The National League Wild Card play-in game takes place exactly two weeks from today. With the triumphal and apparently healthy return of Johnny Cueto, we now have more information from which to base our speculation on the starting pitching assignments through the start of the postseason. Pitchers have been announced for the two remaining games in Houston:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 17 – Mike Leake
  • Wednesday, Sept. 18 – Greg Reynolds

The Reds have the following Thursday off, then play three games in Pittsburgh. Inserting Reynolds into the rotation for the finale against the Astros allows the Reds to frontload the starters against the division-rival Pirates.

  • Friday, Sept. 20 – Mat Latos
  • Saturday, Sept. 21 – Homer Bailey
  • Sunday, Sept. 22 – Bronson Arroyo

It’s possible, given the off day on Thursday, that Johnny Cueto could pitch Sunday on regular rest. But given Cueto’s fragile health, an extra day off for him, if possible, would be attractive. Another wild card for the Pirates series is Tony Cingrani, who apparently will accompany the Reds to Pittsburgh. Given the unreliability with his back, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be scheduled to start a game in such a crucial series. A bullpen appearance wouldn’t be a surprise, though.

That completes the road trip. The Reds then return to GABP for a three-game series against the New York Mets. If the Reds rotation stays in turn, the assignments would be:

  • Monday, Sept. 23 – Johnny Cueto
  • Tuesday, Sept. 24 – Mike Leake
  • Wednesday, Sept. 25 – Mat Latos

The Cueto and Leake starts seem obvious. While Reynolds and Cingrani would be available Wednesday, bet on Latos making that start. The reason will become apparent in a couple paragraphs.

After the Mets’ series, the Reds enjoy another Thursday off, followed by the dramatic, final regular-season series against the Pirates. If the rotation follows form:

  • Friday, Sept. 27 – Homer Bailey
  • Saturday, Sept. 28 – Bronson Arroyo
  • Sunday, Sept. 29 – Johnny Cueto 

The Cueto assignment on Sunday would mean skipping Mike Leake. Cueto would still be on regular rest because of the off day on Thursday. Leake would be available in a “all hands on deck” approach if the final regular season game meant something.

It then appears likely the Reds will participate in the Wild Card play-in. That game takes place on Tuesday, October 1. And Mat Latos would be available to start it on regular rest. That’s why Latos goes ahead and pitches the final game of the Mets’ series. No pitcher who starts in the final Pirates series will be available *on regular rest* for the play-in game.

Those are the starting rotation assignments that I expect, assuming everyone stays healthy.

HOWEVER … just for giggles … imagine the next seven games go really well (6-1) for the Reds. They win the final two games against the Astros, win two of three from the Pirates and win the first two games against the Mets. Suppose at the same time, the Pirates go 2-1 in their three games left with the Padres and split the first two in Chicago with the Cubs. And assume the Cardinals go 3-5. That entails them losing one out of three remaining with the Rockies, losing two of three on the road in Milwaukee, and losing the first two games against the streaking Washington Nationals. Summary: Reds go 6-1, Pirates go 4-4, Cardinals go 3-5.

If that scenario plays out, your Cincinnati Reds would wake up on the morning of Wednesday, September 25 tied for first place in the NL Central with the Pirates and one game ahead of the Cardinals.

Would it be smart in that case for the Reds to call a last-second audible and push Latos back for the Pirates series, gambling that by winning the Pirates series, the Reds can avoid the play-in game altogether?

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 41 Comments

  1. The next 5-6 games will tell us a lot of where the Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates will be playing (or not playing if caught from behind) in the postseason. I am curious of what the potential starters for Pirates/Cardinals would be for a 1 game playoff. I am just hoping the Reds finally make a run these last 11 games and steal the division. I can hope but that 2-4 record to Cubs/Brewers makes it look less likely this team has a run in them. Let’s hope I am wrong. GO REDLEGS!

  2. Great analysis. Here is the catch: you’re analysis contains logic based on the performance of rhe pitchers. In Dusty’s “players manager” world he lives in do you think he would consider NOT giving Leake a chance to win his 15th game (assuming he wins #14 tonight)? I don’t see the Cardinals blowing it, but stranger things have happened.

    Anybody out there on the inside that can ever attest to seeing the Reds practice baserunning? In spring training or anywhere elae? Bet it never hapens …

  3. I agree with the prediction, although for the final game of the season they’ll have to choose between Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake, both of whom are available. If the 162nd game matters they can go with Johnny Cueto, their opening day starter and ace. If the game doesn’t matter they can go with Mike Leake, their 5th starter who deserves another game (and final appearance of 2013, since he’ll presumably be left off the postseason roster), with the added benefit of keeping Cueto available for game 1 on the NLDS.

    I really doubt the Dusty or the Reds will care about how many wins Mike Leake has if postseason aspirations are on the line.

    Sending Mat Latos out in the 162nd game, gambling that the team can avoid a Wild Card playoff in which it’d be putting itself in a disadvantage (by having Latos unavailable) is crazy.

  4. Steve;
    Let’s just play one game at a time. Your heart is playing with your mind. The current restructure of the rotation indicates that somebody in the Reds organization is starting to think like the Cardinals, and we know it isn’t Dusty. I just hope that on Tuesday Cueto is able to bend over, stretch, lift his right arm without a twitch, ache, or itch. Leaving him in to get the win is another example of the player’s manager risking a team goal (a healthy Cueto) for an individual goal. A wise man wrote about emotional investment and broken hearts and that concept is right, not just about the Reds, but in any sport. Playoffs? The “what if” mind game will cause heart attacks, divorce, and lots of anguish. Let’s just win tonight.

    • @George M: Not talking about the future would make for a fairly boring sports blog. “One game at a time” is an apt cliche for the players and managers. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have any relevance for discussing the team. I seriously doubt this post will cause any heart attacks, divorce, etc. 🙂

  5. I think the Cards win the division but we catch the Pirates and take over 2nd. After thoroughly dominating them in the play-in game, we face a fallible Braves team and have a real shot to make a run.

    • @CincyGuy: I’m thinking the same thing. Which raises another question – if there’s a tie w/the Pirates on Wednesday 9/25, do you alter the rotation at all in an attempt to secure home-field in the Wild Card game? The team’s got a nearly .650 winning percentage at home versus .480 on the road. The Reds are 4-4 against PIT at home and 2-4 on the road.

      • @TennesseeRed: FWIW, I believe the upside from home-field in the one-game playoff isn’t near as great as avoiding that game altogether by winning the division. So I don’t think you completely alter the rotation to go all-out for that.

      • @TennesseeRed: As I recall a tie with the Parrots would go to season series. Since they play 19 games, it can’t be dead even.

  6. No, I don’t think you hold Latos back for the final Pirates series. Pitch him against the Mets and get that win. They would still have good pitchers lined up for that final series.

    I think the move of Reynolds in front of Latos for the Houston series is as much about slotting Latos into the 1-game playoff/NLDS opening game and giving Johnny Cueto an extra day, as it was anything else.

    If the 162nd game doesn’t decide anything, I think Leake pitches that game and you save Cueto for an early slot in the postseason.

    • @Greg Dafler: I agree about the Reynolds move. I think (hope) they were looking out two weeks on that. But I also think it had to do with getting Latos in this weekend’s Pirates series.

      Also agree on using Leake if game #162 doesn’t matter. Although even if Cueto pitched the final Sunday, he could pitch again the following Friday, in Game Two of the NLDS. The Reds wouldn’t need him before that (with Latos and Bailey ahead of him).

      Winning the division outright is worth an enormous amount. If by next Wednesday, we were in first place and only having to win two out of three vs. the Pirates to win the division, I’d save Latos for the Pirates. That’s a pretty unlikely scenario, though. Unfortunately.

      • @Steve Mancuso:

        I agree that winning the division could be worth the risk, but there is risk. Pushing latos back out of the mets series, means you have to win that game with Reynolds, who would be on good rest. seven days if I count right.

        In spite of that, if you get cute lose the mets game, then you force yourself (more than likely) into needing a sweep vs pirate and some cooperation from the cardinals in losing an extra game.

        I think you have to wait and see how the rest of the road trip shakes out. Sweep the astros and take 2 of 3 from pirates, then see where things stand. Too many variables at this point to get too worked up about it.

  7. I’ll ask a question I posed a couple of weeks ago: would you rather win the Division and have to play the Dodgers, or go through the wildcard and then face the Braves?

    First and foremost I just want to make sure we get in, but I think I’d rather face Atlanta instead of the Dodgers.

    In fact, the more I think about it, losing in the wildcard game or losing in the NLDS are pretty much the same thing. And the wildcard plus Braves route to the NLCS looks like a safer bet to me than going through the Dodgers to get to the NLCS. Thoughts?

    • @Eric the Red: This is an easy call. You take the division championship. The play-in game is a 50/50 proposition. No way the difference between the Braves and Dodgers is worth risking that. Do the math. Say our chance of beating the Dodgers is 45% and our chance of beating the Braves is 55% (just for the sake of argument). Chance of reaching the NLCS:

      Win Division/Beat Dodgers = 45%
      Win Wild Card/Beat Braves = 27.5%

      The Dodgers don’t scare me – we just swept them and they continue to struggle. Avoiding the play-in game *doubles* our chance of making the NLCS.

      • @Steve Mancuso: It’s not so easy for me 🙂 For starters–pardon the pun–the Dodgers do scare me. They’re nicked up right now, and if you could guarantee me that Hanley Ramirez won’t be better than 75% then I might agree with you. But if they’re healthy I don’t want to face the top of that rotation, and I think there’s a much bigger gap between them and the Braves because of those starters.

        As for the math, I guess it comes down to whether you really believe the wildcard is random chance. I think our chances of making the NLCS are better by taking out the Pirates then Braves. (I want no part of the Cardinals in a one game playoff, however. Their survivability is spooky.)

      • @Steve Mancuso: Dodgers took 3 of 4 in LA … so it’s not like they’re all that beatable. We didn’t knock them out of the ballpark either … all 3 home wins were hard-fought.

    • @Eric the Red: Plus you have to use up Latos in the Wild Card game, which makes him unable to pitch twice in the NLDS.

      • @Steve Mancuso: I don’t know if that choice could be easily made. You realize that there won’t be a breather game from 162 to 163. The Reds and Bucs will be full-bore and however the rotation lands, is how it lands. Honestly, I don’t much care who pitches, so long as the bats are hot.

  8. Just for fun, I wanted to look up stats since the All-Star break. I find some surprising!

    First, if we look at adjusted Weighted Runs Created (wRC+), the Reds have had 4 hitters above league average since the ASB: Votto (155), Choo (152), Hannahan(!)(115), and Bruce (111).

    We have 5 guys with walk rates above 10: The four mentioned above plus Hannigan (12.5%). I chose this because, in my opinion, a walk rate of around 10% shows having “plate discipline.”

    RBIs have been pretty evenly spread: Bruce (29), Votto(!)(28), Phillips (27), Cozart (26), Frazier (25). None of those numbers are earth shattering, but there you have it.

    Seven of the 11 players with 53 or more PAs have positive Baserunning WAR components (BsR), the four with negative ratings? Ludwick, Mesoraco, Hannahan, Choo. The best? Cozart and Frazier, tied with +0.7 BsR. (Just because you were wondering, with 1 AB, Billy Hamilton has a +1.3 BsR; nearly 100% better than the next most valuable runner of the bases on the team.)

    Votto, at .292/.431/.487, represent the tops on the team in each category.

    • @prjeter:

      Here’s one more:

      With 0.1 WAR on the season, Billy Hamilton has been “more valuable” than Derrick Robinson, Donald Lutz, Jack Hannahan, Xavier Paul, Neftali Soto, Ceazar Izturis, and Ryan Ludwick COMBINED.

      I know it’s a weird comparison, but it’s a bit thought provoking! His 5 SB and 4 runs have been enough to outweigh the negatives brought by the others, either at the plate, in the field, or on the bases.

    • @prjeter: Ludwick is one lousy baserunner, and was last year, too. The replay showed that he stopped at second last night, when he could plainly see that the runner in front of him was trying to score, and when he ought to have known that the play would be at the plate, and not at third. Cozart should have recognized it, but Ludwick’s running was so off-the-charts bad that you can almost forgive him for it.

      Ludwick is a lousy outfielder, too, but almost all outfielders get bad at age 35 and up. Even Bonds and Griffey weren’t very good at that age. Young eyes must be better at judging fly balls and running plays, kind of like young eyes make for better putters than older golfers.

  9. The Reds’ having an extra off-day is an advantage over the Pirates and WLBs in setting up their starting pitching, and in managing the bullpen. I gotta believe that Cueto will get 2 more starts, including the final Sunday, even if only for 75 pitches.

    The Nationals pretty much refuse to lose–up 3-0 already–so I don’t want the Reds doing anything other than focusing on the game in front of them that day.

    Any word on Marshall? What was the point in activating him, if he couldn’t throw an inning in a 5-run game last night?

    • @Big Ed:

      I agree, the advantage of haveing last thursday, this thursday, and next thursday, could be quite large, especially for bullpen usage.

      • @Lost and Found:

        Reds only team off this Thursday. Pit and StL both have games. Hopefully a chance to gain a 1/2 game on both that day. Next Thursday all 3 teams have off. They all play 6 games in the final week, so it ends up pretty evenly. I don’t think any team has any make up games. Reds play those 6 at home, the same as STL, but Pit is on the road. It’ll be interesting coming down to the wire.

    • @Big Ed: Enquirer says today that Dusty says he’s the #3 LHP out of the bullpen right now.

      For now, Reds manager Dusty Baker said, he’ll be the third left-hander out of the bullpen behind Manny Parra and Zach Duke.

      That’s fine with Marshall, who said he understands he has to earn his manager’s trust, even though time is running out to do that before the end of the season and a possible playoff berth.

    • @Big Ed:

      Any word on Marshall? What was the point in activating him, if he couldn’t throw an inning in a 5-run game last night?

      I wondered the same thing. I guess getting Simon 3 innings and Ondrusek an inning was more important than letting Marshall face some live, in-game hitters after more than 3 months on the DL.

      • @Shchi Cossack: I can’t figure out why they left Simon in for a third inning. Reynolds is starting Wednesday; I think Simon should have saved an inning in case he’s needed. In addition to Marshall, with that lead against the Astros Dusty could ahave pitched Christiani or Partch.

  10. It’d be pretty cool if there was a 3-way tie for first in the NLC going into the last week of the season. What an exciting week of baseball that would be. MLB sure could use that with the other 5 divisions pretty much already settled. The fan bases of the 3 teams might not be able to handle all the ups and downs. We’d be hanging on every pitch. The chance to finish first or the chance to finish third.
    Then add in, the final game on Sept. 29 Pit vs. Cin, with the division crown on the line, the game goes into extra innings.
    Of course, the other side of the coin is, the Red’s fate sealed (3rd place) before the Mets come to town.
    Let’s see how bad the Reds want it. It’s out there to be had.

  11. Plus you add in Cingrani + Marshall down the stretch.

    Come playoff time, the Reds will have the most formidable pitching staff in either league.

  12. I was wondering where Big Brox was at lately. He went back to KC to visit with old teammates and take in the game. Looks like the elbow is doing fine.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  13. Forgive me for not reading every word of this so perhaps it’s been addressed, but if it’s a play-in game vs. Pittsburgh(which seems the most likely at this point to me), wouldn’t the Reds prefer Bailey over Latos given his record against them? Then, if you get through that one you still have Latos for the 1st game of the next series.

  14. I will go back and read all the replies but what strikes me as peculiar, if not something out of a bad sports movie — the effective end to the season may indeed depend on the pitching of one Greg Reynolds.

  15. Ondrusek is from Texas. Marshall is not. And people are wondering why, in a 5 run game, Dusty pitched Ondrusek?

  16. Braves cough one up that we could have used today.
    Nats 3 in the 9th to walkoff.

    • @Johnu1: yes, and all against Kimbrel, with the winning run scoring on a ball that went between Andrelton Simmons’s legs. The Nats are building some karma.

  17. Has anyone read anything about Cingrani’s health? I haven’t heard anything but I sure would feel better if he was the 6th starter instead of Greg Reynolds.

  18. My bottom line on Steve’s question is that if the Reds have a chance next week to win the division outright, and that’s improved by having Latos pitch vs. the Pirates, then do it.

    I’d also note that I don’t yet trust Cueto more than Leake. First I want to see how he pitches vs. the Mets.

Comments are closed.

About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.


2013 Postseason, 2013 Reds


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