Johnny Cueto cannot do it alone in Cincinnati. Although he has been one of the most dominant starters in all of baseball, when the Reds are down it often feels like the game is over. Whether it is one run or five runs, any late deficit seems insurmountable. In a lineup with star players like Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, the Reds have struggled to muster big innings. Why has it been so difficult? What has been the reason for few offensive outbursts?
One of the biggest reasons remains the loss of leadoff hitter Shin-Shoo Choo. In Choo last season the Reds had a premium leadoff bat who found any way to get on base and get rallies going. In his absence, Billy Hamilton has faltered. While he could never have been expected to put up identical numbers to Choo, he has not even been close. At times he has been out matched at the plate and put together some of the ugliest swings of the season. Though he may be the fastest player in the game, his speed is useless when he puts together the .287 on-base percentage he currently holds. If he cannot consistently get on base, he provides very little offensively.
The other major reason that the Reds have struggled is the absence of Joey Votto in the lineup. Even if he has not recently shown the same type of power as other elite first basemen, Votto is an on-base machine. His eye is extraordinary as has led the league in walks the past three seasons, and in on-base percentage the past four. After being moved to the two spot in the order, his bat appeared to awaken as he slugged three homeruns in that spot. But currently he is on the disabled list. Not only is it a negative to lose their best hitter in the lineup, but they also have less RBI opportunities for the middle of the order hitters.
Last season the Reds earned a right to play in October by winning a wildcard spot. If they plan to compete and receive a playoff spot this season the offense needs to get going. Often the pitching has kept them in games, but they cannot do it alone. If Hamilton can continue to develop throughout the season and Votto can remain on the field, the Reds offense should receive a huge boost and the season outlook will be much brighter.
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