Pessimism has officially settled in Reds Country and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. Losers of their last three series, the Reds have fans and writers everywhere debating if this season has officially become a disappointment or if the Reds’ best baseball is still in front of them. A quick browse of Twitter will confirm pretty rapidly that there’s a whole lot of Reds chatter going on, move of which is distant from nice.
Lance McAlister likes to dump gasoline on fan fires by picking some random, arbitrary number to illustrate the Reds playing sub .500 baseball. “DID YOU KNOW in the last 60 games are 28-32??” asks a deflated Lance McAlister to an entire city currently contemplating a swan dive from the purple bridge. An apologist – er, someone who takes a more objective approach, might make the argument that the 42 games prior in which the Reds went 33-19 still matter, but there is something to be said about recent behavior. So let’s discuss recent behavior. How about a more recent sample size? In the past 30 games, the Reds are 15-15. Right, mediocre, .500, 2010 all over again as the lamb kills time before an October slaughter. 15-15 isn’t good for an “all-in” team.
Except, in the last 30 games, Pittsburgh is just one game better (16-14). In the last 30 games, St. Louis is just one game better (16-14). In fact, the only National League team able to puff its chest and stare down the rest of the field is the resurgent LA Dodgers, who are an astounding 24-6 in that span.
And while no one cares about team stats above wins and losses, it’s pretty vital to remember that in baseball, the numbers eventually validate themselves. The Reds still have the 4th best starting ERA in baseball, a trait unrivaled in postseason baseball. The Reds bullpen has the 4th best opponent batting average, another vital trait for postseason success.
Aug 4, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart (2) is congratulated by catcher Devin Mesoraco (39) and right fielder Jay Bruce (32) after hitting a home run during the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
But I know what everyone really wants to talk about. The offense and its ineptitude. And the criticism is totally validated. But what isn’t validated is the notion that it’s somehow significantly inferior to the rest of the National League playoff field. That, statistically, just isn’t true. Starting with the obvious and most important metric, runs actually scored: Reds are 4th in the National League. While mildly unimpressive, it’s worth noting that just two (2) playoff teams currently holding a spot have plated more runs than the Reds. The Cardinals and the Braves are the only October-destined teams that can boast a more prolific offense. That includes the Dodgers and their $240 million payroll. The Pirates are 11th in runs scored, which officially makes them the weakest National League playoff contender from an offensive perspective.
And what about OBP? Everyone envies the Cardinals for their methodical approach of getting guys on, over and in. But the Reds are currently tied for third in the NL in OBP with the Braves, and literally just .001 shy of the $240 million Dodgers. The Cardinals are just .010 better.
“BUT UNLIKE THE REDS, THE CARDINALS CAN ACTUALLY COMPETE WITH WINNING TEAMS” – every WLW caller.
After last evening’s L to the Dodgers, the Cardinals are 20-26 against teams above .500. And while you’re convincing yourself this stat actually matters, despite an insurmountable amount of evidence that proves it actually doesn’t, at all, the San Diego Padres boast a 26-22 record against teams above .500 while they sit eight games under .500 and await a long winter vacation after game #162.
So you say the Reds suck. Fine. But all things considered, doesn’t that mean the rest of the National League does too? And isn’t that the competition come October?