Each Monday morning, we ask a few of our authors to answer an important question concerning the Reds. Please offer your answer in the comments.

Question: Are the Reds better than their record?

Nick Carrington: No doubt the Reds are better than their record. They may not lead the National League in ERA all season, but the pitching staff is better than advertised and will keep them in games even as they regress a bit. Remember the glory days of Asher Wojciechowski, Tim Adleman, and Deck McGuire? The immortal Lisalverto Bonilla? Things look a little brighter on the mound these days. The offense has tried to give aneurysms to all of us. They have four regulars with a wRC+ of 78 or below and two former regulars (Schebler and Kemp) who gave them -1.3 in fWAR before they were shipped to AAA or cut. But the offense isn’t this bad. Joey Votto may or may not be an elite hitter anymore, but he isn’t 22% below average. Yasiel Puig has hit like Billy Hamilton in a bad year. No way that continues. Nick Senzel has arrived; Scooter is coming, and the runs will as well. The Reds will go on a good run soon enough. Keep the faith! This will be a fun season.

Chad Dotson: No question whatsoever. I’m not sure it’s even arguable, though I look forward to seeing the responses from the other distinguished writers here (and the commenters below). We can look at the simplest of metrics to see that the Reds are better than their record. For example, by run differential (Reds are +30), Cincinnati’s expected record would be 7 games over .500 at this point (and the sixth-best mark in all of baseball). That’s an admittedly crude way to look at it, but even BP’s adjusted standings are in full agreement that the Reds deserve better than their record shows. In addition, Cincinnati’s collective team BABIP (.242) is far and away the worst in the league. There is plenty of room for improvement, and I expect that we’ll be seeing some better baseball in the coming weeks and months.

Jeff Gangloff: I’m going to say yes, but only slightly better. For as much as the offense has underperformed/been unlucky to start the year (lead the league in BABIP, most players performing under career norms), the pitching has been performing above its ceiling. Is this pitching staff good enough to finish top 5 in MLB in pretty much every statistical category through the end of the season? Probably not. Is this offense going to continue to produce runs in the bottom third of all teams in MLB? I don’t think so. So for me, both of those components, as well as a little increase in luck, are going to end up meeting somewhere in the middle. How many extra wins does this equate too? I’m not sure … but it probably ends up being closer to .500 than 6 games under.

Matt Habel: I think the Reds are better than their record but still do not believe they are a playoff team. I predicted 78 wins prior to the year and I am still pretty confident in that number. The offense will most likely get better but the pitching will also most likely regress a bit. The biggest issue facing the Reds my opinion is the strength of the division. Wins are not going to be easy to come by against any NL Central team, all of which could potentially be fighting for a playoff spot down the stretch. If they were playing in a weaker division, I would feel much more optimistic about making a strong run to try to break .500.

Bill Lack: Guess it depends on what you mean by “better than their record”, but I believe so. I base this partially on analytics/statistics and partially on gut instinct. The pitching has been so much better than anyone could logically have predicted, especially the starting staff. If their offense had been even average, I think they’d be challenging for the top of the division (or even the NL’s best record) right now.

The offense has been almost historically awful, which you have to believe will turn around. Almost uniformly, their offense has been below career averages and even below expected norms for an off year. These many average/good hitters can’t continue to tank the way they have through the first quarter of the season, it’s almost an impossibility. If the offense gets to even league average, the starting pitching doesn’t implode, and David Bell doesn’t wear the bullpen to a nub by Memorial Day, I expect this team to go on a tear. The question is, how big a hole will they be digging themselves out of when it happens?

Jackson Thurnquist: Absolutely. The Reds have a +23 run differential, which comes out to a 22-16 Pythagorean Win-Loss record. Their pitching staff is 1st in the majors in fWAR, 2nd in ERA and FIP, 3rd in xFIP, and 5th in K%. Unfortunately, they’ve played in more one-run games than any team in the majors, and their record in one-run games is abysmal to the point of hilarity.  There are serious concerns about an offense that, a quarter of the way into the season, still ranks in the bottom 5 teams in the majors in wRC+, wOBA, and fWAR. But a team that is 2nd in runs allowed and 22nd in runs scored should be much closer to at least an average team, not one that is again on pace to lose 90 games. There are a cacophony of bad-luck reasons one can point to (the Reds lead the league in missed ball-strike calls against them, their BABIP on hard hit balls is very low, the poor timing of their offense) but I suspect that until players like Raisel Iglesias, Yasiel Puig, and Joey Votto begin playing like they’re supposed to, it will be hard to argue about dumb luck much longer.

21 Responses

  1. PhP

    The thing most frustrating about this team is how close they are to being successful, but just keep finding ways to lose. Even if you discount all the early season games when they couldn’t score during the 7 game losing streak and just look at the Giants series it makes your head spin.

    I went back and looked at the box scores and (if I didnt add incorrectly) they were losing for a grand total of 4 innings across those 7 games. Unfortunately for them, 3 of those innings were the last inning of the game. If they just could have not blown those 3 games they would be sitting 1 game over .500 and everyone would feel much better about the team. Those losses are demoralizing to me, you see the talent they have but just can’t put it all together.

    • Mike C

      Far more important than the average number of runs per game is the median number of runs scored. Sample size is getting larger, but it’s still a factor here. The Reds have only scored a total of 33 runs in their 20 lowest scoring games, and in 9 of those games they failed to score more than 1 run, shut out in 6 of those games. Those numbers reflect a team that ranks 26th in OBP and dead last in AVG. Are they better than their record, likely so, but by how many wins? The good news is that the trend is somewhat improving in the last 20 games, but they’ve also faced fairly mediocre competition up to this point in the season. These next 15 games are huge. 12 of the games against division opponents and 3 against a really good Dodger team.

  2. PhP

    How long does Castillo have to pitch like this before you consider him an ace? Because up to this point there is no arguing he hasnt been one so far.

  3. Roger Garrett

    Reds are a much better team and its not even close to the last few years.They have a legit starting staff,a good pen and a good defense.The data says it and the eye test confirms it.The offense has/is holding them back to being closer to or above 500.Reds are just not as good as the Cards,Brewers or Cubs(probably right now the best team in baseball) and they play in the same division.They have along way to go but not as far as some may think.They found a gem in Iggy who they need to sign right now.Tom said his lifetime average is 270 so with his glove its more then good enough.Need to extend Puig and their outfield is set for a few years with maybe Senzel moving in to the infield at some point.Too many holes on offense with guys underforming and with Peraza and Tucker getting lots of playing time.The right side of the infield and at the catcher spot will need addressed going forward.What to do with Scooter,what to do with Tucker and what to do as Joey continues to decline.Just have to field hitters 1-8 to compete but we are again much better but the record may not even show it this year.

  4. Vancouver Dave

    This is demonstrably not true. One-run games are far more subject to luck than 10-1 games. For that reason, Pythagorean “records” are more predictive than actual records.

  5. Mike C

    Sample size matters. In 4 games they have scored 49 runs and in 20 games they have scored only 33 runs. You have to consider your size and your outliers.

  6. Big Ed

    Vancouver, the Pythagorean stuff is subject to small sample size alerts, as well. The Reds have wins of 14-0, 12-1, 9-2, 12-4 and 7-0, with only two losses of 5 runs. Sure, that is in part testament to the pitching, but the Reds will eventually lose their share of 11-2 games.

    I suppose VaRed’s point is that running up the score against the 8th man in the other team’s bullpen is not particularly instructive, compared to what happens against the better relievers that pitch in the closer games. All the hitters can hit the 2016 JJ Hoover; the better barometer is what they can do against the Josh Haders of the world.

  7. Big Ed

    I am in the “you are what your record says you are” camp. They are on pace to win 73 games. That is probably a good estimate for the year. They have been lucky to have no pitching injuries (other than Wood, who I doubt will throw a pitch this season), and circumstances will lead to their trading Puig and maybe Roark at the deadline, which will hurt their results in the last 50+ games.

    They have Puig, Votto, Barnhart and Peraza producing a collective nothing, although Puig is snapping out of it. Puig has about 11 weeks left as a Red, and I doubt the other 3 will contribute much offensively for the rest of the season. Barnhart’s swing has gotten too long.

    They ought to hit Votto 5th or 6th, but they can’t because they don’t want to offend him. Votto apparently said when he signed the deal that he would retire if he couldn’t produce. He marches to the beat of a different-enough drummer that it might be true, but . . .

  8. BigRedMike

    The run differential analysis is not really relevant that stage. Not enough games. It is more of a full season analysis.

    The Reds will hit better, the issue, as others have pointed out is that is the pitching really that good? Seems that the pitching will regress as the hitting regresses.

    Castillo is great and Senzel has been good. Additional young talent is needed in order to compete. Not sure where that is going to come from.

    Hopefully, the Reds go on a run like the Red Sox and Cubs after slow starts to the season.

  9. Harold

    Whether they are or not, they are 18-23 at the moment- that’s all that really matters. I am inclined to say they are better than their record but I am a hopelessly optimistic Reds fan, too.

    That said, while I think are better than their record, they are no better than a middling middle of the road MLB team, IMO. The Reds “should” be 9-1 vs A’s and Giants- instead they are 5-5. Quality teams don’t let games against mediocre opposition consistently slip away. Even so, they are more fun to watch this year but they have a ways to go to be considered a contender.

  10. TR

    I think the Reds record reflects pretty much the way they’ve played the last month and a half. My expectations were the offense would have been better and the pitching not so good. But with Senzel in a key defensive position and batting leadoff, I feel confident the Reds record will improve as the season continues.

  11. Eric Wormus

    My answer is a firm “No,” they are what they are, a last place team that is going to lose more games than it wins. My larger problem is with the premise of the question.
    The following players are free agents after this season:

    Alex Wood (who may not even pitch this year, so whatever).

    Dietrich and Iglesias are two of the 3 most productive Reds position players this year. Scooter was #1 last year. All of them are going to be on the wrong side of 30 next year. Puig and Wood have no trade value. Scooter has no trade value. Kemp has already been cut. So how do they get better next year? This isn’t a young team like the 2014 Cubs where even if they’re losing a bunch of close games you can see a bright future. The Reds loaded up on contract year players for this year and struck out miserably. How are they better next year? Seriously, in what way are the 2020 Reds better than the 2019 Reds other than Nick Senzel will get to start Opening Day probably? The front office has failed repeatedly and failed miserably.

    • Burtgummer

      Deatrich has one year of arbitration left I believe

    • Eric Wormus

      I’m sorry, Miami cut him loose with two years of team control left? Holy crap what a dumpster fire.

  12. indydoug

    Reds on pace for 71-91. They are likely a bit better than that at least as currently constituted. Returns of Scooter & Wood will help but Reds will likely lose some of their impending free agents at trading deadline if they continue at same 20 under .500 pace. I’d say they finish 76-8g which would have them go 58-63 the rest of the way.

  13. Mike

    Their record shows they are what they are, a last place team. Pitching is great. How far Votto has sunk is amazing. No one is hitting 300. Not a great team.

  14. Chris Holbert

    Not to be argumentative, but Votto and Scooter coming off the bench, that will never happen…….

  15. Lwblogger2

    A team’s record is what the team is. Are they, in general, playing better than their record would indicate? Yes, a little bit. This team needs Votto to hit much better than he has. After last season and the start of this season, I am starting to wonder if he’ll ever be a plus hitter again. You can’t carry an average to slightly above average hitter at 1B unless you have a bunch of others that rake. The Reds don’t. Votto is signed for a few more years. While expected the last couple years to be upside down, I didn’t see such a quick and dramatic decline.

    The Reds needed to go all-in and try to extend their window while Votto was still Votto. They didn’t.

    This team is a lot more fun and certainly better than the last few years’ teams have been. Still, not optimistic for over .500. Just hoping they beat 77 wins.