Caveats: That’s why you play the games. Injuries. Bryan Price. More moves to come (maybe). Billy Hamilton=Superman. Differing models may differ. Remember some other time when the projections were wrong. Bryan Price. Trade for Stanton. Double rainbows. Who’s FanGraphs anyhow? Everyone hates the Reds. Sustainability!

Pointless Request: Don’t shoot the messenger.

The folks at FanGraphs have calculated projections for the 2014 regular season and chances for making and winning in the post-season. If you’re a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, it isn’t pretty. Method: they use an average of three projection systems (Steamer, ZiPS and FanGraphs own) and run 10,000 simulations.

They project the Reds to finish 77-85 in 2014, good for fourth place in the NL Central (ahead of the Cubs, who-hoo). Or maybe 78-84, depending on whose projection.

Chance of winning the division: 4.5%.

Chance of earning a wild card slot: 7.5%.

Look, I think this is unduly pessimistic. I bought season tickets, and the Homer Bailey No-Hitter ticket package. I desperately don’t want to write about or watch a 77-win team in person. But this is out there. FanGraphs isn’t run by Tony LaRussa or Dusty Baker. It’s an average of three projection systems, run 10,000 times. That’s roughly 9,999 times more than you or I have run it.

Read it and weep. Have a nice day.

P.S. Jason Linden (and he’s a smart guy when it comes to this stuff) tells me to calm down (doing my best). He says they are way undervaluing the Reds pitchers. He sent me this link to WAR projections from ZiPS that show the Reds will win 90 games. I’m sure he’ll comment here to get us off the ledge. Jason, please?

66 Responses

  1. Hunt4RedsOctober

    Well, the season is over. You spoiled it for me. Now we can move on to the off-season. I wonder if Walt will make a trade or sign any free agents? 2015 looks like the Reds year!

    • Johnu1

      @Hunt4RedsOctober: We can now start the discussion: How will the Reds treat to the 2014 free-agent season? Any early leads on some free agents?

    • walshjp

      @Hunt4RedsOctober: I’d actually argue that predictions such as these make the season better. It’s really hard to under shoot 77-85. It’s all about managing expectations and then overshooting them.

  2. Drew Mac

    Um, I’m not sure what to say. So, I’ll ask a question. How did these projections work out last year?

      • Drew Mac

        @Drew Mac: Sorry folks, here is a readable version.

        PWR PW AWR AW +/-
        Angels 0.556 90 .481 78 -12
        Astros 0.395 64 .315 51 -13
        A’s 0.506 82 .593 96 +14
        Blue Js 0.525 85 .457 74 -11
        Braves 0.543 88 .593 96 +8
        Brewers 0.494 80 .457 74 -6
        Cards 0.519 84 .599 97 +13
        Cubs 0.481 78 .407 66 -12
        Dbacks 0.519 84 .500 81 -3
        Dodgers 0.525 85 .568 92 +7
        Giants 0.519 84 .469 76 -8
        Indians 0.463 75 .568 92 +17
        M’s 0.457 74 .438 71 -3
        Marlins 0.420 68 .383 62 -6
        Mets 0.457 74 .457 74 0
        Nats 0.543 88 .531 86 -2
        Orioles 0.463 75 .525 85 +10
        Padres 0.469 76 .469 76 0
        Phils 0.512 83 .451 73 -10
        Pirates 0.494 80 .580 94 +14
        Rangers 0.549 89 .558 91 +2
        Rays 0.525 85 .564 92 +7
        Red Sox 0.519 84 .599 97 +13
        Reds 0.531 86 .556 90 +4
        Rockies 0.494 80 .457 74 -6
        Royals 0.494 80 .531 86 +6
        Tigers 0.580 94 .574 93 -1
        Twins 0.432 70 .407 66 -4
        ChiSox 0.494 80 .389 63 -17
        Yankees 0.525 85 .525 85 0

        The first two columns are projected 2013 performance and the next two columns are actual performance. The +/- actually leaves me somewhat encouraged.

      • greenmtred

        @Drew Mac: My mind is at ease already–the games have yet to be played, no team escapes injuries and few escape surprises good and bad. The Reds are not a powerhouse, but a team with good pitchers and several other reliable players and several young players who are largely unknown quantities. Teams of that description have done well as well as not so well in the past. Well, a lot of wells in that previous sentence, eh?

  3. FrustratedRedsFan

    While I can appreciate the logic that the starting pitching is one of the best in baseball (and it is) … that only holds true if all five starters can throw 32 starts. The odds of that happening are just about zero; especially when you consider Johhny “Triple DL” Cueto / Matt “Bone Chips” Latos and Tony “My Back is Fine” Cingrani. The Reds are the shallowest team in all of baseball at the starting pitcher position after #5, and they showed that last year by having no choice but to use Villareal and Reynolds.

    The model takes into account that the DL is inevitable for Reds SP’s, and the WAR of the players coming in to fill the gaps are likely all negative. All that being said, I would agree that the projection is low, but it’s not that low.

    • hermanbates

      @FrustratedRedsFan: Mat Latos didn’t miss a start last year. And the Reds went out and got that Holmberg kid from AZ to be exactly that: SP insurance. Stephenson isn’t far off, Contreras, Rogers, and Corcino were all once or currently highly regarded. Nothing to get excited about, but all teams aren’t the Cardinals, where a Cy Young winner goes down and the rookie of the year steps in his place.

      • FrustratedRedsFan


        I’m not sure if you noticed, but Tony Cingrani was better than Michael Wacha last year. So when you say “Not every team is STL”, I think you meant to say “Or Cincinnati”. David Holmberg is not an MLB pitcher, and neither are the lot of other pitchers you listed off. Replicate last year WITHOUT Tony Cingrani and the Reds aren’t even close to Wild Card. The guy gave up 5 hits or less in EVERY start last year … no other pitcher who made as many starts can claim 6 hits or less.

        Healthy, the Reds are dangerous. Unhealthy, they are not … and the odds of them staying healthy enough to have the dominant pitching staff in ’14 is probably not far off from the 11% playoff projection.

  4. hermanbates

    Weird time friends, Romans and country men. I do not love this years projected lineup. I do not love this last offseason. I do not love what I feel is a precipitous drop off in play that I’ve become accustomed to. I’m still angry Brandon Phillips will be manning second base come Opening Day, and that Ryan Ludwick will be his statuesque self in left.

    I am not this utterly pessimistic. Even with what I’ve said, things happen. Players get lucky, even for whole seasons. Trades happen, prospects make leaps, and injuries occur elsewhere. The season is long and not yet begun. If, or when, the Reds start getting taken out to the cleaners, then we can worry about trade deadline moves. For now, let the projections be made and find that small bone of optimism every baseball fan is born with.

  5. Zach

    I’m not Jason Linden… but when the projections have the Reds with the roughly same WS potential as the Astros, I’m going to claim we should wait a bit before tying the noose to the air and jumping from a cliff. Still it’s interesting to see what they think. I wish I had access to information regarding how they use the ZiPs information to actually run each game; also, how do they add in bench talent, etc, etc. It seems like writing those simulations could be a lot of fun.

    • LWBlogger

      @Zach: I put the ZiPS projections into Diamond Mind Baseball and run 100 games as each season gets started. I also have my own projection system that I put into a Diamond Mind database and run 100 games on. I’m willing to bet that Fangraphs does something similar.

      Diamond Mind is a great simulator. You can find out more here:

  6. Jason Linden

    Okay, real quick, and then I’ll check in again when at least one kid is asleep.

    FanGraphs odds projections are using Steamer. Steamer is cool, but it’s very, very hard on pitchers. Steamer things everyone in the Reds rotation is average. No other projection system I’ve seen thinks that. Nothing I’ve seen with my own two eyes makes me think that.

    But yeah, if the Reds’ rotation is average, this season is a disaster.

    Steamer (and thus FanGraphs playoff odds) is just over-regressing the best part of the team.

    • Johnu1

      @Jason Linden: My only thought, observing this from flyover status, 36,900 feet up … the best that anybody is projected is .550 W-L. How often in recent MLB history have all the divisional winners had fewer than 90 wins?

  7. Zach

    @Johnu1: Dear Lord, this is one of the very rare times I wish this place had a ‘upvote’ or ‘like’ button. I may be in love with you now.

    • Davis Stuns Goliath

      @Zach: I second this, if only because I’ve described the Reds’ offseason playbook as being straight out of Major League. As I’ve said elsewhere, here’s hoping Billy Mays Hays is our secret weapon!

  8. tnirishfan

    I’m about as pessimistic about the team as it comes right now and I don’t think we will finish sub .500. I think we will finish second behind the Cardinals at around 87 wins and will need a lucky break to even make the play in game. I sure miss Choo though.

  9. Jason Linden

    It’s also important to note that all simulation-based preseason projections are going to tend toward the conservative. For instance, Fangraphs doesn’t have any team winning even 90 games.

  10. earl

    Eh…I’d say the range between 77-90 wins is probably accurate. I think it will need to be a performance more like 2010 where everyone on the roster has a fairly
    good year for the Reds to win a division, that I don’t doubt.

    I’d figure there to have to be quite a few injuries to really drop to 77 wins, but it could happen. It all depends on follow through and bounce back. If the young players improve and some of the injured Reds bounce back, things could be pretty good too.

    I really don’t think this roster looks that different talent wise than the one going into 2010. That club had a lot more questions in the bullpen. The past couple of years, the Latos deal and going and getting Choo definitely made it look like on paper they have gained some talent going into the past 2 seasons.

    • Johnu1

      @earl: From 77 to 84 is either 13 or 14 wins a month. For 15 wins a month, you get 90. With 16, you get 96.

      So being out of it all the way up to winning it is about 2 wins a month.

  11. reaganspad

    For the Reds to have a losing record, Latos, Cueto, Leake and Cingrani, all 4 of them with winning records last year…..

    Well 3 of those guys will have to have losing records this year. Assuming Bailey in a contract year does not repeat his losing record of last year

    I do not see it happening since all of those guys will be winners

    Guess we will be bad in the pen……

  12. jessecuster44

    I think with 2 SP injures for multiple starts, and no addition of a better bat at LF or 3B, 77-90 wins seems about right. The Reds need a lot of things to break right if the current roster is the one that breaks camp.

  13. ToddAlmighty

    Only thing I don’t understand about those projections is that last year there were 10 teams that won 90 or more games. Those projections have 0 teams winning 90 games. There were also 5 teams that won less than 70 games last year. The projections have 0 teams winning less than 70 games.

    Do these projections take place in an alternate MLB world where there aren’t really good teams and really bad teams? Where everyone legitimately has a shot at winning it all that year? What makes the Astros go from being a 51 win team to being a 74 win team. A 23 win difference is huge, yet they projected their starting rotation and bullpen to combine for 1 WAR. 1.

    So I don’t know how accurate all these projections really are. That’s not to say I am optimistic for this season, but I won’t let these projections sway me furthur one way or the other.

    • al

      @ToddAlmighty: Here here. This is where the “science” of baseball stats starts to look pretty silly.

      It’s hard enough to project a single player’s performance, to then try to project a whole team’s performance, including substitutions due to injury, just seems like folly.

      At some point, you just have to ask what’s the point? When your system projects the Astros to be a middle of the pack team and that the Reds are going to be worse than the Brewers? It doesn’t pass the smell test by a long shot.

      What would the rationale be to say that the Brewers are going to overtake the Reds?

      • preach

        @al: what? Baseball stats dont tell the whole story? Whoa, thats just crazy talk, al.

    • Johnu1

      @ToddAlmighty: One of the more curious aspects of Reds baseball is that the right field fence is about 8 feet high.

      Lots of unpredictable results.

  14. HOF-13

    @Johnu1: The Marge Schott cutout line is hilarious. Absolute classic!

  15. al

    Looking at the original ZIPS projections on fangraphs and the projections they used for these standings, here’s the differences in WAR.

    ZIPS vs. fangraphs projections

    Pitchers: 21 v 14
    Position players: 20 v 20

    So there’s a 7 win difference in the projected WAR for the Reds pitchers. If ZIPS is closer, that would mean the Reds were more like an 84 win team, which seems about right to me.

  16. Johnu1

    I am trying to reconstruct 2011 in my head, wishing all along we had just skipped that year completely … and as I recall, the bash was that the Reds seemed to mail it in around the All-Star break.

    Clearly, such a scenario is unacceptable if indeed it happened, but the end of 2013 suggested some of the same. At least, that’s what I will remember about it. The veiled comments by the folks in some podcast interviews also allude to a lack of urgency.

    I would honestly hope that a rookie manager and a rookie dugout staff — hired by a zealous owner who clearly didn’t like that sort of image — would keep hanging in there, just because, well … rookie managers want to win.


    If that is a useful premise, then I would believe that the dugout philosophy, hopefully rubbing off on less talented players, would drive this team.

    I wish I could express myself in verse or song … I keep thinking back to my first year following baseball, the 1914 Boston Braves.

    And how they didn’t give up either.

    Even after Pearl Harbor.

    Who’s with me?

  17. preach

    @Johnu1: gold, sir. I have a whole new level of respect for you. If the hot stove season is any indication, RLN gamethreads will be in rare form.

    Maybe the team should start with a naked marge and with each win they add a piece of clothing. That will guarantee we re-sign Homer, just so he can use his signing bonus to buy a thriftstore.

    • Johnu1

      @preach: I’m as likely to annoy you as make you smile.

      Only one of those scenarios is deliberate.

    • LWBlogger

      @preach: Yes, yes, put the pieces back on her!! That’s a much better idea.

  18. Bubba Ho-Tep

    Steve is there a scorecard for these projection systems? What I mean is has anyone scored each of them after a season to see who is accurate at what rate?

    What made me wonder about this is i was reading an article today about man made global warming and the fact that there is a scientific consensus that it is a fact despite the fact that 95% of the prediction models have been incorrect about where we are today. That means five percent of the prediction models knew what they were talking about. is there any stat on how accurate these MLB projection formulas are?

    • greenmtred

      @Bubba Ho-Tep: My understanding is that the prediction models that were wrong were wrong because they UNDERestimated the rate of climate change. Nuance.

  19. OhioJim

    I’ll take on the devil’s advocate role.

    The Reds projected lead off hitter had .308 OBP last year at AAA.

    Offensively both the SS and 3B look a lot like 4A players. Age wise, both are behind the curve and based on their long minor league records, one has to be an optimist to be convinced they might not be at their ceiling levels.

    The projected LF is getting long in the tooth and coming off a very serious shoulder injury and had a very checkered career even before the injury.

    The starting catcher showed lots of offensive potential in the high minors but hasn’t found his stride in two MLB years despite getting considerable playing time.

    My conclusion is that it will take a heck of a lot of pitching and/ or several of the above guys performing well above reasonable expectations for the Reds to do more than tread water around the .500 mark.

    But then I remember 2006 when 83 wins took the NL Central and that 83 win team went on to win the WS (Reds finished -3.5 at 80-82; the division had a rain out that was never made up). So anything can happen once they start playing the games for real.

  20. Kyle Farmer

    I would have put the goat with braces picture at the bottom of this story. Seems like these projections would disappoint Milton!

  21. Big Ed

    I’m guessing that Fangraphs didn’t have the A’s winning 10 more games last year than the Nationals, who were supposed to be the be-all going into last year.

    There are way too many variables to put much stock in these projections. It is kind of like horse racing; the speed figures and numbers-based stuff can be decent at predicting performances of the run-of-the-mill $25,000 claimer, like Skip Schumacher, but not nearly as good at picking horses in a Breeders Cup race. (And why Game On Dude is always overbet against elite competition.)

    I am going to enjoy the season. If they win 78 games, I’ll still watch. And 3 years from now, I expect Billy Hamilton to be a lot better player than Chin Soo Choo.

    • Shchi Cossack

      @Big Ed:

      And 3 years from now, I expect Billy Hamilton to be a lot better player than Chin Soo Choo.

      I think this is every Reds fan’s hope, including the Old Cossack. Hamilton still needs development in order to maximize his ability and utility as a hitter. The Reds are going to burn one of his six control seasons in 2014 when he is not fully prepared and by doing so, will lose a premier season on the back end of his six control seasons. That’s just not a good baseball decision for a small or mid market team.

      • Johnu1

        @Shchi Cossack: The last thing that concerns me is what happens to Hamilton after 6 more seasons.

        When 2020 comes, I will be propped up against a pillow with the sound on HIGH so I can hear it.

        If Hamilton can’t play, the alternative is Heisey or Bernadina. I’d say the outcome is about the same.

  22. CI3J

    I have asked this question a few times on here, and have yet to get an honest answer on it.

    The Reds won 90 games last year. But their expected win/loss would have had them winning 95 games.

    They lost ONE player (Mr. Choo) who was worth about 4 WAR last year. He is being replaced by a much better defender who, unless he is a complete disaster, probably will be worth somewhere between 1 and 2 WAR.

    The rest of the team is completely the same as last year. LF should show a marked improvement over last year where it had a negative WAR. All other positions should probably be about the same.

    So please….

    Explain to me how a team that SHOULD have won 95 games last year, who are losing about 2-3 wins by replacing Choo with Hamilton, is suddenly going to fall to 77 wins? Where are these extra 15 losses coming from???

    I seriously would like to know.

    • Johnu1

      @CI3J: Those losses will happen because we BELIEVE.

      We are convinced that Hamilton can’t hit, Ludwick can’t hit, Phillips can’t hit, Broxton can’t pitch and Walt doesn’t know how to use a telephone. We believe Cueto will be hurt and Bailey will mope all season.

      We believe in Votto. That’s worth 77 wins.

  23. Johnu1

    Basically what I see is that we’re unwilling to accept the use of projection metrics when it fails to meet our approval.

    But we will dismiss the “eyeball test” as old-school witchcraft.

    Either way, we have to come to some sort of consensus and all we have is what we’ve seen and what we anticipate.

  24. Johnu1

    I do think it’s fair to say that the Cardinals have found ways to shore up their weaknesses. Without going over their roster, they could actually TRADE quality pitchers to improve at … um … well, some position.

  25. WVRedlegs

    Forecasts are forecasts. Yesterday the forecast we had for weather for today was 1-3 inches of snow. Well, it is at 10 inches and still snowing. You can’t put too much stock into it. I like the low expectations nationally. I don’t put much stock into those pundits either. They don’t know Jack.
    This is a pretty dang good team. It could be a better team on offense. This team is one big bat away from a pennant. It’s up to Jocketty to go find it. He has failed on that mission so far. He has until July 31 to do something.

  26. LWBlogger

    “Never tell me the odds!!” – Han Solo

  27. GeorgeFoster

    If the individual player projections are off, it doesn’t matter if you run the game model 10 million times – garbage in, garbage out. As another commenter noted, this projection doesn’t even pass the smell test.

    As a reality check, look at the win total odds posted in the Atlantis sportsbook. They’ve got the Reds at 87.5 wins (-105 over / -115 under), which should imply an expected win total of 86 or 87. Besides being an actual betting line (with real money behind it), this projection also matches up pretty well with the general views expressed in this thread by other RLN commenters.