After a down year in 2011, the Reds are back in the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Two years ago, they were swept in three games by the Phillies in the NLDS. This year, they’re more prepared. They’ll be hosting either the Giants or the Wild Card winner, depending on whether or not they end up with the #1 seed. But, can they move through the playoffs and bring a championship to Cincinnati for the first time in 22 years?
3 Reasons Why:
- Scored Against – the only reason the Reds’ sub-par scoring offense (see below) didn’t keep them out of the playoff picture is because their pitching staff has allowed fewer runs than any other playoff team (587). More than that, only the Rays’ staff allowed fewer runs in the entire league. If pitching wins championships, the Reds are sitting pretty.
- No Pressure – when the game is late & close, the Reds actually seem to thrive. They have the 6th most at-bats in situations like this, and they have produced well in those opportunities – they have the best batting average (.281) and OPS (.838 – the Angels are 2nd at .764!) as a team in those tight situations. And, their pitching staff turns it on as well – a 2.69 ERA (best in the NL) and .222 opp. avg. (3rd in NL).
- Bullpen – the Reds’ relievers as a group might be the best in baseball (6 relievers with ERA’s at or below 3.00). They have the best ERA in baseball, the best opp. avg. in the NL, and the 2nd best WHIP in the NL. But, what I like the best about them as they enter the postseason – they have pitched the 2nd fewest innings in all of baseball. That means they’re fresh, and ready to go – and you never know how early you might have to dip into that bullpen in the postseason.
3 Why Not:
- Scoring – the Reds have scored fewer runs (669) than anyone else in the playoffs. In fact, they’re 21st in all of baseball in runs scored. They’ve had some injuries, but they’ve also been inconsistent. If this offense struggled to score runs in the regular season, I don’t have a lot of confidence in them in the postseason.
- Clutch Hits – in the postseason, one thing that you can’t ignore is that scoring opportunities don’t always come at the most ideal times. It often requires clutch hitting, especially with 2 outs, in order to score the runs necessary to win. That’s bad news for Cincinnati. They have the worst batting average (.198), 5th worst OBP (.319), and 2nd worst OPS (.635) as a team when batting with runners in scoring position, and 2 outs.
- Smoke & Mirrors – 22-9. That’s how the Reds faired against the two 100-loss teams . . . both of whom are in their division. So, here’s the question: are the Reds pitchers really that good, or are they benefiting from playing some weak opponents on a regular basis? Other than the Cardinals, the NL Central teams over the last decade have not performed well in the postseason. The Reds might just be another team that beat up on weak teams, but can’t compete with the big boys.
What will the Reds do in the postseason? Any predictions?