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Thread: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

  1. #1
    Member harangatang's Avatar
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    Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/a...ives&fext=.jsp

    In each of the last two seasons, the National League Central has produced the team with the best record in baseball -- the St. Louis Cardinals -- and the NL Wild Card team -- the Houston Astros. There won't be a major decline in this division in 2006. In fact, there should be better overall balance.

    What makes this division so compelling, apart from the presence of the Cardinals and the improvements of other clubs, is one elemental factor: This remains the only division in baseball with five teams that should have better than average pitching. Of course, it is also the only six-team division in baseball, but the most basic part of the game is covered with the vast majority of this group.

    The favorite

    Cardinals
    They won 205 games over the last two seasons and if some slippage can be seen, there is little reason to suspect that the Cards are entering a major decline. Some major talent has departed -- for instance, Matt Morris in the rotation, Mark Grudzielanek at second and Larry Walker in right. The bullpen will have several new faces, also. But four strong starters return, headed by Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter. And the core of this team's potent lineup is back, probably bolstered even further by the return of a healthy Scott Rolen. And they still have the consummate grinder, Tony LaRussa, at the helm.

    Projected regular-season finish: NL Central champions

    Biggest Spring Training challenge: The Cards have to identify a solid fifth starter, whether it is Sidney Ponson or the extremely promising Anthony Reyes. And they have to sort out the crowd at second base.

    Best position battle: It's second base ... again. There are numerous likely candidates, but it would be beneficial if one would emerge head and shoulders above the rest. Junior Spivey, Aaron Miles, Hector Luna and Deivi Cruz could all be in the mix. Spivey offers the most, if he can remain healthy.

    Wild card: Conventional wisdom says that injuries can devastate a team. Guess what? The Cardinals had a wave of injuries last year and they weren't at all devastated. That's because people like So Taguchi and Luna came up very big. If the Cardinals' bench players have to become semi-regulars again, off last year's performances, the problem will look more like a solution.

    More: Spring Training preview | Quick hits | Spring schedule and tickets

    The challengers

    Astros
    There are some major uncertainties as Spring Training approaches. Will Roger Clemens return? What will happen with Jeff Bagwell and the team's insurance claim for $15.6 million of his $17 million salary? Can he still play? Will the Astros have to pay?

    This is a bit messy for a contending team coming off a World Series appearance. But this is otherwise a solid club. Rocket or not, it has two of the best starters in the business, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte, and a deep bullpen. Plus, in two straight seasons, this club has overcome dismal starts to reach the postseason. There is something to be said for knowing that when adversity comes, you will find a way to deal with it. Manager Phil Garner has been able to locate and bring out this best in this roster.

    Projected regular-season finish: Second place

    Biggest Spring Training challenge: There is no overstating the importance of these issues. They have to find out if Bagwell can still play, after basically telling him to go away with the insurance claim. And they have to help Clemens decide to return, even if he can't return to the Astros until May.

    Best position battle: This really isn't a battle as much as it is a situation. If Bagwell can't play, then Lance Berkman could go to first base. But if Bagwell can play, the Astros have -- with the acquisition of Preston Wilson -- an outfield surplus. If Berkman is in left, Wilson is in center and Jason Lane is in right, then there is no position for the Astros NL Rookie of the Year runnerup, speedster Willy Taveras. They must also find playing time for the extremely useful Chris Burke.

    Wild card: There is a growing expectation that Clemens will return. Even at 43, he was brilliant for the first four months last season. Perhaps an abbreviated season is just the ticket for him now. But what if he doesn't come back? If that occurs, the Astros will require Major League competence and consistency from Wandy Rodriguez and Ezequiel Astacio, both of whom have much more promise than experience.

    More: Spring Training preview | Quick hits | Spring schedule and tickets

    Brewers
    They took the necessary first step last season, ending a streak of 12 losing seasons by finishing .500 and in third place. They are widely acknowledged to have a Minor League system rich in talent. The evidence of that will be seen in three-fourths of the infield this season with first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks and shortstop J.J. Hardy. And they obtained veteran Corey Koskie for increased stability at third. There is no question that general manager Doug Melvin has done an extraordinary job on a tight budget. And there is no question that manager Ned Yost has instilled pride and a work ethic in this roster. But there are questions about the pitching depth and the future in center field.

    Projected regular-season finish: Third place

    Biggest Spring Training challenge: They need to find a steady fifth starter. David Bush -- obtained in a trade from Toronto -- and veteran Rick Helling appear to be the leading candidates. They need to find out if reliever Dan Kolb can restore his career, this time as a setup man. And they need to find a way to get super-sub Billy Hall as much playing time as possible.

    Best position battle: Center fielder Brady Clark had a solid season as a leadoff hitter in 2005. But there are serious question about whether this club needs a better defensive player in center to take the next step to contending status. Talented Corey Hart is not yet 24, but the Brewers believe he is ready to contribute. He may get a chance to show that he could help in center on a regular basis.

    Wild card: In 2005, the Brewers got half-and-half run production from their veteran corner outfielders. Carlos Lee was big in the first half. Geoff Jenkins was big in the second half. But this club's offense could use wholes instead of halves from its major run producers. Weeks, who has magnificent potential, had a difficult second half last season, but it was attributed to a thumb injury. He needs to be fully healthy and headed toward stardom for this club to succeed.

    More: Spring Training preview | Quick hits | Spring schedule and tickets

    Cubs
    Every year, people look at this team and say: "If their pitching stays healthy, they could win it all." And then the pitching doesn't stay healthy. On paper, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux, Kerry Wood (returning from shoulder surgery) and Jerome Williams and/or Glendon Rusch, is a top-shelf rotation. The Cubs also bolstered the bullpen in the offseason. They are fine at the infield corners with Derrek Lee coming off a magnificent season and Aramis Ramirez. And they now have a genuine leadoff hitter, and plenty of added speed, with center fielder Juan Pierre. But they have untested players at shortstop (Ronny Cedeno) and in left (Matt Murton). The presumption of good health among the pitchers has been tested, but not with particular success.

    Projected regular-season finish: Fourth place

    Biggest Spring Training challenge: The Cubs will have to determine early if Cedeno and Murton are the answers. They will also need to patiently nurse Wood along the path to full and productive health. He is not expected to be ready for Opening Day, but this is a case of the sooner, the better for the Cubs.

    Best position battles: Who will play second base? Who will bat second? Incumbent second baseman Todd Walker might be the obvious answer, but he also might be headed elsewhere. A happy solution at the second spot in the lineup would be the emergence of either Cedeno or Murton. At second base, Jerry Hairston and Neifi Perez, who was invaluable filling in at short last season, remain as alternatives.

    Wild Card: You know the answer to this one. Everyone talks about Prior and Wood, but the Cubs' most dependable starter over the last two seasons has clearly been Zambrano, not only because of his talent, but because he is regularly healthy enough to take the ball. He has started 64 games over the last two years, to 48 for Prior and 32 for Wood. If the rotation stays healthy, this is obviously a contending club. If not, this could be a fifth-place club.

    More: Spring Training preview | Quick hits | Spring schedule and tickets

    The long shot

    Pirates
    This was a last-place club in 2005, but it is better than that now. The Pirates have added solid veterans at the infield corners with Sean Casey and Joe Randa, and they have added pop in the outfield with Jeromy Burnitz. Plus, they have one of the most astute baseball men in the business, Jim Tracy, on board as manager. The question will be how far the obviously talented, but in many cases, inexperienced, pitching staff can progress.

    Projected regular-season finish: Fifth place

    Biggest Spring Training challenge: Rotation, rotation, rotation. Zach Duke and Paul Maholm were terrific in rookie appearances last season. They have to maintain consistency over the long haul, but the real task here may be getting Oliver Perez and Kip Wells back up to their best levels. Both had disappointing seasons last year and their performances helped relegate the Pirates to sixth place. If they come back to form, the Pirates should have the core of a very solid rotation.

    Best position battles: It's a new day in the Pittsburgh bullpen with several veterans gone from last season. Mike Gonzalez, undeniably talented but relatively untested, takes over as closer. But how will the rest of the bullpen look? There is no shortage of seemingly reasonable candidates, including Roberto Hernandez, Salomon Torres, Giovanni Carrara, Terry Adams, Scott Strickland and lefties John Grabow, Damaso Marte and C.J. Nitkowski.

    Wild card: The Pirates have an improved lineup, but they do not have a lineup with overwhelming power. To make an upward move, they're going to require solid, dependable, conistent pitching, both from the rotation and the bullpen. This is a team headed in the right direction, but the quality of the pitching will determine how rapidly it travels in that direction.

    More: Spring Training preview | Quick hits | Spring schedule and tickets

    Maybe next year

    Reds
    This is a remarkably unbalanced club, not emotionally, but between hitting and pitching. The Cincinnati lineup literally frightens the opposition. Last year, there was hitting, and power hitting all over the place -- the Reds led the NL in home runs and runs scored. The emergence of shortstop Felipe Lopez made the lineup even better than anticipated. But the Cincinnati starting staff generally was a source of solace to the opposition last season, the Reds starters posting the NL's worst combined earned run average at 5.29 and leading the league in home runs allowed with 159. The Cincinnati organization is in a transitional phase and better days may well be on the horizon. But unless the Reds' pitching improves, a bunch of 9-7 losses may still be in the immediate future.

    Projected regular-season finish: Sixth place

    Biggest Spring Training challenge: The rotation improved during the second half of 2005, and finding a way to keep that trend going will be Job One. Manager Jerry Narron and pitching coach Vern Ruhle got some of the credit for strides being taken, so maybe they can keep this operation pointed in a positive direction. Aaron Harang, Brandon Claussen, Eric Milton, Paul Wilson (coming back from shoulder surgery) and Dave Williams (coming from the Pirates) need to have a much faster start this season, individually, collectively, early and often.

    Best position battle: Third base will be the classic choice between a veteran, Rich Aurilia, and a promising youngster -- Edwin Encarnacion. The Reds are high on Encarnacion's potential, but he will have to show them he is ready to unseat Aurilia.

    Wild card: The Reds should be looking for ways to insert Ryan Freel into the lineup as regularly as possible. Freel played five positions for Cincinnati in 2005, and he played all of them with all-out gusto. He's a gamer, a crowd-pleaser and an inspirational player. There may be more talented players available, but there won't be any who try harder.


    More: Spring Training preview | Quick hits | Spring schedule and tickets

    You read it here first

    1) The Brewers will finish with their first winning season since 1992.

    2) Pittsburgh's Tracy will be a legitimate candidate for NL Manager of the Year.

    3) Clemens will rejoin the Astros. In many quarters, this team is being written off, again. But those two straight trips deep into the postseason were no accidents. With Rocket not on board at the beginning but eventually returning, the Astros will once again be better in the second half of the season than in the first.

    Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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  3. #2
    Harry Chiti Fan registerthis's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    The fact that Encarnacion now is no longer in a "battle" for the third base job, but that the job is Aurilia's TO LOSE, is incompetence at the highest level.

    I know that the gross lack of starting pitching is the greatest problem facing this team, but in my mind there isn't a more succinct comment on the dreadful state of the reds than the fact that Encarnacion must now work to "unseat" Aurilia from the third base job.

    Completely and utterly ridiculous.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

  4. #3
    Member harangatang's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Quote Originally Posted by registerthis
    The fact that Encarnacion now is no longer in a "battle" for the third base job, but that the job is Aurilia's TO LOSE, is incompetence at the highest level.

    I know that the gross lack of starting pitching is the greatest problem facing this team, but in my mind there isn't a more succinct comment on the dreadful state of the reds than the fact that Encarnacion must now work to "unseat" Aurilia from the third base job.

    Completely and utterly ridiculous.
    Consider this...
    Total Games played at third base at Major league level
    Rich Aurilia - 47 games at age 35
    Edwin Encarnacion - 56 games at age 23

  5. #4
    Let's ride BRM's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Quote Originally Posted by registerthis
    The fact that Encarnacion now is no longer in a "battle" for the third base job, but that the job is Aurilia's TO LOSE, is incompetence at the highest level.

    I know that the gross lack of starting pitching is the greatest problem facing this team, but in my mind there isn't a more succinct comment on the dreadful state of the reds than the fact that Encarnacion must now work to "unseat" Aurilia from the third base job.

    Completely and utterly ridiculous.
    I'm hoping this is just Mike Bauman's opinion and not the opinion of Krivsky/Narron.

  6. #5
    Tired of talk. Win! Joseph's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Narron's made it pretty clear that EE has to earn it and essentially that all things being equal it's Rich's job.

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    Let's ride BRM's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Saying that EE has to earn it doesn't necessarily mean that the job is Aurilia's to lose, does it? Does it?

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    Who Dey!! GridironGrace's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    I've never looked at rankings for anything more then a good read, and a laugh lol.

    It's just thier opinion.. Usually its 1 guys opinion sometimes 2 or 3 guys.

    No since getting worked up over this. This same guy could have us ranked #1 in MLB if we start 10-0 lol. No biggie.

    3B will be Platooned.. watch and see.. Same as 2B, and Catcher
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Even a platoon at 3B is inexcusable.

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    Harry Chiti Fan registerthis's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Quote Originally Posted by BRM
    Saying that EE has to earn it doesn't necessarily mean that the job is Aurilia's to lose, does it? Does it?
    I think that it does.

    Consider: If the job was Encarnacion's to lose, the correct phrase should be "AURILIA has to earn it." By placing the burden on Encarnacion to prove his worth, rather than Aurilia, the implication is quite clear that Aurilia is viewed as the incumbent at the position, and Encarnacion must work to unseat him.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

  11. #10
    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    Quote Originally Posted by BRM
    Saying that EE has to earn it doesn't necessarily mean that the job is Aurilia's to lose, does it? Does it?
    With a manager who favors experience over results and potential then yes it does

    We'll see on opening day.
    Go Gators!

  12. #11
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    6th place in MLB is a bit like being the Highlander -- there can be only one.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

  13. #12
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    This would make me much more upset if I didn't agree with them. That said, I think both the Cards and Astros are overrated. I would not be surprised to see somebody with the Central with about 90 wins this year.

  14. #13
    got alil captain in u?
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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    i agree RedsManRick both of those 2 teams are overrated and dont' tell me the pirates are gonna be good they've struggled for years and it's basically the same group of guys there pitching staff will get banged up as usual they have success for a small majority of games then they'll lose 10 straight or something

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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    I call 3rd place.
    BARRY LARKIN -- BEST PLAYER EVER.

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    Re: Reds predicted to finish 6th by mlb.com

    sports predictions are always pretty silly...so many things can happen. Having said that it is not far fetched to say the Reds are the worse team in the division, not saying I agree with that, just that it is not outrageous.
    "Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs? I'm just hoping we can win a game, another game. " Jim Mora


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