Have Reds benefited from easy schedule?

This came up a couple times from readers in my chat session Tuesday, suggesting that the Cincinnati Reds may not be as strong as their 27-18 record because they've had an easy schedule so far, in particular compared to the Cardinals and Braves.

Indeed, if you go to our RPI rankings, you can see strength of schedule. Here are average winning percentages of opponents played:

Cardinals: .515 (sixth)

Braves: .504 (11th)

Reds: .484 (24th)

So the Reds have played an easier schedule. But what's the difference between a .515 winning percentage and .484? Over 162 games, we're talking about an 83-win team on average versus a 78-win team, so while the Reds have played an easier slate than the Cardinals -- Cincinnati has played the Marlins seven times, for example, while St. Louis is yet to play them -- I don't see it as a huge benefit. An advantage? Yes.

You can twist it the other way and point out that the Reds have played the Nationals seven times and the Cardinals three, or the Cardinals have played the Brewers 10 times while the Reds have played them just three.

Plus, as Reds fans in the chat were quick to point out, the Reds have played most of the season without ace Johnny Cueto (who returned Monday night), without a left fielder and with Dusty Baker screwing up the No. 2 slot in the batting order.

Of course, one of those three things is self-imposed.