2013 Reds

Blame it on the right-handed hitters

Christina Kahrl has a nice piece up over at the SweetSpot about Cincinnati’s offense. Of note:

While a third trip to the postseason on Dusty Baker’s watch seems likely, though, this isn’t as strong a team as it looks like at first glance. The lineup that ranks fourth in the league in runs scored with 4.3 per game might appear to be humming along with Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto getting on base and Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce driving them in.

But it’s far from a perfect offense. Despite gaudy RBI totals generated by getting to bat behind Choo and Votto, Phillips isn’t a perfect cleanup man. The Reds are getting below-average offense from five different positions, including second base, the others being catcher, short, left (absent Ryan Ludwick) and third base.

As Kahrl notes, much of the problem is the simply awful performance of Reds right-handed hitters against right-handed pitchers:

How bad is the issue? The team’s collective .604 OPS from righties against righties through Friday night’s action ranks 14th in the National League, bettering only the Marlins. Using Baseball-Reference.com’s OPS indices for league-relative splits, if 100 would be normal, the Reds’ 74 for righty-on-righty performance barely betters the Marlins’ 71. When you’re better at something than one of the worst offenses in the era of divisional play, you don’t really get to brag, you merely hope that nobody else notices.

That’s bad, friends. Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jay Bruce can’t do it all by themselves. Go read the entire piece. It’s worth your time.

69 thoughts on “Blame it on the right-handed hitters

  1. I think it’s worth a shot moving Mez up in the order. I’d even consider batting him 4th. The interesting thing is where to put BP. Normally, you’d say the 2-hole but hitting into double plays would be an issue. There is also the the fact that his OPS in Low/Med/High leverage situations (defined by Fangraphs) is .665/.748/.817 and his OPS with Bases Empty/Men On/Men ISP is .579/.838/.967… It seems like BPs approach at the plate completely changes in those leveraged/men on situtations. If only he could keep that approach hitting 2. Alternatively, you could hit him 6th after Bruce to raise the opportunities of him batting with men on… but I feel like BP wouldn’t take that well.

  2. I just want to say how great I think Christina Kahrl is. Smart writer, and inspiring person. I played ball with her little brother growing up, and am happy for her success.

  3. I do not exactly agree with the evaluation as it takes a little bit of a stretch to call Phillips production below average and if you combine the three catchers the Reds have used together it does not look as good as if you just take Mesoraco’s numbers by themselves. That being said, Frazier is having an awful time, so is Cozart, and well LF is LF. I would also move Mesoraco up in the lineup-sixth would seem appropriate. All in all, it seems like the team itself could use some anti-depressants (or maybe it is just me who needs one)

    • @redmountain: Phillips has a 93 wRC+. A 100 wRC+ is ” league average”. So by definition, BP’s production is below average.

      His 93 wRC+ isn’t even good for a 2B. He’s 12/38 out of all 2B with at least 200 PA’s, and 23/38 2Bs league wide. (6/18 & 13/18, respectively, out of all qualified 2B). BP is a problem for this offense, no doubt about it.

      *Red alert* Todd has actually been a little bit better than BP offensively, BP just gets a pass because he is lucky enough to hit behind 2 of the best offensive players in the NL. *Red alert*

      • @CP: whoops, Phillips is 12/21 of all NL second basemen with > 200 PAs.

        Basically, by any metric except RBIs, Phillips’ offense has been below average in 2013.

        • @CP: Is this in anyway related to the injury suffered earlier in the year? Or, perhaps he is beginning to show his age. His foot speed appears to have diminished quite a bit this season. I love BP and love what he has brought to the City and the team but would there be a market for his services elsewhere?

        • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: It’s hard for me to tell how much of Phillips’ struggles is injury related because he was so hot up until that point that he was due for regression whether he was hit or not. His .829 OPS on June 1 would have been the highest in his career if he had kept that up, and there isn’t really any reason to believe he would/could. Another problem is that Phillips swings at just about everything. He’s swinging at 54% of pitches this year. For the most part, pitchers have just stopped throwing strikes. Only 43% of pitches he sees are in the zone. For a little perspective, Choo swings at about 40% of pitches he sees. BP is swinging at 40% of pitches OUT OF THE STRIKE ZONE. He’s only getting about 31% fastballs. Also, I think age is starting to catch up with his legs. He has a career .237 BABIP on ground balls, but only .213 this year. I think we can all assume whether it’s right or not that when Ludwick comes back he’ll bat 4 and BP will bat 2. Maybe that gets him more fastballs and more pitches in the zone. But it’s looking like teams are content to throw him balls and let him get himself out.

        • @CharlotteNCRedsFan: That’s a good question. I don’t know if it can be answered since teams keep a tight lid of injury-related stuff, and the Reds’ bench is so terrible that it makes it more likely for BP to play through injury. He seems to have slowed down a bit, but it shouldn’t have been to this extent offensively yet since he is relatively young. I think his age, position, and contract makes him untradeable unfortunately.

  4. Almost an entire season without the two RH outfielders of Ludwick and Heisey will play a big part – arguably the biggest factor from the injuries. Couple that with Hanigan’s long absences and sub par hitting when playing and that is a chunk of the problem.

    The other half is the fact that the Reds don’t seem to have a RH hitter in the minors that they may call upon. Why is Todd Frazier the last RH to come out of this system? That is a long gap.

  5. Sorry, I think it’s a three part problem with development at the MLB level being the third piece of the blame pie (injuries being #1 and farm system being #2). Frazier’s 2nd half struggles and Cozart’s regression ala Drew Stubbs make me wonder if Jacoby is even acknowledging these guys in BP.

    • @rightsaidred: Maybe our expectations of Frazier are unrealistically colored by his performance while Votto was out. Has he ever hit like that any other time (not counting Tom’s River little league)?

      • I completely agree with other posters is@greenmtred: Maybe but then Frazier is also a candidate for the Cozart-Stubbs camp of regression or lack of development. Frazier has admitted poor pitch recognition and he has stuck with a swing that makes it very hard to wait on pitches to break. Where is the adaptation?

        Ken B called it a difference in organizational philosophy between the Cards and the Reds – maybe that is a more accurate way of putting it than laying all the blame at Jacoby’s feet for these guys that just look lost.

  6. Could you imagine the Brennamapocalypse if Phillips was moved out of the four hole what with his all important RBI numbers, BaRISP, and ‘clutchiness’?

  7. I’d say the last good Reds right-handed hitter was Edwin Encarnacion. That said, it took the Blue jays hitting coach/maturity to get him where he is today. It’s too bad he can’t play the field and no, I don’t regret the Reds trading him.

  8. Boy, the hate on BP. I tell you something, I doubt Ludwick would have the results BP has had in the 4 hole.

    • @steveschoen: Do you really consider my post as hating on BP?

      I don’t see how Ludwick’s production is relevant to BP being a below average hitter in 2013, but Ludwick put up a 133 wRC+ in 2012, higher than BP has ever produced in his career.

      • @CP: Yes, interesting stat wRC+. And, Ludwick has a 356 for this year. Um, what has he done this year to deserve that? Or, we could go back to Ludwick’s previous seasons, starting with most recent, 133, 92, 106, 106, which doesn’t show to be much better at all than BP’s. Bottom line, it’s statistics, it’s math, it’s facts, and it’s the truth. BP isn’t the problem. Ideal for the 4 hole, I never said that. But, BP isn’t the problem. And, there would be no guarantee Ludwick would be seeing much better numbers that BP is seeing right now simply based off one year hitting in a bandbox. Shoot, Ludwick’s numbers haven’t been respectable before last season since 2009, posing any kind of threat since 2008. Very realistic that 2012 could have been a fluke season for Ludwick.

        You can’t always go by numbers. If we did, we should go after a guy who had wRC+ of 157 at age 39. But, since he’s dead, it’s a little after his prime now. I don’t think he will be very productive.

        Don’t get me wrong, I would have rathered seen Ludwick in the 4 hole and BP in the 2 hole. But, that’s because I would have rathered seen BP in the 2 hole than Cozart in the 2 hole. Shoot, I would have rathered see Bruce in the 4 hole before Ludwick. But, given Bakerman will never bat Votto-Bruce, the next one on the list was Ludwick.

        • @steveschoen: Again, I don’t know why Ludwick got pulled into this. BP’s below average production has nothing to do with Ludwick being out. No one forced the Reds to bat BP 4th.

          That said, Ludwick played one game. wRC+ is not a cumulative stat but rather is percentage-based. SSS always comes into play. So your issue is with…numbers?

          Since you cited Ludwick 4’s preceding wRC+, perhaps you should note that 3 of 4 is higher than BP’s right now, and the 92 wRC+ is essentially equal to BP current 93 wRC+. Ludwick talked openly about his horrid season in San Diego. But we can’t talk about BP’s bad season in a thread about how the Reds’ right handed hitters are to blame. Okay…

          I never said BP is The Problem, but he’s certainly Part of The Problem. From a run creation standpoint, BP, Xavier Todd Frazier, Xavier Paul, and Devin Mesoraco are basically the same player offensively. One of these is not expected to be like the others.

        • @steveschoen:

          That said, Ludwick played one game.wRC+ is not a cumulative stat but rather is percentage-based.SSS always comes into play.So your issue is with…numbers?

          Eh, I realize the above comment came across too harsh. The point is that you’re created a strawman. Ludwick’s 2013 wRC+ is irrelevant. It would be fair to criticize someone justifying Ludwick batting 4th over BP based on their respective 2013 wRC+, but no one is attempting to do that. Any rational person would look at Ludwick’s 300+ wRC, then look at the ABs category, and say, “oh, he’s only had 2 ABs. His wRC+ is meaningless.”

        • @steveschoen: Again, I don’t know why Ludwick got pulled into this.BP’s below average production has nothing to do with Ludwick being out.No one forced the Reds to bat BP 4th.

          Who else? Frazier? He’s doing great now. Cozart? He couldn’t handle the 2 hole. Hanigan? Bruce would be the first choice with this team. But, Bakerman would never bat Votto-Bruce. Second choice, Ludwick, since you would rather have BP bat in the 2 hole. Plenty of ways to stay away from the 2 hole. Steal bases, hit and run, etc. Just none of them relate to Bakerman’s style of play. Pretty simple to consider, actually.

        • @steveschoen: Okay, this is another strawman, but I can answer the question I guess. I don’t live in a world constrained by Dusty’s antiquated lineup construction rules….

          My lineup would almost certainly have looked something like this:

          1. Choo
          2. Votto
          3. Ludwick/BP/Frazier
          4. Bruce
          5. Ludwick/BP/Frazier
          6. Ludwick/BP/Frazier
          7. Mesoraco/Hanigan
          8. Cozart

          3/5/6/7 would be adjusted pretty frequently according to their performance. I would have leaned towards BP #3, Ludwick #5, and Frazier #6, simply due to age & consistency, but those would have been adjusted as the season went on.

          If you notice, it would almost be basically be ordered by descending wRC+ with small adjustments for power/slugging (Choo ahead of Votto, for example).

          Even according to Dusty’s rules where JV can’t hit #2, and Bruce can’t hit immediately behind him, under no circumstance does Cozart bat anywhere but #8 unless Corky or Izturis are playing. Frazier would certainly bat #2 or #4 in a lineup without Ludwick, with BP hitting in the #4 spot.

          I don’t know where you got the impression that I’m saying BP shouldn’t have hit #4 or even #2, but all I did was criticize BP’s performance. Out of the Reds 4 supposed best offensive players (Votto, Choo, BP, Bruce) coming into the season, he’s by far the biggest disappointment. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have put him up in the lineup. It just means it is past time for Dusty to make adjustments.

        • @steveschoen: I didn’t. You did. :lol:

          Boy, the hate on BP. I tell you something, I doubt Ludwick would have the results BP has had in the 4 hole.

          @steveschoen: Do you really consider my post as hating on BP?

          I don’t see how Ludwick’s production is relevant to BP being a below average hitter in 2013, but Ludwick put up a 133 wRC+ in 2012, higher than BP has ever produced in his career.

          @CP: Yes, interesting stat wRC+. And, Ludwick has a 356 for this year.Um, what has he done this year to deserve that?

  9. The Win-now house that WJ and Baker have built has turned into a house of cards. (No pun intended). Crumbling down around them with a foundation that is slipping. With no leadership and no heart from the players, it is difficult to imagine a post season this year. And to think, the Indians, the Indians mind you, have a better record this far into the season.
    What is that on the horizon?? Its Ludwick and Broxton with bum shoulders and all, coming to save the day. Hooray!!! Break out the confetti. (tongue in cheek)

    • @WVRedlegs: I have to say more Bakerman than Walt. I’m not so sure Walt wanted Bakerman back. It was Bakerman who went to the FO then to the papers insisting on an extension when the team never won anything at the time. It was Bakerman who went to the papers insisting on a decision on Chapman.

      • @steveschoen: I agree that I am not sure that Walt wanted Dusty back.

        And this could prove to be genius. If the team keeps under performing, SOMETHING will have to give.

        It could be Baker who may say I have had enough and it is time to retire. Of course he will say “see, this is why you can’t trust young players” while doing little to continue to develop them

        It may be Price who may say it is time for me to go to the next level (where it could become Baker or Price)

        Or it may be Mr. C who may come to his senses and say I have had enough and I made the 7 mil error in extending Baker.

        Regardless, there are teams with a lot less talent doing a lot better than the Reds

      • @steveschoen: Who acquired the players, though? I’m not blaming either of them–this is a pretty good team which is laboring under unrealistic expectations, based upon the actual roster. Last year they had no injuries (Votto excepted, and Frazier essentially channeled Votto for the duration), and probably over-achieved as a result. This year, we’re seeing that smaller market teams become powerful gradually. Disappointing, yes, but the only part that surprises me is that they are losing the defensive sharpness that they had earlier this year and for several years before. Hard to watch, though.

        • @greenmtred: A team being coached by people who don’t know how to coach but still trying to impress their strategies on their players, like Bakerman’s “Swing at more first pitches” and how he tried to take Gomes directly under his tutelege.

    • @WVRedlegs: @WVRedlegs: The inaction of the front office this season has been surprising. I think Walt got caught flat footed when Ludwick got hurt on Opening Day and has kind of been in limbo ever since. He did all he could, IMO, to Dusty-proof the line up, and, in fairness, if Ludwick wasn’t hurt he’d be batting 4th and BP would be 2nd. Whether that would have proven to be any better, I’d guess yes just because Phillips’ OBP > Cozart’s OBP. I think it’s debatable whether the Reds should have resigned Ludwick for 2 years considering he was going into his 34 year old season and had played more than 140 games only 1 time in his career (2008). For the talk of what a great clubhouse guy he is (which I’m not doubting), from ’07-’10 the Cards only made the postseason once, getting swept in the NLDS. The Cardinals also traded him for Jake Westbrook in the middle of that ’10 season. He didn’t make the playoffs with San Diego or Pittsburgh. Not to say he can’t make a difference in the Reds clubhouse, but I think that can be overblown. I’m not sure how seriously Walt considered getting a left handed bat to help hit righty’s because of Dusty’s refusal to bat lefties back to back. I don’t know if Milwaukee would have traded Aoki or what the price was, but I can’t imagine Dusty using a lineup that went L-L-L-R-L. For as much as Dusty wants to keep any player issues “in house” he’s the first to voice his displeasure with the front office and I just wonder how much he and Walt are on the same page.

  10. Since we don’t have a separate thread for this I’ll just post it here:
    1) I sure hope Bartolo Colon gets suspended before he pitches against us
    2) I don’t care what they do to A-Rod, but I think it’s ridiculous and unfair if the Yankees get out from under the horrible contract they signed him to. They benefitted from his cheating, and then don’t have to suffer for him getting caught or for their own mistake in signing him for that much money/those many years?

    • @Eric the Red: Colon is not getting suspended and A-roid is saying he’ll appeal, which should mean the yanks are stuck with him for at least the rest of the year. Hopefully Homer can get us a 1-0 victory on Wednesday.

      Cards have to face Greinke tonight and Ryu Thursday night while the Pirates face Fernandez on Thursday night. The Reds could conceivably make up some ground on their days off this week.

  11. I continue to be a naive Reds fan: with an off day after that weekend debacle I thought the front office might do something bold today – even if it was just a coaching change. Guess not – guess they’re content to plod on to the finish line and the fate that awaits them against a good pitcher, assuming they even make that one game play-off.

  12. Just another example that the status quo with this lineup is not working. Dusty has to shake something up, right? Right?!?!

    I realize there aren’t many (i.e. any) other options to get regular time in the lineup, so the lineup at least needs re-ordered or shaken up just to get some new momentum going. It is funny that all anyone has talked about this Reds club needing is a RH bat, because it is so top heavy with the LH in the lineup. The Reds actually struggle worse against RHP than LHP. Maybe the club should have taken a look at a LH bat at the deadline instead…

    • @Vottomatic84: The Reds righties struggle mightily against RHs, pretty much leaving it to Choo, Votto and Bruce to provide the offense. Against lefties, the RH hitters are better (especially Mesoraco), plus Votto is still excellent and Bruce is OK. So, the Reds have a legitimate lineup against lefty starters, but a cruddy one against RHs.

      As Lee Elia would say, “it’s a disheartening blanking situation.” I would have preferred that Baker put Heisey in leftfield when he got off the DL and stayed with him. I think both Paul and Robinson are very limited, and that Heisey would produce more if he got to play 6 days a week. Heisey did hit .281/.344/.544 in 57 ABs in July, so I don’t understand why he doesn’t play all the time, except perhaps that he’s still nursing his injury a bit.

      Phillips takes too many hopeless swings, particularly when there is nobody on base. As a result, as has been pointed out, he generates a lot of outs and not many run-producing situations for the 5-7 hitters behind him.

      • @Big Ed: I have wondered about Heisey not starting as much also, but I’m not quite sure he can be an every day starter. He’s just better than XP and D-Rob. I never realized how bad XP is defensively until watching him play so much this year. He’s a butcher out there. Heisey seems to have fallen into the same pattern as guys like Stubbs and Cozart; namely not taking walks at all. He’s walking only 4.3% of the time this year. He had a career MiLB BB rate of 8.5%. Some guys lack the skill to walk, but it seems like plate discipline would be like any other skill – if it’s not emphasized and not practiced you’ll lose whatever bit of it you had. And if we know one thing it’s that Dusty does not like the walk. He preaches a very aggressive approach to hitting. One of the major issues I have with Dusty is how players generally regress when it comes to BB%. Not everyone has Votto’s innate talent and drive. With no importance put on drawing a walk, players with simply average plate discipline start swinging wildly and we see it in the scoring slumps.

  13. Love BP…But he is slipping back into the habit of swinging a bad pitches early in the count again like he was a few seasons ago. The reason he is considered a good 2 strike hitter is he does it all the time. A little better selection early in the AB and we are looking at a .290 guy.

  14. @steveschoen: I agree that I am not sure that Walt wanted Dusty back.

    And this could prove to be genius. If the team keeps under performing, SOMETHING will have to give.

    It could be Baker who may say I have had enough and it is time to retire. Of course he will say “see, this is why you can’t trust young players” while doing little to continue to develop them

    It may be Price who may say it is time for me to go to the next level (where it could become Baker or Price)

    Or it may be Mr. C who may come to his senses and say I have had enough and I made the 7 mil error in extending Baker.

    Regardless, there are teams with a lot less talent doing a lot better than the Reds

  15. I have been reading the comments the past couple of weeks. I can’t believe that people are trying to put the blame on Phillips. He is batting like a 4-hole hitter and has adjusted his hitting accordingly. His role is to drive in runs and i believe he is doing that. If you put him in the 2-hole, he would have a higher on-base percentage. He has stated that himself. I say hats off to him!! Frazier and Cozart have been HUGE disappointments this year coupled with the injuries and this team is still good, just not great.

    I have one idea Jocketty should do and I have not seen it brought up. With Arroyo a free agent at the end of the year and doubtful on resigning him, why dont they trade him and his contract for a big right handed bat, say Quentin of the Padres. They make similar money and you upgrade the offense. Arroyo has maybe what, 8-9 more starts, tops. Of those, he will probably have 5-6 good ones. My guess is they can get someone to fill in the 5th spot and not lose much. In the playoffs, you only pitch 3 starters anyway. Just a thought??

    • @henryinlex:
      henryinlex, Arroyo has a lot of deferred money in his contract that all becomes due immediately if traded. The contract he signed basically made him untradeable.

    • @henryinlex: Anyone changing their approach based on their spot in the order is doing something wrong. The main objective for an at-bat is to not make an out. When lots of players on your team don’t make outs, you score runs.

      I don’t think BP batting 2nd would make him have a higher OBP. When he bats currently with no men on base (which he’d do more of batting 2nd) he’s terrible. Look at his splits. .200/.235/.344 in 202 PAs. That’s atrocious. THAT is his hitting approach without men on, which is “trying to get on base” since no one is on to drive in. It’s amazing he hasn’t noticed that he’s a terrible hitter with no one on and hasn’t used the same approach as he does with RISP and with 2-strikes. Just wathing him bat, you can tell a difference. With no one on, you expect wild swings at everything. With men on, he’s much more reserved and apt to go the other way. If he’d just use that SAME approach even with men not on base, he’d be having a much better year.

      He’s just having a bad year. It happens. But trying to act like he’s “doing fine” because he had a lot of RBIs is patently false.

      • @prjeter: i understand what you are saying, but batting average is only part of hitting. Driving in runs, getting runners over and in and doing the little things to help your team score runs is also a large part of it. Phillips is doing those things in the 4 hole. The way you win games is by scoring runs. Outside of Votto and Bruce, Phillips has been a huge key in scoring runs. Again, i restate, Phillips is not the Reds problem. The weak hitting SS, 3rd base, LF and catchers are the problems.

  16. It’s now a race with the D-Backs for the last wild-card spot. That’s how standing still affects your season.

  17. Wow, what do you do when every available option (immediate or near-future) for LF (a necessary offensive position) just completely tanks?

    Only possible near-future option after completing rehab:
    .045/.087/.091 for Ludwick at AAA

    Every major league roster option since game 2 of the SF double header:
    .167/.219/.267 for Heisey
    .071/.316/.286 for XP
    .222/.250/.333 for Robinson

    A complete hole in LF combined with the season performance at 3B, SS & C makes any lineup at this point problematic. Mesoraco seems to have finally found his hitting stroke against MLB pitching so that’s one small glimmer of hope, but that’s offset by BP’s loss of hitting stroke. Tough times facing the good guys unless something changes to the positive side of the ledger.

    • @Shchi Cossack: Yep. Sometimes there just aren’t any good options. Unforunate when that is the case. I think in situations like this, you pick one guy (should have been Heisey since he got healthy) and let him go to work. I can’t remember having ever seen a successful platoon of 3-players in a position. Not enough ABs to go around.

  18. Speaking of blaming it on the RHed hitters, Todd is riding the bench today. If Hannahan starts hitting better, could develop into a platoon situation.

  19. And Dusty has taken to some sort of madness. Mesoraco is hitting 6th today! I thought that was illegal.

  20. “HEY JOHNNY BENCH, START TWEETING ABOUT WHO SHOULD BAT 2ND AND NOT TO LEAVE THE STARTER IN TOO LONG. DUSTY IS LISTENING!”

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