CHICAGO, October 1, 2013 — The Reds went 90-72 this year and claimed the second NL Wild Card by four games over the Washington Nationals. Unfortunately their playoff run was short and Cincinnati fans never saw them host a playoff game, but now it is time to say better luck next year to the Cincinnati Reds.
What Went Right: The top of the Reds order was one of the best in baseball. Shin-Soo Choo, acquired in an offseason trade, was an ideal lead off man posting a .285/.423/.462 line with an OPS+ of 143. Posting one of his better seasons could not have come at a better time for Choo. He will enter free agency when it begins after the World Series and teams like the Mets are already believed to have interest.
Often underappreciated Joey Votto posted another great year leading the NL in OBP for the fourth straight year, which is even more impressive considering he led the NL in plate appearances as well. Votto posted a .305/.435/.491 line with an OPS+ of 154. Votto walked in 18.6% of his plate appearances, which is over 10% better than the league average, but had extra base hits in just 7.9% of his plate appearances, below 10% for the first time in his career.
Many people expected more from Jay Bruce, but he has been very consistent. Bruce posted a .262/.329/.478 line with an OPS+ of 118. Bruce has posted an OPS+ between 118-124 each of the last four years and is still just 26 years old.
The Reds also had amazing production and health from their rotation. Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Tony Cingrani, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake combined to take the ball for all but six starts this season. Arroyo, who posted a 3.74 ERA, was the only one to have an ERA over 3.50. Bronson Arroyo finished with an ERA+ of 101.
Finally, Aroldis Chapman was again dominant at the end of games. Chapman logged 63 innings in 68 games while striking out an astronomical 43.2% of batters he faced and walked 11.2%.
What Went Wrong: Left field was an issue for the Reds this year as they rotated Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson, and Xavier Paul at that position. The left field position combined for a .250/.313/.374 slash line.
If Billy Hamilton had not struggled so badly at AAA, he may have been ready earlier allowing Choo to shift to left field while assuming the duties in center field. Hamilton posted a line of just .256/.308/.343 with 75 stolen bases at AAA this year. While the stolen base total sounds impressive, that is less than half his 2012 total of 155. Hamilton made an impact for the Reds down the stretch as a pinch runner, but the Reds would have been able to slot him into Choo’s spot in left if he was a little better with the bat. Hamilton’s struggles at the plate mean re-signing Choo may end up costing the team nine figures.
The Reds also had limited production from the number two spot in their order. In fact, the Reds’ number two hitters had the worst batting average in MLB with a .228/.281/.350 slash line. The impact of this seems even greater when considering Votto and Choo were first and second in the NL in OBP.
Prior to the season the Reds gave Jonathan Broxton a three year $21 million contract. Those types of contracts should be frowned upon in general for relief pitchers, but especially those with the injury history of Broxton. He threw just 30.2 innings this year and saw his season end in August with elbow surgery.
What to Look for in 2014: The Reds should again be contenders in 2014. Re-signing Shin-Soo Choo will be the first question and will likely have to be resolved quickly as Choo would help almost every team in baseball. If the Reds choose to let Arroyo walk then they may look towards prospect Robert Stephenson towards midseason if he can prove himself at AA or AAA first.
Free Agents/Options: Bronson Arroyo, Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Masset, Cezar Izturis, Zack Duke, Manny Parra
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