A tweet from Major League Baseball alerted me to Fangraphs projected standings and playoff odds for the 2021 season. Things can and will change before the season begins because a lot is still going to take place before then – trades, signings, injuries – that will change the odds at least a little bit. But as of today, a day before pitchers and catchers are set to report for spring training in Goodyear for the Cincinnati Reds, the odds for Cincinnati to make the playoffs are sitting at 18.3%.

That’s roughly 1 out of 5. The projected won/loss record for the Reds is 78-84. That isn’t great. But if we want to try to find the bright side it’s that the team projected to win the division by Fangraphs model, it’s the Cardinals, at 82-80 (technically 81.5-80.5, but baseball doesn’t work that way). Even with a projected losing record, the division outright stinks and no one is seemingly out of the race except for the Pirates, who don’t actually seem to even be trying to pretend to be a big league team this year.

The National League Central is just different from the other divisions in baseball. The AL East, AL Central, NL East, and NL West all have two teams that have a projected playoff odds number of at least 54%. In the AL West the Astros are at 68.7% and the Angels are at 34.6%. In the NL Central the Cardinals are at 35.8%, the Brewers at 35.7%, the Cubs are at 22.4%, and the Reds are at 18.3%. From an odds perspective, the Central division is the most competitive division in baseball. It’s just that it’s because no team is actually good.

Of course, not every projection system has a similar outlook. While Fangraphs also has the Reds finishing in fourth place, like both Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA and Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections do, and they both also project 78 or 79 wins, the gap between Cincinnati and the team in first place is much larger. PECOTA has the Reds finishing 10 games back of the Brewers, while ZiPS currently has the Reds finishing seven games behind the Cardinals.

What sticks out a lot here is that the projection systems all seem to feel similarly about the Cincinnati Reds – they’re a slightly below .500 team as things stand right now. There’s some disagreements on what the individual players will perform like from projection system to projection system, but at the end the overall team just doesn’t stand out. The upside is there for quite a bit more than 78 wins, but it seems that to get there as a team that a lot of things will need to go right with both the pitching and the offense.

43 Responses

  1. Klugo

    We have some good players. They’ll just have to play really, really well.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, and IF guys like Shogo, Senzel and Winker can improve their ABs, I think the team can make great strides. Ditto for Votto and other vets; it would be nice to see them bounce back w/ fewer KOs and at least productive outs more often. Lastly, can Stephenson produce? His development could be huge for our lack of offense.

  2. donny

    I am going to be honest .
    Even if the reds were to make the playoffs. ”For me just making the playoffs doesn’t matter”. I feel like they just can’t beat the Padres,Dodgers,Braves.

    I will feel better about this team when Garcia, Stephenson and India are ready to play in the big leagues and Votto is no longer playing first base and even better when his contract is over so the Reds can have more moveability with finances .

    I am just looking forward to the minor leagues. It has been what seems forever to watch the players grow and i really miss that aspect about baseball a lot.

    • LDS

      Agree 100%. And David Bell is no longer managing the team. Let’s remember they made the playoffs last year and couldn’t score a run.

    • Jimbo44CN

      I don’t know about that. First you have to get in, then anything can happen.
      I really think a better manager would help this team immensely though.

    • Stock

      I agree Votto is not worth his contract but his last 117 PA last year he did have an OPS of .925. If this Votto returns we are fine.

    • Earmbrister

      I’m sorry Donny & LDS, you enjoy and respect future HOFrs, you don’t wish them away. I hate the NYY and their fans, but at least they have the good sense to not quickly dismiss and discard someone like Jeter who like Votto gave his career for his one team. You didn’t complain when Votto was giving excessive value in relation to his salary in earlier years. Show some loyalty, like JV has for years and years.

  3. Kevin Patrick

    Well… I took a look at the schedule. Its brutal. We play a lot of tough teams this year. Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Nationals, Twins, Braves, Phillies…etc…I think we’ll see pretty quickly how they look against good competition. The bright side is that if they actually do look good, I think the chances of a guy like Story coming to Cincinnati look significantly better.

  4. Don

    Or in other words, there is an 82% chance they won’t make the playoffs.

  5. Brennan

    When I see projections like this it makes me realize just how little I know about the specifics of other teams, even other teams in our division.

    For example, how do Gray and Castillo stack up against the top 2 starters of all the other NL Central teams?

    No one asked me, but if you’re looking for new story ideas/formats, I’d love to see a side-by-side comparison of the all the NL Central teams at each position.

    • SultanofSwaff

      Yeah, these projection systems fail to account for how individual underperformance
      and lack of depth can drag on a team over 162 games.

      I already saw the Cubs manager talking about how they will cover all the innings they won’t be getting from Darvish. Not the way to start your season, you know?

  6. Scott C

    I just looked at Red Reporter where they were breaking down the pitchers invited to spring training. The relief corp is underwhelming to say the least. Of course some of those that he lists as starters will slide into the bullpen but still, not good.

    • Stock

      I think the bullpen is better than most think.

      Garrett and Sims are locks and good
      The two losers for the 5th spot (Hoffman, Lorenzen, Antone) are locks
      De Leon is supposedly in the competition for SP but I think he will be a stud in the bullpen.
      This gives the Reds 5 good RP.

      I like the chances of Doolittle, Noel Ramirez and Bedrosian rounding out the bullpen.

      I am hoping Boddy/Johnson see something in the unusual amount of AAAA pitchers the Reds traded for over the winter (Bailey, Perez, Perez, Warren and Garcia) produce something.

      I am probably alone in thinking the SP will be better in 2021 than it was in 2020, even with the loss of Bauer.

      • Kevin Patrick

        The starting pitching was pretty darn good last year… I don’t know…its the relief pitching that needs to fire in sync with the starting that will make a big difference. Last year was so weird because there were so few games. I hope you are right though.

      • Earmbrister

        I don’t know that the starting pitching will be better in ‘21 than ‘20, but I’ll buy the BP could be better. Relievers are notorious for being inconsistent, and the Reds still have a solid core in the bullpen. The Reds were right in going cheaper in the BP, I just wish they had reinvested those $ at SS.

  7. SultanofSwaff

    To get to the postseason, I think the Reds need:
    1. Health
    2. Moose/Geno/NickC/Sonny/Luis playing to their career norms.
    3. A few players take two steps forward—Senzel, Tyler Stephenson, Shogo, Antone.
    4. A league average bullpen and a closer with a high save conversion %.
    5. An aggressive GM at the trade deadline.

    I have a quiet confidence in this team for some reason.

    • RedsFan11

      Unfortunately I get the same way at this time of year. IF/HOPE all the things you mention come to fruition then we have a “chance”. Unfortunately its always the opposite.

      That said, Im still excited and hopeful silly me haha

  8. TOM

    To me Votto is the fly in the ointmint. They need to platoon him & maybe he will realize its time to retire. The more he plays he lessons his chances at the HOF.

  9. Stock

    I agree with Colorado Red. A lot of positives:

    1. Votto was pretty good after he sat for three days. Which Votto will show up in 2021?
    2. Senzel has never reached his potential. Is this they year?
    3. Shogo was sensational in September. Can he take the next step this year and see his power return?
    4. Moose and Castellanos had down years in 2020. Can they return to 2019 form?
    5. Winker’s power emerged last year. Can he continue his progression and become a force in 2021?
    6. TeJay Antone came out of nowhere and was fantastic last year. Can he match that performance in 2021?
    7. Last year Boddy predicted a breakout for Antone. This year his prediction is a breakout for De Leon. He went out and tore up the winter leagues. I think he could be a dominant closer. is Boddy right again?
    8. Mahle introduced a cutter last year and became a stud in the second half of the year. Was this a sample size situation or is it legit?
    9. Suarez was terrible the first 2 or 3 weeks of 2020. After that though his OPS was again over .900.
    10. Miley was dominant in 2018 and again the first 5 months of 2019, sporting an ERA of 2.89 over 236.2 innings. Last year was marred by injury. Which Miley will take the mound in 2021?
    11. Will Boddy/Johnson do anything with the new stable of pitchers?
    12. I am not even going to touch SS.

    • MuddyCleats

      Well said. Can they bounce back and maintain some moderate consistency? One guy u left out – Jeff Hoffman. Not that it means much, but Hoffman is listed as the 5th starter on Reds.com homepage. This kid has been very good at times even when pitching at Coors; can he bounce back? Only 28 yrs old, but Not sure he can produce the ground balls needed to be effective in Cincy?

    • Stock

      Thanks Muddy,

      Hoffman and to a lesser extent Cionel Perez are the pitchers I had in mind with point 11. What I like about Hoffman is that the Reds traded a quality player to get him meaning they must see something there. Maybe Hoffman is a great Boddy client. Also getting away from Coors helps. I think it wears on pitchers. Even pitchers as good as German Marquiz struggle in Coors. I would love to see Hoffman get the 5th spot in the rotation. However I think Lorenzen wins it.

  10. jim walker

    Numbers are not my specialty; but, if the divisional winner of a 5 team division is guaranteed a playoff spot, all teams start out with a 20% chance, right? So it sounds like compared to the other teams, the Reds are seen as -2% or so. I guess playing the games will show us what that means.

  11. TR

    In my view, a winning team needs a set starting eight with substitutions for injury and rest only. Manager Bell seems to favor giving everyone on the roster some playing time. A set starting eight could allow the team to come together and play .500 and above baseball. The Reds have the potential.

    • Kim Henry

      I’ve said it in previous posts that winning teams have a solid core of 8 starting position players who only get rest now and then. Health is key as well. In other words, I agree with TR and if Bell does not manage this way, it will only be detrimental for a team who I feel have a pretty solid core of 8 players. Yes, shortstop is a concern, but as I’ve said many times, a defensive shortstop is not the worse thing. GO REDS!!!!!

  12. Sliotar

    IMO, this should settle that long-standing myth that the Reds Lead Owner “really wants to win.”

    Been here for years … read Dotson, Mancuso, Kirby, whatever that guy’s name is that always references Mets and Yankees in his writings … all felt confident about it.

    Doug has been candid on broken system, for players and non-large markets.

    If winning was Reds Ownership was top priority, this winter would have been about smart upgrades, not cutting payroll to the bone. Reds roster is aging, there is no Golden Generation of prospects coming … and the NL Central is there to be won.

    Feels like priorities are still the same for the Lead Owner since he took over:

    1) Meddle and/or surround himself with fawning cronies/former player “experts”
    2) Not lose money, never go to other owners for any cash calls to invest in team
    3) Don’t be small-budget owner complaining on broken system (Know Your Place)
    4) Establish son as “credible” heir to continue “Winning Baseball” in Cincinnati
    5) Winning (might even be lower on list)

    The Cardinals are smart, but when this is your “rival”, easy to look real smart.

    • citizen54

      Why would you expect the owner to open up the checkbook again after spending 40 million on free agent salaries in 2020 for players that amounted to be duds? Krall has to make all these cost cutting moves because of the boneheaded signings by Williams. The signings were so bad that no team would be willing to take on the contracts without getting some compensation in return.

  13. DataDumpster

    Like the FANGRAPHS projection, like the user comments, and the realization that 3 or 4 “excess” wins over the course of 162 games could be enough for the Reds to win the division. Lots of turnaround possibilities but also have to agree with the 5 or so others noting the David Bell “issue”. Managers do matter a lot.

    • RedsFan11

      David has 162 opportunities to blow the game vs 60 this go around

  14. KG

    The division is so average that it seems to me we’re just an above-average shortstop away from being a contender. The rotation is solid, even without Bauer. The bullpen should be fine. Out of Suarez, Moose, Votto & NickC at least 2 of them should have strong bounce-back seasons. I’m pumped! Seriously. I’m not kidding.

    • Stock

      I think if the Reds actually upgraded SS as they said they would that they would unquestionably be a better team in 2021 than they were in 2020. Assuming the Reds avoid injury they will be better offensively at: 2B, 3B, CF and RF. Hopefully better at C, 1B and LF. Plus if no DH, Senzel becomes the super sub.

      The SP should be better in 2021 than it was in 2020. The quality of the bullpen is in the hands of Johnson/Boddy. I think that makes it promising.

      • citizen54

        Not sure how replacing Bauer with a number 5 starter is going the makes the Reds SP better this year. Also, the Reds aren’t going to have the luxury of only facing the worst offenses in the league like they had last year. The Reds are solid with Castillo, Gray and Mahle but after that there are a lot of question marks.

      • Stock

        On paper it won’t. But Gray and Castillo under performed their FIP by more than .50 runs per game last year. Miley was terrible and DeSclafani was much worse. Miley, DeSclafani and Bauer combined for a 3.65 ERA last year.

  15. scotly50

    The bright spot for the Reds is their hitting was so terrible, that they might trend toward upward. But the pitching was so good, that it may head south.

    Who knows. Just do not put Votto above seventh in the line-up and they may have a chance.

  16. citizen54

    The thing is they didn’t really have down years. They had the years that the projection systems had them at on 2020. Moustakas was expected to be slightly above average and Castellanos below average. This year is even worse. Moustakas is expected to have 1.8 fWAR and Castllenos .6 fWAR. Bad signings all around.

    • Earmbrister

      Citizen, I don’t think you judge a long term contract after just one year. Particularly when that year was the abbreviated 2020 season. A projection is an educated guess. Now an educated guess on a player with a low ceiling is fairly easy. Any above average player with half of a competitive spirit will gladly blow a negative projection out of the water. Castellanos and Moustakas should do just fine.

  17. citizen54

    Fangraphs has there Top 100 prospects list out although it goes out to 133. The Reds have four players in that list Garcia #49 and Stephenson #78. Greene and Lodolo are #101 and #102. And wow SD and TB look loaded.

  18. Optimist

    In a “show me now” way, the first half of the season is on the manager. He doesn’t have a SS, but he has plenty of other pieces. It seems clear that if they are in contention, they make a deal for a rental SS at the trade deadline. If they falter, it will be easy to make the managerial change along with a series of other moves. To Bell’s advantage, the NL Central is certainly available to stay in contention for the 1/2 season – likely will only take a near .500 record, which is what all the projections show.

    • DataDumpster

      And I think that is exactly what they were thinking all along after 2 years of significant investments made with little to no return. If Bell can’t manage to a modest winning record in the first half, then he doesn’t deserve to continue in that capacity any more than one of the game announcers.

  19. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Here’s the deal with this Reds team. . .

    Yes, with Bauer, we were strong. Duh. But, we had a good starting staff even before Bauer. So, I’m not too worried about that. Will it be like last year, with Bauer? Of course not. Duh. But, is it going to bottom out? I don’t see that either. It’s not like Gray and Castillo are overachievers, I believe.

    The bullpen? I’ve always considered that a crapshoot, anyhow, not unless you simply overpay for a bunch of pitchers who pitch less than 80 innings a season. Sure, I would like to have a couple of “big names” back there. But, I would also like to have some better OBP in the starting lineup.

    It’s the offense that’s the key again. If they can step up, I believe we will be fine. If not, we are going to struggle. I’m really not concerned with HR’s and power anything. Like many say, those will come in this ballpark. We need to get people on base. We need OBP.

    • Jimbo44CN

      “We need to get people on base. We need OBP”
      Totally agree.

  20. Bill J

    I wonder what it will be when injuries hit, and we know they will.