered history, a former top prospect who has mysteriously fizzled upon arriving at the Big Dance. I said of him at the time, based on several years of lackluster AAA performance, "Overall...I wouldn't expect much from this guy's bat this season, and perhaps not ever."
Rarely have I been so pleased to be wrong about a young player. Once Griffey went down and Freel began starting every day in center field, Phillips became the daily starter at second. And he exploded, becoming a major spark plug for the team and eventually winning the National League Player of the Week Award. Despite playing in only 18 games, Phillips was a runner-up in both of my hitter of the month categories--a testament to his amazing productivity in that time period. Hopefully Phillips will be able to continue to be a productive hitter at 2B for the rest of this young season and will not completely fizzle. Very recently he has demonstrated increased ability to work into good hitters' counts, as well as walk when appropriate, which bodes well for his season.
Reds April 2006 Stats:
|Ken Griffey Jr.||35||5.8||8.8||17.5||0/0%||0.333||0.516||0.849||0.279||0.278||2.4||10.4%|
|Cody Ross (8 LAD)||1||1.0||---||---||0/0%||0.000||0.000||0.000||0.000||0.327||-0.3||-1.6%|