The 2023 season is the Reds best chance to win the NL Central in 10 years

The last time the Cincinnati Reds won the NL Central, the Houston Astros were still in the division.

Cincinnati Reds celebrate a victory.
Cincinnati Reds celebrate a victory. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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It's been 10 seasons since the Cincinnati Reds won the NL Central Division Championship. This past decade has been one to forget for Reds fans.

In the 10 seasons since Cincinnati last won the NL Central, the Reds finished last in the division four times. The Reds were only able to compile a record above .500 three times during that 10-year span, with one of those being the 31-win team during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign.

But this year's Reds squad doesn't have the same vibe. Thanks in large part to Nick Krall and Reds front office, Cincinnati has completely revitalized their roster. The 2023 version of the Cincinnati Reds are nothing like what we've seen the past 10 seasons, but how do they stack up with the 2012 NL Central champs?

How does the 2023 Reds roster match up with the 2012 team?

At first glance, the 2023 Reds are significantly younger than the 2012 squad that won the NL Central 10 years ago. This year's team features three rookie starters, and there could be another on the way. In the series finale against the Colorado Rockies, David Bell sent out a lineup of seven hitters that were 27 years old or younger.

The 2012 Reds routinely featured a starting lineup of four players (Ryan Hanigan, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and Ryan Ludwick) over the age of 30. With Wil Myers having recently been DFA'd, only Joey Votto (39), Curt Casali (34), and Luke Maile (32) are over 30 years old.

The 2012 team, on the surface, had much more power. Led by Jay Bruce, who slugged 34 home runs and 35 doubles, the 2012 Reds team also had the safety blanket of Joey Votto in his prime. Votto held an on-base percentage near .500 that season, and though he hit just 14 home runs, Votto posted a batting average of nearly .340 with 44 doubles and more walks than strikeouts.

This season, the Reds haven't seen many balls leave the yard. But recently, the red-hot bat of Jake Fraley, along with rookie Spencer Steer have been smashing round trippers on a regular basis. Throw in Elly De La Cruz, and the potential is there for this year's lineup to do damage. The Reds currently have 69 home runs. The 2012 Reds crushed 172 homers.

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Both the 2012 NL Central Division winners and 2023 version of the Cincinnati Reds featured an elite closer with a sub 2.00 ERA and a K/9 greater than 15. Of course, those two stars are Aroldis Chapman (2012) and Alexis Diaz (2023).

The biggest difference between the 2012 NL Central champs and this year's Reds team is the starting rotation. Johnny Cueto anchored a rotation featuring Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, and Homer Bailey.

This year's Reds team features a lot of second-year hurlers and the team's best starter at the moment is arguably rookie Andrew Abbott. Will these young arms be able to hold up over the long haul or will Cincinnati's front office need to swing a trade or two in order to keep the Reds in the chase for the NL Central crown?

In 2012, after 75 games, the Cincinnati Reds were 41-34 and led the NL Central by just one game over the Pittsburgh Pirates. By the way, the Houston Astros were in still in the National League the last time Cincinnati won the division.

In 2023, the Reds have compiled a win-loss record of 40-35 and lead the NL Central by 1.5 games over the Milwaukee Brewers. It's an exciting time to be a Reds fan. Buckle up Cincinnati, the fun is just getting started.

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