First, I got my copy of the THT season preview yesterday (you can buy it here!), which provided the following team projection for the Reds (not sure on methods, but I'd expect that it's based on individual projections + playing time estimates + PythagenPat):
2009 Reds ProjectionsAs we'd expect, the offense looks to be terrible. But we have quality pitching the Reds' staff at this point in time, and the fielding is clearly better. That's what's carrying the team in this projection.
Division Rank/Games Behind: 4th, 9 games back
Runs Scored: 726, 11th in the league
Runs allowed: 735, 5th in the league
Park Factor: 1.02, a slight hitter's park.
Ok, that's one projection system. But today, Rally released his CHONE projections for the NL Central (quote includes his commentary):
Cubs 88-74Again, it's the pitching and defense. Rally's team projections are based on his player projections, plus playing time estimates, and he then uses the 2009 schedule to "play" those projected teams (rather than just using PythagenPat) and establish the records.
The big surprise to me is the Reds. I wouldn't have guessed they'd be over .500 but they do have a very talented starting rotation. Arroyo and Harang had off years in 2008, and Cueto has a lot of promise. A strong defense is just what these pitchers need to make improvement more likely.
I (and others) have talked for a long time about the importance of fielding in a team's success and how that relates to the Reds' struggles. But given how bad the offense has gotten, I'm not sure that I've really been believing that the defense can make up for it, which is a big part of my pessimism. Maybe I should be more optimistic--that's what these projections are telling us.
A 0.500 team isn't great. But given how long it's been since the Reds were even just "average," I'm actually feeling a little bit of optimism about this season for the first time. Key words there are "a little bit," and heck, it is spring...but it sure would be nice to root for a team that would win at least as often as it loses. Baby steps.
P.S. Happy Birthday to Mrs. Inaz (or is that Inpa?)