Well, today’s the last game of the 2005 regular season, and what a season it’s been. Lots of highs, many more lows, and plenty of items to discuss.

John Fay turns an eye to next year in today’s Enquirer. He comes to the obvious conclusion:

You don’t need to be a baseball genius to figure what changes must be made for the Reds to return to respectability.

Even if you don’t know OPS from UPS, you can look at the stats and figure it out.

The Reds need better pitching.

Solving that problem is exceedingly more difficult than identifying it.

“It’s not a surprise to anyone that our No. 1 priority is to improve the pitching,” said general manager Dan O’Brien.

The Reds are first in the National League in runs, doubles, home runs and slugging percentage.

But all that good stuff on offense was negated by a pitching staff that is second-to-last in the National League – ahead of only the altitude-challenged Colorado Rockies.

I’m going to make a bold statement: the Reds only need one pitcher to be a contender next year. Eric Milton was awful, but you have to think he’s going to bounce back closer to his career average next year. If he’s average, and Harang and Claussen are slightly above average, you can plug in Belisle or someone like Justin Germano at the back of the rotation. Put a good pitcher at the front of the rotation — and I don’t know who that might be — but that would be enough to put the Reds in contention.

Heck, if all the Reds’ pitchers had just performed to their career averages, the Reds would have been in the playoff hunt this year. Unfortunately, they — Milton, Hudson, Ortiz — were historically bad. That can’t happen again (can it?). When they pitched average, the Reds played above .500 baseball.

Use this as a game thread, and let us hear what you think the Reds need to do to be competitive next year.

7 Responses

  1. Glenn

    This has been an extremely disappointing season, but I hope OB doesn’t panic and start trading away the position players.

    I think the Reds are two starting pitchers and a closer away from being a contender. That doesn’t sound like much but I’ll bet there are alot of other bad teams that say the same thing.

    You’re point is well taken. If the Reds pitchers had just rose to the level of average, the team would have been contenders. I can think of at least 5 games this year during which the Reds lost 5 runs or better leads late in the game due to the bullpen from hell. If you put those 5 games in the win column and half of the other late losses into the win total, you are looking at a contending club.

  2. Eric

    When pitchers pitch below their career average, it could be bad luck. On the other hand, it could be one or more of the defense, the catcher, and the pitching coach who are failing to help them. I doubt that one starter would save this team.

  3. Chris

    I think I agree with Chad. Milton should progress back to the mean, and pre-2005, Wilson was the most consistent pitcher I’ve ever seen (exactly 92 ERA plus for four consecutive years).

    I figured this out a couple weeks ago, but let’s look at the final numbers:

    Milton gave up 134 Earned Runs in 186.1 IP (6.47). This year’s NL average ERA was 4.22. That means Milton’s ERA+ was an atrocious 65. His career ERA+, however, was 99. If he’d pitched at his career norms, he’d have put up a 4.26 ERA. That works out to 88 ER, instead of 134. Assuming that the decreased hits and baserunners would also lead to a couple fewer unearned runs (Milton gave up 7), a career-norm Eric Milton would have given up about 48 fewer runs than the 2005 version did.

    Wilson, being hurt, didn’t do quite as much damage. He had an amazing 7.77 ERA (40 ER over 46.1 IP). His well-established 92 ERA+ norm would’ve worked out to a 4.59 ERA. Over the same innings, that’s 24 ER. The “average” Paul Wilson gives up 16 fewer runs.

    All things being equal, those guys’ “reversion to the mean” saves the Reds 64 runs – or 6-7 wins.

    Instead of 73-89, the Reds are 80-82. That’s still 9 games out of the Wild Card.

    If we replace Ortiz with a good pitcher, we might get close enough. Let’s see:

    Ortiz gave up 102 ER in 171.1 IP (5.36 ERA). Let’s take, at random, the 20th-ranked pitcher in the NL (by VORP) . That turns out to be Josh Beckett, who happens to have pitched a similar number of innings as Ortiz (178.2). Beckett gave up 67 ER – 22 fewer than Ortiz. That’s essentially another 2 wins, getting the Reds above .500.

    You could also figure that a top-line pitcher would typically throw 210-220 innings, taking 40-50 away from the (junky) bullpen (adding another win or so). The same goes for a full season of Claussen (probably 50 more innings).

    All that said – I’m not sure it’s enough. Even taking the Danny Graves and Ben Webbers out of the equation, the Reds have to do a bit more to get to 90 wins.

  4. Chris

    Here’s the bottom line:

    Assuming the same offense (820 runs scored), (and assuming I haven’t loused up the math), the Reds will have to cut their Runs Allowed down to 700 to win 92 games.

  5. al

    …but with increased parity i think we can expect wild card teams to be right around where houston was this year at 89 wins.

    The reds would need to get down somewhere near 740 RA to get there with the same offensive production, which is a little more doable, but still a massive overhaul.

    With the numbers chris posted above, milton and wilson getting back to form (unlikely methinks) and a full season of claussen would take care of right around half of that, maybe a little more.

    That leaves a solid 65 runs say that the reds have to make up in a new starter and a retooled pen. that’s a lot to hope for.

    ramon ortiz and 40 innings of our spot starter (a combination of belisle, hudson, keisler, and ramirez) allowed 130 runs.

    If by some miracle the reds got 210 innings out of a starter like john patterson, that would make up 54 of those.

    i think that our pen will have matured enough next year to make up 10 more. So in summation the reds need:

    1. full returns to form from milton and wilson.

    2. full consistent seasons from harang and claussen

    3. slightly improved play all around in the pen

    4. and a legitimate 210 inning ace to fall in their lap.

    ought six is in the bag!

  6. Chris

    Or they can petition to add the DH. Wily Mo can certainly create 10 more runs than Harang.

  7. LVW

    I don’t know if the Reds can afford a frontline closer. I’m not saying Weathers should be the closer at the start of 2006 but let’s take a look at what he did after he became the clear cut closer. Take away that 1 disastrous outing late in the season vs the Phils(which was a non save situation) and you have this:
    22 1/3 IP; 5ER; 2.01 ERA; 9 Sv; 2 BS