Previously, I took a look at how each individual player fared this season relative to 2017. Today, we will focus on the overall team performance relative to the rest of the National League.
As the Reds sputter towards the finish line of the 2018 season, it may seem like years ago that the offense was playing playoff caliber baseball. Fast forward to the past two weeks and the bats have gone historically silent.
The Reds offense has literally never been this bad over 12 games.
— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) September 24, 2018
Recency bias aside, the Reds experienced some positives with younger players getting playing time and developing, as well as some negatives through injuries, regression and aging. All teams have to deal with these, so let’s see how the Reds compare to the rest of the league over the course of the full season.
Earlier this year, I posted about how the Reds offense appeared to be rebuilt based on a strong trend of improvements since 2014.While there were some major question marks heading into 2018, such as replacing Cozart’s production and Scooter Gennett’s follow up to his miraculous year, the prospect of adding Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel provided a healthy dose of optimism as well.
Things did not go quite as planned but all-in-all it could certainly have been much worse for the Reds offense. Injuries to Winker and Senzel were not ideal and Joey Votto had a bit of a power outage, none of which helped. But Peraza improved and Scooter kept on hitting and the end result was slightly less production than the team got a year ago.
The interesting part is not that the Reds took a step backward, but rather they did so despite being better at getting on base. If I knew going into the season the Reds would be 4th in the NL in OBP, I would certainly think they would have landed higher than 8th for OPS. But, that is where we are as the importance of power really rears its head as a drop in slugging and ISO made this club less of a threat at the plate.
Plate discipline was also a bit hit or miss. Despite improving overall OBP, the team’s walk rate rank decreased from 5th to 7th, but strikeout rate improved from 6th to 4th. Again, ISO takes the big hit, falling from 7th to 12th, leading only the Padres, Giants and Marlins.
Digging into this more, it’s hard to find anything conclusive, as the Reds Swing% and Contact% are essentially the same as last year. The biggest change is in HardHit%, which increased significantly, jumping from 29.4% (14th) to 35.7% (8th). It is strange that this did not result in more power for the team but it could mean that the overall approach is sound and the results just were not there.
Although base running does not have near the same importance has actual hitting does, it can provide teams with an extra advantage, all of which add up and can make the difference between October baseball and the off-season. Even with the speedy Billy Hamilton, the Reds are still not getting that edge on the base paths.
Led by nearly a 50% (59 to 32) drop in stolen bases from Billy, while also getting caught more frequently, the Reds fell to the middle of the pack in the NL. However, their overall BaseRunning Runs rank remained the same, below league average at 11th. Despite Riggleman’s focus on the fundamentals, the data does not show any improvements that were the result of better base running.
That brings us to overall production, which depending on the metric either stayed the same or took a slight step backward.
Nothing too exciting about this. The offense is certainly not the issue with this team, though it could stand to make another push into the top tier of the league, considering the pitching will need all the help they can get.
There are a fair share of questions and concerns going forward, but while Votto does not have youth on his side almost everyone else does. The team’s lineup was the 3rd youngest in the NL, coming in just over 27 years old. Assuming injury concerns are behind Winker and Senzel, they will continue to help that number. If the young players keep developing and the Reds do not do anything too reckless, one would not have to squint too hard to see a really potent lineup in place for 2019.
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.