Let's forget about last season's statistics which show the Reds lacked hitting and power (next to last in batting and home runs) but were strong in pitching (third-best ERA). Past records don't seem to mean a thing as far as Cincinnati is concerned. Go back just two years and you find the Reds had the worst pitching in the league but were near the top in hitting and home runs. General Manager Gabriel Paul has had trouble getting the scales in balance. This year the Reds will have hitting and power again. The addition of home-run hitter Frank Thomas promises them that, and the continued presence of Frank Robinson who became a star so quickly that it's hard to realize he's been around for only three seasons, double-guarantees it. Rookie Center Fielder Vada Pinson promises a little extra. Left Fielder Gus Bell and Catcher Ed Bailey were hitting the long ball a few seasons ago, and they're both too talented to have forgotten how. Fiery Second Baseman Johnny Temple doesn't hit many home runs, but he's always on base (91 walks and a .306 batting average). Right Fielder Jerry Lynch became a .300 hitter when he was allowed to play regularly. Bob Purkey, youngest of the quartet of starting pitchers, won 17 last season, and Don Newcombe, Brooks Lawrence and Joe Nuxhall all had the winning habit only a few years back. Despite the seesaw hitting and pitching, the defense has been unshakeable. No major league team ever made as few errors (100) as the 1958 Reds. McMillan and Temple are still superb around second. Bell and Pinson, and Robinson, too, if he plays outfield, can go far to get a ball and know how to get rid of it in a hurry. Bailey remains one of the best receivers in the league.
Too much depends on aging pitchers, whose best years may belong to the past. Hulking Don Newcombe had arm trouble last year and may never be the same without Campy and Jackie Robinson around to goad him. Lawrence is 34 and has worked an awful lot of innings in his career. Unless some of the rookies come through, the secondary pitching won't worry the hitters too much. The Reds have to find a reliever or two quickly; hard-bitten Hal Jeff coat can't do it alone. He did a wonderful job early last year but broke down when he was used too often. Some defense is lost with Thomas at third, and although Robinson has quick natural movements, he is playing an unfamiliar position at first. Lynch spoils the defensive reputation of the outfield.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
There are loads of them, and they make the difference between last year's team and this. Versatile longtime Pirate Frank Thomas is the big one. With the short left-field fence target at Crosley Field, there's no telling how many home runs he could bash in 1959. Strongman Del Ennis, newly arrived from St. Louis, missed his usual 100 RBIs last season but still is a nice guy to have on your bench. Handy utility infielder Eddie Kasko, Jim Pendleton, who can play second, third or the outfield, and sharp, pull-hitting Johnny Powers add more seasoning and depth to a good bench that includes holdovers Bob Thurman, Pete Whisenant and Walt Dropo. Righthander Bobbie Mabe has all the pitches to become Manager Mayo Smith's needed fifth starter or long relief man. Twenty-year-old Vada Pinson didn't stick after a sensational spring last season but did come back to hit .412 in nine games at the end of the year. He had a great spring again this time, and the neat center fielder, who runs like a whippet, should be ready to start a long career in the majors. Heavy-set Dutch Dotterer finally gets his chance to catch behind Bailey this year. The Reds, who have had trouble producing their own pitchers, have come up with some promising ones at last. Left-hander Jim O'Toole, in his first year in Organized Baseball, had a 1.29 ERA in winning 20 games in Double-A competition. O'Toole is a determined young man (22) with a live fast ball, remarkable control and unusual poise. Wispy Orlando Pena from Cuba has the best chance of sticking, on the strength of 15 wins in the winter leagues and a good spring showing. Another rookie who looks as if he might be ready this season is 21-year-old Miguel Cuellar, also a southpaw from Cuba.
THE BIG IFS
The Reds could really stir things up in the National League if Ed Bailey regains his batting eye, Gus Bell gets healthy again, Jerry Lynch continues to hit well and Vada Pinson duplicates his spring in the summer. But even if these four doubts are favorably resolved, Big Newk must rear back and throw that hard one again.
This is a team with enough talent at all key positions—except pitching—to go all the way. Robinson is a fine player, and the others are near the top at their position. Frank Thomas should love little Crosley Field. The pitching was better last year but still needs improvement. Without it, the Reds will have a fight to stay in fourth. With it—Milwaukee, beware!
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]