2017 Reds

The Reds have a surprisingly good lineup

The Reds are 18-15 through their first 33 games. It has been a very exciting start to the 2017 season. The bullpen has been terrific. The Reds beat up rotation has somehow managed to pitch well enough to keep the team afloat. All that said, the main reason for the Reds success so far has been the big time production from the offense.

The Reds offense currently ranks third in the MLB in wins above replacement (fWAR) at 7.3, and are fourth in team OPS .792.  We are only about 1/6 of the way through the 2017 season, but there are lots of good signs that the Reds actually have a legit starting lineup for the first time in several years.

The Reds currently have two players in the top 10 in the NL in wins above replacement in Suarez and Cozart, while Votto sits at 15th, Duvall at 19th, and Schebler at 26th. That is 63% of the starting lineup in the top 26 in wins above replacement. Hamilton isn’t too far behind, at just 0.2 wins shy of Schebler’s mark.

Suarez and Cozart’s hot starts have been impressive, but looking at their high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) shows they are likely due for some regression, especially Cozart. However, Votto, Duvall, and Schebler all have below average BABIP numbers, yet have still produced well.

The Reds have even got great production in small sample size off the bench from Alcantara, Kivlehan, and Gennett. Devin Mesoraco has shown great plate discipline (14.3 BB%) in his recent return.

Jose Peraza stands out as the most challenged at the plate, but don’t forget that he is just 23 years old. The plate disciple has to drastically improve for him to be successful, but there is a lot of talent there and he is certainly MLB ready defensively.

Oh, and how about the defense? The Reds lead the MLB with 17 defensive runs saved, and the guy leading the way was thought of as a defensive liability a year ago. Eugenio Suarez is second in the entire MLB with 8 defensive runs saved.

It’s only May 12th, but there are lots of encouraging signs from the Reds young offense. They’ve got help too coming with Winker and Senzel.  One important thing to remember for the doubters is that the Reds offense had the 6th best OPS (.759) in the MLB in the second half of last season (3rd best in NL, ahead of the Cubs). That was basically the same offense then that you are seeing today.

42 thoughts on “The Reds have a surprisingly good lineup

    • “In baseball statistics, Batting average on balls in play (abbreviated BABIP) measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits, or how many balls in play against a pitcher go for hits, excluding home runs.”

      So, HRs are not counted.

        • That is correct, Eddie. So it’s not all that surprising that the players hitting many HRs (Votto, Schebler, Duvall) are the same ones with the lower BABIPs. You’d expect over time their HR rate will decrease and the BABIP will increase.

        • Almost – they don’t lower his BABIP, they just have no effect on it. But, as you said, they do help his average.

        • I think HRs are excluded. Votto’s low BABIP just means he has been unlucky and that his average should probably be higher than it actually is.

    • He has a below average BABIP. Batting Average on Balls in Play is a stat that fluctuates wildly depending on chance. It typically clusters around .300, talent does factor in, as some players sustain a BABIP higher or lower than the average. Votto is a good example of this. His career BABIP is around .350, which is EXTREMELY high. HRs do not drive down BABIP because they are not factored in. Neither are Ks.

  1. Cozy will cool off, but you have to expect the SLG from Mesoraco to come way up. If he can return to form, his presence really lengthens the lineup. I also think it’s really important to split up Hamilton and Peraza. I don’t think there’s much projection left in Billy’s bat (Paul O’Neill had a spot-on critique of the big loop in his swing), but you have to expect Jose’s plate discipline to improve markedly. I think Peraza is the long term answer at the top of the lineup.

    • Billy takes pitches though? You can’t let their starter get an out on 1 or 2 pitches with Peraza. You also can’t bat Peraza 8th because he’d still be hacking away when the pitcher is trying to pitch around him to get to the pitcher. I’d go with BIlly 1st and Peraza 9th until Peraza can develop some patience. I’d also give Alcantara some time at 2nd base! It wasn’t long ago that he was a highly rated prospect with the Cubs and he’s still only 25. He might end up being a better player then Peraza if he gets the opportunity.

      • I don’t disagree with your assessment of Peraza. I get as frustrated as anyone about it, but I think you’d agree that his hit tools are better than Billy’s…….or at least they project to be.

        • I agree with Indy on Pedraza. I get that he is young and will be improving, but I look for all of our young players to improve to the goal of becoming VottoLike.

          Mozart is a great example of someone reworking their approach. He now leads in pitches seen and is a tough grinding at bat. I love that.

          Suarez was a big guesser last year. His improvement has been remarkable and he has become a very tough out

          I see Duvall improving as well. It does not show up in his BB%….yet. I know most believe that it will not, but I for one will not be surprised when it does improve

          Schebler has improved a bunch since he first put on Red. He has work to do, but he is a much tougher out today than those first few pinch hit attempts.

          Barnhart is a tough out period. So is Mesoraco. No pitcher relaxes when either of those guys are at the plate

          Billy makes us go faster. He improves, then regresses, improves, then regresses. He has a really hard time laying off the high pitches which is where everyone pitches him to get him out. I am glad that the fake bunts have been reduced this year. I never, ever, ever, ever, EVER want to see him fake bunt again. If you bunt, square, do it right and run to first. I am seeing more line drive or kind of line drive balls off of his bat. He is making progress from 2 years ago for sure. If he gets to the other side and becomes a tough out at the plate, well shucks, we are going to be the 88-90 A’s

          Peraza? Jordan nailed it when he said how Peraza should be swing for the fences on his first 2 strikes to really drive the ball, then go to the 2 strike approach. I was surprised by his Triple on Friday night that hit the wall in CF. He starts driving the ball like that and he will be scary like he was last year. I see Duvall’s BB% going up a long time before Peraza’s

          I would love to see Alcantara get some starts. He was an elite talent before. He did not lose his talent, but he sure has not been allowed to have success. Got to give Price props on how he is bringing this kid and Kivlehan along, and it is paying dividends. Maybe you can say that same thing about Billy and Peraza as well.

          Dusty would never have grow this team

  2. Sounds like the narrative created from this post is that this team has staying power…….likely enough to be in the wild card conversation. If you agree (which I do), then that begs a whole host of questions:
    1. Do you keep Cozart?
    2. Are you willing to trade from our rich minor league system to augment the pitching?
    3. Are extensions with Hamilton and Suarez worth exploring?

    • 1. Yes
      2. Yes. If you extend Cozart then the current lineup is contender-quality for the next 3-4 years. We need an Ace to be a true contender. There are a lot of 3-4 starter prospect but I don’t see and 1’s.
      3. Suarez yes. Billy maybe. If they lock up Suarez then I think Senzel could be in the equation to acquire #2 above.

    • 1. No. He isn’t worth the 7 million that some dumb team will offer him.

      2. The minor league system isn’t that rich and obtaining a pitcher who is affordable for a number of years and good enough to make a difference will wipe out any organizational depth they have. The trade off isn’t worth the price. Making moves to contend this year makes no sense. The fans may like it, but most fans only care about today and they’re usually dumb.

      3. They’re worth exploring. Hamilton can likely be locked up at a reasonable rate. Suarez maybe tough.

      • Cozart is easily worth 7 million dollars with his defense alone. The question isn’t whether he’s worth 7 million; it’s whether he’s worth 13-15 million over five years, which is what he’s projected to get on the open market.

      • I think he’s worth $7M if the Reds think they can compete next year. I don’t think he’s worth anything on a long-term deal. And I doubt he’d sign a 1-year deal, so no dice!

      • I agree. The risk of acquiring a young #1 is just too high. Forget the prospects needed by themselves. If there was no injury risk to say a Shelby Miller etc I’d say pull the trigger.

        In reality, I think it’s more likely we have a future #1 in our system than the chances of us trading for one, getting fair return at the time of the trade, and then that guy not getting majorly injured while he’s a Red.

    • Yes, I think this team has staying power if the Reds can get a few SP healthy. I predicted the Reds would be above .500 before the season, so I am doubling down now.

      1. I keep Cozart if the Reds are still in the race. If not, I would offer a team friendly contract and see if Cozart bites because he has got hurt a lot, and might be scared to wait until FA. Cozart is a really nice player and has a lot of value, but you don’t want to spend a ton of $ when you have good prospects that can fill his spot.

      2. No way. No trade this year for MLB ready talent unless it comes really cheap. If the Reds are in it, they’d probably be better off getting a player like the Pirates did in 2013 in Marlon Byrd for basically just his salary.

      3. I think extensions for just about every good young player the Reds have are worth exploring. Right now you have all the leverage, so use it.

      • Thank you Nick for being the one person who offers a realistic viewpoint of this team. I don’t see how people could think that this team was going to lose 90+ games. This team has played .510 baseball in their last 106 games. The bullpen was the major weakness last year and now it’s the biggest strength. The Starting pitching hasn’t been good at all however they are missing their top three starters. Take Arrieta, Lackey and Hendricks away from the Cubs and see where they would be?! None of the so called experts are giving this team a chance. And I want to ask them who is really that much better than the Reds in the NL?! I think the Nationals are the only team that u can guarantee say are better than the Reds. The Cubs maybe are 2nd.

        • To be fair, Geoff, it was just a few short weeks ago when you yourself had sworn this team off. Something to the effect of: “I’m finished with this organization Screw the rebuild. It’s not working. The Reds have no clue on how to produce a winner.”

          The key here is not to get too high or too low. This rebuild is going to have more ups and downs to come. So, people have a legitimate reason to be skeptical and cautious in spite of the recent success the Reds have had. And they don’t have to be experts to see that there are some real challenges for this team to overcome before they can be considered contenders.

    • Yes

      Always always always improve the roster

      I would. I think both would be traceable with an extension, and both will provide small market value. We cannot sign free agents, so I think you sign your own when you can

    • 1. I am definitely trading Cozart, there is a log jam with Suarez, Peraza, Herrera, Senzel, and Alfredo. They are competing for three spots and adding in an expensive veteran to the mix would make no sense considering they are all currently prearbitration. Also Cozart is due to regress to the mean so I would trade him as soon as possible while his value is high for a AA or AAA arm.

      2. I would keep as much of the minor league system in tack as possible. Outside of playing for the future not today I would also add most of our prospects are struggling and we would be trading low.

      3. I would extend Suarez at the end of the year assuming he also regresses a little bit. I wouldn’t look at extending Hamilton as I don’t think there is a way to know his actual value until he hits the market as he is a truly unique player in the MLB.

      As an add on question Cueto has an opt out in his contract this year, if he opts out could the Reds be a player?

      • Cueto is only going to opt out if he believes he can get more than 84 million over the subsequent 4 years. If the Reds were willing to pay Johnny Cueto 22 million per year they already would be paying him 22 million per year.

        • They are paying joey Votto 20-25 million + for the next 5 years and Devon Mesoraco 18 million next year and Homer Bailey 20 million in 18/19. A mature established proven #1 healthy pitcher at 20 mil a year is worth it considering the other options that expire in 2019….unless you prefer Cody Reed and Rookie Davis and Tim Adleman to win the NL central flag and pitch in the NLCS games 1/2/3 in 2018/19?

          Easy to say who is not…a lot harder to say who is in 2018/19.

          • Yes, I’m sure the Reds will be able to outbid the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs for Cueto. Bryce Harper will be a UFA at the same time so maybe the Reds can get both of them.

  3. 1. Depends on the return
    2. No, we should have more pitching returning in june and july. No need to stunt the future by trading away valuable assets.
    3. Hamilton no, Suarez absolutely.

  4. Nick,

    Your work is usually quite good, but there is a rush to judgment feel with this one. And, no need to reference “doubters.” Many people, in and outside of this blog, can find a valid reason to have a doubt (or six) when it comes to the Reds.

    They have gotten off to a better-than-expected start, and I am as happy as anyone about it. However, they have played more home games to date than anyone, in a park that is offense friendly, even in spite a ridiculous wet and cold Ohio Spring.

    Help coming in Winker? OK. But, Senzel? He’s still in A ball, hitting less than .300.

    • I meant long term help with Winker & Senzel, not really this year. Every position player is under control for multiple years except Cozart, so this is an offense that should just continuing getting better, and has two studs to add into the mix at some point.

      I get the doubt, but how do you explain the second half last year? I don’t know if the Reds as a whole can keep up the record with the depleted rotation, but I truly believe this is an above average lineup, especially when you factor in defense.

  5. Almost every phase — defense, baserunning, slugging, bullpen — is clicking.

    If only we didn’t have so many issues in the rotation. This team would be able to compete for more than six weeks, I’d think.

  6. One comment…

    Using league average BABIP figures (normally around .300ish) to determine if a single player is unfortunate or fortunate is not something that should be done.

    Each player has his own xBABIP derived from a number of factors, but most heavily influenced by line drive rate, fly ball rate, and exit velocity. One formula I’ve seen uses shift% too.

    There is no agreed upon xBABIP formula, but many are available out there. If you did the calcs, I’d bet we’d find Duvall and Schebler really haven’t been unlucky at all, and Suarez probably hasn’t been very lucky at all, either.

    • So, based on the formula of xBABIP you’re using which players on Reds are actually lucky or unlucky?

    • Maybe not lucky or unlucky, but experiencing variance. Duvall’s BABIP is around his career levels. Schebler’s is well under. So Schebler’s will most likely rise.

  7. This is Billy’s fourth year I believe and I hope he turns the corner.If he gets his OBP up to 320/330 then you can look to extend him other wise its no deal.Outside of Cozart,Joey and Devin the rest are first and second year guys that have some upside.Our lineup is good but can become great if we can get some plate discipline and situational hitting on a more consistent basis.Peraza drove the ball last year but seems to have become a slap hitter with no plate discipline which really doesn’t make sense.If he is going to start swining on the steps of the dugout at least come out of your shoes when you swing.He is only 23 so lets fix it Jose.

    • Billy’s value defensively and on the bases makes him a worthwhile player to keep, particularly because there aren’t many options in the Reds’ system (Trammel may be someday, but not soon). He’s currently hitting quite well and showing more selectivity, though he will probably cool off before he heats up again. His glove never cools off. A run saved is worth as much as a run earned. He’s also an exciting and entertaining player, and baseball is an entertainment. Extend him if possible.

  8. An interesting (at least for the Old Cossack) observation regarding Votto’s season so far…

    Joey Votto has 24 BB (5th in the NL) & 17 SO. For the month of April, Votto had 11 BB & 13 SO and for the month of May, Votto has 13 BB & 4 SO. Of the top 35 BB leaders in the NL, none have fewer SO than Votto and that takes the BB total for the season down to 13 before finding a hitter with fewer than 17 SO. Votto’s progress in his plate discipline, pitch recognition and offensive productivity began after the 1st 10 games when he bottomed out with a slash of .158/.214/.368/.582. Since that time he has been purely Vottoesque. This is not good news for NL pitching. That slash line seems to be very reminiscent of Votto’s slash line last season when he went on his 2nd half destruction of NL pitching.

    • I have a feeling this could be the year Votto goes after the triple crown. I know it’s unlikely, but I think he can get close, he’s only three behind Zimmerman in the lead for RBIs and is three behind Thames, Judge, and Zimmerman in home runs. Average he is way behind but a lot of that is merely BABIP variance, and I think he will be near the top by the end of the year.

  9. I love this article, and it’s something I’ve noticed myself. For the past couple years, once certain guys made an out, you could be reasonably certain the inning was over even if there were more batters coming. Now it’s like “Rats, Votto grounded out, guess I’ll…. NO WAIT! Here comes Duvall! Ok, he flew out, this inning….OH MAN! Suarez!”

    Except for Peraza, there are dangerous hitters at every spot in the Reds’ lineup, and it’s really refreshing to watch. When the Reds are hitting, it actually feels like they are on “offense”, that is, attacking. That’s the way it should feel.

    This team is close, fellas. Now we just need 5 decent pitchers out of the batch of Garrett/Finnegan/Disco/Reed/Mahle/Romano/Rookie/Stephenson/Castillo. If Homer can make it back, even better, and I’m actually ok with Adleman as a #5 starter if it comes down to it.

    Bright days ahead.

  10. Billy’s defense and speed are elite.Question still is what is it worth to the Reds and are they willing to have him in center based on his defense alone.I won’t argue that a run saved is just as important as a run scored.I really hope it doesn’t even become an issue but I feel it will.Another positive for him maybe an extension won’t cost much since his offensive numbers are what they are.We will see but when he does get on base its like a double or triple for us as has been the case lately.

  11. Billy Hamilton’s OBP is up to .311 now. With his speed when you look at run expectancy that’s equivalent to a higher number for a human runner. That’s how he’s now in the top 10 in runs scored. That’s what I want from a leadoff hitter – runs scored. He’s now scored in 11 straight games. It’s been more than 30 years since any Red did that. I’m not saying he’s an offensive juggernaut but he’s fine in my book and getting better. And given that he made a mechanical change (to his stance) I’m optimistic his recent success is more than just a small sample fluke. So put me in the keep Hamilton camp, and the extend Hamilton camp as well.

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