Thinking Inside the Box

How Offense Killed the Season

The thing about writing a weekly column about how a team that can’t hit hits is that even when you’ve been gone for two weeks, you material doesn’t really change. It’s a lot of poop.

Twenty-nine offensive players have come to bat for the Reds this year. Twenty-nine.

Now, guess how many of them have provided above-average offense.

You can figure a few out right away. Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier are obvious. Joey Votto is too, even in his injured state. After that, you have two more players who have combined for twenty at bats. Their names are Kris Negron and JJ Hoover.

That’s five players. Two of whom don’t really count. Everyone else on the roster has a wRC+ of less than (or, if you’re Ryan Ludwick, equal to) 100.

That doesn’t work.

Yes, this team has been decimated by injury, but it’s more than that. Yes, full, healthy, and normal seasons from Jay Bruce and Joey Votto would have helped, but it’s more than that. No one imagined this from Mesoraco. If you step back and look at the results, the offense is maybe not that far from what we would have guessed at the beginning of the season.

So let’s be quick and brutal here, if you are the Reds, what do you do?

At this point, I’m cutting bait on the season. Yes the playoffs are a crapshoot and the Reds could sneak in, but I’d much rather they prepare for next year. They currently have the chance to sell high on pitchers (pitchers tend to get hurt a lot) and get some offense. They should do it.

The Reds do not need to improve at catcher, third or center (Hamilton gives enough in other areas that his bat is fine there). As long as Votto and Bruce can reasonably be expected to bounce back (I think they can), then that has the Reds set at two more positions.

That leaves them with needs at short, second, and left. I love Zack Cozart and have a been a big booster of his, but he isn’t hitting enough. It may be time for him to transition to a reserve role. Similarly, Phillips is declining. Left, well, you know about that.

The Reds do have osme outfield talent in the pipeline, but they should still be searching for a bat there since their bench has been a wasteland for a few years now. If I am them, I am looking for any good options I can in the middle infield or the outfield, and I am looking for players who will be under team control past this season.

I’m sorry this is repetitive, guys. I know I’ve written things similar to this before, but I don’t want to write about what they’re doing right now because it sucks and it’s predictable. I’ll try to come up with something new for next week.

43 thoughts on “How Offense Killed the Season

  1. you nailed though. Who would be your ideal players that are within reason of the Reds being able to sign or trade for at those positions. SS, 2B, and LF….
    I have always dreamed of Elvis Andrus at short for us but I don’t think that contract is even remotely possible.

  2. If the players in LF, RF, 3rd, Cather and 1st produce on the level they are expected, then what is so wrong with having a light hitting but very good defensive SS? How many teams have great hitting SS? It’s not Cozart’s fault that the “key” hitting players on this team are either hurt or not producing up to the level of expectations outside of Frazier and Mez. To me the main concern is LF, address that issue, get everyone else either healthy or going and this team is fine.

    • I agree with this 100%, and have felt this way for a while. Don’t get me wrong, if we could get somebody who would be a clear upgrade offensively while giving up VERY little defensively I’d be all for it, but there just aren’t very many of those guys around, and those few that are around are getting paid big time. I think people (not saying Jason looks at it this way) still look at SS through a 1998-2004 lens, rather than seeing that period as a major outlier for SS’s.

    • It’s not an either/or situation. The Reds should probably focus on LF, just because it’s typically easier/cheaper, but…

      Cozart’s offense has been stunningly bad. I don’t think it is very easy to upgrade at SS, but a guy putting up a 56 wRC+ is ridiculous. What happened to Cozart’s power? His defense isn’t that good.

      • If we were to rank all the SS in MLB right now with somehow using both their offensive and defensive numbers I would be interested to see where Cozart matches up and who is above him and what do they make paycheck wise…

        • According to fangraphs he is tied for 20th among MLB SS in WAR. BB Ref has him at tied for 10th

  3. Still say Cueto to the Dodgers for Joc Pederson and Corey Seager. Gives them a major league ready LF who can play in 2014 and a SS in AA hitting .349/.406/.623 this year who could probably play in the beginning or at least middle of 2015. Both with 6 years of team control.

    Cueto is one lat injury away from losing a huge portion of his value, and is very unlikely to be signed longterm. So you’re basically trading one meaningful season of him (2015) for 12 seasons of two elite prospects in two positions of need.

    Simon is 33 and even if he doesn’t regress, when he becomes a free agent, he’ll be heading into his age 35 season, so it’s not like you even would want to extend him. Right now though he’s the most valuable in his career. Dangle him to the Mariners who are currently running out two starters with an ERA in the 4.3s. Pick up Carson Smith, Nick Franklin, and maybe some other middling prospect.

    Test the waters for Broxton and Chapman because if the Reds keep both of them, they’ll probably be paying them a total of like $21m in 2015 to pitch a combined 120 innings, which just shouldn’t happen.

    Gets your a LF who can play right now, a SS who might be ready to help at some point in 2015, a 2B to either play now or to learn behind BP, and a relief pitcher ready to fill the void left by if you trade a bullpen guy, or just so they don’t have to keep recalling Partch. Plus if they get anything for a bullpen guy to stock up the minors some more.

    • I’m with you. If the Sox or Rays jump in and nab one or both of these guys, I will be sick…..It will also prove that this would have been the smart move for the Reds.

      Get it done, Walt!

    • If our objective is to win a world series next year, why in the world would we trade Cueto who is our best pitcher by far? We need to keep our best players and shoot for a series win. Next year, we’ll have Votto (a healthy Votto? Enough said!) back, Bruce will probably bounce back with a strong season, and we’ll still have Hamilton, Mesoraco, Frazier who will each probably be at least a little better. We need to pick up a LF or 2B but not at the expense of our core. When healthy, we have a very good team that just needs some enhancements.

    • The problem is that LA has shown zero indication that they’re willing to give up Pederson OR Seager, let alone both of them. I think if they we willing, Price or Lester would be in LA already.

      • That’s the thing, Ken. Some people can think of nice trades, and this can be/is a nice trade. The thing is, the Dodgers have to want it. If they don’t want it, we aren’t going to be able to make the trade.

        I personally do see one of Cueto/Latos/Bailey (even with his extension) going somewhere. I don’t see how we keep all three. I’d be surprised we are able to keep 2 of them. Cueto’s a lat injury away from losing value? All 3 of these pitchers have had an injury history, not just Cueto. But, out of these three, Cueto’s been the best pitcher imo. I would have to say try to keep him. I never thought we should have given Bailey that much money. And, I don’t see us keeping him to the end of this contract, with a $25 million payout. I think we should be sending him somewhere. So, that leaves the tossup at Latos.

  4. I also think the Reds should consider 3B an option, as Todd Frazier’s bat is now good enough to play LF. Even if there is a small defensive downgrade, this team desperately needs a hitter, and it opens up a few more options.

    I’m sure we’ll hear all about how the teams needs a prototypical #4 hitter, but I don’t think that should be the focus. This teams needs an influx of guys that get on base more frequently. A squad of Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, and Zack Cozart, along with frequent subs like Chris Heisey, Skip Schumaker, and Brayan Pena, means below average runs. No one gets on base.

    • A good LF bat is easier to find than a good 3B bat. In all of MLB there are only 5 qualified 3B who have an OPS of at least ,800 and Todd Frazier is one of them. There are 8 such LFs, including one with an OPS of at least ,900, and defense there is a lot less important than at third.

      So it is definitely easier to find a LF bat and Frazier’s defense would be wasted in LF.

      • “A good LF bat is easier to find than a good 3B bat.”

        Well, duh. I don’t understand why fans have such a difficult time realizing that the Reds don’t have only two choices .

        The point is that you now are looking at 5 more players I think that number is actually an extreme low ball since young/hurt players don’t qualify, and the Reds could project that they would surpass your arbitrary .800 OPS number (why we’re not using wRC+ or OPS+ is beyond me, but whatever). Both the list of available OFs and 3B is also chock full of massive contracts or other likely unavailable players, so we’re actually talking about a pretty small player pool regardless. Any additional players you add to the pool helps the Reds.

        Frazier’s defense isn’t good enough to prohibit him from sliding out to LF for the right player.

      • To find one, that’s easy. To “get” one, that’s an entirely other thing altogether.

        • The thing is, what if you can’t “get” a LF? Then, you still have the option of “getting” a 3rd baseman, also.

  5. What exactly is wRC+ ?
    You’re assuming that Votto and Bruce will return to form. That is not a given by a LONG shot. Reds have best pitching since 1990 and everyone wants to trade it. Look at all of the bums, has beens, prospects we’ve had to endure since then? You better have some young arms ready if you trade Cueto, Bailey or Latos. AND we’ve all seen Walt’s fine minor league system.

    • wRC+ is basically Fangraph’s and other people’s fancier way of saying OPS+. They decided they needed a whole new stat to basically say the exact same thing despite the old one being perfectly fine.

      For instance Votto has a 125 OPS+ and a 128 wRC+ this year. Frazier has a 126 OPS+ and a 127 wRC+. Mesoraco has a 159 OPS+ and 159 wRC+.

    • Right! I would think that Maffie’s recent column would have underlined the risk involved in trading top flight pitchers.

  6. I don’t see how any real fan could give up in July, five games out of the division lead, four games out of the wild card, no matter how brutal of a stretch they’ve been in.

      • Didn’t have much of Votto and Bruce before the AS break. And, BP wasn’t doing any kind of MVP work, either. He was pretty much at his “baseball card” numbers before the AS break. And, look what they did before the AS break. Have you been watching this team all season?

    • “Real” fans.. (Classy attack at fan status by the way.)… see that they’re trotting out 4-5 of Schumaker/Pena/Santiago/Cozart/Ludwick/Lutz/Negron in their starting lineup every day is not a recipe for a winning season, as evidenced by the whopping 20 runs they’ve scored in the 11 games since the AS break.

      • Good Lord, guys, read what I said: “no matter how brutal of a stretch they’ve been in.”

        I’m not ignoring what has happened. YOU GUYS are committing the cardinal sin of putting way too much on recent history.

        • Recent history is also going to be near future history. They still have a couple more weeks of playing with the AAA and AA team on their starting roster until Votto and Phillips come back, and who knows how helpful they’ll actually be when they return. Heck, even when they had BP and Votto, it’s not like this team was unstoppable. They still looked like a somewhat lackluster team offensively.

        • That’s common with many on here, Ren. If Schumaker/Pena/Santiago/Cozart/Ludwick/Lutz/Negron all start one game, then all of a sudden, someone talks of them starting 10 straight games or something.

  7. The Reds have a chance to fundamentally change their team from the hack attack to a team of patient hitters that get on base. This organization has to exorcise the Dusty Baker/Brook Jacoby hitting demons that still permeate throughout the team and the sytem. It won’t be done overnight or before a trade deadline. But this could be phase 1 and this winter phase 2.

  8. To keep Mesoraco in the lineup, give him a shot at third base (he’s expressed interest in playing there), shift Frazier to shortstop (played shortstop in college). Although this would be a radical middle-of-the-season experiment, it would immediately boost hitting with the existing roster.

    • And make our defense horrible. Why not just make the game 9 of the best hitters hit and 8 of your best fielders play the field.

    • Then you have Jack Hannahan/Bryan Pena at 1B, Pena/Barnhart catching, while downgrading defense at 3B and SS? You’re basically subbing in either Hannahan or Barnhart for Cozart which doesn’t make sense. I could see Mesoraco playing 1B on days he doesn’t catch. That makes sense.

  9. “…I don’t want to write about what they’re doing right now because it sucks and it’s predictable.”
    It is really annoying to have articles written by people who are just so … wrong. Yes, it sucks that the Reds are playing horribly, but there was nothing predicable about. I saw NO predictions on this site that the Reds would start the second half with a 7 game losing streak and hit under .200 and score only 2 runs a game.
    It is worse when the writer then lists the “good” players the team needs to retain and they are the same list of the worst performing players since the all-star break. Mesoraco/Frazier/Bruce/Hamilton: all have hit under .200 and are the main cause of the losing streak. It is not logical to say this was predictable and then says these guys are the teams future. Either this losing streak is just an anomaly and bad luck or these 4 players need to be gotten rid of.

    • Mesoraco is actually hitting exactly .200 since the AS break. Besides, Pena is the only one with an OPS of at least .650 since the AS break. It’s not just those guys. They’re all pretty awful right now. The only difference is, I expect Frazier/Mesoraco/Hamilton to get better. As for Schumaker/Ludwick/Lutz/Santiago? They weren’t good before the slump anyway.

      • Indeed, Schumaker/Ludwick/Lutz/Santiago have under-performed since the break also, but not nearly as bad as the regulars. I am sure that you would say they are performing exactly as you predicted. The regular’s performances are way below expectation and most of the blame should fall on them. If the whole team reverts to average, the Reds should be winning more than they lose.

  10. The lack of an offensive thumper has been obvious since Ludwick went down on opening day in 2013 and nothing, in effect, was or has been done about it to date. So, here we are within striking distance, and hoping that a feeble offense can get it done.

  11. The way baseball finances are, the reds have pretty much had to 1) develop people and 2) sign them long term. This works if the players produce but if they fall off 1) there is no money to sign new people and 2) they are untradeable.

    • The only team that breaks this rule is the A’s. They trade expensive people at their peak for nearly ready cheaper players. This is risky but can work, as the A’s have shown.

  12. Have followed Reds since 1975. Listened to world series on radio. Those teams had such class and intimidation value. Other teams had to consider themselves lucky to hang with the Reds.
    I think that mojo was there long after that. More recently, we have not had a 300 hitter in 2 years! Let alone a stable full of hitters putting pressure on the opposition’s pitchers. More recently, our team hasn’t even created competitive batting practice for their pitchers.
    Character wise … this is a good group. Very few problems. But they haven’t played lights out baseball … in years.
    So no one is off the trade table. Truth is … be thankful if there’s something interesting to some other team.
    Last year’s lethargic effort by all the coaches and universally the players has spread to this year. Can anyone really .. I mean really justify the fat payrolls on this team. We are a small market team with big-city payrolls!! We are like the Yankees of the midwest … but without a shred of benefit. (12th highest in baseball … National and American Leagues!)
    I do not like St Louis … at all. But how can someone justify the talent out there making a million over ST Louis? 11 Million over the Brewers … 23 Million more than the Cubs … and 34 million more than the Pirates?
    Such poor management of resources can result in only one thing … the loss of our Reds. Take some time and research the contract structure of their biggest names. They will be paying for them years and years after they are no longer with us.
    Truly, they have run up the credit card and this is all we have to see for it.

    So … cash them in. Get some young players just happy to be playing baseball and represent a wonderful community. Can it be that much worse?

    Sell. Sell. Sell!

  13. I can understand arguments from both sides, to become a buyer and a seller. I still go to the fact that what were the expectations from this team at the beginning of this season? Not that much. So they had a good first half of the season? It’s directly because 3 youngsters while 2 stars were underachieving, with the starting pitching overall going well and with an inconsistent bullpen. I said at the beginning of the season, with expectations going to be so low, I wouldn’t put it past the front office, even would partially encourage them to do so, to “bag” the season for the “big club”, concentrating this season on development and instruction of the minor leaguers. And, I still don’t feel any different.

    Oh, I cheered all the way the first half of the season. And, I do hope they still win it all. However, my thoughts were never to have a Marlins type of season, where we win it all then have the bake sale. Or, a Yankee type of season, where we buy everything in site and have nothing for replacements, still with little results. I would prefer to be cheering not only for a good “big club” but for an overall good organization, from top to bottom, where if they have an injury lose a player to FA, then they can either easily plug in a prospect or they can easily bring in another FA.

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