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.

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

Join the conversation! 33 Comments

  1. Excellent read.

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  2. I agree 2019 offense could be strong, especially if the theoretical OF of Winker/Schebler/Senzel happens/is viable thus remove weak bat of Billy Hamilton. Reds survived with Choo in CF for a year, cant see how Schebler would not be better than that on defense.

    However, as posted by others, its going to come back to pitching. What front line starter can the Reds trade for to fill the gap(the supposedly rejected Bruce/Wheeler trade as a hindsight example) and who among young guns steps up.

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  3. Khris Davis with 46 HRs/120 Rbis. He should be top 3-4 in the AL MVP race, but only has a .873 ops. If Joey was hitting .310 like he usually does then he’d have the same ops. Not to pick on Joey in particular, but hitting the ball over the fence matters more then having a bunch of slow guys walk. I also happened to catch the Cubs on WGN 5-6 weeks ago and they said they were #1 in the NL in 1st to 3rd on singles. They don’t have much speed either? Hitting the ball over the fence and reading the ball off the bat is where this team needs to improve. Its not rocket science.

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    • OBP is important in regards to winning baseball. If you look at the top 14 in MLB in Team OBP, the Reds are the only awful team. The Nationals and Rays are the only non playoff contender.

      To your point, the Reds have the same Team OBP as the Yankees and have scored 122 fewer runs. The Yankees have hit 87 more home runs than the Reds, which is the driving force.

      Votto’s drop in power and very little power in the lineup is an issue in regards to how baseball is played today. The Reds are in a hitting ballpark and have built a small ball team for some reason.

      This is good example of why Hamilton is such an awful fit for the Reds. The Reds essentially have 3 positions of out 9 with no power. Votto’s power drop hurts and very little power in the OF.

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      • OBP is as you said is very important but power especially in GABP is just a must if you want to be a winner in today’s game.Just won’t be able to compete going forward with as you said 3 guys in the order with no power at all.We don’t have a true power hitter to being with but what we do hit are a product of our park.Imagine what a legit power hitter or two would do in the middle of this line up.Taek a guy that hits 20 somewhere else could hit 30 here and a guy that hits 40 could hit 50.Martinez,Davis or Stanton may hit 60 here.Its so tough when visitors come in and just beat us to death with homers.

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      • And they’re not even a particularly good small ball team this year.

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  4. Agreed. Senzel as a super sub wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world (assuming it’s not too much to do that AND get acclimated to the big leagues at the same time). His athleticism plays well in that role and it would also be an important hedge against injuries to the position players.

    The only red flags are (obviously) CF and to a lesser extent catcher. Barnhart has no more ceiling to tap into, he’s only a 0.7 WAR player this year, so any dropoff in production would put him below replacement level. Casali has 0.9 WAR in 1/3 the at-bats. His hit tool has staying power and he is in his prime. I’d even out the playing time 50/50 to maximize their strengths.

    I agree they shouldn’t do anything reckless, but at the same time, how do you change the fortunes of a team this bad? Unless the intent is to spend like the Yankees or empty the farm (my strong preference) to acquire pitching, at some point you have to consider rebalancing the roster in favor of more starting pitching.

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  5. yes the discrepancy between on base percentage and runs scored this year is very disturbing and has to improve. the reds do not have the money to be a homerun hitting team so we have to be creative in order to generate more runs.

    I thought it was interesting this year that after Duvall left our offense really started to struggle. but this is not surprising considering he is the one true situational hitter we have. he would actually swing at a pitch out of the strike zone if he knew he could hit it the other way or lift it into the outfield.

    also I don’t like the fact that Billy and Peraza have “free” reign to steal when they want to. the batter needs to know when and if the base runner is stealing so he can protect the runner. it frustrates me so much when Joey or scooter would take a 1-0 pitch with the runner going.

    the best reds teams that I have known, the ones that won world series, relied on great baserunning and timely hitting to score their runs. the responsibility was shared equally between the baserunner and hitter to manufacture a scoring play.

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    • JREIS, it was more than Reds missing Duvall. Around the same time, both Schebler and Winker got hurt. So a relatively deep lineup got short and offense fell off. Then add in Votto getting drilled in leg as well.

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    • I agree about the base running. Hamilton has tremendous speed but doesnt read pitchers well. Has not been aggressive at all this yr. Peraza is clueless on bases as is votto. I agree with you on duvall. He had a tremendous rbi rate to his abs. Low average beside. Reds dont situation hit well at all and dont drive in runs in leverage situations. All that being said the reds need starting pitching. They sure the hell cant draft it or develope it. All the stats aside pitching wins championships. The losing culture the reds have is palpable. It starts at the very top. Ownership and front office. Until that changes stop talking about managers and the players hes given. The reds will remain a mess!

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  6. It’s like a late season “depression” for Reds hitters the last two season’s.

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  7. Neither Votto nor Winker are going to go 1st/ 3rd son singles, score from 2nd on singles or 1st on doubles with any level of regularity. This effectively depreciates the value of their OBP, especially if a significant portion of their OBP owes to being walked. If this isn’t made up for on the slugging side of the ledger by them or someone hitting when they are on base, the Reds have a very significant issue.

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    • Not sure why you single out Votto and Winker. Any player who has below average speed would fall into this category. That includes Suarez, Barnhart and Casali, to name a few. It would be nice to see data on this to see how often slower runners fail to take a second or third base.

      Plus, taking the extra base is a pretty tiny part of the value of OBP. Advancing runners and being on base to be driven in are far more important.

      Power is important, but emphasizing having to “make up for” a couple guys who don’t always take a second base seems misplaced. For example, I’d suggest it’s FAR more important to get power to “make up for” Billy Hamilton’s total lack of being able to hit (even though he’s sooo fast) than it is worrying about Votto and Winker’s OBP.

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      • I singled them out because they figure to be the 2 highest OBP guys and represent a significant portion of the Reds aggregate on base events.

        It is not their OBP which concerns me, it is the fact it typically takes 3 additional positive events to move them from 1st to home (or 2 to move them from 2nd to home) after they reach unless one of those following positive events is a double or greater.

        I agree that the Reds have a number of guys who are not very good base runners. However I do not believe it is totally about speed. As suggested up this thread, a large portion of it is about reading situations, getting jumps and having the mindset of taking the “extra base”. I recall when Scott Roland came to the Reds in the down side of his career, no longer a speedy runner, that one of the things he prided himself over was instilling the mindset in the team to take the extra base.

        To be clear, a walk is always better than an out but a single is better than a walk; a double better than a single etc. I am NOT saying I’d rather see them make an out chasing bad pitches. I am saying if they can’t take the extra base in the situations I named, that places a greater burden on the offense to score them than if they did take the extra base. Matt highlighted that the Reds were top 5 in OBP but deep on the pack in scoring. The inability to take extra bases almost certainly figures prominently in that.

        As for Hamilton, no argument there. He should have been gone except possibly as a specialty player several yesterdays ago.

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        • Sorry, Scott Roland = Scott Rolen

          Six years is a baseball lifetime I guess.

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        • Please provide data to support the claim that it “typically” takes 3 additional positive events to move Votto from first to home. Genuinely curious.

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          • I will modify my statement to it is my belief it typically takes 3 positive events to move Votto from 1st to home because I do not have access to the sequential data to absolutely establish that.
            For my purposes “positive events” include such things as errors, wild pitches, even so called “productive outs”

            I am considering any activity which advances the runner with the inning continuing as a positive event. For example a lead off walk followed by a single which advanced him to 2nd, a DP attempt which resulted in only 1 out and advanced him to 3B and a following Sac fly to score the runner would be 3 positive events to get him from 1st to home. If on the other hand, this runner had gone 1st to 3rd on the single and scored on a completed DP, the cost of scoring him would have still been 2 outs but only also only 2 versus 3 positive events.

            We are going to have to agree to disagree on this unless you have the data to establish my view is incorrect.

    • Jim. great post. 2/3 of our line up next year will struggle to take extra bases if the lineup includes Barnhart, Scooter, Suarez, Votto, Winker,pitcher.

      it is a real frustrating problem for me who grew up watching the brm and the 1990 club dominate on the bases.

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    • Hey jim scott rolen was not a speed murchant. He was by far the best bese runner we have had in a long time. Pete rose was another. Votto has terrible base instincts. Peraza is 2nd fast runner on team and is clueless. So good base running is more instinctual than speed. Winker is a single hitting base clogger. Also a bad defender.

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      • Winker slugged .529 at MLB is 2017. To me that seems enough to overcome his shortcomings in the field and on the basepaths.

        He dropped off to .431 this year. Depending who else is available that may not get the job done. However we don’t really know what was going on with his shoulder much of the time this season. It was reported as “bruised” or some such for a period before the injury which ended his season.

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  8. It is amazing that the ISO is down this year, because outside of Votto’s decrease in power and the loss of Cozart across the board the power numbers have been pretty similar. Duvall hit 20 in the first half of the season and the previous two seasons his power numbers tanked. Suarez and Gennett have pretty much combined for same amount of home runs. Haven’t checked the OPS for either but would assume about the same. Schebler due to injuries is down some, Barnhart and Hamilton are not considered home run hitters anyway. And Casali as Tuckers backup was certainly better than anything backing him up last year. So the question is: Is this just a result of fickle statistics or something else? One thing for sure you need both OBP and ISO.

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  9. Matt has ID’d the problem — power.

    The 2017 Reds had an ISO (.179) above NL average (.169). The 2018 Reds ISO (.147) was below league average (.157).

    Teams need both power and runners on base to score runs.

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  10. Several Reds players and positions had large drops in ISO from 2017 to 2018:

    Votto > .258 to .138
    Gennett > .236 to .180
    Schebler > .252 to .193
    Cozart to Peraza > .251 to .128
    Duvall (with Reds) > .290 to .194

    Important to consider league-wide decline (.169 to .157) as a baseline context, but in these areas the Reds fell far beyond changes in baseballs or whatever drives league-wide change.

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    • Yes, it was a team wide ISO decline, except for Peraza and Suarez. Scooter has had a great year, but his IO decline almost matches Schebler. That was a bit surprising.

      Joey Votto: 2B- 34 in ’17 and 27 in ’18, down 20%; HR- 36 to 12, down 67%, ISO- .258 to .138, -.120.
      Scott Schebler: 2B- 25 to 19, -24%; HR- 30 to 17, -40%; ISO- .252 to .193, -.059.
      Geno Suarez: 2B- 25 to 22, -11%; HR- 26 to 32, +25%; ISO- .200 to .239, +.039.
      Scooter Gennett: 2B- 22 to 30, +40%, HR- 27 to 23, -13%; ISO- .236 to .180, -.056.
      Jose Peraza: 2B- 9 to 31, +250%, HR- 5 to 13, +160%, ISO- .066 to .128, +.062.
      Tucker Barnhart: 2B- 24 to 21, -12%, HR- 7 to 9, +27%, ISO- .132 to .116, -.016.
      Billy Hamilton: 2B- 17 to 15, -13%, HR, 4 to 4, 0%, ISO- .088 to .088, 0%.

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    • Offering a very difficult to express hypothesis…….and perhaps an uncalculable one to boot:

      (1) Use of shifts continues to increase.
      (2) As the younger Reds gain exposure, shifts are built to contain them.
      (3) The critical assumption is that the shifts are oriented toward containing OBP – converting singles and doubles into outs. After all, if you hit one over everyone’s head over the fence, the shift can has no -direct- outcome.
      (4) The second critical assumption is that Reds’ batters, either on their own initiative, or, as coached, are trying to adapt to the shifts based on OBP as the governing rule.
      (5) And now (drum roll) the question: Do these attempts at adaptation, whether successful or not, disproportionately compromise power generally? This may affect us more than many other teams due to the known GABP reinforcement/selection for home run power.

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    • Both these figures and the ones posted below by WVRedlegs are very helpful in understanding the picture.

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  11. I have called obsessed with HRs here this season. However, as of today, playoff teams and their current HRs totals within MLB….

    Yankees 1st
    Dodgers 2nd
    Athletics 3rd
    Indians 5th
    Brewers 7th
    Cardinals 8th
    Red Sox 9th
    Astros 10th
    Rockies 12th
    Braves 17th
    Cubs 22nd

    Cubs, Rockies and Braves are all Top 10 in defensive WAR…Cubs no. 1.

    The 2018 Reds got outhomered at GABP and their power falls off the table in road games.

    As Steve and Dan Symborski of FanGraphs in his “Elegy” piece have hinted…this roster, while individually likeable and having singular accomplishments, may not be currently constructed to be successful in the MLB of 2018 (and 2019 and beyond).

    Especially in such a HR-friendly park as GABP.

    Winker and Senzel being healthy and both bopping HRs cannot be understated as a massive key to improving the Reds’ 2019 fortunes.

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    • The interesting piece is the Cubs defensive WAR. Without looking into it, you would assume the defense would not be the best since they take guys who can hit and find positions for them later. This is something many of us have called upon the Reds to try with Senzel, Herrera, and others who have been determined to be blocked. It would be interesting to research if the Cubs have focused on drafting versatile players or if it is something trained up through the minors, allowing them to later be plugged in at whatever the weak point in the lineup is.

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    • You are correct and Indy and I have been talking about our lack of power from the beginning.I have never been sold on this line up as being good enough to begin with because of that reason.Two weeks ago we were second in the league in OBP and held that spot for a long time until we fell of the cliff.The game has changed and you better be able to out slug some people and then come playoff time(PLAYOFFS WHAT DO YOU MEAN PLAYOFFS)the game changes and the odds of stringing hits together go down and way down so you better be able to score with one swing.

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  12. Some player development news. The Reds have tabbed Shawn Pender as Vice President of Player Development and Eric Lee as Senior Director of Player Development.
    They had to go to all the way to down the hallway to locate them.
    At least Doug Gray theorizes that since both have been elsewhere and not with the Reds a long time that both could be actual new sets of eyes on player development. Could be maybe.
    I just hope this isn’t indicative of the manager hiring process. I thought this Miami series in front of the collective front office in Miami just killed any remaining hope for Riggleman.
    If the police threw out as wide a net for a dragnet, as the Reds cast for key personnel hires, the police would hardly catch their criminals.
    That is 4 key personnel hires just this season with all coming from in-house. The GM, Director of Amateur Scouting, Director of Player Development, and Senior VP Player Development.
    We may have to sacrifice a copy of the Big 50 on the altar of the Baseball gods in order to fend off a Riggleman hiring for manager.

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  13. Would be interested to know if there is any data that says how many runs we have scored via the home run?I would suspect it is a very high percentage of our total runs scored.If so it would tell me we have built a small ball lineup which is not good at playing small ball and still relies on the home run to score but doesn’t hit enough in a park known for the wall scraping front row homer.In conclusion we need more power.

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  14. Speaking of offense, the Reds are finishing the season looking very much like an offensive juggernaught, if we use the other meaning of offensive.

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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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2018 Reds, At-Bat with Matt