Originally written on Three-Way Chili  |  Last updated 3/30/13
  The Cincinnati Reds won a whopping 97 games last year and expectations are even higher entering the 2013 season. While I have no doubt the Reds are a better team, I don’t think they’ll reach their win total of last season. A lot went right for them during the 2012 regular season when they didn’t have a starting pitcher miss a start and their run-differential of plus-81 reflected a team that should have been more in the 90-win range. The Reds won their second NL Central championship in the last three years – besting second-place St. Louis by nine games – but the Cardinals had a win-differential of plus-117. All that being said, the Reds don’t need to win 97 games to repeat as Central champs and get back in the playoffs. Anything at or above 92 wins should do the trick and my prediction for the Reds’ 2013 record is … drumroll please… 94-68. I have the Cardinals as a strong second-place in the division, I think the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates have solid clubs and will battle for third (or perhaps higher) all season, and I think the improving Chicago Cubs will pull up the rear. As for the Reds, they are incredibly better on paper this year simply due to the arrival of Shin-Soo Choo and the departure of Drew Stubbs. That’s like going from the Octomom to Kate Upton. The Reds’ leadoff hitters combined for an on-base percentage of .254 last year. Just how off-the-charts awful was that? It was the worst by a team since the 1981 Blue Jays who had a .238 OBP from the leadoff spot. (Credit for the previous stat: Reds.com.) So, you’re going from a historically-bad performance from the leadoff hitters to a guy in Choo who is an accomplished hitter. To be clear, he’s not great, but he’s pretty damn good. He has a career on-base percentage of .381 (.373 last year) and a career OPS of .847 (.815 last year). It does concern me a little bit that Choo’s numbers dropped off the last two years – especially in 2011 – but that was probably due to a wrist injury he suffered in ’11. Bottom line: The Reds made a tremendous upgrade to their lineup when they acquired Choo from the Cleveland Indians and I think he’ll be just fine defensively in centerfield. The other story of note offensively is whether first baseman Joey Votto can return to MVP form and things are looking good thus far. Votto is hitting .340 this spring (1.119 OPS) with four home runs and 13 RBIs. The knee injury that likely prevented him from winning the 2012 MVP (he was the clear frontrunner when he went down) appears to be a thing of the past, but Reds fans will hold their collective breaths until they see Votto raking on a regular basis when the games actually count once again. The starting rotation returns intact and word is Mike Leake looks like a new man. He looked so good during the spring the team decided to leave Aroldis Chapman in the closer’s role, which I discussed in my previous blog post. The Reds had the second-best team ERA in all of baseball last year – behind only the Washington Nationals – and I expect them to pick up right where they left off. The rotation should be just as good – although it’s foolish to think they’ll make it through 162 games without an injury to one of the five starters again – and the bullpen should be the best in baseball. As of this post, the Reds had not made the final decisions on their Opening Day roster. But here is one man’s opinion of how the roster will shape up, including my prediction for the lineup and more.  2013 CINCINNATI REDS Lineup 1.      Shin-Soo Choo – CF 2.      Brandon Phillips – 2B 3.      Joey Votto – 1B 4.      Ryan Ludwick – LF 5.      Jay Bruce – RF 6.      Todd Frazier – 3B 7.      Ryan Hanigan – C 8.      Zack Cozart – SS Reserves Chris Heisey – OF Devin Mesoraco – C Jack Hannahan – 3B Xavier Paul – OF Cesar Izturis – SS Starting Rotation 1.      Johnny Cueto – RH 2.      Mat Latos – RH 3.      Homer Bailey – RH 4.      Bronson Arroyo – RH 5.      Mike Leake – RH Bullpen (need to cut one) Aroldis Chapman (closer) – LH Jonathan Broxton – RH Sean Marshall – LH Sam LeCure – RH JJ Hoover – RH Manny Parra – LH Jose Arredondo – RH Alfredo Simon – RH Likely To Begin Season On DL Jason Donald – 2B/SS Nick Masset – RHP Record Prediction: 94-68 (first in NL Central) Playoff Prediction: Win divisional series, lose in NLCS to Nationals
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