When barely losing isn't enough

Kevin C. Cox

It's not what I was taught growing up playing Coddle Your Child League underhand coaches pitch softball, but losing sucks.

The Reds aren't getting the job done. As a consequence, they're 5 games back in the NL Central. But there is a difference between truly playing poorly and "just kinda losing too much." At least to justify the existence of this article.

The team has started off July going 5-5, which wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't gone 12-15 in June. In the interest of forgetting about June, let's just consider July. They started off this month in spectacular fashion - thumping the defending Champs 8-1. Homer Bailey followed up that performance with a his second no-hitter.

Chris Heisey came back on July 3 and has since hit two home runs and taken two pitches for the team en route to a scorching .400/.444/.933 line in 19 PAs. Team offense isn't where it was in May, but it's better so far than it was in April or June.

Lately, at least, they've been good enough to win or almost win nearly every game they've played. Maybe that means they're unlucky. Maybe it means they have one too many holes in the lineup. It's hard to unpack all this and know whether the Reds are on a slow rebound or just finding their level as a team that's significantly worse than they were in the first third of the season:

  • They've lost 5 games in July by a total of 8 runs -- an average of 1.6 runs per game.

  • They're averaging 8.6 hits per game and 12.2 runners per game (hits + walks + HBP)

  • Pythag win percentage is really unreliable in small samples, but they've scored 48 runs and allowed 28 this month. That +20 run differential in July is significantly better than the Cardinals (+11) and the Pirates (zero).

  • St. Louis has played six of nine July games against the Cubs, Marlins and Astros -- the latter two being the unrivaled two worst teams in baseball.

  • Differences start to become miniscule at this stage of the season, but the Reds are tied for second with the Pirates has having the toughest Strength of Schedule in the NL.

I don't know what this means. Recently, the Reds have had bouts of looking terrible at the plate and terrible in fundamentals. But it's tough to say they're playing badly. They're just not winning.

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