Saturday, January 5, 2013

Are the Reds the fourth-best team in baseball?

ESPN's Buster Olney has been a fixture on Redlegs Review this week. And as long as he continues to churn out material for us to debate about, his stuff will continue to appear on the blog.

In his latest post, Olney asked for the commentary of industry experts to help evaluate and justify his top 10 team rankings. Cincinnati came in at No. 4 and this is what the anonymous talent evaluators had to say:

4. Cincinnati Reds

NL evaluator: "I consider them at No. 1; they have it all with Shin-Soo Choo, a brilliant addition."

AL evaluator: "I don't necessarily drink the Reds Kool-Aid. They are losing the Astros from their schedule." He notes that although the Reds won 97 games, there were seven teams with a better run differential than the Reds last year."

Both sources make valid arguments. The Reds will undoubtedly be improved with Choo at the top, but losing out on playing the hapless Astros 15-18 times a season will certainly bring down the overall win total a tad bit.

However, it is important to take these preseason prognostications with a heavy grain of salt. They usually turn out to be about as valuable as a pair of cheap socks. Not many folks predicted the Giants to win it at all last year. And who could have ever foreseen the Cardinals' epic run to a title in 2011?

Everyone around the league was ready to dub the Los Angeles Angels as the 2012 World Series champions after they made a flurry of offseason deals last winter. They failed to even qualify for the playoffs. The same went for Tampa Bay, Boston, Philadelphia and the LA Dodgers last year. All held high expectations from "experts" heading into the campaign and none of them played beyond the regular season.

The fact remains that there is bound to be a surprise or two in 2013, which is partly what makes baseball (and sports in general) so great. Cincy certainly looks solid on paper, but the games are obviously determined by how teams perform on the actual field, not on the stat sheet. Hopefully the Reds will wind up in the "good surprise" category at season's end rather than the "bad surprise" pile.

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