After a slow start that lingered through the month of May, the 2018 Reds offense has shifted into high gear. It has produced the third most runs in the National League. In June and July, our Reds have outscored the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Brewers, even Cleveland. In fact, they’ve put more runs on the board than any team that doesn’t play home games at altitude.

Last year, the Reds finished eighth in the NL in runs scored. Using a rate statistic (wRC+), the Reds have improved from 4% below league average to 2% above, a significant gain relative to 29 other major league teams. 

What accounts for the impressive gain in offensive production?

Not power. Power is so 2017. The Reds were sixth in home runs last year and are eighth in 2018. Likewise, in overall power (ISO), the Reds have fallen from seventh best in the NL to twelfth.

That’s right, this Reds team — the one that ranks third in runs scored — is near the bottom of the league in power. Process that. 

The team’s ISO even in Slam-palooza June (.165) was below its power rate for 2017 (.179).

How about stolen bases?

LOL, nope. In 2017, the Reds were second in stolen bases. This year, they’re in the middle of the pack. In fact, it’s hard to find a major offensive statistical category less related to runs scored than team stolen bases. For those wondering, the 2018 Reds are 49 of 65 in SB attempts, that’s a success rate of 75.4%. Last year they were 120/159, which was 75.4%. It takes a success rate of 75% to provide net value from stolen bases.

If power and speed aren’t to credit for the Reds offensive surge, how about their hit tool?

Indeed, the Reds have jumped in batting average, from .253 (eighth) in 2017 to .260 (second). What accounts for that gain?

First, the Reds have hit more line drives (25.4%) compared to last year (20.8%). Those liners have come almost entirely at the expense of fly balls. Data shows the Reds have hit the ball harder (exit velocity) but not farther. The team’s average batted ball distance, line drive distance, fly ball distance are all the same from last year to this year. Just fewer fly balls and more line drives. 

As a result, the Reds batting average on balls in play (BABIP) – the percentage of hits per balls put in play – has risen from .294 (tenth) to .312 (second). That’s a huge gain relative to the league. Much of that is due to hitting line drives instead of fly balls.

The Reds BABIP on fly balls is unchanged from 2017 to 2018. That makes sense since the Reds fly ball exit velocity and distance hasn’t changed. On line drives, the Reds BABIP was actually higher in 2017.

The Reds have gained in batting average on ground balls. In 2017, they hit .225 on grounders compared to .246 this year. They’ve also hit their ground balls harder (84 mph compared to 82 mph). That’s significant because ground balls are more than 40% of balls in play. 

Before moving on from line drives, it’s worth mentioning that variation in hitting line drives is substantially luck-based. The percentage of balls put in play that are line drives remains constant around 21%. For example, pretty much every great hitter’s career LD% — is a point or so away from 21%. Barry Bonds, 20.6%. Chipper Jones, 20.6%. Albert Pujols, 18.9%. Mike Trout, 21.9%. Andrew McCutchen, 21.6%. Bryce Harper, 20.9%. Billy Hamilton, 22.3%.

Get the picture? Line drives don’t really say much long term about offensive contribution. 

The Reds at a 25.4% line drive rate are well above the second highest team, the San Francisco Giants (22.9%). All but six MLB teams fall between 19.9% and 22.1%. Last year, 27 of the 30 teams ended up between 19.2% and 21.2%. So there’s a pretty solid case that the Reds elevated line drive rate in 2018 — while helpful to this point — is due much to good luck that should eventually run out. 

Bottom line for batting average, the Reds are hitting more line drives instead of fly balls and have hit their ground balls harder this year.

That brings us to walks.

First, let’s clarify the value of walks. Are walks as good as a hit? Sometimes yes, but not other times. If a batter is leading off an inning, a walk is as good as a single. But a single is better than a walk at moving a runner from first to third or scoring a runner from second. Singles have greater overall run production value than walks, but walks are nowhere near worth zero in contributing to runs. In fact, walks are much closer to singles than zero in run contribution. 

Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate. People keep track of how much walks (and every other batting outcome) contribute to runs. This isn’t theoretical, these numbers (linear weights) are based on every actual MLB play over a season. The linear weight of a walk in scoring runs in 2018 is .689, for a single, it’s .880, for a double 1.250 etc.

So walks aren’t as good as hits in terms of producing runs. They’re about 80% as good. But evaluating hitters based on at batting average would miss the value of walks. Just as using on-base percentage doesn’t measure power. 

Let’s get back to the 2018 Reds. They’re walking a lot. In almost ten percent (9.9%) of their plate appearances, the Reds are earning a free pass. That’s tied for second best in the majors, behind only the NL East first-place Philadelphia Phillies.

It’s also a marked improvement over 2017, when they walked 9.1% (ninth best) and 2016 when they walked just 7.4% (24th). The team walk-rate this June was 11.2% and has been 10.6% so far in July.

Before we break down the current Reds team and its walk-rate, let’s take a short trip down repressed memory lane back to 2004. Here’s a chart showing the Reds team walk-rate (red line) vs. the league average (blue line), with a curveball, the Reds line does not include Joey Votto.

2004-2006 should be called the Adam Dunn Era. The Reds walk-rate was substantially above league average and Adam Dunn is the main reason. Ryan Freel, Austin Kearns, Ken Griffey Jr., and Scott Hatteberg also played a role, but the Dunner and his career walk-rate of 15.8% was the primary driver. (Note: Dunn’s career number, which includes his decline years, is only a half-point lower than Joey Votto’s.)

2007 begins what I’d call the Brandon Phillips-Walt Jocketty-Dusty Baker-Billy Hamilton Era. Phillips started with the Reds in 2006. Walt Jocketty became general manager in 2008, shortly after Dusty Baker had been hired to manage.

Phillips had a 5.2% career walk-rate. Baker notoriously disparaged plate patience and base-clogging walks. Jocketty criticized Joey Votto’s approach and acquired players – including leadoff hitters – largely with indifference to walk-rate. Willy Taveras, Orlando Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, Laynce Nix, Edgar Renteria, Jerry Hairston, Paul Janish, Chris Heisey, Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza are a examples of Jocketty’s low-walk pattern. Even when Jocketty told fans he was out searching for more walks, he came back from the store with Marlon Byrd.

It’s plain that Walt Jocketty didn’t prioritize a player’s ability to walk. After the value of on-base percentage became recognized in nearly every front office, players with good walk-rates became more expensive. Jocketty’s track record shows that whenever push came to the slightest shove, he wouldn’t acquire the guys who walked. Meanwhile, as part of their rebuilding process, the Chicago Cubs did prioritize walks (and you thought that W flag stood for wins). 

So in the Phillips-Baker-Jocketty-Hamilton Era, the Reds (sans Votto) team walk-rate plunged far below league average. That trend deepened even after Dusty Baker left, due in large part to the Reds giving Billy Hamilton so many at bats. 

That 2013 spike has a simple explanation: Shin-Soo Choo (15.7% BB) in a contract year. To think that Jocketty was terrifyingly close to a 3-year commitment to Ben Revere (4.5% career BB-rate) instead of signing Choo. Fortunately, the Twins backed out on the Revere deal.

The welcome upturn in walks in 2017 corresponded with Brandon Phillips leaving (not that he was the entire culprit) and moving Jocketty out of the main leadership chair. It marks the onset of Follow Joey Votto Era. In 2017, Eugenio Suarez and Zack Cozart adjusted their approaches (obligatory Votto influence post) and saw walk-rates jump from 8 to 13% and 7 to 12% respectively. As mentioned, the 2017 Reds subtracted Brandon Phillips (3.1% walk rate in 2016).

Not all the walk-rate factors were great in 2017. Jose Peraza (3.9%), Adam Duvall (6.0%) and Scooter Gennett (6.0%) had major roles with low walk-rates. Arismendy Alcantara walked twice in 108 plate appearances.

The walk-rate continued to increase in 2018 is due to a number of contributors. Billy Hamilton’s rate has jumped to 10.4%, Jesse Winker (15.3%) has 300+ plate appearances. Tucker Barnhart (10.2%) has continued to increase his rate. Adam Duvall (8.9%) is up. Alex Blandino (9.0%) has been a solid walker in his 145 plate appearances. Even Peraza (5.5%) and Gennett (6.8%) have caught the walking fever a bit for them.

In fact, the 2018 Reds walk-rate is above league average without counting Joseph Daniel Votto. Amazing. 

The outlook is bright. Nick Senzel (10.7%), Taylor Trammell (11.9%), Dilson Herrera (11.2% in his 155 MLB at bats), Tyler Stephenson (10.7%), Shed Long (10.1%) and Jeter Downs (10.8%) all have promising walk-rates.

Getting on base has fueled the Reds recent surge in run scoring. Taking walks is both a skill and an ethos, qualities the team management can reward or discourage. Let’s hope the Reds front office keeps acquiring and promoting players who demonstrate those attributes. 

[Data was collected Saturday, from FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, The Baseball Cube and Baseball-Reference.]

89 Responses

  1. Alex

    Saw Jeter Downs for the first time myself on Friday. He was clearly better than most of the players on the field that night. Great plate discipline, major league swing. Acted like a big leaguer too.

  2. doofus

    One of these days WJ will walk away from this team. That day cannot come soon enough.

  3. roger garrett

    Yep to Walt leaving and Yep to the Reds walking more and more.Getting on base is well cool all the time.

  4. Kevin Sullivan

    Excellent piece, Steve! Thought-provoking and well-researched.

    • Steve Mancuso

      WAR includes defense and base running.

      • PhoenixPhil

        Right. I guess the problem I’m having is reconciling how people are asking for Winker to play and Billy to sit, when Billy has a a 1.3 WAR. Is it because we know what Billy is and Winker is a rookie?

      • Steve Mancuso

        That’s part of it. Other WAR measures (FanGraphs) have Winker at 1.0 and Hamilton at 1.1. When you take the positional adjustments (CF get more WAR just from playing the position, like SS) into account, Winker has actually produced more. Winker’s defense has been better in LF, which is his more familiar position. People calling for Winker to play every game are probably assuming he would play LF every night.

      • Shchi Cossack

        Steve, forwarded you an email this morning.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Received it. Haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. Thanks.

      • Shchi Cossack

        The other factor is that playing Winker AND Hamilton are not mutually exclusive since Hamilton plays CF and Winker plays LF or RF. As Steve pointed out, if Hamilton was playing LF or RF, he would have a lower WAR.

    • theRickDeLux

      He has a -.2 WAR because it also includes Defensive metrics. One of the many reasons I don’t place much value into that manufactured, arbitrary, fan-boy statistic.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Defensive metrics aren’t any more manufactured than other metrics. They aren’t arbitrary, either. But comments use words, I guess.

        Curious how you compare players. Do you not consider defense, or do you have a better way to measure defense? If so, could you please share it. We fan-boys eagerly await your answer.

      • Streamer88

        WAR is actually an attempt to bring Fan Boy stats to the masses.

        Think the Brennemans. woba and all its variations, SIERA these are fan boy stats.

  5. jReis

    the frustrating thing for me is how slow our players are. minus Billy and Peraza. Yes, joey walks a lot. as did adam Dunn. after they walk however it takes a lot of luck and hitting to drive them in. sometimes 3 hits. we have been hot offensively recently so it has not been a major issue but we have to be able to generate some runs with good base running.

    the good news is that finally, finally,finally the reds have developed some prospects that can actually run AND!!!! get on base a lot in Senzel, Trammel,, Friedl, Downs.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Guess it’s a good thing for the current Reds that running speed is one of the least important skills in run production. Helps to be fast, but not as often as we think. Power, walks, hitting are all far more important. Reds producing lots of runs with Gennett, Winker, Suarez, Votto and Barnhart squarely in bottom half of league in foot speed.

      • Bill

        but think of all the havoc you could cause if you cloned Hamilton eight times

      • greenmtred

        “Havoc” is intended as sarcasm, of course, but in the last few series I’ve seen BH force good teams into rushing and making errors which resulted in runs for the Reds. Call it what you will. Steve makes a very convincing case that, generally, speed is not as important to an offense as one might think, and I certainly buy that. But there are situations where a fast runner scores and a slow runner doesn’t, and there are plenty of games decided by a run. Speed is also a big asset in the outfield. Should a team build around fast players? No. Should we be snide about speed? No.

  6. Jeffery Stroupe

    What is going to be next is heart rate on a 3-2 count with bases loaded. Draft that guy. Or trade for him.

    • da bear

      I’d much rather have the guy with a higher average or OBP with RISP than the person who is RBI inefficient.

      Adam Duvall as of last week is hitting .290 with RISP; .280 with RISP and 2 outs, while his overall average is barely over .200.

      If his salary is low because of his low OBP and low batting average….the Reds should easily keep Duvall. He offers great value considering how much he produces relative to how little he’s being paid.

      • Bill

        What is your definition of RBI inefficient? I hear many complaints that guys like Votto don’t have a lot of RBIs and never hit when it counts, but if you actually look at the stats his RISP avg is .344 this year with a .998 OPS. RBI is a result of people being on base when batting so Duvall hitting behind Votto, Suarez, Winker, and others with high OBP is going to get RBIs. This whole idea of “clutch hitting” is not reality. With that being said Votto should be moved into the two spot in the lineup where his OBP plays better than putting Barnhart or Peraza.

      • greenmtred

        Clutch hitting not being real is something I’ve often read here, and my understanding is that the claim is based, partly, on SSS. Votto, as you note, is hitting .344 with RISP, much higher than his overall average. It seems as though this is true for a lot of guys, though the stat is only put on the screen from time-to-time, and very possibly only when a hitter with a good avg. with RISP is up with RISP. It’s said that hitters who hit well in “clutch” situations are good hitters who hit well generally, but if many of them hit better in those situations, how does that not indicate some degree of clutch hitting?

      • Bill

        What data do you have to back up this “clutch hitting”. There have been multiple studies that have concluded clutch hitting does not exist. Good hitters placed in late game situations in close games will produce better results than bad hitters. The idea of clutch hitting is typically someone who remembers a guy hitting a game deciding home run and in their mind labels them “clutch”. Other than a solo HR in a tied game, the “clutch hitter” has to be following guys who got on base in a game that is within a run or two. So being “clutch” is often dependent on other hitters and then you have to make the claim that the individual temporarily becomes a better hitter than they are at any other point in the game. Do some people perform better under pressure than others, yes, but these are professional athletes who have dealt with pressure for their entire careers. We aren’t talking about a high school kid being asked to bat in the bottom of the 9th in a tied game 7 of the world series

      • greenmtred

        If that is directed at me, no data, just the observation that a number of hitters have significantly higher averages with risp than they do without. Might mean something, might not, but there it is.

      • da bear

        Votto is also hitting .220 with RISP and two outs. So yes he is hitting well overall with RISP @ .344 but no so well when there are two outs. He’s allowed several called third strikes to go by with the bases loaded (three I believe) and on a couple of those occasions took 5 or 6 pitches without lifting the bat off his shoulder.

        I like Joey Votto. Seems like a great person. I want him to do well. There’s been a lot of times this season in April and May, similar to the first couple months in 2016 and 2017, where he did not come through when he could have tied the game or put the Reds ahead.

        Hopeful the second half of this season is as strong as his second halves in 2016 and 2017 to rectify his early season performance.

  7. bouwills

    Let’s just say that Scooter doesn’t get traded in the next 15 days. Furthermore let’s assume the Reds & Scooter sign a team friendly (like Barnhart & Suarez) contract that keeps Scooter a Red through 2022. Therefore Suarez or Scooter are destined to be moved to a corner outfield spot. Surely we all believe that Senzel can play better infield defense than one of Suarez @ 3rd or Gennett @ 2nd (or both). If it’s Suarez, then he goes to RF. Schebler is out of a job (except part time CF). Winker is exclusively used @ LF. Guererro blocked, Aquino blocked next year . Trammel in 2020 to play CF or be used(& under used in LF). If it’s Gennett that’s moved to LF then Duvall out of a job. Winker used only in RF. Stop right there. Everything that Winker does poorly, Guererro excels at. All of Winkers strong suits are mostly Guererro’s weaknesses. I say this is the 2019 Reds sweet spot. 1) Schebler/ Hamilton CF, 2) Votto 1st, 3) Suarez 3rd, 4) Gennett LF, 5) Senzel 2nd, 6) Winker/ Guererro RF, 7) Barnhart C, 8) Peraza SS, 9) pitcher. Of course in late 2019 Trammel, Friedl, Shed Long, & possibly Mitch Nay cause changes to be made.

  8. Scott C

    One of your best analysis yet Steve. I would say that should put to rest all the hate some seem to have towards Joey and Winker, but those who don’t want to believe in logic and sound statistics will find a way.

  9. Mason Red

    Bottom line is this team hits ‘em where they ain’t.

    • Jeffery Stroupe

      I would keep Scooter and Harvey.

      • Grand Salami

        Harvey?!

        You keep him for a meaningless 2018 season and hope his time with the team convinces him to veto his agent (Boras) and take a team friendly contract. That is the absolute best case scenario and it’s all conjecture.

        You trade him for at least a B level prospect (or 2) that will strengthen your farm system and then work on bringing him back in the off season. That is a realistic scenario with very little conjecture.

      • Bill

        There seems to be a misconception by some that Harvey will get his feelings hurt by being traded and never sign with the Reds. They also believe the Reds are getting some sort of discount for saving his career.

        Harvey and his agent are not stupid. They knew he was getting traded if he regained his form. They also know this is his last chance for a big contract. I am sure he is appreciative that the Reds had confidence in his abilities, but he doesn’t owe the Reds anything. Scooter and Iglesias have stated they wanted to remain Reds, and Scooter’s agent has had extension conversations. We haven’t seen a single comment from Harvey stating he loves being in Cincinnati and his agent isn’t known for working team friendly extenstions. I am sure the Reds have at least inquired if there was any interest and will watch the market in the offseason

  10. seat101

    I understand that defensive metrics are a work in progress. For example:
    There are questions whether weaker corner outfielders are unfairly benefited by a Billy Hamilton type in centerfield. The conjecture is that corner outfielders will not have as many low percentage attempts. And there are no ‘centerfielder made put-out but was the right-fielder’s catch to make’ calculations in the metrics as yet.

    And of course a small sample size is a problem. I have also read that some people prefer at least two full years of numbers before they feel comfortable trusting the results.

    Having said that, and particularly with the proviso about more input better, the statistics mostly comport with what I have seen.

  11. Scooter Rolen

    Got to see Trammell play in Daytona a couple weeks ago – now he’s the MVP of the Futures Game! Guy looks like he could be a major force in the Reds OF in the near future.

    Also, great to see Reds focusing on OBP in our minor league players. Always good to have guys on base to knock in. Just like (if I remember right) how Big Red Machine teams always were near the top of the league in runners left on base – because they almost always were on base.

  12. Chad D. Smith

    Not to mention the intangibles of higher walk rates. It generally means opposing pitchers throw more pitches and have to work harder (it often requires some fouls balls to earn a walk), and makes it harder for defenders to pay their full attention. I think it basically drains more life out of the opposition.

  13. roger garrett

    What little I know about WAR and its very little I have learned from people on this site.I still look at ERA of pitchers and I really put a lot of stock on how many hits they give up vs innings pitched.On offense I look at OBP and power numbers and on defense I look at simply do they catch a ball hit to them and do they throw it accurately.When its comes to WAR being influenced by defense and position then I get lost which happens to me a lot so I struggle when I see Billy’s WAR number being higher then Winker or even Duvall’s.To me a bigger number means a better player.

    • Mason Red

      I’m still an old fashioned BA,HR,RBI,ERA kind of fan. I can’t get a handle on all of the analytical stuff.

    • da bear

      WAR is generally used by people who want to find an ‘objective’ measuring stick distilled into a single number for simplification purposes. It’s not very useful without much additional analysis when it comes to measuring a player’s actual contribution to team performance.

      WAR doesn’t take into account a player’s offensive production when the at bats matter more. xwOBA (and thus WAR) consider all ABs to be equal, whether the bases are empty or whether they are loaded. They don’t reward a batter for moving a runner over from second to third with no out on a ground out.

      Possibly the best measurement of a player’s offensive contribution to a team scoring runs involves finding the percentage of all total bases a batter achieves – i.e. a GS is 10 for 10, an out that doesn’t advance any runners with bases loaded is an 0 for 10.

      Don’t think this is readily available however.

      • Bill

        A guy who hits a solo home run is a lesser player than a guy with a grand slam? Does a guy need four solo home runs to be the same level as a guy with a grand slam and three strikeouts?

      • da bear

        He’s not a lesser player necessarily. His impact in hitting a solo homer (4 for 4 total bases) is simply not the same as when he hits a grand slam (10 for 10 total bases).

        The solo home run scores one run. The grand slam scores 4 runs. What more is there to understand? The GS is more productive for the team than the solo home run.

        Furthermore, the grand slam hit when a team is already winning by six runs is not nearly as important as a grand slam hit while the team is losing by two. Or even the solo home run hit when the game is tied and especially late in the game.

        Situational performance matters.

        Do you like it just as much when your employee does well on that $1,000 sales contract for a customer as when he or she does well on that $10,000 sales contract?

    • citizen54

      You can look at it this way. The positional adjustment for a corner outfielder is -7.5 runs over 162 games. For a center fielder it is +2.5, so if Hamilton and Winker produce no offense for an entire season, Hamilton is still going to be 10 runs better than Winker, excluding any defense and base running adjustments. Runs per win depends on the year but is typically close to 9-10, so Hamilton gets a 1 WAR advantage over Winker just by virtue of playing CF for a full season.

  14. Hanawi

    Defensive WAR is still a crap shoot as far as I’m concerned. Just look at the two major metrics of it. They can differ quite a bit. If you want to include a bit of that for value, fine, but I think it’s an overrated part of the total WAR picture. And I have a problem with any metric that gives value to one guy for playing one position over a different one. Baserunning WAR is even dumber, since most the time you have a coach telling a person when to go and when not to go. Couple of years ago, Votto was OPSing over 1.000 and I think it was Kiermaier from the Rays, who had a higher WAR even though he had an OPS below .800. That tells me that the metric is bull.

    I prefer looking at wRC+ and then OPS. I can usually tell if a guy is a good or bad fielder by watching games. My eyes tell me Winker is way more valuable than Hamilton and if you tried to trade either, the other teams would tell you the same thing.

    • Streamer88

      Be careful with any phrase in baseball that starts “my eyes tell me…”. This is how old school scouts mistakingly wrote off OBP OPS wRC and SIERA.

      The metrics for defense may not be perfect but they are certainly better than “your eyes” and the Your there isn’t meant for you specifically, but all of us combined.

  15. Steve Schoenbaechler

    It looks like, to me, it’s the old OBP idea, which would include walks. I stated before, for the leadoff hitter, that I want one who can get on base, not caring one iota about their power. While others were worried about power. From a leadoff hitter? Come on. And, those same people were probably looking for Hamilton to excel as a leadoff hitter. Hamilton? Power? Come on.

    Need a direct example? The Cards in 2011, the last WS they won, all starters had an OBP of 321+. 5 were 349+. They also had great pitching. But, their defense sucked that year.

    It was announced the other day the Reds have 3 batters with over a 400 OBP, Winker, Votto, and Suarez (who just dropped to 399). The last Reds team to have had that? The 1976 BRM.

    The resurgence didn’t necessarily correspond with Riggleman but more like almost 2 months after Riggleman got here. And, the success isn’t just coming from the offense. As we all know, the success from this team was going to depend on the pitching. For a simple comparison, up to and including June 9, we were 21 games below 500 with a staff ERA of 5.05. Since then? 11 games over 500 with a staff ERA of 3.93, more than a full run under where we were. Maybe more like it took 2 months for Riggleman and Danny Darwin to get things changed around.

    • Indy Red Man

      Thats more on subtracting Homer and Finnegan then adding Riggleman & Darwin. Plus Lorenzen, Harvey, and Hernandez. None of those guys were around in April.

      • greenmtred

        That’s a different take on the same thing: The pitching has been better. It’s probably impossible for us to know how much Riggleman and Darwin have to do with that, but it’s clear that the Reds are now pitching better and, generally, playing like a team to be reckoned with.

      • redfan4life

        This! It was huge for the team to get Lorenzen and Hernandez back. Both are worlds better than the cast of guys they were running out there in the pen. We have 5 solid relievers right now in the pen.
        Harvey has helped as well.
        This club for the first time in years has zero major players on the D.L.

  16. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I said on here last year I didn’t care that much about power. Power is only for show. Get the players on base. That’s how the Cards won their last WS. Pitching and OBP. The defense was poor back then (and now, also).

    But, the success the team is having isn’t because of the offense. It’s from the pitching. We all knew the offense was probably strong enough for the league. But, we needed the pitching. For a simply comparison, up to and including June 9, we were 21 games below 500 with a team ERA of 5.05. Since then, we are 11 games above 500 with an ERA of 3.93, more than a run less.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      Interesting. A slow delay on the posting.

  17. Shirley Johnson

    I said on here last year I didn’t care that much about power. Power is only for show. Get the players on base. That’s how the Cards won their last WS. Pitching and OBP. The defense was poor back then (and now, also).

    But, the success the team is having isn’t because of the offense. It’s from the pitching. We all knew the offense was probably strong enough for the league. But, we needed the pitching. For a simply comparison, up to and including June 9, we were 21 games below 500 with a team ERA of 5.05. Since then, we are 11 games above 500 with an ERA of 3.93, more than a run less.

  18. Jbrat22

    Great write up, Steve. I thought you did a great job of breaking down some of the more advanced stats. It’s definitely more fun now to be a Reds fan than it has in a while, and this might be the best offense I can remember them having, even some of their really good playoff teams of the last 20 years.

    Regarding defensive metrics (DRS and UZR/150), I heard someone on the radio recently explaining that they don’t take into effect defensive shifts, and it skews the numbers quite a bit because teams are shifting around 33% of the time. Additionally, in the game the other night the Cardinals’ announcers were showing how the Reds’ corner OFers actually face away from Billy Hamilton, effectively guarding the lines, knowing Hamilton will cover so much ground. It reminded me of how in football Pro Football Focus grades players, but the big argument from many professionals is that they don’t know the defensive scheme on a given play, so how could PFF say with confidence that they did what they were supposed to? Any thoughts or comments on this at all? Interested to hear knowledgeable insight on the defensive metrics.

  19. msanmoore

    Love to see our guys work a count and move on up 90 feet.

  20. Old-school

    The Reds are a good hitting team. Lots of professional at bats strung together by guys who don’t give away at-bats.

  21. Indy Red Man

    Bottom line is they have more then enough offense to get where we want them to be! Especially with the addition of Senzel next year and guys like India and Trammell coming up the pipeline. That was the foundation for the Cubs success. Now they can’t afford to go out and buy a Lester, Lackey, Quintana, etc, but they could find a few key guys!

    You can only field 7 non-pitchers and catchers so deal some of these guys and get a starter! Dilson looks like a solid bat with no place to play for one? Signing Harvey is a risk even if he wanted to sign, but they could offer the Mets enough pieces for lefty Steven Matz! He has a 2.91 era since April! Between getting a quality arm or two from a contender for a piece they need (Iggy?) and/or raiding a bottom feeder that is trying to rebuild….the opportunities are out there and now is the time to do something!

  22. Old-school

    This just in. India can hit too. Homered again last night. He’s starting tonight at SS. That would be only reason to keep him Greenville. – take his licks at SS. His bat plays higher.

    • Indy Red Man

      I said something yesterday about how India could be ready next summer and somebody said they we should expect 3 years? What? The kid will be 22 in December. How many teams are rolling out youngsters now and letting them learn at the highest level. India is a full year older then Ronald Acuna Jr. from the Braves. What is SEC baseball equivalent too? I’d say high A ball maybe? Maybe the Reds should wake up and pay attention to what other teams are doing!

      For example. Billy with 582 atbats last year in a lost season. Kivlehan with 178. Winker with 121? Play the guys that are going to help you win down the road! As long as they’re not overmatched and Winker wasn’t…and isn’t??? This Reds regime has always done that and it drives me crazy!!! Javier Baez came up when he was 21! Thats who India could be…..a Baez with plate discipline!!

      • Bill

        Who is the last position player to go straight to the majors? Even guys like Griffey Jr spent some time in the minors. Physically he may be ready, but he hasn’t experienced the level of competition he will see and he hasn’t experienced the professional schedule. He might make it in two years, but expecting him on the 25 man next year is not realistic. All the guys you mention who are 21 spent multiple seasons in the minors

      • Indy Red Man

        Kyle Schwarber started in the minors in 2014 and got called up to the Cubs in 2015. We’ll see with India, but its pretty obvious that the Reds 4 year plan with guys isn’t working!

  23. Streamer88

    Great post Steve. Thought provoking and answers questions as it generates new ones – a sign of great writing!

    I’ve always thought of walks and OBP as having an additional benefit of driving up pitch counts and “getting into the bullpen” sooner, thinking that was always a good thing.

    However bullpen arms are better than ever. Any advanced stats that can tease out wearing out a teams bullpen? Maybe over the course of a 4 game set for example? Like – are high OBP teams more likely to win the 4th game of a series?

  24. Streamer88

    I’m so sorry this is off topic. But just read de Groms agent might be forcing the issue a bit.

    Let me give you a very recently pertinent trade offer. Would you take it?

    de Grom for Hunter Greene and Taylor Trammell, straight up. And then we extend him immediately if that helps the cause.

    Thoughts?

    • Old-school

      No… Greene yes…Trammell no.
      Trammell is like Senzel and Bruce- they just succeed everywhere. India is looking like another. Trammell is a foundational player who can anchor an outfield for a decade.

      I would trade Greene Romano Shed long and Jeter downs for DeGrom.

    • Bill

      I think I would rather sign a free agent than give up two guys who were just in the Futures Game, one who was the MVP and the other doing a Chapman impression as a 19 year old. They both may be busts but I would take the risk over three years of de Grom

  25. bouwills

    Opposing viewpoint. ( Man am I stepping in it deep this time!) The base on balls is the most distorted, happenstance statistic in the game of baseball Any subsequent statistic (OBP, OPS) is thus infected by the inclusion of BB and less descriptive of the actual nature of the game. How about we try a ” for instance”? On June 30th Thames greeted Mahle with a 1st inning HR. The game was real close through about 7 innings with the Brewers leading 3-2 in the 7th. After that first inning HR, Thames never put the ball in play again. 2 strikeouts & 2 walks. I consider the Reds pitching bested Thames 4 out of 5 times. Reds went on to win that game 12-3. Move forward 10 days & the Reds are down 4-0 to the Indians. During that fateful 9th inning, Dilson Hererra earns a BB (I believe a 9 pitch AB). Next batter up Votto hits a bases clearing double & the Reds go on to win that one 7-4. Although either of the 2 Thames walks & the Hererra BB is the same statistically, in my world they are completely different animals. They denote vastly different achievements (or lack thereof). I don’t believe ML baseball is a statistical game, I know it to be a situational game which is becoming dominated by statistics (possibly to it’s utter demise as the national pasttime). More to come…………….

    • Bill

      It’s different a different achievement because the guy behind them got a hit? It wasn’t Thames fault he was left on base, just like it wasn’t Herrera’s walk isn’t a better at bat because Votto got a double. They are exactly the same. The guys behind them had different achievements

      • greenmtred

        That’s true. A walk is a walk. But the situation has some bearing on whether a given walk proves important. Same is true of hits. A two-out, bottom of the ninth homer when you’re down by 10 runs does nothing unless it’s followed by an improbabable amount of the same thing, resulting in a win. What this proves is that baseball is a team game composed of individual performances.

      • da bear

        Bill – your focus is on INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT.

        We who care about the team care more about measuring TEAM CONTRIBUTION. The situation related to one’s performance matters far more for the latter than the former.

        Reds win great. I don’t care if that comes from Billy Hamilton or from Joey Votto. I do care about understanding who made the contributions that mattered.

        I don’t care if one person happened to get on base 4 times out of 4 if he didn’t come around to score or in particular if the team was held scoreless in that game. He did his best to contribute, but if you get on base but no one scores, it’s no different than getting no hit for the game. 0 runs scored is 0 runs scored.

    • bouwills

      Part 2 Duvall. I suppose the word is out- Adam Duvall is not a high OBP type of guy. Of course this season his # of walks is up a lot. In 2016 AD walked 41 times in 552 AB. In 2017 he walked 39 times in 587 AB. This year he’s already walked 30 times in 294 AB. No accolades or “attaboys” from the sabermetrics crowd though. His BA is just over .200, his OBP under .300 & thusly he shouldn’t be in the lineup. Actually, I think this years approach is negatively affecting Duvall. Instead of looking to take more pitches, he should be looking for that 1 pitch per AB that he can “square up”. It’s how he got this far. Now if you scroll above, there lies the contention that high OBP guys see more pitches, which could wear out pitching staffs & perhaps lead to better results in the last game of a series. Reds stats don’t actually confirm this though. Leading the way on the Reds is Joey Votto who has seen 1686 pitches this season in 422 Plate Appearances for an average of 3.9953 pitches per PA. 2nd would be Suarez with 1340 pitches seen in 348 PA for an average of 3.8506 P/ PA (no not actually- he’s 3rd). Could it be Gennett with 1487 pitches seen in 389 PA for an average of 3.8226 P/PA? No he’s 5th. Gotta be Winker with 1204 pitches in 318 PA for an average of 3.7862- really, he’s 6th. Hamilton edges out Gennett for 4th with 1271 pitches seen in 332 PA, an average of 3.8283. But it’s our OBP failure Adam Duvall who comes in 2nd to Votto having seen 1297 pitches in 329 PA for an average of 3.9422. Go figure. ………………………………………..

      • bouwills

        I never expected any converts or even much appreciation for my opposing viewpoint. Nonethe less, let me express my humble opinion that walks are boring. Seeing Joey walk doesnot & will not ever- put fans in the stands. One fine day some baseball executives may see it my way , that the game is more exciting when the ball is put in play. Maybe they’ll tell the walk to “take a…………hike”!

      • Steve Mancuso

        Winning is what puts fans in seats. If walks help win games, like they have with Reds recently, they’ll end up helping attendance for those teams.

      • redfan4life

        I agree winning puts fans in the seats. I wonder though how good as a whole are Cincinnati fans in terms of supporting the team?
        I am not talking about the die hard fans like us. 1976 or 77 2 and a half million fans at Reds games. That I believe at the time was a record for all teams.
        Probably well over half of the teams now top that mark.
        Will Cincinnati even with good teams ever be at or near the top in attendance ever again?

      • greenmtred

        I agree that winning is what puts fans in the seats, or is at least a major factor, and I like it when the Reds walk and dislike it when the opponents do. I’ll tilt at the windmill, though: Baseball is evidently suffering a general loss in popularity. I think that the reasons for this are too numerous to be listed or fully understood, but one possible factor might be the pace of the game, which is code for long stretches of relative inactivity. Long-time and serious fans don’t see it this way because they’re watching with an awareness of what can develop as the result of,say, a walk, but the casual or yet-to-be fan may just tune out, and the game needs those fans, too, if it is to avoid becoming a minor niche sport. Small changes–automatic intentional walks, time-limits on pitchers–are okay, but really little more than band-aids. The time taken by reviewing challenged calls certainly adds back some of the time saved. Station-to-station baseball may have a good deal of merit if winning is all that is being considered, but batters working counts, taking lots of pitches and drawing the walk probably won’t draw the interest of the average fan, even if the team wins. I offer no solution, and recognize that my use of the phrase “station-to-station” may have been misguided.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Every batting outcome, not just walks, has a drastic variance in game outcome depending on the situation. Your own examples prove it about home runs.

  26. WVRedlegs

    Get them on. Get them over. Get them in.
    Doesn’t really matter how. But BB’s are one way to get it done. A 10%+ BB% really helps the team. When your #3, #4 and #5 hitters lead your team in BB’s, you need good #6 and #7 hitters. Duvall is at home in that #7 spot.

  27. Streamer88

    When you take 4 balls you have a 100% chance of getting to 1B. When you get a strike 3 you have a 0.1% chance, and when you put a ball in play, you have, on average a 30% chance of getting somewhere between first and home plate.

    A HR may be fancy, but to get to it you must wade through the chance of a strike thrown (usually), contact, good contact, BABIP, exit velocity and launch angle.

    The walk is the most curious outcome in all of sports. Even more curious than the extra point in football before they moved it. Embrace it— there’s nothing else like it!

    • bouwills

      I liked the third part of your reply. But embracing the walk is like having to hug your aunt when you were a kid. Yuck!

  28. Remdog

    Bouwills, actually, it took awhile, but I’ve actually grown to REALLY appreciate the walk. I mean, the game is called BASEball not HITball. The key is get on base – you know, “clog” them up. The walk may be boring in that there is no hit action, but at the same time, it’s a beautiful thing to watch in its own right if you simply view it as a chess match between the hitter and the pitcher.

    Watching Herrera’s 2 great ABs this last week (or almost any Votto AB) are great examples of will power between 2 competitors. It’s simple, walks CAN be cool if you just look at it like I assume Votto does – Go ahead…try to get me out….if you won’t challenge me with a pitch I can square up on, I’ll just foul everything off until you continue to miss out of the zone 4 times….

    Point is, each at bat is a chess match, and I find that intriguing (even if it is a litlle like hugging Aunt Bunny, haha). Granted, I’d much rather see the ball in play, but I appreciate the walk almost as much.

    • bouwills

      I like your approach Remdog. At times your analysis is applicable. Other times, accepting a walk is about the last thing a hitter with Vottos talents should aspire to. I stand by my opinion that at times a walk is not an achievement & occasionally not even a draw.

      • Bill

        Swinging at pitches outside the zone doesn’t lead to success. Would you have told Ted Williams he needed to swing more?

      • VaRedsFan

        Swinging at hittable pitches in the zone is what was being screamed at Votto. 2017 he turned that corner, and was a vote or 2 from being MVP again. Only some fools in the press would say swing at more pitches, while some people with better sense wanted him to swing more at hittable pitches, and not watch them go by.

      • Bill

        Hittable pitches in the zone would be strikes, so watching them go by would result in a strike. A walk is the result of letting pitches outside the zone go by. Your argument makes no sense.

      • VaRedsFan

        You failed to comprehend. Watching hittable pitches go by in key situations is why he was catching so much grief. In 2017, he turned the corner in those situations, thus he had an MVP type of year

      • Bill

        You specifically stated he needs to swing at hittable pitches in the zone. The reason he let’s them go by is the are not good pitches to hit and outside the zone. Do you think he stands there thinking ” this is a good pitch to hit a home run off of, but I really want to lead the league in walks”. Your argument is beyond ridiculous. The guy is hitting .334 with a .998 OPS with RISP. He didn’t “turn a corner” in 2017. This is what he has been doing since 2009. The only difference is his HR totals are down this year.

        Was his HR in extra innings not a “key situation” or does that not count because that didn’t give the team the lead? I can’t keep track of all the unspoken rules of clutch hitting

      • VaRedsFan

        Let me try to simplify it for you since you are having trouble.
        Do you want Votto to watch strike 1 of an AB go right down the center square of of the tic-tac-toe board? Until last year, that’s what he was doing, He turned the corner last year because he started attacking MORE (not a select few) pitches, IN THE ZONE.
        Voila’ 2nd in MVP and probably the best year of his career.

        Last year his in the Zone Swing percentage was 66.6%, his highest percentage since…..you guessed it… 2010. What a coincidence. His 2 best seasons by far, were years when he swung at the most strikes. This year, it is back down to 62.8%, which is more on par with his non-MVP type of seasons. I want the player with the most skills swinging the bat (Votto) to swing at more pitches in the zone, not watch them go by.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Your argument depends on 2010 and 2017 being Votto’s “best seasons by far.” But his two best hitting seasons were 2012 and 2015. Those also happened to be the two seasons of his *lowest* swing rate at pitches in the strike zone. Votto’s wRC+:

        2009 155
        2010 172
        2011 157
        2012 178
        2013 155
        2014 128
        2015 174
        2016 159
        2017 165

        At some point, we’re going to quit second guessing a guy who does this better than almost anyone who’s ever lived.

      • Bill

        Your entire argument is his is not hitting in key situations because he has swung at 3.8% less pitches in the zone this year compared to last?

      • da bear

        heard on the dodger broadcast the other day the guy votto most admires….forgetting his name, not stan musial…..got on base nearly half the time. .500 OBP. must be ted williams.

        Joey Votto is a great OBP machine. Lets not get carried away and put him anywhere near the greats like ted williams.

  29. roger garrett

    All I know is he ambushed a first pitch 92 MPH fastball right down the middle against a lefty last night and pulled it out of the park to right field.Would love to see his power numbers jump the second half and if it can be done he is the guys that can do it.Dude will be able to hit 280 or so and get on base at a 375 clip when he is 45 years old.Guy could use a wooden spoon and hit singles to left all day long.

    • VaRedsFan

      Exactly Roger. Ambush strikes right down the middle. Apparently, some people think it’s OK to watch that pitch go by. I want the best hitter on the team to pound those pitches, like he did the other night, not take it for strike 1.