Opening day is here for Major League baseball. Today begins a 162 game season for most of the 30 teams, while others begin tomorrow. There are several story lines to keep an eye on but the one from a local aspect is “Can the Reds repeat their 2010 miracle season?”
Last year the Reds went from 4th place and six games below .500 in 2009 to a Central Division title in 2010. Their first in 15 years and just their third in the last 28 years. Some things have changed over the off-season for Dusty Bakers Reds. The Reds last season had a great mix of explosive offense, good defense, come from behind wins, and a deep pitching rotation. Here are some questions surrounding the upcoming 2011 (and hopefully repeat Central Division Champs) season.
1) Can Joey Votto repeat his MVP season?
The reigning National League MVP had a spectacular season last year. Leading the Reds in home runs (37), runs batted in (113), batting average (.324), hits (177), and runs scored (106). As well as leading the majors in on base percentage (.424) and slugging percentage (.600). Votto was a one man wrecking crew for the Reds as you can see. His season led the Reds to sign him to a contract extension. Bringing his salary from 525,000 in 2010 to 5.5 million in 2011. Will he continue his MVP like numbers entering just his third full MLB season now he has the big money contract or have we seen the best the Toronto native has to offer?
2) Will the pitching rotation repeat last season’s great work?
Aaron Harang moved on to the San Diego Padres and team leader in wins last season Bronson Arroyo (17) is starting the season on the DL. It was the young arms though that were the biggest surprise for the Reds. Rookie Mike Leake was an impressive 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA and Baker got great fill in starts from Travis Wood (5-4, 3.51 ERA) and Sam LeCure (2-5, 4.50 ERA). Edinson Volquez will be back full strength from Tommy John surgery after only pitching the last few month last year. Will he ever be back to his 2008 (17 wins) form? Then there is Homer Bailey. The former first round pick finally showed the stuff last year in some starts that caused the Reds to take him in the first round. Going 4-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 19 starts. If he can improve on what seemed to be a break through season the Reds could repeat.
The Red shocked many winning the bidding war for the young flame throwing lefty from Cuba. The 22-year-old was given some spot bullpen duty last year, going 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA. He would top 100 mph on several pitches leading to his 19 strike outs in just 13.1 innings pitched. The kid could be another Dwight Gooden (without the crack habit I hope). If he makes even a few steps forward in his growth as a starting pitcher there is no reason the Reds will have their first back-to-back winning season since 1999 / 2000.