A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Twenty six: Cincinnati Reds
This wasn’t quite the season Cincinnati had in mind when the seasons began changing for the warmer this year. Saved from the bitter depth of the NL Central only by the lowly Pirates, the Reds featured a below average offense, defense and starting rotation. They managed to assemble a bullpen that resembled league average though.
Starting with the defense, going by John Dewan’s plus/minus system, they checked in at 22nd this year, 34 plays below average. While that it is bad, at least it was an improvement over 2007 when they finished 27th, a whopping 63 plays below average. The big differences appear to come from Joey Votto taking over from Scott Hatteberg, Corey Patterson replacing the departed Josh Hamilton, and a reduced amount of time that Ken Griffey Jr. appeared in right field.
You would like to see a below average defensive unit at least make it up with the bat, but that’s certainly not the case here. Patterson, Jeff Keppinger and Paul Bako were horrible at the plate, a collective 50 runs or so below average. For their horrid fielding, Griffey and Adam Dunn did far too little to make up the difference. Joey Votto was about the only success story with some supporting roles played by Jerry Hairston Jr and Chris Dickerson.
Edinson Volquez, arriving for Josh Hamilton from Texas, was certainly a big splash in the rotation for Cincinnati but he was alone in that role. Aaron Harang was the big surprise, dropping his strikeout rate substantially and seeing a rise in walks and home runs allowed. Johnny Cueto was serviceable in his first taste of the big leagues, an encouraging sign, but Homer Bailey was not, still unable to see his minor league strikeouts translate in the big leagues.
Bullpen wise, nobody aside from Jeremy Affeldt stands out as a success, perhaps Jared Burton, but the Reds did a good job of limiting liabilities with the worst reliever being either Gary Majewski or David Weathers.
The Reds managed to trade Griffey in 2008 and Adam Dunn and are losing some minor others to free agency. Their defense will be much improved with even average gloves in their place, but they also represented a pair of the few above average bats, so the Reds immediate future still looks bleak. Their hope would seem to rest on hoping Volquez is for real, Harang bounces back and Bailey and Cueto take steps forward and give them a force in the rotation to cover their other, numerous, deficiencies.
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