Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hot Starts and Cool Predictions for 2013 Season

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Let’s start this week off with a trivia question. Please name the only team the Reds had an undefeated record against at Crosley Field. I’ll answer it at the end of this post.

It’s here! Spring training is ending and the teams are heading north to begin the 2013 campaign on Monday (Sunday if your Texas and Houston). It’s the only time this season the Chicago Cubs will have a chance to win the N.L. Central.

Cincinnati will enjoy 16 of 22 at Great American Ballpark to start the season. It seems to be an outstanding opportunity to get 2013 off to a fast start, except for one minor thing, the Reds rarely start quickly.

I examined the last 25 April’s and the figures aren’t very encouraging. From 1988 to 1992 the Reds had great success in April, winning 59 of 100 games. The past 20 seasons have not been so good, 222 wins, 238 losses, however things have been improving slightly over the past three seasons with the combined April record being 37 – 35. Remember, divisions are not won in April, but a great start will certainly take some of the pressure off in September.

The point is this, if the Reds start too slowly, will Dusty Baker be on a short leash? It pains me to ask this, but it is a question that needs to be asked. The prevailing attitude of upper management seems to be World Series or bust. The collapse at GABP in last year’s NLDS left an indelible mark that only a World Series appearance will erase. The offseason moves has put this team in an outstanding position, not only to repeat as division champs, but as favorites to win the National League pennant.

Could the Reds start fast? It’s possible, but the schedule makers were sure unkind to the Reds. Opening the season with three against the Angels, the acquisition of Josh Hamilton has given the Halo’s a potent offense. The next three against Washington, the Reds won only two games against the Nats all of last season. After a six game road trip at St. Louis and Pittsburgh, the Reds return home to face the Phillies for three, Miami for four and the Cubs for three. Cincinnati finishes April on the road going to D.C. for four games and returning to Busch Stadium for three against the Cardinals.

One additional thing I look for is the “Dastardly West Coast Road Trip” to San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. This season it is from July 22 to 31. Ten games in ten days. The trip begins with three at the Giants, followed by four games against the Dodgers, closing with three versus the Padres. These brutal west coast trips have cost the Reds division titles, especially in 1987 and 2006. Fortunately that has not been the case during the past two seasons; 6 – 5 in 2012, 7 – 3 in 2011, let’s hope that trend continues this season. Back in my day, (I always wanted to say that!) during the era of the balanced schedule, teams played each other inside the division 18 times each (90 games), 12 times each outside the division (72 games), the Reds had three west coast trips every season.

In my humble opinion, if the Reds can avoid the injury bug, this should be a beautiful spring, an enjoyable summer, and a fall full of celebrations. To me it will be World Series or bust for Cincinnati in 2013. Here are the rest of my bold predictions for 2013.

N.L. East – Washington Nationals

N.L. Central – Cincinnati Reds

N.L. West – Los Angeles Dodgers

Wild Card Qualifiers – Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants

N.L.C.S. – Cincinnati defeats Washington 4 games to 2

A.L. East – Toronto Blue Jays

A.L. Central – Detroit Tigers

A.L. West – Los Angeles Angels

Wild Card Qualifiers – Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics

A.L.C.S. – Los Angeles defeats Detroit 4 games to 3

World Series – Cincinnati defeats Los Angeles 4 games to 1

The answer to the trivia question; the Reds went 10 – 0 against the Montreal Expos at Crosley Field.

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