Saturday, January 19, 2013

Offseason Review: The Cincinnati Reds

The Reds new leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo
The best team in the NL Central, and most underrated team in baseball, got a whole lot more dangerous this offseason. After winning 97 games and dominating their division last year, Cincinnati decided to further thicken their armor with some smart trades and free agent acquisitions. Shin Soo Choo (who also epitomizes "underrated") was an excellent lead off hitter for the Indians, and will now be wearing Ohio's other colors in Cincinnati. The brutal bullpen was maintained with the signing of Broxton and extension of Logan Ondrusek. The oft-injusted and soon-to-be retired Scott Rolen was replaced at the hot corner by another former Indian, Jack Hannahan. Moves like this combined with the implicit threat of players like Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto almost ensure another dominant year by Cincinnati, but it's my opinion that fickle management may disrupt some of this seemingly ensured success.

It's always been my opinion that what isn't broken shouldn't be fixed, and while that tired platitude may seem obvious, it isn't always honored in baseball. Young closer Neftali Feliz won rookie of the year in 2010 and took the Rangers in to the World Series. The Rangers repeated this feat in the following year and had the Cardinals all the way down to their last strike, before they miraculously rallied and ended up winning the next two games to take the ring. Following that year, Feliz was put in to the starting rotation after the Rangers signed veteran closer Joe Nathan. His first appearance as a starter was nasty, seven shut out innings against the Mariners. So what's the problem? His stint in that rotation didn't last very long because he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery.

CLOSER Aroldis Chapman. Not starter Aroldis Chapman.
CLOSER Aroldis Chapman
It might seem weird that an article about the Reds would have an entire paragraph focusing on the Rangers former closer, but Cincinnati is considering enacting the same totally fucking asinine transition for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is a rare talent, combining brutal speed with ever improving control. Last year after Sean Marshall struggled in the closer role, Chapman came in and just SLAUGHTERED competition. In July he recorded 13 consecutive saves without allowing a run, and ended 2012 with 1.51 ERA having completed 38 saves in 43 opportunities. The reason he has that success is because he's a natural closer. He's deceptive, he throws with extreme power and he has the requisite confidence to shut down games. What he doesn't have is the build or delivery to be an enduring, excellent starter. Excellent closing mechanics and top of the rotation starting pitching are mutually exclusive ideas, and it would be in Cincinnati's best interest to acknowledge that.

If Cincinnati can resist the urge to experiment with their brutal bullpen, they will be a vicious team to deal with. Their starting rotation from top to bottom should be pretty damn good. Their offense is an absolute recipe for domination. My basic assessment is that Walt Jocketty is too intelligent, and Dusty Baker is too experienced to do something that stupid, but only time will prove me right. If everyone stays healthy, the Reds win 100 games this season.

EDIT: I forgot to mention Billy Hamilton is going to be brought up this year and win Rookie Of The Year and steal like 45 bases. It's gonna be wild.

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