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Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Reds Preview: Wrapping Up

2014 Reds Season Preview

As a final summary, here are some overall Cincinnati Reds team projections from both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.  I haven't been reporting BPro's projections for individual players because I'm not currently a subscriber, but for comparison's sake I think it is interesting to compare their team projections side by side with FanGraphs'.

Cincinnati Reds Team Projections

Both have updated since I started this series, and have seen their numbers shift a bit (in fact, since I made this table, they shifted again.  Sorry!)  But both also seem to be largely in agreement at this point.  The Reds project as an above-average run-prevention team (though not overwhelmingly so...and less so than I anticipated), on the strength of good fielding and good pitching.  But they also project as a below-average hitting team, mostly due to offensive holes at LF, CF, and SS, plus a weak bench.  CF (Hamilton) and SS (Cozart) are projected to make up most of their offensive shortcomings with fielding, but left field is projected to get very poor production.  The overall result is a Reds team that is projected to be skirting right around 0.500.

The disparity in playoff odds are largely driven by what is happening with other teams.  FanGraphs projects the Pirates to win 84 games, and thus introduce a lot of competition with the Reds for the division title.  Baseball Prospectus has the Pirates at just 79 wins, freeing up opportunities for the Reds to take the division if the Cardinals falter.

Here's another look at the FanGraphs team projections to put the Reds into some context:

The Reds are projected by FanGraphs to trail the Cardinals and the Pirates in runs scored.  I'm pretty surprised to see the Pirates' offense projected to be this good, but perhaps I don't give PNC's park factor enough credit (97), or I don't take GABP's park factor (102) into account enough.  Furthermore, despite run prevention being the Reds' strength, they are projected to be well behind the Cardinals in that department, thanks largely to the Cardinals rotation (even with Joe Kelly!)

I do think it's interesting that, after trying to adjust for the park factors, the Reds are projected to more or less be exactly the same team as the Rockies.  There are some similarities in the FanGraphs projections.  Both teams have a lineup that features top-tier stars and massive holes in production.  Both have a rotation that is deep (or, at least projected to be deep), but without a top-tier ace.  And, as a result, both are projected to be 81-81 teams.

My own bias, of course, is that both FanGraphs and BPro are missing low on the Reds.  They just don't feel like a 0.500 team to me.  They do have holes in the lineup, but I'm pretty hopeful that something will work out in left field.  I think both Ludwick and Heisey have large error bars around their projections, and therefore hope that at least one of them will come in a lot higher.  I think that the Billy Hamilton experiment will work out in center field (i.e. he can at least pull 2 WAR).  The rotation seems stacked with solid talent, and at least three some of those have a chance for a Cy Young caliber season.  And the bullpen, if it can get healthy again, should excel.  The good news is that the error bars on team-level projections like this has to be something like + 10 wins, if not more.  I'm still optimistic.  But it's cautious optimism.

What do you think?  How are the Reds going to shape up this season?  What are their biggest weaknesses, biggest strengths, and biggest keys that will swing their season one way or another?