Let me start off by saying that when working with numbers, everyone cherry picks, myself included. I do it for my real job every day and I do it when looking up Reds stats to write about. My goal is to find data that tells a story. Without the stories, the data doesn’t mean a whole lot.

One of the cherry picks I saw on Twitter recently was in regard to the Reds performance vs the Marlins this year. With a 6-1 record and a +30 run differential, their record vs everyone else 60-74 with a -22 run differential. 66-75 isn’t very good, but it looks way better than the alternative. So are the Reds actually worse than we think because of their six wins vs Miami?

I am not here to definitively say no, but I don’t think it is a fair point to make. And while the season has certainly not been good, there have been bright spots that are more encouraging then six wins against Miami. For instance, the Reds are 16-10 this year against the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. That is a 0.615 winning percentage (and +13 run differential) against teams with a combined 0.600 winning percentage on the season, including a 3-game sweep of the best team in baseball in Houston. Should these games be looked at differently as well?

Another example may bring up painful memories, so I apologize in advance. The 2012 Reds won the NL Central with 97 wins and needed an epic collapse to fall short of a visit to the NLCS. Of those 97 wins, 39 of them were against five teams with a combined 0.407 winning percentage. Two of those teams had over 100 losses (Cubs and Astros, lol). Factoring out those games, that squad was a pedestrian 58-51 with a +6 run differential. Did this fact make that team any less likely to win the World Series? Did it doom them to lose three straight games against the eventual World Champions? I’ll admit that it could be debated, but I am going to say no.

For the most part, a better team will win more games against a worse team over the course of a season series. While there are the occasional outliers (3-0 vs HOU, 5-11 vs PIT), it seems wrong to second guess the Reds for beating a team that is not as good as they are. It would be much more concerning if the Reds has a losing record against one of the worst teams in the league.

The bigger problem seems to be the fact that they are 12-29 against the Cardinals, Indians, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals. If the Reds want to be a playoff contender, they need to play like they have against the Astros, Braves and Cubs all season long. And that includes beating up on teams that they should beat up on. The bottom line is that nobody asks the World Series Champion what their strength of schedule or strength of victory was. Another 6-1 record vs Miami in 2020 would be a good start for our Redlegs to get there.

19 Responses

  1. Don

    Matthew, Great article, I was looking at how the Reds have played against certain team and their record just yesterday.

    My conclusion was similar. For the Reds to be competitive they have to win more in the division.
    Cubs – 9-7
    Brewers 8-8
    Cards 7-12
    Pirates 5-11
    Total = 29-38

    Cards are 38-25
    Cubs are 31-26
    Brewers are 34-30

    If the Reds would have been vs Cards (10-9) and Pirates(8-8) so far this year. That is +6 in wins,
    +6 in wins for Reds would have them @ 72-69 today. That would be 4.5 games of Cards and 5 from Cubs and 4.5 back in the Wildcard.
    That would be marginally in the race with 21 to play but the Reds would almost control their own destiny with 6 games vs D’backs, 3 vs Cubs and 3 vs Brewers.

    Nice to play what if scenarios.

    The being better vs division (Cards and Pirates) is not all that is needed to get to playoffs but that is a must do in 2020 to be in playoff hunt.

  2. CI3J

    It’s pretty interesting, but the thing to note is, all the other NL teams play the Marlins too. I’m also pretty sure other teams have another team they have “owned” this season. Should we just throw out games against a certain team you happen to have a really good record against? They why even bother keeping records if just get to arbitrarily decide which games “count” and which ones don’t?

    As the poster above said, if the Reds had played .500 baseball against the Cards and Pirates, they’d have a winning record, and the Cards and Pirates would both have 3 fewer wins each.

    One of the Reds’ biggest problems this season is they have played 50 1-run games, but have only won 20 of them. Good teams seem to find a way to win in those situations. Imagine if the record were flipped, and the Reds had won 30 of them and lost 20. That’s +10 wins right there, which would put them at 76-65, or almost exactly the same record as the Cubs have right now.

    I’m not sure why the Reds are so terrible in 1-run games, or why they have played so many of them. A quick glace tells me it seems most teams played about 30-40 such games, but the Reds are all alone in having played 50. I guess the glass half-full interpretation is that the Reds are really close to being competitive, and just need that extra push to get over the hump. The glass half-empty is that the Reds still don’t have a “winning attitude” and can’t come through when the chips are down. Maybe more talent will fix it. Or maybe it’s the clubhouse culture. Who knows. But it’s interesting to note.

    • Broseph

      Very true. I was actually looking at the Cubs schedule for the rest of the season (because I was holding hope Philly, NYM, or Milwaukee would take the 2nd wildcard).While the race is very much alive – it’s looking like the Cubs are going back to post season. They’re playing the Reds, Pirates x2, Padres, Cardinals.

      They barely kept afloat during their guantlet earlier in the year and are now pulling away against lesser teams.

      Reds have to have similar ability to get back in the playoff hunt moving forward.

  3. Jim Walker

    The flow of the MLB season has always fascinated me. 162 games in 185 or fewer days with the only scheduled consecutive days off being the 4 day All Star break makes for a true grind physically and mentally. And typically except for the very worst teams everyone ends up within the margins of .500, i.e. less than .600 and but more than .400. Yes I know 5 of 6 divisional leaders currently are clear of .600 but that in itself is an outlier worthy of a look.

    The gals and guys with the super computers need to go a step beyond what we can do with the final numbers and take a look how travelling and sequencing (who plays who when) figure into all this.

    • Doug Gray

      They’re already doing that kind of stuff with travel/when to leave/when to arrive and things like that Jim. It’s pretty cool.

      • greenmtred

        Doug: Completely unrelated, but for a few days now, when I pull up RLN, I don’t get the current issue. I have to jump through (usually) 2 hoops (clicking on the most recent post availible, then repeating that with the posts listed in the right-hand column). Is it my computer, or something strange in cyberspace?

  4. Centerfield

    I think with the Reds, it isn’t just beating good teams and losing to the bad ones. They to have problems beating bad pitchers and rookies. There are probably more of these types of players on bad teams. The guy last night was topping out at 85 mph, but made the hitters look awful. It would have been a good game to start slow ball hitters Peraza and Votto.

    • Sliotar

      Matthew,

      Good post.

      Couple of follow-ups to it…

      1) Totally agree on biases related to data. I own a small business, and consult in evaluating businesses to buy for a couple of retired hedge fund guys.

      I work with data in both daily, and there are times when I look at stuff “just to look at it”, and see if something comes up. Other times, I am looking for something specific and trying to “find a story.”

      It all depends on the initial approach.

      • Sliotar

        2) The issue with the Marlins games is this….

        This season, the Reds played Miami at home on April 9, 10 and 11, winning all 3 games and outscoring them 21-1.

        That +20 run differential led to some here to create a narrative, that, despite the early losing, the Reds were “better than their record.”

        Plenty of folks, including me, pushed back that those 3 games were an outlier and created a false impression.

        The Reds have not had 3 wins together close to that for the rest of the season.

      • Matthew Habel

        Fair point, and the same could be said of the Astros series which looked good but could have just as easily been three 1-run losses. But at what point do both of those things together mean something?

        Or their record vs the Cubs/Brewers vs the cards/pirates. Did they get fortunate to play well against the former or unfortunate to play poorly against the latter?

        Not really sure where I’m going with this, just killing time on a Friday tbh

    • greenmtred

      I don’t believe that there is a direct correlation between bad pitchers and low velocity. Slow throwers with great control and good breaking stuff give lots of hitters lots of trouble. There don’t seem to be so many of them around anymore–everybody throws 96–so hitters aren’t adjusted to it.

      • Rob

        Totally agree. Several times in the last month though the Reds have scored 1-2 runs against starters with 6 and 7 ERAs. And Marty will say this dude is really on. Truth be told, the Reds aren’t professional hitters.

  5. RedNat

    I wouldn’t mind to see mlb handicap the schedule similar to the nfl based on payroll or previous season record. Redsox, yankees, Cubs, dodgers should play each other more often and the Reds, Royals, Tigers should play each other more . could make for some more interesting playoff races

  6. Fish

    You’re kinda doing the opposite of what makes baseball so statistically interesting. Since you get such a large sample of games, the season is pretty much a reflection of the teams true talent level (although I’d love to see a stat on standard deviation of runs and runs allowed because I think there is predictive value there).

    When you break a large sample into smaller samples, in my mind, it falls apart. Players get hurt, slump, go on hot streaks, etc. You can hit different pitchers in the rotation and they themselves are subject to a larger amount of randomness than hitters.

    I’m willing to look at data that says it’s predictive, but I don’t think it would be better than other measures.

  7. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Short term? Or, Ultimately? Or, for the success of the team? Obviously, no. Just consider. For example, two teams tie for the division title. Is the tiebreaker the “strength of schedule”? Of course not. And, ultimately, that’s the only thing that counts, is to win.

    Given that, in some cases, sure. For instance, if 2 teams are tied, and you wanted to make a bet as to who would finish higher, one thing you would consider is the team’s “strength of schedule” they’ve had up to that point as well as what they had left for the rest of the season.

    Or, if a team is determining if they need to make a player move to “win”, and they see that their “strength of schedule” may be the most difficult left in the race, that may press them to make a player move.

    One case, it doesn’t make a difference. The other case, it does make a difference.

    In summary, just like so much, it all depends upon what scenario you are considering.

  8. Mark Tokarski

    Tommy Lasorda said, while managing the Dodgers way back when, that the secret to success was to “play even with the big guys, beat up on the guys.” Reds are getting there.

  9. SomeCallMeTim

    This is just my opinion… The only thing that matters is where you are at the end of the big 162. I loved stats as a kid on the back of baseball cards, but unless the data reveals what a team has to work on, what good is it? The only sport where strength of victory or even the avoidance of “bad losses” is football, and that is because it CAN effect the postseason both in NCAA and NFL tie breakers (points allowed/scored).

    If you want the ultimate case file on how strength of victories is a hollow point, look at the 1960 Yankees. They pummeled Yankees for 3 games, but the Pirates won game 7, and that is all that mattered. In the end, it’s just like my favorite golf expression: it’s not how, it’s how many. Same applies to any sports when it comes to victories and championship.

  10. SomeCallMeTim

    I said that wrong…sorry. The Yankees pummeled the Pirates for 3 games, but ultimately the Pirates were the victors.