To say that the Cincinnati Reds had high expectations coming into the 2013 season would be an understatement. After an incredible 2012 season where they won 97 games, Cincinnati patched it’s greatest weakness- center field. The acquisition of Shin Soo Choo was seen as a great move by the Reds, one that would improve their offense to elite status. Choo was to join established hitters Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips to form a lineup that would be a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Everything was looking great for the 2013 season.
So far, while the Reds’ record remains impressive at 45-34 (third in the NL Central), the Reds are not where they want to be at this point in the season. The St. Louis Cardinals have broken out to become the best team in baseball, with a 48-29 record and +114 run differential, and the Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t too far behind them. More importantly, though, is the fact that over the past few weeks or so, the Reds have been exposed for what they are- a flawed team.
West Coast trips are never fun, but they’re not usually this bad. After dropping 2 of 3 in Arizona, the Reds got pulverized the Oakland A’s, with AJ Griffin’s first career complete game shutout on Wednesday being a low point. Against these high-powered teams, the Reds have been exposed for what they are- an above average team going through a rough patch. The Cincinnati Reds are not an elite team even when they are not slumping as they are right now.
The Reds’ record remains inflated due to the lower-quality teams that they have played. Against teams below the .500 mark, the Reds have the best record in baseball at 30-8. However, against teams that are above .500, the Reds have scuffled, posting the 24th worst mark in baseball at 15-25. This, obviously, is a huge gap and exposes something about the 2013 Cincinnati Reds- that they are not nearly as good as their record would indicate. For reference, the Cardinals are 18-15 against teams over .500 and the Pirates are 18-14, raising questions about whether or not the Reds are a legitimate postseason contender, as nearly 70% of their wins have been against bad teams.
Does this mean that the Reds won’t make the playoffs? Absolutely not. In fact, there are even some things in the data that give the Reds a bit of hope. For one, the Reds have played 38 games against sub .500 teams, whereas the Pirates and Cardinals have played 45 and 44 respectively, so logically the Reds would have a softer part of their schedule coming up. Keeping in line with this, the Reds have played 40 games against teams over the .500 mark, whereas the Pirates and Cardinals have only played 32 and 33 respectively. After this tough stretch the Reds are going through, having to play 2 division leaders (in Arizona and Oakland) as well as the Rangers (who are only .5 games back to the A’s) all in a row, things should ease up considerably.
The 2013 season is not lost for the Cincinnati Reds, by no means. However, if they are going to truly perform like an elite team and make the playoffs, they’re going to need to perform better against the top teams in the league. Pittsburgh and St. Louis, while their schedules have been slightly easier, have come up to the challenge of beating the good teams more so than Cincinnati. As of right now, the Reds’ have the most misleading record in baseball.