A 14 percent chance of anything happening is not a great one, in all honesty. Ask any fan of the New York Knicks about that, and they’ll fill you in on their draft-day horrors. Still, it’s not only a non-zero chance, it’s actually one that is juuuuust large enough that you can begin to at least dream about it, even if you forcibly end each of those dreams by muttering to yourself that there’s no way that’s actually going to happen.
Well, a quick trip to Baseball Reference and a check on their Playoff Odds later, you’ll find that they’re giving the Cincinnati Reds a 14.0% chance to make the playoffs this year. That’s a greater chance than they’re giving the likes of the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets, among many others, and just a smidge behind the Milwaukee Brewers (16.5%).
Their model, of course, is built on a number of important inputs, not the least of which is a team’s run differential, something the Reds have going in their favor. And while that alongside their brutal number of 1-run losses this year has become something of a running joke, the fact is that their model is giving the Reds a half-reasonable shot to pull off some sort of miraculous run over their final 52 games of the season, and a further look at that possibility begins to shed light on that hope.
For one, the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies currently sit tied for the second Wild Card spot in the National League at the moment. Behind them is a 4-pack of clubs with exactly 56 losses in Milwaukee, San Francisco, Arizona, and the Mets. Then, you find the Reds, with their 58 losses just a pair back in the loss column from all of those teams. That’s 5.5 games out of a second playoff spot, and with just 110 games played at the moment, they’ve logged the fewest number of completed games among that bunch. Hell, Milwaukee’s 57-56, having already played 3 more games than these Reds.
In other words, while the winning ways are absolutely going to need to keep up, the Reds do have more chance to pick up wins than the rest of their peers. Given that they’re 8-5 over their last 13 games and 6-3 over their previous 9, it feels as if they’re playing some of their best baseball of the season at the moment, so having more of their season left to play than their peers might well end up being a strength. Last week’s trade deadline certainly emphasized that they’re not about to fold up shop, either, as they added a potential co-ace to their rotation in Trevor Bauer, and today’s claiming of Kevin Gausman - while a roll of the dice with few guarantees - shows that they’re still going to be willing to commit dollars and resources to a 2019 campaign that isn’t quite defeated just yet.
That wild card chase seems to be their closest route, as the sweep of the Brewers by the Chicago Cubs has left the Reds 7.5 games back in the National League Central. Of course, the Reds do host the Cubs in a potentially huge 4-game series later this week, have 7 games remaining against them this season, and still have 18 games remaining against the three clubs ahead of them in the Central standings (Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee). So, even that’s not out of the question just yet, as perhaps a season akin to 2006 is in the offings, when the Cardinals took the division with just 83 wins.
This is all an incredibly long shot, to be sure. It’s going to have to happen without the proven bats of Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett, too, instead with the youth and inexperience of Josh VanMeter, Jose Peraza, and Phillip Ervin carrying a good sized load. But for once, it’s actually a chance for the Cincinnati Reds, and even that has been a far-flung dream for over a half-decade around these parts.