The Cincinnati Reds would be in the playoffs today if the season were to end. But they would get in by virtue of tiebreaker scenarios that can and will change over the final week of the season. The Reds are 27-27 after winning two of three against the Chicago White Sox this weekend and are in a three way tie with the Milwaukee Brewers and the San Francisco Giants for the final spot in the wild card, but the Reds have played two more games than both of them – they are 26-26.
The playoff tiebreaker scenarios for a 2-team tie is head-to-head records. But if there’s not a match up between those teams the next tiebreaker is the intradivision record for each team. If there’s a 3-team (or more) tie, then it automatically goes to the intradivision records for all teams.
Right now that intradivisional record has the Reds ahead of the Giants and the Brewers, but that could change. Cincinnati is also dealing with a potential situation that could include the St. Louis Cardinals or the Philadelphia Phillies. Here’s a breakdown of all four of those teams, plus the Reds, and where they stand now.
The St. Louis Cardinals may or may not have to play two games in Detroit to end the season. If the two games are needed to determine playoff spots, they will be played. If they are needed, then they will be played a week from today.
Since the tiebreaker may come down to either head-to-head record or intradivisional record, the three games starting tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers are pivotal for each team. On top of simply winning and improving their record, the Reds are 4-3 against the Brewers. A 2-1 or 3-0 series win can change the outcome if the two teams wind up being tied at the end of the season for either the second place spot in the division or the wild card spot.
Fangraphs calculates the playoff odds for all of the teams in baseball. They do so bad on the teams current record, as well as projecting how that team is likely to finish their schedule. For Cincinnati, they have a 51.9% chance at making the playoffs – basically a coin flip. Here’s how the National League looks when games begin on Monday:
All five teams have at least one contender remaining on their schedule, and particularly in baseball – anyone can beat anyone on a given day and it’s not really a surprise.
There are a lot of scenarios that could play out with all of these teams. The National League Central is where the most action is, however. The Brewers and Cardinals, as well as the Brewers and Reds all face off against each other in the final week. Someone has to win and lose those games, which likely works out in favor of the Phillies and Giants. But the Brewers certainly have a lot of control over how their fate turns out given their opponents.
The Reds have some control over what happens, too. A sweep of the Brewers would go a long way towards eliminating Milwaukee. It wouldn’t do the trick all on it’s own, but it would eliminate the Brewers from finishing ahead of the Reds since the best they would be able to do at that point is 30-30, while the Reds could only be as bad as 30-30 and would own all tiebreakers over them.
Beyond that, though, things are out of the Cincinnati Reds control. They can only do their part in winning out. One of the Cardinals or Brewers has to lose at least two games moving forward, but there’s a possibility that all but one team among this group wins out. It’s unlikely, of course, but possible. The downside for Cincinnati right now is that they have played more games than everyone else. The upside is that they have a day off between their series and that could help them out – both with their rotation as well as simply getting a day of rest for the bullpen and position players as they head into the final series of the regular season with the Twins.
It’s been a long time since the Cincinnati Reds were in this position this late in the season. Things are obviously a lot different this year than in the past given that the season didn’t begin until a week was remaining in July. Being in the playoff race through 54 games in a normal seasons puts a team in the race near the end of May. It’s certainly good to be in the race at that point in time, but it also puts into perspective where the season would normally be at, too.
Baseball is being played in a 60-game season this year, though. With a week left, Cincinnati has a chance and at this point they aren’t exactly chasing a spot as much as they are trying to hold onto one. That’s certainly a foreign feeling of late for both the franchise and for the fans.