I want to believe that the Reds can get somewhere near .500 this year. I really want to believe it. Deep down, I can’t talk myself into it, but hope always springs eternal at this time of year.

With that said, Justin is trying to provide some reasons for optimism, so to speak, and I’m desperate enough that I want to believe it.

Unless Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Edwin Encarnacion, and Brandon Phillips take huge steps forward offensively this year, I just can’t see the Reds being able to score enough runs to be a .500 team. I don’t see the defense being that much better, either. The pitching should be good, but it’s going to have to be really good for this team to break even.

But I want to believe. I’m trying. I really am. Feel free to discuss all the reasons for optimism that you can imagine below.

33 Responses

  1. nick in va

    Can the Reds reach .500 this year?

    I like the chances of them winning one of the first two games this year.

    But seriously, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – 86 wins this year. Maybe I have my (Pete) Rose colored glasses on, but I’m sticking with it. And I have a decent track record of making absolutely random guesses that are right on the mark.

  2. Slattspub

    Maybe I’m overly optimistic but I think this is going to be a good year for this organization. The key however, will be a fast start. If we get off to fast start and the city rally’s behind this team…Summertime becomes that much sweeter. I realize we’re missing the big name players but we’ve had the big name players in Dunn and Griffey for the past 6 years and it really didn’t get us anywhere. Young scrappy team with good pitching maybe this formula will work?

  3. Flash

    I can see a fast start, but Bruce will have to hit the lefties. The Mets will throw 2 lefties at them. Santana and Perez. the Pirates will throw two at the Reds, the Astros 4 and Oswalt twice, the Braves and Cubs two each along with Zambrano.

  4. per14

    They just can’t score enough. This will probably be how Dusty constructs the line-up:

    Taveras
    Dickerson/Hairston
    Phillips
    Bruce
    Votto
    EdE
    Gonzalez
    Hernandez

    The team probably needs to score 750 runs to get to .500 and I don’t think that linup will come close.

    I predict 77-85.

  5. Jason

    One of the things that bothers me about the prediction systems is that they rarely seem to forecast much improvement for good young players. Bruce and Votto should both get significantly better (especially Bruce). It would be out of the ordinary for them to stagnate or regress. Until they stop getting better or hit their peak years, we should assume they will continue to improve. Same goes for Volquez and Cueto, though, obviously, pitching is less predictable. I would like to see Edwin improve, he’s still plenty young enough for that to happen, but last year was not fantastic, and makes me a bit nervous. Overall, I think the offense, while not great, figures to be a little better than most of the predictions.

  6. justcorbly

    I thought they would get to .500 last year. Frankly, they would have if not for Harang’s collapse and Arroyo’s awful start. At least, in theory.

    My guess is that the Powers That Be are planning on a bad year, revenue-wise. (Which may or may nor be the same thing as a bad year, record-wise.) They are not inclined to spend millions to bag one or two mid-level outfielders who might hit a bit better than the projected outfield. On the other hand, they’ve already spent mllions and considerable time nursing along what might, perhaps, cross your fingers, could be a pretty good starting rotation.

    Could they get to .500 with good pitching and insipid offense? Sure, depending on how the opposition plays. They could also get to last place.

  7. Matt Steele

    It really all depends on how much our pitches progress. If Cueto and Volquez continue to improve and if someone can secure that 5th starter role (Homer?) I think we have a decent chance at .500

    But what is the real difference between 79 wins and 82? Most likely not a playoff spot.

  8. sultan of swaff

    The psychological difference for a team that hasn’t won in 8 years would be important, and serve as a building block to future succes w/ the youngsters coming up.

  9. Glenn

    I honestly believe the Reds can have a winning record this year. They weren’t all that far from accomplishing it last year. If Harang had stayed healthy it would have been an entirely different story.

    Having said that, I don’t think their even close to winning the division. they just don’t have the bats.

  10. Mark in CC

    21-20 after Dunn was traded in ’08. From that team thay have added offensively Hernandez, Taveras and hopefully Gonzalez. The bench should be stronger with Keppinger. The pitching is the same replacing Affeldt for Rhodes. Owings should also add nice depth to pitching and pinch hitting. Sounds like .500 is a possibility.

  11. Bill

    No way can this team score enough runs to make it to .500. I just don’t see how…I do think Bruce and Votto will improve (Bruce more than Votto); but the other two OF spots are scary, Hernandez is coming off 2 bad years, Gonzalez hasn’t played in a year and a half…

    Cueto should improve, but do you really think Volquez is going to improve on last year? I don’t. I’d be thrilled with a repeat.

  12. GregD

    Do I think they can? Sure, anything’s possible.
    Do I hope they will? Absolutely

    Mark, 21-20 was largely on the back of the best pitching of the season + Pujols-type offense from Joey Votto and Chris Dickerson + a lot of 1-run wins. It also ignores the team’s 1-9 record just after the Griffey trade.

    What did they do over a full year?
    704 runs scored
    800 runs allowed

    For the pessimistic folk –

    800 runs allowed is the lowest for the Reds pitching staff in the past 5 years and essentially the same 2008 staff is returning in 2009:

    2004 907
    2005 889
    2006 801
    2007 853
    2008 800

    (Let’s hope they finally break below the 800 mark.)

    Offensive 2009 projection using
    – the lineup tool
    – the Baker batting order
    – each player matching their career average
    = 718 runs
    Last year the Reds only scored 704 runs

    >>>For you, the 96 run gap is to big to overcome with the minor changes that have been made.

    For the realistic folk –

    If Bruce has a breakout year and a .900 OPS
    that 718 could increase to 750
    Interestingly, if Bruce doesn’t break out, but Baker uses the lineup tool’s “optimal lineup”, the projection is for 762 runs.

    Offensively, something in the mid 700’s is possible.

    On pitching.

    The Reds had one of the worst ER/R ratios in the majors. 800RA/729ER = 1.097. League average was 1.056. With league average defensive error rate, the team RA could have been 770 instead of 800.

    If Harang and Arroyo revert to career average (4.25 and 4.31 respectively), you could shave another 25 runs. However, if Volquez posts his career average (a decrease to 4.37), that would add 25 runs, and be a wash on total runs allowed for the top three starters.

    However, throw in 36 starts to pitchers not named Harang, Arroyo, Volquez, and Cueto at a 2008 ERA of 7.47 ERA. Replace those starts with a 5.50 ERA pitcher, and you can shave another 39 RA off the total.

    So a league average defensive error rate, a decent option at #5, and the Reds pitching could also be in the mid-700 runs allowed.

    >>>>>750 runs scored + 750 runs allowed will be a team near .500.

    For the optimistic folk who likey the kool-aid –

    Everyone matches their career year offensively and Bruce has his breakout year. The Reds could score 825-850 runs.

    Harang and Volquez keep their ERA’s under 4, Arroyo and Cueto improve to 4.00. With defensive improvements, the Reds shave 100 runs off their 2008 total, allowing just 700 runs.

    >>>>Score 850, allow 700, Reds win the division!

  13. WishboneD

    Matt Steele, I think Cueto’s development is going to be key for us having a good year and I feel like we have enough competition for the fifth spot that we should wind up with a decent starter there. I think it’s unrealistic to expect Volquez to match last year’s performance, though, much less improve on it.

    Mark in CC, I like your logic but I worry that Gonzales will be a liability on offense AND defense this year.

    That said, I think Hernandez will be much improved over his last two years. True, he probably won’t get a huge boost from GABP, but playing in the NL should help him. It’s hard to predict psychological influences, but I think I also read that he has been more successful in his first years with a team. All in all, nothing new. I’m hopeful for 2009 but more so for 2010.

  14. daedalus

    This is what’s going to happen. The Reds will play well in April and May because all of the young guys will be excited to play. They might be in first at the end of May, or maybe they’ll be leading the Wild Card. Sports Illustrated will write a little piece on the “surprise of the season” and use a bunch of cliches related to the color red. They’ll have a losing streak in June of about seven games, followed by a series sweep which will lead us all to believe we’re right back in things. Then they’ll win about eight games in July and sometime in August one of us, probably me, will say something how if this happens and that happens, we can climb right back in it. Then September will come around and we’ll be seven and a half back and fighting St. Louis for second place. That’s when the rookies will be called up, guys like Valaika and Frazier and Stubbs, even though we were screaming for it when the losing started in July and Willy T was hitting a buck fifty nine. Then we’ll all say what a great farm system we have and wait till next year like we do every year.

  15. Jared

    I don’t think you have to be very optimistic to see .500 as POSSIBLE. I’d say won’t make .500 at this point, but to say it’s not even a possibility would be… something, I don’t know, but this team sure isn’t the Detroit Lions.

    I’m not convinced the defense is going to be any better at all this year, and I think the pitching has been pretty overrated. Harang should be better, Arroyo, I’d guess, about the same, Voltron probably won’t perform up to what he did last year, and Cueto should be a bit better. And Weathers is on the roster.

    I don’t see the Reds manufacturing many runs, either. I would definitely say a much larger percentage of the runs they score this year will be manufactured, since there’s hardly a guy on the team that can hit a homerun, but they also aren’t that great at getting on base or moving guys over. In Great American, as purist-backwards as it is, I don’t think seeing a bunch of solo homeruns is such a bad thing. But if we must, I say we trade Dickerson and $5 for Ichiro.

  16. Chris W

    That reply by Daedalus somes up at least 5 or 6 of the last 8 seasons for me!

  17. Mham209

    Reading comment #13 by Greg and also being a lifelong Reds fan (and eternal optimist), I truly believe the Reds can reach the magical .500 plateau this year. However without a “Big Bopper” in the lineup, I doubt they will contend for the division or wild card this year.

    There’s always hope that if we’re close to either one of these positions, Bob C. will open his wallet and bring in the missing piece(s) to make the final push.

    The season will be determined by how well EE, Willy T, LF(s), and the #5 starters perform.

  18. Travis G.

    I think this team is going to be surprisingly awful.

    The defense isn’t significantly improved, our young pitchers seem as likely to take a step back as a step forward, we have very little power and not nearly enough patience at the plate, our offense is leaning heavily on a pair of second-year players and a young player who’s never quite put it all together, our leadoff man is physically unable to get on base, our manager overvalues speed, and our cleanup hitter has a terrible habit of hitting into double plays.

    Every year I’m optimistic that the Reds might be able to do something, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be one of the league’s worst teams this season. But who knows? I’m wrong every year…

  19. Matt McWax

    I think we can field a solid lineup, maybe even a good power lineup if Gomes works out. The problem is that there are some really killer lineups in the NL, such as the Mets that are so much better, and they lack the question marks. I’m confident that our pitching will range from above average to strong. Sadly if I’m wrong, we will have a fire sale.

  20. Travis G.

    I’d love to see Gomes do well, but I feel like I’ve seen this movie before: He’s going to start the season hot as a firecracker, become a folk hero for his pale skin and colorful quotes, but start fading by mid-May as NL pitchers find the hole(s) in his swing and never recover.

    I’d love to be wrong, but I see him finishing the season with an OPS around .750 and about eight homers more than he’ll have on June 1.

  21. preach

    “Suprisingly awful”, yeah that sounds about right for this year. I sure hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. I think Daedalus is correct, but maybe in reverse: They may start out incredibly bad and trail by double digits at the break and then come on hot in late August and early September, but it will be too little too late and provide the false security that all we need to do is a ‘little tinkering’ with the lineup and we will be fine for 2010 and due to second half success everyone will keep their jobs(ie: “Bengal Syndrome”). I really hope I’m wrong on this scenario. If they are going to miss it, I’d rather have them miss it late and at least let me feel competitive for part of the season and then maybe something would change after a mid season collapse, but I’m afraid it won’t.

  22. Jason

    Here’s a reason to be optimistic: Baseball Prospectus has EE and Bruce as two of their top candidates to have “breakout” years. That would be nice.

  23. Mark in CC

    Everyone is fired up about Gomes. On my roster, assuming they carry 12 pitchers, I have him fighting for the 25th spot. I think one of Ward/Jones/Nix will be #24 just because of the need for a lefthanded hitter off the bench. I think the only way he is certain is if Gonzalez can’t go.

    I have him fighting with Hopper, Nix, Rosales and Jones for that last spot.

  24. GRF

    Mark, I think you are right, but I think he wins that fight (unfortunately for Hopper).

    I think the Reds can be .500, but what bothers me is I see that as about the best case scenario. As Travis and Peach point out, I do not think it will take too many bad breaks for things to go south in a hurry.

  25. Mham209

    I agree with GRF…the margin for error with this team will be very small, and alot of things will have to fall into place to compete for a playoff position.

  26. RiverCity Redleg

    Why would you not see the D being much better this year. Dunn and Jr are out. AGon is supposedly healthy and everyone else is a year more experienced. I’m expecting a very good defensive team.

  27. Travis G.

    Dunn and Junior were indeed defensive liabilities, but you can live with below-average defense on the corners as long as they hit. The Reds haven’t added anyone who’s certain to match either guy’s offensive production (a 22-year-old Bruce is no lock to match Griff’s .245/.355/.432 line) or save enough runs to justify the dropoff. Taveras might match Patterson’s defense but, alas, is also a risk to match his offensive contribution.

    EdE could show dramatic improvement at the hot corner, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Phillips is great, of course, but Gonzalez just turned 32 and missed most of the last two seasons with a serious knee injury; I wouldn’t count on him being the same defender he was two years ago. Votto improved over the course of last season, but he remains a work in progress.

    Ramon Hernandez was considered one the worst defensive catchers in baseball last season.

    I just don’t see how this team is all that much better on defense than last year’s, apart from two of the least important spots on the defensive spectrum, and are likely to be significantly worse on offense.

  28. Deaner

    I really think they have a shot at .500 this year because of two things. 1) Pitching. It’s much better and could be the 2nd best overall staff in the division. 2) The NL Central. I truly think that the Cubs are the only team in the division that is better (on paper) than the Reds.

  29. Glenn

    I also think that Gomes will have to have a strong spring to make this roster.