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Thursday, January 16
Updated: March 13, 4:56 PM ET
 
Cincinnati Reds

By Anna Sivadasan
ESPN.com

The Numbers
2002 record:
78-84, .481 (tied for 17th overall)

Runs scored:
709, 9th in NL
Runs allowed:
774, 13th in NL
Run differential:
-65 (21st overall)

Starters' ERA:
4.69, 13th in NL
Bullpen ERA:
3.64, 6th in NL

Payroll (Opening Day):
$45.1 million (23rd overall)
Attendance:
1.85 million (21st overall)

3-year record:
229-257, .471 (19th overall)

2002 in review
What went right?
While most pundits didn't expect much from Cincinnati, the Reds overachieved to stay in the National League Central race for much of the year. Cincinnati spent 106 consecutive days in first or second place in 2002, including 51 straight days atop the division beginning on April 26. Rookie outfielder Austin Kearns excelled despite missing significant time with a hamstring injury (.315, 13 HR, 56 RBI). Right-hander Elmer Dessens (7-8, 3.03 ERA -- traded to Arizona in December) provided the team with quality starts even though he lacked run support. Jimmy Haynes (15-10, 4.12) surprised everyone by giving the Reds a dependable starter.

What went wrong?
The Reds faded down the stretch to finish 78-84, 19 games back of division champ St. Louis. Cincinnati had losing records in each of the season's final four months, and pitching turned out to be the main culprit for the downfall. Midseason acquisition Ryan Dempster (10-13, 5.38) proved to be a major disappointment. Ken Griffey Jr. struggled through yet another injury-plagued season, which limited him to 70 games and subpar stats (.264, eight HR, 23 RBI).

In retrospect, the critical decisions were:
1. Trading for Dempster. The right-hander finished the second half with a 5-5 record, but needed three wins in September to reach that mark. He also had a 6.19 ERA after the All-Star break and struggled (in an understatement) against the Cardinals (0-1, 5.73) and Astros (0-3, 7.41), the two teams who finished ahead of Cincinnati in the division.

Ken Griffey Jr.
Center fielder
Cincinnati Reds
Profile
2002 SEASON STATISTICS
GM AB R HR RBI AVG
70 197 17 8 23 .264

2. Thinking Griffey would bounce back as the team leader and run producer. Does Griffey's presence hurt the team concept in the clubhouse? Is he considered a team player at this stage of his career? While there are questions about the intangibles Junior brings to Cincinnati, there aren't many when it comes to his ability to produce on the field when healthy. Therein lies the problem. Griffey has spent more time on the disabled list than he has on the field and at this point the Reds certainly haven't gotten the most bang for their buck.

3. Watching the dollar signs. As the Reds get ready to move into Great American Ball Park in the upcoming season, the club is adamant on sticking with its budget and that meant trading second baseman Todd Walker (.299 with 42 doubles in 2002) to Boston for right-hander Josh Thigpen and third baseman Tony Blanco. Walker was expected to earn $3.4 million this season. The budget also forced Cincinnati to send Dessens to Arizona.

Looking ahead to 2003
Three key questions
1. Will the decision to move Aaron Boone from third to second base work? His father, manager Bob Boone, admits the switch is not set in stone and is a big if heading into the season. The opportunity is there for Brandon Larson to start at third base in hopes he provides the same spark in a full-time role that Kearns did last season. Larson batted .340 with 25 home runs and 69 RBI for Triple-A Louisville in 80 games, then hit .275 with four homers and 13 RBI in 23 games for the Reds.

2. How long will it take for shortstop Felipe Lopez, 22, to push Barry Larkin out of the lineup? The Reds obtained Lopez last month from Toronto as part of a four-team trade. Lopez split time between Triple-A and the majors last season and hit .227 with eight homers and 34 RBI in 83 games for Toronto and .318 with three homers and 16 RBI for Triple-A Syracuse. GM Jim Bowden says Larkin is still the team's starting shortstop, and Lopez is a long-term solution at the position.

3. Will Danny Graves succeed as a starter? Graves (7-3, 3.19, 32 saves, seven blown saves) drove Reds fans crazy last season when he took the mound for an attempted save. So will life as a starter provide similar twists and turns? The Reds got a glimpse of what to expect in his four starts last year. He threw only 19 innings, but his ERA (1.90) and 12-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio was impressive. He'll have to prove it over the course of a full season, but because of the question marks in the rotation, Graves can only help.

Can expect to play better
Adam Dunn (.249, 26 HR, 71 RBI) should get better every season he's in the major leagues. Scouts rave about his patience (especially for a young hitter) and power at the plate. Like the rest of the team, Dunn struggled after the All-Star break (.190, nine home runs, 17 RBI), and his batting average needs to climb a few points, but there's no reason to think it won't happen for the 23-year-old outfielder.

Stats Corner
  • Jimmy Haynes (above) won a career high 15 games and led the Reds in innings pitched (196.2).
  • Adam Dunn was third in the NL in walks (128), but batted only .249.
  • Chris Reitsma was 4-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 21 starts, and in 11 relief appearances was 2-2 with a 1.29 ERA.
  • Barry Larkin had a career low .305 on-base percentage but did play in 145 games, his most since 1999.
  • Can expect to play worse
    Larkin turns 39 in April, and is coming off a season in which he hit .247 with seven home runs and 47 RBI, playing in 145 games. But if Lopez shows any kind of spark when he gets playing time, there could be a changing of the guard at short sooner rather than later.

    Projected lineup
    SS Barry Larkin/Felipe Lopez
    2B Aaron Boone
    CF Ken Griffey Jr.
    LF Adam Dunn
    RF Austin Kearns
    1B Sean Casey
    3B Brandon Larson
    C Jason LaRue

    Rotation
    Danny Graves
    Jimmy Haynes
    Ryan Dempster
    Paul Wilson
    Bruce Chen/Seth Etherton/Pete Harnisch/Jose Acevedo/Luke Hudson

    Closer
    Scott Williamson

    A closer look
    Ryan Dempster, Danny Graves, Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson and take your pick. This is the group that will constitute the Reds' starting pitching in 2003. At first glance (and probably second and third as well), the Reds do not have a playoff-caliber rotation.

    While the Cardinals and Astros can't make claim deep rotations either, The big difference is St. Louis has Matt Morris and the Astros have Wade Miller and Roy Oswalt.

    Graves is unproven as a starter. Haynes will be hardpressed to duplicate last season's success. Wilson has been healthy recently, but has had a history of physical problems.

    So that brings us to Dempster, who will go a long way in deciding if Cincinnati can contend from start to finish.

    Because of his great arm, Dempster has long been considered a potential No. 1 starter but that's more optimism than anything else.

    Dempster has yet to show the ability of a No. 1 since he joined the majors in 1998. In 136 career starts, he's compiled a record of 47-48 with a 4.81 ERA with an underwhelming strikeout to walk ratio of 694 to 433 (1.6 strikeouts per walk).

    Dempster flashed that No. 1 potential in 2000, when he had a 3.66 ERA and 209 strikeouts for the Marlins. But unless he learns to throw more strikes (90+ walks four straight seasons), he won't become the ace to lead the Reds into the playoffs.

    Anna Sivadasan is an editor for ESPN.com.





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