2013 Reds

Do The Reds’ Have a “Feast or Famine” Offense?

Ed: Occasionally, we like to feature contributions from you, the Loyal Citizens of Redleg Nation. Today, we bring you a post from Lawrence Wheat, known as “LWBlogger” in the comments. If you’d like to contribute, feel free to contact any of the editors.

We’ve seen it many times from fans here at Redleg Nation. We’ve heard it on sports-talk radio. We’ve even heard it from our broadcasters from time-to-time. We’ve seen and heard about how the Reds’ offense is “feast or famine”. That is to say that they score runs in bunches or they don’t seem to score much at all. This implies that the Reds are less consistent than many, if not most, offenses in baseball and that their overall offensive numbers are inflated by high-scoring games.

Early in the season I decided to take a look at April and explore how the Reds had been doing compared to other NL teams in this area. I set some conditions: the bar for a “feast” game is 10 runs or more and a “famine” game is 2 runs or less.

Sure enough, in April the Reds led the NL in what I’m now calling “feast” games and were among the top 3 teams in what I’m calling “famine” games. There appeared to be something valid in the perception that our beloved Reds possess a “feast or famine” offense. I keep hearing that the Reds offense has been this way for a while so I decided to do a deeper study. I looked at the Reds as compared to the rest of the NL, in 2011, 2012, and so far this year (through 5/22). Here are the results.

“Feast” Games: First of all, I don’t think we should be too terribly worried about the offense having “feast” games. Yes, they can inflate the overall offensive numbers but over the course of a 162 game season, they don’t really inflate the numbers all that much. Also, teams win feast games. I mean, they win them big time. Since 2011, NL teams have compiled a record of 276-8 when scoring 10 or more runs. That’s a .972 winning percentage!! The overall number of 284 such games however tells me that these “feast” games are relatively rare. Especially in comparison to the “famine” games of 2 runs or less. So, for the sake of saving space, I am not going to publish my complete findings on these high output games. The Reds are our team so I’ll publish how much feasting the Reds’ offense has done.

Reds’ “Feast” games 2011: The Reds had 11 “feast” games in 2011. Good for the 3rd most in the NL behind the Rockies (13) and Phillies (12). The Pirates and Marlins had the fewest such games at 3 games apiece. In 2011, we could certainly say the Reds had a decent amount of “feast” games.

Reds’ “Feast” games 2012: This one came as a shock to me. Last season the Reds tied the lowly Astros and Mets for the 2nd fewest “feast” games with 4. The only team with fewer was the Marlins (3). The 2012 Reds didn’t do much feasting offensively.

Reds’ “Feast” games 2013: So far this year the Reds have already blown away their “feast” game total from last season. The Reds have scored 10 or more runs an NL leading 7 times. They are trailed by the Cardinals with 6 and then the Giants and Rockies with 4. The Cubs, Dodgers, and Phillies are at the bottom this year. None of the 3 teams has managed a single 10-run explosion. So far, no NL team this season has lost a game in which they’ve scored 10 runs.

“Famine” Games: Not surprisingly, in this study I’ve found that when a team scores fewer than 3 runs in a game, they generally lose. Since the beginning of the 2011 season, NL teams compiled a record of 280-1637 in games scoring less than 3 runs. That’s a pretty paltry .146 winning percentage. As you can see there are many, many more “famine” type games than feast type games. Not surprisingly when a team struggles to score runs, they lose those games. I know it’s shocking that when your team doesn’t score, they don’t win. Clearly the “famine” games have more meaning than the “feast” games in the grand scheme of things. I’d say it’s really these “feast” games that are more indicative of a team’s offensive performance. So without further ado, here is how NL teams stacked up as far as “famine” games.

2011 “Famine” Games
Team: games (record in those games)

Giants: 70 (13-57)
Padres: 67 (7-60)
Dodgers: 62 (14-48)
Marlins: 56 (5-51)
Pirates: 56 (6-50)
Astros: 54 (4-50)
Nationals: 53 (13-40)
Cubs: 52 (7-45)
Braves: 52 (12-40)
Phillies: 49 (12-37)
Mets: 48 (7-41)
Rockies: 48 (3-45)
REDS: 45 (7-38)
Brewers: 43 (7-36)
Diamondbacks: 41 (7-34)
Cardinals: 36 (7-29)

2012 “Famine” Games
Team: games (record in those games)

Astros: 64 (7-57)
Marlins: 62 (4-58)
Padres: 59 (13-46)
Dodgers: 58 (7-51)
Braves: 57 (10-47)
Diamondbacks: 57 (4-53)
Cubs: 56 (3-53)
Pirates: 55 (9-46)
Mets: 51 (6-45)
Phillies: 51 (4-47)
Rockies: 48 (4-44)
Giants: 47 (8-39)
Nationals: 47 (10-37)
REDS: 45 (8-37)
Cardinals: 44 (5-39)
Brewers: 38 (4-34)

2013 “Famine” Games (Through 5/22)

Marlins: 29 (5-24)
Nationals: 24 (4-20)
Padres: 19 (5-14)
Phillies: 18 (2-16)
Dodgers: 17 (3-14)
Pirates: 16 (3-13)
REDS : 15 (3-12)
Rockies: 15 (2-13)
Brewers: 14 (0-14)
Diamondbacks: 14 (4-10)
Giants: 13 (4-9)
Cardinals: 13 (3-10)
Cubs: 13 (2-11)
Mets: 13 (2-11)
Braves: 13 (1-12)

Brief Summary: Judging from what I defined to mean a “feast” game and my definition of a “famine” game prior to my study, it would seem that the Reds over the last 2 ½ years don’t have what I’d call a “feast or famine” offense, at least not in comparison to their NL opponents. They’ve done some feasting in 2011 and so far this year but had almost none of those types of games last season.

As for games in which they’ve scored fewer than 3 runs, the Reds have had many fewer such games than several of their opponents. It looks like the offense was pretty consistent in the 3-9 run range up until this season. In April, the Reds played several “feast or famine” games but in May this trend hasn’t really continued.

I suspect as the season goes on, we’ll see the Reds probably around the top third in “feast” games and in the bottom half of “famine” games, relative to the rest of the NL. The Reds have a pretty good offense. It could be better but it’s still pretty good. Teams that score a lot of runs in general are going to tend to have fewer low-scoring affairs and it’s those low-scoring affairs that a team clearly wants to avoid. It looks like the Reds have been one of those teams over the last 2 and a half seasons. So, what do you think Nation?

41 thoughts on “Do The Reds’ Have a “Feast or Famine” Offense?

  1. Good article. It’s amazing how many observations achieve “fact” status through repetition. Keep debunking!

    I think you’d have had a better case if you’d defined “feast” as something a little more common (say 7 or more runs). But I agree, the real issue is how many famines your team has. And I’m glad to see the Reds have been eating their fill lately. Wouldn’t it be awful to be a Marlins fan?

  2. Oops… In my last paragraph, I have a mistake… It should read “I’d say it’s really these “famine” games that are more indicative of a team’s offensive performance.” Amazing considering how many times I proofed the piece.

  3. Strong work. Clearly debunks the notion by some that the Reds have an unusually famine-prone offense.

    How low would you have had to set the run criteria for a “feast” so that the number of feasts approximated the number of famines (about 2000 games)? Maybe 8 runs, or 9?

  4. What a great piece. I feel like RN is a good place for “fact-based fanboys”. We love the Woo and the Reds going, but it’s refreshing to see everyone here, now including commenters, make sure we don’t fall into old trappings of baseless fiction mainstream baseball writers of ages past and present repeat enough to the point it becomes the only narrative.

    Articles like this is why RN is such an awesome site!

        • : The WOOO is the mist annoying thing ever to come to GABP. It should be abolished and never allowed to come back. The players and the coaches absolutely HATE IT. It originated from Pittsburgh, from a bunch of drunk asinine fans. The WOOO is pure garbage and makes viewers at home turn off the game or mute the volume. 7th inning, when the alcohol kicks in, here comes the BS. It ruins the game not only at the park, but def for the fans watching at home. STOP THE WOO

        • @Josh: Only one thing to say to this: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  5. The Reds offense not inconsistent?? Over the last 11 games: 7-4 W-L record, played 96 innings. Vs. Pitt, Clev, ChiC and 1 with Col. Other than Pitt, not overpowering pitching teams. Granted, 11 game sample is not 58 games. If I get time I will do all 58 games for comparisons sake.

    Innings with 0 runs scored = 73. 76%
    Innings with 1 run scored = 12. 12.5%
    Innings with 2 runs scored = 5.
    Innings with 3 runs scored = 1.
    Innings with 4 runs scored = 4.
    Innings with 5 runs scored = 1.
    Innings with 6+ runs scored= 0.

    % of innings with 1 or 0 runs scored == 88.5%.
    That is not good. Only in 11 innings have the Reds scored 2 or more runs in. These are not pitching rich teams the Reds have played of late. The Reds will face much better pitching in October. And this stat is at the root of the two very early playoff exits in 2012 and 2010.
    But a 7-4 record will do, only because of the Reds starting pitching and good defense. This is not a break down in how many runs in what inning or when they are scoring, but how many innings the Reds have scored 1 or 0 runs in. And against mediocre pitching lately.
    On a very good team like the Reds have, this is their Achilles heel. (Along with bullpen mismanagement.)
    However, this is a killer stat in 5 and 7 game serieses against better pitchers.

    • @WVRedlegs: Saying the Reds are inconsistent is only a relevant point if it’s in relation to other teams. And none of your data compares how the Reds do in individual innings with what other teams do. And why would individual innings be a better way to look at it that runs in a game?

      All you’re proving with those numbers is that pitchers get batters out more often than not. Was Pete Rose “inconsistent” because he failed in more at bats than he succeeded in getting on base?

      • @Steve Mancuso:

        What this illustrates is, if the Reds starting pitching and/or defense breaks down, the Reds are in trouble.
        Wins are wins are wins no matter how they come.
        But if the Reds have problems scoring runs against mediocre pitching, what is in store for when they face the good pitchers on the good teams??
        I just think they are putting up too many zeros for that not to come back to haunt them later.
        Don’t get me wrong, I think the Reds have a good team. June and July are going to be tough treading schedule-wise.
        Let me ask though, do you not think that scoring one run or less in 88.5% of the innings played in the last 11 games against decent teams gives you pause?? That cannot continue if we want the Reds in first place. And advance in the playoffs.

    • @WVRedlegs: For comparison:
      Cards over 10 games played 87 innings and scored 49 R.

      Innings with 0 Runs Scored: 62
      Innings with 1 Run Scored: 10
      Innings with 2 Runs Scored 11
      Innings with 3 Runs Scored 2
      Innings with 4 Runs Scored 1
      Innings with 5 Runs Scored 0
      Innings with 6+: 1

      Innings only score 0-1 Runs: 82%

      The Rockies, rounding out the top other run scoring teams in the NL over 10 game (a few extras innings games for them)
      I’ll spare the math chart, but for them over the last 10 games:
      Percentage only scoring 0-1 Runs: 89% (85 of 95 innings)

      • @Matt WI: So… the Cards in a random 10 game stretch distributed their runs a little better… and they are pretty awesome right now, so there’s that. The top run producing team in the league was right where the Reds are but they only won 3 times in 10 games… so I’m not sure these numbers tell us much. Maybe the Cards are an outlier at 82%, someone would have to crunch all of the NL numbers.

        Seems that W and L are about how many you score (not when) and how many you give up.

      • @Matt WI:

        It is important who exactly you are feasting on and who exactly you famine against. If you are scoring well against the bottom teams and not against the teams expected to contend for their division titles, then that can be a problem later down the road. Big problem.

        Matt, let me throw this out at you. No malice intended, just playing devils advocate today.

        2010 Playoffs vs. Phillies. 3 games. Total of 27 innings the Reds batted. 23 innings with scoring 0 runs. 4 innings of scoring 1 run. Thats it. 100% of the innings the Reds scored 0 or 1 run.
        The result?? A quick and embarrassing exit from the playoffs.

        2012 Playoffs vs. Giants. 5 games. Total of 46 innings the Reds batted. 33 innings with 0 runs scored. 8 innings with 1 run scored.
        3 innings with 2 runs scored. 1 inning with 3 runs scored. And 1 inning with 5 runs scored. Thats 41 of 46 innings with 1 run or 0 runs. That’s a cool 89%. See any similarities?? Let me break 2012 down just a bit more. With the Reds returning to GABP, at home with a commanding 2-0 lead, and needing just one win to advance, then ppffft.
        Games #3, #4, and #5. 28 innings the Reds batted. 21 innings with 0 runs scored. 6 innings with 1 run scored. 1 inning with 2 runs scored. Thats 27 innings of 1 run or 0 runs scored out of a total of 28. Thats 96%.
        The result? An excuriatingly painful and embarrassing exit to the playoffs. Again.
        If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. So I’ve heard.

        • @WVRedlegs:

          Excellent job LWB. The point is the Reds are putting up too many zeroes. Something, I imagine, Homer Bailey could attest to this year.

        • @WVRedlegs: No worries, I think we’ll just have to agree that our brains see things differently, I just don’t understand by innings has anything to do with overall scoring. When I see the 2010 playoffs, I see a team that got no hit by a great pitching staff… and was outscored 13-4. Philly was a buzz saw, nothing to be done there.

          In 2012, they outscored the Giants 22-18. However, in the first 3 games the Reds gave up 4 runs. In the last two they gave up 14 while scoring 7. IMO, the only game you can hang on the offense in that series is Homer’s gem in Game 3. After that, they got flat beat by their own poor pitching. Singling out the offense is easier because you see more opportunities “lost,” but that’s just baseball, overall.

        • In 2012, they outscored the Giants 22-18.

          Right. The won some battles, but LOST the war. 3 games to 2 in a 5 game series. By putting up too many zeroes.
          In game #3, if they had put up 1 more 1 run inning instead of 8 zeroes, they would have won the game before going to xtras. And advanced in the playoffs. And who knows what would have happened then?

        • @WVRedlegs: They scored 4 and 3 runs in the last two games of the series against the Giants, it’s not like they were shut out… is the pitching completely faultless here? Otherwise, it sounds like saying “score 6 runs a game, and do it consistently.” That’s exceptionally improbable.

          Again, Game 3 is the only 1 of five that the offense didn’t reasonably show up, which is pretty good once you’re in the playoffs. If one wants to look at baseball from an offense only perspective and expect them to club other teams into submission at all times, one can. 22/5= 4.4 runs a game, which is good. Especially against a playoff team. Again, I understand that looking at it your way supports your theory, I just happen disagree with the logic. I don’t think it means what you think it means. The other team is trying to get them out you know? It’s not like scoring is a willful thing they turn on and off.

          Runs, like most things, occur across a distribution from the mean. What LW has helped show (though not in the exact terms) and the only thing that matters for the sake of the argument, is that it doesn’t appear that the Red have any kind of significant greater standard deviation from the mean in terms of scoring runs than other teams… their behavior matches expected behavior within the system, which means it’s not “bad” or problematic, it’s “normal” and expected.

          I say pitching screwed up the last two games of 2012 more than the offense let teams down. To each their own.

        • @Matt WI:

          OK. I see where our disconnect is. I am not really comparing the Reds to the other NL teams scoring as my basis for claiming “inconsistency”. My point is, with the number of zeroes the Reds are putting up, it is a danger down the road in a hot pennant race and short playoff game series. In a 5 or 7 game series you can outscore your opponent 30-18 and still lose the series. Just as you pointed out that the Reds did last year. What good is scoring the most runs then??? I guess all winter we can say SF won the World Series, but we outscored them 22-18 in the NLDS.
          Not a nice consolation prize.

        • @WVRedlegs: 3, 2, 6, 5, 2, 2.

          That’s the number of runs the 1990 Reds scored in the LCS. It’s not trivial to score in the playoffs. The Reds offense was good last LDS. They just blew it pitching-wise.

        • In 2012, they outscored the Giants 22-18.

          Right. They won some battles, but LOST the war. 3 games to 2 in a 5 game series. By putting up too many zeroes.
          In game #3, if they had put up 1 more 1 run inning instead of 8 zeroes, they would have won the game before going to xtras. And advanced in the playoffs. And who knows what would have happened then?

        • In game #3, if they had put up 1 more 1 run inning instead of 8 zeroes, they would have won the game

          This makes my head hurt. If they’d scored 2 runs in the first inning, they’d have won the game, even with 8 following zeroes. (If BP doesn’t try to advance to 3rd base after stealing 2nd, they score 2 and win that game.)

          Similarly, if the Giants had scored 1 run in the 5th inning of Game 5 (instead of 6!), the Reds would’ve advanced.

          You’re placing some premium on single-run innings that I think is wildly misplaced. I’d be very surprised if you could prove that teams win more games when they have fewer shutout innings (total runs being equal, of course.)

  6. Great work LW

    One part of the Reds offense that does seem to lead to the feast or famine is the amount of runs that we score via HR’s.

    I of course am no stat expert that could figure this out, but a lazy fan who has an opinion.

    The Reds are certainly a team that does not run a lot, does not sacrifice much, don’t seem to go first to third, don’t recall a lot of Sac Flies. It seems like when they score, they have a high propensity for it to be off the HR.

    Last night, one little ball run and 2 of the digger, case in point. Without a HR, we would have scored 1 run…

    • @reaganspad:

      Actually, the Reds are only slightly above average when it comes to the power department. The average number of HR NL teams have hit this year is 53, while the Reds are at 59. Likewise, the SLG of the reagent NL team is .391 and the Reds are at .398.

      Couple this with the fact that the Reds had a stretch of hitting only solo homeruns that lasted several weeks, and I don’t think it’d be fair to say the Reds score from HR more than any other average NL team does.

  7. Very nice presentation, Lawrence. Your bar that defines a “feast” game is set a little high for my tastes, but your point remains.

    Reds are ranked first in the NL in OBP and 3rd in Runs. This has been a good team offensively so far.

  8. Nice post. Its great to see someone going to these lengths to test some of the statements that get tossed around the blogosphere. Thanks!

  9. Baseball by its nature is a feast-or-famine offensive sport. That’s what happens when the best players in the game make outs 60% of the time they come to the plate and when guys standing 60 feet away can throw the ball 95 mph one pitch, then throw it 80 mph and make it bend 18 inches the next pitch. No team goes out there and scores five or six runs every day. The frustrations of being a fan and watching a team score at will one day, then get shut out the next lead to the mistaken belief that our Reds are somehow unusual or extreme in this way. Thanks for posting this article to provide the numbers that expose the reality.

  10. Good stuff. Thanks for putting the effort into this. I’d love to see a follow up focusing on 3 runs. I’m guessing that with our pitching we’ll find a “break” there, with a huge difference in winning percentage when we score more than three runs vs three or fewer. And I think most fans would feel good about 4 runs most nights, but feel a little “famine-y” with three or less. I for one don’t have a good feel for how often we score 3+ runs vs the rest of the league.

  11. Nice job. I subscribed to the feast/famine bit after April—which seemed to be true—but May put that to rest. Small sample size bit me in the heinie.

  12. I think that if Robinson/Paul bat 2nd this year, so far it would have led to 20+ more times on base. That’s potentially 20+ more times that Choo gets to moved to 2nd base or whatnot, and potentially 20+ more times with Joey Votto coming to the plate with runners on base.

    Span it over the year at this pace and we’re talking ~60 times. Robinson has a .436 OBP, Paul has a .378 OBP, and Cozart has a .271 OBP. It would clearly make a pretty big difference getting a guy on base roughly 20 more times so far with Votto/Phillips/Bruce coming up after them.

    It might not have ended in a ton of runs.. but the Reds have lost 8 games thus far by 1 run.

  13. A good way to look at it too: The Reds are only one game off their expected win/losses from their pythag record (expected: 37-21, Actual 36-22)

    Cards Pythag: 38-19— exactly dead on
    Piarates: Expected: 31-27, Actual: 35-23 (+4 in the loss column)

  14. Good post, as well as can very well be controversial. I love it.

    The thing is I will contribute is the definition. For example, I was always of the believe that feast games were 10+ runs in a game, and famine games were 2 or fewer runs in a game, not 3. Is there one standard definition of what is a “feast” game and what is a “famine” game? If not, there is room left for discussion. As well as for any other definitions that were to come up.

    Second (I love all of this), do you compare the Reds to other teams or not. Why this methodology? Like, if feast means 10+ runs and famine means 3 or less runs, why even bother with the comparison to other teams? Why compare records? The nature of the condition being analyzed is how many runs are being scored, period, isn’t it? Thus, it shouldn’t make a difference if the runs are scored in a win or loss, nor the record compared to other teams, should it? Doesn’t “feast or famine” mean “how many times they score 10+ runs or 3 and fewer runs”? I don’t see record in that definition.

    As well as, someone brought up the innings comparison. That is a good idea to consider. However, I think a bit more than most on here would like to try to tackle.

    I would think a “feast or famine” study would/should be considered more along the lines of comparing it to a normal (bell-shaped) curve, doing the whole standard deviation type of study, etc., a typical mathematical model used for analysis. For example, determine what the average and standard deviation of what the runs per game are throughout the entire league. Then, you have statistically compared in that season what percentage of games a team should have 3 and fewer runs or 10+ runs per game. And, if the Reds percentages or higher than the league average in those areas on each side, you would have a “feast or famine” type of offense.

    • @steveschoen: Some good ideas here! If I get more time, maybe I’ll do something along the lines you mentioned with the bell-curve near the AS break.

    • Second (I love all of this), do you compare the Reds to other teams or not. Why this methodology? Like, if feast means 10+ runs and famine means 3 or less runs, why even bother with the comparison to other teams?

      It isn’t interesting or important unless you compare to other teams. Once you set a threshold for famine or feast, you’ll know how many times the Reds fall into those categories. But there is no way to judge if we should be worried unless we have a basis for comparison.

      Otherwise, it would be like saying that Joey Votto is a bad hitter because he makes outs (famine) 60% of the time. You have no way to judge whether 60% is good or bad. Once you learn that 60% is the lowest rate among any player, Votto would be judged a great hitter (or at least he shouldn’t be the focus of my worries.)

      That’s why this entire famine issue is entirely dependent on how the Reds compare to other teams — a component that is rarely included when assertions about it are made. That’s why this post is so interesting.

      • @Steve Mancuso: Correct, Steve. That’s why I specified creating the normal curve for the entire league. Then, see where the Reds would stand along that curve.

        Even with that, the definitions of “feast” and “famine” could have an effect, also. For instance, if “feast” meant 8+ runs instead of 10+ runs, then the Reds may not have the “feast” rep. Similar with the “famine” definition.

        That’s one reason I love this stuff. You can almost make numbers say whatever you want, especially if there is no standard to go by.

  15. Thanks everyone! Seriously, it’s nice to see people appreciating some work put in. I’ll point out that this is the type of work that guys like Jason Lindon put in here every day. As a SABR guy, I love this kind of stuff. It may be interesting to note that as I started the study, I felt that a lot of folks in the blogosphere and that the Reds’ announcers were right, and that the Reds tended to be a more “feast or famine” prone offense. Sometimes what the numbers show are not what our perceptions expect.

    I must admit that the bar I set for “feast” and the bar I set for “famine” were arbitraty. I chose them because Thom B used those cutoffs in April when the Reds were leading the NL in both categories.

  16. I wasn’t able to sign on yesterday to read this, so I’m sorry I’m coming late to the punch bowl. But I wanted to get my licks in…. actually, I’ve got no licks. Well done Mr. Wheat.

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