NL Central: Road to 90 wins

It remains nearly four months until the 2013 season, but baseball never really truly ends. Baseball's Hot Stove League unofficially started last Saturday morning, and while the metaphorical hot stove baseball fans huddle around has been replaced by a hot Internet router, there's plenty of baseball talk to get us through the winter.

To get us rolling, with the aid of the ZiPS Projection System, we're looking at the state of each team as we enter the busiest part of the offseason, from now until the end of the year. If you haven't noticed it in the past decade, ZiPS is a computerized projection system, designed for the purpose of condensing baseball data into an objective first opinion of what the future will bring. Computers obviously can't tell us everything about a player, but baseball has a rich supply of useful objective information -- perhaps the richest of any sport -- and it can be difficult to separate what's important from what isn't. Predicting the future will always be an error-filled endeavor, but it's always useful to cut through the fog a little.

So, why is this the Road To 90? Around 90 wins is when winning a game has the highest leverage in MLB. Going from 50 to 55 wins just means you finish in last place by a smaller amount. Going from 100 to 105 wins just fattens your lead. But going from 85 to 90 wins can very well be the difference between October baseball and October golf. Under baseball's current playoff structure, 73 of the 74 90-win teams over the past decade would have gotten to play past Game 162, while most teams that win 85 or fewer games watch from home.

The win projection numbers below represent the mean win projection for each team if it stood with its current roster, essentially representing a baseline 2013 projection as we enter the winter. We'll look at where teams stand now and what they need to do to get to 90 wins.

Cincinnati Reds
2012: 97-65
2013 projection: 84-78