Q: The Reds' record is tied for 4th-best in baseball, and yet they're only third in their own division. Which of the teams above them (Cardinals and Pirates) do you see as a tougher opponent for the NL Central crown? And which of the three teams has the best chance of winding up on top when all is said and done?
A: Definitely the Cardinals. It's hard to explain how they do it, but despite key players turning over every year, the players they have seem to always find ways to get it done. Not to discredit the Pirates, who are as legit as we've seen them in a long time, but for the Reds, the division goes through the Cardinals. No question about it.
As for a prediction for the division crown this year? I still think the Reds are better on paper, and as long as they don't have any more bad breaks from the injury bug, I think they'll prevail.
Q: Cincinnati was part of one of the bigger trades of the offseason. It was a 3-way swap which basically amounted to Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorious for Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald. How has that deal worked out for the Reds?
A: About as well as the Reds could have asked for, honestly. The Reds were the worst team in the league last year at the leadoff position, and Choo has a .424 OBP going into this series. As a Reds fan, I'm not sure I even remember another season where we've had a leadoff hitter that gets on base, but it's a great feeling and watching the team, the results are already paying off.
That said, the Reds probably regret giving up Didi Gregorius a little bit. He's been good for AZ and is a better prospect than Cozart going forward, but not many here miss Drew Stubbs.
Q: Homer Bailey was a highly-touted prospect for several years, but didn't really come into his own until last year at age 26. What has made the difference for him these last two years, and how much better do you think he can get?
A: For Homer Bailey, it's always been a mental thing. In years past, he's been prone to unraveling after making a bad pitch, and the damage control gene really wasn't there. He's really learned to control his emotions on the mound and not let one mistake dictate his entire game.
Another thing is that he's now a proverbial "pitcher" instead of a "thrower". When he came up, and his first couple years in the big leagues, he tried to get by on stuff alone, and quickly realized that MLB hitters weren't overwhelmed with 95mph fastballs. It took him a few years to make the adjustments, but he's much more cerebral now and has a premeditated approach on the mound instead of throwing as hard as he can. That's been huge too.
Q: Cincinnati's rotation features five above-average pitchers, plus top prospect Tony Cingrani waiting in the wings. Who do you see as the ace of the staff? And when do expect to see Cingrani in the rotation full-time?
A: I think a lot of Reds fans would still say Johnny Cueto, as he's one of the best pitchers in baseball when he's healthy, but I think it's actually Mat Latos right now. This season Latos has dominated game in, game out, and with Cueto unable to stay healthy, Latos is that reliable presence that you look for in an ace.
For Cingrani, I think he's proven that he can handle a rotation spot, it's just a matter of him getting a spot there. I'm expecting Bronson Arroyo to leave next year and not re-sign, and that's where I think Cingrani's full-time rotation spot will lie. For now, he's actually in the bullpen for the foreseeable future as a dominant lefty setup man.
Q: What do you see as the Reds' biggest weakness, and what would be the best way to address it?
A: Really, the two things that have plagued the Reds this season are the bullpen and the left field spot. Left field was left in a lurch after Ryan Ludwick's injury on Opening Day, but Xavier Paul and Derrick Robinson have filled in surprisingly admirably. The bullpen is the thing that the Reds will likely address in the next month or so, with the injury of Sean Marshall and the injury/suckitude of Jonathan Broxton forcing guys like Alfredo Simon into setup roles. Luckily for the Reds, Sean Marshall should be back fairly soon, but they could probably use a trade for another bullpen arm before the deadline.
Q: Would you please write me a brief haiku about how much you love Joey Votto?
A: Joey Votto is
The best first baseman ever
Q: Which is the true Cuban Missile: A Yoenis Cespedes line drive homer, or an Aroldis Chapman triple-digit fastball?
A: Come on, now. 102mph.
Can we at least agree that it isn't Alexei Ramirez?
Click here to read my answers to Brandon's questions on Red Reporter.
The series kicks off tonight at 7:05pm, with Tommy Milone facing Bronson Arroyo. Call it a re-match of the 1990 World Series, or a re-match of 2010, when the Reds swept the A's in a three-game interleague set, or revenge for rolling over against the dreaded Giants last October. Either way, Oakland owes the Reds a swift kick in the pants. Baseballgirl will have your thread.