Quick Preview: Mets vs. Reds

reds-logoThe last time the Mets and Reds faced each other was the first three games of the year. The Mets came out of it 2-1, brimming with confidence, and seemingly on their way to making a serious run at the NL East crown.

How times have changed.

Since then, the Mets have suffered injuries, curled into the fetal position, and are waiting to be put out of their misery. Meanwhile, the Reds have played a fairly even season, and if it weren’t for a bizarre string of four straight losses to the Royals and Nationals in June, they’d be right in the thick of things at the top of the NL Central. Though they’re sitting in fifth place, they’re far from out of it, only 4.5 games out of first and maybe one player or hot streak away from making a serious run.

Interestingly, the Mets are in a similar position in the NL East — fourth place and 5.5 games out — but they’ve all but thrown in the towel. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

With both teams in similar places, this last series before the break holds significant importance. One of the teams will head in with at least two losses, and, depending on what happens with their division leaders, those two losses could be the first nails in the coffin.

Game 1: Fernando Nieve (3-2,2.73 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (8-8, 5.85 ERA)

Fernando fell back to earth in his last two starts, but I have to say I still like what he brings to the table — when he can bring it, that is. If Nieve can throw that hard sinker for strikes, and complement it by getting one of his other off-speed pitches over the plate the majority of the time, he can win. Unfortunately, his lack of command has been his undoing. Arroyo is having a tough year, but is the righthanded Randy Wolf when it comes to the Mets — and seems to turn it up a notch when pitching in the New York spotlight.

Game 2: Johan Santana (9-7, 3.29 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-5, 3.45 ERA)

After a Bob Gibson circa 1968 start, Santana has been rather pedestrian over the last month and a half, to the point where one must wonder what the heck is going on. Cueto has the stuff to match Santana pitch for pitch on a good day, and it would be just Johan’s luck for that to occur — though, there’ll surely be someone else to blame in the event of another loss.

Game 3: Mike Pelfrey (6-4, 4.52 ERA) vs. Aaron Harang (5-8, 3.89 ERA)

Funny how Big Pelf often draws a similarly tall opponent. The 6’7″ Harang is having an off year, but he’s always a threat to dominate. Yet, for whatever reason, he’s always had trouble against the Mets (8.56 ERA over the last three years against them). As mentioned in our last series preview, Pelfrey can go either way — he can be outstanding or awful, and there’s no logic to predict which. This one’s a tossup.

Final Thoughts

In April, I predicted that Joey Votto would be the NL MVP. Though the rest of those predictions are looking pretty awful (i.e. the Diamondbacks would win the NL West!), so far Votto is making me look somewhat intelligent. He’s hitting .354 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 54 games, and if not for a stint on the DL due to stress and dizziness, he might be vying for the Triple Crown.

Outside of Votto and Brandon Phillips, the Reds don’t have much firepower (OK, Jay Bruce has 18 jacks, but he’s hitting only .208). In many ways, they resemble the Mets — a team that was originally built depending on the homerun, but unfortunately the strategy of waiting for the long ball has often left them dry. Unlike the Mets, however, the Reds don’t steal many bases (only 47), and their team batting average is a paltry .248. That said, it’s no surprise that they’re 14th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored. Beside the disappointment of Bruce, Ramon Hernandez has lost the starting catcher’s job, Laynce Nix has won a job in left field, Edwin Encarnacion has fallen off the planet, Jerry Hairston is the best they can do at shortstop, and they’re trying to find ways to fit Jonny Gomes’ bat into the lineup.

Despite all that, their lineup still looks more dangerous than what the Mets can muster — though, that’s only on paper. In the reality of Citi Field, many of the Reds’ fly balls should be outs on the warning track, and their lack of speed is a major detriment on both sides of the ball in spacious Citi. If the Mets can keep their chin up, there’s no reason they can’t compete with Cincinnati in these three games — even without the Fantastic Four.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Taylor July 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm
    I’d like to see David Wright pull the ball more. He’s a really strong kid with great bat speed and he has a compact build. In my opinion he’s the perfect pull hitter. He has tremendous power which I think is somewhat wasted by him trying to hit to the opposite field.

    I’m hopeful for a good start from Nieve today. After 3 good ones he’s had 2 bad ones. He was a bit wild in the last 2.

  2. John Fitzgerald July 10, 2009 at 4:06 pm
    Hi Taylor,

    Why would you suggest that a hitter become a pull hitter? There have been some great pull hitters throughout history – Ted Williams comes immediately to mind – but it’s more or less a natural thing and not something to be recommended or taught. Actually, most hitters get hot or get out of slumps by going the other way or going up the middle.

    Besides, David Wright is not a classic power hitter. He hits for average because he hits to all fields. And if he isn’t driving the ball to all fields, he isn’t driving the ball, period. I don’t think he’ll change that at this stage of the game.

  3. Taylor July 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm
    All batters have more power to the pull field because the bat gets to travel farther through the hitting zone which allows it to reach a higher speed before making contact with the ball. That’s why I’d like to see him pull more. More HRs. But if he doesn’t like to pull, or isn’t comfortable trying to pull then he shouldn’t. He’s a great hitter anyways so if he doesn’t change a thing that’s fine too.
  4. Wendy July 10, 2009 at 4:59 pm
    I think because he has been accused of being too pull happy after the HR derby, he has made a conscious effort to go to all fields.

    The HR derby gave him that uppercut and took a big toll on his upper body, taking the ball to all fields and going with the pitch given is probably a bit less strenous.