The Hunt for a Reds October: The 2006 Sequel

Sunday, March 12 2006 @ 04:45 PM EST

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

In last year's The Hunt For a Reds October '05, the following brash prediction highlighted the wildly optimistic conclusion: "[T]he 94-68 Reds will snag the NL Wild Card and ride an October wave into the World Series."

Yeah, that didn't happen.

Now, what about 2006? Well, it's simple. The Reds are going to ...

... suck. Of course, last season in this space we predicted greatness for the 2005 Red Stockings, and while their 73-89 mark didn't land them in last place (thank you, Pittsburgh), it was a good 27 games behind the first-place Cardinals and 16 games off of Houston's Wild Card pace. So maybe this year, reverse psychology is in?

Nah. at least nobody anywhere on the Web (thanks to a Googled "2006 Cincinnati Reds preview") seems to think so.

Let's look at some of the high .. er, lowlights, with first a shout-out to some guy named Jack Scrafford, who authored about six hundred versions of essentially the same Reds preview for a number of content aggregators online, like this one for a site called that concludes, "Cincinnati Reds fans should expect more of the same in 2006."

To be clear, Jack isn't talking about following up on Morgan-Bench-Foster or even Sabo-Larkin-Davis; he's talking about the aforementioned 73-89 mark in 2005, the 2004 76-86 finish, 2003's 69-93, the 78-84 record in 2002, the 66-96 skein in 2001 ... that's right, we have to return all the way to the magical season of 2000 for the Reds' most recent over-.500 mark, an 85-77 record that was good for second place and within nine games of a playoff spot.

In other words, ewwww.

But again, the many-linked Scrafford isn't the only guy unimpressed with the 2006 Redlegs. For instance:

So What?
If EVERYONE in those offices knows what the problem is, then how do we define it? Well, first, we play a little Match Game 2006, with the help of Sean Forman's indispensible (BBRef) Web site. Let's find out what we know about the 2006 Reds by comparing each member of the projected roster to that player's historically most similar "comp." Fasten those King's Island roller coaster seat belts, cuz here we go ...

2B Ryan Freel
SS Felipe Lopez
CF Ken Griffey Jr.
1B Adam Dunn
RF Austin Kearns
LF Wily Mo Pena
C Jason LaRue
3B Edwin Encarnacion
SS Kevin Sefcik
2B Orlando Hudson
OF Gary Sheffield
1B Bo Jackson
OF Jermaine Dye
OF Jesse Barfield
C Rick Wilkins
C Javier Valentin
IF Rich Aurilia
IF/OF Tony Womack
OF Timo Perez
IF Rey Olmedo
IF Frank Menechino
C Bill Nahorodny
IF Jeff Blauser
IF/OF Jim Gantner
OF Thomas Howard
IF Billy Grabarkewitz
RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Dave Williams
LHP Brandon Claussen
LHP Eric Milton
RHP Paul Wilson
SP Bronson Arroyo
SP Craig Swan
SP Paul Thormodsgard
SP James Baldwin
SP Joe Mays
CL David Weathers
LH-SET Kent Mercker
RH-SET Ryan Wagner
RHP Todd Coffey
LHP Chris Hammond
RHP Grant Balfour
CL Miguel Batista
RP Arthur Rhodes
RP Nate Bump
RP Rheal Cormier

So What Does This Teach Us? ... Honestly, not much. But it's fun to think about. For instance ...

You'll note that the most similar player to the Reds 2B was a SS, but that's balanced by the fact that the most similar player to the Reds' Ex-Jay SS is none other than an old friend who used to play 2B in SkyDome ... Similarly, Bo Jackson is probably not the best bet to play 1B for the Comparables, but is it any surprise the big-swing, homer-happy ex-football guy is statistically similar to another big-swing, homer-happy ex-football guy in Adam Dunn? ... Dunn's move to 1B after the trade of Sean Casey to Pittsburgh allows Pena into the lineup where the Reds would be thrilled with a Jesse Barfield-like performance from another strikeout-prone youngster ...

As for those "pitching woes" the Sports Illustrated preview focused on, well it's true that a rotation of Bronson Arroyo, Craig Swan, Paul Thormodsgard, James Baldwin and Joe Mays doesn't sound all that impressive. But in a BEST CASE SCENARIO, which is after all what pre-season is all about, the top season for each of those five comparables added up, historically, to a 72-58 mark, which the Reds front office would take from its rotation like, RIGHT NOW, if offered.

Of course, that bullpen list of comparables is at least intriguing enough to make one wonder if "youneverknow" will be uttered in Southern Ohio this season. Nah, it won't, but Torontonians at least have a pretty good idea of what it will be like to have Dave Weathers as a closer, presuming he hangs on to the job, and the Reds can start dreaming up alternatives to "Miggy and the Jets."

Unforunately, our method breaks down with arguably the two most talented relievers in the Cincy setup, Todd Coffey and Grant Balfour, neither of who has spent enough time in the big leagues yet to earn a "most similar" list on BBRef (starting 3B Edwin Encarnacion and backup IF Rey Olmedo had the same issue). However, the Reds would be more than happy to see both Coffey and Balfour match their own personal most recent big league seasons, Coffey's 4-1 mark with the '05 Reds and Balfour's same 4-1 record with the 2004 Twins.

Other possible contenders for what will be an overworked bullpen include LHP Tommy Phelps and RHPs Mike Burns, Rick White, Matt Belisle and Josh Hancock. Sadly for Reds fans, BBRef did not return "Bruce Sutter" as a comparable for any of them.

The Outlook? ... If everything goes right, from Junior staying healthy AGAIN to the bullpen reincarnating The Nasty Boys of 1990, this team could well challenge ... challenge to finish .500, that is. Alas, the Original Base Ball Club is destined to fall well short of that not-exactly-robust goal. Call it 64-98, last place, NL Central.

And hope last year's reverse-prediction deities are feeling kindly to the Queen City in 2006, of course.