What will it take to win the National League Central?


Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Last night the Cincinnati Reds won a game on the back of good pitching and the bat of Devin Mesoraco who hit a grand slam in the top of the ninth inning to put the game out of reach. The win put the Reds above the .500 mark for the first time all season long, at 38-37. The Brewers are leading the NL Central at 47-31.

So, what do the Reds need to do in order to catch the Brewers and win the division? Trade for Mike Trout, of course. Ok, so that isn’t going to happen and this post isn’t really about who the Reds can trade and who for, but more about how well the team will need to play moving forward to win the division, which is now far more important than being a wild card team where you wind up playing one game and hoping your rotation lines up and your offense can come through.

With the Brewers sitting at 47-31 on the season, if they continue to play at their current pace, they would finish at 98-64. To finish at 99-63, the Reds would have to go 61-26 the rest of the way, playing .701 baseball. While that is certainly possible, it is incredibly unlikely. Are the Brewers as good as their .603 winning percentage? Doubtful. So let’s take a look at a few different results for the Brewers the rest of the way and what it would mean for what the Reds have to do in order to pass them up in the standings.

Let’s start off with a scenario where the Brewers go .500 the rest of the way. That puts them at 89-73 at the end of the year. The Reds would need to grab 90 wins to top the Brewers, meaning they would need to go 52-35 the rest of the way. That is a .598 winning percentage over the final 87 games. That is still a very high rate for a team to pull off. Only the Brewers have played at a rate that high this season in the National League and only the Giants are even close among the rest of the teams. Not impossible, and certainly more likely than the .701 winning percentage from above, but it is still unlikely.

The Brewers pythagorean record (which is based on a teams Runs Scored/Runs Allowed) says that they should be 43-35 on the season, which is a .551 winning percentage. If Milwaukee plays at that pace the rest of the season, they would finish at 93-69 on the season. To get to 94 wins on the season the Reds would have to go 56-31 the rest of the way, playing at a clip of .644. Certainly not impossible, but again, it is very unlikely.

So what does all of this tell us? Well, unfortunately it tells us that in order to win the division the Cincinnati Reds are going to need to play like the best team in baseball the rest of the season, and probably be the best team in baseball by a pretty wide margin. Do they have the talent to do so? They might. The rotation is strong 1-5. If Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Billy Hamilton can continue to be similar to what they have been so far in 2014 and Joey Votto and Jay Bruce do what we expect from them moving forward, the offense should be pretty good as well. Still, it’s a long shot to win this division with how good the Brewers began their season and how rough the year began for the Reds.