2006 Team Preview: The Cincinnati Reds
by Asher B. Chancey, Baseball Evolution
March 2, 2006



2005 Record: 73-89 (5th Place AL Central)

2005 Runs Scored: 820

2005 Runs Allowed: 889

Pythagorean 2005 Record: 75-87

Last pre-season, the Glabs and I noted that it was a shame the Reds had not found a way to turn some of their extra outfielders into pitchers. The Reds have tried to remedy the situation, but Sean Casey for Dave Williams wasn't really what we had in mind.

Why do I love the Reds? I am not sure. Is it Griffey, and my desire to see him do well? Not really, because I thought what he did to the Mariners when he demanded a trade, and specified that he would only accept a trade to the Reds, was unfair and put the Mariners in a tough spot. Is it Adam Dunn? Well, I do obsess over him, and his power, and his strikeouts, and his potential. Is it Eric Milton? Well, I do love his futility.

In the end, I think I love the Reds because of their notoriety. Easy to root for, but never that great. Milton gives up the homers, Dunn can't do anything but hit homers, and Griffey is limping his way to the Hall of Fame. Along the way, the Reds hope to squeak out a winning record in a division in which the Cubs, Cards, and Astros have been perennial horses the last few years, and the Pirates and Brewers hope to be strong in the next few years.

Catcher

2005 Starters: Jason LaRue, Javier Valentin

Projected 2006 Starters: Jason LaRue, Javier Valentin

An excellent platoon in 2005, should be excellent again in 2006. Valentin had a breakout year last year (to the extent that 76 games can be a breakout year), and is the better offensive catcher, but LaRue is entrenched and keeps his job as number one catcher. For now.

First Base

2005 Starter: Sean Casey

Projected 2006 Starters: Adam Dunn, Scott Hatteberg

The good news is that the Reds, one of the least Moneyball teams the last few years acquiring one of the kings of Moneyball, Scott Hatteberg. The bad news is that Hatteburg replaces one of the few players Billy Beane would have approved of in Sean Casey, who is now a Pirate. The news is even worse, since Hatteberg was terrible last year, and is 36 this year. Look for Adam Dunn to move into the position permanently, and Hatteberg to see very little playing time after the All-Star break.

Second Base

2005 Starters: Rich Aurillia, Ryan Freel, D'Angelo Jimenez

Projected 2006 Starter: Tony Womack, Rich Aurillia, Ryan Freel

D'Angelo Jimenez was tasty in 2004, hurt in 2005, and is now gone. Tony Womack was impressive for the 2004 Cardinals, re-emerging as a productive player after a terrible year with the D'Backs and Cubs in 2003. Last year he was a dud for the Yankees, and unless he can find his magic form from '04, he may find himself out of a job quickly.

Third Base

2005 Starters: Joe Randa, Edwin Encarnacion

Projected 2006 Starters: Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Freel

What do I know? The Reds picked up Joe Randa last season, and I heavily chastised them for it, citing his age and years removed from his best season. Randa was actually delightful before being traded to the Padres.

Look out for Encarnacion. He has decent power and a little speed, but very good range as a fielder. He'll need to cut down on errors and strikeouts, and may be a year away, but could also impress. Ryan Freel may get plenty of time at third if Encarnacion struggles early. Freel is one of the most underrated players in the National League, and why it is that the Reds haven't found a way to find him a place to play boggles the mind.

Shortstop

2005 Starters: Felipe Lopez

Projected 2006 Starter: Felipe Lopez

Felipe Lopez was probably the surprise player of the year in the National League in 2005. Like all the Reds, he strikes out a lot, but if he can match his 23 homers, 97 runs scored, and 838 OPS from a year ago, the Reds will give him a lot if leeway in the K-department.

Outfield

2005 Starters: Ken Griffey, Jr., Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Ryan Freel

Projected 2006 Starters: Griffey, Kearns, Pena, Freel

If the Reds outfielders can stay healthy, they can be the best in the league. Griffey proved last year that the skills are still there, if he can stay on the field. Pena is dynamic when in the lineup, but missed a huge stretch in the first half after straining a calf muscle as a result of dehydration. Kearns broke onto the scene big time in 2002 but hasn't been able to stay on the field long enough to get consistent.

The good news is that the departure of Casey means Adam Dunn moves to first, and for the first time since 2002 there is room for everyone. These three guys just need to stay healthy and go play everyday, and they should be successful. This is probably easier said than done.

Of note, if everyone does stay healthy, then Dunn, Kearns, and Pena should be in a three-way race to try to break Dunn's single season strikeout record from two seasons ago.

Pitching

2005 Front Three Starters: Eric Milton, Ramon Ortiz, Aaron Harang

Projected 2006 Front Three: Aaron Harang, Dave Williams, Eric Milton

For reasons unclear, the Reds have made a regular habit out of acquiring terrible pitchers and inserting them into their rotation. Three years ago it was Paul Wilson, last year it was Ramon Ortiz and Eric Milton. I understand the idea behind getting durable guys who can eat innings, but seriously. The Ortiz and Milton show was simply awfull last year, as they finished with ERAs of 5.36 and 6.47 respectively. Harang was a pleasant surprise last year. After a rough June, he emerged as the ace of the staff, finishing with an ERA under 4, and a K/BB ratio over 3:1.

This year Dave Williams joins the staff, replacing Ramon Ortiz. The departure of Ortiz alone is addition by subtraction, but Williams may be more of the same. Williams runs hot and cold, pitching a shut out and striking out seven one night, then walking five and giving five runs the next. If he gets 200 innings for the Reds, look for him to give up 35 homeruns and walk 80 plus batters.

I have belittled Eric Milton as much as the next guy, but Milton could have a surprise season in 2006. Milton got off to a fantastically bad start in 2005 - his ERA was 7.97 as late as June 13th - but got things relatively under control in the second half, giving up only 13 out of his 40 homeruns after July 1st. Don't get me wrong - Milton is not good. But his ERA should climb out of the stratasphere this season.

Other 2005 Starters: Branden Claussen, Luke Hudson, Paul Wilson

Other Possible 2006 Starters: Branden Claussen, Paul Wilson, Luke Hudson

In his first full season of action, Claussen looked real good, keeping his ERA around league average and racking up a fair number of strikeouts. He needs to look out for the long ball, but could possibly emerge as the team number two this year if Williams falters. Paul Wilson hopes to return from injury, but even if he does this could be a dubious benefit to the Reds. Luke Hudson was as bad in 2005 as he was good in 2004, and does not currently appear to be part of the Reds plans, though he is still in the system.

2005 Top Relievers: Danny Graves, David Weathers, Kent Mercker, Todd Coffey, Matt Belisle

Projected 2006 Top Relievers: Jason Standridge, Kent Mercker, Chris Hammond, David Weathers

Last year the bullpen was pretty rough, with Danny Graves self-destructing, and numerous pitchers getting scorched, including Ryan Wagner, Randy Keisler, Ricky Stone, Elizardo Ramirez, Joe Valentine, and Ben Weber, all of whom had ERAs over six. This year the bullpen is led by trusty vets Chris Hammond, Kent Mercker, and David Weathers, none of whom comes off of their best years, but all of whom are solid veterans who should be able to keep the ball in the ballpark. There is no clear favorite for closer, but Jason Standridge may get a shot. He got off to a quick start last season before finishing with an ERA over 4.

Final Word:

Predicted 2006 Record: 69-93

It has been several years since the Reds have been any good. Outside of a strong start two years ago, and some nice runs here and there, the Reds have been reeling from failed expectations and injury-stunted seasons. If the Reds offense can stay healthy this year, then it could be expected to carry its merely below average pitching staff pretty far. But the reality that will set in Cincinnati this season is that the NL Central division is very strong, the Reds pitching staff lacks a true ace, and the offense probably makes too many mistakes to make a run this season.

Post Hoc Reds Addendum

The Reds today traded Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox for Bronson Arroyo. While Reds fans wish it had been Kearns instead of Pena, this instantly makes the Reds better. Pencil them in for 5 more wins this season.

Adjusted Predicted 2006 Record: 74-88




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Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Asher B. Chancey resides in Alexandria, Virginia, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.




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