I've been doing some thinking over the past few days about this team and the 1998 team. Specifically, the similarities between the two teams and if it could translate in 2009 the way 1999 did.
Both teams had young left handed hitting first basemen who could hit and had some power but were defensively challenged. Votto's the better athlete but is still making the transition to first while Casey was more of a natural first baseman but didn't have much speed.
At second, both teams had Gold Glove caliber fielders who both had decent power. Both could have gotten on base some more but their offensive numbers were solid. Both players also seemed to fall in love with their power and swung for the fences more often than not.
Barry Larkin had another great year in 1998. His numbers dropped a little in 1999 but were still solid. No real comparison since the Reds have had a plethora of shortstops this year while the incumbent has not played due to injury.
Back in 1998, the Reds had a third baseman who had good power, good on base skills and a decent batting average. Willie Greene's fielding, however, left something to be desired and he was replaced by Aaron Boone who put up similar numbers (albiet with a much lower OBP) but was an upgrade in the field. The more things change... Now we have EE who is a streaky but good offensive player but has his own problems in the field.
Behind the plate in 1998 was Eddie Taubensee, a productive hitter whose defense could be charitably catergorized as poor. In 2008 we have 3 catchers who don't give much production either at or behind the plate.
In the OF both teams had productive players who were the fans' whipping boys. Reggie Sanders had seen better years. He was derided for striking out too much and not hitting with RISP. 2008 has Adam Dunn. No need to go into details on him since we all know what kind of year he has had and what his liabilities - both perceived and real - are.
Both teams had corner OFers who were defensively challenged. Dimitri Young had a better average than Jr. but his other offensive numbers were very similar.
1998 also started with the Gold Dust Twins, Jon Nunnally and Chris Stynes getting a lot of playing time. Nunnally had a Pattersonesque offensive season while Stynes was exposed as a full time player. I mentioned Patterson already and the similarities between Ryan Freel and Stynes are glaring. I'm guessing Stynes grew out of his invisible friend(s) before he reached puberty.
1998 also had the phenom that was Mike Frank - and at one time the Reds had an outfield of Young, Frank & Stynes. : Jay Bruce is this year's phenom and is having a much better year than Frank did and projects better. But one never knows about young players.
As for pitching, the Reds had their wily vet Pete Harnisch anchoring the rotation and he turned in a fine year. Much liek the one we thought Aaron Harang would have. There was also the talented youngster, Brett Tomko, who seemed to have a world of potential but just couldn't get it together betwen the ears. Homer Bailey may be a good comparison but Homer wishes he could have had the year Tomko had in 98.
There was also the fair to middling vet Mike Remlinger who gave you a lot of innings and a 4.82 ERA. He didn't have a very good W-L record but they kept sending him out there. Bronson Arroyo is about the same pitcher except he will give you more innings and is right handed.
Prospect Scott Winchester got 16 starts for that team but his line left something to be desired with an ERA of 5.81. The 2008 Reds have Johnny Cueto who has a lot of talent but is inconsistent. Cueto has more upside than Winchester but, again, you never know.
There's no real comparison to Edinson Volquez in 1998 as Steve Parris, Jason Bere, Dennys Reyes and 2008 setup man David Weathers all made starts for that team.
1998 had a bullpen of closer Jeff Shaw, setup guys Danny Graves and Stan Belinda. Scott Sullivan was in his 3rd season and while he had a high ERA, he pitched over 100 innings and kept the Reds in some games when the starters got rocked. Gabe White was the lefty out of the pen then while Bill Bray is the designated lefty now. This year the Reds have Francisco Cordero as their closer. The aforementioned David Weathers is now a setup guy while Jared Burton has had a great season before injuries laid him up. Graves would be a good comparison to Burton since both were young and were looked at as potential future closers. The Reds also have Mike Lincoln as a middle reliever and has seemed to have turned it up a notch after an up and down start while John Hudek had a similar role in 98.
Some of the other "luminaries" on that 98 team were Rick Krivda, Mark Kroon, Ricardo Jordan and Mark Hutton. In 2008 the Reds have featured Josh Fogg, Todd Coffey and Matt Belisle.
Both managers had previous experiences with other teams. Dusty had more success, including taking one team to a World Series and taking another to the brink of one. Jack McKeon had never made the playoffs as a manager but was the GM of the 1984 Padres who got beat in 5 games by the Detroit Tigers. Both managers were criticized for being behind the times as far as strategy and lineups went. 1998 was Jack's first full season managing the Reds after managing the Reds for around 60 games in 1997. Dusty had a lot more hype coming in than Jack did. Jack was seen as more of a caretaker manager until the Reds could find someone better and cheaper.
We all remember fondly the 1999 season as many moves were made to upgrade the roster. Ther Reds have several players about to become free agents. Can Walt Jocketty make the kinds of moves that JimBo made during that offseason to upgrade the Reds enough to make them a force to be reckoned with?