The Cincinnati Reds, and the rest of the National League Central will get their regular season started tomorrow. The Reds will host the Detroit Tigers to begin their season – but before they do that, we here at Redleg Nation wanted to give some thoughts and predictions on the upcoming season in the division.
The National League Central Predictions
We asked the crew for their predictions on how the 60-game season would play out in the division and here’s what we got:
For the most part, the staff believes that the Reds are going to win the division. The Cubs and Cardinals make up the second and third place votes, except for the one Cardinals vote at the top of the division. The Brewers got all of the votes for fourth place, and of course, the Pirates got all of the votes for dead last place.
Yes, I picked the Reds to win the NL Central in this crazy, sprint-to-the-finish season. We know the Reds have a pitching rotation that can carry the club and I believe this is the year the lineup finally catches up and brings everything together for a winning team. However, I think the NL Central is going to be the tightest division in baseball, with less than five games potentially separating the first place Reds from the fourth place Brewers. As for the Pirates, they’ll be in the basement again and Derek Dietrich won’t even be around to antagonize them.
The division is strong 1-4. Most places are projecting the spots to be within 2-3 games between those spots – it’s a toss up. In a 60-game season, that feels about right. But when looking at the breakdown of the teams it just feels like the Reds are better. The rotation is the best in the division, by a wide margin. And their offense stacks up with anyone in the division, too. Weird things happen in a normal baseball season, and this is 2020 where weird seems to be happening every second of every day – but Cincinnati has more talent than the other teams in the division after overhauling their roster in the last year and a half. The rotation being rebuilt and the additions on offense of Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas will go a long way towards a far more consistent, powerful offense.
The Reds can capitalize on the 20 games they have with the Pirates (10), Tigers (6), and Royals (4) to the tune of 16 or more wins. They match up very well with their pitching and their lineup against all of those teams. With those wins in their back pocket they will then be able to play slightly more than .500 ball against the rest of their schedule.
The Cardinals and the Reds are the class of the Division. Cubs and Brewers trending down. If Nick Senzel plays 55 games, Shogo Akiyama can bat .280 and Cody Reed emerges as a force in the bullpen, the Reds can win the Central. Not counting a lot on Joey Votto or Freddy Galvis – hope I’m wrong on that one. And if Trevor Bauer is Trevor Bauer, pitch that guy every fourth day!
The NL Central seems as competitive as ever 1-4. It could have been a wild race to the end in a 162-game season, much less 60 games. It would not surprise me if all 4 teams are still in play to win the division going into the final series of the year. I went with the Reds just because of the starting pitching. The Reds should be able to avoid any dreaded long losing streaks this season, which is the kiss of death in 2020. The Cubs seem poised to have big offensive production this season, but let’s hope their starting pitching can’t keep up. The Cardinals don’t deserve to do anything with their bizarre inactivity this offseason. I’m not sure what to make of the Brewers, who have assembled a very strange team. They certainly have a lot of potential, but everything would have to go right for them to win the division. Everyone should beat up on the Pirates, but they have been known to get off to hot starts, so who really knows in this crazy sprint we are about to go on.
In the offseason, the Reds needed to “get the hitting”, and they absolutely did. The other three contending teams in the division lost key personnel, and some of them came to Cincinnati (Nick Castellanos and Pedro Strop from Cubs to Reds; Mike Moustakas from Brewers to Reds) – magnifying the losses because they moved to a direct competitor. If Trevor Bauer pitches like he did in his great year in Cleveland, and Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo repeat their 2019 performances, this starting pitching may be the best in the league, will all due respect to Washington.
Keys to success:
- Take advantage of six of first 10 games against Detroit, which lost 114 games a year ago. Can’t stress enough how key this will be, because this race will be super-tight among the top four teams.
- Raisel Iglesias returning to form as a lock-down closer. If not him, someone else. (Hunter Greene?)
- Avoiding major injuries (same for every other team).
(editors note: Richard didn’t predict that outcome of the division, but did have some thoughts on the season to share)
Baseball writer Joe Sheehan’s signature phrase is “variance swamps everything,” meaning that luck, the bounce of the ball, and wee sample sizes, in general, render chaos of anything we might know as normal and predictable. So, in that spirit, I’m gonna channel a little Allen Iverson here:
“Predictions? We talkin’ about predictions, man??? What are we talkin about? We’re talkin’ about PREDICTIONS. We ain’t talkin’ about the game. We talkin’ PREDICTIONS, man.”
So, I don’t know and I’m not even going to try. I mean, consider this: the lowly Detroit Tigers, who the grateful Reds drew as their opening day opponent and will play 6 times in their first 10 games, finished with a 47-114 record in 2019. Still, they did win 7 of their first 10 games. That kind of start in this “It’s a Small, Small World” of a season would be the equivalent to a 19-8 sprint out of the gate, which, if my NKU math skills are still relevant— is not nothing. Cogitate on that for a bit. Whatever you do, don’t get caught up in strength of schedule or whether pitchers are ahead of hitters because—variance will swamp everything about this crazy, abbreviated stub of a season.
I will make one prediction. The MLB season doesn’t make it to 60 games. Travel will expose the league to COVID-19. That’s not a positive outlook, but a nod to the real world we are currently living in. So, if you do nothing else, try and enjoy the games for as long as they last.