One of the loyal members of the Nation pointed out in a comment tonight that MLB posted their first “power rankings” of the season. Here are the top 12 teams:

  1. Washington Harpers
  2. Los Angeles Angels
  3. San Francisco Giants
  4. Detroit Tigers
  5. Toronto Blue Jays
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers
  7. Cincinnati Reds
  8. Atlanta Braves
  9. Texas Rangers
  10. Tampa Bay Rays
  11. Arizona Diamondbacks
  12. St. Louis Cardinals

The good news is that the Reds are ranked ahead of three great teams – the Cardinals, Rangers and Braves. Yet, many Reds fans will recoil in disbelief at the rankings. Not because the Yankees and Red Sox failed to make the list (boo-hoo), but because Reds fans expect their team to make it to — and — win the World Series this year. There’s no way that six teams are ahead of us.

But the hard truth is that even though the Reds front office has taken meaningful steps to improve the club from last year (signing Shin-Soo Choo, improving the bench) and presumably JoeyMVP will be fully healthy this October, the team nonetheless has lost ground relative to other top organizations.

Look no further than the top of the list. The Washington Harpers won more games than the Reds last year. Like the Reds, they were agonizingly close to winning the NLDS and advancing to play in the NLCS. In the off-season the Harpers added Dan Haren as a starting pitcher. They added Denard Span to lead-off and play a great center field. They signed Rafael Soriano, a dominant closer to go along with an already tough bullpen. AND this year, they’ll have Stephen Strasburg in the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the process of becoming the best baseball team money can buy, with a $200 million payroll. Their lineup and pitching staff is filled with All Stars.

The main reason I so strongly want the Reds to give Aroldis Chapman a legitimate chance to become a starting pitcher is that his success in that role would be one change that could move the Reds forward dramatically to compete with those six teams. If the Chapman-to-starter experiment works, the rotation of Cueto, Latos, Chapman and Bailey could be truly awesome in the post-season. And that’s what the Reds need to be to beat the handful of teams they’ll face at the end of the year. In the 2012 NLDS, because of his role, Chapman pitched just one important inning. [I almost left this paragraph out, because it isn’t the main point of my post and I don’t want it to devolve into more all-Chapman, all-the-time.] 

The Reds front office is always looking to improve the team. And ownership has — as promised — substantially raised the payroll to bring the city a championship. But if their goal is to win the World Series — and I believe it is, from Castellini to Cozart — then incremental improvement isn’t enough. We can’t abide by the philosophy that “well, it worked last year, if it ain’t broke…” because it only “worked” up to a point. It “worked” if you were satisfied watching other teams play in the NLCS and World Series.

Yes, those power rankings will change substantially as the season goes on. Teams will suffer devastating injuries. Some will lack the chemistry to play up to the sum of their parts. And a few will exceed their talent on paper. Hopefully the Reds will fall into the latter camp.

But the bottom line is that Reds fans should go into this season with clear eyes. The Reds should be an improved ball club and that still might not be enough.

 

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 72 Comments

  1. Dead on with this post. It’s the reason I was bothered with the total lack of interest in Justin Upton. Sure, Choo will help. And Votto will destroy, because Votto destroys. But the NL took substantial steps forward and the Reds are just taking regular steps. We’ll see what happens, maybe Mesoraco rakes and assumes the starting role at an All-Star caliber level, maybe Bruce has the MVP season some people believe he is capable of, and maybe the Chapman move works. But Ryan Hanigan could regress, BP could see his unexpected fall from grace that so many 30+ second basemen have had, and our roll with Ludwick fails miserably.

    All in all, it’s early and there’s no reason not be entirely optimistic. Sure the Los Angeles Yankees have the best team money can buy, and the Nationals have their perfectly constructed squad. But I like My Reds chances. I’m just ready for meaningful games to begin.

  2. My feeling is while the Jays and Dodgers have thrown a lot of money at the wall in what should be a positive way, they deserve nothing in ratings like these until they start to show the results on the field.

    Losing Cueto in the midst of game 1 of the division series after just 8 pitches, the Reds still took the Giants to the brink. The Giants also got taken to the brink by the Cards then danced over the Tigers, So, putting the Tigers as high as they are seems like a sop to the AL to me.

    Taking a step back, I guess that means I think the Reds deserve to be 4th until somebody starts to show otherwise in the field. I’ll let the Giants supporters decide if they need to gripe abotu the Harpers and (particularly) Angels getting a free pass by the Giants.

  3. I’m with OhioJim on this one. I remember at the beginning of the 2011 season the Red Sox had a payroll of $163 million and had tossed big dollars at Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. They were nearly the concensus to at least make the World Series if not win it all. We all know how great that went. Perhaps the Dodgers and Blue Jays have a better locker room environment than the Sox but you never know until the season unfolds. I’ll believe the Dodgers are legit when they make a deep playoff run. And the Blue Jays? Yeah, they have a ton of new talent, but it’s a bunch of guys who haven’t really played together before…and, well, it’s the Blue Jays. I’m not saying they won’t be a great team, but they have to prove it to me first. I know what the Reds are capable of.

    Besides, baseball is a crazy game and you never know how things will go. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I can’t wait until it all starts up!

  4. First I’ll tackle the list. I would have the Reds third behind the Nationals and Tigers. The Blue Jays and Dodgers to me still need to prove it. I won’t get into to the American league teams because we don’t really have to compete with them over the long term. All I’ll say is that I have questions about the Blue Jays rotation (will R.A. dickey repeat or come close to last year, will Josh Johnson be healthy and good, ditto for Brandon Morrow, will Romero bounce back) as well as the Angels rotation (after Weaver and I guess Wilson who struggled towards the end of last year who do they have? Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton). I think the Tigers have the most complete team in the AL.

    As for the National league teams. The only team I see an argument for (on paper) being better than us is the Nationals. I know the Giants beat us and won the WS, but as everyone knows the playoffs are often not indicative of teams overall strength, but rather how they were playing for a given 15 to 17 game stretch. I think our pitching is basically even with theirs. Cain is probably slightly ahead of Cueto (and even that’s debatable given the home parks they pitch in), but after that I’d take the Reds as far as depth goes. And their lineup, in my humble opinion, has some holes. They’re banking on Scutaro and Pagan to do what they did last year and that would surprise me at their ages. Hunter Pence actually wasn’t very good last year (ignore the RBI total) and after Posey and Sandoval their isn’t much to love. As for the Reds, the with the addition of Choo and the subtractions of Stubbs, Cairo, and Valdez who ate up over 800 at-bats last year, plus a healthy Votto, the offense will almost have to be better. I know Ludwick and Frazier will probably regress some, but I think that will more than be made up for with a full season of Joey and Choo (obviously all this is contingent upon avoiding major injuries).

    The Dodgers to me also have more questions than the Reds. Carl Crawford just go shut down, Adrian Gonzalez has been declining for three years in a row now, Hanley Ramiriz is also in his third year in a row of regression (to say nothing of his horrible defense at short)and Matt Kemp is coming of injury. Their rotation after Kershaw and Grenke is also a big question mark. Josh Beckett hasn’t pitched well since 2011, Chad Billingsley is coming of injury and Chris Capuano is Chris Capuano.

    That is my annoyingly long-winded way of saying I think the Reds are the second best team in the national league.

    As for the premise of your article. Yes, it’s hard to argue with what an exceptional offseason the Nationals had. But I guess I’m not sure what you would have the Reds do instead. They addressed all their needs and did so without giving up any up high end prospects (unless you want to call Gregorious a high end prospect) or spend exorbitant amounts of money. The Reds didn’t need a starting pitcher, didn’t need bullpen help (or at the very least didn’t need it for 2 yrs 28 mill like the Nationals payed for Soriano). What they did do is add the leadoff man and the bench help they needed. The biggest question marks with the Reds seem to all be based on regression which I freely admit is a concern, but the question marks with the other teams ahead of them in the national league are based on performance last year.

    Also, the Dodgers have more money than the Reds. The appear to have more money than every other team in professional sports. This is a harsh reality, but not one the Reds have any control over. It’s a bigger market team and with astronomical TV deal. Such is the nature of professional baseball and pro sports in general. All the Reds can do is try and negotiate and more fruitful TV deal when their time comes.

    I guess what I’m confused by is that you seem to be claiming the Reds didn’t do enough this winter to improve the club. Not only is this the first time I’ve heard that, but also seems to be deeply flawed in my view. The Reds filled the holes they had and increased the payroll to nearly 100 million. Yes the Nationals will certainly be a good team (and incidentally have one of the riches owners in baseball), and yes the Dodgers have more money than god, but my question to you would be what else could the Reds have realistically done to get better)

    Sorry for the long post.

    • aweis09: I guess what I’m confused by is that you seem to be claiming the Reds didn’t do enough this winter to improve the club. Not only is this the first time I’ve heard that, but also seems to be deeply flawed in my view. The Reds filled the holes they had and increased the payroll to nearly 100 million. Yes the Nationals will certainly be a good team (and incidentally have one of the riches owners in baseball), and yes the Dodgers have more money than god, but my question to you would be what else could the Reds have realistically done to get better)

      Great comment. I agree with a lot of it.

      My point was not to criticize the Reds organization’s off-season efforts. In fact, I specifically gave props to the ownership for substantially raising the payroll. My Chapman point is probably the closest I came to prescription.

      The point of the OP, which I think is pretty clearly laid out in the final paragraph, was that while the Reds got better, other teams likely got even mo’ better.

      I’m as excited about the season as anyone – ponied up for good season tickets again. Just trying to temper the expectations with a bit of reality.

      • The point of the OP, which I think is pretty clearly laid out in the final paragraph, was that while the Reds got better, other teams likely got even mo’ better.

        The problem with this qoute is that the Reds were already better than all the teams that are ranked ahead of them now (save Washington). And the Reds got better. Did the other teams improve SO much that they surpassed a team that was already ahead of them when said team also improved?

        Seems dubious at best, especially when teams like the Dodgers are filled with washed up, over priced former All Stars and teams like San Francisco didn’t really improve much if at all.

        • The problem with this qoute is that the Reds were already better than all the teams that are ranked ahead of them now (save Washington). And the Reds got better. Did the other teams improve SO much that they surpassed a team that was already ahead of them when said team also improved?

          This was exactly my thought reading this article.

          The Angels had pretty bad pitching last year and added Hamilton. Hardly seems like the best fix, still worse than the Reds.

          I don’t think the Giants were that great last year, and this year they’ve just doubled down on guys who had nice playoff runs. Still worse than the Reds.

          The Tigers bullpen could be little bit of a mess, and they clearly had some struggles last year, but I like the team and if you want to rank them a little higher than the Reds that’s ok.

          The Blue Jays were not a good team last year. They had terrible pitching and holes all over the field. They’ve added some nice pieces, but vaulting them over the Reds based on the expectations of Josh Johnson, RA Dickey, Jose Reyes, and Melky Cabrera? That’s hardly a stable of can’t miss guys. Still worse than the Reds.

          More or less Ditto the Dodgers. Not a great team last year, added a ton of payroll with almost no certainty. Greinke will be great for them, and that makes them better. The guys they got from Boston barely improve the team if at all. Still worse than the Reds.

          I guess some people feel like there has to be a negative post sometimes for balance or something. I think this one just didn’t make much sense.

      • Fair point and what I should have said is the Reds did everything within their means to get improve. However I still would disagree that the other teams got appreciably better than the Reds. The Dodgers got better from a financial standpoint, but from I baseball standpoint still have many issues. The Giants basically did nothing. The Nationals did make several upgrades, but they were probably better to begin with and honestly I’m more worried about competing with the other teams in our division simply because we play them more and that’s who we have to beat to make the playoffs.

        Also some people have been critical of the off season moves. Someone specifically pointed out that the bench isn’t better, just new. I would also disagree here a little. I will concede better is a relative term and a pair of middle school players would likely be an upgrade over Cairo and Valdez, but Hanahan and Donald, as well as full season of Xavier Paul are indisputably better than what we ran out their last year.

        As far as Ludwick and Parra go. Again I see people’s points on this subject. I wish Ludwick had been a one year deal, but he probably wouldn’t have signed had that been the case. However for what the Reds could spend and what they would’ve had to give up via trad (i.e. to get a Justin Upton or Stanton)Ludwick may well have been their best option. Also many of the projection systems (whatever they’re worth) seem to agree he will regress some, but still have a serviceable season – 20+ hrs and .260 or so at the plate – and I can live with that. And let’s not forget we play in one of the best hitting parks in baseball. That should help

        Oh and Parra sucks. I can’t really defend that one.

        Look the offense probably will be better. It would be hard for it to be worse. 669 runs isn’t very many for a division winner – even in a low run scoring environment – but what I think this teams strength will be is its starting pitching. I’d put Bailey, Cueto and Latos up against almost any trio in the majors especially if Bailey continues to show what he showed towards the end of last season. Couple that with Chapman’s potential and you have the makings of a dominant rotation.

        In examining the list, on paper, the only two rosters I’d switch out for the Reds are the Tigers and Nationals. I wouldn’t mind having the Dodgers payroll, but they can keep their team save for Kershaw and Kemp. Fan’s expectations are high and I think that’s reasonable. I’d go as far as saying I’d be surprised if the Reds didn’t win 90 plus games. This is a good team. Do they need things to break right for them? Sure. But even the best teams need to get some breaks. I think what the Reds have done a good job of is engineering as much certainty as you can into a major league roster before the season begins.

        Great comment. I agree with a lot of it.

        My point was not to criticize the Reds organization’s off-season efforts. In fact, I specifically gave props to the ownership for substantially raising the payroll. My Chapman point is probably the closest I came to prescription.

        The point of the OP, which I think is pretty clearly laid out in the final paragraph, was that while the Reds got better, other teams likely got even mo’ better.

        I’m as excited about the season as anyone – ponied up for good season tickets again. Just trying to temper the expectations with a bit of reality.

        • Someone specifically pointed out that the bench isn’t better, just new.

          @aweis09: I said:

          Yes, they are new faces, but I don’t see that as greatly improved.

          I stand by my statement. I still think the bench is a weakness.

          • @aweis09: I said:I stand by my statement. I still think the bench is a weakness.

            I guess the question is, a weakness compared to what? Willie Harris, Miguel Cairo, and Wilson Valdez were worth -2.5 wins last year.

            If Paul, Hanahan, and Donnel can be replacement level players (which what they were together last year), then the Reds should be up 2.5 wins. That’s pretty dang good.

            But if the question is good compared to other team’s benches, that’s a different question. The Reds should be above replacement level this year (with Heisey and Mesoraco) and I think most teams would take that.

    • I guess what I’m confused by is that you seem to be claiming the Reds didn’t do enough this winter to improve the club.

      @aweis09: The Reds had two weaknesses last year, top of the order and the bench. Acquiring Choo to improve the top of the order while all but guaranteeing Phillips will be in the 2 hole by resigning Ludwick fixes the top of the order. I don’t see a great improvement on the bench. Yes, they are new faces, but I don’t see that as greatly improved.

      They spent a lot of money on Ludwick. I’m sure we are all happy to see him back, but they could have used that same money on a major upgrade for a LF/4 hole hitter.

      Some of their signings are very questionable in my mind. Parra is a brutal signing. I am very much against his presence in the bullpen. We will be complaining about him all year. Olivo has no business being in the discussion. I don’t know what the management plan is but I don’t want him squatting at GABP.

      I do somewhat agree with your statement, well an earlier one that alludes to the Reds improving by losing Stubbs, Cairo, and Valdez. Addition by subtraction.

  5. Yes Hanigan could regress, BP could start to show his age, and Ludwick could perform like the 2011 version of himself. I don’t think all of these things will happen but if they do I think this team is deep and well-rounded enough to make up for those weaknesses. While I don’t think Meso is going to all of a sudden play like an all star and win the starting job his progress is evident and I expect him to be significantly better than last season. IMO the 2 players with the greatest chance to spend some amount of time on the DL this season are BP and Ludwick and I think H-Rod, Heisey, Xavier Paul, and maybe even Billy are more than capable of picking up that slack for a few weeks mid-season.

    Call me crazy but I’m expecting (and counting on) a huge season from Homer Bailey, I believe he is the wild card that could put this team over the top especially if the Chapman experiment is successful. Like Homer I have a great deal of experience with shoulder injuries and all kinds of rehab and listening to him and Brantley both talk about his training regimen in the offseason and during last year has me convinced that he has turned the corner.

  6. Thanks Steve, while the rankings are meaningless, your point was not. Regarding the rankings, I would switch Detroit and Atlanta. Nothing against Detroit, their a very good team, they just ain’t the Reds. The Braves are VERY good.

  7. Damn! They’re… sorry Chris Wilson.

  8. Yeah, remember last year when the Marlins went gung-ho in the offseason, filling up their team with All-Stars and roared out of the gate, utterly demolishing all comers and winning the NL East by 30 games and making a deep r….

    Wait, what’s that you say?

    Oh..

    Ok, nevermind.

  9. let’s not forget to just enjoy watching the Reds play baseball, that’s what I’m looking forward too

    • let’s not forget to just enjoy watching the Reds play baseball, that’s what I’m looking forward too

      @Mike: Yes!

      As for the Reds doing enough, I think the goal is to win the NL Central. What happens in the playoffs is a matter of luck almost as much as it is a matter of talent. Getting people going at the same time, getting a ball to fall in, capitalizing on an opponent’s mistake; this is all partly a matter of luck. The best team on paper doesn’t always win the World Series. Personally, I think the Reds made the right moves to ensure they are the favorites to win the NL Central. I also think they did so without mortgaging the future or blowing up the budget.

      As for Chapman, the possible conversion of him to a starter is a very, very bold move by a franchise often accused of being too conservative and old-school. Most of the old-school baseball types don’t think the Reds should be doing this. I lean towards agreement with them. The Reds however are going with the more statistically inclined and are using the approach that if this works, Chapman is much more valuable as a starting pitcher. The stat-geek in me can’t argue with that and I hope it works out. Like Steve said, if it works, Chapman in the rotation can be huge.

      • As for the Reds doing enough, I think the goal is to win the NL Central. What happens in the playoffs is a matter of luck almost as much as it is a matter of talent.

        Exactly. What matters most in the rankings is that the Cincinnati Reds are ahead of the St Louis Cardinals. And the other teams in the NL Central that didn’t deserve mention.

        I’m staying out of the Chapman argument today.

  10. This is my humble take on the top 10 of the list:

    1. Washington Harpers – Ok, yeah, they should be pretty good.

    2. Los Angeles Angels – An aging Pujols, enigmatic Hamilton, questionable rotation, and possibly sophmore slumping Trout = probably not this good.

    3. San Francisco Giants – They are the champs, but come on, they weren’t even this good last year. And they LOST pieces of their team.

    4. Detroit Tigers – Yeah, they should be good.

    5. Toronto Blue Jays – Looks good on paper. Show me on the field.

    6. Los Angeles Dodgers – Steve should have said they are filled with FORMER All Stars. The only impact players they have now, based on present performance, would be Kershaw and Kemp, POSSIBLY Greinke.

    7. Cincinnati Reds – They should win the NL Central going away. If things fall in the right places, they should be one of the best teams in the NL.

    8. Atlanta Braves – If the Upton brothers work out, the Braves might surprise people and dethrone Washington.

    9. Texas Rangers – Hamilton or no, this is a still a good, dangerous team. They are my pick to win the AL west, not the Angels.

    10. Tampa Bay Rays – Kind of surprised by this. Don’t really know enough to comment.

    If I were shuffling these teams, it’d go:

    1. Washington
    2. Detroit
    3. Cincinnati
    4. Atlanta
    5. Texas
    6. Toronto
    7. L.A. Angels
    8. San Fran
    9. L.A. Dodgers
    10. Tampa Bay

  11. Once the playoffs start, it’s darn near anybody’s game, so the goal is just to make the post season. Anything else is gravy…

    Anyone really believe the Giants were the best team last year?

    • Once the playoffs start, it’s darn near anybody’s game, so the goal is just to make the post season. Anything else is gravy…

      Anyone really believe the Giants were the best team last year?

      @Bill Lack: I guess I should have read all the comments before making my own comments because you just nailed what I was trying to say.

  12. I’m with @aweis09: on this one. Are you looking for a roster that guarantees a World Series win? Sorry, no such thing. What the Reds have done the last couple of years is exacatly what every team should be doing: They’ve put their team in the best possible position to make the playoffs. It’s all they can do. If the 2012 post season taught us anything, it’s that the best team (on paper) doesn’t always win. By Pythagorean standings, the 2012 Giants were worse than the Reds and the Cardinals, the two teams they beat in the playoffs, and in fact had the worst Pythag record of any NL playoff team including the wild cards. The only division winner with a worse Pythag record was the Tigers, who happened to be the Giants World Series opponent (Source: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2012-standings.shtml , and click on the pythWL column).

    More to the point, does anybody thing the Giants were the best team in baseball last year? I don’t. Anything can happen in the playoffs. Any team that makes the playoffs can win the World Series, if the bats get hot at the right time, if a few breaks go their way, if the team they’re facing loses their best pitcher 8 pitches into game 1. Even a 7 game series is too short to guarantee the “best” team will always win. Even a 200+ million dollar payroll doesn’t buy you a World Series title all that often.

    The Reds did everything they should have done, and everything they could have done. To expect them to put together a “perfect” team on paper is not only impossible, but it’s no more of a guarantee of a World Series win than the team they have built is.

  13. Okay, so @Bill Lack: made all my points in three sentences instead of three paragraphs. Oh well.

  14. @mike I don’t think anyone is going to forget and I know I’m not, it just gets frustrating when other people don’t think the Reds are as awesome as I think they are. Despite the way it ended last season will always be very special to me, so many great moments. I’m young enough to have zero memory or recollection of the ’95 NLDS and just old enough to have been at the one game playoff in ’99 and to have suffered through some very dark seasons. Ken Griffey Jr…ugh.

  15. @AndyS: You’re creating a straw argument to knock it down. Did you really read in my OP that the Reds need a “roster that guarantees a World Series win”? You put the word “perfect” in quotation marks at the end as though I used that word, which I didn’t. Again, the only prescriptive part of my post was the Chapman paragraph. It wasn’t meant to be prescriptive.

    The playoffs are a crapshoot relative to the regular season and that teams play above and below their “on paper” status (a point I made verbatim in my post). That said, I’d still rather have the healthier, better team going in the playoffs. If the outcome is completely random, then Cueto’s injury shouldn’t have mattered, nor Votto’s poor health.

  16. @Steve Mancuso: There’s really no need to be so defensive. I put “perfect” in quotes because I don’t beleive it’s possible to have a perfect roster.

    And speaking of straw men, where did I (or anybody else) say that the outcome of the playoffs is completely random?

    Nobody’s disagreeing with you here. We all want the Reds to win the World Series. I just don’t believe the Reds could realistically have done more than they did (at least, not without sacrificing the future beyond 2013).

  17. I am by no means a Cardinals fan, but how in the world are the D-Backs ranked higher than St. Louis? . . . Did I miss something or is this one of those “the D-Backs are gritty and tough, just like Kirk Gibson” things? . . .

    • I am by no means a Cardinals fan, but how in the world are the D-Backs ranked higher than St. Louis? . . . Did I miss something or is this one of those “the D-Backs are gritty and tough, just like Kirk Gibson” things? . . .

      Yeah. Agreed. How are the Cardinals not in the top 10?

    • I am by no means a Cardinals fan, but how in the world are the D-Backs ranked higher than St. Louis? . . . Did I miss something or is this one of those “the D-Backs are gritty and tough, just like Kirk Gibson” things? . . .

      The Cardinals do not even deserve a top-12 vote. They are reeling. They will be battling the Buccos and Brewers for 3rd in the NL Central. They have lost Carpenter. Is Wainwright fully recovered?? Jaime Garcia is still hurting. Will Lance Lynn rebound?? Can they rely on a rookie in Shelby Miller in the rotation? Matt Holliday’s back is still a huge issue. Their high dollar SS, Furcal, has been shut down with a bum elbow. Can Beltran carry this team?? I don’t think so. The Cards in 2013 are built on a house of cards. And they are already starting to fall.

  18. @Steve Mancuso: Yeah, I was about to make the Redlegnation call “Straw Man Down!”

  19. I know the Reds are pretty clever with the financing of their player deals and do have a very good value team for $100 million, but they might need one more deal. Maybe, if necessary, Joey Votto could pull a Tom Brady so the Reds could make one more deal later this season.

  20. @TC:

    I’m curious, who do you think the Reds could have gotten for the same money they paid Ludwick that would be a huge upgrade in LF/4 hole hitter?

  21. @TC: I agree about Detroit, TC. Maybe they played down last year and will be great… but they have to prove it. Part of me is irrationally excited to see what the Tribe is going to do in the AL Central. I think they might be able to put up a fight for awhile.

  22. @TC Regarding the bench, when they broke camp last season our utility infielders were Cairo and Valdez and Dusty’s lefty “designated pinch hitter” was Willie Harris and then Mike Costanzo for a few weeks. When we break camp this season the utility men will be Hanahan (HUGE improvement over Cairo) and Donald (eh) and Dusty’s lefty pinch hitter will be Xavier Paul. In my eyes that is a GREAT improvement over last season.

  23. @TC: Ludwick is clearly a bit of a question mark, but do you really think there were a lot of cleanup hitters available for $15mil/2 years?

    For example, Cody Ross got $26mil over 3 years. He had an .807 OPS last year, and he’ll be 32 this year.

    Ludwick had an .877 OPS last year, though he’s 3 years older.

    If guys like Cody Ross were getting $9mil per year, who was it that you thought the Reds could have gotten for less?

    • @TC: Ludwick is clearly a bit of a question mark, but do you really think there were a lot of cleanup hitters available for $15mil/2 years? For example, Cody Ross got $26mil over 3 years. He had an .807 OPS last year, and he’ll be 32 this year. Ludwick had an .877 OPS last year, though he’s 3 years older. If guys like Cody Ross were getting $9mil per year, who was it that you thought the Reds could have gotten for less?

      Ludwick is more than a question mark. he is a huge liability. That $15MM could have been more wisely spent. You ask who could the Reds have gotten?? Nothing in the free agent market. It would have taken a trade to fill that #4 hole.
      How about Giancarlo Stanton from Miami?? Would only cost about $700,000 in salary. But it would have cost dearly in players. It would have taken Chapman and half of the Reds top-10 prospects to haul in Stanton, though. The Reds need a monster smasher in the #4 hole, especially playing 81 games at GABP, and Ludwick ain’t it.

      • Ludwick is more than a question mark.he is a huge liability. That $15MM could have been more wisely spent. You ask who could the Reds have gotten??Nothing in the free agent market.It would have taken a trade to fill that #4 hole.
        How about Giancarlo Stanton from Miami??Would only cost about $700,000 in salary.But it would have cost dearly in players.It would have taken Chapman and half of the Reds top-10 prospects to haul in Stanton, though.The Reds need a monster smasher in the #4 hole, especially playing 81 games at GABP, and Ludwick ain’t it.

        True story: Ludwick was 10th in HR hit by NL outfielders last year, and aside from names like Braun, Stanton, and McCutchen, all the others ahead of him (inlcuding our own Jay Bruce) were marginal upgrades at best.

        Realistically, who could the Reds replace Ludwick with?

  24. I have to laugh when I keep seeing Reds fans happy with 97 wins! Like that is their championship!! With Dusty they will need way more than that. That poor dude has no clue what to do with that much talent….except waste it!! Reds wont have the Astros to beat up on this year either. Thankfully they are in the NL Central…….but as always will have to face real teams in the post season if they get that far. 2012 team should have won a lot more games and went much farther….but with Dusty….you gotta be happy with 97 wins, especially if you are at the games strictly for entertainment.

    • I have to laugh when I keep seeing Reds fans happy with 97 wins! Like that is their championship!! With Dusty they will need way more than that. That poor dude has no clue what to do with that much talent….except waste it!! Reds wont have the Astros to beat up on this year either. Thankfully they are in the NL Central…….but as always will have to face real teams in the post season if they get that far. 2012 team should have won a lot more games and went much farther….but with Dusty….you gotta be happy with 97 wins, especially if you are at the games strictly for entertainment.

      Wait. Wh, wh, what????

    • especially if you are at the games strictly for entertainment.

      What other reasons are there to go?

  25. @al: Never said they would have gotten someone for less, but your point is taken. The FA class for LF wasn’t strong. Melky Cabrera would have been nice.

  26. @WVRedlegs: Hmmm, underestimating the Cardinals. Sounds ominous.

  27. @TC: I was thinking the same thing. Unless the wheels totally fall off for them, I don’t discount the Cardinals until they are more games out of first place than there are games to play.

  28. We are clearly the best team in the NL Central and THAT is Walt’s job. We’re a mid-market team. The Nats and Dodgers are always going to outspend us. They HAVE to, particularly the Nats because of their division. All we have to do is get to the playoffs and then any solid team has a shot of going all the way. It’s just like the Yankees – building super clubs is a good way to ensure you get to the playoffs, but it doesn’t mean nearly as much in a 5 or 7 game series. The Dodgers may very well win 100 games with a healthy Matt Kemp this year. DItto for the Nats. But even if we “only” win 85-90 games, my guess is we still take the division easily. ANd I don’t see any reason to expect that much of a drop. It’s not like anyone in our division did anything to significantly improve.

  29. Regarding where the Reds are ranked … Sure, the Jays and Dodgers have to prove their gains are more than just on paper, but the Reds have questions, too.

    The biggest to me is the long-term consistency of the offense, especially playing half of their games in GABP. Choo and a healthy Votto should go a long way toward improving things, but if not, great pitching can get wasted. Like Homer’s effort in Game 3 of the Division Series last year.

    As Steve said earlier, methinks it best to cheer like heck but keep expectations at a reasonable level.

  30. @Brian Van Hook:

    I expect the Reds to make it to the NLCS against the Nats, and I expect a thrilling series that could go either way.

    Beyond that, if the Reds win that series, I expect them to win the World Series.

    Given how good this team was last year and the improvements they made, these are very reasonable expectations.

  31. Power Rankings are nothing more than fodder for fans to chew on and obsess over. Nothing more. At a certain point, I could care less how far through the roof the Dodgers’ payroll goes, because inevitably, you reach a point of diminishing returns. Greinke is going to be the same pitcher, whether he’s making $13M or $22M per year. In fact, with some players, excessive money becomes a burden they cannot live up to–and it affects their play. I guarantee you two or three of these teams will flop and two or three more will be handicapped by injuries.

    That the Reds are ranked 7th is great. It indicates they are starting from a great launching point from which to make a WS run.

    What else could you possibly want.

    Nothing.

  32. @WVRedlegs: Your comment makes no sense to me. Why does playing in a hitters park mean that the Reds need a “monster smasher” to hit #4?

    Not that the Reds would have or should have traded the king’s ransom it would have taken to get Stanton, but the Marlins also said openly that they were’t trading their only asset, who as you said, is still cheap. So that wasn’t an option.

    Also, you do know that the Reds were 3rd in the NL in HRs last year, right? They have power up and down the lineup, so again, why do they need a better #4 hitter?

    Oh, also, they have Votto and Bruce, who with a different manager would be one of the best 3-4 combos in the game. So, again, why do they need a better #4 hitter?

    Complaining about getting a guy with an .877 OPS for $7.5 mllion a year in this market is just complaining for complainings sake. We all know that Ludwick took a discount to stay in Cincy. If you don’t think he’s worth that money, you’re just not comfortable with current MLB salaries.

    • @al:

      Your comment makes no sense to me. Why does playing in a hitters park mean that the Reds need a “monster smasher” to hit #4?

      Let me bring that down to a 4th grade reading comprhension level for you. Do a bar graph of Votto’s usual production (HR & RBI), Bruce’s usual production, and Ludwick’s usual production. And place Votto 3rd in the order, Ludwick 4th, and Bruce 5th. There is a huge valley created at the 4th spot, BY LUDWICK. Ludwick, if in the lineup, has no business batting 4th. He should be batting no higher than 6th. But the Reds have Frazier batting 6th, Cozart 7th, and Hannigan 8th. So, no room for Ludwick’s bat and sticking him in the 4th slot because thats the only spot open for him is ridiculous.
      Now if Mesoraco can emerge as a bopper and can move into the cleanup spot, that could solve this whole Ludwick batting 4th weakness. Drop Ludwick to 6th, Frazier to 7th, and Cozart to 8th. I am not so much against Ludwick in the lineup, I just don’t think it serves the Reds best interests batting him 4th.

      • @WVRedlegs:

        Do a bar graph of Votto’s usual production (HR & RBI), Bruce’s usual production, and Ludwick’s usual production.

        RBI are an opportunity statistic and not a valid measure of an effective hitter. HR are great, but are not indicative of an effective hitter. Votto is not a HR hitter, he is a power hitter. For my money, if I’m evaluating a hitter’s effectiveness and I’m limited to a single hitting statistic, I want that to be OPS or OPS+. Discount Ludwick’s career performance while playing in SD (which I believe is a very valid omission) and he produces a very acceptable option as a #4 hole hitter between Votto and Bruce. If 2012 is a barometer of his expected or even near expected performance in GABP for 2013, he will do more than very acceptable as a cleanup hitter between Votto and Bruce, including his HR production. As an additional aside, with Votto, Choo and BP getting on base in front of him, Ludwick’s opportunity for RBI’s will place him in league leading competition.

        The actual results will be forthcoming in just a few short weeks and we can revist everyone’s performance again come Memorial Day. That’s one of the things I’m particularly looking forward to with Jason’s player previews.

  33. @TC: Melky Cabrera and 3 cases of HGH?

  34. @Brian Van Hook: I made a similar comment to WVRedlegs above. Can you explain how playing in a hitters park exacerbates an inconsistent offense? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    Shouldn’t playing in a hitters park make pitching less consistent, not hitting?

  35. Hitting lots of home runs is nice, but it seems from my memory of the Reds’ problems scoring runs at times that a lot of offense would come at once, then go some days without reappearing. Maybe that wasn’t the case as often in GABP as on the road, but frustrating wherever it occurred. … Seems to me that in GABP especially, though, a more consistent offensive team shouldn’t have those droughts, and shouldn’t with a healthy Votto, and Stubbs replaced by Choo, etc.

  36. @hermanbates: The first response here got my attention – Justin Upton? I’m thrilled the Reds didn’t pursue Justin Upton, they needed a leadoff hitter… not whatever he is. Choo settled the leadoff controversy while Upton would have added to the confusion.

    I’m not surprised about the Dodgers and Blue Jays being viewed favorably after their big acquisitions, but I doubt that optimism will last. It sure didn’t for last year’s big spending Miami Marlins, but I think high rankings are the short-term rewards for such moves. I’m also not impressed by the Angels’ pitching.

    It’s funny how acquiring a leadoff hitter was such a great need for years but now that the Reds added one of the best some people are seemingly ignoring it as an improvement, arguing that the Reds stood pat. Maybe it wasn’t big like deals the Blue Jays made but it was just what the Reds needed.

  37. For the first ever I really hope Dusty gets his way on Chapman stays in the Pen unless there is an injury to a SP. The idea of messing up a rotation and bullpen on a hope is just not sound baseball at this point….

  38. @al: Another great point. You have a great mind.

  39. @LWBlogger: Even Billy Beane said “My $%^& doesn’t work in the playoffs.”

  40. I disagree about the bench being a weakness with Hannahan, Donald, Heisey, Xavier Paul, and Devin Mesoraco. They might not be as good as the starters but if they’re used right they can all do well. It took a long time for the 2012 Reds to find a decent lefthanded pinch hitter but the 2013 Reds are entering the season with two.

    The big difference is indeed that the bench is new – they replaced older guys who had bad years (Rolen, Cairo, Valdez) with younger guys (Hannahan, Donald) who can probably hit better at this point.

  41. @Brian Van Hook: I hear what you’re saying, but I’m largely inclined to think that the Reds offense being inconsistant is a myth. If anyone has done any real studies on it, showing that the Reds scoring has a higher standard deviation from the mean than other teams, I’d be interested in seeing it.

    I do think that having a low team OBP probably leads to some scoring droughts, and Choo should help that.

    But really, I think it’s just fans readjusting to the lower scoring environment in baseball. Lower ERAs means there are going to be more 1 run games and shutouts. In 2012 there were about 300 shutouts and teams had a 4.01 ERA. In 2008 it was 270 and 4.32, and In 2004 it was 240 and 4.46. So if the Reds were totally average, we should be expecting to get shutout twice more per season and score fewer runs.

    It’s frustrating as a Reds fan, but I think a lot of fans out there have been frustrated with their offenses the last few years, just because they aren’t watching all the teams and they assume that their teams are the only ones that can’t score.

  42. how in God’s name did I get that to come out in Red???

  43. I believe this is about right for the Reds. Everyone will have their own adjustments, like dropping #3 to #4 and raising #5 to #3, etc. But, I believe this is about right for our Reds. But, this is just a pre-season ranking, aka what the teams look like they can do on paper. Like the Angels. Looking at last year, they were up there, also, but still didn’t get into the playoffs. Going by this, they should be in the WS. But, an improvement for them would be just getting into the playoffs.

    4th in the NL, every team on there will have questions. The Giants pitching staff is proven, our young guys aren’t. Will the Giants hitting still be enough? Will the Dodgers be able to play together? Were the improvements the Nats had enough to send them over the top? Can our pitching come back with another performance like last season?

  44. After what happened to the Red Soxs (shipping everyone out of town because of disagreements in the clubhouse, particularly with Bobby Valentine) and Miami (shipping everyone out after failing to buy success) I’m not very optimistic about the Dodgers’ and Angels’ ability to do well in 2013… but in my opinion they bought the right to be near the top of the list in the spring.

  45. @al: Last year’s bench was not a weakness, it was a flaw. I agree this cast of characters is better than last year’s, but I think they will be a weakness.

    2010 Reds combined bench war: 7.4
    2011 Reds combined bench war: 5.3
    2012 Reds combined bench war:-0.6

    2013:
    Hannahan WAR 5.4 (7 years) / 2012: 0.1
    Donald WAR .4 (4 years) / 2012: -.4
    X Paul WAR .2 (3 years) / 2012: .5
    Mesoraco WAR -.2 (2 years) / 2012: .1
    Heisey WAR 4.4 (4 years) / 2012: 1.2

    The 2012 combined WAR of the 5 players people several are labeling as this year’s bench is 1.5. That, my friends is why I consider this bench a weakness.

  46. It really isn’t six teams ahead of them for a world series report, but the three NL teams. Hard to argue since Wash won more and the Giants outmanaged us in the playoffs. This is why you play the games.

  47. @how in God’s name did I get that to come out in Red???: I guess it’s simply appropo for a RLN quote!

    I am ecstatic that the media is downgrading and discounting the Reds for 2013. I personally do need or want the talking heads and ‘experts’ telling me how good the Reds really are and how high our expectations for the Reds should be.

    I wouldn’t trade the Reds starting rotation or bullpen straight up for any other starting rotation or bullpen in MLB.

    At the end of the 2012, if someone had offered a blank check to obtain any player to fill the leadoff position for the Reds in 2013, Choo would have been on my list. He wasn’t at the top of my list, but he ranked pretty high and quite frankly, none of the players I would have prefered were reasonably available.

    I would love to have Braun, Stanton, Trout, Cutch, Kemp, Bautista or a few select other RH OF, but that simply isn’t going to happen and Ludwick is a good option (possibly gamble) for a slugging RH OF, certainly within the Reds’ budget.

    My season tickets are reserved and paid for and I for one, believe. If it doesn’t happen, I will still be glad for the chance to again experience a Reds team with the real and reasonable excpectation to compete with the very best teams in MLB.

  48. @TC:
    I was listening to a guy on the radio yesterday from Bleacherreport.com, and he thinks the Buccos and Brewers will finish AHEAD of the Cards this year. I don’t think the Cards finish 4th, but they will struggle at times this year. They have several key players either coming off injuries, or are injured now. Many ????? the Cards have regards their starting rotation. That my good friend, I would call ominous clouds on the horizon. I sure hope at least.

  49. @Shchi Cossack: Agreed. My dad and I have gone together on a package (25-game mix) for the 3rd straight year. We are going to 13 together and 6 games each with other people. Should be a fun year. We went through several years as Reds’ fans with no reasonable expectation of being a playoff contender. It is fun to have a team that looks likely to compete for the next few years at least.

  50. @CI3J: Any year that one expects any team to have only one question (will they win the NLCS?), one needs to re-adjust expectations.

    • @CI3J: Any year that one expects any team to have only one question (will they win the NLCS?), one needs to re-adjust expectations.

      Really? Why?

      As I said, based on how good this team was last year and what they did to improve, it’s a very reasonable expectation to have.

      Please tell me, what expectations am I allowed to have?

  51. I take this ranking as a pre-season ranking. For, on paper, like last season, the Angels should be a dominant team. But, what have they done with that dominant team? Nothing.

    Given this is a pre-season ranking, I can agree with this list. Everyone will have their own listing, dropping #3 to #4 or moving #6 up to #3, but they would all be similar.

    It shows we are 4th in the NL, but all the teams have something in question. Here, the Angels would be in the WS. But, that was similar last year at this time, and they didn’t even make the playoffs. The Giants’ pitching is proven, ours isn’t (at least the performance they had last season). Will the Giants’ offense be enough? Can our pitching repeat their performance? Will the Dodgers with all of their All-Stars, can they play as a team? The Nats did a lot to improve an already-good team. Will that be enough to put them over the top?

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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2013 Reds, Reds - General

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