The Cincinnati Reds are the favorites to win the National League Central in 2020. Or so that’s what the PECOTA projected standings say is the most likely outcome according to their simulations.

The system projects the Cincinnati Reds to finish at 86-76, just ahead of the Chicago Cubs who are projected at 84.5-77.5 (round up if you’d like – this is just the average win total for all of their simulations). That would be the fourth best record in the National League, trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals.

Things get a bit interesting, though, when you dive a little bit deeper. The Reds are projected to win the division 47.3% of the time that the simulation was run. Chicago took the division 32.6% of the time, with the Cardinals and Brewers both at 9.7% of the time. The Reds did make the playoffs in 66% of the simulations, though.

In another interesting piece of information, you can look at the chart for the different win totals for each team within the simulations that were run. Here’s what the National League Central looks like:

What’s interesting with the Reds is that they seem to have more times where they win 90+ games than anyone else in the division. What PECOTA is telling us here is that the Reds have a little more upside, and a little more likelihood of reaching it than the Cubs do. At least in their projections, the two of them are separated from the pack a little bit.

Matthew Trueblood, who writes at Baseball Prospectus, made this note earlier this morning about the Reds and Cubs on twitter:

To make it slightly easier to visual this, I overlaid the Reds and the Cubs distribution charts so we can see just how things stack up.

At the extreme ends of both sides of the curve, the Reds and Cubs are similar. It’s that larger middle section of most likely outcomes where Cincinnati separates themselves by just a little bit on both ends of that larger “middle” area.

The Reds went out and added plenty of talent to their team in the last six months. Picking up Trevor Bauer boosts the rotation and gives the team depth that most other teams in the league can only dream of. The team then went out and picked up free agents Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos – who combined for 154 extra-base hits in 2019 in the Major Leagues. And that’s not to forget that they also added outfielder Shogo Akiyama, who PECOTA seems to like quite a bit, as well as starting pitcher Wade Miley (who PECOTA isn’t exactly as high on).

The Cincinnati Reds may not exactly have a true superstar on their team like some of the other playoff contending teams do. But they are deep. They’ve got one of the better rotations in baseball with plenty of upside to it. And at the plate, they are able to mix-and-match quite well, while having a staples at second and third base that combined for 84 home runs last season.

23 Responses

  1. Justin

    Baseball (and conversations about it) have become so heavy in advanced metrics that we forget how important other factors are. People like Dusty Baker get mocked for relying on the mental side, but then he’s one of the most decorated managers in the game today.

    This year, the Reds are setting out to win, and its not just talk. They put their money where their mouth is and I think it will make a difference for a lot of players.

    Votto no longer must shoulder the whole offense.
    Senzel isn’t going to be counted on to be a superstar.

    Castellanos is a great example of this. Loosing mentality in Detroit with few other bats to count on. He moves to the Cubs, who have a winning mentality, and a bunch of major bats (like the Reds do now) and he raked.

    I wish I had planned to go to Goodyear this spring. Tip of the hat to those who are!

    • David

      There is definitely a psychological side to any sport, which has a lot of different labels.

      Dusty was successful in the regular season because he did set a good attitude in the clubhouse with the players, and never (or rarely) showed up a player in front of the fans or the media.
      He would usually criticize the player behind closed doors. The players do appreciate never being publicly embarrassed. He did embarras Edwin Encarnacion publicly for what was perceived to be “not hustling”. Edwin lost a pop up he hit and didn’t think it was in fair territory. And then his career went nowhere after the Reds traded him.
      A good manager lets his players play, and shields them from bad juju from the media. A bad manager can make a talented team look lousy because he will de-motivate his players.
      I think the Cubs liked playing for Joe Maddon. It will be interesting to see how they play for their new manager, David Ross. He was a great guy in the clubhouse when he was a player, but sometimes that doesn’t work as a manager.

      • Chris

        It was Jerry Narron that publicly embarrassed Edwin for not running out that pop up, not Baker.

    • Reaganspad

      worst move the Astros have ever made… worse than trading Joe Morgan is the hire of Dusty Baker. He personally set the Reds back 2 years

      For a team like the Astros based on analytics, this is the most counter move ever made.

      • Optimist

        Consider, though, that analytics is pretty far down the Astros to-do list for the next few years. Dusty (and now Roenicke in Boston) is the bridge over troubled waters.

      • Earmbrister

        Strongly disagree Reagan. Th Astros needed a manager of impeccable character, and got that with Dusty Baker.

        As Optimist said, he’s a bridge or transition. He brings some much needed credibility to the Astros.

      • Droslovinia

        Could we please have some context for that? I’m having trouble seeing how leading a team to multiple consecutive playoffs for the first time in almost 40 years constitutes “setting them back.”

    • Andrew

      I’m as excited as you are. Thankfully, I have lived in the Valley of the Sun since before the Reds started training here, and I have tickets to see them take on the Padres (2/29) and Cubs (3/19). Can’t wait!

  2. wizeman

    “Encarnacions career went nowhere after the Reds traded him.”

    Tough room

    • David

      I can remember seeing Jocketty in the stands (on a TV game) behind the 3rd base dugout and cringing visibly when Edwin made a bad throw to 1st base once. When I saw that, I knew Edwin’s fate was sealed. He was going to be traded away.

      Actually a very nice guy, and turned out to be much more of a slugger than I would have ever guessed. just was not a good 3rd baseman with regards to throwing, which was kind of important.

  3. JB

    I dont have a problem with them picking the Reds or Cubs first. I just cant get on board with people picking the Cards to win the division. I think they have one of the worst outfields in baseball. They are basically counting on a rookie(Carlson) to carry them if he makes the team. Carpenter is terrible at 3rd and Molina is not getting any younger. I see teams pitching around Goldshmidt. I see the Brewers as a 500 team at best. I think losing 2 of your top 3 hitters is going to hurt them and I’m not sold on their starting pitching. None of the teams have the depth that the Reds have to counter injuries and slumps.

  4. Indy Red Man

    Reds are strong on paper, but divisions are won/lost on the field. Most of these guys can be counted on somewhat to match up with their baseball cards, but the question marks to me are Bauer, Shogo, and Senzel! If they produce (or even 2 out of 3) then this team is in the playoffs!

  5. Linkster

    This looks about right. A tough division where a sub-90 win team can win it. I like that Votto and Senzel are in camp early and have gone back to their previous hitting stance and styles. Also, Votto is still a superstar and likely HOF. This year will be a bounce back year for him with the pressure being taken off and letting his own brain decide how to bat and get on base.

  6. Sliotar

    A 2-game margin between the Reds and Cubs is nothing. Feels like a dogfight the whole way.

    If the Cubs could put it all together, they probably would win the division. But, they didn’t put it all together in 2018 and 2019, and are openly viewing this season as transitional.

    Sets up well for the Reds to grab the division title, especially before all that new Cubs TV network money starts rolling in.

  7. Sliotar

    PECOTA states 80-82 for St. Louis.
    Computers obviously cannot factor in the power of Devil Magic.

    One losing season for Cardinals since 2000.

    Dangerous to underestimate too much in any season, even this one.

    There isn’t a bookmaker around pushing an over/under number of less than 81 wins for Cardinals. People would be betting the over. A lot.

  8. Optimist

    This really is the test year for D Bell. If he gets the psychology correct, the batting order could be fascinating – consider Votto/Senzel batting 5/6 in certain games. That could solve the 1st-innning heavy approach from last season. I hope the FO expects the playoffs, and success to be getting past a play-in game. I don’t think he’s in danger unless they flop miserably, but another down year becomes his disappointment now.

    • Vegas John

      The reds need to win in spring training and start the season positively. Hopefully having more veteran successful talent will change culture of losing.

      I don’t see much separation at the top of the division so avoiding a poor start like last year and 2018 are critical.

      • David

        Yeah, it would be nice if the team was actually prepared for the season coming out of Spring Training this year, compared to the last few years, when they played poorly the first month of the season. And I’m not talking just about wins and losses. They PLAYED poorly.

      • Andrew

        Seriously. I knew in late April each year the Reds were already out if it. I’ll be happy with a <.500 year – the playoffs would be extra gravy!

  9. TR

    The front office has done a real good job this offseason and they might not be done yet. I think two factors are often underrated that could have a major impact on how the Reds do: making the most of spring training by coming on strong during the last two weeks, and the way the manager uses the rejuvenated Red’s team and the resulting chemistry on the field and in the clubhouse. And It would be a positive to see one of the newly acquired Reds step forward as the team leader.

    • Jefferson Green

      Yes, a new leader (or couple of leaders) would be very helpful to this team. Looking at the veteran pickups, Moustakas is known as an intense leader type, and the energy of Castellanos is well documented. Shogo was a team captain and known for his leadership, and Strop is noted for his help to young pitchers. All in all, a really good set of additions to the personality mix of the team.

  10. Ona

    Season all comes down to as last year as the bullpen goes the reds go the bullpen was horrendous last year blowing games left and right I don’t think the reds addressed it enough to win the division

    • Doug Gray

      Score more runs and you’ll blow fewer leads. The Reds addressed the issue, just not in the direct way you wanted them to do so.