The Reds and the playoffs: a long engagment

Joe Robbins - Getty Images

The Reds are going to the playoffs for the 14th time in franchise history, but twice-in-three-years is a rarer feat.

As one of the antique clubs in the majors, the Reds can boast some weird things having happened to their seasons over the years. Despite finishing first in their division (or league) 17 times since 1882, the Reds have only participated in the playoffs 14 times.

In 1882, the team's inaugural year in the morally-loose American Association, the Cincinnati Red Stockings won the pennant, but there were no playoffs. Like the Premiership, they had only the pride of sitting atop the table. Forty-game-winner Will White - who looked like this - and company went home without a clinch celebration or even the slightest taste of a TBS profit share. And probably went home to work for 15 hours a day doing something we now know causes your lungs to melt. If anyone deserved a playoffs, it was the '82 CinStox.

Nearly one hundred years later, a similar result by different means: the Reds missed the playoffs during the infamous strike-warped '81 season, despite finishing the year with the best record in baseball. In what I'm pretty sure was someone's half-baked master's thesis project, the playoff teams that year were the 1st and 2nd half leaders. The Reds missed the first half title by a half-game and the second-half by 1.5. Had the web existed then, the outrage would dwarf whatever we might be facing with the 2-3 division series format.

In 1994, of course, was a strike-shortened season, plain and simple. Like a lost summer, everything only kind of happened. It's now a 114-game backwater. Among those probably not thrilled with the MLBPA's hard line was Kevin Mitchell. He Bat Manned a 1.110 OPS, second only to Jeff Bagwell. The interruptus of '94 prompts a lot of what-if scenarios, including what if my trust in institutions hadn't been shattered?

But when this team does go to the playoffs, it goes correct. Over one-third of the time (5/13), there's a very cool result. A quick profile of the other 13 playoff teams:

38.5% (5) won the World Series (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990)

69.2% (9) reached the World Series

47-38 record in playoff games (.553 winning pct)

Last playoff victory: October 6, 1995 (in front of 53,276 at Riverfront).


With the possible exception of 1940, we all kinda know the story on the World Series winning squads. For those that don't, you can purchase RR manager-emeritus' Wire to Wire Reds or my own Hard-wired Reds 2019: 8 in A Row: Should They Let the Charlotte Chimeras Win One? No.

The biggest difference between the 2012 Reds and most of the Reds' playoff teams is on offense. Those 1970s teams were juggernauts.

The non-WS-winning team I think the current Reds' squad most resembles is the 1961 Reds. Both teams had slightly below average offense, good rotations all the way through and got by on their run prevention. In Frank Robinson and Joey Votto, they also had mashers who clearly lead the offense.

In the end, I think it's that '90 team that comps best for this year. Part of it is probably that whole idea that each generation is just a response to the previous. But part of it is also these cherry-picked facts about both teams:



118 ERA+ 125
95 OPS+ 92
27 AVG AGE 27

Possibility of facing
A's in WS?

Dominant BULLPEN Dominant
Favor lefties by about
60 pts of OPS
Platoon splits Favor lefties by about
60 pts of OPS

Viva '90.

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