2013 Reds

Feast or Famine, Revisited

(Ed: Occasionally, we like to feature contributions from you, the Loyal Citizens of Redleg Nation. Today, we bring you another post from Lawrence Wheat, known as “LWBlogger” in the comments; it’s an update of a post from earlier this season.)

You might recall that earlier this season, back in June, I had an article published here at Redleg Nation that shed some light on what was sometimes perceived as the Reds’ “feast or famine” offense. In that article, I determined that “feasting” wasn’t a bad thing and offensive explosions led to winning. However, scoring 2 runs or less often leads to exceptionally low winning percentages league-wide (obviously). Therefore, for that study I decided to focus on those low-scoring, “famine” games. My earlier study looked at the 2011 season, 2012 season, and games played through May 22nd in 2013.

Rather than rehash that study, I’ll just refresh our memories on how the NL stood back on 5/22 as far as these “famine” games were concerned. The NL teams, their number of “famine” games, along with their respective records in those games early this season:

Team: games (record in those games) – as of 5/22/13

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

So we see that the Reds were right about in the middle of the pack in these “famine” games, sitting with the 8th fewest (and 8th most!) at that time.

Since it’s the end of the Reds season and since I didn’t have many other baseball-related activities to keep me out of trouble, I decided it would be good to revisit that early study and see how the Reds stacked up with the rest of the NL. After some digging around on Baseball-Reference; I came up with the totals and ordered the teams from fewest to most “famine” games. After the “long 162”, here is what the NL teams looked like as well as their respective records in “famine” games for 2013:

Team: games (record in those games) – 2013 Regular Season Final

St. Louis: 47 (6-41)
Atlanta: 53 (12-41)
Arizona: 53 (8-45)
Milwaukee: 53 (7-46)
REDS: 54 (10-44)
Pittsburgh: 56 (12-44)
Colorado: 56 (7-49)
Philadelphia: 56 (6-50)
Los Angeles: 57 (14-43)
New York: 59 (9-50)
Chicago: 59 (5-54)
San Francisco: 64 (11-53)
Washington: 65 (8-57)
San Diego: 70 (13-57)
Miami: 76 (13-63)

I predicted in my initial study that the Reds’ “famine” game totals would level off due to the small sample used in my earlier study. My idea at the time was that the Reds had a pretty good offense and that they would do better than having the 8th fewest “famine” games by the end of the season. I felt pretty good about the prediction up until the last couple months of the season where it felt like the Reds had a bunch of these low-scoring affairs. I was worried that when I revisited my study, the Reds would actually be worse than 8th on the list.

While the Reds certainly had their fair share of “famine” games, the outcome wasn’t as bad as I had feared. While my prediction that they’d significantly improve wasn’t quite true, they did in fact improve when it came to avoiding “famine” games; at least, with respect to how the rest of the NL scored their runs. Here at the end of the season, we find the Reds are right at the edge of the top third in the NL, having had the 5th fewest “famine” games.

The initial conclusion then is that while they didn’t improve as much as I thought they would in this area, they did improve, and in fact, were not really more prone to “famine” games than most of the other teams in the NL. Note that Pittsburgh and LA, both playoff teams, played more “famine” games; while playoff teams the Cardinals and the Braves, played fewer. The Reds were right in the middle of the playoff teams in this area. I find myself a little amazed at the Cardinals’ ability to avoid those “famine” games however. The Cards played 6 fewer “famine” games than the 2nd best team on the list (Atlanta). To put that in some perspective, slots 2 and 11 on the list are separated by an equal 6 games

I decided to do a little more digging because when the study was first published on Redleg Nation, one of the recurring comments was that I had set the floor too low for what constitutes a “famine” game. Therefore, this time I decided to also look at how many times NL teams scored 3 runs or less. Looking at that, I was somewhat surprised to see the Reds actually looking quite a bit better than they did in the 2-run chart above. The chart below reflects games where NL teams’ offenses scored 3 runs or less, and their respective records in those games this season:

Team: games (record in those games) – 2013 Regular Season final (3 runs or less)

St. Louis: 65 (14-51)
REDS: 72 (19-53)
Milwaukee: 73 (13-60)
Pittsburgh: 76 (25-51)
Colorado: 76 (12-64)
Atlanta: 78 (25-53)
Arizona: 78 (22-56)
Chicago: 82 (17-65)
New York: 83 (18-65)
Los Angeles: 85 (28-57)
Washington: 85 (18-67)
San Diego: 86 (21-65)
Philadelphia: 86 (19-67)
San Francisco: 89 (20-69)
Miami: 103 (22-81)

What this tells us is even after another somewhat disappointing season and early playoff exit, the Reds offense overall, didn’t look particularly inconsistent compared to the other NL teams. They were top third in avoiding games scoring 2 runs or less and actually had very few games scoring 3 or fewer runs, relative to the rest of the NL. Does this mean that the approach doesn’t need to change or that this team didn’t come up short in many areas? No, but it does indicate that the Reds’ offense wasn’t quite as feeble as it seemed sometimes this year. There is work to do offensively but it doesn’t appear that inconsistency is the primary issue.

Thoughts Nation?

56 thoughts on “Feast or Famine, Revisited

  1. This is very cool, but if I can play devil’s advocate for just a minute, I wonder how ballpark affects this. It would be very interesting to split this into home and road games as road games should be roughly park-neutral.

    Obviously, I’m wondering how GABP might have helped the Reds avoid these games as their offense overall was mediocre when park-adjusted.

    • @Jason Linden: These numbers don’t take home ballpark into account and it is almost a certainty that they are somewhat skewed by the Reds’ playing in an offense-friendly park.

      • @LWBlogger: It sort of runs through my mind that this doesn’t really matter a lot at the team level because the reality is every team plays half its games at home (unless one gets turned into a road “home” game by a cancellation). So, how it plays aggregately in its home park is just part of its profile.

        Now conversely if someone is scouting/ evaluating players for possible acquisition or to figure out how to pitch them, it knowing they plat their home games in a hitters’ or pitchers’ park is a matter of interest.

  2. I think the Reds offensive numbers are heavily skewed because of the top heavy offense. Choo and Votto were on base SO MUCH that they were bound to score runs. I think that the numbers don’t accurately represent what the Reds offense was. Which was disappointing at best. Which is an accurate statistical category by the way. Reds = first in disappointment.

    • @hermanbates:

      I don’t understand this line of reasoning. It’s like saying “Pittsburgh was only good because of McCutchen and Marte” or “Atlanta was only good because of J. Upton and Freeman”.

      Of COURSE. Those guys are GOOD at baseball, just like Votto and Choo are. You take those guys away from their respective offenses, and just about any offense would be “top heavy”.

      I never understand the argument of “Well, take their superstars away and they would suck!” That’s true of any team in any sport, that’s what makes those players “superstars”.

      • @CI3J: Yep, very true CI3J. And the point of the OP wasn’t to say the Reds had a spectacular offense, it was to say they were more adept than a majority of NL teams at avoiding games scoring 2 or fewer and 3 or fewer games. THAT statement is fact and you can’t argue it.

  3. Good post, Chad. One more. Do the same, but only in the games where the opponent had a record over 500.

  4. I am amazed at the need to analyze, analyze, analyze, analyze. Guess I should be used to it from my supervisors at work, but when I come here regularly for an escape . . . .

    • @RedInIN: It’s November. The Reds haven’t play a game in a month. What is it exactly you expect from a Reds blog if not analysis of the team, the past season, and the coming season?

    • @RedInIN: And, generally, casual fans have forgotten about baseball until opening day. The die-hards (who tend to me more statistically inclined, in my opinion) now make up a larger percentage of the active baseball population. There can never be too much analysis! :)

  5. Fantastic work. Thanks. I was wondering this exact same thing.

    This is why I come to this site. It always has the post that I’d otherwise have to write myself.

  6. This was awesome. I love that my negative perception doesn’t match reality. Now I get to enjoy yelling at my radio and TV every time an “expert” gets it wrong too next year.

  7. Chad writes;”it does indicate that the Reds’ offense wasn’t quite as feeble as it seemed sometimes this year. There is work to do offensively but it doesn’t appear that inconsistency is the primary issue.”

    So to make a long story short; If the Reds hitters drive in more runs, strike out less, and and hit more doubles and the pitching staff equals or improves on 2013 numbers (saves, era) the fans will celebrating a World Series Championship at this time in 2014.

  8. The offense should just be more aggressive. Here’s a neat stat…

    Sacrifice hits/bunts (we’ll just include the playoff teams)

    Reds- 85
    Dodgers- 71
    Pirates- 62
    Braves- 58
    Cardinals- 56

    Quit bunting and swing the darn bat, please.

    • @kramer1: Giving away outs is generally a bad thing. The number of times this team bunted early in a game was maddening. I don’t think you’ll see the Reds so high on that list next season.

    • The offense should just be more aggressive. Here’s a neat stat…

      Sacrifice hits/bunts (we’ll just include the playoff teams)

      Reds- 85
      Dodgers- 71
      Pirates- 62
      Braves- 58
      Cardinals- 56

      Quit bunting and swing the darn bat, please.

      And that doesn’t count the outs that resulted from failed sacrifices, or from batters ending up in a poor count from initially being told to bunt and then having one strike to swing away. I doubt that number is quantifiable, but I suspect it would be Halloween-scary.

  9. Great post, LW. The work you guys done on this site is really important. I feel Redleg Nation is a thought leader with a significant trickle down effect on the casual fan and the media (and hopefully the organization). With a game like baseball, opinion too often is taken as fact because of its long history and traditions. Framing the parameters of the debate is as important as the debate itself.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Great post, LWB. Thanks for putting in the time and research.

    On that note, is there an easy access database on Baseball-Reference that doesn’t involve search bars? Like, just a spread sheet that one can access? Or perhaps a matrix that’s accessible with some form of code?

    I’d love to dig into the stats, but the idea of having to do it by hand when I’m so used to my physics research where everything is codes terrifies me.

    • @Zach: Usually on the header row (for lack of a better phrase) of the stats there is a line that reads something like: “Glossary SHARE Embed CSV PRE…”

      There’s no database that is public facing that I know of. I’m sure their code uses an internal database but I don’t think there are links to the outside world… I generally use the SHARE or the CSV functionality from the website, as it allows me to create something exportable. Then I drop that data into Excel and work with it there. All my searching and whatnot needs to be done from the actual website however. Data-mining there can be a little time consuming. I’ve gotten used to it though so usually can find what I’m looking for rather quickly. Once I export the data into Excel, I can remove or ignore the data I don’t need.

  11. @LWBlogger:, you have succeeded in scaring the daylights out of the Old Cossack now. I believe the casual perception from last sesason was that the Reds offense suffered due to the inordinately high number of games where the offense just tanked. Now you tell me that wasn’t the case and the Reds performed better than average in avoiding extremely low run output by the offense.

    I guess having the league’s two best OBP players hitting in the top 3 of the lineup keeps the offense from tanking and the perception came from the rest of the lineup last season. That does not bode well for the Reds next season if they lose Choo from their lineup.

    • @Shchi Cossack: It also helps to watch teams other than the Reds for perspective. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. I live near Chicago, so fortunately I can always turn on the Cubs or Sox when I need a cold splash of water on my face!

    • @Shchi Cossack: I agree with you: it IS scary. I felt all year that they weren’t an effective offensive team, and I was evidently wrong if we go by the number of low-scoring games that they played. My question, though: the pitching was generally excellent, so if the hitting was better than we thought, why didn’t they get past the play-in game? There must be more factors in play to explain this past season.

  12. Thank you for taking the time to do this, LW. I really appreciate the context that this gives to perception. It’s so important to understand whether something is really a significant team short coming or a natural state of affairs. If expectations are that one goes into a thistle patch and expects not to get some scratches just like everybody else would, one might better adjust expectations.

    But… to head off counter criticism, I don’t don’t think anybody here would object to the Reds continuing to find ways to score runs and improve the offense. This data doesn’t say “good enough, stay pat”… it just helps us understand that low scoring games are a natural, immutable part of the game of which the Reds were certainly no less prone to than most.

    • @Matt WI: Speaking of ‘standing pat’, I see on mlbtraderumors that the Pirates are aiming to do what the Reds did after 2010–get the band back together. Go ahead, fellas. If you think that’s gonna be enough to catch the Cardinals or Reds this time around, you’re crazy.

    • @Matt WI: What I want to look at next is where I feel the real problem with the Reds’ offense likely resides. It was my perception that the Reds failed to string hits together and to put together rallies. I’m going to look at this in a couple weeks and see if they were any better/worse than their NL competition in this regard.

      • @LWBlogger: Yes because this also cuts to the heart of whether Votto needed to be more aggressive and risk making some outs versus taking a walk and thus saving the out for someone else to make.

    • @Matt WI: I will concede that as Jason said above, it is likely that the Reds’ numbers of low-scoring games in comparison to the rest of the NL is somewhat skewed by the hitter-friendly nature of GABP.

      • @LWBlogger: So just look at road games.
        @LWBlogger: As well you can look at pitcher-friendly parks. Is GABP all that hitter-friendly, or is it just homer-friendly? Arguably, outfielders have to play deeper.

  13. Several thoughts:

    Mr. Wheat (LW) – Thank you for the hard work and some great info!

    The old adage is that every team wins 1/3 of their games, and loses 1/3, and what matters is what you do with the middle third. Amazing to see that the Reds and EVERY TEAM in the league (save the Cardinals who had sick BARISP numbers that are unsustainable) scored 2 runs or less in 1/3 of their games or more. Yes, pitching wins baseball games, but this provides a pretty simple, quantifiable goal for the organization: score more than 2 runs, more often. Mr. Jocketty, please resign Mr. Choo!

    Is this an argument for batting Votto 2nd and getting more runners on base more often? I think it is. Alternately, maybe it’s an argument for signing Choo and targeting another bat with high OBP in front of Votto and Bruce. Imagine if the first three hitters ahead of Bruce et al had OBP of .400 / .375 / .400? Crazy good. I’ve been thinking the Reds need a right handed thumper (Mark Trumbo?), but maybe they need another on base machine. Just think of the debate on this site then!

    How soon do pitchers and catchers report?

    • @Chris DeBlois:
      9 of the top 10 teams in OBP made the post season (counting Texas who was 10th in OBP). The only teams in the post season who were not top 10 in OBP were the Pirates (T17) and Braves (13). The Reds were 6th including Choo’s contribution.

      The only teams to make the post season who had a lower than .400 SLG% were the Pirates (.396, T15th) and Reds (.391, T18th).

      In the resulting runs scored, the Reds (698 – 12th), Braves (688 – 13th) and Pirates (634 – 20th) were the worst offenses to make the playoffs.

      It looks like the Reds offense could use a boost. Their OBP was good, but that included Choo’s contribution. If he does not come back, they are going to have to work to make up for his loss. Even with Choo, the Reds power numbers are weak. Walt has his work cut out for him in determining how to improve the scoring for next year.

  14. Ok so I just looked it up. There were 19 players in the NL who qualified for the batting title and got on base at a .350 clip or higher (plus Votto and Choo). There were 23 such players in the AL and SIX of them played for the Red Sox. How’s they do this year?

    So… pick up one of those other 42 players and the lineup starts .423 / .350+ / .435. I’m guessing that will score a few runs…

    And to ward off one obvious objection, no, I don’t think there are actually 42 players available from that list. Pretty sure Cabrera, Trout, McCutchen, Goldschmidt and Ortiz aren’t going anywhere this offseason. Interesting to note that last year’s poster child for “please not him” here on RLN (Shane Victorino) IS on that list.

  15. One last question – what gets a comment flagged for “awaiting moderation” here? My main comment from 1:50 is still in limbo, so the follow up at 2:20 may not make much sense. What should I avoid saying to avoid that review (and save the moderators some time and energy)?

    • @Chris DeBlois: No idea, Chris. It isn’t something any of the editors do. The software is responsible for that. Except in rare cases, where we have a commenter placed on probation of sorts, we don’t prescreen the comments. None of us would have time for that. I looked at your comment and couldn’t tell you what triggered the moderation.

    • @Chris DeBlois: That just seems to happen to me from time-to-time. Not sure how it works exactly. I don’t think there are certain filters in place however. I’m sure one of the mods can explain it.

    • @Chris DeBlois: Yeah, me too. And I always assume the worst.

      Since I often come here to vent, my posts may seem a bit slanted to the negative at times. But that is not how I feel most of the time. I just worry one day they’ll say, “THAT’s IT! We’re tired of that TC guy. He always negative, can’t spell worth a darn, and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Then what would I do?

      But then I read other comments and I feel much, much better.

    • @Chris DeBlois: I do not work in IT security specifically but it is all around me in my work environment. Most likely the moderation trigger is tripped by some by a sequence of words that the software filters interpret to possibly have some objectionable meaning. I went back once and carefully read through one my post that had been flagged. I found a spot where if yeah my mind was in the gutter and the context was precisely correct a certain word I had used could be taken to have an obscene meaning.

      Think about the times your automatic background spelling/ grammar checker changes some word on the fly and it gives an entirely different meaning to the sentence you were composing. That is sort of the same principle at work.

  16. Analysis is fine. The younger fans seem to be more into that. I don’t pay much attention to it. I just love the overall artistry of the game of baseball. As a fan recently posted here, I’d be quite happy if the Reds could get a true cleanup hitter like Pablo Sandoval from the Giants to play third base and move Todd Frazier to second. That would give the Reds offense a needed jolt.

  17. This article points out what appears obvious to me: If you can’t score 4 runs, you’re likely to not win the game. Every team in the league can say that. So, much more emphasis on scoring runs would be a paramount objective for everyone. How well the Reds effect that depends on a lot of variables.

    Speaking of free agents, I think so far about 180 guys are free agents this winter. I just looked at the CBS list and was amazed.

    Ronny Cedeno is ON THE LIST.

    Ronny
    Ce
    day
    ne
    yo

  18. Don’t stop the analysis. Never stop the analysis.

    I just hope it’s not redundant. Another Votto OBP article would be an example.

  19. The only player needing protecting from the Rule V that they would be willing to protect this year is Yorman Rodriguez. I think the likelihood of him being claimed by another team is slim though. Still, I wonder if that is why they outrighted Miller and Reynolds when they claimed Beato.

  20. Hot Stove has already heated up. So much is happening right now it’s hard to follow. We need a thread.

  21. Overall over 2 over 3

    St. Louis 97 65 (.599) 91 24 (.791) 83 14 (.856)
    Pittsburgh 94 68 (.580) 82 24 (.773) 69 17 (.802)
    Cincinnati 90 72 (.556) 80 28 (.740) 71 19 (.788)
    Milwaukee 74 88 (.457) 67 42 (.614) 61 28 (.685)
    Chi Cubs 66 96 (.407) 61 42 (.592) 49 31 (.613)

    Not sure if this means anything or not.

  22. How much of a factor is the timing of when you score two or less runs? Could how you adjust your rotation makes a significant difference?

    Obviously controlling the number of times you score two or less runs is a factor and knowing that should certainly make a manager pause and think about potentially killing big innings by giving up out (sac bunts, sac flies, etc.) It should also make him think about batting order arrangement such as hitting a double play prone hitter behind a good on-base hitter.

  23. Maybe it’s too late to post something anyone will see, but I’d like to see an analysis of Feast or Famine that involved mean and standard deviation, both in the per game category and the per nine innings category. I would bet that extra innings games depress the mean pretty significantly.

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