It’s been a rough few days, Reds fans. The historical catastrophe of the National League Division Series we lost on Thursday night is not something that can be erased from our memories in a few hours. Most of us are still pretty deep in mourning, realigning mostly into camps based on whether they won’t watch the rest of the post-season, have some attachment to the Tigers/Yankees, or can forgive the Giants enough for beating us to hope they beat the Cardinals, and maybe even win it all. Even though there has been some terrible, terrible things that have happened to the 2012 Reds in the last week, there are some amazing things that happened to the 2012 Reds, and I think now’s a perfect time to be reminded of those things.
Most of these are short notes, and I’ll probably cover some of them in more detail as the off-season crawls on, but for now, I just want to remember how good things were for Reds fans this summer.
10. 10,000 Reds win - This was well covered back in April, even here, but the Cincinnati Reds franchise, at least counting the eligible years as baseball-reference and official MLB stats do, won their 10,000th game this year. Unfortunately, there’s no awesome prize for the franchise that wins 10^4 games over a century or so, but it’s a cool marker and our 10,091 wins put us 6th among all the teams. It’s just another fantastic reminder that this is a great team with a proud franchise history.
9. Ryan Ludwick’s 500th RBI – This isn’t so much exciting in and of itself, but more of a symbol of the Ryan Ludwick that we got, as opposed to the Ryan Ludwick some fans worried we might get. For what it’s worth, Ludwick’s 530 total RBI sneaks him into the top 1000 career RBI-attainers. Ludwick seems like a great guy, a good clubhouse influence, and a solid bat now, but back in March, only a small percentage of fans were really excited about him. That’s not for terrible reasons. Ludwick’s put together some excellent seasons since his first at-bat for the Texas Rangers in 2002, but they’ve been spliced in-between a lot of mediocre performances, and some time in San Diego where he seemed outright bad. Now, Walt’s faith in Ludwick dating back to Ryan’s Cardinal days appears very well-founded indeed. He was one of many important cogs that got the Reds into the post-season, but it’s still fair to say that without Ludwick, the Reds do not fare very well in 2012.
8. We have an actual starting shortstop - Hooray for Zack Cozart. Now, while Cozy had a hot start that he eventually couldn’t live up to, he accomplished with his glove what he couldn’t with his bat. Overall, his offensive numbers are not what you might wish, but Cozart never really profiled as a slugging type shortstop anyway. I think we all have hopes that he can his improve his hitting numbers to a more healthy, say 90-ish OPS+, but his defensive numbers, though a small sample size, give him a lot of value. His 131 games started at shortstop is the most by a Red since Felipe Lopez in 2006.
7. Brandon Phillips’ Bazillionth Web Gem – So, this one might not be totally technical. But though it’s hard to find a milestone for BP’s defensive prowess, his ability in the field is undeniable. Brandon is a great defensive constant in our infield, and it really makes him worth every penny. There are some (jealous, bitter, haters, obvy) who think that his flashy plays are not particularly well-correlated to actual defensive values. While this may be true to some extent, those people suck, Brandon is an excellent defender, both in true value and being an exciting player to watch. People want to watch him play second, and pitchers want him playing behind them. What else can you say?
6. Healthiest rotation ever – The 2012 Cincinnati Reds had five starting pitchers who started 161 games this season. Todd Redmond started one game, and that’s only because of a double-header situation. The rotation that opened the season went on to pitch 99.4% of all starts in the season. I’m sure I’ll write more on this later, but I’ve gone back 30 years, and no Reds rotation has come close to 2012′s reliability.
5. Todd Frazier ROY - I think, now Harper is the front runner for the Rookie of the Year award among all hitters, and probably deservedly so. Frazier’s bat was just a little bit better, and Harper played better defense at a more important position. He’s also younger, which is probably at least a little bit relevant. Still, though Frazier’s had his struggles in the Reds system, he came up this year and put up a great first season, while producing enough material for 10 verses of the Ballad of Todd Frazier. I’m really looking forward to see him as the Reds regular Third Baseman in the future.
4. Johnny Cueto dodges DIPS regression again - While Cueto, like Frazier probably won’t merit an end-of-the-year award, Cueto was fantastic this year. Though just one of many pitchers whose WAR somewhat understates what seems to be a repeated ability to prevent runs from being scored, Cueto is one of the best. This season finally puts to rest most of the troubling ‘regression’ theories when it comes to Cueto. He’s one of the best pitchers in the NL, and people know it now.
3. The rise of Aroldis Chapman - Chapman’s been making waves since he first arrived in the US, but he’s made great strides as a pitcher this season. This success may put the final nail in the coffin of Chapman’s starting career, but it’s hard to complain. His K/9 on the season is over 15, and his BB/9 has shrunk to a more than respectable 2.89. He’s excellent against righties with a .501 OPS against, but lefties might as well just give up before they get to the plate.
2. Homer Bailey no-hitter - This hardly needs any more comment, since it happened so recently. Homer Bailey is going to be a good pitcher. That wasn’t always clear, but it’s pretty obvious now. Of course, nothing in baseball-future is ever guaranteed, but no matter what, no one can take the no-hitter away from him.
1. Reds win a playoff game - It’s easy to remember the really shitty part of the NLDS, but let’s not forget the great parts. We went out to San Francisco and got a great pair of wins away from home. Those two wins are our first since the 1995 NLDS against the Dodgers, so it’s always good to end a 17 year playoff win drought. We’ve gone to the playoffs twice in three years now, and we’ve improved. So, in 2014, we can expect to go to the NLCS, and we’ll probably win the World Series in 2022.
All in all, I’d say it was a pretty excellent year.