2012 Reds

Bad Luck and Trouble – The Reds’ Offensive Woes

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?

​Bad Luck

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.

20 thoughts on “Bad Luck and Trouble – The Reds’ Offensive Woes

  1. I believe i saw the word “hacktastic” used by a columnist earlier? and could this power binge be fools’ gold for this team or will we have a magical “power binge” kinda year? Cozart 15, Stubbs, 15, bruce 30, votto 35 etc. etc. I would rather rely on something besides the homer, but that’s just an opinion

  2. From looking at Jason’s numbers and from some of my own analysis this team could shape up to have an average offense. When you factor in GABP as their home park however, then it looks like the team is slightly below average offensively. The Reds are going to need a bat at or before the deadline.

  3. So for 2 years running, the Reds have just gotten “lucky” on offense?

    Well, what’s to stop them from getting “lucky” again this year?

    Mark me down as saying the Reds are going to finish in the top 5 in offense yet again. It is possible to use sabermetrics to over-think these things, you know.

    My simple question to you is: Whose offense is going to be better? I’ll say: Braves, Marlins, St. Louie, and…. Maybe…. L.A.?

    I think you can count on the Reds finishing ahead of the Mets, Phillies (just too old now), Astros, Pirates, Brewers (no Prince = big drop), San Fran, and San Diego. Arizona, Washington and Colorado are maybes.

  4. Far too many ground balls that don’t advance runners. Far too many popups on pitches that only the Jolly Green Giant could foul off. Blame that on anything you want but there is a film room.

  5. Some info from Fangraphs on the Reds collective plate discipline…

    The Reds swing at 29.1% of pitches outside the zone (10th highest in NL)
    The Reds swing at 66.3% of pitches in the zone (4th highest)
    The Reds swing at 46.2% of pitches overall (6th highest)

    When the Reds swing at pitches outside the zone they make contact 62.7% of the time (15th highest and pretty dang bad)
    When the Reds swing at pitches in the zone they make contact 86.4% of the time (11th highest)
    Overall the when the Reds swing they make contact 78.4% of the time (12th highest)

    Overall the Reds see the highest percentage of first-pitch strikes in the NL at 64.2% of the time.

    What do these numbers say to me? Well, it would seem that the Reds’ biggest problem offensively is that they swing and miss too often. They are particularly bad in this area when they go chasing at pitches outside the zone. Even when swinging at pitches in the zone however the Reds are missing too many pitches.

  6. Extra points to those who picked up on the Albert King reference.

    As to the Reds luck last year: Yes, they were lucky. They were a touch above average (just a touch) playing in a ballpark that promotes scoring. Put a just little luck into that and you have a team almost leading the league in scoring.

  7. the reds offense is votto and bruce, and a bunch of kids/vets struggling to be league average.

    that has the makings of an average offense.

    • @al:

      the reds offense is votto and bruce, and a bunch of kids/vets struggling to be league average. that has the makings of an average offense.

      The Reds have won 5 games in a row. Bruce has been “absent” (read horrific slump) for a week now.

      The Reds offense is currently anyone but Bruce.

  8. The problem for me is that there isn’t much evidence to suggest the Reds will suddenly become a powerhouse offensively this season. I agree the emphasis this offseason should have been pitching, I also believe the offense was pretty well ignored. Considering all of the question marks – LF, 3B, SS, (in that order) – something more could have been done. I like Frazier, but as a utility guy, not a full time 3B. I like Heisey, but as a bench bat, not a full time LF. Cuddyer was my first choice. Beltran was my second. Prado was my third choice. Sure that’s all speculative and the noise has been mostly retired, but any of those guys would be helping this team be an above-average offense. The Reds need to make a move. The problem is, they don’t seem to be in a position to spend money and don’t have much in the way of prospects to deal. I’m afraid the offense is what it is.

  9. @David: Frazier and Heisey both have upside beyond role players. Frazier especially.

    He had one bad season and slipped off of people’s radar, but he was once the Reds top prospect.

    His defense isn’t great, but he’s got an .800+ OPS now, and a minor league career OPS of .827. I see no reason to think that this is a mirage.

    League OPS at 3B is .713. He’s not going to be a perennial all star, but he’s a cheap long-term above average solution for 3B in my eyes.

    • @David: Frazier and Heisey both have upside beyond role players.Frazier especially.

      He had one bad season and slipped off of people’s radar, but he was once the Reds top prospect.

      His defense isn’t great, but he’s got an .800+ OPS now, and a minor league career OPS of .827.I see no reason to think that this is a mirage.

      League OPS at 3B is .713.He’s not going to be a perennial all star, but he’s a cheap long-term above average solution for 3B in my eyes.

      I agree with everything you said here pretty much Al… By the way, did you notice I put some context into that post about how often the Reds scored 3 runs or less in 2011? Your comment to secondguessingfanbase made me do some digging. The “40%” figure isn’t as bad as it sounds when you look at the NL as a whole last year.

  10. I really like Frazier and believe he will just get better with more playing time. The second and third time he sees the same pitcher will certainly begin to give him some kind of edge- unless they find his hole. Rolen should mentor Frazier and help him reach his potential!

  11. The Reds offensive woes are mostly attributable to Rolen, Phillips, Stubbs, and the Leftfielders.

    Rolen is on the DL (maybe for good) and Frazier has been good.

    Heisey has been adequate in May with a .717 OPS.

    Phillips is here to stay, so you just hope that he figures something out. He looked just fine last night.

    Stubbs has also bounced back in May, with more walks and more power, good for a .769 OPS. Totally fine there.

    SO really, the only place you could clearly upgrade at this point is LF, if you could get a real slugger.

    Here’s a quick and dirty way to evaluate our offense:

    Catcher 0
    1B ++
    2B –
    SS 0
    3B +
    LF –
    CF 0
    RF +
    Bench —

    Canceling out the pluses and minuses, and you get 0. That seems like an average offense to me.

  12. @al: I’d swap second and third, but otherwise, I think you’re right. Phillips is above average for a second baseman, though. He’s just played hurt a lot this year.

  13. The problem that I think everyone is missing is Dusty’s lineup. Its one thing to say this player or that player isn’t performing, but oftentimes placing a player in a particular place in the batting order in which his skills are not suited can contribute to low performance. Phillips is not a cleanup hitter, never has been, and never has performed well there. He’s much better suited to be a leadoff guy, and showed that last year when he had the chance to be there. Jay Bruce is an ideal cleanup hitter, but doesn’t get the chance because of Dusty’s insane insistence that he won’t hit lefties back to back. If you’re Ryan Ludwig or Heisey, would you rather be hitting between Votto and Bruce, or Frazier and whoever is catching. Stubbs is NOT a leadoff hitter, nor a two-hole hitter. Hanigan would be a great two-hole hitter, but despite hitting near .300 all time, Dusty insists on batting him low in the order. And on and on. The bottom line is overall performance is affected by where you hit in the order, who you hit in front of or behind, what pitches you see as a result of that, and so forth. Dusty doesn’t do a good job of analyzing his hitters skills and using them accordingly, and this team’s general inconsistency for the past few seasons is proof of it.

  14. The Reds were 4th in OPS+ (tied) and wRC+ last year. The latter doesn’t factor in park, but I think the Reds were comfortably above-average.

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