Mo Egger

Mo Egger

Mo Egger delivers his unique take on sports on Cincinnati's ESPN 1530!Full Bio


Six Bold Predictions For The Cincinnati Reds In 2019

This was originally published in The Athletic.

I​ don’t​ know about you, but​ to me, this offseason​ felt longer than usual.​ Why?​ Mainly because​ unlike​ the​​ previous five winters, the Reds actually gave us reasons to look forward to the season ahead.

I guess it didn’t help that the last season effectively ended around mid-April, triggering way too early the conversations about what 2019 and beyond would look like for a franchise that, with each passing losing season, further pushed fans away as it sank deeper into Major League Baseball’s abyss of irrelevance.

The last four months have been different. The front office didn’t spend the winter in hibernation. Instead, acting almost out of pure necessity while under a mandate from ownership, Dick Williams and Nick Krall did stuff. The Reds have not only had an active offseason, but a productive one, yielding a roster that’s better and deeper than the one Bryan Price went north with last spring. The Reds might not be ready to contend for anything meaningful, but this team is infinitely more interesting than any incarnation of the Reds since the 2013 version.

The wait for a new season becomes longer, and at times, even more unbearable when there’s actually something to look forward to.

But here we are, on the verge of a season loaded with intrigue and potentially filled with consequences if all of the the offseason work and planning doesn’t translate into a substantial increase in victories. The Reds have been credited, both locally and around the country, for being one of the rare teams that spent its offseason actually trying to make improvements. I’m not sure such praise for merely trying is really warranted because, after four straight seasons of at least 94 losses and last year’s 34-year low in attendance, did management have any other choice but to try something different? But the way the Reds have stayed in the news during the off months has been a sharp and refreshing departure from the norm. Even if a title or even a postseason appearance seems far-fetched, the uncertainty and intrigue over how the next six months will play out has injected widespread enthusiasm throughout Reds Country.

I’m as psyched for a Reds season as I’ve been in a while, even if I have no real idea how good or bad this team will be.

Against that backdrop of uncertainty and unpredictability, here is my second annual attempt at making some bold predictions for the upcoming season. As I tried to convince you when I did this exercise a year ago(with both hits and misses), these are not simply “hot takes,” spat out with no regard for logic and reason. They’re also not merely plain ol’ predictions, but instead, these are BOLD predictions. That means that not only have they been thought out for longer-but-not-that-much-longer than 15 seconds, but it also means, of course, that no one else besides me will dare to make such daring and provocative predictions for the team and the season. So hold on tight, and let the boldness commence…

The upgraded starting rotation won’t be that upgraded.

It wasn’t that difficult to figure out what the offseason’s primary objective was going to be as last season came to an end. The owner of the team told us all exactly what the plan was.

“We’re going to get the pitching.”

Maybe we didn’t know how, and we most certainly didn’t know with whom, but we knew the Reds would start spring training with at least a couple of starting pitchers who were elsewhere in 2018.

So yeah, they got “the pitching,” but you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not exactly ready to canonize Reds execs for addressing such a painfully obvious need. Giving them an “attaboy” for finding different pitchers to help out a last year’s historically rotten rotation is like commending someone for stopping for gas when their car’s running on fumes. Giving chances to guys who’d been with the organization in some form or another didn’t work last year, leaving the club no other option but to get help from elsewhere.

Enter Sonny Gray, Alex Wood and Tanner Roark. Each has been good before, none were particularly effective last season. They’re all better than any trio of guys you could name from the collection of lousy hurlers the Reds used a year ago, but they don’t do anything to make you that excited. Roark, for his part, was called by Fangraphs “a candidate for the most bland pitcher in America,”so that’s nice.

With Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani (hopefully ready to get through a full season healthy for the first time since 2015), the Reds might be as good on the mound as they’ve been in a while. It seems like a decent bet they’ll improve from last year’s results, which included finishing dead last in the National League in runs-per-game allowed by starters, having the lowest percentage of quality starts in the league, as well as the second-fewest number of innings per outing. You can see why it didn’t exactly require advanced baseball thinking to conclude they needed new pitchers.

But even if I’m hopeful that the new rotation is better, I can’t help but be a little skeptical about three teams with legit playoff hopes being so willing to part with starting pitching while getting so little in return.

If neither Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark nor Alex Wood – the oldest of whom is 32 years old – is good enough to pitch for teams that enter the season with bona fide title hopes, am I supposed to believe that each of those guys is going to be central to a total turnaround by a club that lost 95 times a year ago?

Yes, pitchers do enjoy bounce-back seasons every year. I do believe that there’s something of value to the cliched “change of scenery.” There’s a long line of pitchers who’ve posted big seasons in years preceding free agency, which is what this year is for both Roark and Wood. And I’ve heard enough people who understand pitching extol the virtues of new pitching coach Derek Johnson that I’m open to the idea that he can make a difference.

Wood, Roark and Gray are three guys trying to rediscover old form, and I think each of them can make that happen. I just wouldn’t bet on all of them doing it at the same time.

Castillo enters his age-26 season with a chance to make a measurable leap toward being a definitive staff ace, but if you add DeSclafani to the list of the three new guys, you have four-fifths of a starting staff that is trying to change something that didn’t go quite right last season. Any gambler knows that a four-team parlay has a heftier payout than four winning bets made individually. It’s because the likelihood of four favorable outcomes occurring at the same time is far less than the chances of four separate wagers going a bettor’s way. Wood, Gray, Roark and DeSclafani are a four-pitcher parlay that carries with it the potential payoff of the Reds flirting with contention, but it only takes one of them not succeeding for the bet not to win.

Chances are one or two of those guys will enjoy some measure of success in trying to get back to where they once were. All four doing it at the same time, though, seems like something only a sucker would bet on.

To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.

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