Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Know Your Victim Part 4: The Reds

Oh the Reds, it seems every year when spring training starts the Reds get a small underground gathering of people who think that if everything turns out just right, maybe this is the year the Reds start contending. Usually people point to their offense, but this year people are pointing to their young pitching and saying that it might just become a really good staff. 

Gone are Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr., and Ryan Freel who seemed like they played in Cincinnati forever. Instead the Reds will count of super prospect Jay Bruce this season, Bruce came up last season and tore up the league for about a week, then reality hit and he became a real average hitter really fast. That is to be expected from rookie hitters, and I would expect that he improve a bit this season. Probably not enough improvement to be the guy that a lineup is centered around, but he would be a six hitter on a good team. Brandon Phillips is always a solid bet to have a good season, but he loves to strikeout and isn't very big on taking walks. Actually striking out and not walking is a common theme for the entire Reds offense. Joey Votto is probably the best on the team at taking a pitch, he had a solid rookie season last year and I don't see why his numbers would fall off this season. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion rounds out the quartet of major league quality hitters on the Reds, his career numbers are pretty much average, his career OPS+ of 103 is a good demonstration of this. 

After those four, this team has some issues on offense. At least they got rid of Corey Patterson. Jerry Hariston Jr. must have found some steroids last season because he put up a 124 OPS+ before he got hurt. This won't happen again because Hariston has had only one other season with an OPS+ over 100, and spent the two previous years with an OPS+ of 40. Chris Dickerson and Jacque Jones won't do anything of note, neither will Norris Hopper if he starts. Ramon Hernandez was brought in to catch, and I think he will help the pitchers. His bat is pretty good for a catcher, but his best days are in the rear view mirror.

Starting pitching is supposed to be the strength of this team, and it is as long as they stay healthy. Aaron Harang was a great pitcher before Dusty Baker got a hold of him. Of course Dusty is baseball retarded and after a poorly made decision in June, Harang was never the same. If the Reds are going to be good Harang HAS to be the pitcher he was in 2007 not the pitcher he was in 2008. Edinson Volquez had a breakout season in 2008, and despite falling off a bit in the second half he finished with a 3.21 ERA. His numbers won't be that good this season because the league will have caught up with him a bit, but I still think his ERA will be around 3.75 which is pretty good. Bronson Arroyo is good for 200 innings and 10 wins every season. He will have some great starts and some awful ones, in the end his ERA will settle in the low 4's. Johnny Cueto was another rookie last season and after a stellar first few starts he fell off, finishing with a 4.81 ERA. Cueto gives up a lot of homers last season, and watching him pitch you can tell he has problems with his emotions (some call that the Latin fire). Micah Owings is a SportsCenter poster boy because he is a good hitting pitcher (Zambrano is waaaaaaay better). Owings was an awful pitcher last season, though injury played into that a bit. Owings should be put in the rotation and left there to see what he can bring to the table over the course of the season. 

Their bullpen is strong at the end with Francisco Cordero and David Weathers setting him up. They have some other pieces that will be able to get some outs, but will also give up some runs. 

If the Reds pitching isn't destroyed by the WBC and Dusty Baker, they will win some games, maybe even finish .500. If Dusty gets in the way, they could be really bad. I think they will make a run at the wild card until mid-July and then we won't hear from them anymore.

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