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Time to Panic in Cincinnati Reds Country?

Injuries, Bad Luck, and Poor Play Have Marred the Reds' Season to Date; Will it Continue?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | After the Cincinnati Reds put together back-to-back series victories over the (supposedly) good Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals, Reds fans were feeling giddy.

Unfortunately, after taking the first game of the St. Louis Cardinals series, the Reds haven't been on the winning side of the scoreboard (which included a sweep at the hands of the historically hapless Pittsburgh Pirates). Compounding the poor results by the Reds is the recent back injury to ace Johnny Cueto (the Reds previously lost cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick in the first week of the season).

Given all of the dire news and results, is it time to panic in Reds Country?

To answer that question, we first have to realize that the Reds have played 12 games (or just over 7 percent of the regular season). It should also be noted that the 2012 Reds started out 4-8 and ended up winning 97 games. As the cliché goes, it's not how you start but how you finish (or at least that's what the Reds will tell you right now).

On the other hand, the 2012 Los Angeles Angels were 8-15 at the end of April and ended up missing out on the playoffs by four games. So while the season is indeed quite young, the games count just as much in April as they do in August and September.

Speaking of last year, 2012 saw the Reds trot out the same five starting pitchers for the entire year (except for a single spot start during a doubleheader). With Cueto's recent injury, resulting in him being placed on the 15-day disabled list, the Reds will not repeat the starting pitching feat in 2013. Luckily, the Reds do have at least one decent pitcher in Triple-A waiting for his turn to pitch in the big leagues, Tony Cingrani.

In Cingrani's first two starts in the minors this year, he has a 1-0 record with 21 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. That's a strikeout rate of almost two per inning, something that should be a boon for Cingrani when he gets the chance to pitch in the Reds' bandbox of a home ballpark where a strikeout is seemingly the only way to get a sure out.

If Cingrani can pitch in the majors as well as he has in the minor leagues, it would appear that the Reds should be able to withstand Johnny Cueto's injury. Furthermore, although the Reds have scored sixth-most runs in the league, they haven't hit nearly as well as most people expected. Joey Votto hit his first home run of the season Sunday, April 14, while Jay Bruce has yet to clear the fence. It is certainly reasonable to expect better power numbers out of both players -- and with that, a few more runs to help the Reds improve upon their 2-2 record in one-run games and their 0-2 record in extra-inning games.

Finally, if Reds fans want another piece of optimistic news, the Reds' Pythagorean expected win-loss record is 7-5 (rather than their actual 5-7 record). In other words, the Reds have been a bit unlucky thus far in the season and aren't actually as bad as their record might currently indicate.

As it currently stands, there isn't reason for panic quite yet in Reds Country. The Reds have suffered a few injuries but seem to be well-positioned to deal with them for now. In addition, while the Reds have experienced a bit of bad luck thus far, one can expect luck to "even out" over the course of the season.

And the best part for the Reds? They now begin a stretch of games against the Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs (combined record 12-24 so far in 2013) before taking on the Nationals and Cardinals again. If the Reds can defeat the Phillies, Marlins and Cubs at roughly the same 2:1 clip as the rest of the league, the Reds can conceivably enter the next Nationals series with a record of 12-10 (which would be one game better than the Reds team that won 97 games last year was at the same point in the season).

Chris Reed lives in Pennsylvania but has been a Reds follower for about thirty years. He has written extensively about the club for over a decade on various blogs and websites. He founded Nachos Grande, a blog that combines his love of the Reds and that of baseball cards.

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