The Reds' offseason came in like a lamb and left like a lion. Spring went a similar way. In the end, we got some wish-fulfillment that would have seemed impossible last fall (Latos for four years, Votto forever, an elite bullpen) and a few front-porch-excrement-bags of various sizes (injuries making that bullpen DOA, Chapman to the bullpen, Frazier to AAA). As much a blow the Madson injury was, with its ripple effects to the roster, at least it didn't yield a headline like this: "Josh Outman hits Rockies' DL after excessive vomiting leads to an oblique strain"
It's hard to figure out how to tally the credits and debits going into this season. As much as you'd like, you can't count Joey Votto more than once for 2012. Even the Reds fan who's trying to do an honest appraisal might overcompensate and judge too harshly. It might be impossible to be objective as a fan, though it's not really possible otherwise.
I took a crack at using the WAR Spreadsheet from Sky Kalkman at Beyond the Boxscore (all rise) to project the Reds' win total for 2012. Either I'm being way too generous with my projections - or the replacement level is a little too high - but I initially came out with an 83% of the Reds reaching 91 wins (which I think is the win total that puts the team safely in the playoffs, whether or not they win the division). They would do it with a team wOBA of .341 and a team ERA of 3.97. This is the absolute upper bound. And proof that I'm a little loopy from Opening Day fumes.
Last season, the Reds had a .321 team wOBA and a 4.16 ERA. Jumping up to .341, higher than any other NL team in 2011 by 9 points, isn't likely. But we do have to remember the Reds got close to nothing from SS and 3B last season. Flat production from every other position and slight improvements from Bruce and Stubbs could make the Reds the best offense in the National League.
Revising the team wOBA down ten points to .331 still gives the Reds a 57% chance of getting to 91 wins. There's probably more work to do to make this a more sober guess. Combining that downgrade with a more modest improvement in team ERA over last year to 4.06 gives the Reds a less than 50% chance of getting to 91 wins. They're more like an 89 or 91 win team at this point, right on the cusp.
That feels more accurate to me. I think everything would have to go horribly wrong for this team to be hovering around .500 as they did last season. No expert or projection system I looked at (listed below) has the Reds winning less than 85 games, while the majority favor the Reds for first place.
Things might still have to go beautifully right for them to be division champions and stand a cut above a playoff "bubble" or wildcard team, given the injury risks and certain faulty assumptions that might exist across projections systems and expert brains.
Do I know any better? I do not.
SBG Global World Series Odds (Vegas): 15/1, 7th best odds in the majors, behind the Red Sox
Keith Law, ESPN: 1st Place in NL Central (92-70).
Peter Gammons: 1st Place in NL Central
- Tim Brown: 3rd place in NL Central (84-78)
- Steve Henson: 1st place in NL Central (90-72)
- Jeff Passan: 1st place in NL Central (87-75)
PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus): 3rd place, NL Central (84-78). Missing playoffs.
Replacement Level Yankees Blog (developer of the CAIRO system) Projections Blowout:
- Meta projection: Tied for average wins with Cardinals (87), winning NL Central 41% of the time (largest percentage in division)
- PECOTA simulation: 2nd in NL Central (86-76, #1 Wild Card), winning NL Central in 30% of simulations
- Oliver simulation: 1st in NL Central (91-71), winning NL Central in 63% of simulations
- Marcel simulation: 1st in NL Central (89-73), winning NL Central in 54% of simulations
- CAIRO simulation: 3rd place in NL Central (85-77), missing playoffs
Opening Day Roster (Second Revision)
Scattered player notes
- Castellini stressed this heavily in the Votto presser, but it is pretty remarkable the amount of homegrown talent on the roster and starting lineup. Five years a go, the 2007 Opening Day lineup (including pitcher) had just two players the Reds raised as their own (Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnación). The 2012 Opening Day lineup has 6. Seven on Heisey Days.
- Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen is no good. I'm not sure what effect it will have on his development as a starter, but he had good momentum coming out of spring training and that's been cut short. With Madson gone, Masset on the DL and Bray probably not at full capacity, it's understandable to want another lethal arm in the late innings. But it will go beyond good sense when Masset and Bray are both around 100%, while the rotation needs help. Which it will.
- I still don't full understand the presence of Alfredo Simon, but he's imposing on the mound and has powerful stuff - potentially at least. He's probably not a much worse option than anyone else on hand to fill Masset's spot (though hopefully not his role). We'll see what happens when Masset returns.
- I would like to have seen Todd Frazier make the team. After calling him up for a one at-bat trip last season and now demoting him after breaking camp for a day, it looks like he'll be serving as Liason for Minor League Relations. I'm not totally steamed that Willie Harris made the team, since he's left-handed, versatile and got on base last season. He also provides depth, while hopefully Todd will be the first call when there's more playing time available in LF or at 3B. Ideally, Toddfather would have been making a decent amount of appearances at both positions had he made the team, but I can play that out in the East Wing Simulation Room of my house.
- Ryan Hanigan gets the opening day start. One thing I trust Dusty to do is handle the catchers well. He seems to know the right workload for Hanigan. By default, that might result in the right usage for Mesoraco in his rookie year. Meso hasn't hit much since graduating the minors - roughly 100 PAs in the majors and this spring. He has crushed the ball and looked very good in a handful of at bats. Just needs to relax maybe.
- I haven't heard the question asked much, at least around here, "Can Sean Marshall handle closing?" I think that's because Sean Marshall is a good pitcher and "closer" is a fake position, like Tight End.
- For some reason, probably because he's been very good since the beginning of 2011 through this spring, but I think Cozart is going to have a big year. Someone is probably going to have a really bad year. I hope it's not anyone good, but Mike Leake, Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs head my list. I'm not sure why.
Team Spirit Animal
I was thinking Guianan Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola rupicola), but that's too close to a Cardinal. How about a serval? They are medium-sized, nocturnal and will ferociously defend their food against attempted theft by others.