30 Teams in 30 Days – Cincinnati Reds

After a great year in 2010, which landed the Reds their first NL Central title since 1995, the Reds disappointed a lot of people last year. Despite having 2010 NL MVP, Joey Votto (who just so happened to attend my high school back in his youth), they couldn’t even reach the .500 plateau. Let’s recap.
Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Johnny Cueto 9-5, 2.31 ERA, 104 SO
Top Hitter: .309 AVG, 29 HR, 103 RBI
Manager: Dusty Baker
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ron Mahay, Dioner Navarro, Ryan Madson, Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, Ryan Ludwick, Jeff Francis
Important Offseason Losses: Francisco Cordero TOR, Ramon Hernandez COL, Edgar Renteria FA, Dontrelle Willis, Edinison Volquez, Yonder Alonso SD,  Travis Wood CHC

There were high hopes for the Reds in 2011 after a great 2010, but with the amazing years the Brewers and the Cardinals put up, the Reds didn’t have a chance. Joey Votto (CANADIAN)! got some heat last year, which I didn’t quite understand, I know he had a drop-off from 2010, but he still hit over .300, he had 29 Jacks and over 100 RBI’s. The real problem lied in their pitching, they finished exactly 20th in the league in ERA, WHIP and SO. It was mostly their Starters, besides Cueto and Leake, their Starting Pitching was horrendous, I mean, just look at the stats, of their 5 pitchers with 13 starts or more (not including Leake and Cueto), their Starting Pitching finished with an ERA of 5.00 on the dot. That is unacceptable. They had a decent Bullpen and a decent offensive attack, but their Starting Pitching lost them a lot of ball games. The Reds certainly went after improving that in the offseason, with the addition of young stud, Mat Latos. The 24 year old right-hander has shown great promise, posting an ERA of 3.37 in his first 72 big league starts. They also added veteran lefty, Jeff Francis (also CANADIAN!), who once had great potential, being selected 9th overall in the 2002 Draft, but was never able to live up to expectations, posting a career 4.78 ERA as a starter, the Reds may try to use him in a relief role this year, seeing as he’s already made 3 relief appearances for them in the Spring. So, I believe their Starting 5 should be greatly improved this year, with the hope of continued success from Cueto, Leake and Latos, and then if they can get improved years from Bailey and Arroyo (who had two successful campaigns before struggling last year), they could even be considered a somewhat dangerous starting rotation at times. Their bullpen should be improved a bit with the additions of Marshall and Mahay, but with them parting ways with Cordero, they brought on Madson to take over the closer role, unfortunately it was just announced that he will miss the whole year due to Tommy John surgery, so they’re going to have trouble finding saves from time to time, having established closer. Their offense has lost a little fire power in Alonso, Hernandez and Renteria, but it should still be a very dangerous offensive group. Ultimately I think the Reds will fall short of the Cardinals and the Brewers once again (despite their losses of Prince and Pujols). I just don’t see this team being able to compete with them. However, they are still young (28.0 yr old average) and I believe that they’ll be a threat in this division for years to come.

Prediction
Record: 82-80
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Mat Latos 14-9, 3.06 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Joey Votto .311 AVG, 31 HR, 108 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been one of the worst sports organizations of the last 20 years. Not only have they not made the postseason since 1992, that year also marks the last time they had a winning season (above .500). Not to mention the fact that they haven’t won a World Series in over 30 years. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record: 72-90
Finish: 4th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jeff Karstens 9-9, 3.38 ERA, 96 SO                                                             Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .259 AVG, 23 HR, 89 RBI                                 Manager: Clint Hurdle                                                                                           Important Off-season Acquisitions: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Jake Fox, Nick Evans, Jose Morales, Erik Bedard, Nate McLouth, Casey McGehee, Jo-Jo Reyes, Doug Staten, Brian Tallet, Juan Cruz, A.J Burnett                                            Important Off-season Losses: Ryan Doumit MIN, Chris Snyder HOU, Ronny Cedeno NYM, Paul Maholm CHC, Derrek Lee FA, Ryan Ludwick CIN, Xavier Paul WAS, Pedro Ciriaco BOS, Jason Jaramillo CHC, Ross Ohlendorf BOS, 

On July 19th, 2011, the Pirates were leading the NL Central with a record of 51-44, which made me (along with most of the MLB community) become a temporary Pirates fan. Unfortunately, the Pirates went on a 10-game skid from Jul 29-Aug 7, causing them to fall to 54-59, and put them 10 games back of the Brewers for the division, causing their temporarily large fan base to plummet. Neither their Offense nor their pitching was very good last year. They finished in the bottom 10 in the league in R, AVG, HR, Opponents Average and WHIP, along with a 17th place finish in ERA. Despite posting 72 Wins, these stats will come as no surprise if you watched them play last year, as during their hottest period (Jun 3-Jul 25), 17 of their 26 wins were by 2 runs or less (65.3%), meanwhile, during their coldest period (Jul 28-Sep 21), 24 of their 39 losses were by 3 runs or more (61.5%), meaning they were losing by a lot, and winning by a little. The team was expected to struggle, but hitting .244 as a team, along with having a team ERA of over 4.00 is completely unacceptable. The thing that bothers me the most is when people say it’s okay because the Pirates are young, their really not that young of a team, yes they have McCutchen, Walker and McDonald, but their the seventh oldest team in the Majors with an average age of 28.2 years old.

This season for the Pirates is unpredictable, and by that, I mean they’re either going to be a terrible team or just a really bad team. They made some interesting moves in the Offseason, ultimately, I think their Pitching will improve a bit and their hitting will get even worse. One of the moves I really enjoyed was the signing of Canadian pitcher, Erik Bedard, this guys always flown under the radar due to the fact that he played for small market teams (Baltimore, Seattle), not including the 8 games he played in Boston last year, Bedard hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 for an entire season since his rookie year in 2004. When I first heard that the Pirates traded for Burnett, I thought it was a terrible move, but when I found out the Yankees were practically paying them for a pitcher who put up some decent numbers in the past, I changed my mind. However, when he bunted that ball into his face at Training Camp, sidelining him for 2-3 months, my mind was instantly changed back. The reason I think their pitching should be improved, is because I think Bedard is an improvement on Maholm (whom they released), I see great potential in young pitcher James McDonald and I think he’s going to have a terrific year, and their bullpen has been improved. The reason I believe their Offense will be worse, is despite additions like Barmes, Mcgehee, McLouth and Barajas, I believe the losses of Doumit, Snyder, Lee, Cedeno, Ludwick and Paul, outweigh them. I believe Mcgehee will have a good year, but I don’t think Barmes, McLouth or Barajas will please the Pirate faithful. I predict that this year will mark the 20th straight season that the Pirates will have gone without a winning season. Hopefully the next 20 years will be better for them.

Prediction
Record: 65- 97
Finish: 5th in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: James McDonald 12-10, 3.81 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Andrew McCutchen .269 AVG, 27 HR, 96 RBI
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-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)