18 Games at a Time - Capsule 6


54 games to go. 

Despite some painful and/or improbable losses in the last eighteen games, the Reds:

A)   improved their playoff chances,

B)    weathered a helluva hot streak by the Cards,

C)    stood as still as a Buckingham guard as the trade deadline rolled by,

D)   watched the Redbirds make a move of marginal benefit at best,

E)    flipped the season narrative on its head by turning from a team driven by its bats to one powered by arms and gloves.

Reason is dead; may she rest in peace.  Long live fickle chaos.

With 60 wins at the two-thirds mark, the Reds are on pace for 90 wins, which would not only be pretty remarkable, but would also be playoff-worthy in 5 out of the last 10 years in the NL Central division.

If the Reds rip off three more 18-game strings like the last one, they should be a mortal lock.  Let's tee up the numbers, which are shown through Tuesday's games...

2010 Reds, Capsule 6

Overview:

Wins/Losses: 11 - 7 (PSA), 60-48 (YTD)

Strength of Schedule: .485, YTD (14th most difficult in NL; 28th most difficult in ML) [Prev: .481 YTD SOS, 15th most difficult in NL; 29th most difficult in ML]

RPI (ESPN): .502, YTD (10th best in NL; 18th best in ML)

[Prev: .497 YTD RPI, 10th best in NL; 19th best in ML]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats, YTD): 59.3% [prev: 53.6%]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on ELO concept): 59.4% [prev: 53.9%]

Baseball Prospectus playoff odds (based on team stats + PECOTA projections): 66.5% [prev: 50.1%]

Offense:

  • .268/.327/.406 (AVG/OBP/SLG) for the team, compared to NL average of .258/.325/.405
  • Some shakeup in the regular 8 this time around: Hanigan/Votto/Phillips/Cabrera/Cairo/Gomes/Stubbs/Bruce
  • It's been pointed out elsewhere on this blog, but it bears repeating: Miguel Cairo has been an excellent backup for this team: hitting 278/426/417 as a semi-regular in this most recent period, and struck out just 5 times against 9 walks over the stretch.
  • Going period by period, here are the team OPS totals: 692, 790, 922, 727, 762, 734.  The cumulative numbers still say this is the best or 2nd best offense in the NL, but more than likely this is a rather pedestrian offense that put it all together for a few weeks a couple months back.
  • Furthermore, this offense was rather fortunate over the last 18 games: based on component stats, they should have been expected to score 78 runs, but actually scored 90.
  • You may find this hard to believe, but Joey Votto was the best hitter on the team for the period: 361/418/656, and led the team in HR, Runs, and RBI.
  • All success is relative, so let's give our propers to Orlando Cabrera, who turned in a respectable 786 OPS for the period.  It looks like O-Cab will be out for awhile now and frankly I think the team will be better as a result, but it was a very nice going away present.
  • Ladies and gentleman, your starting outfield: In left field, an OPS of 626.  In center, 554.  And in right field, it's a 463 OPS!
  • In an unrelated note, Chris Heisey dropped a 1052 OPS on the world, and is getting dangerously close to 1000 in the same metric for the year.
  • The curious on again, off again tale of Laynce Nix continued.  This period, he was on, with 9 hits in 18 at-bats.  The life of a 5th outfielder, I suppose.

Pitching:

  • For the second straight period, the pitching staff was frickin' sweet, with a composite ERA of 3.26 to compare to the league average of 4.08.  Science tells us that any two consecutive data points constitutes a trend, so we should be good to go on this front going forward.
  • Travis Wood, season saver?  Wood continued his excellent adventure with a 2.63 ERA for the period.  Wood misses bats, but not the strike zone, which is a combination I've been suggesting for some time now.
  • It feels as though Johnny Cueto is *this close* to becoming the kind of ace a team would be comfortable trotting out to kick off a playoff series.  Now at 10-2 with a 3.32 ERA, Cueto has just 92 strikeouts in 130 innings.  I think he has the stuff to average one per inning, and would expect the run prevention results would improve significantly if he were to do so.
  • Mike Leake now has two straight periods with an ERA over 6.  The exclamation point is being removed from his name until further notice.
  • Ondrusek, Masset, and Smith combined for 28.1 innings of scorelessness.
  • The staff's BABIP was .237, against a league average of .292.  Similarly, the team's YTD DER jumped up again, from .700 to .708.  Two thoughts: one, it seems awfully unusual for that kind of movement this late in the season.  If my math is right, that means the team's DER for the period was somewhere up around .750.  Which: damn.  Secondly, just thinking qualitatively about the team, how is this possible?  With Rolen being injured for a good portion of this period, the entire left side of the defense is...sub-optimal.  Is it possible that the right-handed heavy staff is intentionally paired with the strength of the team's defense?
  • Arthur Rhodes has gotten less attention since his scoreless streak was snapped, but he wants you to know he's still among the planet's 50 baddest mamma-jammas (7.1 IP, 1 ER)

The next 18:

  • 6 games at home, 12 on the road
  • 7 of the 18 against divisional opponents
  • 2 of the 18 against teams that are on pace for 2010 playoff slots
  • .479 average winning percentage for the teams in the next 18 games.
  • The Cardinals will face a 17 game schedule over the same time frame, with average opponents' winning percentages equaling .486
  • I would be remiss not to mention that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed with nary a whisper of Reds activity.  With a fairly deep prospect list, the Reds certainly would have had opportunity to make a move had they desired one.  That they didn't speaks volumes to how the front office views the team, certainly, and may also foreshadow the trade market landscape in August, where some big fish can still be landed.  Daugherty is suggesting Manny, which would seem to guarantee it doesn't happen, but man what a fun experience that would be.
  • It's also possible that the Reds upgraded at two key positions by default: Paul Janish will be the starting shortstop for the foreseeable future in the wake of O-Cab's oblique injury, and Drew Stubbs literally whiffed his way off the starting lineup, giving way to Chris Heisey.
  • Three key storylines, then, over the final two months: 1) Is Volquez really ready for prime time? 2) Will Mike Leake or his eventual replacement be able to hold it together?  3) Can Jay Bruce snap out of it? 
  • In my book, if two of the above three are answered affirmatively (and injuries don't kill the team), this is a playoff team.  To be continued...
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