Every year there is a team that vastly outperforms preseason projections, and either makes the MLB postseason, or pushes the envelope into September. Last season, it was the Baltimore Orioles. They were projected by PECOTA to win 72 games. The O’s ended up winning 89 games (+17), and played in the wild card game.

2015 was even wilder. There were seven teams that won at least 8 more games than they were projected: Royals (+23), Pirates (+18), Cubs (+15), Twins (+13), Blue Jays (+11), Astros (+9), and the Mets (+8).

The Reds are projected to finish 74-88 in 2017. Since the second wild-card was established in 2012, the second spot has won 88, 90, 88, 97, and 87 games each season. If 2017 was as kind as 3 of the last 5 seasons, 88 wins would get a team to the playoffs. That begs the question: could the Reds be 14 wins better than they are projected?

Let’s look at the 2016 Orioles. Their offense did what they were projected to do. Their eight most used hitters (Machado, Davis, Hardy, Trumbo, Schoop, Wieters, Jones, and Kim) combined for 19.7 fWAR. Those eight players were actually projected to put up 19.9 fWAR. The Orioles pitching was where they were better, but even that wasn’t an insane leap forward. Kevin Gausman (+1.2 fWAR) and Zach Britton (+1.3 fWAR) were the only pitchers to vastly outperform their projections.

Now to the 2017 Reds. When you look at the offense, there is reason to be optimistic at literally every position:

Catcher – Mesoraco is back….at least he should be. In Mesoraco’s last healthy season (2014), he was the best hitting catcher in all of baseball posting a 147 wRC+. Even if Mesoraco doesn’t survive spring training, or has forgotten how to hit in the last two years, Tucker Barnhart has proven to be a capable.

First Base – Joey Votto was the best offensive player in the NL in 2016, posting a 158 wRC+.

Second Base – Jose Peraza is the big wild card for this team. He hit .324/.352/.411 in 72 games last year. Peraza was the #54 prospect following 2014, and the #66 following 2015 by Baseball America. He is only 22 years old!

Shortstop – Zack Cozart is a solid SS. He has been about an average hitter the last two seasons, and plays very good defense.

Third Base – Eugenio Suarez hit 21 home runs in his first full season in the big leagues, and is only 24 years old. Jason Linden thinks he will be the breakout star in 2017 for the Reds.

Centerfield – Billy Hamilton’s OBP jumped up to .321 last season. Since he broke into the league in 2014, he ranks 13th out of the 34 qualifying MLB CF in fWAR at 8.7.

Other OF – Adam Duvall has legit power. He hit 33 home runs last year in the MLB. He hit 35 total between different levels in 2015. He hit 34 total home runs between different levels in 2014. Jesse Winker is coming soon. His lack of power has been concerning, but Winker has a .400 career OBP professionally. And that Scott Schebler guy, well he now has a 104 career wRC+ in 101 games in the big leagues.

When it comes to pitching, the Reds have stockpiled there. We don’t know what the Reds wil get from Homer Bailey in 2017, but both Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan have a lot to like. Then there is the trio of top prospects Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, and Amir Garrett. Scott Feldman is also there to fill the gaps. The Reds just need five guys to stick.

The bullpen also looks promising. I wrote about how The Reds are quietly building a solid bullpen last week. The trio of Iglesias, Lorenzen, and Storen could solidify the back end.

It would not be wise to put all of your money on the 2017 Reds. They are certainly still rebuilding. But I also don’t think this team should be completely counted out. Baseball is very unpredictable, and also many times comes down to luck. You know what, if anyone deserves some good luck to come their way it is Cincinnati sports fans.

Why not us?

21 Responses

  1. Tom Mitsoff

    The bullpen may be primed to be a team strength. The regular lineup has the chance to finish in the middle of the pack of most team metrics. The starting pitching will be the key. Feldman will have to exceed his performance of recent years, and two youngsters will need to exceed expectations.

  2. ohiojimw

    The Reds teams which reached the World Series in 1961 and 1970 were respectively +10 and +11 to Pythagorean. So, why not the bottom rung of the current playoff structure in 2017?

    The 1970 team actually had half the guys whom would eventually become known as the “regular 8” of 1975/76 fame, two young comers named Bench and Concepcion along with two mid career guys named Rose and Perez. There is a lot more ceiling in this group than the current Reds but then a team can be 5th best and still get into the playoffs now.

  3. big5ed

    No, no, no. Betting favorites is a fool’s errand. Longshots are where the money is made.

  4. VaRedsFan

    You’re kidding about batting Lorenzen 6th right? I thought you might be.
    Didn’t you watch Billy leading off in the 2nd half last season?
    Cozart was a capable bat last year (and the year before) until he wore down and got hurt. At the time, many were saying Comeback Player of the year.

  5. VaRedsFan

    The easiest way to to beat expectations is to lower your pre-season projections 😉

  6. IndyRedMan

    I think the 2015 Royals were set at 80 wins or something….it was insanely low for a team coming off the WS.

    This team doesn’t have enough starting pitching but I’m still really excited about seeing what the youngsters can do! The only that bothers me is that I have trouble respecting any organization that values outside people higher and doesn’t promote from within. If they want to trade Straily (old man of 28) for prospects then that’s one thing but I doubt Jennings can do anything offensively in a platoon that Steve Selsky couldn’t do?

    • VaRedsFan

      Except Jennings has done it before. He may very well be washed up, but he doesn’t cost much and has the upside that he has shown in the past.

      • IndyRedMan

        We’ll see? Tampa has to be the worst place to hit in MLB so maybe he’ll take off. I still like Selsky and his approach at the plate!

    • IndyRedMan

      I thought Schebler was the backup CF….or Peraza? I guess I tend to discount OF defense since Hamilton covers 40% of the Earth and GABP is so small anyway.

  7. VaRedsFan

    They should pick up a LARGE HANDFUL of wins just for purging that early season horrible bullpen out the door. Show me a successful team, and more times than not, they have a very strong bullpen.

  8. hoosierdad

    The dismal start the first three months resulted in just 29 wins. The last three months yielded 39 wins. If the 2nd half Reds played the entire season, you’d have 78 wins. The question has to be can you get that result plus add in another 2 wins per month? That’s the difference between 78 wins and 90 wins.

    • David

      Success breeds success and confidence. You don’t measure that by advanced statistics, but confident and relaxed players and pitchers perform better. When you are losing and struggling and doubting yourself, nobody is confident in what they are doing. The Reds lost a good number of games last year because of bull pen meltdowns, and poor starting pitching. I don’t expect to see one of the young guys become Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine, but more consistency from starters and longer starts means the bullpen doesn’t get overworked and weaknesses exposed.

      • Streamer88

        Excellent points. There is no “learning how to hit a slider” when it comes to defensive transition for young players. If BHam has a .350 OBP this year and turns that corner it’ll be because his defense and BR permitted him enough ABs to learn the craft at the highest level. Strong D raises the floor of young developing talent and is a confidence booster.

        In the post steroid era it also doesn’t fatigue near the end of the season, as some sluggers are apt to do. Good stuff!

  9. sandman

    Is it me or was this exact question asked last year? Remember the hype video? Hilarious! I know we are gonna seemingly be better this year (at least on paper) but it would be a leap. I like that you included some reality in this article though. Yes baseball can be unpredictable at times…but at other times it’s exactly what you were expecting. I’ve just learned in my life to not get my hopes up and to not expect too much out of people/things, etc, bcuz that way you won’t be disappointed. The way that I look at it, this is a win-win point of view/attitude. A) If they perform to your low expectations, no harm done. You didn’t fall too far. B) If they perform at a level or levels above your low expectations, then you will be pleasantly surprised. Win-Win. I’m sure some of you could poke holes in my theory/belief (whatever), but it isn’t gonna change my viewpoint so why try?

  10. Broseph

    I’ll agree that this new team will not be a defensive or offensive or pitching team. It will need to be good at all things, not great at one to win.
    I think many of these guys will come around beginning in 2018.The only thing Votto’s window will be closing in a hurry which is such unfortunate timing.
    Pereza, Senzel, Winker, Suarez, Hamilton and some form of a third outfielder I think will be north of the 100 wRC+ and the pitching youth will start to flourish by 2019 with a real shot at the division and playoff run. That puts Votto at 36 and definitely on the decline. If the team didn’t shuffle its feet with the rebuild, they could’ve still benefitted from Votto’s insane wRC+ that will probably happen again this year.

    Hopefully Votto can hold off Father Time and contribute to this new window, but I think the ceiling on the upcoming offensive core will be good, peppered with a few All star performances.

  11. TR

    I think the Reds will be the surprise team of the NLC. Whether they’ll progress enough to be competitive and challenge for a wild card, time will tell.

  12. Redgoggles

    I’m optimistic this year will be a step forward, but I would still enjoy reading a similar article from a year ago.