The Cincinnati Reds have a 71-62 record, good enough for the second Wild Card spot if the season ended today.
They do need to keep the momentum going because the San Diego Padres are only 0.5 games behind.
And yes, those are perhaps the most crucial players in this lineup, but how about the unsung heroes?
These under-the-radar contributors have been extremely important to the team success in 2021.
3. Jonathan India
Jonathan India’s breakout is one of the reasons why the Reds are currently holding on to a playoff spot as we speak.
He was a very good prospect the last couple of years, but mostly lacked the power to be considered a key cog in a major league lineup.
With discipline and hard work, India won a place on the Reds roster out of camp.
He hasn’t looked back since then, and while there have been some major struggles along the way, he is now in the same stratosphere as Castellanos and Winker.
Yes, you read that right: Castellanos has 3.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Winker 3.3, and India 3.2.
For the season, the young infielder has a .270/.381/.454 line, 17 home runs, and nine stolen bases.
GIVE HIM THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR RIGHT NOW
3-run blast by Jonathan India puts the Reds up 4-0. pic.twitter.com/WkpFQJzhJ6
— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) August 26, 2021
When all is said and done, he could be a .270, 20-home run bat with an elite on-base percentage.
That and his positive defensive contributions make him a very, very good player.
2. The Catching Tandem
Yes, we know that the title of the article says ‘under-the-radar heroes’.
However, we have to consider both Reds catchers, as they both have been heroes to this point.
The young Stephenson has a .285/.371/.441 line with nine homers in 106 games, which is fantastic for a backstop.
The veteran Barnhart is slashing .266/.333/.410 with seven dingers in 95 contests.
Between the two, they have contributed 3.5 fWAR, a fine figure.
As long as they are both healthy and fresh, the Reds will have two decent-hitting catchers who are not defensive liabilities.
Some teams don’t even have one.
1. Wade Miley
Perhaps the unsung hero of the Reds’ 2021 season, and certainly the most surprising performer on a very talented pitching staff, is lefty Wade Miley.
The 34-year-old veteran has found success without a huge strikeout rate (18.7 percent).
For the year, Miley has a 2.74 ERA in 144.2 innings, distributed in 24 starts.
While other run-prevention metrics say he hasn’t been as dominant as a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher should be, he has been solid.
He has a 3.53 FIP, a stat that takes defense out of the equation, and a 4.03 expected FIP.
Miley leads the league in Baseball Reference WAR, meaning he has contributed a whole lot to his team’s success.
2021 NL Pitching WAR Leaders
Wade Miley (6.3)
Walker Buehler (5.6)
Zack Wheeler (5.6)
Brandon Woodruff (5.0)
All Leaders: https://t.co/lmb8QSp3Dz
— Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) August 31, 2021
If they are going to stay steady in the second Wild Card spot, they are going to need Miley to keep pitching like this.