The Reds surprised many by winning the division over the heavily favored Cardinals. My memory stinks, but from what I remember BPro had them as a slight favorite going into the season and I thought they were insane. The Reds vindicated BP, posting the best offense in the NL (.339 wOBA) with below-average pitching (4.29 FIP, 12th in NL and 8th in NL), which is not too surprising given their launching pad of a ballpark. But the biggest surprise was their defense, which ranked 4th in the NL by UZR (+44.8) and first in the Fan Scouting Report (44 Runs, 24 higher than the next best team). The Reds have plus+plus defenders at 2b, 3b, and RF, who more than made up for the defensive adventures of LF Johnny Gomes and SS Orlando Cabrera.
The Reds played .500-ish ball out of the gate, and even dipped all the way down to last place in the division on April 24. However, following that they went on a 5 game winning streak and were never lower than second in the division for the rest of the season. They took the division lead on August 15 and it was never really close after that. They weren’t very active during the season — the only big move they made was to trade OF Chris Dickerdoodle to Milwaukee for Jim Edmonds, who continued his hot hitting after joining the team.
The Reds were swept out of the NLDS by the Phillies, where they were shut out in game 3 by Hamels and no-hit in game 1 by Halladay. Jay Bruce drew the lone walk of Halladay in the 5th inning of that game, preventing the no-no (if you think about it, a perfect game should be called a no-no, not a no-hitter). They took an early 4-0 lead in game 2 but back-to-back surprising errors by the normally sure-handed Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips as well as a rough outing by Aroldis Chapman turned a 4-0 lead into a 7-4 loss.
The Reds stayed pat for the most part. They let SS Orlando Cabrera go and replaced him with and equally rapidly aging shortstop in Edgar Renteria, who they signed to a 1/2.1 deal in January. The resigned starting catcher Ramon Hernandez at 1/3, who is the nominal starter but isn’t quite as good as co-catcher Ryan Hanigan. They picked up former Giants OF Fred Lewis to be their 4th outfielder, and kicked the tires on former Marlins Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Hermida, neither of whom is likely to make the squad.
Players To Watch:
I’m not a huge fan of any of the Red’s starting pitchers, but the most interesting guy in the mix is Aroldis Chapman and his triple digit fastball. The Reds signed him to a 6/30.25 contract and while he could make up that value as their future closer, they’re going to get a lot more value out of him starting. Going into the season Chapman had six pitchers (Volquez, Cueto, Arroyo, Bailey, Wood, and Leake) in front of him so it wasn’t too surprising that the Reds would let him work out of the pen for 2011. However, now that Bailey is headed to the DL, Arroyo has mono, and Cueto is having minor issues with his shoulder (not to mention that Volquez is still bouncing back from TJS), Chapman might find a few SP innings anyway. He has the most electric stuff I’ve ever seen, and if he can get it over the plate he’s going to be an elite pitcher for years to come.
Here’s a rough look at their team headed into the 2011 season. Since we don’t know a ton about not the Cubs, we used BP’s depth charts to estimate playing time. The players OBP/SLG are a simple average of their PECOTA and Oliver projections. The defensive numbers are from the players’ 2010 FSR, and baserunning was ignored unless a player was especially good or awful on the basepaths.
Win talent: 81.6 Wins
This could be even lower, given the potential SP injury issues mentioned above. I was pretty surprised to see this, but a big part of the Reds top offense last year were guys like Scott Rolen (.367 wOBA), Drew Stubbs (.345) and Ryan Hanigan (.368) playing out of their minds. They’ll still have a good offense and contend but they’re going to be hit by the regression hammer in 2011.