Re: There is hope for the Reds in '07
I like both sides of the argument. This is one of the best parts about the beginning of a season. Here are my thoughts:
Comparing our rotation this year to last years:
I see much of the same thing. Harang and Arroyo will anchor the staff. I see Harang maintaining consistency and Arroyo falling off just a bit. Milton may struggle and be replaced, and I think it will take Krivsky long enough to make the move that Bailey will be ready by then. But if Krivsky does move Milton right away; Livingston, Santos, Lizard, Belisle or Saarloos will be ready.
I like our depth in SP this year compared to last year. Remember Krivsky having to get guys like Mays and Michalak? UGH.
Next, we have to compare the defense. Team defense is a great asset in the win/loss column. Look at what unearned runs can do to a team and tell me it doesn't effect the game. This years defense will be much improved with Gonzo. Then the Griffey position change and having far greater range out in CF will help immensely. I believe the defense alone will win at least 5 games for us this year. No more worrying about Aurilia/Clayton manning the SS position. No more worrying about Griffey not being capable of running a would be routine fly ball down. It will be a much improved look on the defensive end this year.
Then we have to compare this years offense to last years.
2006 (Last year's OD lineup)
Tony Womack 2B (Phillips is much better any day of the week)
Felipe Lopez SS (Felo; better bat, Gonzo; better glove)
Ken Griffey Jr. CF (Freel will provide much better defense and a better leadoff option over Womack)
Adam Dunn LF (hopefully will improve)
Edwin Encarnacion 3B (same)
Scott Hatteberg 1B (same)
Austin Kearns RF (Griffey could provide the same bat as Kearns did in RF)
Javier Valentin C (Ross is hopefully better than LaRue or Valentin)
Aaron Harang P (same)
Ryan Freel CF
Adam Dunn LF
Brandon Phillips 2B
Ken Griffey Jr. RF
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Scott Hatteberg 1B
Alex Gonzolez SS
David Ross C
Aaron Harang P
I honestly do not see us regressing much in the offensive department. We lose Felo and Kearns bats, but we also gain Freel and Phillips. Not too bad of a trade off if you ask me. And I would much rather put up with Gonzo as the weak spot in the order over Womack.
Next, we have to talk about this bullpen.
I was one who had high hopes for our bullpen last year. I had a lot of faith in Coffey and Wagner. Coffey didn't dissapoint, but Wagner sure did. Hermanson is our closer this year, and until I see him pitch, I will reserve judgement. But I don't see it being as bad as what Wagner did for us in the early stages of last season. I also like our bullpen depth this year as we have many good arms ready to step in when nedded. We have veterans that may need some rest, and those guys can take over for a while.
The last thing we have to compare is the teams we are opposing. With what I have layed out, I think our team has been defined better and is slightly improved overall. So what about the other teams in the division?
Cards- Lineup is getting older, but is much the same. The addition of Duncan for the entire season will help, but injuries will plague this team all year. Their rotation is much worse this year:
Unless Reyes and Wainwright come out killing, we see a major weakness on this ballclub.
Brew Crew- Even without having Carlos Lee this season, the Brewers look to have a slightly better offense IMO. They are young and still improving everywhere. This team's rotation is much improved as well. The addition of Suppan and Sheets hopefully having a healthy season, the Brewers are going to be a much improved team.
Cubs- Pierre is gone, but Soriano replaces him in CF and the leadoff spot. Soriano is a vast improvement even over Pierre. Derosa replaces Perez at 2B and he will likely be another upgrade. Then Lee is another addition as he is expected to be healthy this year. Ramirez will be much of the same (underrated 3B) and then the rest of the lineup looks to be the same. I fear Michael Barrett as he had a solid season last year and is quickly becoming a force at catcher. I am not sure what to think about when it comes to the rotation. No Prior and no Wood means good things for opposing teams. The additon of Lilly and Marquis will not replace the talent of Prior and Wood, but they will still keep this lineup in games. Then you add Wood to the bullpen nd you have a potent arm to end games for you. I look for the Cubs to be an improved team this year.
Stros- Their weak point from last year (offense) is improved with Lee and Loretta. But I don't see Loretta getting much PT with Biggio in at 2B. The rotation on the other hand has significantly faltered on paper. You cannot replace Pettitte and Clemens with Woody Williams and Jason Jennings. But those two may play more games and could help this team contend. I think they have lost talent, but will still be a force to be reckoned with.
Bucs- I think their rotation is a bit too young, but at the same time, they are promising. Sanchez leads the team's offense with Bay as a huge force behind him. Not much else to talk about when it comes to the Pirates, this team can be beat, but they can sneak some wins in off you as well.
Overall, I said the Reds have improved a bit. They are better fit to contend against the Cards, Astros, and Pirates. But the Cubs and Brewers will be the teams that will create the toughest battle. They have also improved and we will be seeing classic struggles against the two.
After all that, my prediction is this:
Pitching wins baseball games. Harang and Arroyo alone made a huge impact on this team. We still contended right to the end even though we ranked 22 in runs scored. That shows that our pitching was outstanding. Just think about what will happen with this team if both those two pitchers continue to make their mark and Bailey comes in to help out. And to add to that, the defense will help these pitchers out in many games where Womack/Aurilia/Clayton and having Junior in CF did not. Our depth is improved and we can contend with the few teams within the division who have improved as well.