By Illya Harrell on June 30, 2014
It's nice being a Cincinnati Reds fan these days. Fresh off a four-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, the boys from the Queen City haven't lost a series in their last seven. The team owns the best June record in the NL, and are second in the majors to the Oakland A's for the month. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Reds have the second-best winning percentage in the tough NL Central. These are the guys making it happen.
When looking at the morning paper and seeing Alfredo Simon is going to pitch that day's game, all of Reds country wonders the same thing: is this the outing where the other shoe falls? But nope. He just keeps rolling. He leads the NL in wins with 10, is ninth in ERA, and his 1.05 WHIP ranks sixth. Simon will be in Minneapolis for the All-Star Game.
After a disappointing 2013 season, Todd Frazier is making up for lost time. The "Todd Father's" 17 jacks rank third in the NL. When he gets hold of one, the TV camera usually loses the flight of the ball. Frazier leads or is second in all major batting categories for third basemen. If he is not on the All-Star team, it will be nothing short of criminal.
No one will ever know how deep the Reds would have gone last season if ex-skipper Dusty Baker had started Devin Mesoraco in lieu of Ryan Hanigan. No worries this year with Bryan Price at the helm -- Mesoraco is slashing .307/.627/.999 with 14 bombs in 166 at-bats, or one HR every 11.8 at-bats. To put that in perspective, Giancarlo Stanton and his league-leading 21 homers equals to one every 14.8 at-bats.
Those fortunate enough to see Brandon Phillips on a regular basis are treated to nightly cartoon-like plays at second. The four-time Gold Glover wins games with his defense. Playing in Great American Ball Park, a team must have talented defenders, and Phillips is the best.
Like a pitching Phillips, Aroldis Chapman does stuff seemingly possible only in video games. His K/9 is 17.9. That's barely short of two strikeouts per inning. His 100-plus heater is well known, but his slider is filthier than a truck stop restroom.
The majority of Johnny Cueto's 2013 season was spent on the DL. If the first half of 2014 is any indication, it looks like he's trying to double up for lost time. He's the only qualified starter in either league with a sub-2.00 ERA at 1.88. He's holding opponents to a .171 BAA, .028 ahead of any other major leaguer. Cueto's WHIP of 0.84 is tops in the majors by 0.06 points. Plus, he's got the coolest delivery to the plate.
Four words: Rookie of the Year! Billy Hamilton is not only the fastest baserunner in the league, but he's also one of the smartest. He leads qualified NL rookies in batting average, RBI, runs, hits, doubles and of course, steals. Hamilton is making strong case for a roster spot on the NL All-Star team.
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