The Reds will win more games than they lose this season. Not a very bold prediction. Nor an unreasonable projection.
The Reds are frequently being picked by experts across the nation to win the NL Central this year. For example, many of the writers at fangraphs.com are predicting good things for the Reds in 2012. Of the 20 writers, ten predict that the Reds will win the NL Central. Four of those ten believe the Reds will win the NLCS. However, none of those four take Cincinnati to win the World Series.
The writers also predict that the Reds will take in 2 of the 3 big regular season awards. Joey Votto got 11 votes for NL MVP. Jay Bruce received 1 vote. Devin Mesoraco is the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year with 8 votes. (Former Red Yonder Alonso received 4 votes.)
Do the projections support these outsiders’ predictions?
Many experts predicted that the Reds would have a winning record last year, too. Additionally, the Reds run production relative to run prevention led to a statistical expectation in support of a winning record.
Conceptually, the premise of an “expected” win-loss record is pretty straight forward. If you score more runs than you prevent over 162 games, your team will have a winning record, and if you allow more runs than you score, you will have a losing record. The Reds outscored their opponents in 2011, 735-720, leading to a pythagorean expected winning percentage of .510, or approximately a 83-79 record. The Reds finished short of that mark with 79 wins.
Obviously displeased with the results from last year, the Reds made a number of moves to improve their odds, especially on the pitching side. The addition of Latos, a sub 5.00 ERA from Arroyo, and better options in AAA with Francis, Tomko, and hopefully Chapman, the Reds look to have improved their run prevention from 12th in the NL to league average, or approximately 675 runs allowed.
Their offense also should get a slight boost, especially if Rolen can stay healthy for most of the season. The Reds received extremely poor production from the clean-up spot last year with just a .701 OPS. I ran a lineup projection (thanks to baseballmusings lineup tool) blending player projections with the following playing time assumptions:
–Rolen 115 games, and the cleanup spot OPS increasing to .769
–Votto 155 games
–Bruce, Phillips, Stubbs 140 games each
–Cozart 120 games
–Hanigan and Mesoraco to split 150 games behind the plate with Corky Miller getting the other 12
–Heisey and Ludwick to split 130 games in left field with Willie Harris getting the other 32
–For conservatism, I have Harris in the lineup 61 times in the outfield, Valdez 44 times in the infield, and Frazier just 29 starts (and a 725 OPS)
The result of all these playing time assumptions is approximately a 4.5% increase in run production from last year, or 768 runs scored.
The total result of these offensive and pitching projections is that the 2012 Reds would score 768 runs, allow 675 runs, and win 91 games. That should be enough to make the playoffs.