Let me start off by saying that when working with numbers, everyone cherry picks, myself included. I do it for my real job every day and I do it when looking up Reds stats to write about. My goal is to find data that tells a story. Without the stories, the data doesn’t mean a whole lot.

One of the cherry picks I saw on Twitter recently was in regard to the Reds performance vs the Marlins this year. With a 6-1 record and a +30 run differential, their record vs everyone else 60-74 with a -22 run differential. 66-75 isn’t very good, but it looks way better than the alternative. So are the Reds actually worse than we think because of their six wins vs Miami?

I am not here to definitively say no, but I don’t think it is a fair point to make. And while the season has certainly not been good, there have been bright spots that are more encouraging then six wins against Miami. For instance, the Reds are 16-10 this year against the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. That is a 0.615 winning percentage (and +13 run differential) against teams with a combined 0.600 winning percentage on the season, including a 3-game sweep of the best team in baseball in Houston. Should these games be looked at differently as well?

Another example may bring up painful memories, so I apologize in advance. The 2012 Reds won the NL Central with 97 wins and needed an epic collapse to fall short of a visit to the NLCS. Of those 97 wins, 39 of them were against five teams with a combined 0.407 winning percentage. Two of those teams had over 100 losses (Cubs and Astros, lol). Factoring out those games, that squad was a pedestrian 58-51 with a +6 run differential. Did this fact make that team any less likely to win the World Series? Did it doom them to lose three straight games against the eventual World Champions? I’ll admit that it could be debated, but I am going to say no.

For the most part, a better team will win more games against a worse team over the course of a season series. While there are the occasional outliers (3-0 vs HOU, 5-11 vs PIT), it seems wrong to second guess the Reds for beating a team that is not as good as they are. It would be much more concerning if the Reds has a losing record against one of the worst teams in the league.

The bigger problem seems to be the fact that they are 12-29 against the Cardinals, Indians, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals. If the Reds want to be a playoff contender, they need to play like they have against the Astros, Braves and Cubs all season long. And that includes beating up on teams that they should beat up on. The bottom line is that nobody asks the World Series Champion what their strength of schedule or strength of victory was. Another 6-1 record vs Miami in 2020 would be a good start for our Redlegs to get there.

10 Responses

  1. Don

    Matthew, Great article, I was looking at how the Reds have played against certain team and their record just yesterday.

    My conclusion was similar. For the Reds to be competitive they have to win more in the division.
    Cubs – 9-7
    Brewers 8-8
    Cards 7-12
    Pirates 5-11
    Total = 29-38

    Cards are 38-25
    Cubs are 31-26
    Brewers are 34-30

    If the Reds would have been vs Cards (10-9) and Pirates(8-8) so far this year. That is +6 in wins,
    +6 in wins for Reds would have them @ 72-69 today. That would be 4.5 games of Cards and 5 from Cubs and 4.5 back in the Wildcard.
    That would be marginally in the race with 21 to play but the Reds would almost control their own destiny with 6 games vs D’backs, 3 vs Cubs and 3 vs Brewers.

    Nice to play what if scenarios.

    The being better vs division (Cards and Pirates) is not all that is needed to get to playoffs but that is a must do in 2020 to be in playoff hunt.

  2. Broseph

    Very true. I was actually looking at the Cubs schedule for the rest of the season (because I was holding hope Philly, NYM, or Milwaukee would take the 2nd wildcard).While the race is very much alive – it’s looking like the Cubs are going back to post season. They’re playing the Reds, Pirates x2, Padres, Cardinals.

    They barely kept afloat during their guantlet earlier in the year and are now pulling away against lesser teams.

    Reds have to have similar ability to get back in the playoff hunt moving forward.

  3. Doug Gray

    They’re already doing that kind of stuff with travel/when to leave/when to arrive and things like that Jim. It’s pretty cool.

  4. Centerfield

    I think with the Reds, it isn’t just beating good teams and losing to the bad ones. They to have problems beating bad pitchers and rookies. There are probably more of these types of players on bad teams. The guy last night was topping out at 85 mph, but made the hitters look awful. It would have been a good game to start slow ball hitters Peraza and Votto.

    • Matthew Habel

      Fair point, and the same could be said of the Astros series which looked good but could have just as easily been three 1-run losses. But at what point do both of those things together mean something?

      Or their record vs the Cubs/Brewers vs the cards/pirates. Did they get fortunate to play well against the former or unfortunate to play poorly against the latter?

      Not really sure where I’m going with this, just killing time on a Friday tbh

    • Rob

      Totally agree. Several times in the last month though the Reds have scored 1-2 runs against starters with 6 and 7 ERAs. And Marty will say this dude is really on. Truth be told, the Reds aren’t professional hitters.

  5. RedNat

    I wouldn’t mind to see mlb handicap the schedule similar to the nfl based on payroll or previous season record. Redsox, yankees, Cubs, dodgers should play each other more often and the Reds, Royals, Tigers should play each other more . could make for some more interesting playoff races

  6. Fish

    You’re kinda doing the opposite of what makes baseball so statistically interesting. Since you get such a large sample of games, the season is pretty much a reflection of the teams true talent level (although I’d love to see a stat on standard deviation of runs and runs allowed because I think there is predictive value there).

    When you break a large sample into smaller samples, in my mind, it falls apart. Players get hurt, slump, go on hot streaks, etc. You can hit different pitchers in the rotation and they themselves are subject to a larger amount of randomness than hitters.

    I’m willing to look at data that says it’s predictive, but I don’t think it would be better than other measures.

  7. SomeCallMeTim

    This is just my opinion… The only thing that matters is where you are at the end of the big 162. I loved stats as a kid on the back of baseball cards, but unless the data reveals what a team has to work on, what good is it? The only sport where strength of victory or even the avoidance of “bad losses” is football, and that is because it CAN effect the postseason both in NCAA and NFL tie breakers (points allowed/scored).

    If you want the ultimate case file on how strength of victories is a hollow point, look at the 1960 Yankees. They pummeled Yankees for 3 games, but the Pirates won game 7, and that is all that mattered. In the end, it’s just like my favorite golf expression: it’s not how, it’s how many. Same applies to any sports when it comes to victories and championship.

  8. SomeCallMeTim

    I said that wrong…sorry. The Yankees pummeled the Pirates for 3 games, but ultimately the Pirates were the victors.