To put it mildly, this has been a rough year for Reds fans. Edinson Volquez had the Cincinnati faithful buzzing after posting a 3.21 ERA with 9.5 K/9 in his first full season in 2008. After logging just nine starts in the 2009 campaign, Volquez needed surgery to repair damage in his right elbow. The Reds faded fast as their depleted staff wasn't getting much of a lift from their sagging offense. Injuries to Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion (prior to being dealt to Toronto) certainly didn't do them any favors.
However, if the team's recent performance is any indication of what lies ahead, Reds fans might have something to cheer about in 2010. Dusty Baker's squad has gone 19-11 since September 1st, thanks in part to stronger pitching (3.39 team ERA) and the return of Jay Bruce, who missed two months with a broken wrist.
Buster Olney, Baseball Prospectus and the ESPN Insider staff compiled a glance at this past season and what to expect next year in Cincy. An ESPN Insider account is needed to read the article, but here are the brass tacks for those without:
- It's no secret that the Reds don't have a top-flight budget. They opened this season with a payroll of $73MM and owner Bob Castellini isn't going to "go all Steinbrenner" and tack-on much more.
- Further exacerbating their financial woes are their pricey commitments to Bronson Arroyo, Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang and Scott Rolen. Combined, these four players are owed $46.5 million next season.
- Olney says that considering their lack of flexibility this offseason, Homer Bailey might be their best chance for improvement as he recorded a 2.41 ERA in September. The velocity that made Bailey such a highly-coveted prospect has returned, with his fastball being clocked at an average of 94.5 MPH this year. This is a big step-up from his previous big league work and could spell an even bigger jump in 2010.
- Baseball Prospectus says that their "acceptable" rate of 4.5 runs allowed per game is due in part to their much-improved defense. It will be interesting to see if defensive-minded yet weak-hitting shortstop Paul Janish will be the Reds' starter next season. Manager Dusty Baker said on Friday that a "definitive decision" hasn't been made yet.
- Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus notes that the combined efforts of all Reds batting in the top two lineup spots resulted in a slash line of .245/.301/.354. When Willy Taveras hit the DL in August, Dusty Baker put rookie Drew Stubbs and the aforementioned Janish at the top of the order. The team has gone 27-15 since then, but Jaffe attributes most of the credit for that to the improved performance of the pitching staff.
- The "Rumor Central" portion of the piece encourages Reds fans that are anxious to see the team acquire a big bat to consider what the offense is capable of if they are healthy. Injury-free seasons from Bruce and Votto should give Cincinnati a major boost.
- The report says to expect the Reds to tender Jonny Gomes an offer as he is arbitration-eligible. This should come as no surprise as Gomes has belted 20 HRs in 311 plate appearances while posting .266/.338/.540.
- Jaffe says that Jocketty could deal Arroyo or Harang to give the team room to make a mid-level signing this winter. He adds, "…It's difficult to envision this team breaking out of the middle of the pack without keen vision and bold steps."