John Erardi gives us another interesting article in today’s Enquirer:

The “Little Things”…

We keep hearing that the Reds “don’t do the little things well,” but did you know the average for National League teams last year was 47 sacrifice flies (or about two every seven games) and 65 sacrifice bunts (two every five games), and that the Reds were only one below the sac-fly average and plus-8 on the sac-bunt average?

There’s a reason they’re called “the little things.” They don’t affect the outcome of a team’s regular season as much as the big things (getting on base, which directly affects total runs scored).

Our managers managed by “the book”…which means bunting, seemingly, at every opportunity.


How about these numbers on Aaron Harang through his first eight starts:

2007 – 5-1, 5.04 ERA (55 runs of support from team)

2008 – 1-5, 3.09 ERA (22 runs of support from team)

Is there anybody out there who still wants to insist that the best gauge for evaluating starting pitchers is their won-loss records?

Yet, there are people that talk as if Harang isn’t pitching well. He’s steady and usually very good, bordering on spectacular and does not get nearly the credit he deserves from the baseball media. His W-L record (at least thus far this year) won’t help this situation either.


The biggest reason 21-year-old Jay Bruce is still in Louisville is that the Reds brass – including the development people – want him to get his on-base average closer to 65-70 points above his batting average to show he has the discipline to hit in the majors. Right now, Bruce’s on-base average (.343) is only 23 points higher than his batting average (.320). This isn’t to say Bruce has to get his OBA into that plus-65-70 range to get called up, but he has to be moving in the right direction.

He’s drawn only seven walks compared to 30 strikeouts. Roughly 5 percent of his plate appearances go for walks.

The NL average walk rate for a non-pitcher this season is 9.7 percent. If Bruce can’t match that rate in Triple-A, he’s going to have a hard time against quality major-league pitchers.

By the way, Brandon Phillips ‘ career OBA is only 44 points above his career BA. That’s tolerable if you’re blasting a lot of long balls, but if you’re not …

This doesn’t explain why Corey Patterson is still on the Reds roster. I can understand the thinking that if Jay’s not being selective enough at Louisville, it’s a stretch to believe that it’ll be better at the next level, but how much longer is Reds management willing to send Patterson out there to soak up outs?


Pundits (including us, in this space last week) tend to over-analyze the rationale in explaining why a specific batting order should be utilized. All you need to know is this: Bat your high on-base guys 1 through 3. We strongly recommend Jeff Keppinger, Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion, respectively.

Runs come from hitters getting on base and the hitters behind them (Joey Votto, Phillips, Ken Griffey Jr.) getting them home.

Batting Encarnacion anywhere but 1-4 is a waste of his .360 OBA, which is 102 points higher than his batting average (.258). We think his BA (and, thus, his OBA) will climb with the season.

This tidbit is in keeping with John’s seeming belief (shared by most “stats guys”) that OBA is the key to teams being productive offensively. (More on this later in the article.) I do like what he says about EE.

Along with that thought, I was very vocal about how I felt that Dusty was the wrong manager for this team. My belief mostly centered around his handling of young players but he’s been pretty darn outstanding in his dealings with EE, Votto, Cueto, and Volquez. He’s exhibited none of the tendencies that had me so concerned (other than his seeming “man crush” on Corey Patterson). I respect the job he’s done in dealing with the young players on the Reds roster.


Over their careers, almost everybody hits within 10 points of their batting average (either way) with runners in scoring position. With runners in scoring position, Tony Perez – regarded as one of the great clutch hitters in history – hit only five points higher than his overall batting average with RISP (.284, .279).

Did you know the 1976 Reds hold the major-league record for most runners left on base in a season – and yet they scored the second-most runs in franchise history?

Why? They also had a franchise-record .357 on-base average.

I’d love to see more data on this. I have problems with phrases like “almost everybody”. It’s very interesting to read this about Perez (who is often remembered as being an incredible “clutch” hitter). This is more proof of the belief in OBA being all important.


It is simply untrue that Adam Dunn (below right) is not a good 2-hole hitter.

Though conventional wisdom says a 2-hole hitter must make contact and spray the ball around, the facts don’t support it. It’s more important to get on base because that’s what best leads to scoring runs. Hitting behind the runner might look good and fit “the book” approach, but sac-bunting and swinging away are a break-even proposition.

Look at it this way: Whether to sac-bunt or swing away is a matter of managing risk. If you sac-bunt, you’re less likely to get on base, but the outs you generate are not as bad because you advance the runner. If you swing away, you’re more likely to get on base and advance the runner additional bases, but you’re also more likely to generate a “bad” out that doesn’t advance the runner or, even worse, results in a double play.

On balance, sac-bunting and swinging away average out, just as Dunn’s approach to hitting averages out.

He makes considerably less contact than the average 2-hole hitter (he’s high-risk), but he’s high-reward because of all the bombs he hits – and he has an excellent on-base average, which means that even though he’s whiffing a lot, he more than offsets it with his high on-base average from walking a lot.

At No. 2, a .380 OBA guy who strikes out and is slow is better than a fast .315 OBA guy. Especially if Mr. .380 OBA hits 40 bombs.

Batting Dunn No. 2 gets him to the plate 50 more times in a season than batting him No. 5.

And why is such a big deal made about the 2-hole hitter advancing the runner, anyway? Last year, the Reds’ No. 2 hitter came to bat more than half the time (56 percent) with nobody on base.

Did you know that over the last two seasons Dunn has been right in line with the league average in terms of advancing runners from first base? (League average: 40 percent; Dunn, 39.7 percent)

The only Red with a comparable number of opportunities who advanced runners at a significantly higher rate was Encarnacion (45 percent), while Phillips – who might look more like a traditional 2-hole hitter to some – actually has advanced runners at a lower rate (38 percent) than Dunn.

And did you know that in only 35 more at-bats than Dunn with a runner on first, Phillips has hit into 24 more double plays?

Boy, there is a lot of good information in this section. Punches a big hole in several “theories” about holes in Adam Dunn’s offensive game, explains why OBA is more important than being a contact hitter, and even shows a little why Brandon Phillips isn’t a big favorite of the “stats guys”.

Wanted to list the last line in the article also…

Joel Luckhaupt, Justin Inaz and Greg Gajus contributed.

About The Author

I've been a Reds fan since the late '60's, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in '84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in '90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.

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11 Responses

  1. justcorbly

    I’d be more interested in the Reds’ “little things” stats compared with the division winners. That said, the skills and talents of any given group of players, plus luck, is going to determine things like which team got the most bunts or sacrifice flies.

    In the end, the only stat that counts is the number of wins.

  2. justcorbly

    And… here’s a stat I’d like to see:

    For the last two seasons. how many games would the Reds have won if the ptichers — starters and relievers — had kept the opposition to no more than 4 runs in any given game.

    Variation: How many times did the Reds score at least 4 runs and still lose?

  3. Chris

    Kudos to the Enq for letting Erardi run with this stuff – and on Sunday. Great stuff.

    One last tidbit on Dunn: Those extra 50 plate appearances would equal an additional 3 “free” HRs (based on his 2006-08 average of 1 HR ever 16.88 PAs).

  4. jinaz

    Glad you’re enjoying the articles. Joel, Greg, and I have been having a great time contributing to them these past few weeks. And John’s doing a great job of synthesizing my unintelligible statspeak into something that’s appropriate for a general audience.

    With respect to clutch hitting (e.g. Perez), I highly, highly, highly recommend the chapter from The Book by Tom Tango, Mitchel Litchman, and Andrew Dolphin on clutch hitting. It’s among the more readable chapters in that book, and it’s the best study I’ve seen on the subject. It identifies a clutch skill of about +-3 points of wOBA (if I recall correctly), which corresponds to ~+-9 points of OPS. So clutch skill absolutely exists…it’s just not a huge effect compared to overall variation in hitter quality.

  5. jinaz

    I also wanted to note that Joel is listed first among contributers for very good reason–the guy is really the driving force behind a lot of what went in there. I think my biggest contribution was the bit on sacrifice bunting, and some of the stuff on the lineups.

  6. Dave H

    Reds #2 hitters came to the plate 44% of the time with at least one runner on base? That seems high. What was the on base percentage of #1 hitters? The difference would have to come from pitcher’s spot and the other bottom of the lineup hitters after the first inning. What was league average for percentage of time #2 hitter came to plate with men on?

  7. Joel

    @justcorbly: The Reds were 61-16 in games where they scored more than 4 runs in 2006. That was about 4 games over the NL average winning percentages in such games. Last season they were 56-25 in the same games, which was about 8 games below the NL average winning percentage. These numbers have not been park adjusted – that is, you can expect to score and give up more than 4 runs a game more often because of GABP – but it is fairly indicative of the prior two seasons’ success and failure.

    @Dave H: In all of the times I read that paragraph, I didn’t realize that it said Reds #2 hitters had the bases empty 56% of the time. That is actually the MLB average over the last 2 seasons. It’s not a big deal though as the Reds average over the last two seasons is 57% of the time they come up with the bases empty.

    Reds lead-off hitters had a .368 OBP last season and a .360 OBP in 2006. So, it’s not too far of a stretch to think that somebody else was on base another 7% of the time for the 2-hole hitter.

  8. Dan

    Fantastic, fantastic stuff, guys. I really enjoyed reading it and am thrilled that this sort of thing is in the Cincinnati “mainstream press” and not just confined to some geeky blogs now!

    Now… can you work on that Daugherty guy a little? 😉

  9. Alex

    Dusty, try this, PLEASE:

    Griffey (Bruce?)

    I like all the points made about Dunn hiting in the #2 hole. I like this lineup for the same reasons. And someone has to play center and Freel’s been on a tear and it makes sense to hit him leadoff and Kepp #2. Plus, Freel is NCP.

    Phillips, frankly, is a terrible #3 or #4 hitter. But, as a #7 hitter, he’d be great. He’s got pop to drive in some of the runners in front of him (or to create runs all by himself by hitting HRs). And if he gets on base(which doesn’t happen that often) he can generate runs with his speed at the bottom of the order (get on, steal 2nd, sacrifice over, sacrifice in).