You may recall that the Reds started the season somewhat poorly where hitting was concerned. They Were shut out in four of their first nine games. That’s not great. And the perception is that the Reds haven’t hit really all year, even now.

But here’s one of the things about me: I like to look things up. And, since the 1-8 start the Reds have scored at a basically league average rate of 4.44 runs per game (doesn’t include Monday night). That’s not he dynamite offense we expected, but it’s big departure from the 2.63 runs per game they registered during that dreadful nine-game stretch to start the year.

In particular, the team has been carried by Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez. Winker has had a .317/.388/.700 line since April 9 and Suarez has come in at .262/.342/.538. Joey Votto‘s .236/.354/.400 line is also a tick above average over all (103 wRC+), though obviously not up to his usual standards.

The rest of the lineup has been a notch below average with the exceptions of Scott Schebler and Jose Peraza who have been, um, not good at all and Curt Casali who’s been excellent in limited playing time.

And you know what? Odds are it’s going to get significantly better yet. Even without Nick Senzel. Everyone in the lineup with the exception of Winker is playing below their previous standards. While it’s possible the entire lineup suddenly turned into one collective pumpkin, that’s not a bet that’s likely to win you that much money.

In fact, since the 1-8 start, the Reds have played at a 90-win pace. Does that mean they’re going to win 90 games? I mean, probably not, but we don’t know, and that’s what bothers me about these early season narratives. Lots of weird things happen early on. Some of those things are meaningful and some aren’t, but the point is that it is still early. If we get to the end of May and the Reds are still scuffling below .500, well, okay, we might be able to conclude that it isn’t meant to be for this team. (Though I would point out that the 2012 team that won 97 games didn’t go over .500 to stay until May 19.) But until then?

The idea behind this column is to assess how close the Reds are to being really good. And I still think they might be reasonably close. The pitching has been very good in ways that aren’t extremely surprising and the hitting has been inconsistent in a way that is very surprising. In baseball, the surprises tend to not last, so there’s plenty of hope. No need to despair yet.

32 Responses

  1. Pete

    “But here’s one of the things about me: I like to look things up.”

    Amen brother, amen. Facts talk all else walks. Jason, great work as you have put things in perspective. If a 1-8 slide happened in June or August, no big deal. At the inception of the a new season? Panic. It’s a human reaction. In our minds we have released so many non producers, we are down to a roster of 15.

    I submit the Reds have played their worst baseball already and everything from here will show improvement. I like the club’s makeup and when Senzel, Wood and Scooter join the mix, I’ll really like it.

    • lost11found

      Facts are facts, but some facts (like aggregate runs scored or runs per game) don’t have much of a story to tell.

      Glad that suarez and winker have been swinging the bats well for the most part. Votto is drawing walks but hopefully the high K-rate (for him) is April SSS.

      They’ve been shutout four times (which is bad) and has 2 10-run (or so) wins (which is good). Taken together thats 2-4, which is meh.

      They will need production from others to make things work out favorably, but I wouldn’t count on anything from wood or Gennet due to the injuries or from Senzel (due to youth). I wouldn’t be surprised if these folks contribute, but they need others to carry the load as well.

      • Pete

        Everything is SSS at this point. The trend is very positive and reinforcements are on the way.

  2. FreeHouse

    Vargas is the type of pitcher who’s been tossing gems against this team. High ERA guys have been finding a way to dominate the Reds so far this season. Hoping the Reds can get more than 3 runs tonight.

  3. Sliotar

    xFIP of starters

    Gray 2.87
    Castillo 3.29
    Mahle 3.49
    DeSclafani 4.67
    Roark 5.15

    Two good pitchers and two bums. Not surprising, except Mahle might have a turned a corner.

    Offense is bottom 5 in wRC+, bottom 10 in BB%…middle of pack in HRs and K%

    In short… not a horrible team, but nothing so far (other than hope) to indicate they are close to being really good.

    Votto with a 26% K rate. He is an old baseball player and showing it this season. At least he wasn’t in the leadoff spot last night.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      To paraphrase the infamous comments of former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green, Roark “is what we thought he is.” Even so, it’s still a good trade. As a number five starter, he’s much better than what the Reds have had in that slot for most of the past four years. If Alex Wood ever becomes available, one way to reconfigure pitching staff roles might be to move Roark to long relief. He seems to do okay his first and second times through the batting order, but number three is usually when the wheels begin to fall off.

      • greenmtred

        Without looking it up, my impression is that none of the Reds’ starters are stellar the third time through the batting order.

      • citizen54

        Castillo, Gray and Mahle are still above average the third time through the order. Roark and Desclafani , not so good, although only a 4 inning sample size at this point.

    • Pete

      DeSciafani is no bum, his first start was bad 4 runs in 4 innings, since then:
      6 in, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K
      6 in, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K

      If Anthony is a bum, we need a couple more. He needs to stay healthy, that’s all.

      • lwblogger2

        Agree. Assuming health, there is no reason to think that the xFIP (or ERA for that matter) will be over 4.50. I would expect him to be right around 4.00. That’s not stellar but it’s certainly not a bad number for a #4 starter making just a shade over $2-million.

    • Steve Mancuso

      League average xFIP is 4.37, so I wouldn’t consign DeSclafani to the bum pile. His career xFIP is 3.97. Career stats are far more predictive right now than the few 2019 starts.

    • citizen54

      Reds starters have amassed the most fWAR in the National League despite having two people you consider bums. And for the record, league xFIP is 4.37 so Desclafani isn’t even a bum. Roark has had three good games and three bad games and he is hardly a dumpster fire for a #5 Starter. His hard contact % and GB% have jumped considerably in the wrong direction when compared to last year and his career averages but let’s wait to see if his jump in xFIP is due to SSS or him actually turning into a bum. Ya things might change, but for now I’ll take the Reds starting five over any other five in the National League.

      As for Votto he is an ideal candidate to leadoff because of his OBP. Ya he is striking out a lot more than usual but as long as he can get on base, age and k% shouldn’t hinder his ability to bat leadoff.

  4. Matt WI

    I guess last night’s AAA game did it for sure… Senzel is coming up on Friday!

  5. Kettering Reds Fan

    A conjecture…..one which I freely admit up front is -way- beyond my ability or resources to test.

    For MLB (total) and the Reds, annualized:

    …..HR/total hits
    …..HR+sac fly/total hits
    …..RBI / HR
    …..RBI / HR+sac fly

    Why? Granted that each of the current Reds have their own narrative about why they aren’t hitting yet/right now, it still strikes me as perverse that we have so many guys not hitting at once and that it can all be accounted for by the sum of individual narratives. It’s partially true, to be sure, but, statistically, the current mess seems far out on the long tail of any normal distribution.

    We also know that (a) chicks dig the long ball, (b) analytics in vogue emphasize, among other things, raising the launch angle to produce more big flys, (c) everyone seems to be promoting this and (d) we just brought in a batting coach who espoused this at his prior club (BTW, this is -not- intended as a knock on Ward, insufficient time or data to support an evaluation).

    I’m concerned that, at least in the short run, this tendency, coupled with defensive shifts to limit in-field hits, is producing a monoculture in hitting style when, in fact, we need a mix of high-power and high-average/high OBP to succeed. You can’t systematically win if you are overly dependent on solo dingers……

    No systematic study or data collection to support this, just raw perception.

    Any takers?

    • greenmtred

      Just a gut reaction: I share your concern. I’d bet that a team of Joe Morgans would beat a team of Adam Dunn’s like that poor rented mule. And, besides, the increasin gly one-dimensional baseball is a crashing bore to watch.

      • Kettering Reds Fan

        Gazing into a convenient crystal ball:

        One can envision the day, still a few years down the road, when the Reds appoint Joey to the position of Batting Coach for Life. One could do worse……..

  6. Matthew Habel

    Since the 1-8 start, the team’s wRC+ is only 87 and they have scored four or fewer runs (below average) in 12 of the 19 games. Yes, they have shown flashes of hitting well, but overall, they are still well below average, even factoring out the bad start.

    They really have only strung together one strong week of offense, at home vs Miami/STL

  7. Roger Garrett

    Offense is the same as last year.Got Puig and lost Scooter.We were middle of the pack and were terrible the last 6 weeks of the season.We can go with Iggy’s production at short but the rest of this team has to hit.Casali needs more starts and Senzel/Scooter help big time.Untill then Peraza and Schebler must hit and until they do we have too many holes to consistently score.Our lineup last night is at best 4th in our division and that won’t cut it now or in the future.

  8. jreis

    Jason, it is all about getting players up here that get on base a lot AND are fast enough to score runs when they are on base. This leads to an offense that can actually generate run scoring plays WITHOUT a home run which will lead to more consistent offensive production. Senzel will help, then next year when hopefully Trammel is ready you have too high obp fast guys in the lineup. Combine this with the homerun hitting of Winker and Suarez then, yes, finally THIS Offense will really be clicking. until then I Expect continued feast or famine results with the offense.

    • lwblogger2

      The OBP is the key. The speed is far less important but it is certainly better to have on-base skills AND speed. Speed certainly doesn’t hurt. Guys who have a high OBP and can slug a little (good number of extra-base-hits) are even more valuable. It’s possible that Senzel and Trammel are both that sort of player AND they have the speed that you are always talking about. They may need a year or two in MLB to find their strides but I think they will both be above-average MLB starters.

  9. matthew hendley

    Senzel comming up. This can only trend these numbers in a positive direction

    • Doc

      Vlad Jr is at .250/.308/.333. That line for Senzel would not be much of an offensive boost, and nobody was rating Senzel in Vlad’s class, not even chief cheerleader and pseudo-agent Doug. Best wishes, and I hope Senzel surprises and does great things, but I’ll need to see the performance on the big league field. Haven’t seen it from Vlad yet.

      • lwblogger2

        I agree. Young guys are no guarantee. In Vlad’s case though, the guy is going to hit. That line is for less than a week of work.

  10. Doc

    Reds are 11-8 since disastrous start and, per author, have averaged 4.44 runs per game over those 19 games. While technically true, 26 of those runs came in two games, which accounts for, rounded, 1.4 runs per game over those 19 games. That means they have averaged 3 runs per game in the other 17 games, which is not as much better than the 2.63/game in the first nine games. Averages can be deceiving when looking at a group of numbers with a large standard deviation.

    If they score 30 runs in one game, and zero in each of the next nine, they average three runs a game, and record a 1-9 record at best, as this hypothetical example illustrates. If the league averages 4.4/game, but does it without blowups, they win 7-8 of 10 versus a team with the same average but two based on two huge blowout wins.

    The Reds are playing better offensively and the offense is ticking upward, but the offense is effectively more like a half run per game better over the last 17, not almost 2 runs per game better. Key word is effectively.

  11. Sandman

    I’m glad they’ve seen the uptick in runs scored since the start but it’s still underwhelming when you consider what this offense SHOULD be able to do even with Scooter’s injury and Senzel in the minors. I’m hoping that Senzel along with Winker and Saurez will get this offense REALLY going!

    I know that a lot of hitters tend to get off to slow starts and I’m hoping that’ll change when the calendar turns to May. Just a little impatient with the offense.

  12. scottya

    Reds team babip is currently .246
    Last year it was .307, in 17′ it was .294

    Reds runs scored 101 and given up 91. +10 run differential ranks 6th in the NL. If the pitching continues to peform at this rate, this team will be in the playoffs.

      • scottay

        the Bapip is an indicator that it will and the arrival of Nick Senzel is another reason.

    • Pete

      I realize that it is not fair but the team needs an offense of spark. Unfortunately this will fall on the shoulders of Nick Senzel. I agree with your optimistic view. When the offense does begin to click, and it will, this will be a formidable team. Keep the faith.

  13. andybado

    Jason, this seems like you are cherry-picking results to support a narrative…

    In 2 of the games since April 9, the Reds scored a combined 26 runs — 24% of their total output on the season! The Reds have not been good on offense this year and have not been scoring very many runs.

    They are averaging 3.8 runs per game on the season. If you eliminate the outliers (all 4 shutouts and the 2 double digit games), it’s 3.6. MLB average is 4.6 and the Reds are 25th in runs per game. That’s seems about right, even considering their recent improvement. Of their 29 games played, they have scored 3 runs or fewer 16 times (and 10 times since April 9). That’s not good!

    The Reds have as many regulars above 100 wRC+ (which is average) as they do below 50 wRC+. They have 4 of each!

    I am hopeful the Reds can turn this around, but I don’t think there has been a major shift in production yet this year. They were awful at the beginning of the year, and they have been pretty bad since April 9 (except for a couple of outliers).