2017 Reds

Why not us?

Every year there is a team that vastly outperforms preseason projections, and either makes the MLB postseason, or pushes the envelope into September. Last season, it was the Baltimore Orioles. They were projected by PECOTA to win 72 games. The O’s ended up winning 89 games (+17), and played in the wild card game.

2015 was even wilder. There were seven teams that won at least 8 more games than they were projected: Royals (+23), Pirates (+18), Cubs (+15), Twins (+13), Blue Jays (+11), Astros (+9), and the Mets (+8).

The Reds are projected to finish 74-88 in 2017. Since the second wild-card was established in 2012, the second spot has won 88, 90, 88, 97, and 87 games each season. If 2017 was as kind as 3 of the last 5 seasons, 88 wins would get a team to the playoffs. That begs the question: could the Reds be 14 wins better than they are projected?

Let’s look at the 2016 Orioles. Their offense did what they were projected to do. Their eight most used hitters (Machado, Davis, Hardy, Trumbo, Schoop, Wieters, Jones, and Kim) combined for 19.7 fWAR. Those eight players were actually projected to put up 19.9 fWAR. The Orioles pitching was where they were better, but even that wasn’t an insane leap forward. Kevin Gausman (+1.2 fWAR) and Zach Britton (+1.3 fWAR) were the only pitchers to vastly outperform their projections.

Now to the 2017 Reds. When you look at the offense, there is reason to be optimistic at literally every position:

Catcher – Mesoraco is back….at least he should be. In Mesoraco’s last healthy season (2014), he was the best hitting catcher in all of baseball posting a 147 wRC+. Even if Mesoraco doesn’t survive spring training, or has forgotten how to hit in the last two years, Tucker Barnhart has proven to be a capable.

First Base – Joey Votto was the best offensive player in the NL in 2016, posting a 158 wRC+.

Second Base – Jose Peraza is the big wild card for this team. He hit .324/.352/.411 in 72 games last year. Peraza was the #54 prospect following 2014, and the #66 following 2015 by Baseball America. He is only 22 years old!

Shortstop – Zack Cozart is a solid SS. He has been about an average hitter the last two seasons, and plays very good defense.

Third Base – Eugenio Suarez hit 21 home runs in his first full season in the big leagues, and is only 24 years old. Jason Linden thinks he will be the breakout star in 2017 for the Reds.

Centerfield – Billy Hamilton’s OBP jumped up to .321 last season. Since he broke into the league in 2014, he ranks 13th out of the 34 qualifying MLB CF in fWAR at 8.7.

Other OF – Adam Duvall has legit power. He hit 33 home runs last year in the MLB. He hit 35 total between different levels in 2015. He hit 34 total home runs between different levels in 2014. Jesse Winker is coming soon. His lack of power has been concerning, but Winker has a .400 career OBP professionally. And that Scott Schebler guy, well he now has a 104 career wRC+ in 101 games in the big leagues.

When it comes to pitching, the Reds have stockpiled there. We don’t know what the Reds wil get from Homer Bailey in 2017, but both Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan have a lot to like. Then there is the trio of top prospects Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, and Amir Garrett. Scott Feldman is also there to fill the gaps. The Reds just need five guys to stick.

The bullpen also looks promising. I wrote about how The Reds are quietly building a solid bullpen last week. The trio of Iglesias, Lorenzen, and Storen could solidify the back end.

It would not be wise to put all of your money on the 2017 Reds. They are certainly still rebuilding. But I also don’t think this team should be completely counted out. Baseball is very unpredictable, and also many times comes down to luck. You know what, if anyone deserves some good luck to come their way it is Cincinnati sports fans.

Why not us?

36 thoughts on “Why not us?

  1. Why not us? Bryan Price, for one.

    The next Reds team with a winning record probably will be managed by someone else. Hope I’m wrong!

  2. I like the positive outlook. I think +7 vs the Reds projection would be phenomenal. I just don’t see enough upside in the players to think that overshooting the projection by more than that is feasible. That said, when I get all of ZiPS in Diamond Mind and simulate 100 games, I can pretty much promise that the Reds will win their division in at least one of the outcomes.

  3. You never know? Its def not likely. Joe Maddon thinks outside the box. Bill Belechik thinks outside the box and that’s a big part of why they win. I would start Lorenzen and bat him 6th when he starts….also use regularly as my 2nd/3rd pinch hitter. I’d bat Hamilton 9th til he actually proves he can get on base and stay in the lineup. Cozart would never bat anywhere other then 7th in my lineup…etc etc but Price goes by the book generally and we get what we get.

    • Do you really think Lorenzen would be a better hitter than 2 regulars? I’m not so sure about that. Maybe if he were to take as much BP as the other guys and didn’t have to worry about working as a pitcher he could be… Maybe.

    • You’re kidding about batting Lorenzen 6th right? I thought you might be.
      Didn’t you watch Billy leading off in the 2nd half last season?
      Cozart was a capable bat last year (and the year before) until he wore down and got hurt. At the time, many were saying Comeback Player of the year.

  4. Well they used to pinch hit Micha Owings or whatever his name was and he stepped in the bucket big time with his swing. Lorenzen looks pretty comfortable up there!

    • Agree that Lorenzen is a better hitter than Owings. Of course when Owings ran into one, they tended to stay hit.

  5. I believe the Reds are positioned as good or better than any other team to outperform projections this season. For any team to outperform projections, things have to fall in place by either progressing beyond individual means or progressing to individual means.

    Can Votto exceed his overall performance from the past 2 seasons? In both seasons, Votto salavage a dismal performance with extraordinary 2nd half performances. What is he doesn’t have to dig his performance out of a pit this season?

    Duvall had a superior 1st half performance and struggled during the 2nd half. Schebler had a dismal 1st half performance, but destroyed the AAA competition after being demoted and continued his turnaround in the 2nd half after he was promoted back to the 25-man roster. Can one of both of those corner OF put a full season together in 2017?

    Hamilton has been soundly criticized for his poor OBP performance as a leadoff hitter and inability to maximize his speed because he simply didn’t get on base at a league-averge rate. Well Hamilton responded by putting up a .369 OBP during the 2nd half of last season. Is he ready to put an entire season together? Can he stay healthy for an entire season?

    Suarez struggled mightly with his 3B defense during the 1st half of the season, but turned around his defensive performance with a strong 2nd half. His offense mirrored his defensive turnaround. Is Suarez on the vierge of a breakout season, both offensively and defensively?

    Ah, Mesoraco…can he remain healthy and knock of the rust to return to pre-2015 form?

    Wagering on any longshot is a fools errand and predicting that any team will outperform projections certainly qulifies as a longshot, but if the Old Cossack was to plop down a wager on a longshot, the 2017 Reds seem as good a bet as any.

    • No, no, no. Betting favorites is a fool’s errand. Longshots are where the money is made.

  6. The bullpen may be primed to be a team strength. The regular lineup has the chance to finish in the middle of the pack of most team metrics. The starting pitching will be the key. Feldman will have to exceed his performance of recent years, and two youngsters will need to exceed expectations.

  7. The Reds teams which reached the World Series in 1961 and 1970 were respectively +10 and +11 to Pythagorean. So, why not the bottom rung of the current playoff structure in 2017?

    The 1970 team actually had half the guys whom would eventually become known as the “regular 8” of 1975/76 fame, two young comers named Bench and Concepcion along with two mid career guys named Rose and Perez. There is a lot more ceiling in this group than the current Reds but then a team can be 5th best and still get into the playoffs now.

  8. The easiest way to to beat expectations is to lower your pre-season projections 😉

  9. I think the 2015 Royals were set at 80 wins or something….it was insanely low for a team coming off the WS.

    This team doesn’t have enough starting pitching but I’m still really excited about seeing what the youngsters can do! The only that bothers me is that I have trouble respecting any organization that values outside people higher and doesn’t promote from within. If they want to trade Straily (old man of 28) for prospects then that’s one thing but I doubt Jennings can do anything offensively in a platoon that Steve Selsky couldn’t do?

    • Except Jennings has done it before. He may very well be washed up, but he doesn’t cost much and has the upside that he has shown in the past.

      • We’ll see? Tampa has to be the worst place to hit in MLB so maybe he’ll take off. I still like Selsky and his approach at the plate!

    • I was a huge Selsky supporter. He wasn’t flashy and he didn’t fit the profile of a corner OF, but he could hit and he could get on base.

      The problem in comparing Selsky and Jennings is defense. Selsky was a poor defensive corner OF and his CF defense was simply forgetaboutit. The Reds need a reasonable backup CF and Selsky simply didn’t fit the bill. Right now Schebler is the backup CF and that’s a less than ideal option. With that said, I was sorry to see Selsky leave. I think the intent was to get him through DFA waivers and give him a shot to make the 25-man roster out of spring training. It almost worked. The current management team has an exceptional track record so far in making solid determinations regarding which players top protect and which payers to roll the dice on not protecting. Granted it’s just one offseason to evaluate, but it’s been pretty solid, much better than anyone I know (the Old cossack included) anticipated.

      • I thought Schebler was the backup CF….or Peraza? I guess I tend to discount OF defense since Hamilton covers 40% of the Earth and GABP is so small anyway.

  10. They should pick up a LARGE HANDFUL of wins just for purging that early season horrible bullpen out the door. Show me a successful team, and more times than not, they have a very strong bullpen.

  11. The dismal start the first three months resulted in just 29 wins. The last three months yielded 39 wins. If the 2nd half Reds played the entire season, you’d have 78 wins. The question has to be can you get that result plus add in another 2 wins per month? That’s the difference between 78 wins and 90 wins.

    • Success breeds success and confidence. You don’t measure that by advanced statistics, but confident and relaxed players and pitchers perform better. When you are losing and struggling and doubting yourself, nobody is confident in what they are doing. The Reds lost a good number of games last year because of bull pen meltdowns, and poor starting pitching. I don’t expect to see one of the young guys become Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine, but more consistency from starters and longer starts means the bullpen doesn’t get overworked and weaknesses exposed.

      • This is sometimes overlooked when people talk about pitching and hitting being equal. From a strictly mathematical standpoint, run production and run prevention are perfectly equal. The math doesn’t lie there. From a player psychological standpoint however pitching and defense become more important in so far as if your keeping the other team off the board, and keeping them close, you feel like you’re a couple swings from tying or winning. You feel like you’re in the game and have a chance. Also, while slumps sometimes seem to be contagious, it feels to me like defense and pitching seems to be even more contagious. I remember we’d have stretches of games where we’d make errors in bunches or had a lot of walks, or missed pitch locations that got crushed. You really start pressing and the issue seems to compound itself. Then you’d go on a stretch where you’d almost never make mistakes and your pitchers seem to be always hitting their spots. Not sure if this is a “real” effect or not but day-to-day in games, it feels real. Never played pro ball but know enough folks who have that agree with me on this.

        • Good points, LW. I think you may be identifying the result of getting anxious and pressing after a mistake–the opposite of clutchiness, if you will. As long as the game is played by humans, or until humans can selectively shut their minds off, what you’ve noticed will be possible.

        • Excellent points. There is no “learning how to hit a slider” when it comes to defensive transition for young players. If BHam has a .350 OBP this year and turns that corner it’ll be because his defense and BR permitted him enough ABs to learn the craft at the highest level. Strong D raises the floor of young developing talent and is a confidence booster.

          In the post steroid era it also doesn’t fatigue near the end of the season, as some sluggers are apt to do. Good stuff!

  12. Always hope for the best, but, looking at the results from last year, long way to go. The Reds had a negative pitching WAR last year. The bullpen is improved, not sure the starting pitching is improved.

    Also, the Reds were near the bottom of the NL in wRC+, which includes Votto, who led the NL in wRC+. Bruce was the next highest for the Reds in wRC+ in 2016.

    It is on the hitting side that I am not sure I understand where the Reds are in regards to a rebuild. Senzel seems to have potential, but, the remainder of the young hitting prospects do not seem to have a lot of upside. I guess a group of hitters that are all around a wRC+ of 100 and more would give them a chance if the pitching is rock solid.

    • I’ll agree that this new team will not be a defensive or offensive or pitching team. It will need to be good at all things, not great at one to win.
      I think many of these guys will come around beginning in 2018.The only thing Votto’s window will be closing in a hurry which is such unfortunate timing.
      Pereza, Senzel, Winker, Suarez, Hamilton and some form of a third outfielder I think will be north of the 100 wRC+ and the pitching youth will start to flourish by 2019 with a real shot at the division and playoff run. That puts Votto at 36 and definitely on the decline. If the team didn’t shuffle its feet with the rebuild, they could’ve still benefitted from Votto’s insane wRC+ that will probably happen again this year.

      Hopefully Votto can hold off Father Time and contribute to this new window, but I think the ceiling on the upcoming offensive core will be good, peppered with a few All star performances.

      • If Hamilton turns in a wRC+ of over 100 for a full season, I’d be really shocked. Of course his defense and baserunning are so good that he really just needs to get close to league average to go from a decent player to a really good one.

  13. Is it me or was this exact question asked last year? Remember the hype video? Hilarious! I know we are gonna seemingly be better this year (at least on paper) but it would be a leap. I like that you included some reality in this article though. Yes baseball can be unpredictable at times…but at other times it’s exactly what you were expecting. I’ve just learned in my life to not get my hopes up and to not expect too much out of people/things, etc, bcuz that way you won’t be disappointed. The way that I look at it, this is a win-win point of view/attitude. A) If they perform to your low expectations, no harm done. You didn’t fall too far. B) If they perform at a level or levels above your low expectations, then you will be pleasantly surprised. Win-Win. I’m sure some of you could poke holes in my theory/belief (whatever), but it isn’t gonna change my viewpoint so why try?

  14. I think the Reds will be the surprise team of the NLC. Whether they’ll progress enough to be competitive and challenge for a wild card, time will tell.

  15. I’m optimistic this year will be a step forward, but I would still enjoy reading a similar article from a year ago.

  16. To borrow a line from Chad recently, maybe “if I squint real hard,” I can see it. But I don’t think I can squint that hard for a whole season.

  17. There’s the little problem of the Reds being in the same division with the Cubs and Cardinals. Also, the Pirates might be a tough team to beat as well.

    The Reds COULD compete, but they would need absolutely everything to go right and even then would still need a little luck to bounce their way. If even one of their major players gets injured, regresses, or fails to live up to expectations, the Reds have no hope.

    A major (but often overlooked) difference between “good” teams and “bad” teams is their depth. A “good” team has backup players that would be starters on an average team. The Reds have no real depth to speak of. Heck, they don’t even know if their starters are good enough.

    I have faith in the process, but this is not the year where the end of the tunnel comes into view. We’re starting to see the walls brighten, and maybe smell hints of fresh air, but we’re still in the tunnel.

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