May 31, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What Record Against +.500 Teams Really Means

Not much. Probably could have just tweeted this, but all the talk surrounding the Reds of late seems to orbit this gigantic white elephant in the room – the elephant being the Reds’ record against teams at or above the .500 mark.

Conventional wisdom would dictate that by illustrating you can beat better teams, it demonstrates an ability to advance during a time of year where you’re only playing the best teams baseball has to offer. So while the Reds currently have just seven of their 40 wins against teams above the .500 mark, it’s important to keep things in perspective.

First, it’s June 13th.

Second, if history has proven anything, it’s that success against winning teams isn’t indicative of success in October. Take for example four of the last five World Series winners:

2012 San Francisco: 94-68
31-31 (.500) vs +.500

2011 St Louis: 90-72
30-27 (.526) vs. +.500

2010 San Francisco: 90-72
30-38 (.441) vs +.500

2008 Philadelphia: 92-70
43-46 (.483) vs + .500

Evidently, it’s not indicative of your chances at a World Series title. And that’s my first point. Trying to magnify what a team is doing in June is incredibly narrow-minded. It’s a matter of who is playing well when it matters. But you knew that already. Still, in an effort to better understand why the Reds aren’t winning these series against good teams, Enquirer Columnist Paul Daugherty suggest it carries another importance:

Every time I mention the notion that The Club stinks against good competition, I get deluged with numbers, from people telling me that it doesnt matter.

Well…

It kinda sorta does, unless you want to put an entire season on the line in one 163rd wild card game. Even with that, all these numbers you’re tossing have to do with teams that not only make the playoffs, but win it all. Given the way things are currently, why is everyone so sure the Reds will even see October?

In August and September, the Reds play Looie 9 times, current West 1-2 AZ and Colorado 7 times and the Pirates 6. (They also get 16 with the Cubs, Brewers and Houston.) Point is, winning the division likely will mean beating good teams, at least half the time. That isn’t happening at the moment.”

The point is fair; however, it’s misleading. I think it comes down to something so incredibly obvious.

If the question is: “can the Reds win the division/advance in the postseason without Johnny Cueto,” the answer is more than likely no. Without Cueto, you have to throw the Reds in a hat, with every other good team in the NL. But with Cueto, they most assuredly can. With Cueto, they win the series with the Rockies, which could have even been a sweep barring LeCure’s uncharacteristic blown save.

There’s no way to misinterpret this: with Cueto, I challenge you to tell me why this isn’t one of the best teams in baseball. Without, I concede to the record against winning teams, right now, because that’s what happens to teams who lose their ace – makes it difficult to start stringing together those long win streaks when a Louisville Bat is on the bump every fifth day instead of their Cy Young candidate.

And that’s no slight to Cingrani, who has been as brilliant as he’s needed to be. He’s not Johnny Cueto.

Can’t take the Michael Moore approach to baseball – copy and pasting doesn’t work, just void of too much necessary context. You telling me the Reds aren’t beating good teams right now would be like me telling you the pavement outside in Cincinnati is currently struggling to stay dry. In both examples, there is a precise correlation that actually does equal causation.

The Reds have more wins against winning teams than Cueto has games pitched. Everything rides on him. It’s as if people forget we’re talking about the 5th best ERA in all of baseball last year.

Tags: Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto World Series

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