July 24, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Xavier Paul (26) beats the throw to Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (27) during the second inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Reds Searching for Wins in 'New' NL Central

For the past 15 seasons, the National League Central was comprised of six teams. With the announcement that the Houston Astros would be moving to the AL West, this reverted all divisions within Major League Baseball to now house five teams. It has come with its critics (and it most likely always will citing always having an inter-league series as one reason), but for the Reds, it meant wins will now have to be found elsewhere.

I was relieved when the likes of Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were dealt. Berkman owns 52 career home runs off the Reds. I’ll go out on a limb and say the vast majority of those came while he was wearing an Astros jersey. For an extended period of time, the Good Guys couldn’t register anything off Oswalt. I think Craig iIggio was pretty much a thorn in everybody’s side. When didn’t he hit? (FYI, Biggio compiled his second most hits against the Reds: 278. His most was against St. Louis: 280.) Jeff Bagwell liked facing the Reds. He hit 49 homers (most against any team) when Houston played Cincy.

Hunter Pence came back to haunt us Reds fans though.

At the beginning of this century, the Astros were a nuisance to the Reds. You can tell that not only in what you have already read here, but in the fact that between 2000 and 2008, the Reds won the season series against Houston twice. Cincy was 7-5 against them in 2000 and 10-5 in 2006). The Astros made trips to the playoffs in 3 of 5 years including a trip to the World Series in 2005.

My how times have changed. Over the past four years, the Reds have owned Houston to the tune of a 41-20 record, most wins and highest winning percentage of any team within the NL Central when facing the Astros.

Those wins will now have to come from elsewhere. Replaced, if you will. Sure, the Reds will face Houston in 2013, but it’s only a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.

Here’s how the last four years have gone for the reconfigured NL Central teams and how they fared against the Astros.

CIN CHC MIL PIT STL
2012 10-5 8-7 9-8 12-5 11-4
2011 9-6 8-7 12-3 11-7 10-5
2010 10-5 7-11 7-8 4-11 5-10
2009 12-4 11-6 10-5 5-10 9-6
TOTAL 41-20 34-31 38-24 32-33 35-25

Worthy of mention:
– The Reds are the only team to win the season series in all four years.
– Cincinnati was the only team to win their season series against the Astros in 2010.
– Over the past two seasons, every NL Central team won their season series when facing the Houston.

So, by looking at that table, the Reds are not in this boat by themselves. Over the past two seasons, Milwaukee (21), Pittsburgh (23) and St. Louis (21) all have logged more wins against Houston than the Reds (19). Even the Cubs own a winning record when playing them (16-14).

You could give a slight leer at the Cubs, for now, but I don’t believe Theo Epstein will leave the Cubbie faithful pleading for wins too much longer.

Houston’s highest paid player, Bud Norris, will make $3MM next season. That’s below the league average, and add that Norris is reported to be on the trading block, and well, those changes will continue.

If you think I’m being a bit harsh on the Astros organization, that is not my intent here. I’m fully aware of the organizational changes that are being implemented. Most of us are not used to a stripping down of this variety. We’re used to those of the “fire sale” nature. (winks at Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.)

The first Reds game I was able to attend was against the Astros, so I have a certain fondness toward the team as they remind me of my first trip to Riverfront Stadium. I recall Jimmy Wynn hitting a solo shot for the ‘Stros only run.

There are good people in place in Houston. A few years down the road, we may be glad the Astros are no longer in the NL Central.

But those wins the Reds have captured at the hands of Houston must now be found at other spots within their schedule…and for at least the 2013 season, they probably won’t be as easy as they have been over the past four seasons.

Tags: Cincinnati Reds

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