2012 Cincinnati Reds Playoff Preview Q&A
Aaron Fischman: From Cincinnati’s perspective, what are the primary keys to beating the Giants and advancing to the NLCS?
Mo Egger: The Reds bullpen has to be as good as it was all season. The one major advantage the Reds have is their relief pitching - as good as anyone in the game - in what's likely to be close, low-scoring games.
The other is the offense...specifically how do the Reds, who are struggling offensively, score at AT&T? The Reds rely on the homer, but in the month of September hit only 16. AT&T Park yields the fewest per game in baseball. Can the Reds manufacture runs against a very good pair of starting pitchers?
This postseason, major league baseball is trying a new 2-3 format, where the team with the worse record hosts the first two games of the series. Although neither the Giants nor the Reds were much better at home this season, what, if any, impact could this have on the series?
Egger: I'm in the minority....I think it's an advantage for the higher-seeded team. In this series, the Giants have the pressure of winning the first two at home, knowing that the series will never return to San Francisco. The hardest game to win in any series is the game that eliminates the opposition. WIth this format, that game will never be played in San Francisco.
Aroldis Chapman has not allowed a run in 34 of his last 36 appearances. In other words, the lefty fire-baller has given up four runs since June 24. How much security does Chapman’s presence offer the Reds in a series that could feature numerous close games?
Egger: A ton....he shortens the game and his presence looms from the middle innings on. I think teams feel pressure to score some runs in the innings leading up to the ninth because they know they're not touching him.
Discuss the strengths of the Reds’ bullpen. San Francisco also possesses a strong bullpen. Does either team have the advantage here? Why or why not?
Egger: The Giants do have a strong bullpen, but the Reds relievers have the best collective ERA in the game and hitters are only hitting .219 against them. They've got two good options in the seventh and eight in Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton and guys like Jose Arredondo, JJ Hoover, Sam LeCure and Alfredo SImon have gotten big outs this season. Dusty Baker has used just about all of them to close out games at certain points, and with the exception of Marshall, most are groundball pitchers.
Johnny Cueto and Matt Cain headline their respective team’s starting rotations, but how do you rate Cincinnati’s No. 2 and 3 starters.
Egger: Bronson Arroyo faces an uphill battle against Madison Bumgarner, who is great at home. Arroyo has been very good in his seven years in Cincinnati, but he's prone to giving up the long ball (gave up 46 last year). They're starting him at AT&T because it's a much pitcher-friendlier park than Great American Ballpark.
Bronson is likely to give the Reds a quality start, but he might be the weakest of the four starters the Reds are using.
Mat Latos will pitch Game 3. He's been good in his career against the Giants and might be throwing the ball better than anyone on staff. He's great at mixing pitches. The main concern is his mental makeup. How will he react to pressure situations?
Homer Bailey has been phenomenal since the start of September. Is there reason to expect this to continue? Why or why not?
Egger: Yes, though given the fact that he has the best road ERA of any NL pitcher, it's fair to wonder why the Reds are pitching him at home. He's got great stuff, sometimes falls too in love with trying to blow fastballs by hitters, and he's long-ball prone (Editor’s note: that may be why he's nicknamed Homer), but after a few shaky starts in August, he was great in September.
Egger: It's a very inconsistent offense. They've tried a number of guys in the leadoff spot, with very little success. Votto is an elite hitter, but the knee injury he suffered this year has affected his ability to drive the ball - he's pretty much been a singles hitter since coming off the DL. The main issue is that a number of key hitters - Bruce, Frazier, Rolen, Stubbs, Phillips and Heisey - all hit around .200 or below the last five weeks.
I think Ludwick is key. He's struggled recently while dealing with a groin injury, but he's likely to hit between Votto and Bruce. Votto will get on base - he draws a ton of walks - but how much will Ludwick (and Bruce for that matter) take advantage?
The Giants hit the lowest number of home runs for a playoff team since the 1988 Dodgers, who ironically went on to win the World Series. The Reds, on the other hand, ranked third in the NL in home runs. How do you see these differing styles playing out this series?
Egger: The Giants did hit very few homers, but also struck out less than any NL team and had the fourth-highest OBP in the league. They led the league in frequency of getting runners in from third with less than two outs. In short, they are able to score without hitting homers.
This is an advantage for San Francisco. The Reds do not manufacture runs well. They strike out a lot, and they have low-OBP guys at the top of the order. If the ball isn't leaving the park, will the Reds score?
If you had to guess, who wins the series and how many games will it take?
Egger: I've picked the Reds in five because of Cincinnati's bullpen, because I think they have a clear advantage in Game 3 (Latos v. Lincecum), because of home field, and because I think Johnny Cueto can come up big at home in a Game 5.
Check out the rest of our MLB playoff Q&As.