Talking about July 24th, 2020 seems like referencing ancient history. A different eon altogether, really. Yet on the morning of that day, we climbed out of bed with the knowledge that baseball had mercifully returned, even if in some alternate, hobgoblin form.
That day saw the Cincinnati Reds topple the Detroit Tigers in the first of the 62 games they would play this calendar year. It saw dingers from Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas, as well as 6 brilliant IP from Sonny Gray. It also featured Phil Ervin leading off, Travis Jankowski running bases, and a late inning on the mound from Brooks Raley, in case you need some names now only found in the archives of team history. In fact, of the 16 Reds who took the field that day, only 9 remain on the roster.
Anyway, prior to ‘Opening Day’ action that July afternoon, we ran our annual Five Dumb Predictions for the Reds, outlining our absurd expectations for the upcoming slate of games. I never got around to running them back at season’s end, so I figured this cold December Monday was the right time to revisit them and see how we did.
Reds hit 109 HR, which leads all Major League Baseball
The Reds did not hit 109 HR. The Reds swatted 90 dingers.
109 HR did not lead all Major League Baseball. 118 HR led all Major League Baseball, and that obviously didn’t come from the Reds.
The Los Angeles Dodgers smacked more balls out of the park than any other club in the game en route to their first World Series title since 1988, while the Reds - who obviously had many other foibles offensively in 2020 - ended up poking the 7th most of any club.
Unfortunately, they almost all seemed to be solo jobs.
0 for 1.
Jesse Winker goes off
Touting the preponderance of right-handed SP in the modified ‘Central’ division for 2020, the presence of the DH, and the lack of a full 162 game season grinding Winker into lengthy IL stints, I picked the sweet-swinging lefty to go HAM during the 2020 season. I went as far as calling him a ‘juggernaut’ in the weeks prior to these Dumb Predictions, and much to the chagrin of that one dude on Twitter who kept bringing that up during Jesse’s slow first two weeks, he damn well was.
He paced the Reds with a robust 146 wRC+, tying him with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and George Springer across the MLB landscape. His .396 wOBA ranked 16th among the 157 MLB players who logged at least 180 PA, and he led the admittedly meager Reds offense in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, BB, and neck.
1 for 2.
Trevor Bauer leads all MLB in strikeouts
Trevor Bauer did not lead all MLB in strikeouts.
Bauer, who took home the National League Cy Young Award for his overall excellence, managed to fan an impressive 100 batters in the shortened 2020 season, though that was merely good for the third highest total in all of baseball. He was topped by Shane Bieber and Jacob deGrom, who tallied 122 (!!) and 104, respectively.
Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. 1 for 3.
The Legend of Senzelda becomes lore
At the risk of circumventing the underlying meaning of this Dumb Prediction, I’ll point out that as we grow further and further away from the godawful year that has been 2020, perhaps we’ll begin to increasingly appreciate what baseball players put themselves through just to give us sportsball to watch on the television during the pandemic. They isolated themselves from friends and family for months, going through a rigorous daily routine of testing and quarantining, all while spending hours a day in relatively close contact with others much moreso than those of us who simply stayed home.
A lot of players ended up sick in the process. Some of them very, very sick. And while we still don’t know - and may never know - exactly what befell Nick Senzel after he was so oddly removed from the team celebrating an 8-1 victory over Pittsburgh on the evening of August 14th, that writing has been pretty clearly on the wall for some time.
The fact is, he woke up that August morning sporting an .857 OPS, riding a quick start to the 2020 campaign that had him on pace for nearly 90 extra-base hits and 25 steals over the course of a normal 162 game season. He was doing that while also looking not only comfortable in CF, but looking damn spry out there, clearly showing he was the most complete athlete on the club.
His subsequent placement on the IL and absence for a full calendar month due to an ‘undisclosed’ ailment immediately followed, and the player who rounded out the season clearly was not the same one who was off to such a solid start. He picked up just 2 hits in his final 29 PA of the season, tanking his overall numbers and leaving the back of his baseball card incapable of scratching the surface of what he really went through in 2020.
I am still incredibly high on the guy’s capability, and fully expect to again see in 2021 the skills he had on display when healthy at the beginning of 2020.
1 for 4.
These Reds win the NL Central
Those Reds did not win the NL Central.
They started with a lone victory through their first handful of games, languished in 4th with as few as 13 games left to play, and needed a miraculous 11-3 sprint to the finish to even squeak into the expanded playoffs (where we’re all painfully aware what happened next).
Those Reds were flawed much more so than we ever expected. They couldn’t hit, the bullpen ruptured early, and despite a barrage of pitching talent we may never see again, they lost as many games as they played during the odd, misshapen 2020 season.
They gave us some good times, to be sure, but this club was frustrating from start to finish.
They did not win the NL Central, and 1 for 5 it was.