We all know from reading numerous analyses that the Reds probably have the upper hand in the NL Central. The Cardinals rotation is a bit of a question mark, and the Cardinals lost Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, and perhaps their closer (how long will Jason Motte be out? I don’t know if I want to know the answer). But let’s compare the two teams position by position, and try and see why the Reds are the team to beat.
Johnny Cueto vs Adam Wainwright
In 2013, I expect Cueto to be quite good with a rate around 3.47 to 3.50 with an innings total probably over 200. Projections are looking like a 4 WAR pitcher. Adam Wainwright on the other hand looks to be better rate-wise at 3.22 to 3.25 for 2013 with a similar innings total. This is good for a 5 WAR projection. Advantage: Cardinals.
Mat Latos vs Jaime Garcia
My guess with Latos is a 3.42 to 3.45 rate stat and around 200 IP. The projections look to be around 3.75 WAR. Jaime Garcia, the Cards’ defacto #2 is a tick better in the rate stats, around 3.40 to 3.42. However, his expected innings total is quite a bit less. Resulting in projections around 3.65 WAR. Advantage: Reds by a hair.
Homer Bailey vs Lance Lynn
Homer’s rate stat looks like it will be 3.82 to 3.85 and a little under 200 IP. This is roughly 2.85 WAR on the projections. The Cardinals #3, Lance Lynn, should be at around 3.7 to 3.75 rate and 161 IP. Take this with a grain of salt, however, since Lynn pitched 170 innings last year and Bailey has always hovered somewhere in between the bullpen and the rotation. WAR total projections are about 2.5 for Lynn. With the rate on Lynn’s side, and WAR on Bailey’s side, and both being difficult to quantify for various reasons, I’m gonna have to call this one a wash. Advantage: Neither.
Bronson Arroyo vs Shelby Miller
Bronson Arroyo somehow fooled the projections last year and had an outstanding year. However, it is extremely unlikely he will be able to duplicate his 3.74 ERA from 2012. My guess is a 4.36 to 4.40 rate stat, which is not very good to have in the rotation. What he will probably deliver is a lot of innings, but at that rate that’s like only 1.3 WAR. As for Shelby Miller, I think he could be anywhere between Rookie of the Year to like 3.8 to 3.85 rate stat. We’ll go with the pessimistic projection. The projections seem confused on his innings total, explaining a just over 2 WAR projection. Still, it’s pretty clear even with all the uncertainty with a rookie like that… Advantage: Cardinals.
Mike Leake vs Jake Westbrook
Mike Leake seems to be around 4.16 to 4.20 rate stat and well under 200 IP. I think we can expect around 1.2 WAR. Jake Westbrook on the other hand is more like 4.11 to 4.15 with a few more innings, resulting in a 1.9ish WAR projection. Advantage: Cardinals.
Rotation Analysis Synopsis
The Reds rotation looks to be at a respectable 3.85 rate upside (by rate I mean an average of usually 5 systems of ERA and FIP blended together, because, why not?). 13.1 WAR is the average projected WAR total for their rotation. Like last year, the Cardinals are expected to have a better rate but lower WAR total out of their rotation: 3.65 rate and 15 WAR. Oh wait… actually the Cardinals have a better rotation in both rate and WAR.
I am going to go under the assumption that the Reds bullpen is superior to the Cardinals. This is mainly because it will save a lot of time (actually, I think this is a whole other article), and also because it is fairly easy due to Jason Motte’s injury and the Reds putting Aroldis Chapman in their bullpen again. It may not be as cut and dry as that, but since I’m kinda lazy, I’m going to call the two pitching staffs even overall for now… on to the offense:
Yadier Molina vs Ryan Hanigan
Molina is projected at .339 wOBA and 4.7 WAR and .314/2.5 WAR for Hanigan. Advantage: Cardinals.
Joey Votto vs Allen Craig
Votto’s average wOBA projection is .407 and WAR is at 6. Allen Craig is great, but can’t match that at .364 wOBA ave. projection and 2.8 WAR. Advantage: Reds.
Matt Carpenter vs Brandon Phillips
Matt Carpenter is projected to be at .341 wOBA in 2013 and a total WAR of 1.8. Brandon Phillips tops this only in WAR total, with a .325 average projection. His WAR should be around 3.7. I’m going to say advantage Reds at second base, but the conclusion is far from clear cut here.
Pete Kozma vs Zack Cozart
Pete Kozma is not expected to do much this year, despite his MLB career thus far. Projections expect something like .281 wOBA and .8 WAR. Cozart is expected to be at .307 and 2.7 WAR. Advantage: Reds.
David Freese vs Todd Frazier
David Freese is hopefully going to be healthy this year and at least match his average projection of .348 wOBA while accumulating something like 3.2 WAR. Todd Frazier doesn’t figure to be an elite hitting third baseman, but he’s good at .332 weighted on-base average and 2.75 WAR. Advantage: Cardinals.
Matt Holliday vs Chris Heisey
Holliday at .372 wOBA and 4.2 WAR is far better than Heisey at .321 and 1.1… nuff said. Advantage: Cardinals.
Jon Jay vs Shin-Soo Choo
Jon Jay is expected to be at something like .329 wOBA and 3.1 WAR, while the older Choo is projected for .353 and 3.5 WAR. If Choo can man center field… Advantage: Reds.
Carlos Beltran vs Jay Bruce
Beltran should be able to be at .349 or .350 wOBA in 2013 while posting something like 2.6 WAR. Bruce is probably going to be a fair deal better at .358 average projection and 3.7 WAR. Advantage: Reds.
The Cardinals hitting corps should be able to team up to produce something like .341 wOBA, so they should be close to the elite level of offense they were in 2012. Their total WAR (a stat that also includes defense, if you have not heard of it it is Wins Above Replacement level) should be at the very least 23.2. The Reds appear to have the advantage in WAR with 26. However, if the Cardinals can get more out of Kozma than people are expecting, and if Allen Craig’s projections are undervaluing him, and if Matt Carpenter can stick at second base, things are all the sudden shrouded in uncertainty (perhaps even if 2 out of 3 of those scenarios become true). For what it’s worth, the Reds .340 wOBA projection is almost exactly the same as the Cardinals. So what we are seeing here are two extremely similar overall offenses and the Reds having a slight advantage on defense, as well as more certainty as to their positional starters.
In conclusion, the Reds are not that much better than the Cardinals, and any advantage is not quite as obvious as many sports writers tend to think. The Reds are probably the more durable team however, even after losing Ryan Ludwick for most of the season. If Pete Kozma is worth more than .8 WAR and Allen Craig is worth more than 2.8 WAR, I think we may have a true dogfight on our hands in the NL Central.