Sunday, March 19

Cincinnati Reds: an Oncoming Train.

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Starting Pitching:

So I'll start with the lone bright spot in the entire pitching universe that's the Reds. Aaron Harang really isn't that bad. Put Harang in a nicer ballpark to pitchers and a halfway decent defense behind him and he'd actually not be half bad. Toss him down to the third spot in the rotation and I think you'd have a breakout candidate. Unfortunately, he has none of those things and he's going up against the other team's ace. Yeouch.

Now, I'll be honest. I want all teams to have bright spots, I want all teams to have a good, surprising future. But part of me just loves to tear into bad management decisions. For example, who thought it was a brilliant idea to sign the #5 starter for the Pirates and put him in as a #2? As a #5 goes, Dave Williams wasn't too bad (4.41 ERA, actually under 4 as of late August), but as a #2, that's downright scary. What's scarier is that there are 3 pitchers evidently worse than him.

So you're Dan O'Brien. You just saw Eric Milton go 14-6 with a 4.75 ERA for the Phillies in 2004 - and give up 43 HR (43!). What do you do? You sign him to a 3-year deal! Not surprisingly, the Human Meatball Maker went 8-15 with a 6.47 ERA last year, lower than anyone else in MLB with over 45 K's that's not named Kevin Brown. Oh yeah - he also gave up 40 HR. Who saw that coming? Oh yeah - here's another number. .307 BA against righties last year. Light me up!

Compared to Milton, Brandon Claussen shines like a beacon in the night. Granted, his last season was virtually identical to Dave Williams' last season, but he's 1) younger and 2) not coming off a season as the #5 and moving to the #2. I really don't have much in the way of problems with him, truthfully. It's just that he's too close to the Giant Vortex of Suck for my liking.

Anyone else remember when Paul Wilson was supposed to become somebody? Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson were supposed to be the Trifecta of dominance in New York. Never worked out - all of them flamed out to some degree, and Izzy is obviously the most successful. At least Wilson still has a job - although I'm unsure how much of a job that if you sport a 7.77 ERA for as long as he has. At least he's holy.

Rough Rotation Guess:
"Ace": Aaron Harang
2nd: Dave Williams
3rd: Eric Milton
4th: Brandon Claussen
5th: Paul Wilson

More information:
Aaron Harang

Bullpen / Closer:

The hit parade continues! Not surprisingly, these guys don't have a solidifed closer. David Weathers was the closer du jour last year, and he'll be in the mix along with Todd Coffey, Chris Hammond, Ryan Wagner, Kent Mercker, the hot dog guy, Bob Uecker, Eddie Gaedel, the cyrogenically frozen head of Ted Williams, Grover Cleveland (they've exhumed him), and that hot girl that lives down the street from you that you've been wanting to ask out for a while but haven't quite gotten up the nerve to ask yet. (She throws a mean slider.)

Weathers is probably their best option (read: the only guy who can strike people out consistently without having an ERA in the stratosphere), although rumor has it Coffey actually isn't half bad. I figure it'll be a tossup going into the year between those two, although I'm halfway tempted to suggest Brian Shackleford as well, since he was the only guy to approach unhittable as well as the only reliever with an ERA under 3.5. It was under 2.5, too!

I'll put it simply. Good bullpens look pretty simple. Bad bullpens have 13 guys in them right now. That make sense?

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Todd Coffey
8th: David Weathers
7th: Kent Mercker
Sit. Right: *throws dart* uh... Rick White
Sit. Lefty: Brian Shackleford
Mop-up: Matt Belisle


At last! Some semblance of a bright light! Jason LaRue and Javier Valentin were actually a pretty good catching tandem last year - I have no earthly idea if they'll be able to repeat it again, but since this lineup is more or less loaded, they'll certainly either see 1) absolute junk or 2) pitches to hit. Either way, they'll see 81 games worth of it in a bandbox, and that's got to count for something, right?

Adam Dunn not only is one hell of a power hitter, but he walks a lot, too. Strikes out a ton (that breeze you felt a minute ago is from him striking out again), but when he hits it, good things happen. Although I can't help but be slightly troubled that his KAvg is greater than his BAvg, but oh well.

Edwin Encarnacino is a poor man's David Wright - remember how Miguel Tejada was overlooked when Nomar, A-Rod, and Jeter came up? That's Edwin - the Tejada of the young 3B. I also can't claim originality for that argument, but it's a good one anyway, and I'll gleefully steal it since I linked it. Hah!

Felipe Lopez FINALLY had that breakout season last year, and it's about time. It was either him or Rich Aurilia - good thing for the Reds, no? He'll probably regress a little bit, but not too badly, I think.

Of course, it's the Reds. Tony Womack's got the lead - either him or Rich Aurilia - on the second base job. Who gets shafted? Speedster Ryan Freel, who's better than both of them. Go Reds!

Projected Infield:
C: Jason LaRue
1B: Adam Dunn
2B: Tony Womack
SS: Felipe Lopez
3B: Edwin Encarnacion

More information:
Adam Dunn
Edwin Encarnacion
Felipe Lopez


The outfield - in general - is a congregation of potential and questions. In right field, Austin Kearns - who's supposed to be an Adam Dunn-lite kind of player - hasn't played a season entirely healthy yet. If he can stay healthy, then that'll be great for the team. Unfortunately, his defensive work in right hovers around the area of "pretty bad". That being said, he's not the worst defender in the outfield.

That honor goes to Wily Mo Pena - who actually doesn't have anything major going against him, aside from his atrocious outfield defense. Great power, though, with a decent average. This'll be his first season that he has the entire season's worth of right to himself, though.

In center is probably one of the best stories of 2005. Ken Griffey, Jr. finally had a healthy season. He's not quite the same player he was back in the late '90s - injuries and age are starting have been eating at him for years now - but you could do a lot worse offensively. However, the saddest part about this is his world-class defense is now somewhere around bad, even though in this outfield, it's probably the best they have.

So what happens if either Kearns or Griffey go down to injury? Well, Dunn can switch to the outfield, and Freel can play out there too if needed. Scott Hatteberg would fill in at first if that happens.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Austin Kearns
CF: Ken Griffey, Jr.
LF: Wily Mo Pena

More information:
Austin Kearns
Wily Mo Pena

Extra Stuff:

Last verse, same as the first. Are they ever going to get a staff to go with this offense? They've evidently been involved in recent talks with the Red Sox for Brandon Arroyo, which is like bailing out a battleship with one bucket of water. I don't think Arroyo is that front-line starter they need; at best, he'll go somewhere in the middle of the rotation, but any scenario that involves Eric Milton out of the rotation can't be all bad, right? Of course, another thing that's not helping the pitching is the defense. Pretty bad all around.

They'll be exciting to watch on offense, though, that's for sure. I expect fun things when they're at the plate, and some pretty horrible things out in the field. In this division, it's tough to find 4 power hitters like these guys have, even if 3 of them are more or less in the same mold (and Griffey's getting there soon, too, sadly). That's assuming everyone stays healthy, though - it'd probably be best not to talk about what 2 or 3 key injuries would do to this team.

Even with this offense, it's tough to see these guys doing much more than being the division doormat. Their pitching is so bad that it's not even funny - when the Pirates are fielding an ace that's better than your guy, that's a sign of concern.