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

  • Josh Bresser

    I’m not sure the Reds, at this point, would be much better had Cueto not gone down with an injury. They’ve lost 2 games when Cingrani has pitched, and in those games they’ve scored 2 and 3 runs. With a regular offensive output, those games would have been won. Neither of the teams they lost to were over .500. The one game that they *might* have won (Cueto has a 4.56 ERA against Colorado from 2010-2012, so even this one is iffy) had Cueto pitched instead of his replacement was against Colorado when Pedro Villareal pitched.

    I agree that losing Cueto long term would be terrible and would obviously cost the team wins- and lots of them, but there’s no way that you can put their record against .500+ teams so far on losing Cueto. I do agree, though, that it’s a bit early to definitively say that they can’t beat good teams, but it is obvious that their record is inflated by beating said teams (heck, 1/4 of their wins have come against the Cubs.)

    • Tyler Grote

      I agree Cingrani has been a great fill-in. Maybe I should be more clear: I truly believe that without their ace, you are looking at the team whose record against .500 and above is somewhat credible. Cingrani beat one opponent with a winning record, three starts have come against the Cubs.

      But with Cueto healthy, it means he more than likely nullifies an opposing ace, while Latos get to pick up a game against a real #2 (as Latos is as close to a #1 as it gets) and Arroyo gets to face a #3 instead of 2. I mean it’s all relative. And instead of the games, think of the series. His presence on the schedule changes everything for an opposing team.

      I just don’t think the Reds current record tells the story when their ace has six starts.

      • GeorgeStGeorge

        I don’t remember what year it was, probably 1972, when Don Gullett was on the DL for over a month. The Reds were something like 22-5 during that stretch. The commentators would say, “Can you imagine what it would be like if Gullett weren’t out?” What? They would have won them ALL?
        The Reds don’t appear to have been hurt (much) by Cueto’s injury, either. Though maybe Cingrani in the bullpen might help curb the blown saves.

      • Josh Bresser

        Excellent point about the pitcher matchups. I didn’t even consider that.

  • beeker

    I like Doc, but (like many journalists) he is prone to going into Air Raid Siren mode because the Panic button is an easy way to stir the masses. Here is what I see:

    -The bullpen is struggling. They own 11 of the 26 losses. Many to +.500 teams. Had they held in just 5 of those games, not only are we not having this discussion, but the Cards would be trailing the Reds by 2.5 games today. But this is essentially the same crew that was the #1 bullpen in 2012. This can still be corrected.

    -The Cards are more disciplined hitters. Anyone who watched the weekend series saw that fact on full display on Fri and in the 10th inning on Sun. The Reds need to take a lesson here. If they would focus more on the shallow outfield on the opposite side instead of on the fences, they would manufacture a lot more runs.

    -The Reds have played 38 games against teams that currently have a losing record, going 30-8 (.789) in those games. The Cards have played 32 games against teams that currently have a losing record, going 22-10 (.688) in those games. Could we not say that the Cards are better at losing to sub-.500 teams?

    -”Given the way things are currently, why is everyone so sure the Reds will even see October?” This is just a dumb thing to say. The top teams in both the NL East and NL West have worse records than the Reds (and Pirates) right now. The ‘way things are currently’ is that the NL Central is in a prohibitive position to secure 60% of the NL’s postseason qualifiers. Don’t insult me, Doc.

    -Playing roughly .500 ball against the good teams and owning the bad teams is the standard recipe for making the postseason. The Reds may be feasting on the Cubs and Marlins for now, but don’t let STL fans pretend that their team isn’t feasting on the Brewers, Mets and such.

    -When was the last time the #1 seed from a conference won the Series? It’s been a few years.

    • Tyler Grote

      Couldn’t agree more on the bullpen point, which does affect the club’s record against the winning teams (they seem to blow games against better opponents). I too think that will improve but I’ve gone on record in suggesting the Reds would do well to add an 8th inning arm by deadline.

      • beeker

        I have wondered if a certain Mr. Heisey couldn’t end up as part of the bait to lure in such an arm. but the front office seems to like JB a whole lot as the 8th inning man.

  • Mike Quinn

    While I agree that it’s early and that injury losses will impact, it is disingenuous and misleading to compare the cited season long records of world series champs against better teams with the Reds performance thus far (9 wins and 16 losses). If the Reds continue to perform at the same pace the rest of the way, their full season record against the .500+ teams would be 21 wins and 60 losses. Does anyone think that that will be competitive in the playoffs? Something has to change. The set up men have to hold the lead for Mr. ‘Lights Out’ Chapman.

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