Cincinnati Reds
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Reds have turned their entire season around, how?

Two weeks ago, the Cincinnati Reds were 56-50. They were four games back of a wildcard spot at the time, made a few minor moves before the trade deadline, and probably had the philosophy of “whatever happens, happens” in regards to the second half of the season. For them to make the playoffs via a wild card spot, they’d have to rely on a team to fall off a cliff, they (Reds) go on to win 20 of 30, or perhaps both.

While they have yet to completely fall off a cliff, the San Diego Padres are pretty damn close. 1-9 in their last ten games, and have the third-lowest team batting average since August 10th at .218 (MLB.com). But, that’s not the only reason the Reds have claimed a wild card spot: they’re playing really good baseball.

Who is contributing the most?

Let’s start with the obvious: Joey Votto. Joey has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star Break. Joey has had 23 home runs since June 10th. That’s tied with Shohei Ohtani, the league leader in home runs currently. What makes this more incredible is the fact that Votto does not usually hit home runs, from 2018-2019 he only hit 27 in 287 at-bats. He’s not only hitting the longball either:

Remember that Tyler Naquin guy? The guy was terrible in Cleveland. He couldn’t hit, and his future in the MLB seemed bleak. He signed with the Reds on a 1 year $1.5 million dollar prove-it contract. Yesterday, he hit his 17th and 18th home runs of the year. He also had seven extra-base hits last series against the Marlins.

Before Jesse Winker landed on the IL with an intercostal strain, he was producing heavily for the Reds’ offense. His first year as an All-Star, Winker is hitting .307/.395/.560. Before landing on the IL, he had the fifth-best OPS in the National League at .955. While he’s currently on the 10-day IL as of August 16th, the belief is that he may have to be sidelined until September. The Reds have won without him for the last few days, but how long can their offense produce without arguably their best bat?

The Reds are seeing players have career years, it’s no surprise they find themselves in a playoff spot yet again. Aside from the aforementioned players, there are many more who have been key contributors. Nick Castellanos is another player tearing it up this year, hitting for a .319 batting average with a .945 ops. 22 home runs, 70 runs batted in. I still cannot believe the Cubs just let him walk after he had that monstrous second-half for them in 2019.

Rookie Second-Basemen Johnathan India is having a great year for Cincinnati and maybe the favorite for the NL Rooke-of-The-Year so far. 110 hits, 76 runs, 16 home runs, and 56 RBI’s in 398 at-bats. C Tucker Barnhart, SS Kyle Farmer, and C Tyler Stevenson have been some of the other contributors as well.

How about the Reds’ pitching?

As imagined, you typically need a good pitching staff to make it far in October. The world champion Dodgers posted an MLB-best team 3.02 ERA last season. If you have a prolific offense, then you can kind of get away with not having the best pitching staff, but the bottom line has always been pitching wins championships. That is not the case here with the Cincinnati Reds. They are currently 16th in the MLB in team ERA at 4.40; not very good. They are the only team that’s top ten in runs allowed and in a playoff spot at the same time as well.

Yes, they’re currently fourth as a team for home runs this year. And yes, their .252 team batting average is the fifth-best in the league, but I just don’t see how they continue this run or make a run in the playoffs unless their rotation and pitching as a whole improves. I’m optimistic though, as you look at some of their names and think “this is a really tough team to beat in a 3-game series”. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume Cincinnati doesn’t catch Milwaukee and win the division. So, in a wildcard game, the Reds would probably use Wade Miley. Wade has the second-highest WAR in all of baseball this year, behind Shohei Ohtani and just above Phillies’ Ace Zach Wheeler. 26-year-old Tyler Mahle is also having a good year with a 3.78 ERA.

Where do the Reds go from here?

There’s just over a month left in the regular season, 36 games left for the Cincinnati Reds. The good news for the Reds is that it’s really only between them and the San Diego Padres for the second wild card, barring a late-season comeback for the ages from another team. The bad news, however, is that they will have the task of facing either the San Francisco Giants or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wildcard game. Nonetheless, the Reds cannot and should not be thinking about that, rather returning to the postseason.

It’s been a while, but postseason baseball in Cincinnati is an electric factory in case you’ve forgotten. While the Reds made the postseason last year, they fell to the Braves 2 games to none. Of course, the second-place finisher in the NL West will host the wildcard game, but if the Reds make it and find a way to win that game, we’ll be seeing crowds like this again:

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