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About those Five Dumb Predictions for the 2021 Cincinnati Reds

Looking back on our look ahead

Pittsburgh Pirates v. Cincinnati Reds Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

Hey man, I’m no pro prognosticator. I do these things every single year, or have for the last half-dozen, at least. I’m wrong. I’m oh, so wrong almost all of the time. Egregiously wrong, often, and that’s due mostly to a mix of these being incredibly off the cuff and overtly optimistic to a fault.

I want the Cincinnati Reds to do well, y’know. So, most all of these end up as me jazzed up on a tall cup of joe on the eve of another Opening Day dreaming that this will be the one October where the Reds are still playing baseball.

I suppose it’s time to revisit my Five Dumb Predictions for the 2021 Cincinnati Reds.

Tyler Mahle, Ace of the Pitching Staff

Up until the 5th inning of the penultimate game of this season, this looked like a slam dunk for ol’ me. Then, the Pittsburgh Pirates took out their ‘easy part of the schedule’ frustration on Tyler Mahle to the tune of a 6 run inning, and things immediately got slightly murkier.

Fact is, Mahle finished the 2021 season as the Reds team leader in fWAR (3.8) for a pitcher, and was staring a ~5.5 bWAR finish prior to said inning. Still, he finished at 4.9 bWAR, a ways back of Wade Miley (6.0), but I’m not going to let that one inning diminish what we saw, as a whole, from Mahle in this breakout year.

He often looked ace-ish. He struck out over 200, which was rad. Outside of GABP, he looked damn near untouchable (that inning in Pittsburgh notwithstanding). I said this about him in the original predictions:

I say he tops 170 IP this year with an ERA around 3.19, with a K/9 that’s still over 10. So, a dual ace alongside La Piedra.

He fired 180 IP with a K/9 over 10, and had that ERA down in the 3.40 range prior to the Pirating, eventually finishing at 3.75. In many (but not all) ways, he led this year’s pitching rotation, as he did in each of K, K/BB, and K/9.

Joey Votto has a tale of three seasons, is 100% a good player still

Here’s what I had to say about Joe Dan on the first of April:

Votto’s stance change during 2020 is one of those mark-the-calendar moments for most Reds fans. A benching, an abandonment of the squat-and-choke, and a subsequent reemergence of his power stroke upon return. He went from punchless to puncher, socking dingers a plenty down the stretch with a devil-may-care attitude to striking out that he’d not had previously.

I think it rolls into 2021, with an early power surge until pitchers begin to adjust to him the way he adjusted to them last year. Only it’s different when Joey forces the change instead of the inverse, because that puts him in the driver’s seat to again command all parts of the strike zone, and I think his early power will lead to a spate of later walks this year.

I say 20 dingers by the All Star break, only a handful after, but enough down-the-stretch walking that he again reaches 100 BB for the year. The result: .281/.383/.452, and he is still a freakin’ force.

I’m so, so glad I sold him short, believe it or not.

My timing was certainly off, as it took Votto a bit longer to reassert his power stroke on the poor, poor pitchers of this league, but he did have something of a tale of three seasons.

He owned an .810 OPS at the All Star break through the first 70 games played of his season, but he came back from his busted thumb and absolutely went bonkers right after. In 30 games from July 19th through August 20th, he bonked 17 homers with an absurd 1.293 OPS, honestly appearing as if he was going to break the screen on my TV with every contact.

He ‘slowed’ back to a mere .881 OPS from that point to the end of the season, though, with 28 walks in the final 35 games (a 130 BB per 162 G pace), or - as I said - his early power will lead to a spate of later walks this year.

Nick Senzel goes 20/20 and is a Gold Glove finalist

This entire subject pains my soul and I am sad about it.

None of this happened, he got hurt (again) playing a foreign position (again) and I’m still bitter at how this franchise jerked him around. I do not know what the future portends for him, and concede that the Reds ruined him through what should have been his best years.

Jesse Winker socks 36 dingers

Speaking of injuries, yet another one sapped yet another would-be great Jesse Winker season in 2021. And, as a result, Jesse did not sock exactly 36 dingers.

Instead, he socked just 24, though they were admittedly 24 pretty sweet dingers in his 110 games played, though that 110th game played turned out to be bogus because he immediately reinjured his intercostal muscles and was shut right back down. So, he basically had those 24 dingers in 109 games played.

I make that distinction because 24/109 = 0.22, and 0.22x162 = 35.64, which rounds up to 36.

Blog math is my passion.

The Reds are 2 games over .500 at the Trade Deadline

I specifically made this prediction in lieu of a full-season one because I worried the 2021 Reds would make mid-year deals that mimicked those of their offseason - namely, frugal deals that were mostly bent on saving cash than winning games. And, as I feared at the time, it would torpedo a team that was otherwise plodding forward at a somewhat admirable pace.

Do I think these Reds are good enough right now to win the NL Central? I do not, folks, I do not. That said, I do think they’re talented enough to win just slightly more often than they lose, and I think that’ll be the story for them during the first 55% of the season.

Of course, if you can do that while barreling into the trade deadline, that means you’ve put yourself in a position to make the kind of move to get you over the hump for the stretch run, to add a piece that’ll either do some dirty work where needed, bust fastballs past opponents at a more prolific rate, or even sock copious dingers.

I think the Reds will be in that position then, much like they were in position to make that move all winter (and didn’t). Will they, though? Will they add payroll? Will they get a rental pitcher on the move to help them soak up all the IP they’re gaining from last season’s shortened campaign? Or will they again sit on their hands and let the rest of baseball get better while they watch their bottom line?

The Reds were actually 55-50 on deadline day, in the midst of their best stretch of ball all season, and in hindsight that might’ve been the nail in their season coffin. Had they been stumbling just a little bit more at that point, they might’ve felt obligated to add more than a trio of arms who, in theory, were set to slot in middle relief once Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims and Michael Lorenzen returned.

Who am I kidding, they wouldn’t have done any of that. As a result, the Reds stood pat and didn’t address their issues vs. LHP, instead banking on injuries and underperformance to pick them up at some point down the road.

They finished 83-79. They were not good enough to win the NL Central. They missed the playoff once again, and I’m again writing this in the first week of October, not the last.