The Cincinnati Reds look like a World Series contender in 2013.
According to sportsbook.com, the Reds have the sixth-best odds to win the World Series next season at +1000.
If the Reds are going to contend for the NL Pennant, they're going to have to get by some of the league's best teams.
In this four part series, I'll match the Reds up against the other NL teams that are ranked within sportsbook.com's top five.
Position-by-position, each of these articles will determine whether the Reds have the edge, or whether the edge will go to the Dodgers, Nationals, Giants and Braves.
First up on the list is the defending World Series champs, the San Francisco Giants.
Player positions taken from MLBdepthcharts.com.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The Giants have the best catcher in all of baseball. It's hardly even debatable at this point that Buster Posey is baseball's best backstop.
After a stellar 2010 campaign that netted him Rookie of the Year honors, Posey was sidelined for all but 45 games in 2011 due to a nasty leg injury.
However, in 2012, Posey came back in full-force and won the National League MVP behind a .336/.408/.549 slash line and 24 home runs, 103 RBI and 78 runs scored.
Though it's clear cut that Posey is better than the Reds current catcher Ryan Hanigan, that doesn't mean that Hanigan is inferior across the board.
Defensively, Hanigan has few, if any superiors.
Take a look at how the two match up behind the plate.
Ryan Hanigan led the majors in caught stealing percentage last season. Buster Posey finished a respectable sixth (h/t ESPN.com).
Unfortunately for Hanigan and the Reds, his game-calling ability and superior fielding ability does not make up for the fact that Posey is becoming one of the greatest offensive threats that the catcher's position has ever seen.
Giants: 1, Reds: 0
Much like the matchup at the catcher's position, the battle at first base between the Giants and Reds is pretty clear-cut. This time, however, the Reds have the better player.
Despite missing 49 straight games with a knee injury, Joey Votto was able to muster up a pretty solid season.
In 111 games, Votto logged 374 at bats while slashing .337/.474/.567 with 14 HR, 44 doubles, 56 RBI and 59 runs scored.
Votto was also a finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award in 2012. Had it not been for the injury, he may very well have won his second consecutive Gold Glove.
Even with an injury-ridden sixth season, Votto has been able to maintain 162 game averages of .316/.415/.553 with 30 HR, 44 doubles, 102 RBI and 95 runs scored.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is a solid young baseball player with a bright future as a big leaguer. However, he is nowhere near the level of Votto.
In 145 games last year, Belt compiled 411 at bats with a .275/.360/.418 slash line with seven HR, 27 doubles, 56 RBI and 47 runs scored.
Defensively, Belt can't hold a candle to Votto. In 170 games at first base, Belt has a .993 fielding percentage with a UZR/150 of -0.6. Over the course of his career, Votto has a .994 fielding percentage with a UZR/150 of 5.4.
Belt is only 24 years old and has plenty of upside, but with a career OPS over 200 points lower than Votto's, it's hard to make a case for him being the better player.
Reds: 1, Giants: 1
By all accounts, Marco Scutaro had a stellar 2012 campaign.
Scutaro played 156 games between Colorado and San Francisco in 2012, slashing .306/.348/.405 with seven HR, 32 doubles, 74 RBI and 84 runs scored.
Scutaro has been a solid player throughout his 11-year career, averaging a .276/.340/.391 slash line with 162 game averages of 10 HR, 32 doubles, 62 RBI and 80 runs scored.
Although Scutaro is a consistent player who can contribute at the top of any lineup in baseball, he's not Brandon Phillips.
Phillips has become one of the game's best second basemen over his seven seasons with the Reds.
In those seven seasons, Phillips has averaged 150 games played with season averages of .280/.329/.446, 20 HR, 30 doubles, 80 RBI, 87 runs scored and 21 steals.
Beyond his contributions at the plate, Phillips brings with him what is arguably the best glove at the position.
Phillips has won three Gold Glove Awards with the Reds, and it's arguable that he should have taken home No. 4 over Darwin Barney in 2012.
No disrespect to Scutaro, but Phillips has a big edge in this matchup.
Reds: 2, Giants: 1
When he's healthy, Sandoval can hit with any third baseman in baseball and his 162 game averages are evidence of that.
Over his five big league seasons, Sandoval averages a .303/.353/.490 slash line, 22 HR, 39 doubles, 88 RBI and 79 runs scored.
Sandoval is also a two-time All-Star and can invigorate his ball club and plays the game with an impressive sense of passion and determination.
If this article were being written prior to the 2014 season, Frazier may very well have gotten the nod over Sandoval.
Frazier impressed in his 2012 campaign. Stuck behind Scott Rolen early on, Frazier struggled to find playing time but after injuries to both Rolen and Joey Votto, Frazier was finally able to seal consistent at bats.
Frazier stepped up in a big way to fill voids left by both players slashing .273/.331/.498 with 19 HR, 26 doubles, 67 RBI and 55 runs scored in just 128 games played.
Given a full season to work with, Frazier could easily slash .280/.350/.510, pop 25-plus home runs and drive in 90 runs.
However, until Frazier compiles a season like that, Sandoval is more of a reliable offensive threat and therefore gets the nod in this matchup.
Reds: 2, Giants: 2
The shortstop position is arguably the closest matchup of any between these two teams.
In Cincinnati, Cozart impressed for parts of his rookie season, and although he finished with a disappointing .248 batting average and .299 on base percentage, he was able to slug .399 on the year.
Some of Cozart's struggles at the plate can be attributed to a lack of stability within the Reds lineup. Cozart flourished in the two-hole, slashing .324/.378/.490 in 102 at bats.
Ultimately though, Cozart spent most of his season batting leadoff, where he managed only a .223/.262/.379 slash line.
Cozart's .248/.299/.399 overall slash line was accompanied by 15 HR, 33 doubles, 35 RBI and 72 runs scored.
Cozart also has Gold Glove caliber defense working in his favor.
A finalist for the Gold Glove award in 2012, Cozart finished the season with a .975 fielding percentage, better than the .970 league average. Additionally, Cozart managed a 7.7 UZR, a 9.0 UZR/150, 12 DRS and 66 OOZ (plays made out of zone) (h/t fangraphs.com).
Crawford, like Cozart, is an above-average defender.
Crawford's .970 fielding percentage was right in line with the league average. His metrics, however, are indicative of him being a better defender than his fielding percentage shows.
In 139 games, Crawford compiled an 8.7 UZR, a 9.7 UZR/150, 12 DRS and 49 OOZ (h/t fangraphs.com).
Offensively, Crawford and Cozart are different players. Crawford is never going to have Cozart's power but he will provide a serviceable on-base percentage, a substantial amount of doubles and acceptable RBI totals from the shortstop position.
All things being relatively equal defensively, Cozart's power and superior OPS potential tip the scales slightly in his favor.
Reds: 3, Giants: 2
The left field matchup is a little bit trickier than the rest of them. According to MLBdepthcharts.com, the Giants will run a platoon system in left field using Gregor Blanco against right handed pitchers, while Andres Torres will bat against lefties.
The Reds have one left fielder, Ryan Ludwick.
Take a look at Ludwick's 2012 stats compared to the combined stats of Torres and Blanco.
Ludwick is, by far, the bigger offensive threat. Although the two players combined for a 3.2 WAR last season, they did it in over twice as many games played as Ludwick.
Impressively enough, Ludwick managed only three less doubles, over three times as many home runs, and more RBI than the two others—in 345 less at bats.
The only category in which either was able to best Ludwick individually was runs scored. Andres Torres scored 56 runs in 2012 compared to Ludwick's 53.
Ultimately, Ludwick plays a corner outfield position and makes very few errors (one last season), and although he may not have the range of Torres or Blanco, his offensive production comes at an astronomically higher rate.
Reds: 4, Giants: 2
The Reds needed a leadoff hitter in 2013, so they took part in a three-team trade that netted them Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo brings a career slash line of .289/.391/.465 with him to Cincinnati. In doing so, he makes the whole team better, as he can sufficiently set the table for the rest of the Reds' lineup.
Choo can also be a valuable asset with his ability to drive in runs from the leadoff position. In his eight seasons, Choo has averaged 19 HR and 86 RBI per 162 games played.
Choo is moving from right field to center field, and though he may struggle slightly, his offensive contributions far outweigh the possible negative impact of his defensive shift.
Angel Pagan had one of his best seasons last year with San Francisco.
Pagan set career highs in games played, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, total bases and walks.
Pagan finished 2012 with a .288/.338/.440 slash line, eight HR, 38 doubles, 15 triples, 56 RBI, 95 runs scored and 29 steals.
Let's compare the 162 game averages of Pagan and Choo.
Choo outpaces Pagan in at-bats, hits, HR, RBI, runs, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
Pagan only tops Choo in doubles and stolen bases.
As a leadoff hitter, those are two important categories. However, Choo does best Pagan in total bases, 275 to 238. Between his edge in total bases and slugging percentage, Choo does seem to put himself in scoring position (or scoring himself via HR) more often than Pagan.
Pagan does have the edge defensively over Choo, though.
It's hard to tell what Choo can offer defensively, given his impending move to center field, but his 83 career innings in center field haven't been indicative of a very good defensive center fielder.
83 innings is only about nine games, but in those 83 innings, Choo has managed a UZR of -0.4, and an OOZ of zero. He also has a range runs above average (RngR) of zero (per Fangraphs.com).
,on the other hand, has 3880.2 innings played in center field, and he has compiled a UZR of -0.8, an OOZ of 270 and an RngR of 0.9 (per Fangraphs.com).
Pagan's innings played and slight metrics edge over Choo give him the nod defensively, but this is not enough to make up for the offensive differences.
Reds: 5, Giants: 2
It's hard to believe that Jay Bruce is still just 25 years old. It's also hard to believe that he hasn't gotten over the .256 batting average hump in the past two seasons.
In fact, Bruce carries just a .255 career batting average. However, luckily for him, his total slash line makes up slightly for that issue (.255/.330/.514).
Per 162 games, Bruce also contributes averages of 32 HR, 28 doubles, 91 RBI and 88 runs scored.
Though advanced defensive metrics do not support this, Bruce provides the Reds with stellar defense in right field.
Evidence of his above-average defense comes from the fact that he was a Gold Glove finalist in each of the last two seasons. Though they have a tendency to turn into more of a popularity contest, a Gold Glove nomination is still a very real honor and it is indicative of his overall ability as a fielder.
The problem with Bruce, and where he loses his edge to Pence, is with his inconsistency.
Pence had a down year in terms of his slash line (.253/.313/.425), but prior to the 2012 season, he carried a career slash line of .292/.343/.485.
Pence offers a decent blend of speed and power with 162 game averages of 25 HR and 12 stolen bases. Additionally, Pence's 162 game averages provide for 33 doubles, 94 RBI and 86 runs scored.
Though Bruce may offer more power, his propensity for prolonged slumps at the plate has, thus far, kept him from becoming the superstar that many thought he would become when he was Baseball America's #1 prospect prior to the 2008 season.
Still, Pence wins this one.
Reds: 5, Giants: 3
To start, look at both team's projected starting rotations.
- Johnny Cueto
- Mat Latos
- Bronson Arroyo
- Homer Bailey
- Aroldis Chapman
- Matt Cain
- Madison Bumgarner
- Tim Lincecum
- Ryan Vogelsong
- Barry Zito
On paper, the Giants rotation looks like it would easily be the superior one. However, after the blowup of Tim Lincecum last season, it's not so cut and dry.
Although the individual parts are important, comparing the entire pitching staff as a unit gives a better look at the overall effectiveness of the starting staff.
In 2012, both teams ranked in the NL's top-five in terms of starter's wins, ERA, shutouts, complete games and WHIP. Take a look at how the rotations for the two teams compare (statistics in chart per ESPN.com, QS% per Baseball-reference.com).
The Reds matched up favorably against the Giants in this aspect last season. The Giants did allow a slightly lower OPS and WHIP, however, the name of the game is limiting your opponents runs and the Reds were slightly better there.
Yet the addition of Aroldis Chapman brings a bit of uncertainty to the Reds' starting rotation.
The wild cards in this matchup are undoubtedly Aroldis Chapman and Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum imploded last season and finished the first half of 2012 with a 3-10 record, a 6.42 ERA, a 1.58 WHIP and ratios of 9.7 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 2.1 K/BB and 9.6 H/9.
Luckily for Lincecum—and the Giants—he turned it around to some extent in the second half of the season, working to a 3.83 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and ratios of 8.7 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 2.2 K/BB and 8.1 H/9.
Chapman is a wild card in this matchup because no one truly knows what he will contribute in his first season as a starter in Cincinnati. Chapman did make four starts in spring training last year en route to a 2.12 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and ratios of 9.5 K/9, 1.06 BB/9, 9.0 K/BB and 9.0 H/9.
Over the course of 2012, Chapman refined his control and posted extraordinarily high strikeout rates (15.3 K/9) and a fantastic walk rate (2.9).
Rotochamp.com has Chapman projected for a 13-8 record with an ERA of 3.06, a WHIP of 1.27 and ratios of 12.53 K/9, 4.32 BB/9 and 2.9 K/BB in 150 innings pitched.
It's a safe assumption that Chapman will be more effective than Mike Leake was in his position last year (4.58 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP). That being the case, the Reds starting rotation will benefit from Chapman providing increased performance in important metrics.
Even if Chapman's ERA is 3.50, the rotation will still benefit from the progression of its young starters (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey).
The Reds win this one by a nose.
Reds: 6, Giants: 3
The Reds had the best bullpen in baseball last season.
The Reds' bullpen finished the season with an NL best 2.65 ERA and 56 saves.
The only problem with this season's bullpen though is that Aroldis Chapman will not be a part of it.
The team re-signed Jonathan Broxton and the plan is for him to be this year's closer. The Reds then went out and signed Manny Parra, who according to MLBdepthcharts.com, will be the seventh, and only new, member of the bullpen.
If you substitute Manny Parra for Aroldis Chapman, the bullpen's stat line would look more like this.
Still, the 2013 Reds' bullpen would still beat the Giants out in winning percentage, ERA and K/9.
While there is uncertainty around Jonathan Broxton assuming closing duties, the same can be said for Sergio Romo in his first full-season as the Giants closer.
Broxton has previous closing success on his side. If he were new to the closer's role, then it could have been a different story, but the Reds win the final matchup.
Final Tally - Reds: 7, Giants: 3