Over the last six weeks, I have written thousands of words about the Reds’ 2012 season. I have learned a lot and, at times, been surprised. I hope you have, too. But now, Opening Day is exactly a week a way and spring training is wrapping up, so it’s time to take a broader view and make some predictions about how the team will perform as a whole this year.

To start, let’s look at the predictions I made for each position. The numbers you seen are how many wins (WAR) better or worse I expect the team to be at each position:

Catcher: -0.2
First: +0.1
Second: -2.0
Third: +0.2
Short: +1.3
Left: -0.6
Center: +0.9
Right: +1.7
Top two rotation spots: +4.5
Bottom three rotation spots: +3.3
Bullpen: +4.3
Total: +13.6

A 13.6 win improvement is enormous, but I don’t expect them to improve that much. More on that in a minute.

First, let’s look at where that improvement is coming from: It’s all about the pitching. The Reds will be more or less the same club as last year offensively with various players improving or declining in a way that should hold the ship steady overall. However, the acquisition of Mat Latos creates a chain reaction that dramatically enhances the normal improvements we would expect from a group that severely underperformed last year.

Now, we need to adjust for what has happened over the last few weeks. The Reds haven’t been hit hard by the injury bug except in the bullpen where Ryan Madson is gone for the year and Nick Masset for at least a week or so.

Masset, we shouldn’t have to worry too much about, but the Madson injury probably costs the Reds a win over the course of the year (relievers are overrated). If they stick Aroldis Chapman in the pen, that’s going to cost them a bit more because he won’t be available to step in if a starter gets hurt.

There is good news, however. Jeff Francis, it seems, will be staying with the organization. He is something approaching an average major league pitcher and will be available and probably boosts the value of the rotation by half a win or so. Those are pretty much the only major developments and drop our improvement projection to roughly 13 wins. Still too much.

Something I noted at the beginning of these posts is that I was assuming each player would be reasonably healthy. While on an individual level, there is solid reasoning behind this, it doesn’t work on the team level. Someone is going to be hurt. Most likely a pitcher or Scott Rolen.

Injuries will cost the Reds and we all know they aren’t deep right now (though, notably, Todd Frazier provides solid depth at several positions all by himself). This has to be accounted for. How much of a factor will it be? The Reds do have a young team and few of the players have an extensive injury history, so this has the potential to be a nicely durable team. I am going to arbitrarily lop off four games. This covers the loss of any non-Joey Votto starter (position player or pitcher) for the entire season or several partial-season injuries. I think that’s reasonable.

So, we’re left with a nine win improvement, but not on the 79 wins from last year. According to their Pythagorean record (basically runs scored and runs allowed translated to wins and losses) they should have won 83 games. This, essentially, cancels out our four win injury allowance. And that’s what I’m going with. 92-70 is my prediction for the Reds’ record this year.

Maybe this seems ridiculously optimistic, but I don’t think it is. At least one major prediction system agrees with me. Oliver, at THT Forecasts has the Reds projected to win 93 games this year. Further, the Reds get to play Houston and Pittsburgh a lot. The Cubs might also stink. Playing teams like these is how you pad a win total.

Will it be enough? I don’t know. The Cardinals, even without Albert Pujols, will probably be good. They are, however, very old and more likely than the Reds to suffer sudden, dramatic declines from their key players. I do think the Reds will be in the playoffs, though. It might be as the division winner or it might be as one of the wild cards, but I’d bet on October baseball in Cincy this year.

Redleg Nation 2012 Season Preview:

First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
Front of the Rotation
Back of the Rotation