By now everyone expected the Reds to be long gone from anyone's thought process in terms of winning or even competing for a Central crown. Well, here we are in the middle of June and not only are they competing for it, they are winning it. Sure, it's just a game and a half, but that's a far cry different from the past several years. A team that hasn't even had a winning record in 10 years has no business competing for a division title, do they?
Now there are several question marks about this team. First and foremost is the bullpen. It is in a word: awful. Outside of Arthur Rhodes, does anyone have any confidence in another member of the bullpen? I'll give you Cordero as a 50-50, but honestly no one else is getting the job done. No one.
Another question is: who is going to step up in the rotation and lead this team? Johnny Cueto has been very shaky his last few starts, Mike Leake was finally roughed up a bit his last time out, and Homer Bailey is on the disabled list for the foreseeable future. That leaves the old vets Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang. These guys can get the job done. At least they better. Harang has been drastically better since the first month of the season and looks a bit like his old self. Arroyo, while being a bit shaky lately, is a guy who will have his ups and down at times, but will ultimately bounce back.
To date, the team hasn't really been hit with a tough injury. Homer Bailey wasn't pitching that well when he went to the D.L. Brandon Phillips is battling a hamstring injury but it doesn't appear to be super serious. What could really hurt this team's chances would be a stint on the D.L. by Arthur Rhodes (who is battling a foot problem), Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips (the hottest hitter on the planet), or Scott Rolen (in one man's opinion the MVP of the team).
Another key factor in my opinion is the schedule. At the end of the upcoming Dodgers series, the Reds will have played 12 more home games than road games. Yes, the team is playing above .500 on the road, but one game over isn't what I'd call great. The other thing that is scary is where they have to go still. Wrigley (never easy), NY Mets (best home record in baseball), and out west to Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona, and Colorado. The Reds have never fared well on the west coast and the Cardinals have already played out west a few different times.
Who knows how this is all going to play out. One thing that is for sure is it's awfully fun watching a team that is in first place rather than playing out the string already by June.