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(Completing the Trilogy?)

Let's make one thing absolutely clear. No matter what I write about the 2007 Cincinnati Reds in this preview, it will be wrong. Don't believe me? Well, this is the third year in a row I've previewed my childhood's favorite ballclub, and the past two seasons, I have been -- let's be kind -- off the mark. Shall we review?

(Well, if we must ...)

Back in 2005, the original Reds preview (The Hunt For a Reds October '05) caused an uproar here on Batter's Box as it confidently predicted, " ... the 94-68 Reds will snag the NL Wild Card and ride an October wave into the World Series."

Uh, didn't happen. In Reality World, the Reds "snagged" fifth place in the NL Central with a 73-89 mark that underplayed their 75-87 Pythagorean W-L only marginally. Oh, the NL Central did make it to the Series that year, but it was that team from Houston, who lost convincingly to the Reds' one-time 1919 Series opponents, the Chicago White Sox. So Call Year 1 of "Hunt for a Reds October" an abject failure.

In year two -- that'd be last year -- you'd think I might could have learned my lesson the previous season and distanced from the Reds; but no, the '06 Cincy preview was confidently, if not creatively, entitled, The Hunt for a Reds October: The 2006 Sequel. Bitterness from the previous year's failure to match pre-season hype shone -- er, slogged -- through as the story confidently predicted "Well, it's simple. The Reds are going to ... suck."

Again, didn't happen. Oh, these Reds didn't put it all together and coast to a title -- that other Red-adorned NL squad, the Cardinals, took care of that, as the NL Central again represented the senior circuit in the Fall Classic, just not the Queen City Redlegs.

But the Reds, indeed, did not "suck," nor did they even match the doom and gloom of the preview, which forecast, "If everything goes right, from Junior staying healthy AGAIN to the bullpen reincarnating The Nasty Boys of 1990, this team could 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."

Back in Reality World again, the Original Base Ball Club outplayed that forecast by a healthy 16 games, finishing 80-82 and in third place; oh sure, their 2006 Pythagorean W-L (76-86) improved over the previous season's by just one game, but this time, they outplayed expectations by a full four games.

Let's give credit for outplaying Pythagoras to manager Jerry Narron, who took over for Dave Miley midway through '05, piloted the Reds to a 46-46 finish, then managed the 80-82 mark last season. And for 2007, Narron's second full season on the job?

Well, with a little help from our friends at, let's take a look at some best-case and worst-case scenarios for the 2007 Red Stockings. Warning: these are not Harry Wright's (or Johnny Vandermeer's or Joe Morgan's or even Chris Sabo's) Reds ... but remember, everything you read here will end up being wrong anyway. Uh, right?

Notes on Methodology ... Or to be frank, notes on lack thereof ... To be perfectly honest, when choosing the optimistically named "Best Case Scenario" and unfairly dubbed "Worst Case Scenario" Most Similars from each player's list, rather than running numbers, I went with the tried and true fan-o-meter ... If a name made me think "Oh, that'd be good for the Reds" (see: Mantle, Young), then that comp became the former; if a name made me think "Oh, crap, that'd be bad" (see: Oliver, Sirotka), that player filled the latter slot ... In retrospect, this was unfair to guys like Darryl Strawberry and Josh Fogg, who had some productive seasons -- especially Straw, of course -- but who for some reason later or overall rang alarm bells set off by other names familiar to Jay fans .... Terry Adams, anyone?

And of course, this "methodology" of mine heavily slants toward active and recent players, as my informal scanning of the lists was drawn to names I recognize from my own era as a fan ... Of all the Most-Similars listed, only Mantle and Blattner truly came "before my time" (okay, I don't really remember Ed Charles, either) and only Blattner falls into the "never heard of him" camp ...

Projected Starting Lineup

Pos. Name Best-Case Scenario? Worst-Case Scenario?
C David Ross Bobby Estalella Randy Knorr
1B Scott Hatteberg/Jeff Conine Rance Mulliniks/Bob Watson Ed Charles/George Hendrick
2B Brandon Phillips Michael Young Buddy Blattner
SS Alex Gonzalez Gary DiSarcina Deivi Cruz
3B Edwin Encarnacion Jim Thome Chris Brown
LF Adam Dunn Reggie Jackson Darryl Strawberry
CF Ken Griffey Jr. Mickey Mantle Sammy Sosa
RF Ryan Freel Quinton McCracken Jerome Walton

Lineup Notes ... The only non-roster invitee with a reasonable chance of cracking the roster is probably Mark Bellhorn; switch-hitting utility infielders, even those who haven't hit better than .216 since 2004, always earn an extra look ... No, Torontonians, it's not that Alex Gonzalez at short in the Queen City, but Alex "Florida" Gonzalez -- interestingly enough, for five of the past six seasons, Alex "Marlin" G's Most Similar Player at BBRef has been Alex "Jay" Gonzalez ...

There has been talk that Griffey could swap places with Freel in the defensive alignment, but that would hurt the Reds defensively ... Of course, if they believe taking a hit on defense will keep their cleanup hitter healthy, it could happen ... A lack of depth in the outfield could also play a role in that decision, as Freel is slated to start but, frankly, is also the team's best (and most versatile) backup at every position except P, C and 1B .... If Encarnacion tanks for some reason, you could see Freel move back to the infield to take over the hot corner and Conine playing RF ...

That "Worst Case Scenario?" lineup is scary ... A Clubhouse with Hendrick, Brown, Strawberry and Sosa ... Well, it would never be boring ... Come to think of it, neither would a squad with Mantle and Jackson in the lineup, though the Cincinnati night life wouldn't compare to the Apple ... Of course, the '07 Reds are packed with "good guys," and adding Conine and Hatteberg to the mix will do nothing to change that fact ...

Projected Pitching Staff

Pos. Name Best-Case Scenario Worst-Case Scenario
SP Aaron Harang Bronson Arroyo Mike Sirotka I
SP Bronson Arroyo Aaron Harang Mike Sirotka II
SP Eric Milton Rick Helling Darren Oliver
SP Kyle Lohse Jason Jennings Ken Schrom
SP Kirk Saarloos John Doherty Josh Fogg
CL David Weathers Paul Quantrill Terry Adams
RP Todd Coffey Pedro Borbon Sr.
Duaner Sanchez
RP Billy Bray No comps available No comps available
RP Gary Majewski Jeff Nelson Geoff Geary
RP Rheal Cormier Chris Hammond Dan Schatzeder

Pitching Notes ... Non-roster invitees include 20-year-old Homer Bailey, who should start the season in the minors and end up with a late-season cuppajoe in the Cincy rotation, if things go well ... Old friends Jason Kershner and Kerry Ligtenberg, both long-shots at best to make the squad ... Former double-digit winners Victor Santos and Brian Meadows, also both long-shots ... Ex-Red ace Paul Wilson, who has one win since 2004 ... And Eddie Guardado, who had 13 saves last season, including eight for Cincinnati. The Reds would love to see Everyday Eddie get back to his Twins/Mariners form and push Weathers into a setup role, but that seems unlikely ...

If Weathers does close, his list of Most-Similars -- Julian Taverez, Ted Power, Jose Mesa, Miguel Batista -- may give Narron pause before he taps his arm in the ninth inning ... Eric Milton now officially fascinates me -- I lived in Texas during the tumultuous late 1990s when the Rangers had a rotation "headed" by two of his Most-Similars, Helling and Oliver ... And it's not hard to remember the feeling a Helling start had ("Hello, win column!") while the next day's Oliver start was inevitably accompanied by a prayer for less than six earned runs in more than three innings pitched ... At least, that's how I remember it ...

Yes, you read that correctly -- the Most Similar pitchers, in the entire history of the game, to the Reds' #1 and #2 starters for 2007 are each other ... Now as long as they don't both turn into a Mike Sirotka pumpkin, that's not a bad thing for Cincinnati ... Kyle Lohse has the widest range of variability on the Reds' staff -- is he ex-Jay Ken Schrom? Or Rockies' All-Star Jason Jennings? The Reds would be plenty happy with something in-between ... If the Reds really do end up with a rotation approximating Sirotka (squared), Oliver, Schrom and Fogg, it could be a very long year on the riverfront ... However, the thought of a bullpen featuring Nelson, Hammond, Borbon and Quantrill would keep the antacids out of Narron's diet ... Though visions of Adams, Sanchez, Geary and Schatzeder might drive him to buy stock in Tums ...

Bench Candidates ... The bench probably includes Bellhorn and Juan Castro as infielders, Bubba Crosby and Chris Denorfia in the outfield and Javier Valentin behind the plate ... While that list includes solid soldiers throughout, there's nary a potential breakout star anywhere to be seated next to Narron during those steamy southern Ohio night games ...

Just for the record, some Most-Similars for that group include Gregg Zaun (Valentin), Dale Sveum (Bellhorn) and Mike Benjamin (Castro); Crosby and Denorfia do not have enough big league time to rate Most-Similars on BBRef yet, though Crosby apparently has done enough to warrant his own fan-driven Web site, ...

So what's gonna happen this year?
(Or, uh, not ... see above.)

Best-Case Scenario ... Griffey and Dunn both stay healthy all year and combine to hit 100 homers ... The starting rotation combines for 70 wins, with everyone getting at least 12, and Eddie Guardado grabs the closer's role to solidify the bullpen ... Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion really do develop into latter-day versions of Mike Young and Jim Thome, while Ross proves that his 21 homers in 247 '06 at-bats was no fluke ... This all happens and the team wins the NL Central and who knows what happens in the playoffs?

Worst-Case Scenario .... The pitching staff, from rotation to 'pen, turns into the group of guys in the far right column above ... Junior gets hurt early and often and ends up DHing for some AL team in August and September ... With Griffey out, Freel has to play every day in CF, obliterating the versatility of the bench ... Narron's calm exterior is slowly eroded by multiple losing streaks and the Reds end up firing him and naming Cincinnati native Hal McRae manager ... This all happens, and the team implodes to a 100+-loss season ....

And Back in Reality World? Some of this stuff happens. Some of it doesn't. And the Reds, though they hang around the outskirts of contention until September, finish 81-81, exactly matching their Pythagorean W-L of 81-81.

Or not.

The Hunt For a Reds October '07 | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Friday, March 02 2007 @ 10:07 AM EST (#163941) #
David Weathers best and worst-case comps are Paul Quantrill and Terry Adams? All footprints lead back to Toronto.

Geez, Harang has been a much better pitcher than I thought the last 2 years. Arroyo got much more attention after his hot start last year, but Harang seems more likely to take another step forward.  The age-based BBRef comps for Harang are not too helpful; he's better than them in many ways, but most importantly his K rate is much better. 

81 wins seems to be a good guess.

Chuck - Friday, March 02 2007 @ 11:45 AM EST (#163944) #

Using Mick as an anti-barometer when it comes to the Reds, I will flip his forecasted W-L record and anticipate an 81-81 season.

Mike is right to point out Harang's success. Definitely a pitcher who's been under the radar for a couple of years. For all the talk of the Big 3 leaving the A's, Harang is the one I'm sure Beane would like to have back, given his price and performance.

Craig B - Friday, March 02 2007 @ 02:30 PM EST (#163949) #
Didn't Harang lead the NL in strikeouts last year?  True, Pedro was injured, but that's a sign of quality.

Magpie - Friday, March 02 2007 @ 02:43 PM EST (#163950) #
I will flip his forecasted W-L record

Ah. You think Mick's got it all backwards...

But if Arroyo really does turn out to be as good as Harang, and if Harang turns out to be as good as Arroyo... who'll have it backwards then?
BubbaFan - Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 05:40 AM EST (#163964) #
Thanks for the link. I'm not sure whether to be happy you think Bubba will make the roster...or, given your record, dismayed. ;-)

No potential breakout stars? What about Josh Hamilton? I know he seems like the longest of longshots, but he seems to be impressing the Reds beat reporters.
Gerry - Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 09:19 AM EST (#163966) #
Each of the starting pitchers developed in the AL, most with limited success.  Harang had a brief audition with the A's; Arroyo couldn't crack or survive in the Red Sox rotation; Lohse and Sarloos couldn't survive as starters for the Twins or the A's; and Milton pitched mostly well for the Twins.  It makes for an interesting model, sign failed pitchers from the AL.
SheldonL - Saturday, March 03 2007 @ 12:55 PM EST (#163969) #

 Arroyo couldn't crack or survive in the Red Sox rotation;

C'mon, Gerry, Arroyo was not only consistently in the rotation in his 73 game career (61 starts) he pitched more than adequately (4.20 ERA in his 2 years there)!
Boston tinkers too much with their roster(ie, flying in Mirabelli to catch Wakefield last year)...

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