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Cincinnati Reds - 2007 Team Preview
Predicted Finish
81-81
3rd Place
NL Central

by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
March 12, 2007

2006 Record - 80-82, 3rd Place NL Central, 3.5 behind the Cardinals
2006 Runs Scored - 749
2006 Runs Allowed - 801
Pythagorean Projection - 76-86



Last year the Cincinnati Reds were surprisingly good, which is to say that they were good at all. The Reds came dangerously close to finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2000, and would have if not for losing their last two games of the year. 2007 finds the Reds in the curious position of having a reasonably strong pitching staff to go with a suspect batting order, a condition the Reds have not experienced since the 1990s. In a seemingly wide-open NL Central, the Reds could easily contend for the title, but such contention would require many questions to be answered in their favor.

Catcher
2006 Starter - David Ross, Jason LaRue, Javier Valentin
Projected 2007 Starter - David Ross, Javier Valentin

David Ross finally got a chance to play with the Reds after languishing in the Dodgers' system, and he had lots of apparent success. His numbers in 90 games project out to the tune of about 40 homeruns and 100 RBI, but also about 150 strikeouts. Ross will be 30 this season, and with the Jason LaRue Era having ended, will get a chance to play roughly 130-140 games. The upside to Ross is that his OBP was 98 points higher than his AVG last season. The downside is that his average was .255. The ultra-downside is that his OPS was over 200 points better at home, indicating that he may not be the real deal.

First Base
2006 Starter - Scott Hatteberg
Projected 2007 Starter - Scott Hatteberg

Like Ross, Hatteberg's OPS was over 200 points better at home, dipping to a paltry 719 on the road. Hatteberg is 37 this season, and may not be the answer at first base all season. Unfortunately, his backup is Jeff Conine, who is even older.

Second Base
2006 Starter - Brandon Phillips
Projected 2007 Starter - Brandon Phillips

You can say one thing about GM Wayne Krivsky - he takes chances. Krivsky acquired Phillips from the Indians at the beginning of last season after four unproductive years with the Indians, and Phillips played a solid second base all year, though his numbers dipped in the second half. Whether Phillips can continue to grow as a player will go a long way towards determining the Reds success this season. Phillips had an OBP under .300 on the road, and needs to improve upon that.

Third Base
2006 Starter - Edwin Encarnacion, Rich Aurillia
Projected 2007 Starter - Edwin Encarnacion

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Encarnacion had a lot of apparent success last season in his first full season fueled mainly by an OPS which was over 200 points higher on the road. He needs to improve on defense and offense, and whether the Reds realize this is a significant issue, as they have slated him to be the starting third baseman at the age of 24.

Shortstop
2006 Starter - Felipe Lopez, Royce Clayton, Rich Aurilia
Projected 2007 Starter - Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins

Good news - Royce Clayton is gone. Bad news - Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins, playing in a hitter's park for the first time last season, suffered though what was arguably his worst offensive season, and turns 30 this year. Even worse news - The Reds plan B at shortstop is Juan Castro, who is even older and less effective at the plate.

Outfield
2006 Starters - Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Austin Kearns, Ryan Freel
Projected 2007 Starter - Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ryan Freel

As much credit as we give Hank Aaron for all of his homeruns, perhaps we should give him credit for how long he played without getting hurt. Just six years ago, Griffey was on pace to easily break Aaron's homerun record, and now it would take a miracle.

Griffey's ineffectiveness in the field last season was topped only by his ineffectiveness at the plate. While he had a down season overall, shockingly his OPS was over 100 points higher on the road, which is unexplainable. At this point in his career, however, he should be playing first base or DH, not centerfield.

Adam Dunn is probably one of the most overrated players in baseball. Last season, The Dunner became the only player ever to strikeout 190 times in a season twice, and became one of a handful of players ever to hit 40 homeruns without scoring 100 runs or 100 RBI. Keith likes The Dunner because he went 7 for 7 in stolen bases last season, hits into few double plays, and takes a lot fo walks. I think Cincinnati fans are ready for Dunn to not collapse at the end of the year - last season, Dunn hit .188 with a 700 OPS in August, followed by .161 with a 594 OPS in September and October.

When you realize that Dunn turned in this performance with the Reds chasing a division title - the Reds were tied for the NL Central lead on August 23rd - it really makes you question Adam Dunn's abilities. Adam Dunn simply can not disappear over the last third of a season if the Reds are going to contend.

Three years ago, Ryan Freel was dynamic in 143 games with the Reds playing five different positions. Two years ago, Freel was just as good, and maybe better, in only 103 games with the Reds. Last season, Freel was solid in 132 games with the Reds. In 2007, Freel enters as the Red starting rightfielder at the age of 31. One has to wonder whether it is too late to turn to Freel full time, and whether it should have been done years ago.

Reds Fun Fact - The Reds pitching staff finished tied with the Diamondbacks for second most runs per game given up at home, but only five teams gave up fewer runs per game on the road.
Starting Pitchers

2006 Starters - Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Eric Milton, Elizardo Ramirez, Brandon Claussen, Kyle Lohse
Projected 2007 Starters - Harang, Arroyo, Milton, Lohse, Matt Belisle, Ramirez, Bobby Livingston, Kirk Saarloos

Here is the quick and dirty on these guys - any team that has Arroyo and Harang at the top of their rotation can beat anybody, but any team that has Eric Milton and Kyle Lohse slated to get significant time on the mound can not be said to be approaching winning seriously. Wayne Krivsky's weakness, at this point, appears to be loyalty to guys who came up with him, and this loyalty will get him run out of town if Milton and Lohse are not replaced before next year at the latest. The only rationale that could possibly support having these guys on the team would be the rationale that, playing in Cincinnati, pitchers will get lit up anyway, so why pay for quality pitching. That still probably isn't good enough to justify Milton and Lohse. Reds fans can only hope that Matt Belisle - outstanding in the bullpen last year - and Kirk Saarloos are up to the challenge.



Relief Pitchers
2006 Relievers - David Weathers, Todd Coffey, Kent Mercker, Bill Bray, Chris Hammond, Eddie Guardado, Scott Schoeneweis, Rheal Cormier, Gary Majewski
Projected 2007 Relievers - Weathers, Coffey, Bray, Majewski, Cormier, Brian Shackelford, Mike Stanton

The Reds bullpen was quite decent last year, and Scott Schoeneweis and Eddie Guardado were masterful in 14 innings of work each. David Weathers returns for a full season as the team's closer, and Todd Coffey as his setup man. The bullpen will not likely make or break the Reds' season in 2007 - whether the team wins or loses will likely have been decided by the time the bullpen phone rings for the first time each game.

Outlook for the Season - The Reds are a deceptive team - nothing is as it seems. The offense looks solid, but only because the Great American Ballpark makes all of their hitters look at least decent. The pitching staff also looks solid as a whole, but only because Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang mask the weaknesses of Eric Milton and the Gang. This could be a turning point season for the Adam Dunn, and he could become the type of player that can put his team on his shoulder. But this could also be the year his batting average and his strikeouts equal each other. The Reds will win some games in 2007, but shouldn't make too much noise in the NL Central.




Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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