Fangraphs released their projections for the 2020 season yesterday. There’s some good news and some bad news – it may just depend on what you are looking for. When it comes to their projections, the National League Central division is competitive. The Cubs, Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals are all within four games of each other. The division, though, has by far the worst projected record for a division winner within baseball, too. Part of that could be that the division is good 1-4. But the National League East is also pretty close and their division winner, the New York Mets, happen to be two wins better than the National League Central winner.

Taking a look into the division, the Cincinnati Reds are projected to finish at 82-80 and in second place. The Chicago Cubs are atop the division at 85-77. The Brewers are a game behind the Reds, as are the Cardinals. The lowly Pittsburgh Pirates are projected to go 70-92.

Much like we’ve seen with other projected standings late this offseason – the division is close and could realistically go in any of four directions. Every team in the division, except for the Pirates, are relatively close in talent. The top four teams all won the division in at least 16% of the simulations that were run, and they all made the playoffs in at least 25% of the simulations run. The Reds took the division 24.4% of the time and took a wild card spot another 11.8% of the time – giving them a spot in the playoffs 36.2% of the time.

Ben Clemens wrote about the work behind the projections a little bit on Thursday. There was a highlight of teams that outperform their projected WAR total, and one of those teams was the Reds.

The Rangers and Reds mainly stand out for their stalwart starting rotations. I’m not exactly sure on the logic here, but my guess is that considering the way we allocate playing time to starters, having an above-average fifth and sixth starter impacts win percentage in a way that WAR can’t quite capture. Our WAR numbers take into account run environments that pitchers create, but BaseRuns doesn’t. That difference could account for the gap. This is, to be clear, extremely off-the-cuff and speculative.

Cincinnati, as you are likely aware, has one of the better rotations in baseball. Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Trevor Bauer have all been All-Star caliber pitchers over the last two seasons. But behind those three are Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley. DeSclafani posted a 3.89 ERA (117 ERA+) in 2019, while Miley posted a 3.98 ERA (116 ERA+) last season. While you can’t just expect a full on repeat performance, the Reds #4 and #5 starters performed much like a lot of teams #2 and #3 starters. That depth, along with Tyler Mahle as the sixth option just puts the Reds at an advantage over most teams in those kinds of match ups.

The fake games begin tomorrow afternoon in Goodyear as the Reds take on Cleveland in their shared home ballpark. At that point there will be about five weeks until we get to the real deal and Opening Day.

22 Responses


    We will win 90+ and be in 1st place as well as make it to the NLCS. Scripture!

  2. Hotto4Votto

    All of the projections show a tight race for both the division and WC. That makes sense to me the way the teams stack up on paper. The bunched competition just highlights how important an upgrade at SS could potentially be if one could be found.

  3. Hotto4Votto

    The Diamondbacks are competing this year, just probably not for the division. But they’re definitely “going for it”. In fact, if teams cannibalize each other in the Central and the East the D-backs May be the beneficiaries by have three teams in their division that won’t be as competitive.

  4. My Beloved Reds

    I’ll admit that I haven’t looked into this, but can someone tell me why the Braves are not getting much regular season love heading into this year. They won 90 games in 2018 and 97 games last year. Did they lose a lot of talent this past off season?

    • Matt WI

      Uh, you got your Milwaukee’s mixed up- Braves, not Brewers 😉

    • My Beloved Reds

      You’re thinking of the Brewers.

    • doctor

      Braves lost Josh Donaldson and Dallas Keuchel to free agency, and Brian McCann retired, though Keuchel in theory offset by sign of Cole Hamels and McCann by Travis D’Arnaud.

  5. RedNat

    kind of stinks because in our “all in year” for the decade everybody else in the NL IS really good!

    • Doug Gray

      I’ll take a pretty firm stance that 2020 isn’t an all-in year any more than 2021, or 2022 is.

      • citizen54

        Bauer and Desclafani are going to be gone after this year. That’s 2/5 of the Reds starting rotation. Miley is almost certainly going to be worse in 2021 than he is in 2020. So the rotation is going to be much worse in 2021 than it is now.

        As you have seen from the FG projections, the position players just aren’t that good to begin with despite all the money spent in the offseason. Moustakas and Castellanos are average players who were given long contracts and are probably going to be worse in 2021 than they are in 2020. Senzel, Winker and Suarez are probably the only players who are going to be better in 2021 than they are in 2020.

        With the way the front office set this team up, 2020 is definitely looking like the peak for the next five years which is sad because is still because they are still only competing with a bunch of other teams for a wild card. The farm system is now in the bottom 10 after flipping a bunch of promising prospects for guys with one year of control so there is little hope coming if the Reds don’t win this year. The only real hopes to become all stars are Hunter Greene and maybe Stephenson and those are long shots. The Reds are looking like KC in 2014 except they are nowhere as good as KC was at its peak.

      • Doug Gray

        If the Reds had no money at all to spend and those guys were leaving, I’d be more concerned. But I expect them to have a bunch of money to spend in free agency. And I’m just not going to agree that Moustakas and Castellanos are average players.

      • citizen54

        ZiPS thinks they are average.

        Mike Moustakas 2.3 WAR
        Nick Castellanos 1.9 WAR

        Yes, the Reds have about $23 MM coming off the books for Disco and Bauer but they are going to need to get two starters with that money in 2021. Payroll for 2021 is currently at $102MM but they have a bunch of guys going into arbitration, Castillo and Winker being the main ones. Also, if they choose upgrade SS in free agency that is going to put them way above the 2020 payroll of $133 MM.

      • Hotto4Votto

        To be fair…Downs and Gray both have been consistently ranked above or near the range Reds top prospects (Lodolo and Greene) and by most ranking services, and certainly ranked ahead of Stephenson. And while we’re here, he also said long shots to be All Stars, which is a pretty fair statement about most prospects in general. So there’s certainly a valid argument that the prospects traded away are just as, if not more, promising than the ones we kept (especially considering the Reds hadn’t selected Lodolo at the time…so he wasn’t “kept”).

  6. Doc

    Considering that the Reds have a lot more room for intradivisional fattening against the Pirates than do the other teams, that could account for at least half of the wins they need, but they also need to beat the other teams in the division once or twice more than they did in 2019.

    I could care less about these picks of who will win. The games that count are played on the field, not on somebody’s computer simulation.

  7. Matt WI

    At minimum they need to reverse it and go 12-7 against the Pirates this year.

    • Cal Hannah

      I don’t see that being a problem. The pitching staff has become one of the better ones in all of baseball and the offense has improved dramatically.

  8. Matt WI

    This is not a statement I want to hear from the manager of team that is trying to get back into the playoffs (Bell on Nick Senzell): “In some ways, I think he’s ahead,” Bell countered. “Depends on what you’re measuring that against. I don’t think it’s fair to even talk about a date when he’s going to be back. I mean the big thing is when he’s back healthy, I want him back healthy, you know? I don’t know when that’s going to be. I’m hopeful it’s early in the season, Opening Day. I just don’t know. I don’t even know if it’s fair … He’s working so hard to get himself back. To put a date on it, when you’re dealing with your body healing, I just don’t feel like it’s fair to talk about it.”
    That doesn’t sound real hopeful.

  9. RedNat

    I sensed last year that Bell was very frustrated with Senzel. I think some of that quote is tongue and cheek. I felt Bells managing improved once Senzel was shut down for the season. I felt there was a little bit of a prim a dona aspect with senzel last year and that can wear on a coach i think.

  10. Cal Hannah

    I like Castellanos’ way of thinking. “If you rely on analytics, it takes you out of the moment”. He’s a ‘natural’ and won’t let it get in the way.

    • Doug Gray

      Different strokes for different folks. Some guys work better without some of the information. Others work better with it.

  11. Cal Hannah

    Absolutely, but you can’t teach ‘natural’. Let’s hope the coach realizes when he sees it and doesn’t try to alter.

  12. Steve Schoenbaechler

    That’s right about where I would see them.

    I believe they will contend for the final playoff spot. How long with that last? I don’t know that. I would think at least till the end of August, I believe the opportunity will be realistic. But, will they get it?