2013 Reds / Believe

The fight for the division championship starts tonight

Barring an extremely unlikely collapse of the starting pitching, the Cincinnati Reds will qualify for the post-season.

Frank Victores/USAToday from the Cincinnati Enquirer

Frank Victores/USAToday from the Cincinnati Enquirer

With just 31 games remaining, they hold a 7-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks and an 8.5-game lead over the Washington Nationals. Neither the D-Backs or the Nationals have shown they can put together the winning streak necessary to overcome that large of a deficit in such a short time.

If the Reds win just 15 of their 31 remaining games, they’ll finish the season with 89 wins. Arizona would have to finish 23-10 and Washington 24-8 to reach 89 wins. Yes, both of them have relatively easy schedules the rest of the way (the Nats play their next 19 games against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies), but they also have enough tough games to make their odds of catching even yesterday’s listless version of the Reds remote. Cool Standings estimates their chances of doing that 8% and 4% respectively. Baseball Prospectus figures their odds at half that.

So it’s pretty unlikely that the Reds’ regular season finale on September 29 against the Pirates will be their last game.

But simply qualifying for the post-season doesn’t mean what it used to mean. From 1994 to 2011, the wild card team was guaranteed a five-game elimination series. The only post-season disadvantage consisted of an extra game on their opponent’s field. Four times a wild card team won the World Series and reached the World Series five other times.

The post-season rules changed beginning with the 2012 season. Two teams would face each other in a one-game, loser-goes home cage match to determine which team would assume the wild card position in the post-season. Only after winning that nine-innings-long coin flip would a team earn their five-game elimination series. Today, a “wild card” slot is worth less than half of a division championship.

That’s what at stake for Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and company the next month.

The Reds stand 2.5 games behind both St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the NL Central division. They have thirteen games remaining with those two teams, including seven with the Cardinals over the next ten days. Don’t forget the brutal three-game series with the LA Dodgers at GABP the first weekend of September.

The next three games in St. Louis are particularly important. Winning the series won’t cinch the division. But losing it 2-1 or worse would present a steep hill — the next stage being the treacherous high-altitudes of Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies have a 36-27 record.

We’ll soon find out if the team assembled by Walt Jocketty and managed by Dusty Baker is ready to seriously contend for the NL Central Division and avoid that play-in game.

The stretch run for the Cincinnati Reds starts tonight.

 

34 thoughts on “The fight for the division championship starts tonight

  1. It starts before tonight with the team meeting where the player-leaders get grumpy and focused about themselves and the lack of confidence the team is showing. If Dusty is the “consummate players’ manager” that’s exactly what he’d expect from them.

    And one other fantasy thought – seeing as Mike Soscia is out at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels Club, wouldn’t it be great if Dusty’s had a burning desire to return to Cali and the Reds let him interview for and take that job? I don’t know who we’d tag, but I hear guys like Charlie Manuel and a few others are available. Or perhaps Bryan Price gets his shot … Hey, a guy can dream, right?

    • And one other fantasy thought – seeing as Mike Soscia is out at the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels Club, wouldn’t it be great if Dusty’s had a burning desire to return to Cali and the Reds let him interview for and take that job?I don’t know who we’d tag, but I hear guys like Charlie Manuel and a few others are available.Or perhaps Bryan Price gets his shot … Hey, a guy can dream, right?

      I suppose Sciocia would be a choice, but why do we want to keep recycling managers? Yawn … Riggleman, probably. In any event, Dusty’s got one more year and I am always inclined to point out that we need to be careful what we wish for.

  2. We’re 5th best in baseball in run differential. More to the point, we’d be favored over the Pirates and Braves in a 5 game series because of our pitching. Then there’s a chance the Cardinals and Dodgers play each other so we don’t have to face both of them.

    Point is, if the season ended today, I would still like our chances in the playoffs. If we can take care of business over the next 5 weeks, our chances only get better, and can’t get worse. That’s reason enough for optimism!

  3. I will be pleasantly surprised if Mike Leake gets past the 3rd inning. If he makes it to the 6th, I would hope the bullpen brings its game. In fact, I think it’s time the Reds bring their game, period. That last series against the Birds, if there was no incentive, what is? Instead, beaten twice like the Bad News Cubs … er … Bears.

  4. I am really hoping the Pirates win the division if we don’t. We could start Latos in the play-in game vs St Louis and have a good chance to win. The rest of the rotation does pretty well vs Pittsburgh. If the Cards win the division we could still go with Bailey in the play-in vs the Pirates and keep Latos to start the Cards series but then what? Obviously winning the division is the goal but if we are gonna fall short, any chance we go easy in that final series in Pittsburgh?

    • @RedTitan19: If the Reds are in a dogfight down to the last day, they might not have the time/luxury to rearrange their pitching for the 1-game playoff, and hopefully beyond. … In that case, you get whoever is due to pitch when the postseason begins. …. Unless Dusty manages to take advantage of the off days to rearrange his rotation. That would seem out of character for him, however.

  5. I think at this point you have to keep the same lineup. Baker is still trying to see if some of the guys can “get going”. Now he should play with something to prove and instill this in our players. Play the best possible team and stick to it. I think half of the issues are pertaining to the batting order changing weekly. Look at the cards and I bet their lineup doesn’t change as much as ours. Here is my two cents:

    Choo
    Ludwick
    Votto
    Phillips
    Bruce
    Frazier
    Mesoraco/Hanigan
    Cozart

  6. Tonight is a HUGE game. I do not trust Leake against the Cards, at all. Our offense needs to start heating up NOW. If we do not win the division, I want the Cards to, that way we face Burnett in Pitt in the one game playoff, def do not want to play Wainwright in St Louis.

    • @Josh: If the Reds don’t win the division, there’s also the first WC team possibility, meaning playing at home in the one game playoff. I’d like the Reds’ odds playing vs. the Pirates at home.

  7. Here’s the line-up for Game #1:

    8/26 lineup:
    Choo CF
    Frazier 3B
    Votto 1B
    Phillips 2B
    Bruce RF
    Ludwick LF
    Mesoraco C
    Cozart SS
    Leake P

  8. I honestly think the Cardinals are the best team in the Central, but if we are going to be in a one game playoff I would rather play the Cards. I don’t think the Reds would beat the Cards in a five game series, but in a one game winner take all anything can happen. I feel confident the Reds would beat Pittsburgh in a five game series.

    • @AnnapolisHoosier: To me, the question is how do the teams top 3, or maybe 4 starters stack up.

      STL
      Wainright 2.58 ERA / 2.32 FIP
      Lynn 4.02 / 3.21
      Miller 2.90 / 3.32
      Kelly 2.25 / 3.90

      PIT
      Burnett 3.18 / 2.81
      Locke 3.01 / 3.87
      Liriano 2.74 / 2.66
      Cole 3.81 / 3.34

      CIN
      Latos 2.93 / 2.89
      Bailey 3.71 / 3.18
      Arroyo 3.42 / 3.93
      Leake 3.12 / 4.04
      (Cingrani 2.59 / 3.65)
      (Cueto 3.33 / 3.87)

      Obviously, the game isn’t all about pitching, but the starter is a big part.

      Wainright is having the best year of any pitcher on the list, so I’d like to stay away from him in a one-game playoff. I think our pitching actually stacks up with the Cards pretty well after that, so I think we might be OK in a series.

      With the Pirates it looks like a reverse. I’d give us the edge in a one-game playoff, Latos v. Burnett. But their 2-3-4 guys are a hair ahead of ours I’d say.

      So if the Reds can’t win the division, I think it would work best for them if the Cards did. That said, I can’t root for STL to win anything ever, so I hope they lose all the rest of their games, for the rest of time.

  9. Last yr leake had 2 really good starts vs the Cardinals. This year has not been the case. The Reds have got to win 2 out of 3. Its all confidence. The Reds need to get out to a lead. Latos pitches tommorow. They win tonight they will get 2 out of 3. No 15-2 13-3, or 11-4 type games please.

  10. Cardinals line-up for game #1
    Carpenter, 2B
    Jay, CF
    Holliday, LF
    Craig, RF
    Molina, C
    Adams, 1B
    Freese, 3B
    Descalso,SS
    Lyon, P

  11. Just to clarify, the W.C. play-in winner plays the team with the best overall record, right?

    Right now, the need to beat both — Parrots and Birds — seems presumptuous.

    • @Johnu1: I don’t know about that. I would rather play the Pirates in a five game series over both the Cardinals and Dodgers. So, if the division isn’t an option, I would like to see the Pirates go on a tear and take my chances with Latos vs the Cards in the play-in game.

      • @Johnu1: I don’t know about that.I would rather play the Pirates in a five game series over both the Cardinals and Dodgers.So, if the division isn’t an option, I would like to see the Pirates go on a tear and take my chances with Latos vs the Cards in the play-in game.

        I think you missed my point. It’s not about “druthers” … it’s about what is or isn’t likely. Atlanta and LA both have records that are equal to or greater than the Cards or the Pirates.

  12. I know one thing, I’m tired of being embarrassed by the Cardinals.it’s time for this team to show up.

  13. The next 13 games should really settle where the Reds are going to be going into the home stretch, especially with 7 against the Cards and 3 with the Dodgers along with the last trip west to Denver.

    I’d think if the Reds were going to buckle, this would be the two weeks where it could happen. Then again, it would be a good time to get hot too.

    I think considering the wear the pitching staff has had upon it, a good thing is after this weekend they will be able to pickup a few arms to stretch things out if they do get into a bad game and save the main bullpen arms.

  14. Barry Larkin stated last night in the Central race the real heat is going to be on Pittsburgh to win the division and not have to play in the wild card single game elimination. He brought up the ’99 season where the Reds had such a good season only to get punched in the gut by getting shutout by Al Leiter and the Mets and miss the playoffs.

  15. What Chris Welsh just said drives me nuts about this team, “A loose cluhouse”. Sorry, but I don’t feel things should be loose. Normal conditions, I believe it should be a friendly but business-like environment. As in, “Let’s get to work to get the job done.” But, then, especially now. This is the culmination of a season long pennant race. If you aren’t willing to work to get the job done, get out so we can bring someone in who is willing to work to get the job done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s