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Giants/Reds series preview

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Last year, the Cincinnati Reds scored only 16 more runs than the San Francisco Giants. They did so even though they played at Great American Ball Park, which is a little bit of a hitter’s park.

Pause for dramatic effect.

So when people were trumpeting the Reds as a possible sleeper pick for the N.L. Central this year, I wasn’t seeing it. The Reds were just as bad at hitting as the Giants – the Giants! – but they didn’t have anything close to the star power or depth of the Giants’ rotation. How in the heck were they supposed to contend with a setup like that?

But the Reds did something unusual: they "improved" the offense. I’ve been scouring the rule books to see if this is legal. Maybe there are some league-enforced sanctions coming their way. To be fair to the Giants, though, the Reds’ strategy for improving the offense wasn’t exactly a complicated, multi-tiered strategy. The three main components of the strategy:

  • Hope an injury-prone veteran (Scott Rolen) would stay healthy and be awesome again
  • Hope that most of the other hitters would improve if the Reds asked nicely
  • Hope that Wily Taveras would not try to sneak onto the roster with a disguise and an alias. I would think he’d go with something like "Juan Swipesillano," but that’s just the poet in me.

Where last year they had Adam Rosales at third, now they have a healthy Scott Rolen. Where last year they had a bargain-priced Bocockian shortstop (without the defense) in Paul Janish, they have the name brand this year with Orlando Cabrera. Where they had a gimpy, ineffective Ramon Hernandez last year, they have a healthy and productive one this year. Every little bit has helped, and it’s all added up to a well above-average offense

The Reds have also benefited by starting Jonny Gomes, a local product who can mash lefties and hit home runs, but who often swallows his own tongue when trying to catch fly balls. The Giants had no use for that sort of player in the offseason, preferring to wait until June to get an older version of their very own.

Pitcher to watch:

Mike Leake is a bad, bad man. While he might not be quite this good (2.22 ERA despite only striking out 6.2 hitters per nine innings pitched), it’s pretty impressive how much success he’s had despite skipping the minor leagues entirely. It was a pretty crazy gamble to rush him like this, but this looks like one of the more successful jumps off a cliff since Albert Pujols came up straight from A-ball.

Hitter to watch:

Mike Leake is a bad, bad man. While he might not be quite this good (.417/.440/.458 with ten hits in 24 at-bats), it’s pretty impressive how much success he’s had despite being a pitcher who skipped the minors. The Giants would love to take a pitching prospect like that and move him to first base. If the Giants picked Leake instead of Zack Wheeler, we probably wouldn’t have to suffer through Todd Wellemeyer starts this year. Say lah vee.

Prediction:

We’ll be pretty sick of the Reds by Thursday. Four games? Yeeesh.