|UN-DER RA-TED! *Clap clap clap clap clap*|
The Reds have played pretty consistently well this season, and have combined that with an incredibly easy schedule. Those two things have allowed them to be the first team this season to secure a playoff spot. Despite losing Joey Votto for a stretch, they've remained relatively healthy all year long. Their starting rotation has been made up of the same five guys all year, with the exception of one single, solitary start made by Todd Redmond (and it sucked). The result is 91 wins and counting.
Despite playing in what most people would consider a bandbox (107/106 park ratings), the strength of this team has been a very strong performance from their entire pitching staff. Johnny Cueto, for the second straight year, has put up an ERA under 3.00, and at age 26, seems to have emerged as a legitimate ace. As I mentioned in my preview piece in April:
[T]he rotation will get a severe boost with the addition of Mat Latos, and the subtraction of Edinson Volquez. Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto will round out a pretty decent rotation, and if everyone stays healthy, the historically terrible Bronson Arroyo won't throw 200 innings again.Not only has nobody missed any significant time, but Arroyo has actually thrown 191 innings and has been worth 3.5 rWAR, amazingly enough. He's allowed fewer hits, walked fewer, and has struck out more on a rate basis. He's gotten his groundball rate back up, which has helped him cut back on the homers. As result, the Reds have four very reasonable reasonable options for a playoff rotation in Cueto, Arroyo, Latos and Bailey, and Mike Leake isn't even that bad, considering the extra value he provides being a good hitter (2.5 batting WAR for his career).
On the offensive side of things, Joey Votto is obviously the leader here, but this team really took off during the span that Votto spent on the DL. Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick definitely picked up the slack in Votto's absence, and Todd Frazier emerged as a ROY candidate until Scott Rolen returned from injury and inexplicably kept getting playing time.
Ultimately, this team has benefited more than any other from the schedule, getting to play the Astros and Cubs all year long, but they're still a very good team that has an outside shot at winning 100 games (need 9 of 11). Adjusting for league and schedule, I'm sure we'd see quite a bit of regression, but that's not exactly the way it works. The Reds do have the freedom of resting their players, given that they've already clinched, which sounds like a pretty nice luxury to me. I definitely like this team over the Giants, and they should have a slight advantage over the Braves or Cardinals, assuming either wins the wild card game, but they'll have trouble against the Nationals.