MLB Network is making their rounds during Spring Training and they visited the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear. One of their analysts, Eric Byrnes, has a bold prediction.
MLB Network is visiting 30 teams in 30 days as part of the network’s lead up to Opening Day. Yesterday they visited the Cincinnati Reds in Goodyear, Arizona. While John Smoltz made the bold prediction that the Reds will be a .500 team this season, former major leaguer and current MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes predicted the Reds will make the playoffs.
Okay, settle down Reds Country. No, it’s alright, go ahead and get as excited as Eric Byrnes. Byrnes is known for his crazy mohawk and outlandish opinions, but he may not be too far off on this one. If Smoltz is projecting the Reds to be a .500 team then they’d definitely be in the playoff race, right?
Byrnes cites an improved starting rotation and a fearsome offense as to the reason why he believes Cincinnati has a legitimate shot at the postseason. It took 96 wins to take the NL Central crown last season. That’s 29 more wins than the Reds had in 2018. Could we see that big of a turnaround?
The short answer is no. But that still doesn’t mean that Cincinnati will not make the playoffs. Look at what’s happened this offseason in the National League Central. The Milwaukee Brewers, who won the division last season after a one-game playoff with the Chicago Cubs, have arguably gotten better.
The Milwaukee Brewers also have last year’s National League MVP in Christian Yelich. The Brewers added Yasmani Grandal and re-signed Mike Moustakas. Their rotation, however, does not appear as strong as it was in 2018 and the Reds now have their former pitching Derek Johnson.
The St. Louis Cardinals added a big piece to their lineup when they made a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks for Paul Goldschmidt. The six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner will certainly help to upgrade the Redbirds’ offense.
You could make the argument that both the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates did little to nothing to improve their rosters. Now, Chicago had one of the better teams in the National League in 2018 and Pittsburgh enters 2019 with a very solid rotation.
The bottomline is, the National League Central is the toughest division in all of baseball. Yes, the NL East will also be competitive and the AL East had three 90-plus win teams in 2018, but top to bottom, no division is tougher than the NL Central. But, what does that mean?
To me, it means that it won’t take 96 wins to win the division in 2019. The division is more balanced, meaning that all five teams are likely to beat up on each other throughout the season and the win total for taking the division in 2019 will be much less. I’d look for 90 wins, and perhaps even fewer, to win the NL Central this coming season. Just like last year, this division will come down to the wire.
So, is Eric Byrnes right? Will the Cincinnati Reds make the postseason? I’ll hold off on my prediction for now, but the possibility for improvement is definitely there. John Smoltz’s prediction of a .500 season seems much more attainable right now, but a postseason run shouldn’t be scoffed at either.