The PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus came out today. The projections see the Cincinnati Reds finishing at 74-88 on the season. That’s an upgrade from where they were in 2017, but still puts them in last place in the division. It also would put them as the 6th worst team in baseball, which is basically where they were last year.

Projection systems generally look a little bit lower on win totals than what your gut says. For example, there are only four 90-win teams in the projections. The American League as a whole is a mess, with just six teams projected to be over .500. The National League has eight.

When it comes to the Reds specifically, let’s get into a little bit of the projection and what it is trying to tell us. First, the system believes that the pitching is going to suck once again. The biggest surprise to me is the projection for Luis Castillo. The system sees him taking a huge step backwards, posting a 4.48 ERA on the season. Homer Bailey is the only pitcher on the staff projected to throw more than 127.0 innings. Essentially, the system doesn’t trust the young pitching – which can be understandable. None of the guys threw a full season in the Major Leagues last season.

The two free agent reliever signings that the Reds have made, David Hernandez and Jared Hughes, are not looked upon friendly by PECOTA. They are projected to post a 4.79 and 5.01 ERA. That, surprisingly, is among the better ERA projections among the guys in the bullpen.

Offensively there are some interesting things, too. The first is Joey Votto. Projection systems have always underestimated him because they haven’t been able to account for his lack of infield flies that allow him to carry a high BABIP. The projections have his average under .300 and his slugging under .500. I wouldn’t be incredibly shocked if one of those happened, though I would be surprised. But if BOTH happened, and he were healthy, I would be incredibly shocked.

PECOTA also thinks that Eugenio Suarez will take a step backwards this year. The system projects his OPS to drop off 70 points from his breakout 2017 season. There’s also a huge drop off for Scooter Gennett. Perhaps the most surprising thing, though, is that the system doesn’t project a single appearance for Nick Senzel.

So, to wrap this all up nicely: PECOTA thinks the Reds offensive players will almost all regress, and some substantially, their top prospect who has destroyed the minors won’t get a single at-bat in 2018, and the starting pitching will once again be a mess (though not as bad as last year), but will improve their record. Think about how many games the Reds could win if the young pitching actually takes a step forward in 2018.

I believe the Reds will finish with more than 74 wins in 2018. How many more will depend on the health of the starting pitching. If the team can finally get a normal amount of health from their rotation, instead of losing 60-80% of their rotation to injury for half, or most of the year, then I think the win total could take a substantial step forward. The raw talent is there for the rotation to perform.

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31 Responses

  1. donny

    You got to figure all 3 of Bailey, DeSclafani, and Finnegan are, or will be on a innings watch. Except Finny if he goes to the bull pen. RIGHT ?

    And if that’s the case all 3 or 2 of them would be impossible to trade at the all star break if the Reds aren’t in contention. So that would blow. To bad they aren’t further along from there injury’s .

    Maybe there is still a trade coming here soon of one of the out fielders or Iglasis .

    • Colorado Red

      Less then you think.
      I doubt Homer is on a inning watch.
      Unless he hits 160 – 170.
      I do not want them to grade iglasis unless they get a haul
      I am thinking about 80 wins.

    • Wes

      I don’t think any of those guys are on an innings watch and I don’t think any of those guys are trade candidates. Every team has a slew of mediocre pitchers. If any, disco bounces back to 2016 form- then he will be saught after.

    • MuddyCleats

      IMO, Homer struggled because he didn’t trust throwing his arm 2 throw a good slider; they splitter doesn’t help his condition any either. Disco will most likely struggle w/ the same issues this year especially early on? Finnegan Begin-Again had shoulder issues; will he continue to over-throw or try 2 pitch more? Problem w/ younger Reds is: the raw talent has always been there; they just have a harder time than most Organizations actually developing it…it’s why they continue 2 go outside the Org for young pitching!

  2. Stock

    I like the Reds chances of improving also. They are in a tough division but this year the interleague division they are playing which outside of Cleveland and Minnesota is somewhat easier than most divisions. Still we play MIL, STL and CHC 19 times each and about more than half their games will be against one of these 3 or a team that made the playoffs last year. I would have guessed about 77 wins this year.

    I don’t see how Suarez and Gennett take a step back and Senzel remains in the minors. If they both took a step forward Senzel may be hard pressed to move to Cincinnati. But not with both regressing.

    • sultanofswaff

      Yes, the division schedule will really be a test, especially early in the season when Senzel likely won’t be up.

      How amazing would it be to see Bailey and Mez have bounceback years?

    • MK

      Unless the ball flies like a golf ball again this year I would expect Scooter to become the player the Brewers released which is still slightly above average offensively but is still a major step back. Same might be the same for Suarez’s powe numbersr but fail to see him regressing otherwise.

  3. sultanofswaff

    These projection systems are so bad at projecting upside in young players while giving too much benefit of the doubt to players on the wrong side of the aging curve. PECOTA should’ve pegged the Reds at ~78 wins, especially when you extrapolate the starting pitching from the final 1/3 of last season. But whatever, the 2010 team came out of nowhere.

    • MuddyCleats

      Perhaps? They’ve won 68, 68 and 64 games in last 3 seasons so 74 sounds pretty good considering they done very little to improve things?

  4. Hoyce

    The one thing with the pitching that really bothers me is thinking that time is gonna heal disco’s partially torn UCL. I think that bites the reds in 2018. It’s one thing to do w a reliever. Another w a starter.
    I just don’t think Bailey is very good And wouldn’t even make the starting 5, had all things been equal.
    I think the starting staff w the best chance of long term success is
    1. Castillo -beast
    2. Disco
    3. Stephenson
    5. Romano
    And with the innings limit. I would match up finnegan w one of the young righties to do a 5/4 inning thing or 4/5 depending on pitch count. Conserving both innings on the youngsters and giving the rest of the BP a longer rest.

    • Stock

      i like your Finnigan idea Hoyce. In fact I would arrange it so he goes 4 innings every 4th game. He backs up a different SP each game but they know beforehand they are going 5 and can pitch accordingly. Finnigan would get 162 innings in assuming he always goes 4 innings. He is not necessarily limited to pitching innings 6-9. He could come into the game to open the 4th if necessary.

      Great post Hoyce.

  5. Wes

    i think it’s gonna be a tough season in win column. 74 sounds about right to me. Central and nl is just to good. I would not be surprised if a couple guys regressed but I think the team as a whole takes some big steps forward. Pitching can improve a ton and hitting can take a small step back but still don’t see 80 wins possible.

  6. The Duke

    I’ll say the same thing I say every year. Pecota and Zips are dumb.

    • Fish

      This. I do data analytics professionally and I wonder how robust the models are and what kinds of things are taken into account, especially for younger players. I get the challenge inherent in modeling players without a large sample size of major league innings or at-bats, but usually if something doesn’t pass the sniff test, its a sign the whole model is flawed (*cough* votto *cough*).

      That being said, I think the reds end the year closer to 74 wins than 80.

    • theRickDeLux

      Along with ranking prospects in some numerical order, 100% agree with this statement. Everyone is obsessed with exact theoretical numbers than ranges or tiers (which are more realistic to me).

  7. citizen54

    Interesting that they have Hererra at .6 WARP in 172 AB and Gennett at .9 in 465 AB. I would actually like to see Hererra, assuming he is healthy this year, get some consistent reps at second. As for the starting pitching they must not like Castillo’s walk rate or something as he is only projected to be worth 1WARP 127 IP. Aside from Suarez, none of the projections seem to be too far off the mark.

    I’m with Doug though I think the Reds will outperform their projections. I think they can get close to .500.

  8. Optimist

    I’m unfamiliar with the data set, but wonder how they compare against division rivals. 74 may be right if the Central is as difficult as all consider, but there are several buts – notably if the Reds over perform and the others underperform.

    74 seems a floor rather than a midpoint. It could happen, but I still expect 5 or 10 more wins than that. Which, of course, delivers us right to the “Price returns” controversy.

  9. Kap

    Did Keith law help with these projections?

    These are ridiculous. Now I would be surprised if the reds got over .500, but I think they’ll get close to 80 wins. They have to take a step forward some time. The rotation was embarrassingly bad last season and the only way to go is up. As for the offense, everyone should take a step forward. Everyone has more seasoning and should make adjustments.

    My personal projection is 78 wins with the pirates finishing last in the division. The reds have a winning record meet year and challenge for a wild card spot

  10. Bill

    Should Mark Reynolds, SS/Utility player DFA by the NY Mets today, interest the Reds? ML numbers are poor so far, but AAA numbers are pretty solid.

    • Bill

      My projection is 84-78; improvement comes through solid starting pitching as our youngsters being to show more consistency this year. I expect modest drop off offensively and a middling bullpen.

  11. Piggly Wiggly

    72-90 sounds more like it. Another 90 loss season on the books. Standing pat this winter really cost this team an opportunity. Sort through more pitching in 2018. Sort through outfielders in 2019. Sort through 2 infield positions in 2019. Sort for a new part time catcher in 2019. Sort through starting pitching again in 2020.
    Perpetual rebuild. No guts no glory in Cincinnati. Going bold for Reds front office is getting two dime-a-dozen relievers.
    Sick of the perpetual rebuild.

    • Jonathan

      You make it sound like the Reds have been in rebuild mode for a decade. Did you forget about when they won the central 5 years ago? Rebuild has only been for 2 years….I’ll stick with the rebuild than over paying for someone. Greene would be untouchable for me

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  12. LeRoy

    I think the Reds have a chance to win 80 to 84 games this season. The main thing that concerns me is how long Price will go with Bailey, Disco, and Finnigan if they don’t perform well at the beginning of the season. Romano, Stephenson, and Mahle should be given the opportunity to start and grow. (They all did well the last 4-6 weeks of last season). Garrett might surprise since he should be healthy this season. This should be a very interesting season. Price will either beat the 74 win projection or be gone.

    • CP

      While I agree that Price does error on the side of veterans far too much, I do think that Diso, Bailey & Finnegan deserve some rope to prove themselves next year. They have shown a lot more at the major league level than all of Romano, Stephenson, & Mahle (6-8 weeks of good starts does not a season make, nor does 4 starts). Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have to continue to earn their keep, but their value is maximized if they can regain their standing as healthy SP’s.

  13. Cguy

    PECOTA must be a joke. They project Cingrani to pitch 45 innings for the Dodgers with a 3.53 ERA, 1.23 WHIP & 0.4 WARP. That’s 2nd highest WARP in their bullpen behind only Kenley Jansen’s 2.0. Cingrani’s projections are also better than Peralta’s 4.60 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, & 0.3 WARP in 57 innings for the Reds. We all know that Toni was about useless & that if the Dodgers hadn’t generously given us Clementina for Toni, the Reds were going to either DFA or non-tender him, right? Here’s my point. What if PECOTA’s 2018 projections for Cingrani & Peralta are accurate?

    • Patrick

      I see Cingrani doing this he pitched well except for a few games before the trade deadline last year. Overall he had a 4.22 era but had a high HR rate of 2.11 and 21% hr/fb rate(much higher than career norms). I can see a lower HR rate especially in LA to get the lower ERA projection.

  14. Gilbert Keith Chesterton

    Last year the Reds starting pitching was so hit by injuries so hard that Tim Adleman logged the most innings on their staff, and they even had to throw Bronson 7.35 ERA Arroyo out there for 14 starts. Not to mention they had rookies Amir Garrett out there with his 7.39 ERA starting 14 games and Rookie Davis and his 8.63 ERA with six more starts.

    Those starters combined to be 12-28. None of those pitchers should be seeing the mound in 2018.

    So when you sub their starts with a full year of Disco, Castillo, Romano, and Mahle, those same 40 decisions have to end up AT LEAST 20-20.

    That gives you more of a boost to last year’s 68-94 record than they are projecting. So I’m willing to call out those projects for the garbage that they are.

    • Cinvenfan

      “That gives you more of a boost to last year’s 68-94 record than they are projecting. So I’m willing to call out those projects for the garbage that they are”.


    • Patrick

      Actually I believe you will see Davis and Garrett have starts this year.

      Feldman had a 3.94 era in the first half before he was injured. Adleman had a 4.71 era in the first half. Then got hammered when he started against the top offensive teams in the NL.

      Lots of the good pitching the young guys did at the end of the years was against poor offensive lineups.

      For the most part I get the starting predictions of Pecota except I see Castillo around 3.90 era. The other young pitchers in the 4.25-4.75 range. Disco and Bailey struggling coming back from injury is not a surprise just like I was not surprised by Bailey and Arroyo’s struggles last year. Plus you know we will see injuries and bad performances that drag down player numbers.