Predictions are dumb, at least when you take them as things that will happen. These particular predictions aren't going to happen, that much I can assure you, for if I could assure you, I'd be making enough bank off of them to not be wasting my time hammering them into a keyboard for you to read.
That isn't to say that predictions aren't some semi-logical collision between should and could. That's exactly what they are, almost-assertions that have both nothing riding on them and just enough of a boozy backing to be interesting enough to maybe remember down the line. And, of course, these are dumb predictions, the misanthropic younger sibling of educated guesses, something right up the alley of our specific baseball bloghole world.
We've done them before. Last year, I was just close enough for you to look back later and say, "none of these were really right at all, but at least he finally learned not to type with caps-lock on." Not to be defeated, I'm at it again, attempting to lob out wide swaths of nebulous ideas for the 2016 season that just might almost happen.
With Opening Day just two sunrises away, here are Five Dumb Predictions for the upcoming Cincinnati Reds season.
1) Jay Bruce will have the best non-Votto OPS on the Reds
Quick question...who had more extra-base hits last year, Joey Votto or Jay Bruce?
The first rule of making predictions is to back them with information that's only 50-60% related to the actual prediction, and boy have I studied that rule over and over. The answer is that Jay Bruce (65) had more extra-base hits than Joey Votto (64) in 2015, and there are probably at least two or six of you who will read that and bring up how you think Tony Perez was better at baseball than Joe Morgan.
But, I digress.
No, extra base hits and OPS aren't directly correlated, but this is more just an example that Bruce's complete demise may be slightly overstated. Had I made a similar claim at this point last year about Jay's bounce-back OPS being the best non-Votto mark on the team through, say, the July 31st trade deadline, I'd have looked nice and shiny. Bruce actually carried a robust .843 mark through August 3rd, backed by a then career-high walk rate and ample evidence that his torn meniscus was a nagging thing of the past. Of course, his season collapsed immediately, and he stumbled down the stretch to finish with a pedestrian .729 mark for the whole season.
I think Bruce boots that to the curb, once again being the mid-.800's bat we once came to count on. The question becomes how many games he plays for the Reds, though, since he'll likely be marketed harder than knock-off footy jerseys on the streets of Casablanca from Opening Day onward.
2) Eugenio Suarez says those XBH numbers are for the birds
The newly minted Cincinnati 3B whacked 13 dingers, 2 triples, and 19 doubles in limited action in 2015, a rate that extrapolates to roughly 60 XBH per 700 PA. If he replicates that pace in a full season while hitting 2nd in the lineup, he'll not surpass either Votto's total or Bruce's total from last season. This paragraph is brought to you by Set 'Em Up, Knock 'Em Down LLC., specializing in burying the lede since 2007.
Eugenio Suarez will not replicate his XBH pace from 2015. I think he'll exceed it by quite a bit.
Rumor has it that he's added weight, added strength, and embraced his new position, and the Cactus League performance he just wrapped certainly echoed that. It's almost as if he's truly in The Best Shape of His Life (TM). In all, I think it parlays quite well, and I see him besting 70 XBHs in 2016, which will be enough to lead the Reds.
It won't touch Todd Frazier's pace - his first half had him on course to eclipse 100, and he finished with 79 - but it will be a solid showing for the full-season breakout I expect out of Henny-O.
3) Brandon Phillips will slug under .400, drive in 100+ runs
It's really outlandish to predict that someone does something that they've already done before, isn't it? WELCOME TO DUMB PREDICTION NUMBER THREE!
The 2013 season was the last one where Phillips hit cleanup for the majority of the season, and with Todd Frazier gone, Devin Mesoraco hardly an everyday player, and basic lineup construction a foreign phrase in the Cincinnati dugout, it appears likely that may be the case again in 2016. The 2013 season also saw Joey Votto in the lineup 162 times with an otherworldy OBP hitting in front of Phillips, and that's going to likely be the case again this year (with them there ridiculous Suarez numbers probably in front of Votto), and that's the kind of spice that makes a recipe one to remember.
Phillips will turn 35 this summer, owns a .704 OPS combined since the start of the 2013 season, and would be a cleanup hitter for precisely zero other franchises at this point, but he's once again going to be cast as the heel in the neverending "Votto walks too much, Phillips is an RBI-guy" narrative we've watched for a half-decade. At least he's good enough at it to perpetuate it, and that chance should be there in ample quantity again in 2016.
4) Joey Votto wins the NL OBP title by .050 or more
If I had my head screwed on straight, I'd have hit this prediction third with the Phillips prediction fourth, since that's the entire story I'm attempting to tell here. But, this is Red Reporter - not the AP - and throwing things a bit off kilter is the lifeblood of this place.
So, here's our Joey Votto section, the one where he OBPs .475 and bests every dadgum player in all of baseball, lapping the National League field and OBP runner-up Bryce Harper's mortal .425 mark.
Buoyed by a second half for the absolute ages - .362/.535/.617 is some Paste level absurdity - Votto posted a single season OBP of .459, the second best mark of his career. To date, the .474 mark he owned that led all of baseball in 2012 is his career high, set in the season where he was on-pace to break the MLB record for doubles before Pablo Sandoval ate his knee. His approach has continued to be refined and the lineup around him has continued to be diluted, and I think he bests that mark in 2016. And, of course, nobody else comes close.
5) The Reds make a Rolen-esque trade before the end of the year
Near the witching hour of the July 31st trade deadline in 2009, the Cincinnati Reds sent Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Scott Rolen. The Reds were 45-57 at the time, and Rolen - despite hitting .320 to that point of the season - was a 34 year old who had averaged just 106 games played per season over the last four years. And, he was expensive.
It was a trade that didn't make a pile of sense at the time, but was one that put an early stamp on Walt Jocketty's tenure as the team's GM. He'd be at the helm for just over a year, and while the team on the field at the time was having a hard time logging W's, he saw a young core that needed just the right tweak to have a chance to be a juggernaut going forward. So, he used a highly-regarded yet flawed young arm and a highly-regarded yet flawed young bat to get Rolen, a piece he valued beyond just his production on the field.
The rest of that portion of Reds history is, well, pick a word that means the same as 'history.'
Jocketty's hanging up his GM spikes after the 2016 season, handing team control over to current "GM" Dick Williams after one more go-round. I get the impression that this current "reboot" is one Rolen-y move away from Walt being comfortable with it, and the team has built up a bevy of young, tradable talent that could easily bring in the right veteran that they've always admired. It won't make sense at first - why would a bad Reds team need James Shields, Ian Kinsler, or Adam Jones? - but it just follows too obvious a pattern to ignore.