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Thursday, July 12, 2007

First Half Report Card

SportProjections.com asked me to write up a report card for the Cincinnati Reds' first half, and it has now been posted. It also includes some modest projections for next season. You can read it at their site, but I'm going to go ahead and re-post it here for posterity--you can see similar report cards from other bloggers at their site:
Cincinnati Reds First Half Report Card and Second Half Projection

Contributor: Justin Inaz
Web address: www.jinaz-reds.blogspot.com

First Half Summary:

A combination of bad luck and bad baseball resulted in the Reds having a disastrous first half, ultimately entering the all-star break tied for the worst record in major league baseball. As a result, manager Jerry Narron was fired shortly before the break. The Reds are probably not as bad as their record indicates, falling short of their Pythagorean record by an NL-worst 5 games. But they still haven't been good. The team's fielding has been the biggest disappointment, with Alex Gonzalez failing to be the Second Coming of Concepcion, and continued struggles by Encarnacion, Dunn, and Griffey. The pitching has fallen with the defense, with the bullpen being unreliable outside of David Weathers, and the rotation being hit or miss all season aside from Aaron Harang. There have been bright points, particularly on the offense. But for the most part, however, it's been a miserable three months for players and fans alike.

First Half Report Card
PitchingC-
HittingB
FieldingD
ManagingC
Overall GradeD


First Half Struggling Players:

Edwin Encarnacion struggled mightily with the bat and glove over the first few months, and ultimately was sent down to AAA for a few weeks. He has been better since returning, but still has yet to show a return of last year's power. David Ross, a .900+ OPS performer last season, had one of the worst Aprils of any player in baseball ( 0.445 OPS). While his power has returned, he hasn't shown the on-base skills he did last season.

On the pitching side, the biggest disappointment has been Bronson Arroyo. While everyone expected him to regress from his career year last season, no one expected his ERA to be pushing 5. The bullpen as a whole has struggled, particularly in high-leverage situations, with major disappointments from Todd Coffey and (for the little time he was around) Gary Majewski. Bill Bray has been injured all season, and Rheal Cormier was released within weeks of opening day.

First Half Stars:

Ken Griffey Jr. is having a fantastic season, completely dispelling concerns that he was starting to decline as a hitter. Josh Hamilton has been a revelation, and is a leading contender for Rookie of the Year. Adam Dunn is quietly putting together yet another superb season, and Scott Hatteberg continues to defy the aging curve. Brandon Phillips--though hampered by low OBP--is showing a great combination of power and fielding prowess at second base.

On the pitching side, there have been two stars. Aaron Harang, like Dunn, is quietly putting together yet another excellent season. And closer David Weathers has been the lone reliable performer in what has been a very frustrating bullpen.

Second Half Projection:

The Reds are bound to get better, if simply because they should regress toward the mean. The bullpen should improve, assuming that Todd Coffey can rediscover himself and Bill Bray returns soon. Arroyo has really picked it up in the past weeks, and should end the season with an ERA closer to 4 than 5. Kyle Lohse has been a decent #3/#4 starter, and that should continue. And the offense can be better as well, with expected second-half surges by Edwin Encarnacion and Dave Ross. And who knows? Maybe Homer Bailey will catch fire in the second half. They won't make a run for contention, but they might just avoid finishing last.

Still, the Reds are the 8th oldest team in baseball, with a lot of valuable yet aging parts. Expect them to unload some of these veterans in return for younger talent that can help them in the coming few seasons--though at the cost of weakening the already-bad 2007 team.

2007 Final Projected Record: 72-90

Projected NL Central Final Standings
Place Team
1 Brewers
2 Cubs
3 Astros
4 Cardinals
5 Reds
6 Pirates

Projected 2007 record is based on the Reds' current PythagoPat record, while the division rankings are part-pythagopat and part wishful thinking. :)