says Rob Neyer:

Every year I get a bunch of e-mail messages wondering if this is the year, and every year it’s not; the Reds are working on an eight-year streak of sub-.500 seasons. Why the annual optimism? Because their uniforms are so pretty. You think I’m joking, but I’m not; the Reds are one of the smartest-looking teams and you almost can’t help but wish them well.

Look, I too like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. Aaron Harang’s not going to go 6-17 again, and Homer Bailey still has a shot (theoretically, at least). I suppose if you make a list of five surprise teams in 2009, the Reds might be in there somewhere. But while finally reaching .500 might be a realistic goal, qualifying for October baseball probably is not.

I’m going to refrain from commenting, because I’m still trying to wear my Pete Rose-colored glasses.

But I agree that the Reds uniforms look great.

31 Responses

  1. Y-City Jim

    I fear this offense is going to be worse than we imagined.

  2. brublejr

    .500 is possible if everything goes good, but I would say under .500 is more reality. This team will be too incosistent to contend.

  3. KY Chip

    I’d be pleased to see .500 baseball in Cincy this year. I base that on a few things:

    — we know the offense will be weaker this year. Speedier, yes, but capable of producing more runs? Likely not.
    — in the rotation, we’re relying on two young arms, one question mark, one streaky pitcher, and our ‘ace’ who is coming off his worst year ever.
    — two huge question marks in LF and SS.
    — Dusty Baker.

  4. GregD

    I think it depends a lot on how much Taveras and Gonzalez hit 1/2 in the lineup this year, especially if Taveras can’t bounce back to some form of his pre-2008 self.

  5. fidler

    ‘But while finally reaching .500 might be a realistic goal, qualifying for October baseball probably is not.’

    …but it’s baseball and the key word is probably.

  6. Steve Price

    If Taveras/Gonzalez hit 1/2 in the lineup all year, .500 is not attainable.

    They may be the two worst hitters in the starting lineup….and, I do think Dusty would like to do just that…well, he said it.

    May be we should have the pitcher lead off?

  7. Mark in CC

    Way too much negativity.

    If Taveras hits his career average numbers, or maybe improves just a little he will be a nice fit. At his age he should.

    Against righties Dickerson will be in the 2 hole, they tried that yesterday, and I am not convinced Hairston won’t be there versus lefties which would be very good.

    If Gomes wins the platoon then Gonzo hits there versus lefties only, still not a horible thing.

    If Harang gets straightened out, and I am more skeptical as the spring wears on (its time for him to show he can get someone out), .500 is very attainable because the pitching will be above average, the defense will be improved and that is 75% of the game.

  8. Glenn

    Has anyone noticed that the team is having trouble scoring runs? I hope this is not an indication of how the season’s going to play out.

  9. earl

    I think the biggest thing is that Joey Votto and Jay Bruce don’t slide back at the plate. If they tank, the Reds are in a huge world of hurt as their success is pretty much essential for improvement. There are plenty of players that seem to have it going for a year then lose it.

  10. nycredsfan

    This season really rides on Bruce, Votto, and Encarnacion. You pretty much know what you will get from the rest of the line-up (mediocrity), so those three MUST play to the absolute top of their potential for this team to score enough runs. Even then, I don’t see them hanging with the Cubs.

    And earl, I don’t see either guy tanking. They’ve been hitting since they started playing pro ball, and at their age, improvement is much more likely.

  11. Mark in CC

    Other than pitching, the key to the team is Gozo. He plays and the infield is better, outfield is better, bench is better which means the offense will be the best it can be and I believe more consistent.

    He doesn’t play then defense goes down, and shuffeling begins again as an exceptional bench player becomes an average starter and the whole line-up suffers.

  12. AriochRIP

    I completely agree with something Hal McCoy wrote recently: Right now, I pick the Reds to finish anywhere from 2nd to 5th. THAT’S how unpredictable this team is. The only things that are certain (as McCoy wrote) are that we’re better than the Bucs and not as good as the Cubs. Anything else is possible.

    We have so many question marks, but I think the two keys are Encarnacion and Harang. If Harang turns around last year’s numbers and has a typical 16-10 kind of year, and Encarnacion finally has a .280, 30, 100 season, I think we contend for a wild card. That’s assuming drastic things don’t happen – like Bruce and Votto struggling terribly all year, injuries, etc.

    Regardless – I’m already optimistic about NEXT year.

  13. BenL

    All these question marks are huge. Cueto and Volquez are big ones too. I almost expect both to regress a little bit. Still, I could imagine them as all stars and I could imagine them struggling and getting sent down at some point (Cueto in particular). There is no way to know.

  14. nycredsfan

    I definitely think Volquez will regress, but not Cueto. He’s so young that he’s still learning how to pitch, and all of the peripheral stats indicate Volquez was pretty lucky last year and Cueto was a bit unlucky.

    Of course, if Harang doesn’t bounce back in a major way it’s not going to matter one bit.

  15. Mark T

    The real formula lies in pitching and defense. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays.

    EE is a real problem, but the addition of Taveras in center is a plus, from that standpoint. They need for pitchers to perform. I’m very unsure of this staff, and think it might be over-touted.

  16. Steve Price

    “Other than pitching, the key to the team is Gozo. He plays and the infield is better, outfield is better, bench is better which means the offense will be the best it can be and I believe more consistent.”

    If the phrase is changed to “he plays well” I would agree.

    I think it will be a near superhuman effort for Gonzalez to really play well at his age and after his knee problems.

    He’s an old shortstop coming off a year’s worth of inactivity, and he had many distractions the year before that…and didn’t play well.

    Why should we expect him to do better than he already has?

    We may actually be better without him…I’m not saying that’s what will happen, but we should not expect him to be a good player at this point in his career.

    That’s not being negative….that’s realistic expectations.

    We can hope he can return to his age 26 form….but, that’s been six years ago. It’s been 10 years since he was a 22 year old all-star.

    If he could do that, we would be better off…if he’s back to the form of his recent performance, and that’s what we should expect from him, he’s just an overpaid player on a team that can’t afford him.

    As for offense…he’ s only had two seasons of better than 95+ OPS performance, his best being a 99 two years ago with the Reds.

  17. Mike

    If the Reds get off to a fast start, it could make all the difference for a 2nd. or 3rd. place finish. If not, it’s another season over by July 4.

  18. per14

    I generally agree Steve on Gonzo. But if he gives the team a 99 OPS and plays above-average defense (big ifs), then that will be a major shot in the arm for the team in my opinion.

    This team could win 65 games. It could win 90 games. It should be interesting.

  19. daedalus

    That means the Reds are going to the post season! Because every year E$PN and those kind of folks say the Reds can be the sleeper and it never happens, so if they’re saying the Reds have no chance, then we’re going! Wooo! Where can I buy my tickets?

  20. GregD

    Reds 2008 split by batting order for #1/2 hitters
    #1: .266/.326/.423 (avg/obp/slg) (.749ops)
    #2: .260/.305/.360 (665ops)

    2008 NL Average by batting order
    #1: .274/.342/.424 (766ops)
    #2: .278/.338/.416 (754ops)

    Taveras 2008: .251/.308/.296 (604ops)
    Taveras career: .283/.331/.337 (668ops)
    Gonzalez career: .248/.295/.399 (694ops)

  21. Steve Price

    Well said, Greg.

    Like I said…may be the pitcher should lead off? That would keep with our theme of having the worst hitters bat at the top of the order.

    Amazing thing to me….if Dickerson and Gonzalez played the same amount as Dunn, they would strike out about 130-150 times in a season themselves. Dickerson’s batting average should be a little better than Dunn’s (any more would be statistical surprise), and Gonzalez’s would be about the same. Both of them together won’t top homer totals, and will probably equal his rbi totals.

    yet, Dunn wasn’t “good” enough. We could always mention defense, but since when were teams worried about left field defense? And, Gonzalez came with a reputation of being a good fielding shortstop, but that was already hurting a bit when he arrived and he’s had over a year now to get older and not get repetitions and practice.

    New Bill James article I was reading today (more to come about this) was discussing teams that overachieve, almost always had outstanding infield defense (the 39-40 Reds were discussed at great length). We do not have this (Phillips excluded).

    Gonzalez was acquired because of his reputation as a good glove and he offered some pop. It’s almost too much of him to ask to do be a first rate defender at this time. I’ll be glad if he does.

  22. Y-City Jim

    Has anyone look at the ST team stats? I know it’s only spring training but being 28th out of 30th teams in both BA and OBP and 26th in OPS is a reason for concern. The team ERA is 16th.

  23. Plowboy

    They’ll all have career years and will be contending for the pennant, ala 1999.

    What the heck. It’s spring training, and I want to be positive.

  24. Mark in CC

    Gonzo is 32 you speak as though he is 42. If he can put up absolutely the same numbers in 2009 that he put up in 2007, which was not a great year for him (dealing with a seriously ill child all year), the team will be better at that position than they were in 2008. He struck out 75 times in 110 games hardly getting him to the 130 to 150 range.

    If your logic is that Dickerson will strike out 130 times then the same logic says he will hit 30 home runs. So 10 less homers and 50 less strikeouts than Dunn. Not a bad trade-off putting the ball in play 50 more times with his speed.

  25. GregD

    Offensively, Gonzalez had his career best OBP, SLG, OPS & OPS+ in 2007. His next best OPS was with Fla in 2003.

    2003: 756
    2004: 689
    2005: 687
    2006: 696
    2007: 793
    2008: did not play
    Career: 694

    Being out of baseball for over a year, now in his 30’s, I would expect an OPS closer to his 2004-2006 seasons than the near-800 he posted in 2007.

  26. pinson343

    Gonzo pulled a lot of HRs in 2007, just barely making the seats. That was predictable, and he could do it again in 2009. He made a lot of errors on routine plays in 2007, I don’t think that will happen again. His quick release will still be there for DPs. His range wasn’t what people expected in 2007, the big question is what will it be in 2009.

    As far as the Reds’ contending goes, right now I just don’t see it.
    I don’t buy into the trading off of power for speed. The Rockies tried that a number of years ago in their HR stadium and it didn’t work. It’s true that if you’re slow you don’t win consistently.
    But you also don’t win consistently when scoring less than average runs, unless you have outstanding pitching.

    I’m generally an optimist and I hope I’m wrong, but right now I don’t see this team even having a winning season.

  27. Mark in CC

    I think the Rockies model is a good one. They went from all power, to speed, to a combination which took them to the World Series.

    To say the Reds have abandoned power is nuts. They have one position where the power should be less but have improved power at a few others.

    Hernandez/Hanigan should add 10+ to catcher home runs.

    Gonzalez should add 10+ at shortstop

    Bruce will better himself by 5 at least

    Dickerson/Gomes/Hairston should beat Junior by at least 5.

    If Votto, Phillips and Encanarcion stay the same, which they should be better,

    We have added 60 stolen bases, and giving Dunn credit for 40 HRs, and lost 10 home runs.

    I don’t think this equates to trading power for speed. In Dunn’s case it amounted to power for current and future pitching and money.

  28. pinson343

    Power AND speed is a great model. I dont think the Reds have an abundance of either. Hope that you’re right and I’m wrong.

    Dickerson is a key here. In ST he’s struck out 17 times in 40 ABs, and his stolen base % is barely over 50%. Then again, if Johnny Gomes keeps it up and Gonzo stays healthy and Bruce gets going and Taveras returns to form and Coco’s OK …..

    Great things could happen. It’s our best starting rotation in a long time.

  29. Dan

    It’s true that Dickerson has struck out 17 times in 40 AB’s, but come on, the guy is hitting .325/.364/.525!! He has not been part of the problem. He’s been good. I hope he keeps it up.

    (For a hitter, strikeouts don’t matter! Overall production is what matters. Some guys strike out a lot but also get on base a lot and hit the ball hard. Dickerson might be like that. If so, I’ll take it.)

  30. Dan

    If Dusty puts together a lineup with Taveras batting #1, Gonzo batting #2, and Phillips batting #4, it will absolutely cost us games. Does it really take a rocket scientist to see that you want guys who GET ON BASE near the top of your lineup?

    Taveras (career) – .283/.331/.337

    Gonzo (career) – .248/.295/.399

    Phillips (career) – .262/.308/.425

    And by the way, just for fun, the dirty little fact that everyone seems to conveniently ignore…

    Phillips (career vs. RHP) – .249/.294/.394

    Compare those numbers to Gonzo’s career numbers. Basically, whenever we fact a RHP (about 70% of the time), we have Alex Gonzalez batting cleanup.

    Way to go, Dusty…

  31. pinson343

    Interesting stuff, Dan. Philipps at cleanup is bothersome, and Dusty has also said he wants Gonzo batting second. Not a good idea.

    Of course I’ll take 325/.364/.525 from Dickerson, but striking out nearly 50% of the time would make that difficult to maintain, to say the least.