ST. PETERSBURG - MAY 20: The Atlanta Braves celebrate their victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on May 20, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
This past weekend was Atlanta's first foray into interleague play in 2012, as the Braves took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, Atlanta travels to Cincinnati to face the Reds in a four game series. The Braves saw Cincinnati last week in one of those weird two game series. The two teams split the series.
The Reds enter the series with some momentum after taking two of three from the Yankees in New York. They are now 21-19, .5 games back from the St. Louis Cardinals. The biggest news with the Reds lately is the change of the guard at closer. Sean Marshall is out, and the electric Aroldis Chapman is now in.
It all starts with 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto. Votto is off to another great start, and is clearly the best first baseman in the National League, if not all of baseball. He's hitting .301/.455/.581 with more walks than strikeouts. He also sports a wOBA of .438 and a wRC+ of 180.
Jay Bruce is also off to a really good start, hitting .276/.323/.572 with a .377 wOBA and 138 wRC+. His on-base average and walk rates are lower than usual, but the power is way up from his career norms. Under the radar, Todd Frazier has had a good season so far with the bat. Filling in full-time because of the injury to Scott Rolen, he's hitting .268/.317/.554. He's sporting a .362 wOBA and 128 wRC+.
The only other Red with a wRC+ over 100 is catcher Ryan Hanigan at 101. He's got a triple slash line of .313/.368/.363. Fellow catcher Devin Mesoraco is hitting .222/.317/.315 with a wOBA of .267 and a wRC+ of 62.
Two Reds who have sorely underperformed are Drew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips. Stubbs currently sits at .235/.282/.333, which has to be worrisome after his sub-par 2011 at the plate. Phillips has been a little better, but not much, hitting .260/.300/.359 with a wOBA of .292 and a wRC+ of 80.
Rookie shortstop (and former Ole Miss Rebel) Zack Cozart has gotten off to a rough start as well. He's hitting .232/.288/.384 on the year. Pitching matchups and a look at the Reds bullpen after the jump.
Monday May 21st, 7:10 PM ET
Monday's matchup gives us a pair of Mike's who are both struggling so far in 2012. Leake enters with a 0-5 record with a 6.21 ERA, 5.04 FIP, and 4.28 xFIP. His strikeout rate is down from last year, from over six per nine to barely over five this season. He's walking over three batters per nine this year, up from 2.04 last season. In terms of stuff, Leake has five pitches. He works off of his sinker, throwing it 43% of time so far in 2012 averaging just over 89 miles per hour on it. He also has a cutter, which he throws 24% of the time. He features three off-speed offerings, a change, curve, and slider. The changeup is the one of the three he uses the most, at 13% of the time. His slider has garned the most swings and misses this season, with his changeup close behind. He's had issues keeping the ball in the park so far this year. Leake is actually coming off his best outing to date, where he went six innings against the Mets, giving up seven hits, three runs (one earned), two walks, and five strikeouts.
Tuesday May 22nd, 7:10 PM ET
Game two is Brandon Beachy against Mat Latos. Latos enters at 2-2 with a 4.63 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and 4.28xFIP so far on the season. He's struggled, and the main culprit is his control. He's walking 4.23 batter per nine in 2012, up from 2.87 per nine last season. Latos has been an extreme fly-ball pitcher this season, something that doesn't usually end in good results pitching in a park like Great American. Latos throws five pitches, working mainly off of his fastball which he throws 43% of the time at an average of over 93 miles per hour. He also likes to use a two-seamer (Brooks Baseball call it a sinker, but I'm pretty sure it's a two-seam) as well. His go-to off-speed pitch is his slider, which he throws 19% of the time and a has whiff rate of 18% on it in 2012. It's a pretty good offering. Latos also features a curveball and changeup. The right-hander has only gotten through seven innings complete in one of his starts this year. In his last outing, he needed 100 pitches to get through five innings against the Mets, in which he gave up seven hits, three runs (earned), three walks, and struck out seven.
Wednesday May 23rd, 7:10 PM ET
Arroyo hasn't been bad in 2012, which is really weird to say. He enters at 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and 3.72 xFIP. He's seen his walks decrease from a year ago, while seeing his strikeout rate increase from last season. Arroyo is a junkballer, throwing seven different pitches or so with varying levels of success. He's got a four-seam, sinker, cutter, slider, curve, change, and splitter. Velocity wise, he doesn't throw very hard, reaching just over 87 miles per hour on average with his fastball and sinker. He's gotten most of his swing and misses with the slider, but also has gotten a good number of them with his curveball. In his last outing, he threw well against the Yankees until his last inning. He finished with a line of 7.2 innings, nine hits, four runs (earned), one walk, and four strikeouts.
Thursday May 24th, 7:10 PM ET
Bailey pitched well against Atlanta last week, giving only one run in 6.2 innings of work. The right-hander is 2-3 on the year with a 4.34 ERA, 4.79 FIP, and 4.19 xFIP. His strikeout rate is down from last year, while his walk rate has increased a batter or so per nine. Bailey features five pitches, a four-seam, two-seam, curveball, changeup, and splitter. He throws hard, averaging just under 94 miles per hour on his fastball. Four of his five offerings are averaging 85 miles per hour so far this season. He works off the four-seam, with his slider the most used off-speed offering. He gets similar whiff rates on all three of his off-speed pitches , 13.68% on the slider, 12.58% on the curve, and 14.29% on the splitter. Bailey allowed seven hits and three runs in 6.1 innings against the Yankees in his last start.
***All pitch data from www.brooksbaseball.net.***
Aroldis Chapman - LH (CL)
Sean Marshall -LH
Logan Ondrusek -RH
Sam LeCure -RH
Jose Arredondo -RH
Alfredo Simon -RH
J.J. Hoover -RH