Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Five resolutions for the Reds in 2013

At first glance, there probably doesn't seem like a whole lot to improve upon when you win more games than every MLB team except one. That's precisely what the Reds managed to do during the 2012 regular season after emerging victorious in 97 contests, second only to the 98 games won by the NL East champion Washington Nationals. As fate would have it though, both clubs bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. This occurrence not only proved that no team is perfect, but that all teams have areas in which they can work at in order to get better.

With that in mind, here are some New Year's resolutions the Reds may want to adopt heading into 2013:

1) Get past the NLDS
+ Cincinnati is still searching for their first playoff series win since 1995 after whiffing again this year in the NLDS. The club was also sent home early in 2010 when the Philadelphia Phillies abruptly swept them right out of the postseason.The luster of simply being a contending team has quickly worn off since the '10 campaign. Ask Reds fans how they classify that year and I bet most of them will say they were satisfied with just being able to quench their thirst for some October baseball. My have expectations around the Queen City changed. At this point, the Reds are no longer content with just getting into the playoffs. No, GM Walt Jocketty and owner Bob Castellini have built this current roster to win and win now. The Reds may have botched a chance to make a deep postseason run this time around, but '13 offers another opportunity to redeem themselves. Will they cash in?

2) Boast a more viable bench
+ Manager Dusty Baker didn't have much to work with in regards to the pine in 2012. Miguel Cairo, Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Mike Costanzo don't exactly inflict fear in the hearts of big league pitchers. Luckily, the calvary eventually arrived when Xavier Paul and Dioner Navarro suited up toward the end of the season. However, Cincinnati's overall bench play wasn't too respectable. Obviously, the team was self-aware of this fact and committed to address the area by adding Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan this winter. Retaining Chris Heisey and Xavier Paul should be a step in the right direction as well. Only time will tell if the moves work out.

3) Fare better in Interleague play
+ While many baseball fans enjoy Interleague play, the Reds don't appear to be very fond of it. Cincy is just 13-20 against American League foes over the past two seasons and just 27-36 since 2008. The AL has been widely viewed as the superior league for over a decade now in spite of the fact that the NL has won the last three All-Star Games and the last three World Series titles. Nonetheless, the Junior Circuit has given the Redlegs fits since its introduction in 1997.

4) Don't be afraid to steal
+ No team in the National League attempted to swipe a base fewer times than the Reds did last year (114). However, they were successful in 76% of their tries -- 5th-best success rate in the league. I realize that all teams are built to manufacture runs differently (the Reds seem to favor the long ball after smacking 172 [3rd-best NL] of them), but it is puzzling to me as to why Baker didn't start runners more often, especially when the offense was somewhat sputtering when Joey Votto was sidelined. This trend may actually continue in 2013 with Drew Stubbs no longer on the team. Stubbs led the team with 30 stolen bases. The only other Reds player in double digits for the season was Brandon Phillips with 15. Newly acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo should prove to be the team's biggest thief on the base paths. Choo has stolen 20 or more bags in three of his past four seasons including 21 with the Indians in 2012. I know the current roster isn't exactly loaded with track stars (not until Billy Hamilton arrives at least), but starting the runners more often could lead to more runs. And that's the name of the game, isn't it?

5) Find a spark plug at the top
+ Speaking of Choo, he is being brought in to do what others could not last year -- get on base as the team's leadoff hitter. Choo's career .381 on-base percentage puts the collective .254 OBP posted by Reds leadoff hitters in '12 to absolute shame. I can practically envision Votto, Frazier, Bruce, and Ludwick salivating at all of the extra RBI opportunities as we speak. Can you imagine how many ribbies these guys may record once next season is all said and done? This is assuming Choo stays healthy (knock on wood) and does what everyone expects him to do, which is get on base at a high rate.

Can you think of any other resolutions the Reds might have?

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