How crazy is it that the Cincinnati Reds are going to the National League playoffs? It’s this crazy: During their 15-7 run from Sept. 2-25 to clinch their berth in the playoffs, the Reds were the worst-hitting team in the majors.
This isn’t your father’s Big Red Machine. But fear it, regardless.
The Cincinnati Reds dished out money in the offseason
The Cincinnati Reds made a three-team deal at the trade deadline last season with the Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres that cost them three players, including Yasiel Puig and top prospect Taylor Trammell. In return, they got pitcher Trevor Bauer, who rewarded them by going 2-5 with a 6.39 ERA over the final two months of the season.
In other words, it was business as usual on the way to Cincinnati’s sixth straight losing season.
And then a funny thing happened. The Reds started spending money. And they actually spent wisely:
- Milwaukee Brewers free-agent infielder Mike Moustakas signed for four years and $68 million.
- Centerfielder Shogo Akiyama came over from Japan for $21 million over three years.
- Chicago Cubs free agent Nick Castellanos agreed to $82 million over five years.
- Houston Astros pitcher Wade Miley signed for three years and $24 million.
Castellanos leads the team in extra-base hits and is second in RBIs, Moustakas is second among the regulars in OPS, and Akiyama is second in the lineup in batting average and has as many stolen bases as the rest of the regulars combined.
Of all the moves, only the Miley signing hasn’t produced results yet this season.
And Bauer? He’s only 5-4, but his ERA is a league-leading 1.73, putting him in the conversation for the NL Cy Young Award.
Still, the numbers make almost no sense
The Cincinnati Reds opened the pandemic-delayed season with four losses in the first five games and didn’t climb above .500 until the game before they clinched their NL playoff berth.
Their 15 wins in 22 games from Sept. 2-25 clinched the postseason spot, but how they did it makes almost no sense statistically. The Reds batted just .202 over those 22 games. That was only marginally worse than their season-long .211 average.
Where they make up the difference on offense is their efficiency. Although the batting average is the worst in the majors, the Reds are seventh in home runs, tied for fifth in drawing walks, and are in the middle of the pack in strikeouts. Though he’s hitting only .200, Eugenio Suarez leads Cincinnati with 15 homers and 36 RBIs.
Meanwhile, pitching is carrying the load. The season-long ERA of 3.87 is solid, but the 2.70 figure during the September hot streak is the best in baseball. Opposing hitters are batting .200 in that time.
Aside from Bauer, Luis Castillo is 4-5 with a 2.86 ERA. Closer Raisel Iglesias has fanned 28 in 21 2/3 innings,
The postseason is ahead for the Cincinnati Reds
The expanded postseason, with eight teams from each league making the playoffs, will come down to one team prevailing in four consecutive series. The action begins Sept. 20 with the best-of-three wildcard round.
The best-of-five divisional series and best-of-seven league championship series then pave the way for the World Series. With three teams still fighting for the last NL berth on the next-to-last day of the season, and the Cincinnati Reds still battling the St. Louis Cardinals for the No. 2 spot in the NL Central, pairings will come down to the final regular-season out.