Last week’s news that the four-man outfield rotation was over, or at the very least on hold, probably did not come as a surprise to anyone, given how poor the overall performance has been. It makes sense to give three guys consistent reps to try to find their rhythm. The surprise still came, however, as the odd-man out was announced to be Jesse Winker. For many, this was a huge hit to any optimism that remained for the Reds to turn the ship around and shoot for contention next year.

Heading into the season, it seemed that the outfield situation would work itself out for the better and the team could focus its attention on the middle infield situation. That has not been the case, as poor play all around has thrust the outfield into an area of some concern. This is a continuation of a trend that has gone on for five years now.

Reds Outfield Production Percentiles 

outfield1

Life comes at you fast, and that could not be more accurate for the Reds outfield. Aside from 2016, which was still not even in the 25th percentile for wRC+, the past five years have been a barren wasteland of offensive production, starting with a monumental drop off from 2013 to 2014. Comparing the Reds outfielder’s wRC+ to every other team for every season in major league history, the Reds 2014 and 2015 season ranked in the 1st percentile. As bad as 2018 has been, it is coming in slightly better in the 2nd percentile.

Blaming Billy Hamilton would be a natural reaction to this as his offense has been very poor since he came into the league, when he was almost immediately placed atop the Reds lineup. And despite his strong defensive play, it does not do enough to make the WAR percentiles much less abysmal. The addition of All-Star Adam Duvall (TM), whose slugging and defense gave the unit a nice boost, helped the 2016 campaign, but that proved to be short-lived as the past year and change have brought Adam back down to reality. Scott Schebler has shown glimpses of becoming a key contributor but has struggled with inconsistency, injury-related or not, and has been unable to breakthrough. Jesse Winker looked like the real deal for roughly the first 80 games of his big-league career, but has since stumbled onto his first rough patch, which led to this and subsequently this.

This brings us to the five-year rolling average, which has reached rock bottom in 2018.

Reds Outfield Production Percentiles – 5 Year Rolling Average

outfield2

As of this writing, the Reds possess the 4th-worst 5-year rolling average for outfield wRC+ in the history of major league baseball. For those history buffs out there, the 1978-1982 and 1977-1981 Blue Jays take honors for first and second, followed by the 1994-1998 Royals. Those are the only stretches that are worse than the 2014-2018 Reds.

The current group is not entirely to blame for this. Jay Bruce’s two worst professional seasons were 2014 and 2015. Add in players like Skip Schumaker, Ryan Ludwick, and Marlon Byrd and these numbers make sense, as startling as they are.

But while exchanging veterans for youth, some marginal improvements and a flash-in-the-pan season have changed the perspective on the group as a whole, the reality is that the outfield has been historically bad recently and remains a major issue going forward.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Matt ironically became a diehard Reds fan while living in Pittsburgh and experiencing the 2013 Wild Card game. He is currently living in the land without baseball, Portland, OR, where you can find him exploring the great outdoors whenever he is not watching the Reds.

Join the conversation! 28 Comments

  1. Very informative…………..and depressing!

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  2. Oh for a rebirth of Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson and Eric Davis

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  3. Great article. Really valuable to take what we all know with our eyes and place it into statistical, historical context.

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  4. Wow. We knew it was bad, but not this bad. The Reds are taking “historically bad” to new levels. The outfield, the bullpen (not 2018), and the rotation. This just screams move Scooter to LF.
    Nice research, good job.

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    • Yes!! Scooter to LF which opens up 2B for Senzel. Give the kid some playing time and see what happens? They have less then nothing to lose. Winker/Duvall platoon in RF and Schebler/Billy in CF. Actually I’d hate to see Blandino/Dixon sent down for Senzel. They really need to move Duvall or Billy. Of course…they’ll do nothing in the end. The Braves play 21 yr olds and we sit WInker til he’s 25. Senzel will be lucky to get 300 at-bats next year.

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      • Winker wouldn’t have been very good in Cincinnati at 21.

        The real problem with the Reds and outfielders is a 50-year Zero/Egg/Nada in developing hitters from Latin America. Maybe Jose Siri or Andy Sugilio break that, but both have some work to do on plate discipline.

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      • My thoughts exactly Indy.We keep hearing that our next outfield is a couple years away in the minors why not bring some up in Sept or even earlier and lets see.Who knows maybe one of them can actually hit big league pitching right now.I assume that is what gets guys promoted is their hitting because their other skills such as speed and defense they bring with them.

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  5. Remember: A team can be as bad as its FO allows to. Neither the White House nor the United Nations will shake things up. Greetings to Mr Castellini from a die hard fan.

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  6. This does beg the question. What does it take to open Reds management’s eyes enough to see that Hamilton and Duvall are not part of the future of this team? And if they’re not, why keep running them out there? One of the most telling stats at present is Votto hitting something like .400 with runners in scoring position (not sure of the exact figure today) but he has barely half the RBI’s that Gennett and Suarez have. That’s because 7, 8, 9, 1 and 2 have been an offensive black hole in the lineup. Yes, this team will go as its starting pitching goes. But why not also try to improve the offense? And there’s more than 2% to be gained when this outfield is not just bad but historically, abysmally bad. Frustrating.

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    • This article might. Jocketty traded for Duvall and Schebler and peraza. They are his guys and he would certainly be motivated to give them every opportunity. Castellini is on record saying he loves Hamilton and wants him here forever.

      Hamilton has increased his walk rate a few percentage points but his K rate has gone from 21% to 31% and his avg has dropped from .247 to the .203 and obp has dropped as well.He’s on pace to steal just 27 bases.

      Schebler and Winker don’t have the sample size of Hamilton and Duvall. With a bunch of games coming up at Gabp- I’d go with Schebler in CF…Duvall in RF and Winker in LF and see if the power numbers go up. I suspect 1 if not 2 get a June gabp power boost .

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  7. Great article and analysis, Matt!

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  8. Instead of trying to convert a career IF to a position he’s never played before and meanwhile signing him to an expensive contract extension that would start at age 30, how about the Reds develop and/or acquire actual outfielders?

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    • I am a believer in moving positions. The 2B-to-OF shift worked for Tim Raines, Pete Rose, and Craig Biggio, to name 3 hall of famers. Joe Madden doesn’t have any problem moving Cubs around. Votto moved positions. Hamilton moved positions (still couldn’t hit). Adam Duvall had never played outfield in even the minors until he got to Cincinnati.

      Anybody who is athletic enough to play second base in the major leagues, and/or who is young like Senzel, Herrera or Shed Long, can learn to play outfield in pretty short order. (I will concede that Scooter is likely to have limitations anywhere, including 2B.)

      As for development, they do have Taylor Trammell and maybe 2-3 others on the way by 2020. I agree that it is inexcusable not to have had developed a plausible offensive outfielder between Jay Bruce and Winker, on whom the jury remains out.

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      • Let me clarify. I’m not as opposed to moving younger players to the outfield. But listing a few examples where it worked (especially HOF-caliber players) doesn’t provide evidence for the general concept, only for exceptional circumstances. Joe Madden moves guys around who can play multiple positions. Obviously there are players who can play multiple positions and are valuable because of it. Nick Senzel might be one of those players and it would be great to discover he was.

        I’m opposed in the case of Scooter Gennett. Signing him to an extension that would start at age 30 is crazy, especially under the assumption he’ll play a different position. Given his recent experience at Milwaukee, his second half of 2017 and his April 2018, why should anyone have confidence he’ll be any good in 2020? He’s not a good defender at 2B, to put it mildly. So it’s a wild leap of faith to assume that he could switch to a new position.

        To me, switching positions for older players out of desperation reeks of failed organizational thinking.

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        • Steve, can we have a “Did Scooter Get Traded Today?” thread pinned to the top of the page? 😉 I’m sad every day I fail to get notification bringing this news.

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        • Nah it’s easier Steve to move him to the outfield and then everybody will complain how bad he is and why didn’t the,Front Office trade him!

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    • Just going on what the roster already has on it. Not much at AAA for the OF.
      The “or acquire actual outfielders” would require the Reds front office to actually do something. We can’t hold our breath for that. Something more than trading Mesoraco while still paying his full salary. That fruit was sooo low hanging it was on the ground. But it ended up being $7.5MM fruit, difference in Mesoraco’s and Harvey’s salaries.
      Do you think the Reds front office could actually acquire even one, but 2 are needed, all around outfielders?? If so, I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. It would come in handy during spring training.

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      • I think the Reds are still planning to save money on that deal. I think their “plan” was to move Harvey for ANYTHING at all, hoping that the buying team would take on most of his remaining salary. I mean, they probably feel, they had a better chance recouping a couple million $ by trading Harvey vs trading Mes.

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  9. Correct.

    The Reds’ problems are a bad bunch of outfielders, and young and therefore erratic starting pitching. The young starting pitching can correct itself, at least in part, but they need to ditch 2-3 of the 4 outfield incumbents (Duvall and Hamilton for sure) between now and spring training.

    I would be trying Senzel in centerfield right now in Louisville, or at least try Gennett in left when Senzel is promoted in about 2 weeks. In 2019, they are likely going to need at least one of Dilson Herrera, Senzel, Shed Long or Gennett playing in the outfield. I don’t understand why they are all still playing 2B or 3B.

    2020 brings Taylor Trammel and maybe others.

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  10. Three players get called up for a month or so in their first season as a major league player.

    Player 1 hits .283/.320/.403 wRC+ of 94 (41 games, 169 PA)
    Player 2 hits .224/.320/.466 wRC+ of 118 (57 games, 200 PA)
    Player 3 hits .298/.375/.529 wRC+ of 135 (47 games, 137 PA)

    The next season:

    Player 1 (age 23) hits .193/.247/.349 in May
    Player 2 (age 23) hits .152/.188/.364 in April
    Player 3 (age 24) hits .174/.278/.246 in May

    All three busts, right?

    Player 1 is Barry Larkin. Player 2 is Eric Davis. Player 3 is Jesse Winker.

    I’m not saying Winker is going to hit like Larkin and Davis, but that maybe we shouldn’t write Jesse Winker into oblivion after a bad month this early in his career.

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  11. I appreciate the work that went into this article. You would like to think that the statisticians that are working for the Reds would have a similar or better report on the desk of Dick Williams and Nick Krall. And they might indeed have such an analysis.
    But I doubt they will do anything about it.

    The reasons are obvious, and were discussed yesterday by several commenters, citing the tendencies of family owned businesses. They are risk averse to the extreme, to maintain the notion of “family invincibility” in the office. We are family and we are right.

    I feel bad to the players, and especially the fans. They deserve better than this.

    The Reds hit rock bottom in 1982, with (drum roll) the Williams Brothers as majority owners of the Reds, after a 1981 strike interrupted season where the Reds had the best overall record in baseball, and stayed home for the playoffs. Go figger that one. A year or two later, Marge Schott took on the majority share. You may knock Marge, but the Reds drafted well the next few years (1982 – 1986; Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Kal Daniels, Joe Oliver, Chris Sabo, Paul O’Neill, etc.) and built a core of very good players. The team got better from 1985-1988; they signed an older outfielder named Dave Parker, who had an MVP season in 1985, but did not get recognition playing for a 2nd place team. The 1989 season was a train wreck of injuries. The 1990 season saw the Reds win their last World Championship.
    It could happen. But probably not for this version of the Reds.

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  12. Great article.Winker just needs to play every day and at the end of the year we shall see.No reason not to assume he does what he has done in the past.He has always been a starter at all levels and if given a legitimate shot he will be fine.Scott needs to play every day as well because we know about Duvall and Billy who have 3 years and 5 years of data that tells us what we need to know about them.I would call up one of these guys that are two years away just to see if he can hit big league pitching right now.Who knows he may do it.

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  13. Hey, Matt it is very interesting to compare average game attendance for these years.

    Seasons 2013 through 2017 are from Baseball Almanac, 2018 is from Baseball Reference.com.

    2013 31,151

    2014 30,576

    2015 29,870

    2016 23,384

    2017 22,677

    2018 17,848

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  14. If i were Adam Duvall or Billy Hamilton i would be ashamed to even get in batters box. Yeah we can vote for Scooter for All Star team. Laddy friggen dah. Bullcrap. get rid of the deadbeats and move on

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About Matthew Habel

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Matt ironically became a diehard Reds fan while living in Pittsburgh and experiencing the 2013 Wild Card game. He is currently living in the land without baseball, Portland, OR, where you can find him exploring the great outdoors whenever he is not watching the Reds.

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