Monday, February 16, 2009

Can the Reds finish above .500? Part 1.

1990 is a long time ago. 1990 was the last time the Reds were in the World Series. They won it, in quite dramatic fashion none the less. The swept the Oakland Athletics, they beat one of the best teams in baseball history. They had arguably the greatest lead off hitter, and most famous person that refers to himself in the third person, in Ricky Henderson. They had the bash brothers, and juice brothers ironically, in Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco. They had Bob Welch and one of the most intimidating pitchers in the league in Dave Stewart. And finally they had the best closer in baseball at the time, "The Eck," Dennis Eckersley.

This was supposed to be a no-brainer, Oakland was supposed to steamroll the Reds, I mean why were the Reds even showing up? But by some miracle Billy Hatcher turned into Ted Williams, Jose Rijo Bob Gibson and the Reds in VERY unlikely fashion beat Oakland in a David versus Goliath moment.

But all that history is to point out that is the last time the Reds were really relevant in baseball. They have suffered through "Leather pants man," a bigoted owner, the depletion of their farm system, "We are only a couple years away" messages from the owners, Dan "the thank you list" O'Brien, all to get to this point in time. The point in time where the Reds could become relevant again.

  • Pitching. Pitching and defense wins championships. That is true in baseball about 90% of the time. For the last four years the Reds have caught on to this and have been drafting and trading for pitchers, and actually made some pretty smart moves too. They traded Jose Guillen when he was hot knowing he probably would not stay that way based on his career to that point and got Aaron Harang in return. They traded Josh Hamilton for Edison Volquez. A controversial move, but consider this, Hamilton had never played a full season, the Reds outfield was crowded, and the Reds knew that they could get more on the dollar for Hamilton than for Dunn or Griffey, which they would have preferred to trade away. Plus see the second sentence in this paragraph. They traded Wily Mo Pena to get Bronson Aroyo. The Reds figured out that Wily could only hit a fastball straight down the plate and again he was in a crowded outfield, so trade him and get a young pitcher, good idea. And of course they draft Cueto, Thompson, and Bailey. Kudos Reds for some rather good decisions.
  • Hanang - 16 wins. He only had 6 last year with injuries and lack of run support. Last year was a fluke and I think that he can get back to winning 15 or more like he did the previous two years
  • Aroyo - 15 wins. After a slow start Bronson put it together after the all star break and managed 15 wins last year. I don't expect him to ever win more than 15, he gives up too many runs to be an ace, but I think he has a few more 15 win seasons in front of him.
  • Volquez - 15 wins. While Edison was good last year, very good. He began to get tired after the all star break and showed that he was indeed a rookie. I think that next year he might be dominant, but look for a slight decrease this year.
  • Cueto - 10 wins. I think Johhny can build on a solid year last year in which he got hurt near the end. Johnny needs to lower the pitch count and find better control, but can still eek out 10 wins I believe.
  • Owings/Thompson/Bailey/Ramirez/Maloney - 10 wins. The fifth spot is still a big question mark heading into spring training, but I have no reason to believe that a mix of these men can't come up with at least 10 wins.
  • Bullpen - 20 wins. Looking at last year the Bully had 23 wins, so I do not think it is unreasonable to expect about 20 wins from them again this year.
Looking at just the pitching, excluding possible injuries, and basing off previous bodies of work it would seem that the Reds could finish above .500. I have them sitting at 86-76. Now that record would not have got them into the playoffs, but if they played in the national league west, they would have been in first!

Normally I wouldn't read too much into something like this, especially since pitchers and catchers just reported, but Reds fans need a bone. Something to make them look forward to this year, some real hope, not the regurgitated crap form the owners that is spewed every year about being "competitive."

Tomorrow I will look at the defense and see how we look there. So, make sure you tune in; same Reds channel, same Reds time!


Cleveland Andy said...

OK, here we go. I'll bust your bubble. The Reds DO have a chance to finish above .500 -- a 20% chance. They need many things to go right for this to happen. you've outlines some of them, but those are best case scenarios. in contradiction to your view, i think the fate of this team rests on offense. the rotation is fairly solid. harrang, arroyo, and volquez can all be potential 12-16 game winners. and cueto and bailey can be great or awful, but they are mostly young and play in a ballpark that plays like the size of a softball field. Only dominant pitching can survive that.

Now to the offense. Gone are the big bats of Griffey and Dunn. It may not seem like it now, but this will have a major impact on the lineup. Those were two experienced, legitimate 4/5 hole hitters. who is replacing them and what will the domino effect be? more than likely Bruce or Votto will get penciled in (or even Ramon Hernandez) any of those guys scare you? NO. Bruce may be scary one day, but not now. add to that they are inevitably going to have their sophomore slumps now that the league has scouted them and learned their red and blue zones, what they're looking for, and what garbage they will swing at.

Back to the domino effect...since they will be middle of the order, you are losing their production from the latter part of the lineup, who moves into spots 5-7?...keppinger? encarnacion? dickerson? norris hopper?...that's worrisome. those guys cannot protect anyone. last year bruce and votto were protected by dunn. either he hit behind them and you didn't want him up with a guy or tow on base...or he was always on base when they were at the plate, providing opportunities for production.

Dunn was perennial 40 HR, 110RBI, 100 runs, 100 walks. yeah, he struck out a lot, but his OBP, OPS, and Slugging were top 10 DESPITE THE K's. that is irreplaceable this season. and it will have a domino effect felt throughout the lineup. the weight of production will now be on young players and that almost always fails. The pitchers will have to be near perfect to win close to 81 games (and without injuries).

Also, they will have to play 19 games a piece against the Cubs, Cards, and Brew Crew.

My prediction is 68-94 with .500 possibility in 2010.

I hate to pierce your armor of hope with my sword of reality, but that's what my crystal ball shows.

George Herron said...

Damnit Andy, you are jumping the gun! Didn't you see the part 1 in the title, I will be getting to offense, just another day!

Stop ruining my future blog posts!

I agree with some of your points, but you will have to keep reading to see what I mean, I of course knew you were going to anyway!

Cubs scare me, Cards and Brew crew do not. Cards and Brew crew both have decent offenses, I like the Cards a little bit more, but neither have the pitching. Sabathia and Sheets are gone, which means Gallardo has to step up and be the ace. And the Cards staff does not scare me, just their streaky bats.

Pujols is consistent, duh, But Luwick, Ankiel, Glaus. Those guys are some of the streakiest hitters that have ever played.

More to come on the Reds as the week goes on.