Since the All-Star break, Cutch has a slash of 413/.493/.651. Not too shabby... (Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE)

After the Trades, Let's Re-Assess the Reds Chances in the NL Central

At one point, 10 wins in a row. 21 games over .500. 15-3 since the All-Star break. No one can say the Reds aren’t a team on a huge upswing. There were two trains of thought heading into yesterday’s non-waiver trade deadline: stand pat because the current roster is plenty or add piece(s) in areas that need improving.

And…neither was the avenue Reds GM Walt Jocketty pursued. Instead, as our own Justin Hamilton put it yesterday, Walt made a strength strength-ier with the addition of Jonathan Broxton.

So how does the division look after all of the moves? Let’s look, shall we?

Ludwick (48) is congratulated by BP (4) and Jay Bruce (32) after belting a home run during the 1st inning against the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

1. Cincinnati Reds (projected: 95-67; percentages – win division/win WC game/make playoffs: 77.8%/—/94.5%)

We honestly don’t need a lot of time to assess our Redlegs. What were perceived as weaknesses (lead-off, clean-up) may be a more narrow scope now since Ryan Ludwick (see how to properly identify the Reds left fielder, ESPN?) has been absolutely knocking the covering off the ball. For July, Ludwick constructed a slash of .333/.383/.707 with 7 home runs and 19 RBI. Yes, the majority of that damage came with Ludwick in the 5-hole as Jay Bruce has been the clean-up guy, but upon the return of Joey Votto, having a hot Ludwick behind him could help the 2010 NL MVP.

There was also some slight murmurs that the Reds needed to add pitching, but that was aimed more at the starting rotation. There was the brief glimmer of hope (to some) that the Reds would be able to snag Matt Garza from the Cubs. Didn’t happen and for the second consecutive game, we witnessed a starter be staked to a decent lead only to see that lead evaporate the following half inning.

Of course the incredulous part of the Reds and their 15-3 record since the All-Star break is that the vast majority of that has come without the services of Joey Votto. Make no mistake that Cincinnati needs Votto healthy to have hopes of a World Series in its future. This run has come against, as some would term, inferior opponents. I don’t completely buy into that only because the Brewers, while not as deep in starting pitching, still owns a few potent bats.

Within the division, the Reds own a record of 26-15. The Good Guys have nine remaining games against the Pirates including a three-game set this weekend. After that, the teams will play six more times with each team hosting the other three games. The Reds must take advantage of this.

Cincy will play the Cards only six more games with each team hosting a three-game series as well.

For the season, Cincinnati is 5-4 against the Cards and 4-5 against the Pirates.

This all said, it appears BP is headed for the DL with that bad calf.

Sometimes Lohse's name gets lost when talking about the Cards 2012 success. (Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE)

2. St. Louis Cardinals (projected: 89-73; percentages – 11.2%/45.1%/56.3%)

First, you’re thinking, “Wait. Aren’t the Pirates ahead of the Cardinals in the standings?” Correct, but the Cards, as of today, show higher percentages than the Bucs despite currently being four games behind them in the standings. While I’m sure that will infuriate Pirates fans, all I can say is “it is what it is”…and that’s a phrase that is utilized to excess.

The one area the Cards could have used a boost was the starting rotation. Some time back, we learned that Chris Carpenter would not be available for the remainder of the season. Adam Wainwright, a year removed from Tommy John, has not been the Wainwright of old, and honestly, no one should have expected him to be. Instead, they do gain a nice bullpen arm in Edward Mujica from the Miami Marlins. The bullpen had it’s moment in the sun last year, so why not try that button again, I guess.

There’s honestly no reason this team can’t make a postseason run similar to the one they made in 2011, but they got to get there first. If the starting pitching can hold up, this offense is too good to hold down for an entire five- or seven-game series. I know the Reds swept the Cards immediately following the All-Star break, but these bats are potent and dangerous.

The Cards only have a total of 12 games remaining against the Reds and Pirates, facing each for six games. And within those six are two, three-game series where the team will host the other. For 2012, teh Cards have a 5-4 record against the Bucs and that 4-5 record v. the Reds.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (projected: 89-73; percentages – 10.9%/41.1%/52.0%)

Made the most moves of any team within the division…by far. GM Neal Huntington added the pieces of Wandy Rodriguez, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez and Chad Qualls. There is a lot of buzz surrounding the first two names I mentioned. Thing is, do these move hurt or help the Bucs?

I ask because the deal to acquire Snider resulted in Brad Lincoln heading to Toronto. Lincoln had given the Pirates pitching staff a huge boost with his 2.73 ERA and 1.096 WHIP in 28 games including 5 starts. The starts weren’t spectacular overall (2-2, 6.08 ERA and 1.479 WHIP in 5 starts), but his bullpen contribution was phenomenal (2-0, 0.50 ERA and 0.841 WHIP in 23 games).

With the rest of the rotation of A.J. Burnett (who hurled a one-hitter last evening and is clearly their #1 even with the Rodriguez acquisition.), James McDonald, Erik Bedard, and Jeff Karstens, the Bucs are, in my opinion, being a little short-sided by the numbers. I know it takes many factors into consideration, but I think Pittsburgh will not bow out of this gracefully, if at all.

The Pirates bullpen, deservedly, receives a lot of the credit for Pittsburgh success. If you stand back and view all the transactions, the PIrates looked to have given up a little within that ‘pen with a “swap” of Lincoln for Qualls as the overall end product. As of late we have seen the offense pick up its pace, so the addition of a decent bat of Snider (who was brilliant in Triple-A) isn’t a tough decision provided you get that same production.

Given the right situation and circumstances, this team could be a tough out even in a one-game scenario especially if Burnett can toss a gem like he did last night.

The Bucs are 9-9 against the Reds (5-4) and Cards (4-5) and have 9 games remaining against the Reds and 6 left with the Redbirds.

One thing this does show us is that, according to these percentages, that the Bucs have already played their easiest part of the schedule while the Reds and Cards path is easier. In fact, if you consult the page on Baseball Prospectus which contains this info, the Pirates are not even in the play for the postseason.

Huh? Honest. Here’s the five teams…

1. Cincinnati (proj. 95-67)
2. Washington (proj. 94-68)
3. San Francisco (proj. 88-74)
4. Atlanta (proj. 92-70)
5. St. Louis (proj. 89-73)

That all out here, the margin between St. Louis and Pittsburgh is only 0.4 games won and 4.0% off making the wild card. That can change…easily.

(Note: Projection information taken from Baseball Prospectus.)

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Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB MLB Playoff Chances NL Central Pittsburgh Pirates Playoff Chances St Louis Cardinals

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