Five Dumb Predictions, if I remember correctly, was a concept largely conceived during the early days of the Cincinnati Reds rebuild. It was a way to hope, to dream on a club whose modus operandi was not playing good baseball, but rather doing everything they could to cobble together enough young talent to someday, somehow play good baseball again.
Those Reds were going to stink, but you simply had to root for them in a please, please prove me wrong fashion. They were based in some semblance of reason, mind you, albeit with the odds stacked so severely against them that the only realistic reaction to them was to say “man, that’s just dumb.”
Here in 2020, despite all the obstacles and hurdles and roadblocks and idiocy standing in the way of actual Major League Baseball playing, the Reds look poised to be...well, to be good. There are no place for hopes and dreams here, as they’ve been firmly replaced by a big bully named Expectations.
Eugenio Suarez will be good. Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer will be good. Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas will be money well spent, while the deal doled out to Shogo Akiyama will prove to be a steal. Pedro Strop simply cannot wait to strike out Anthony Rizzo every single time he faces him, and we’re all going to be better for it. Frankly, anything less than the bulk of those coming true would be an utter disappointment.
Still, there are and will be just enough intricacies in this short 60 game season to make for some fun, and those are what I’m trying to target here. Rest assured, it’s still dumb to aim for this kind of precision and these will almost certainly look dumb again in a few months, but that, folks, is what the internet is for.
To the predictions...
Reds hit 109 HR, which leads all Major League Baseball
In the go-go age of honking dingers, the 2019 Minnesota Twins set the bar at a record, pounding out 307 big flies in their breakout season. The New York Yankees were hot on their heels, bashing 306 in the regular season.
That breaks down to roughly 1.89 dongs per game. Over a 60 game season, that would be 113. I think the Reds will threaten that this year, as will almost all decent teams in baseball, but with karma on their side, the Reds will end up on top with their 109. Geno will be mashing, while new additions in Moose and Castellanos will add additional thump.
Keep in mind that those Twins and Yankees had DHs at their disposal last year, and this year the Reds will have that, too, with a roster perhaps best equipped for the change among all NL clubs.
Dingers-a-plenty. Book it.
Jesse Winker goes off
We detailed a few weeks back just how primed Jesse Winker is for a big 2020 season. To summarize:
- He’s already been really, really good with the bat in his career
- He completely mauls RHP, and the NL/AL Central is loaded with tons of righty starters
- The DH means he won’t have to really focus on defense as much, which is a plus
- 60 games is not 162, and hopefully the grind and injuries that have resulted for him can be dodged in that smaller sample
- David Bell simply loooves his matchups
- Phil Ervin is Jesse’s mirror - oh oh
Point is, Winker already has the tools to be a very potent offensive player, but in this year, with these modified rules and a proactive manager to exploit them, Winker might just put up the kind of numbers offensive players can only dream of.
He won’t be an everyday guy, but that might be good! He won’t face LHP, but that’s good, too! Optimized in a way that expanded rosters and the universal DH provide, I say Winker hits .312/.419/.534, living up to the +.400 OBP he has already done in short sample and the ‘might win a batting title someday’ reputation he earned while a hitting machine in the minors.
Trevor Bauer leads all MLB in strikeouts
Trevor Bauer strikes out tons of dudes. Lots.
His 253 Ks last year ranked 5th in all MLB, and the 670 Ks he’s posted over the last trio of MLB seasons ranks as the 6th most among all pitchers. The thing is, each of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom ranked just ahead of him on that list, and those two pitched exclusively in the NL during that time - back in the olden days of NL ball when pitchers were merely asked to strikeout without getting hurt.
Bauer’s numbers got a taste of that at the end of last year, and he obviously wasn’t at his best during that stint. Still, he’s proven he can K his way through all-hitter lineups before, and with this a platform season for his free agency, he’s going to be hypermotivated to perform this year as-is. Add in that he’s working with his Driveline pals in the Reds organization now and has famously asked to pitch more often than every fifth day, and he might be the perfect combination of ability, performance, and quantity of opportunity that vaults him into the year’s K leader.
I say he does it.
The Legend of Senzelda becomes lore
A cursory look at Nick Senzel’s rookie season is largely forgettable. Not bad, not great, not good enough to prompt the casual fan to look deeper, not bad enough to shock you in any way. He hit .256/.315/.427, his 89 OPS+ below league average. He logged only 375 PA, meaning he wasn’t a full-time player, and his 0.6 bWAR shows he wasn’t really adding tons of value elsewhere.
Nick Senzel’s story goes so, so much deeper though, as most of you know.
Screwed out of a big league job on Opening Day due to service time manipulation, he was sent back to the minors and immediately sprained his ankle. That came on the heels of being moved all over the damn diamond, from 3B to 2B to SS to CF in the course of a year and a half. He battled vertigo, and even got talked into a debilitating swing change mid-year last year, before a shoulder injury eventually called time on his 2019.
It’s easy to forget that for much of last year, there was still ample promise, if not stardom, under his greenness.
Through his first 70 games - the July 31st trade deadline date - he was on a per 162 game pace for a 20/20 season, 42 doubles, 10 triples, and was hitting .285/.346/.475 (.821 OPS), all of which came before the ill-fated swing change. Said change, said injury, and said shutdown came after, but for a hyped rookie in an awkward new position, that was actually a rather brilliant start, especially when you factor in that it came at one of the most vital, valuable defensive positions in the game.
He’s in camp lighter, healthy, and looking much better in CF, and I think the metrics will eventually reward him there. I also tend to think he’s much more the player he was to start last year, and much, much more, the first real glimpse of which we’ll see on full display this season.
The future cornerstone of the Reds franchise takes a very, very big next step this year. I’ll say .296/.374/.492, while leading the club in both steals in doubles - all while showing us all that he’s going to end up a very, very good defensive CF.
These Reds win the NL Central
Dumb? Hell no, it’s not!
All of the above is going to go right. The bullpen is going to sort itself out, with Kyle Boddy working to keep them throwing complete fire. And despite a tough, competitive group of clubs in the division, the Reds will be hanging a regular season banner at year’s end.
Then, of course, come the playoffs, which MLB just turned into a minefield - we covered the details of the new changes last night. Winning that number of short-series just to get the chance to tussle in the World Series is going to be a crapshoot for all 16 teams involved, even if the drama for casual fans should be through the roof. So, I’ll hold off on getting too dreamy on the Reds postseason dreams, but rest assured they’re going to be there poking homers with their starting pitchers making opponents look silly.
Regular season record, you ask?
37-23. Book it.