CINCINNATI -- There’s no argument that the Reds are one of baseball’s surprise teams so far. No one expected them to be four games over .500 at this point.
When a team exceeds expectations like the Reds have, there are a lot of reasons. Here’s our top nine:
It’s hard for a team to get off to a good start when its best player is going through worst start of his career. That’s what happened last year. Votto’s slash line after 34 games in 2016 was .234/.365/.387. This season, it’s .291/.411/.615.
He’s hitting .433 with runners in scoring position and .407 for the month of May.
He’s also played better defensively.
It was disaster last year. This year, going unconventional has worked. But you need good arms to do that.
The core five of Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Drew Storen, Wandy Peralta and Blake Wood have been solid.
Iglesias looks as good as any closer going. What more can you say about Peralta? He throws 97 with two strong secondary pitches.
The bullpen’s ERA (3.18) is third best in the National League.
OLD MAN ARROYO
I’ll make a confession: Everyone in the media was rooting for Bronson Arroyo because he can fill notebooks and air time as well as any player ever.
But he’s earned his spot in the rotation. He had two bad starts to begin the season, but the Reds have won each of his last five starts.
He may not throw hard enough to break glass, but he can give six solid innings every fifth day.
Zack Cozart is the team’s MVP at this point. He’s hitting .356 with a 1.040 on-base plus slugging.
He’s increased his trade value greatly and put himself in line to make some big dough as a free agent.
He’s also put the pressure on the Reds to keep him around. If the club continues to play well, it would be difficult to move Cozart, particularly since Dilson Herrera isn’t exactly lighting it up in Triple-A (.217 average).
The Reds haven’t been hesitant to move pitchers down after they’ve struggled in the big leagues. They did it with Cody Reed and they did it with Rookie Davis.
That’s a great motivational tool.
My guess is they’ll keep churning players, and Luis Castllio and Tyler Mahle will be in the mix if Reed, Davis and Stephenson don’t show improvement.
Billy Hamilton can have more impact with less batting average/slugging percentage than any player in baseball. Hamilton’s reached base 47 times and scored 25 runs.
It seems like every time he singles or walks in the first inning, he’s on third before the Reds have made the second out.
He’s also asserted his personality more. He’s upbeat, having fun. His enthusiasm lifts the players around him.
Amir Garrett is currently in Triple-A to conserve his innings if you believe the company line. If you’re a student of baseball economics, you’d say he’s there to guarantee another year of control.
But Garrett’s impact has been huge. He was the most reliable starter until his demotion and reliability was in short supply in the rotation. He’ll be back.
The numbers say the Reds have a plus defender at every position but first base.
The Reds added three veteran players a hair under $10 million combined. That’s small change in the today’s baseball, but the Reds wouldn’t be where they are without Scott Feldman, Storen and Scooter Gennett.
Feldman leads the team in innings pitched. Storen has helped solidify the bullpen. And Gennett has been the best bench player.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at email@example.com