The Cardinals are on a ridiculous tear and their club looks as if it lacks a major flaw.
The Reds, on the other hand, are facing major issues that could determine whether or not they make it into the postseason.
With 15 games left in the first half of the season, let's reevaluate the Cincinnati Reds’ odds of winning the NL Central.
The Reds’ bullpen is currently ranked 10th overall in the NL and 20th in the majors (per MLB.com).
After finishing 2012 with the best overall bullpen, things have drastically changed for the Reds in the late innings.
The absence of Sean Marshall is truly throwing the entire bullpen off kilter. Marshall currently has the lowest opponent batting average of the Reds' relievers, with opponents hitting .160.
He's got the third-lowest ERA behind Sam LeCure and Aroldis Chapman, and his 7th inning role is putting more pressure on Jonathan Broxton and LeCure to get to the ninth.
The biggest challenge will be for the Reds to maintain some sort of stability. Everyone witnessed a great Reds club last year and a lot of its success could be attributed to finishing games in the late innings.
The Reds are continuing to give up runs once the bullpen takes over. In the seventh inning or later, the Reds rank 12th in the NL, with a 3.97 ERA. In the eighth inning or later, the Reds rank 13th, with a 4.30 ERA.
That’s a stark difference between innings one through six, where the Reds rank second with a 3.14 ERA.
Start Beating Good Teams
If the Reds want to win the NL Central, they will have to start winning against better teams.
Currently, the Reds have only won one series against a team with a record above .500—the Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, the Pirates swept the Reds early in the season and are 4-2 against them on the season (per baseball-reference.com).
The good news is the Reds don’t have a losing record against any sub-.500 team so far.
The Cards won’t simply hand over first place and the Reds are going to have to beat better teams to earn a division title.
The Cardinals aren’t necessarily beating up on all of the good teams, but they do have winning records versus three teams that sit above .500.
The Cardinals rank first in several categories, but the Reds need to play better collectively to have a chance at the division title.
The Reds are ranked seventh in the majors with a .277 AVG with runners in scoring position, and second in the NL behind the Cards and their unbelievable .341 AVG with runners in scoring position.
Who will win the NL Central?
Keep Winning Games
The Reds have only lost five in a row this season. But their ability to come back and win after losing consecutive games is telling.
Cincinnati has a difficult schedule ahead of them. After facing the Pittsburgh Pirates at home, they go on the road to play the first place Arizona Diamondbacks, the Texas Rangers and the first place Oakland Athletics.
The Reds will have a better understanding of their playoff chances once they finish out the month of June.
All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com or otherwise noted
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Comment below on how you think the Reds can win the NL Central.