One hundred and seventeen games into the season the Reds sit two runs behind the league leaders in runs scored and fifteen ahead in home runs and eight in two-baggers.
Second in the league in total bases, yet 19 more extra base hits than the leaders ( the Cubs, a bat on the ball team with more singles than the Reds and still an ob% eleven points behind the Reds)

All and all some pretty heady numbers for the Reds, who currently are on pace to have 588 EBH hits, which put them second in that category in NL history for a season and 30 above the current record achieved in 1999.

To really note the hitting of the era look at the top ten in EBH in NL history below.

EXTRA BASE HITS               YEAR     EBH    
1    Rockies                  2001      598   
2    Braves                   2003      587   
3    Giants                   2001      579   
T4   Astros                   2000      574   
T4   Giants                   2000      574   
6    Cubs                     2004      572   
7    Cardinals                2003      570   
T8   Rockies                  1999      567   
T8   Rockies                  2004      567   
10   Cardinals                1930      566 

Regardless of the era 588 EBH is an awesome number to build on… or is it just a fluke that involves some young talent, career years and comebacks?

Many will point to Casey’s soft power numbers and ponder what would happen if he was hitting like he was last year, me I don’t ponder that as much as I ponder where would the Reds be offensively this season if it wasn’t for the catchers.

Yep, the catchers.

The two headed monster of LaRue and Valentine behind the plate are producing the best hitting season from the catching position seen down by the river in 3 decades, a season so improbable that if the pace is continued the numbers will essentially dwarf the rest of the league and many of the seasons past in Reds history.

Currently the catchers have the following numbers.

8/15			PROJECTED

395 	ab		
110 	hits		153 	Hits
 31 	2b		43 	2b
 20 	HR		28 	HR
 51 	BB		71 	BB
 52 	Runs		 72 	Runs		
 78 	RBI		108 	RBI	
198 	TB		275 	TB
.278 	BA		.278 	BA
.374	OB%		.374	OB%
.501	SLG%		.501	SLG%	

That’s an impressive line for any player or position.

How impressive? If we were to focus on the hits total on the projected side we’d find that the 153 hits that the Reds catchers are set to rack up would only tie them for 48th best total in Reds modern history.

However the percentage of extra base hits in that total would test the current high, hence that is where the meat is.

Here are the best seasons in Runs Created per 27 outs in Reds catching history.

RUNS CREATED/GAME             YEAR    RC/G      AVG      OBA      SLG      TB       EBH    
1    Reds                     1956     6.95     .290     .369     .520      321       60   
2    Reds                     1923     6.66     .307     .381     .463      262       55   
3    Reds                     1957     6.42     .265     .365     .490      298       66   
4    Reds                     1970     6.38     .282     .335     .544      391       91   
5    Reds                     1926     6.34     .313     .377     .451      260       55   
6    Reds                     1965     6.29     .281     .363     .477      297       65   
7    Reds                     1936     6.24     .309     .379     .439      273       52   
8    Reds                     1935     6.23     .303     .371     .445      284       54   
9    Reds                     1938     6.14     .321     .372     .471      297       55   
10   Reds                     1922     5.98     .303     .359     .461      268       59   

The biggest year in EBH percentage is currently 1977, with 48% of the hits being of the extra base variety, of course the majority of the hits were accumulated by one man… but that’s another story for another time.

This years Reds catchers are on pace to have 46% of their hits go beyond the average single.

If you were to look at the tope ten offensive years of the individual catchers in Reds history nine of the above years would be represented

RUNS CREATED/GAME             YEAR    RC/G      AVG      OBA      SLG      TB       EBH    
1    Bubbles Hargrave         1923     8.28     .333     .419     .521      197       42   
2    Bubbles Hargrave         1926     8.12     .353     .406     .525      171       36   
3    Ed Bailey                1956     7.82     .300     .385     .551      211       38   
4    Ernie Lombardi           1935     7.78     .343     .379     .539      179       38   
5    Johnny Bench             1970     7.14     .293     .345     .587      355       84   
6    Ernie Lombardi           1938     7.06     .342     .391     .524      256       50   
7    Clyde Sukeforth          1929     6.94     .354     .398     .451      107       19   
8    Ernie Lombardi           1936     6.82     .333     .375     .496      192       37   
9    Bubbles Hargrave         1922     6.81     .316     .371     .513      164       39   
10   Johnny Bench             1972     6.80     .270     .379     .541      291       64   

The odd ball in the group would be Clyde Sukeforth, whose 1929 season was an aberration that would draw steroid queries in today’s steroid feeding frenzy

YEAR TEAM         AVG   SLG  OBA   OPS
1926 Reds         .000  .000  .000  .000 
1927 Reds         .190  .224  .277  .501 
1928 Reds         .132  .208  .179  .386 
1929 Reds         .354  .451  .398  .849 
1930 Reds         .284  .345  .325  .669 
1931 Reds         .256  .322  .334  .656 
1932 Dodgers      .234  .342  .280  .622 
1933 Dodgers      .056  .056  .105  .161 
1934 Dodgers      .163  .186  .182  .368 
1945 Dodgers      .294  .314  .345  .659 
     

Peak age and batting average has elevated player’s games since the days of George and Harry Wright with Clyde’s 1929 season being a testament to the quirky nature of the game and the volatile nature of the catcher and his hitting game.

All this of course leads back to the current hitting machine manning the plate for the Reds. This tandem is more Bench in its batting approach than the men who hold most of the Reds batting records at catcher.

Starting with Bubbles the Reds have been blessed with fine hitting catchers for a good part of their existence, falling behind the Rockies only in OPS at that position and the only ”original” eight team to top .700 in OPS since the 20th century began.

Chances are pretty good that this is a fluke year for the Reds catchers, historic highs generally are the result of one player and his above average performance. To have two above average offensive performances from a skill position in the same year is a half court shot or the hail mary as the clock ticks out… it just doesn’t happen too often, especially after the slow start both Valentine and LaRue had in April (5 EBH and 23 TB in 23 games).

So relish it, love it and know that only one Reds team has ever had a season that the catching has had a OB% over .365 and a Slg% over .500, this is a rarity a wonder… a joy

BTW the year LaRue and Valentine are targeting was 1956 and we’ve already talked about that season and the effect it had on the city and Reds history.

Oh, to have pitching this season… what a time that would have been.

RUNS CREATED/GAME             YEAR    RC/G      OBA      SLG      EBH    
1    Reds                     1956     6.95     .369     .520       60   

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.

Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.

After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.

A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Great post. I knew that LaRue and Valentin were doing well, but I had no idea they were doing this well.

    Outstanding work.

  2. Another great post, Brian…any way to show some of they historical numbers vs league averages so we have some perspective?

  3. Here’s a list of best and worst vs league average.

    http://www.deadballart.com/cat.txt

  4. Hey Brian; BP stole your bit! (with no attribution as usual)
    href=”http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4346″>bit!

  5. I keep hearing that the Reds will part ways with LaRue after this season. Its the old line, too expensive. They might want to rethink that. He’s always been a good defensive player, but over the last couple of seasons he’s also started to contribute with the bat. I’m not aware of any catchers in the farm system that are major league ready.

Comments are closed.

About Brian Erts

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the "American League".... but I digress. Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be. After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A's fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey. A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

Category

Reds - General