I’m a pretty optimistic person. I’m the guy that sits in the stands at Commonwealth Stadium, and regardless of whether the opponent is Florida or WKU, at the moment toe touches ball on the opening kickoff I honestly believe the Wildcats have a shot at winning the game. Which is why it pains me (and is out of character for me) to utter these words at the All-Star break:
The Reds are, very likely, done for 2011.
Yes, I know they are a mere 4 games out in the standings. Yes, I know the Reds brass have (finally) given Zack Cozart a chance to show his stuff at the big league level. And, yes, I know there are two and a half months of baseball remaining to be played. But the numbers just don’t stack up in the Reds’ favor.
(Warning: Math Ahead)
Before the season started, I figured the magic number of wins to reach the postseason would be 92. To reach this number in the remaining 70 games, the Reds would need to win at a clip of .671. The best team in baseball (Philadelphia) has a winning percentage of .626. Not even the Big Red Machine of 1975 won games at this rate.
Of course, it isn’t like anyone else in the Central Division is setting the world on fire, so in reality 92 wins may not be necessary. But the Reds will have to win at the Phillies’ current pace in the second half to even get to 89 wins. Again, a difficult task.
But let’s TRY to sprinkle a little positivity into the conversation. A facebook friend (who seemingly loves the Reds and loves math equally) shared some interesting information. Using something called “pythagorean expectation,” (approximately 23 heads just exploded) he calculated the “expected records” for the Reds, Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates based on actual runs scored, runs allowed and other “mathy” stuff. The bottom line: the Reds are first among these teams in “expected wins,” yet last among them in actual wins. While there are many variables involved in baseball, and it certainly isn’t math in its purest sense, if the second half allows any sort of “correction,” the Reds could find themselves back in the hunt even if they don’t actually hit or pitch any better than they did in the first half. Perhaps they have only been the victims of some bad luck.
So, for the moment, let’s consider the possibility that the Reds will get back in the hunt in the second half. Here’s what I think will have to happen.
1. Even the score against the Pirates. Yes, the Bucs somehow have a better record than the Reds at the break. But a 6-1 record against the Reds this season is a little out of whack. The Reds have 9 games against them in the second half, and will need to win at least six of them to return things to normal.
2. Beat the weak links. Unfortunately, the Reds only face three teams (the Cubs, Astros and Padres) that have winning percentages below .450 the rest of the way. Fortunately, there are sixteen games remaining against them, but they won’t get anywhere just winning 10 or 11 of them. They will need to get fat against these teams.
3. Win games in bunches. In the first half, they had two five game winning streaks and two three game winning streaks. They will need at least one run of something like 11 of 13 to make up some ground in a hurry. It’s not likely that they can grind out a winning percentage over .620 just by winning six (and occasionally seven) out of every ten.
3. Jay Bruce needs to be Jay Bruce. He doesn’t need to be “NL Player of the Month Bruce” as he was in May, batting .340 with 12 homers and 33 RBI. He just can’t be the “NL Stinker of the Month Bruce” as he was in April and June, averaging .220, 3 and 9. Somewhere in the middle (.280, 8 and 20) in each of the remaining months will suffice.
There are other things I’d like to see (such as Drew Stubbs putting the ball in play more often, Jonny Gomes getting crazy hot, and Edinson Volquez never donning a Reds uniform again), but if they can accomplish these things they have a chance of getting back into the thick of things. If not, well, I’ll see you at the goalposts after the Cats beat Florida AND Tennessee this season.