Yesterday the Cincinnati Reds became the first team in the majors to reach 82 wins after beating the Houston Astros 5-3. That win improved their record to 82-53 overall, a total of 29 games over .500. The Reds are one of only two teams in all of baseball with a winning percentage that is over .600 (.607). The Washington Nationals are the other, and the only team ahead of the Reds with a .609 (81-52) winning percentage. With roughly 25-30 games remaining in the season, and both teams having comfortable leads in their respective divisions (7 for Wash. 9 1/2 for Cincy), I think you can assume that barring a meltdown, both teams will win their divisions and have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
So with the season winding down, and both teams records virtually being the same, which team would you consider the best in the NL? I think the overwhelming majority because of the media would say the Nats, but this guy begs to differ.
If you examine each team’s numbers they are almost identical. In 135 games played the Reds have scored 592 runs (12th in MLB), and in 133 games played the Nationals have scored 590 runs (14th in MLB). That equals a 4.44 runs per game average forWashington, and a 4.39 runs per game average forCincinnati, a mere .05 per game difference. The Nationals overall team ERA is 3.30 (2nd in MLB), the Reds is 3.44 (4th in MLB), that’s only a .14 difference. When it comes to fielding, each team has exactly 76 errors and a .985 fielding percentage (tied 6th in MLB). Bullpen ERA is really the only major stat that one team has what I would consider a significant advantage, the Reds lead the majors with a 2.78 bullpen ERA, and the Nationals are 10th in the majors with a 3.32 bullpen ERA, almost a full half run per nine innings difference. Once again, just like with their records (other than bullpen ERA), each teams stats gives no clear indication who is better. So if you can't point to their records or each team’s stats as proof of who the better team is, then how do you decide? To me it hinges on two players, Stephen Strasburg and Joey Votto.
Unless you have been under a rock, you already know thatWashingtonplans on shutting down their franchise and current ace, phenom Stephen Strasburg with-in the next 10 days or so. Many people are highly critical of this move, including Strasburg himself, and will without a question immediately impact the Nats chance at making a run at the NL pennant. The Redlegs on the other hand have had the fortune of being the only team in all of baseball to have their entire starting rotation from day one make every single scheduled start. The only exception was a double-header with the Cubs in which they called up a rookie to start the second game so they could avoid having to move up everyone in the rotation a day of rest. That means the Reds have had just 5 guys start 134 out of 135 of their games thus far this season. 4 out of 5 of those starters have won 10+ games (Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Bailey)- highlighted, of course, by Johnny Cueto's league leading 17 wins and 2.48 ERA. Latos has pitched lights out of late. He is 5-2 with a 3.23 ERA since the all-star break. Add in the previously mentioned major league leading bullpen ERA the Reds bolster, and without Strasburg I don't thinkWashingtonpitching touches the Reds. Even with the likes ofGio Gonzalez,JordanZimmerman, Ross Detwiler, and Edwin Jackson (all of which have an ERA's b/t 3.00 and 3.55), by subtracting Strasburg, only one of those four has 10+ wins this season (Gonzalez). If the Reds team ERA was virtually the same asWashington's with Strasburg, it only makes sense that their team ERA will eventually be better than the Nats once they shut him down. By subtracting Strasburg, the Reds pitching from top to bottom (including the bullpen) is superior to the Nationals period.
The mainstream media doesn't talk much about it anymore, but the Reds have had the best record in baseball since the all-star break. Every single one of those wins accept one has come without arguably the best player in the NL in their lineup, Joey Votto. He is currently on a rehab assignment and should be back in the lineup with-in the next couple of days. Once the Reds get him back, the debate is over; to me there is absolutely no question that the Reds are the better team. I mean if the Reds are neck and neck in not only team record but also team stats with Strasburg pitching for the Nats, and without Votto playing for them, how can anyone argue that once Strasburg gets shut down, and Votto comes back that Washington's better? To me its silly. Now a lot can happen b/t now and the end of the season, and even into the playoffs, but numbers don't lie. The fact is that the numbers say that the Reds and Nationals as of right now are basically the same team. So you tell me, like I have already mentioned, if they are the same teams right now, how can anyone argue that once the Nats lose Strasburg, and the Reds get back Votto that they are even close to comparable?