Well, it’s been hard at times, but I’ve made it through my preview for another year. Now, let’s take a quick look at how the Reds shape up and how many games I think they’ll win…

First, the offense. I’m just going to look at WAR here. The number you see is how much better or worse I expect the Reds to be in that slot this year compared to last year.

Devin Mesoraco: +2.3
Joey Votto: +0.8
Brandon Phillips: -0.2
Todd Frazier: +0.5
Zack Cozart: +0.6
Ryan Ludwick: +1.3
Billy Hamilton: -3.2 (from Choo)
Jay Bruce: -0.1
Bench: +0.4

Looking at everyone together, I’m calling for a 2.4 win improvement from the offense. Given how badly things went last year, I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all. Let’s look at the pitchers.

Johnny Cueto: +3.5
Mat Latos: +0.0
Homer Bailey: +0.0
Tony Cingrani: +1.0
Mike Leake: +0.0
Bullpen: -0.5

Johnny Cueto is what it’s all about here. His potential contribution makes it look like a 4 win gain for the pitching, but I have to factor in the loss of Arroyo, which takes out a couple of wins and brings it down to a 2.0 gain.

That gives us, all together, a 4.4 win gain from last year. And that might happen if absolutely no one gets hurt. But, well, players are going to get hurt. In fact, the Reds three best pitchers all have serious injury histories. As do several of their starting position players.

We also have to remember that the various “should win” calculations all had the Reds at 93 wins, not 91, so that’s our base. Last year, I predicted 95. Pretty close.

Given the uncertain health of much of the pitching staff and my personal concerns about the health of Phillips and Ludwick, I am inclined to dock the Reds about six wins because of injury. Do all the math and, well, I’m calling for them to win 91 games next year.

I know people are going to disagree with me, and I know this is going seem overly optimistic, but I just don’t see much change here. The team underperformed last year and downgraded at one position (CF) in the offseason. Given that those two things should balance, this feels like a team that should end this year about where it was last year.

Argue with me, I guess, but I’ve been saying for a while that I think many were too pessimistic about the Reds. And, admittedly, if any pitchers see significant DL time, it’s going to get ugly. But, realistically, this is a good team.

We’ll find out how right I am in about six months.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 43 Comments

  1. I largely agree with you, based entirely on old-fashioned and fallible instinct. One place I may differ is centerfield. You may well be correct that BH is a downgrade from Choo–certainly are correct if we are isolating hitting proficiency. But BH should be a significant upgrade defensively and, in my flight of pre-season optimism, may be a better all around offensive player than we expect.

  2. I’m increasingly bullish on Hamilton. By all accounts, he is a hard worker and picks things up pretty quickly. I’m thinking he will start five days a week and will, on the other one or two days, be a force off the bench as a pinch runner/defensive replacement. He was worth 0.6 bWAR last year in 13 games. If he were to repeat the rate of this performance in the games that he does not start (perhaps 25-30 games), he would be worth 1-1.5 bWAR when he does not start.

    • DrooMac, yu bring up a very interesting point the Old Cossack had not even considered (almost certainly related to too much off season vodka). When not starting, Hamilton’s speed may make him the most valuable bench player in the league as a pinch runner. I also like your assessment that Hamilton should probably start no more than 5 days a week with his off day(s) combined with a schedule off day whenever possible to keep his boiler stoked for an entire season, including a deep playoff run. His defensive prowess makes inserting him as a pinch runner supremely easy and flexible since the 2 utility OF on the roster can play every OF position effectively. That also eliminates the ‘need’ to utilize a sac bunt in order to advance a runner into scoring position when the Reds need that one run late in a game to tie or put the Reds ahead.

      Such a scenario is also a solid argument for why WJ should have grabbed Bonifacio when he had the chance.

      • I agree. This is why I was so adamant about grabbing Gardner or Sizemore or whomever could play the part of the fourth outfielder. Especially from the left side, such a player could have spelled Ludwick and Hamilton, freeing up Hamilton to do his thing in the later innings when not in the starting lineup. Billy needs to be a five day a week guy. Maybe Heisey and Bernadina will be enough to have some productivity when he’s not in the starting lineup.

        • By “fourth outfielder,” I mean to say the third guy in a three-man platoon between CF and LF.

  3. Lets not forget how hard it is for rooks to make the full season without slumps and fatigue, being a part of the longest season he has endured. I’m very encouraged by his spring but also know that how he handles the struggles will be key for this team in that spot.

  4. Oh Happy Day….Santiago has made them team, to keep the tradition that Renteria, Valdez, and Izturis laid down to him previously

  5. Things I like: Price has named Cueto Opening Day starter (fine). BUT, he will use the lefty Cingrani in game TWO! Actually applying lineup-matchups against the Cards. Excellent recognition of the Cardinal lineup and using your resources appropriately rather than deferring to pecking order.

    • While I hear you … it also sets Cingrani up for trouble. His first four starts are now STL / STL / PIT / PIT.

      If he comes out of that strong; then they’ll be no stopping him!

  6. Here’s my question: Does 91 wins get the team in the postseason?

  7. I have long said I didn’t get the whole “sky is falling” mentality of the offseason. This was a good team last year that underperformed, partly due to injuries and possibly due to management.

    The team has not gotten any worse from last year (I am firmly of the mind that Hamilton’s defense will make up for the loss of Choo’s offense) and in fact should be expected to improve in several areas.

    This is a 90 win team at minimum, possibly 95 if things break right.

    So let’s all step away from the ledge and stop lamenting the lack of moves in the offseason and enjoy another season of playoff-caliber baseball in Cincinnati.

    • Hamilton would have to be out of his mind to equal Choo. Choo wasn’t good defensively, but he was fairly close to Votto in terms of offense. Hamilton figures to be one of the worst hitters on the team.

      • This^. And as i remember it, Choo wasn’t the butcher in CF everyone thought he was going to be. I felt very comfortable with a ball hit near CF/RF because I knew both he and Jay were not going to let anyone advance. That’s defense, too.

        • Choo was a bad defender just because he had no range. Choo was a six win player offensively and a negative one win player defensively. That’s bad D, but yeah, Hamilton is not gonna bridge the value with great D. He’ll get part of the way, but not nearly all the way.

        • I wouldn’t say Choo was bad defensively. Not the best because of his speed, sure. But, I can only remember the one day, in St. Louis I believe, where he lost a couple of balls in the sun. Past that, I felt he was very serviceable in CF. He didn’t overrun balls like Stubbs did. And, he could go back to the wall much better than Stubbs did. I don’t remember any opportunities to see what kind of arm he had.

          And, considering the bandbox he was playing half his games in, he didn’t need to run very fast to get to many balls.

        • I agree. Choo wasn’t as bad in CF as everyone believes he would have been. I’d have no problem putting him out there another couple of seasons.

          Hey, I remember another player who was known to have poor range himself. And, he won 2 GG, one in his 11th season in the league. A multi-time AS, he played SS, also, a heavy defensive position.

          Range isn’t the only thing there is to defense. I remember numerous times where once Stubbs got to the ball, he had to take another 5-10 yards just to stop to be able to throw the ball back in. In these cases, the speed to get to the ball (his range) was a liability.

  8. An interesting item from today’s USA Today sports section on its NL preview page. One of the “fearless predictions” was the Pirates will finish below .500 this season “after an inactive winter.” Then, in the “How they’ll finish” feature, it’s the Cards, Pirates then the Reds in the Central. So, USA Today has the Reds below 81 wins. What?!

  9. I agree with the general sentiment here. I have been much less critical of Jocketty than most the the RLN team and think they actually had a pretty good off season. Unless this crazy injury bug continues, I can’t see the Reds falling below 90 wins. And, like CI3J, I think 95 wins is not out of the question.

  10. I’m going to go with 87 wins. The figure is that low mostly due to a lack of depth, particularly as far as pitchers. 87 wins puts them in the hunt for a WC spot but may not be enough to get it done. PECOTA has the Reds at 81 wins, and it tends to be conservative. A Vegas sportsbook I saw about a month or so ago had the Reds win over/under as 84.5.

    I’m hoping Jason is a better projector than I am.

  11. I can’t wait til Monday! I took the entire day off to watch FSO 10 hours of pregame coverage plus the game itself! This has been one long offseason for some reason, I can’t put my finger on the reason but maybe it was the anticipation of seeing what Price can do from the dugout and what Billy can do on the field.
    Speaking to Billy’s range I believe I either watched a report or read a report that said he was playing infield and chased a pop fly down and caught it on the warning track.
    Did I dream this or did it really happen? As Shchi has mentioned, maybe it was induced by some offseason Vodka……

    • You are correct. Hamilton was playing shortstop and chased down a fly ball on the warning track.

  12. Las Vegas, not exactly known for their “sky is falling” approach to their profession, has the Reds at 84.5 wins this year. Fangraphs is closer to 80 wins. Baseball Prospectus is around 81 wins. Those sources are all objective and well informed. Doesn’t mean they’re always right. But the notion that only people who are unduly pessimistic about the Reds off-season are “on the ledge” types is misplaced, in my opinion.

    • Most of those projections factor in very, very, very heavy regression on the Reds pitchers which I just don’t see. There’s also regression to the mean in general. For instance, both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs project exactly one team to win 90+ games. Such systems are conservative by nature. (And, for Pete’s sake, Fangraphs thinks the Brewers are better than the Reds. Why? Because the Brewer’s pitching stinks, so it gets heavily regressed up, while the Reds’ gets heavily regressed down. Flawed. System.)

      Finally, there’s no sense paying attention to Vegas. Vegas isn’t about what’s likely to happen, it’s about perception of what’s likely to happen. They have to set the line so that they make money. That’s all there is to it.

      Interestingly, studies have been done recently that show that one player-to-player level, the FanGraphs fan projections are very good. They just aren’t good at predicting injuries, which is why they don’t rate well when you look at league-wide stats.

      Also, I’m not the only one thinking this way. ZiPS, for instance, is quite bullish on the Reds.

      In any case, I’ve yet to see anyone make the case that this team is substantially less talented than ti was last year EXCEPT for in center, which should cost them 2 or 3 wins.

      It’s the same team, and it’s not an old team, so that’s not a problem.

  13. I don’t want to debate all this out point by point but the systemic conservatism of the win totals hardly seems to matter if they have the Reds at 80 or 81 wins, unless they don’t allocate all the wins, which I doubt. All that means is the the good teams win even more and the bad teams lose even more. What does it say about a team projected to be essentially .500? That they will be even more .500?

    To dismiss Vegas (“no sense paying attention”) like that, without acknowledging their expertise, not to mention the accuracy of crowd-sourced predictions (“perceptions of what’s likely to happen”) isn’t particularly rigorous. And why assume the sharpies are off in the direction of not enough wins?

    Their regression on the pitchers isn’t any less realistic than assuming they’ll all pitch 200 innings.

    I’d say the closer/bullpen is considerably weaker (“substantially less talented”) compared to 2013, factoring in the two months of no Chapman.

    • Okay, question, do you think the Cardinals are more 87-88 win team or 94-95 win team? I’ll take the latter, and disagree with the projection systems. With few exceptions, most winning teams are regressed 7-10 wins, which isn’t going to happen.

      Also, I don’t assume the pitchers will all throw 200 innings. I just don’t want to guess who will and who won’t. That’s what the injury docking is for above. Docking them six wins is equivalent to losing Latos and Phillips for an entire season. I think That’s adequate.

      There is no depth on this team we agree on that, but if they are VERY healthy, it’s a really, really, really good team (probably). With normal injuries, their just plain good.

      Two months of Chapman isn’t that much. He doesn’t throw enough innings for it to be. But, as a I note, relievers are impossible to predict. I’d never bet on any bullpen being significantly better or worse than average.

      • I think you’re right on the Cardinals. But if the Reds are a .500 team, they aren’t affected by that. The Cardinals will win 7 more games. But not EVERY team is going to win 7 more. If all the wins are initially allocated, the conservatism on the Cardinals wins is offset by the conservatism on the Cubs losses. The Cardinals may win 7 more and the Cubs will lose 7 more. But if your team is, like the Reds, projected to win 80 or 81 games, then bunching up the distribution around the middle doesn’t affect them at all.

        • I don’t think you understand how the regression works. The regression doesn’t care about .500. It sees last season. It pulls your team toward the mean. It goes on it’s way. If it pulls your team exactly to the mean, that doesn’t make it a .500 team. It makes it a team that has been regressed to .500. I disagree with the level at which the Reds were regressed, just as I disagree with the level at which the Cards were regressed. The Cubs and Pirates are the only teams that look right to me from the Central, and I would not be surprised to see the Pirates really fall off.

          Anyway, the projection systems aren’t magical. I think even their creators would tell you that they are just meant to be tools. I had a conversation with Justin inAZ the other day on Twitter and he’s a bit lower than me, but we’re in basic agreement. I don’t think anyone would ever accuse him of being overly subjective. He’s the single best analyst in the Reds community.

    • In my opinion many of the optimists who post here honestly believe that the core of the Reds shortcomings last year was the manager and that by some sleight of hand, a guy who has yet to manage his first regular season MLB game is somehow going to fix all these shortcomings.

      I accept the sincerity of their beliefs but thing they are highly unrealistic.

      • yeah, that’s unrealistic. I think Price will be better, but we don’t really know. I mostly think people need to remember that, disappointing as last season felt, they won 91 games AND they underachieved while dealing with serious injuries. That’s a lot of wins given that more went wrong than went right.

  14. “And, admittedly, if any pitchers see significant DL time, it’s going to get ugly…”.

    Does this include Chapman, Broxton and Sean Marshall; and how long is significant?
    I’d say two of the three are almost certainly out for a month to six weeks minimum as things stand now; and who knows about the third one?

    • I meant STARTING pitchers. I don’t believe much in the importance of relievers. And anyway, Chapman is the only one of those three who was really important last year.

  15. Say goodbye to Goodyear for 2014. Spring training is in the books. Roster decisions have been made, but the mechanisms for those decisions have yet to be executed. Based on the team’s needs, everything has seemingly fallen into place with the 25-man roster, but the 40-man roster is another animal entirely.

    Starting pitching staff for the first time through the rotation has been announced:
    Cueto, Cingrani, Bailey, Leake & Simon with Latos replacing Simon for the 2nd time through the rotation.

    Relief pitching staff has not been announced, but the options are pretty much locked in by the 40-man roster:
    Hoover, LeCure, Parra, Ondrusek, Beato, Christiani & Partch with Simon moving to reliever and Partch being optioned out once Latos is activiated.

    There are no moves required on the 40-man roster for the pitchers for the beginning of the season.

    Position starters have been set since before spring training began:
    Hamilton, Phillips, Votto, Bruce, Ludwick, Frazier, Cozart & Mesoraco with the only remaining issue being Mesoraco, if healthy, or Pena, if not healthy.

    There are no 40-man roster moves required for the position starters.

    The bench utility players are probably set now but they do require some 40-man roster moves.

    Heisey, Pena (or Barnhart) & Santiago are now locks for the 25-man roster. Because of Mesoraco’s lat issue and carrying Santiago on the bench without a bat, Soto almost has to be included as a utility infielder, 3rd catcher and RH pinch hitter since he is already on the 40-man roster. Bernadina almost has to be included as a LH pinch hitter and utility OF capable of playing every OF position.

    Santiago and Bernadina will require 40-man roster spots that WJ must create to accomodate their addition to the 25-man roster. The issue becomes working an equitable trade for a player currently occupying the 40-man roster or simply removing a player from the 40-man roster and risking a waiver claim and losing the player with no compensation.

    The OF represents the strength of the minor league system and the Reds have a couple of OF (Rodriguez & Duran) on the 40-man roster who should draw trade interest from other teams for a low-minor (ROK, A, A+), high-upside starting pitcher or middle infielder. I don’t think the Reds can afford to lose LaMarre at this time with the OF questions still unanswered for 2014 & 2015 and I believe the Reds feel Winker and Ervin are their OF answers for the future. I don’t think Lutz would draw much, if any, trade interest due to his age lowering his upside potential, but that might also make him a candidate for waiving off the 40-man roster.

    With pitching being so valuable, trading or risking a waiver claim for any pitching seems folly, even for a pitcher struggling like Corcino. Of course once the walking wounded start returning (Broxton, Marshall, Chapman, Schumaker & Hannahan), there will be additional issues to address. I believe Soto, Partch & Christiani have options available, but Santiago, Bernadina, Beato and Ondrusek do not have options available and could not just be reassigned to the minor leagues.

    • RE: Lutz…. Left handed hitters who hit big flies with any sort of regularity are just like left handed pitchers who can throw the ball in same zip code as home plate. Until it is shown time and again (and again etc) that they will never really develop or manifest true MLB skills. somebody will be ready to give them a look.

  16. Prediction is about as much as it’s worth, prediction. And, no one can tell the future. So, most anyone can justify most anything. Most simply, all other things remaining level, because we won’t be as strong in CF, you can probably count on a slightly worse season. I foresee high 80’s, like 88-89 wins. I don’t believe Devin will cost us behind the plate. I don’t think Chapman’s injury will hurt us much. I believe Bronson and Cingrani will be a wash.

    Now, as for Cueto, Marshall, and Broxton go, my prediction is based how “all other things remaining level” from last season. So, I am predicting as if Cueto, Marshall, and Broxton will be injured for a majority of the season again. If they can come back “and” be effective, I can easily see low 90’s, like 92-93 wins.

    But, then, that’s why they play the games.

  17. Interesting discussion developing here about projected wins. Concerning Vegas: I don’t know about their expertise (assume it’s formidable, though), but if baseball odds are set the same way boxing odds are, they are a reflection of betting trends, as I understand it, not what some Vegas wizard actually believes. I’d really like to see everybody play some ball games: still the best way to tell who is good and who is not. I think that the Reds are a good team with weaknesses, and the injuries worry me. A lot. No news there.

  18. Can Hamilton keep hitting .327/.381/.527 please? Because then the Reds might stand a chance against all these endless injuries. I think I can trudge through the brutal season this might become if Votto is Votto, Bruce is Bruce, and Hamilton is that fun to watch.

    • If anyone wasn’t a Hamilton believer yet, those two triples he scorched yesterday were pretty convincing. Can you imagine the OF trying to position themselves against Hamilton. If they play normal depth to cut off balls and keep them from going to the wall, Hamilton slaps singles in front of them. If they cheat in, Hamilton’s standing on 3B.

  19. I see the Reds winning 35 games. Dont know how they can possibly get above that

    In all honesty they are probably a 30 win team

    These projections are so silly. The team won 98 games a year ago and are now the bad news bears


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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.


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