Top 10 keys to Reds' slow start

Injuries a factor, but lack of performance has club below .500 early

Top 10 keys to Reds' slow start

CINCINNATI -- If you thought I was above capitalizing on a moment like David Letterman's retirement from late-night television by writing a Reds-centric Top 10 List, well, you'd be wrong.

While this Top 10 about the Reds' 18-22 record at the quarter mark of the season won't try to duplicate the humor brought over the past 33 years by Letterman -- an Indianapolis native who grew up a fan of the Reds -- it will take a quick look at what's going both right and wrong.

Wake the kids and phone the neighbors; here are the Top 10 reasons the Reds are 18-22 (cue Anton with the drum roll):

10. The Reds are 5-1 against the Pirates and 5-2 vs. the Brewers but 1-5 vs. the Cardinals, 1-4 vs. the Cubs, 1-4 in Interleague Play and 0-10 on getaway days.

9. Cincinnati is batting .238 as a team, which was 13th in the National League entering Thursday. With runners in scoring position, the average drops way down to .189 -- 30th out of 30 Major League clubs. That includes an 0-for-11 stretch with RISP during the club's losses at Kansas City on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cozart's solo homer

8. Coming off his worst offensive season, shortstop Zack Cozart is on pace to deserve an NL All-Star nod. Since starting the season 1-for-12, Cozart is batting .308 over his last 32 games and .287/.343/.496 overall. His six home runs are tied for the most among shortstops in the Majors. Meanwhile, he has continued to play excellent defense.

7. Todd Frazier is second in the NL, and third in the Majors, with 12 home runs. He leads third basemen with six steals and is third in RBIs (23) among those at the position. Healthy again, second baseman Brandon Phillips is batting .314 with a .356 on-base percentage.

Bruce on 11-2 loss to Giants

6. On the other end of the spectrum, center fielder Billy Hamilton is batting .214 with a .261 on-base percentage and has lost his leadoff spot. Right fielder Jay Bruce is batting .195, and left fielder Marlon Byrd is at .207. Bruce has shown signs of heating up the past week, while Byrd has improved in May with six homers and 15 RBIs, posting a .638 slugging percentage.

Mesoraco discusses workout

5. Two big injuries. No. 2 starter Homer Bailey is done for 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Catcher Devin Mesoraco hasn't caught a game since April 12 and is limited to pinch-hitting or serving as the designated hitter because of a left hip impingement. One positive: Mesoraco tried crouching for the first time on Tuesday and may catch a bullpen session soon.

4. The rotation ranks ninth in the NL with a 4.04 ERA and is showing cracks. After a strong early showing, Anthony DeSclafani is 0-4 with a 6.38 ERA in his last five starts. Jason Marquis hasn't completed four innings in back-to-back starts and has a 6.91 ERA overall. Following Marquis' effort in a 7-1 loss to the Royals on Wednesday, Reds manager Bryan Price indicated that the veteran right-hander's security in the rotation was open for debate. "The question is a reasonable question," Price said.

Cueto fans nine

3. Right-hander Johnny Cueto has remained a true ace, however. Cueto leads the Majors in innings pitched (65 1/3) while owning a 3.03 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. Now he just needs more run support.

2. The bullpen's 5.17 ERA is last in the Majors. Veteran righty Kevin Gregg has already been released, and the other expected reinforcement to the bullpen, Burke Badenhop, has yet to establish any positive consistency. Closer Aroldis Chapman has mostly remained a bright spot with stellar performances.

Votto's two-run shot

1. Joey Votto is healthy and hit seven homers in April to silence some critics. But he has only one extra-base hit in May.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.