The Reds have not been the hitters we all expected them to be this year, right? I mean, night in, night out, this is the question that keeps popping up. When are they going to hit? Or, even worse, are they going to hit? It’s a complicated question. The Reds’ poor offensive performance comes from several factors some out of their control (bad luck) and some in their control (trouble). Let’s take a look shall we?
Right now, the Reds are hitting .238 overall and .283 on balls in play. The league is hitting .250 overall and .291 on balls in play. We need to look at average on balls in play, first.
There is basically nothing about the Reds batted-ball profiles to suggest they should be anything below league average on balls in play, so you can bump that up a bit. That’s some bad luck and it should correct itself as we go along. So, if we assume they should hit .291 on balls in play and then figure out what the team average should be (you have to account for the team’s K% and HR%) and we end up with a team average of .251 (assuming I did the math right). Pretty much dead-on league average.
To add to the bad luck, the Reds are are only seeing 10.7% of their fly balls turn into home runs. This is just slight above league average. That wouldn’t be a problem, except that GAPB enhances home run rate. This is something else that should move in the Reds’ favor as the season continues.
Sadly, we can’t expect a full turn around. I am often a proponent of the idea that an out is an out. That is, strikeouts don’t usually hurt hitters because they tend to come with extra power and/or walks. The Reds, believe it or not, have generated above-league-average power with an ISO of .156 versus .146 for the league (ISO, by the way, is just slugging percentage minus batting average and helps describe how often teams are getting an extra base hit).
Walks are a different story entirely. The Reds are striking out significantly more than the league average (21.7% where 19.4% is average) and are walking a bit below average (8.0% vs. 8.4% – and you should really shudder to think how lose that would be without Votto). The result is the Reds simply aren’t getting on base enough to justify the strikeouts. And, as long as those two numbers keep up, they will continue to get on base at a below average rate. Outside of Votto, Cairo, and the catchers, everyone is striking out more than they can afford to given how infrequently they walk.
GABP inflates scoring, and the Reds were a bit lucky last year. The advanced stats seem to think that last year’s Reds team was very average offensively. There hasn’t been much personnel turnover this year on the offense and, other than Cozart, there is no one new on the team who can be expected to improve the offense.
The Reds are going to hit better than they have. You can just about take that to the bank, but they don’t seem a good bet to get on base enough to be among the league leaders in scoring again. And frankly, it was probably a mistake to think of this as an elite offensive team.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.