Tuesday, March 01, 2005

2005 Reds

Today, I'll continue my NL Central predictions. The same methodology will be used - basically, win shares, ERA+, and OPS+ over the past 3 years for players to predict their 2005 performance.

Rotation

Last year, the Reds rotation combined to provide just 23 win shares. To make matters worse, 8 of those win shares were provided by Luke Hudson and Josh Hancock, who only combined to make 18 starts on the season. In an effort to improve upon their pitching, the Reds signed Eric Milton during the off-season, and added Ramon Ortiz via trade. That gives them a rotation this year that will likely look like this:

Paul Wilson
Eric Milton
Ramon Ortiz
Corey Lidle
Luke Hudson/Josh Hancock

Paul Wilson had what some thought to be a breakout season in 2004, posting his first double digit win total at 11. Interestingly enough, if you look at his ERA+ totals over the past 4 seasons, he's pegged 92 each and every year. Over the past 3 seasons, Wilson has had 8, 5, and 7 win shares. Write him down for 7 this year.

The Cardinals were supposedly interested in Eric Milton this off-season. Thankfully, they got Mark Mulder instead. Milton gave up an impressive 43 home runs last season for the Phillies, while putting up an ERA plus of 92. And while Milton hasn't been as consistent as Wilson, he did post an ERA+ of 91 in 2002, which was the most recent season before 2004 in which he was healthy. Milton has had 8, 2, and 9 WS over the past 3 seasons. I think he's good for 8 this year.

Ramon Ortiz, acquired from the Angels, was a bit disgruntled last year as he was asked to work out of the pen for the bulk of the season. And he may have been entitled to such an opinion, considering that guys like Bartolo Colon (5.01 ERA) and Aaron Sele (5.05) were in the rotation ahead of him. Overall, Ortiz posted a 4.43 ERA, 104 ERA+ on the year for a playoff team. In 2003, he had his career worst season. 2002? Career best. What will the Reds get out of him this year? It's hard to tell. Over the past 3 seasons, Ortiz has posted 7, 5, and 14 WS. Let's be a bit on the optimistic side and say that Ortiz can have a bit of a revival and provide 10 WS to the Reds in 2005.

Cory Lidle is another player that is hard to judge. Was he for real in '01-'02 for Oakland, when he was 20% better than league average? Or was the '03-'04 version accurate, when he was 17% below? Lidle has never been a strikeout pitcher, and has always allowed his fair share of home runs. The problem over the past two seasons has been the number of hits he's allowed, which has skyrocketed over his previous seasons. Over the past 2 seasons he's provided 7 and 5 WS. I think it's likely he can be counted on for 6 this season, unless he re-discovers earlier glory.

The #5 slot is going to be a Spring training battle. For now, I'll assume that Hudson, who had a 2.42 ERA over 9 starts, will end up getting the job. Hudson was undoubtedly playing over his head last season, posting a 168 ERA+. Since we were optimistic with Ramon Ortiz, and since the Reds rotation has already shown a lot of improvement in our analysis above, let's play it safe with Hudson and predict a very low WS total of 3 this season. Note, however, that even with that low guess, the Reds rotation is currently projected to have 34 WS this season - an improvement of 11 over last year, or 4 wins.

Lineup

Adam Dunn and Sean Casey kept the Reds in the hunt for a .500 season last year, putting up great numbers. Had Griffey stayed healthy all year, they may have been able to best the mark. This year, the notable addition to the team is 3rd baseman Joe Randa.

2004 Regulars/Win Shares

Adam Dunn (OF) - 32
Sean Casey (1B) - 30
D'Angelo Jimenez (2B) - 23
Ken Griffey, Jr. (OF) - 16
Wily Mo Pena (OF) - 15
Jason LaRue (C) - 15
Barry Larkin (SS) - 10
Felipe Lopez (SS) - 9
Juan Castro (3B) - 4

Note that Ryan Freel got a lot of playing time in the place of Griffey, as well as at 3rd base last year, totalling 19 win shares. His production will be included in the bench section of this post.

Dunn had a true breakout season last year, posting a 152 OPS+ which was 9th best in the NL. And he just turned 25 in November, folks. I think we're likely to see more of the same out of Mr. Dunn this year. Let's chalk him up for 35 WS in 2005.

As much as I think Dunn is for real, I wonder about Sean Casey. At the age of 29, Casey posted a career high 142 OPS+, after having seasons of 98 and 78 in the previous 2 seasons. His win share totals over that time span were 30, 17, and 5. I have to think that Casey had a bit of a fluke season last year. I'm going to predict a drop-off for him, giving him 22 WS in 2005.

Rumors abounded that the Reds might non-tender Jimenez this off-season, but I'm not exactly sure why. The "bad work ethic" tag seems to follow him around, but we're talking about a 27 year old switch hitting middle infielder who has a career OPS+ of 98, and has seen that mark about 100 in each of the past 2 seasons. Over the past 3 years, his WS totals have been 23, 17, and 11. Last year may have been his career high, but the trend is encouraging. I'm going to give him an estimate of 22 in 2005, making him as valuable as Sean Casey.

Ken Griffey Jr. When the Reds got him, I remember a friend of mine telling me it was the beginning of the new Big Red Machine. Of course, since joining the Reds, Cincinnati has not made the playoffs once, and Griffey has only managed to top 140 games one time. He hasn't played in more than 83 games in each of the past 3 seasons.

Griffey is now 35 years old. While it's hard to predict injuries, with Griffey it's almost a given at this point. From a production standpoint, it's hard to judge. He hasn't topped 22 home runs over the past 4 seasons, while his OBP and SLG have been all over the map. Griffey has had 16, 6, and 5 WS over the past 3 years. He could literally finish the 2005 season with as many as 35, and as few as 0. Let's be somewhere in the middle and predict that Griffey will find a way to generate 18 WS in 2005.

Also having a breakout season last year was Wily Mo Pena. At the ripe old age of 22, Pena posted an OPS+ of 121 thanks in large part to hitting 26 home runs over just 336 at-bats. I'm not familiar with the Reds, so I don't know for sure that Pena will be assumed to be starting in a corner this year over Austin Kearns. I'll keep things conservative here and assume that Pena will post 16 WS this year, as maybe he'll have a bit more trouble with pitchers that have seen him.

Jason LaRue had a career year, plain and simple. At the age of 30, the career 89 OPS+ hitter posted a 103, giving him his first above average season in his career. His WS totals over the past 3 years were 15, 10, and 11. LaRue should regress back to the 11 neighborhood this season.

Felipe Lopez started showing signs of power last year, hitting 18 doubles and 7 home runs over 264 at-bats. With Barry Larkin retired, Lopez should be the regular at short for a full season for the first time. Last season was his career high with 9 WS. Let's assume he'll improve a little this year, providing the Reds with 15 WS over the year.

Joe Randa should be the regular for the Reds this year, unless the Austin Kearns experiment starts back up. (And I, for one, liked the sentiment.) Randa is a solid if unspectacular option at 3rd base. He'll give the Reds a .340 OBP and a solid glove with little power. Over the last 3 years, he's had 12, 14, and 11 WS. 12 is the mid-point, so let's go with that for 2005.

Bullpen

The Reds Bullpen was horrible last year. A total of 20 Win Shares spread out over several pitchers, and a composite 5.72 ERA in relief. The Reds tried to address this situation by signing David Weathers, Kent Merker, and Ben Weber in the off-season. As far as I can tell, they'll join Danny Graves, Ryan Wagner, and Jose Acevedo in the pen this year.

Danny Graves. The good news for him last year was 41 saves. The bad news was 9 blown saves. His ERA+ was 102, which is horrible for a closer. It's hard to say what he'll be able to do in 2005, since his 2004 was so poor, and his 2003 season featured him in the rotation instead of the bullpen. This will be his 31 age season, so I will be generous and predict an improvement for Graves this year. He's had 5, 3, and 17 WS over the past 3 years. Let's give him 10 in 2005.

Ryan Wagner struggled a bit last year after having an impressive audition in 2003. Wagner will turn 22 during the 2005 season, and should be ready to step it up a notch. I'm ready to say that Wagner will provide 5 WS in 2005, with a bright future to come.

David Weathers bounced around last year, pitching for the Mets, Astros, and Marlins. Overall on the season, he ended up with a 102 ERA+, his lowest mark since posting a 98 in 1999. If you look at Weathers in the previous 4 seasons, his ERA+ was 134 or higher each year, maxing out at 181 in 2001. While Weathers may not ever see the 130's again, it's likely that 2004 was an off year. He posted 4, 8, and 7 WS over the past 3 seasons. I think Weathers can be counted on for 7 in 2005.

Ben Weber was almost a David Weathers clone entering the 2004 season. They were both 34, and they were both coming off of multiple solid seasons. In the case of Weber, he had posted ERA+ seasons of 139, 171, and 158 in the 2001-2003 time span. Then last year, for whatever reason, he was horrible, posting an 8.06 ERA, 57 ERA+. I'll admit it - I don't know if he was injured last year or not. However, with his innings pitched total so low, I have to assume he was. Over the past 3 years, Weber posted -1, 8, and 11 WS. He should be due for a rebound, giving him around 8 in 2005.

Kent Merker is coming off of great back to back seasons, posting ERA+ values of 178 and 218. In each of those years, he had 6 win shares. Personally, I see no reason why he can't do it again.

Jose Acevedo got 27 starts last year, but also pitched 12 games in relief. With the new additions to the rotation already mentioned, I'm going to assume that Acevedo will be the swing man in the bullpen. It's just a guess, but frankly - it doesn't matter that much. This slot is for the 6th man in the pen, and that guy almost never contributes very much. Give him 1 WS.

Bench

I always have problems projecting the bench. Playing time to regulars can really mess with playing time. With the Reds, this is especially true. Their bench will likely consist of Ryan Freel, who had 19 win shares for the Reds last year due to spot starts. Austin Kearns will likely join him there, along with Jacob Cruz, Javier Valentin, and a couple of more players that I'm frankly not aware of.

Look - the bench provided 34 win shares last year, including the 19 from Freel and 5 more from Kearns. I'm going to take the easy way out and simply say the bench looks like it's about as good as it was last year, but won't get as much playing time due to the conservative estimates given in my lineup projections. 27 Win Shares.

Adding it Up

Starting Rotation - 34 Win Shares (23 in 2004)
Bullpen - 37 Win Shares (20 in 2004)

Starting Lineup - 151 Win Shares (163 in 2004)
Bench - 27 Win Shares (34 in 2004)

That's a total of 249 Win Shares, or 83 Wins on the season. To be consistent, however, I have to adjust for the 2004 Pythagorean win total. The 2005 Reds, believe it or not, had 9 more wins than predicted. That forces me to subtract 9 wins from my prediction, turning it down to 74 wins in 2005.

Overall, the Reds have improved their rotation a little, and their bullpen a lot. I'm expecting their offense to actually regress by a bit due to Sean Casey and Jason LaRue not having career years again, combined with Felipe Lopez not being able to quite make up for the loss of Barry Larkin.

Of course, all isn't lost for the Reds. If Casey was for real last year, Griffey can stay healthy this year, and the Reds can keep up their good luck from 2004? They could in fact make a run at the division. That, of course, is a lot of if's.

NL Central Predictions

Cardinals - 95 Wins
Cubs - 95 Wins
Astros - 88 Wins
Reds - 74 Wins

I hope to wrap up the Brewers and Pirates in the next couple of weeks.

2 Comments:

At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your knowledge of the Cincinnati Reds roster is obviously lacking. 1st of all Corey Lidle has not been with the Reds since mid season 2004. The players contending for the other 2 starting jobs in the rotation are Brandon Claussen (from the trade of Boone to NY), Aaron Haarang, Luke Hudson, and Josh Hancock. Hudson was recently shut down due to arm problems. The Reds have also signed veteran SS Rich Aurilia. As far as Casey's numbers, the 2004 season was Sean's first relatively injury free season since 2002. Casey's ability with the bat is amazing, coupled with his leadership abilities and determination, makes him an extermely valuable asset to any organization. You also seem to have left Austin Kerns out of the picture. The signing of Randa pretty much ended the Kerns project at third, but Kerns is not an infielder. Just becaus he didn't work at 3rd doesn't mean he won't be in the lineup. Kerns' potential is unlimited. He hits extremely well (when healthy), and has an excellent arm in the outfield. When the outfield consists of Kerns, Griffey, & Dunn. That means that the bench gets a huge boost with Freel and Pena. It's also a pretty good insurance policy if injuries occur. Also with so many pitchers competing for the last 2 starting spots, and the fact that some are out of options, it is possible for them to move to a reliever role. I feel that Acevado will not be there. If you are going to assess a team, be sure you have accurate information.

 
At 12:25 PM, Blogger Robb said...

I completely missed out on Lidle, thanks for bringing that up. (I had it in my mind that he signed with a team that uses Red uniforms East of the Mississippi - wrong one.) Of course, if anything that lowers my prediction for the Reds rather than helping it.

Kearns is accounted for in my re-cap on the bench, as I assumed Dunn, Griffey, and Pena will start most of the time. (Not to mention that Kearns is about as durable as J.D. Drew.)

I'll stand by my Sean Casey comments and let him prove me wrong. I'm not exactly impressed by the Rich Aurillia "addition", either.

You never know - if Edwin Encarnacion makes the team and helps them improve at 3rd, Griffey stays healthy, and Casey was for real last year? They could make a run for the division. Most likely, though? The only real shot the Reds have of finishing better than 4th is for Wood and Prior to miss a lot of time this year with injuries.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home