2010 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

  • Thursday, March 18, 2010 10:28 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon


2009: 78-84, 4th in NL Central. Pythagorean record of 76-86.
Key Additions: SP Aroldis Chapman, SS Orlando Cabrera, IF Aaron Miles
Key Losses: IF Adam Rosales, CF Willy Taveras
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 76-86, 5th in NL Central. CHONE – 81-81, 3rd. CAIRO – 85.5-76.5, 2nd (Wildcard).

Pitching: 2009 – 4.63 FIP (26th in MLB), 4.91 for starters, 4.09 for relievers
2010 – Edinson Volquez won't return until late in the season from Tommy John surgery, leaving room for Chapman to make his mark. The Reds need Homer Bailey to step up behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.
Hitting: 2009 – .313 wOBA (27th in MLB)
2010 – The infield, led by the highly underrated Votto, should be solid, but the Reds' fortunes rest with the outfield. Willy Taveras and his .275 OBP are gone, which helps. Still, Jay Bruce and Co. have to make some serious strides if the Reds are going to be legitimate playoff contenders.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of 52.6 (3rd in MLB)
2010 – With back-to-back UZR's of 14 and -15.3, Orlando Cabrera underscores the lack of dependability in one-season UZR totals. He's probably somewhere in between those numbers. His double-play partner Brandon Phillips, however, has put up good numbers three straight years.

Reasons to Watch
1. Aroldis Chapman: .The left-handed Cuban fireballer has been wowing observers so far in Spring Training with his 100-mph heat, his movement and his command. There are two big questions, however. First, where will Chapman begin the season? Second, how will Dusty Baker handle him? The Reds' manager doesn't have the best track record preservingyoung flamethrowers.
2. Joey Votto: He didn't get a lot of attention outside Cincinnati (except when he missed time to deal with depression issues), but Votto put up the fourth-highest wOBA of any player last season, trailing only guys named Pujols, Mauer and Fielder. He might have been a little lucky with a .372 BABIP, but with his blend of power and patience, Votto figures to be an elite first baseman for a while, as long as he is able to stay on the field.
3. The outfield: The Reds have put together an interesting outfield. There's Jay Bruce, a 22-year-old with monstrous power who hasn't quite put it together at the big league level. There's Wladimir Balentien, a former top prospect with the Mariners who has struggled mightily in the majors. There's Drew Stubbs, a former first-round pick with a glowing defensive reputation and solid plate discipline. Plus, the Reds have Chris Dickerson, Jonny Gomes and prospect Chris Heisey. It's a crowded but intriguing situation out there.

Paint By Numbers: Bruce had a strange 2009. Among players with at least 300 plate appearances, he had the third-lowest BABIP (.221) but also the second-lowest line drive rate (13.0 percent). That said, his .246 isolated power was 20th, and he improved his walk and strikeout rates from the year before. It would hardly be surprising if 2010 turned out to be a breakout year for Bruce. ... Aaron Harang has compiled a record of 12-31 the last two seasons after going 32-17 in 2006-07. True, he's giving up more home runs and walks and getting fewer strikeouts, but his FIP last year was a decent 4.14. For the sake of comparison, Andy Pettite had a 4.16 FIP for the Yankees but went 14-8. ... Despite that .275 OBP, Dusty Baker started Willy Taveras in the leadoff spot 85 times. Taveras' other 14 starts came in the No. 2 spot. The good news is that most of the other starts at leadoff went to Chris Dickerson (.370 OBP) and Drew Stubbs (.364 career mark in the minors).

Blog Jog: Red Reporter's Slyde takes a look at the "butterfly effect" of baseball defense. ... Red Reporter also does a fascinating interview with Jaime Cevallos, the swing coach who worked with Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist last season and also is working with Cincinnati utility man Drew Sutton. ... The great Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News addresses an important question: Which Reds player would you want on your side in a fight? ... Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay presents three questions about Aroldis Chapman to GM Walt Jocketty.

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5 Intriguing Players To Watch In '10

  • Friday, February 12, 2010 9:54 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon


We’re now just five days away from pitchers and catcher reporting to Spring Training, and in honor of that, I’ve compiled a list of five intriguing players whom I will be following with great interest this season.

Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds -- Bruce is an immensely talented, 22-year-old left-handed batter. His first two big league seasons, comprising 839 plate appearances, have been rather bizarre, however. While missing some time due to injury, Bruce has put up a line of .240/.309/.460, while pounding 43 homers. As detailed in this piece on FanGraphs, Bruce has put up a stunningly low .262 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), compared with the league average of around .300. While it is possible for a few individual hitters to consistently put up BABIPs that vary wildly from the norm, it’s certainly reasonable to think Bruce has been unlucky thus far and is due for a major upswing in 2010. Both the Bill James and CHONE projection systems have Bruce’s BABIP returning to the normal range, with his OPS rising into the high 800s and his wOBA into the .370s, making him a well above average hitter. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

Brad Lidge, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies -- Relief pitchers are notoriously fickle, as the small number of innings they pitch can lead to wild fluctuations in performance due to sample size issues. But Lidge has taken the Jekyll and Hyde act to a different level, particularly the past two years. He was dominant in ’04-’05, putting up FIPs of 1.97 and 2.13. In ’06-’07, he was decent but not great, with FIPs of 3.79 and 3.88 and 14 blown saves. He was then spectacular during Philly’s 2008 championship run (2.41 FIP, 0 blown saves) and a complete disaster last season (5.45 FIP, 11 blown saves). Chances are, he will come back better than last season but not as good as two seasons ago, perhaps doing something comparable to his ’06-’07 campaigns (CHONE predicts a 4.10 FIP). But you never know – we could get another appearance from Unhittable Lidge or Meltdown Lidge.

Joel Piniero, RHP, Los Angeles Angels -- It’s not often that a pitcher, at age 30, completely reinvents himself. But that’s exactly what Piniero did last season with St. Louis, leading the majors in ground balls per balls in play thanks to a new two-seam fastball. He also managed to walk just 1.14 batters per nine innings. It’s unlikely he can duplicate that feat, which would make his bottom of the barrel strikeout numbers less palatable. Nonetheless, it will be fun to see if Piniero’s transformation is mostly permanent and he becomes a stellar back-of-the-rotation starter for the Angels, or if he regresses severely now that he’s back in his old division.

Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs -- It’s hard to overstate how terrible Soriano’s 2009 was, as he hit .241/.303/.423. Combined with a -10.8 UZR in left field, that line pushed Soriano’s wins above replacement (WAR) into negative territory. His -0.7 mark was fifth-worst among qualified players in 2009. Of course, it must be noted that Soriano played much of the season with a balky knee that eventually required surgery. If he’s healthy in 2010, a bounceback is a near certainty (CHONE projects 1.8 WAR). On the other hand, Sori is 34, so you have to wonder how much is left in the tank for a guy who has five years and $90 million left on his contract. This season could give us a significant clue.

Ben Zobrist, IF/OF, Tampa Bay Rays-- Take a look at FanGraphs' 2009 WAR leaders for position players. You might be surprised to find out that the No. 1 guy on the list wasn't Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer or some other highly recognizable star. Nope, it was Zobrist, a little-known 28-year-old playing his first full big league season. How did he do it? Walks (91 of them, leading to a .405 OBP), home runs (27 of them, contributing to a .543 SLG), some luck (a .330 BABIP) and great defense (a 16.0 UZR in 91 games at 2B and an 11.5 mark in 59 games in RF, most notably). The question regarding the versatile Zobrist isn't so much if he can duplicate his 2009 season -- he almost certainly can't -- but rather if he can get somewhere close. The CHONE projection system suggests it's not likely. It has Zobrist's OBP falling to .368, his SLG falling to .463 and projects him to be good for 3.8 WAR. That's still quite good, but it wouldn't get Zobrist back atop any leaderboards. Then again, you never know. He could always surprise us again.

Tomorrow: 4 Series To Mark On Your Calendar