Recently, while at a Bats game in Louisville, I said to someone that if you’d told me the Reds would be on the wrong side of a lot of 7-5 games this season, I wouldn’t have been surprised. But 1-0 games? 3-2 games? No way.
The Reds are 22nd in the league in scoring. They should be top-5. Equally as surprising: they’re top-5 in pitching (and that’s underselling, depending on your preferred stat, they could be considered the best pitching team in baseball so far) when we wouldn’t have been that surprised to see them at 22nd.
And even with the weird offense, according to baseball-reference, they should have the second best record in the league (behind the Dodgers). They have lost six more games than they should have.
The real issue is simple. The Reds are 6-13 in 1-run games. The studies that have been done show, pretty convincingly, that 1-run games are tossups. Meaning, good teams and bad teams both tend to be around .500 in those games. The Reds “should” have three more wins there. That would make them 21-20. Not as good as their run differential suggests, but not bad either.
And that brings me to another point. We are only 25% of the way through the season. Yes, a lot of time has passed, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s still definitely early enough that, say, three games worth of bad luck can have a dramatic affect on where you sit in the standings. We are deep enough into the season to be concerned, but not deep enough that it’s time to give up.
And that gets us back to the pitching and hitting. When it comes down to it, what’s happened with the offense is much more shocking than what’s happened with the pitching. It’s not surprising to see Castillo or Mahle put it all together. It’s not surprising that Gray and Roark have been positive additions to the staff. We might expect them to not be quite so amazing this year, but the performances are all within reasonable expectations for their abilities.
That’s not the case with the offense. Sooner or later, all (or nearly) all of the regulars will start hitting like we know we can. Indeed, for the last two weeks, the Reds have had a roughly league average offense. That’s still not where they should be, but it is a lot closer to what was expected at the beginning of the year. Will this team make the playoffs? Probably not. Are they a good bet to play over .500 for the rest of the year? I think so.
But we’ll see.