Reds looking like contenders?

Running through CAIRO's projected standings in two more divisions (courtesy of Revenge of the RLYW) ...

Phillies - 92

Braves - 88

Mets - 82

Marlins - 74

Nationals 73

There's so little to see here that I'm going to move along to the National Central ...

Cardinals - 92

Reds - 85

Cubs - 84

Brewers - 81

Pirates - 70

Astros - 69

Really, just one noteworthy item here, as the Reds look like serious Wild Card contenders.

How? Well, they did win 78 games last year, so it's not like they've got terribly far to go. Joey Votto is fast becoming a superstar, and young Jay Bruce still figures to someday get on base more than 30 percent of the time. But other than Bruce in right, what will the outfield look like? Will Willy Taveras be allowed to throw away hundreds of plate appearances? How will Dusty Baker divvy up the time for speedster Drew Stubbs, Triple-A slugger Wladimir Balentien, on-base machine Chris Dickerson, and Double-A star Chris Heisey?

There's plenty of talent there for a reasonably productive outfield, but it's impossible to know if Baker's smart enough to put the puzzle together early enough to make a difference.

Anyone trying to construct projected standings has to wrestle with issues like this for every team. It's relatively easy to come up with a reasonably effective method to project the performance of individual players, because a player's past performance leaves big footprints in the sand. But even atop the inherent random variation, there are the generally unpredictable (and often unreported) physical injuries plus the vagaries of management and changing conditions as the season goes along.

These projections are just snapshots, based on solid statistical assumptions and questionable assumptions about personnel decisions. I do believe that the Reds have the talent on their roster for a solid season. Whether the luck and the management line up behind the talent ... well, that's your proverbial "known unknown."