Brace yourself — I am about to get real nerdy with numbers here as I look at the best path for the Cincinnati Reds to win the National League Central division in 2014. While the Reds sit at 37-37 through the first 74 games of the season, they sit at 8.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the division. So how exactly can the Reds possibly make up that ground and win the NL Central?
Take a deep breath.
The Reds have 88 games remaining in the 2014 regular season. Of those 88 games, exactly half of them (44) will be against division opponents. They will be facing the Brewers 12 times, the Chicago Cubs 13 times, the St. Louis Cardinals 10 times and the Pittsburgh Pirates nine times. In their first 74 games, the Reds have posted an 18-13 combined record against those four teams with an injury-plagued roster — the highest inter-division winning percentage of all five teams (Brewers 57.14, Cardinals .545, Cubs .388, Pirates .444 and Reds .580).
Taking into consideration the Reds’ record over the first 31 games against NL Central opponents, the addition of a healthy Reds roster, current Reds play and injuries sustained by other division teams (such as the Cardinals losing Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia), here is a projection on a possible outcome for their remaining 44 games against those opponents:
vs. Milwaukee: 9-3
vs. Chicago: 10-3
vs. Pittsburgh: 6-3
vs. St. Louis: 5-5
That would put their overall NL Central season record at 48-27 (and 30-14 in after June 22, 2014) — an impressive winning percentage of .640. While that may seem high, at the rate they have been performing as of late, it doesn’t require that much of a stretch of one’s imagination.
Now let’s level the playing field for prediction purposes. Assuming that all NL Central teams play .500 baseball outside of their games with the Reds, here is how their season ending records would look:
St. Louis: 84-78
Assuming the Reds play .500 baseball in all 44 games left outside of the division, their record on the season would end at 89-73. A record that, according to these projections, would be enough to land them the crown of NL Central Division Champions. It would be a record that would favorably compare to the team’s record in recent years that featured a similar team. While their 52-36 record in their final 88 games would be a drastic increase over their 37-37 record over the first 74 games, it would again be comparable to such splits in recent years.
For the Reds and their fans, this would be an outcome that would gladly be welcomed. And while it might seem improbably and downright ludicrous the way divisional records stand at the moment, it isn’t completely inconceivable. Winning eight of their last 11 games facing four teams with a combined record of 168-138 (including two division leaders), the Reds have shown exactly what this team can do when healthy and firing on all cylinders.
Don’t roll your eyes just yet; keep in mind that the Los Angeles Dodgers posted a second half record in 2013 of 45-23 (a winning percentage of .662). And, believe it or not, lately the Reds have been very reminiscent of that impressive Los Angeles team. With Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake, the Reds also arguably have a deeper starting rotation than those Dodgers.
There is a chance you read this article and thought it was incredibly outlandish and totally impossible. But before the 2014 season did you expect the Brewers to be 47-30 heading into the All Star break? Of course not.
Simply put, winning the NL Central is possible for the Reds in 2014. And as you can see, it might not be as crazy of a thought as one might believe.