“The season is still young.” It’s a phrase often uttered when teams are struggling early in the season. After all, the first 20 games of a season can’t be that important when there are 162 in total … right?
Actually, game 20 is more important to the Cincinnati Reds than anyone realizes. How much does the Reds’ record after 20 games correlate with the team record at season’s end over the past 44 years?
Above .500 Record After Game 20: This happened 19 times. In 13 of those seasons, the Reds finished above .500. In six of those seasons, they finished below .500.
Below .500 Record After Game 20: This happened 16 times. In seven of those seasons, the Reds finished above .500. In eight of those seasons, they finished below .500. In one of those seasons, they finished 81-81.
10-10 Record After Game 20: This happened nine times. In four of those seasons, the Reds finished above .500. In five of those seasons, they finished below .500.
Over four decades worth of history shows that if the Reds were over .500 after game No. 20, the team had just under a 70 percent chance of ending the season with a winning record. However, if the Reds were at or below .500 at game No. 20, they faced an uphill battle as they had just a 44 percent chance of reaching year’s end with a winning record.
The Reds have already locked down a losing record after 20 games. With a win tonight, they improve to 9-11; with a loss, they drop to 8-12 — two records that don’t seem much different until you take a deeper look.
Over the past 44 years, the Reds finished the 20th game with a record of 8-12 four times. Yet only once did the team manage to eclipse a .500 record at season’s end. On the other hand, the Reds have completed game No. 20 with a record of 9-11 seven different times. Five of those times, the Reds finished the season over .500 (and once at 81-81).
Only once in the last 44 years have the Reds started 9-11 and finished the season with a losing record.
The Reds will send their ace to the mound tonight in an effort to improve to a record that, according to history at least, gives them the best shot at finishing 2014 with a winning record. And here you thought tonight would be just another Tuesday night game.
The season is still young, but statistically, tonight could be a make-or-break outing for the Reds.