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BettorIQ’s MLB Preview: Cincinnati Reds

MLB

BettorIQ continues with its 2020 MLB betting previews. We will be breaking down all 30 teams from a betting perspective leading up to the start of the season.

Cincinnati Reds 
2019 Record: 75-87 
2019 Profits: -11.7 units 
2020 Win Total: 32
2020 Odds to Win NL Central: +220
2020 Odds to Win NL Pennant: +900
2020 Odds to Win World Series: +2200

Betting Positives: Few teams endured as much bad luck as the Cincinnati Reds last season as they went 24-33 in one-run games. That resulted in the Reds finishing five games worse than their Pythagorean Win-Loss record and nine games below their BaseRuns record. Seeing that as a positive, the organization opted to go all-in this offseason and as a result appear to be in a position to contend in 2020. They added Mike Moustakas (35 HRs in 143 games), Wade Miley (3.98 ERA, 167 IP), Nick Castellanos (27 HRs) and Shogo Akiyama (5-time NPB All-Star). They’ll also benefit from having starter Trevor Bauer for an entire season after he was acquired at last year’s trade deadline. Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray are all plus-National League arms while Miley and Anthony DeSclafani offer back-of-the-rotation stability. And they’ll work with second-year pitching coach Derek Johnson who is rapidly proving to be a valuable commodity as the Reds finished 4th in both strikeout rate and ERA last season. Johnson and manager David Bell have power arms to work with in the bullpen as well as the foursome of Amir Garret, Raisel Iglesias, Robert Stephenson, and Lucas Sims all project to have K/9 rates of 10 or higher.  

Betting Negatives: The starting rotation is clearly the team’s greatest strength but with a 60-game season that advantage could be lessened. And while the offense has been upgraded in spots, it’s difficult to project the unit beyond NL average. Defensively they finished 17th in UZR and 20th in FanGraph’s overall defensive metric in 2019 and nothing indicates that will significantly improve. But perhaps the biggest negative could be market inflation. The Reds have been one of the “it” teams in the preseason futures market. So much so that they are now a slight favorite to win the NL Central at some sportsbooks after finishing a distant fourth last season. They are also a -180 favorite on opening day (albeit against the woeful Tigers) but were priced that high only six times last season (avg. moneyline price was -102). This is clearly a stronger team than what bettors witnessed last year but it appears much of that strength is already being baked into the market. 

Handicapper’s Take: Cincinnati was done a huge favor in the reshaping of the 2020 MLB schedule. They’ll have the luxury of playing 10 games against AL Central bottom-feeders Kansas City and Detroit. And with an additional 10 games against Pittsburgh, one-third of the Reds’ slate will feature opponents that had a combined .360 winning percentage last season. Pair a softer schedule with a bit better fortune and some roster upgrades and it’s easy to see why they’ve received a lot of attention from bettors thus far. The rub is will there be any value once the season starts? Make no mistake, there’s a lot to like about this group but the best scenario would be a sluggish start and tempered expectations.