The Reds were my preseason World Series pick. And through the first two games of the NLDS, it looked like they would roll to the World Series. Then, Johnny Cueto's back spasms turned out to be a strained oblique, the Reds couldn't give Homer Bailey more than one run of offense in as he threw a one hitter, Mike Leake got shelled, Mat Latos allowed a Buster Posey grand slam that still may have not landed yet, and the Reds season is over.
If you're new here (which about 90% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from the playoffs, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated.
What Went Right: All five of the Reds starting pitchers made 30+ starts, and four of them logged at least 200 innings. Now *that* is consistency. Even without Ryan Madson, who blew his elbow out before the season, the Reds bullpen was incredible thanks to Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, deadline acquisition Jonathan Broxton, Sam LeCure, and Alfredo Simon. Brandon Phillips had another great year at second base, and earned another contract extension. Joey Votto continued to be one of the premier first basemen in the league while healthy. Jay Bruce bashed a career-high 34 homers. Rookie Todd Frazier stepped in for a beat up and ineffective Scott Rolen at third, and will be the starter next season. The low risk signing of Ryan Ludwick last offseason paid dividends immediately, and he finished with 26 homers in just 126 games.
What Went Wrong: Votto missed 51 games in the middle of the season, and while it didn't really effect the Reds playoff status, two more wins would have given the Reds homefield throughout the playoffs Veteran utilitymen Miguel Cairo and Wilson Valdez both struggled terribly offensively. Rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco couldn't unseat Ryan Hanigan from the starting job, and didn't even make the playoff roster. Drew Stubbs struck out over 30% of the time, the worst rate of his career. Rolen looked absolutely done with the bat, and will probably retire this offseason.
Most Surprising Player: Homer Bailey had the "failed prospect" tag slapped on his forehead going into this year, but his age 26 season was impressive. Bailey didn't miss a start and topped 200 innings for the first time in his career, posting a career-best 3.68 ERA. Away from the Great American Ballpark, Bailey had a 2.32 ERA in 108 2/3 innings and allowed just five homers. This is the kind of guy that could thrive with another club, and getting the hell away from Cincinnati's extreme hitters home park could benefit him greatly in the future.
Most Disappointing Player: Drew Stubbs' 2012 season was the worst of his career by far. As I mentioned before, his strikeout rate of 30.5% was a career worst. His 7.7% walk rate was tied with his 2009 rookie year for his worst ever, and that rookie year came in just a 42 game sample. Stubbs stolen ten fewer bases this year than in 2011, and his first sub-.300 BABIP of his career led to a .213 average and a .277 OBP. That's not going to cut it, even if he's stealing 30 bases a year and playing good defense in center field.
Prospects Up: Billy Hamilton became the most prolific base stealer in minor league history, finishing his season with 155 stolen bases and he refined his game to the point where he walked at a double digit walk rate and had an OBP above .400. 2011 first round pick Robert Stephenson struck out hitters in bunches over his first career season. Zach Cozart and Todd Frazier are both older (mid-20s for each), but both contributed a lot of value at the major league level. Shortstop Didi Gregorius had plate discipline, but no power, in AA, and power but no plate discipline in AAA, but is just 22. Tony Cingrani tore his way through the minors in his first career season, and finished 2012 in the bullpen for the Reds.
Prospects Down: Devin Mesoraco's season was utterly wasted as a backup to Ryan Hanigan in the majors, and he played in just 54 games with a .640 OPS after having an .855 OPS in a full season in AAA last season. Daniel Corcino saw his strikeout rate drop, his walk rate jump, and his BABIP drop 50 points, leading to a jump in FIP by nearly a full run.
Overall: The Reds only have three free agents this offseason: Rolen, Cairo, and Broxton. Rolen will probably retire, Cairo had a bad year and is an easily replaceable bench piece, and Broxton is an erratic reliever that is probably going to get a decent money contract after a great 2012 season. So essentially, the same Reds team that ran the NL Central this year will be back next year, but the young players will have more experience. Next year's club could be even better than this year's, and if the Reds make a couple fo tweaks, they could have a juggernaut on their hands.
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