Cincinnati Reds: The win-loss record tells an incomplete story

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds bats against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 09, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds bats against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 09, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds enter Saturday’s game against the San Francisco Giants with a record of 17-22. Don’t let the record fool you, this team is not that bad.

I know that fans of the Cincinnati Reds are getting tired of hearing the word patience. After 4 consecutive 90-plus loss seasons and a 1-8 start to begin 2019, the frustration that Reds Country is feeling is understandable. However, a closer look a number will show that this team is very close to being competitive, and dare I say it, in contention.

As you’re reading this, the Cincinnati Reds are 17-22 and sitting in the bottom of the Uber-competitive National League Central. The Chicago Cubs, at 22-14, currently lead the division with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals nipping at their heels.

After a horrible start to the 2019 season that saw the Reds lose 8 straight games, David Bell and company have righted the ship and the team is 16-14 since the 1-8 start. The Reds scored just 21 runs during those first 9 games (2.34 runs per game) to begin the season.

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Over the last 30 games, the Cincinnati Reds have scored 140 runs (4.67 runs per game) and several of the power-hitters in the lineup have found their swing. Eugenio Suárez leads the way for the Reds with 11 round trippers, while Derek Dietrich has 10 of his own. Jesse Winker has also sent 9 balls out of the ballpark and all three have an OPS+ above 100.

While a lot of fans vent their frustrations over the lack of production thus far from Yasiel Puig and Joey Votto, the track record of both players suggest that they’ll pick it up in the coming weeks. Votto is notorious for his slow starts to the season.

Last season, Puig got out of the gates slowly, but The Wild Horse kick started his season after the first month. In April of 2018, Puig hit a paltry .193 with no homers and just 7 RBIs. However, once May rolled around, Puig hit .283 with 5 home runs and 8 RBIs. Then, during the month of June, the right-handed slugger had a slash line of .303/.367/.517 with another 5 home runs and 12 RBIs.

Let’s look at the impact from some unexpected places. Raise your hand if you thought Derek Dietrich would be second on the team in home runs. I’m assuming no one raised their hand. How about José Iglesias? Did anyone think he’d be leading the Reds in batting average?

The impact that Dietrich and Iglesias have had on this team is phenomenal. Dietrich’s swagger seems to have brought some much needed energy to this team. His penchant for clutch hits hasn’t lost its luster either.

When the Reds brought in Jose Iglesias on a minor league deal this offseason, most fans knew they’d found a slick-fielding backup to José Peraza, but I’m assuming very few, if any, fans thought that Iglesias would be bringing his bat with him. His .283 batting average leads the team and his 7 doubles are second on the team to only Eugenio Suárez.

Let’s talk pitching, shall we? If you’d have told me when the season started that the Cincinnati Reds would lead the National League in ERA, I’d have laughed in your face. However, that’s exactly what’s going on right now. As a whole, the Reds pitching staff leads the NL with a 3.26 ERA.

The Cincinnati Reds have pitched a shut out 5 different times this season, second only to the NL Central-leading Cubs who have 6. The Reds’ staff is the best among all NL clubs in terms of home runs allowed, which is perhaps the most staggering statistic considering the hitter friendly ballpark they play in.

The Reds lead the National League in FIP (3.40), ERA+ (140), H9 (7.5), and HR9 (0.8). Unfortunately for the pitching staff, the hitters haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain. However, some recent surges in offensive production suggest the bats are beginning to heat up.

The schedule makers were not kind to the Cincinnati Reds in early going either. Through the first 39 games of the season, the Reds have spent more time on the road than they have at home. The Reds have played 17 games at home compared to the 26 games on the road. That number will climb to 28 once the Reds are done with this West Coast road trip.

The Reds’ trips to the West Coast have come early and often this season. If you subtract the two “home games” the Reds played in Monterrey, Mexico against the St. Louis Cardinals, when the Reds return home next Tuesday, they will have played 13 games in the state of California and just 15 games at Great American Ball Park.

Finally, two metrics that give you a clearer picture of the true identity of this year’s Cincinnati Reds team are the Pythagorean W/L record and the Simple Ratings System (SRS). Both metrics show you how close this team is to competing with the best in the game.

According to BaseballReference.com, the Reds’ Pythagorean W/L record is 23-16. Essentially what that means is that based on the number of runs scored and number of runs allowed, the Cincinnati Reds should be just 0.5 game out of first place in the NL Central.

I know there are umpteen different cliches that can be used when discussing a Pythagorean W/L record. “The games are not played on paper,” or “You are what your record says you are,” or “That’s why they play the game.” I get it. But, it’s good information to have and it shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly.

Basically, it tells you that if the Cincinnati Reds had balanced their hitting and pitching performances, the team would be sitting 7 games over .500 and David Bell would be leading the charge for NL Manager of the Year.

Another metric to look at is is SRS. Again, according to BaseballReference.com, Cincinnati’s SRS is 0.6.  This rating tells you how much better or worse a team his compared to the average Major League team. With a rating of 0.6, the Reds are theoretically better than every team in the NL East and three of the five teams in the NL West.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs lead the way with a rating of 1.4. The St. Louis Cardinals (1.0), Milwaukee Brewers (0.8), and Arizona Diamondbacks (0.8) are the only other ball  clubs who have a better SRS than Cincinnati.

Next. Who might the Reds take with their first-round pick?

A poor start to the season, combined with the last five years of losing have a large number of Reds fans very pessimistic about the trajectory of this year’s team. However, I’m here to tell you that the best is yet to come and I expect the Reds to be at or above .500 when Memorial Day rolls around.