3 Reasons to Be Optimistic for the Cincinnati Reds' 2014 Playoff Chances
After playing 120 games this season, the Cincinnati Reds currently sit at an even 60-60 on the year. Most Reds fans probably expected more from this team to begin the season, but there are still reasons to be optimistic about a playoff appearance.
Injuries have hit the Reds hard this season, but the Reds have managed to stay afloat in the tough NL Central. With 42 games remaining, Cincinnati is just 5.5 games back in the division and 3.5 games back in the wild-card race.
The additional wild-card spot has really given more teams hope to gain a postseason berth. Another good thing for the Reds is they control their own destiny. Most of their remaining games are against the teams battling for playoff spots.
Having an ace like Johnny Cueto also gives them the luxury of an almost guaranteed win every five games. Let's take a look at the reasons why Reds fans should not give up hope just yet.
Two Wild-Card Spots and Struggling Competition Outside the Central
As was seen at the trade deadline, the additional wild-card spot gives teams more hope for a postseason berth. This is why few teams were really sellers this year. Cincinnati took advantage of the extra spot a year ago, and they may need it once again this season.
Unfortunately for the Reds, they play in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball. No other division in baseball has four teams with .500 or better records.
It would be a surprise if at least one of those spots did not go to an NL Central team. It is not even unrealistic to think both spots could go to NL Central teams.
The Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants are the two other main teams in the race. Atlanta has been falling apart lately, as it has gone 3-10 in its last 13 games. San Francisco has been nearly as bad—going 6-13 in its previous 19 games.
Cincinnati is 10-2 in Johnny Cueto's last 12 stars. Cueto should see between eight and 10 starts the rest of the way, so he should give the Reds a nice bump as the season winds down.
Outside of Clayton Kershaw, there has not been a more dominant pitcher in the game this season. Cueto leads the league in wins with 14 and has paired that with 181 strikeouts. His ERA sits at 2.05 with a WHIP of just .91. Opposing players have only managed a .182 batting average against the Reds' ace—better than Kershaw's .201.
Cueto ranks second in SO, ERA and WHIP. Just counting his starts, the Reds should come out between six and eight games above .500 the rest of the way.
If the Reds can equal that in games that Cueto does not start, they should put themselves in contention for a playoff spot. If the other starters can manage this, Cincinnati would finish up with a record of 89-73 on the high end.
A very respectable record, and one that would likely give them a great chance to play in the postseason.
Control Their Own Destiny
If the Reds miss the playoffs, they will have no one to blame but themselves. Their remaining schedule gives them plenty of opportunities to move up in the standings. They have a combined record of 31-26 against their remaining opponents.
They have played well against the Pirates and the Brewers—going 16-10 against the two teams.
However, beating the Cardinals has been a problem. They stand at just 3-6 against St Louis, but Cincinnati does have 10 more games against them to improve that record.
Outside of the Reds' games against the three teams above them in the division, only the Atlanta Braves have a winning record. This could be an important series, as both teams are battling for a wild-card spot.
The Reds are within striking distance of the teams ahead of them. Ultimately, it will all come down to whether or not the Reds manage to beat their division rivals.
**All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.