Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 6/20/12

For the past few years the Reds have been a hitting club, looking to win with offense rather than defense. Coming into this season it was supposed to be the same old thing, the bats carried the team while the pitching staff did just enough to get by.

Apparently no one gave the pitchers the memo.

Johnny Cueto in particular has been outstanding up to this point, leading the starters for the Reds in both ERA and wins. With the exception of Mat Latos, who has been a disappointment after the high profile trade with the Padres, the Reds have blown all expectations out of the water. So far this season the Reds have the 8th best ERA in the majors, compared to 20th at the end of last season.

For the Reds it has been a welcome surprise in their run at an NL Central division title. Despite the exodus of both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder in free agency last season, the Central continues to have some of the best bats in baseball.

Ryan Braun continues to shock the majority of baseball fans, improving on his numbers from last season even after surviving a steroid appeal, and has looked like an MVP level player. Down in St. Louis the defending World Series Champs were supposed to take a dip in terms of power, but while Pujols struggles the Cards have the 3rd most runs in the majors and are scarier than ever.

So having a halfway decent pitching staff could prove vital in Cincinnati’s chance this season, but can it put them over the top?

Over the past 2 years the Reds have finished 1st and 3rd in the Central, all around the power of their bats. Behind MVP Joey Votto the Reds made it to the playoffs in 2010 and were promptly swept by the Philadelphia Phillies. That was without a reliable pitching staff. Now with the newly crowned closer Aroldis Chapman backing them up, Cueto, Arroyo, and Bailey be that lynch pin for Cincinnati’s high aspirations.

With a weaker division than in past years it should be no problem for Cincinnati to outlast St. Louis and Pittsburgh to win the Central, the real questions come in the next stages. With the Dodgers and the NL East winner likely being the two favorites to emerge from the National League the Reds will have to be on their toes to reach their highest goal.

Even if they don’t win it this year, it looks like the Reds are set for the long haul. If the pitching can keep up its quality watch out for the Reds to dominate the Central for the next few seasons.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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