It’s no secret the Reds offense struggled in April.

Their batting average of .210 ranked last out of 30 teams (.244 league average). The Reds walk-rate was 8.5%, good for 20th out of 30 (9.1% league average). In power, the Reds .166 ISO was 18th (.175 league average). The Reds are 28 out of 30 in average Exit Velocity.

Overall, the Reds were 26th in Runs Created, with a 71 wRC+ (league average 100). That means the Reds offense was 29 percent worse than league average in April.

The main culprit was quality of contact. The statistic xwOBA stands for expected weighted on base average. It measures every ball actually put in play and assigns a linear weight for the expected outcome. It also accounts for walks and strikeouts. If you need a refresher on how xwOBA is built, I broke it down a couple years ago and Statcast has a useful explanation. The statistic measures talent independent of defense and luck.

The Reds xwOBA for April was .285, compared to league average .322. That put them 30th out of 30. Dead Last.

Let’s look at individual Reds players. The first column shows the career wOBA. The second column is wOBA for 2018. The third and fourth columns are from April 2019. wOBA(19) shows the actual outcome of batted balls. xwOBA(19) shows expected outcome. The difference between the last two columns is defense and luck. League average is shown in the bottom row.

The chart is sorted by xwOBA for April:
  • Jesse Winker and Derek Dietrich were a clear cut above the rest.
  • Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto were second-tier, roughly at league average.
  • Every other Reds hitter was WAY below league average (.322) in offensive performance. Tucker Barnhart, Yasiel Puig and Jose Iglesias were in a third tier.
  • The worst hitters were Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza and Matt Kemp who was some kind of awful.

Looking at actual outcomes vs. luck/defense neutral measurements:

  • Winker, who had the best actual hitting outcome (.355), actually deserved even better (.381).
  • Dietrich, Suarez, Votto, Barnhart, Schebler, Peraza and Kemp basically got what they deserved.
  • Yasiel Puig had terrible results (.239), deserved better (.286) but even at that rate was way below his career average (.336).
  • Jose Iglesias was lucky. His quality of contact (.279) was right in line with his 2018 (.280) and career (.276) numbers. His actual results (.334) aren’t something we should expect to continue.
  • In comparison to career numbers, Joey Votto’s 2019 (.319) was well below last year (.395) and his career number (.406). Yasiel Puig falls into the same category. Matt Kemp was like from a different planet. Jose Peraza (.230) was also substantially below 2018 (.309) and his career (.305).

Can the career numbers tell us anything?

  • None of the Reds were significantly above their career performance.
  • Winker, Dietrich, Barnhart and Iglesias were close to their career numbers in batting performance.
  • Suarez was near his career average, but well below the better-hitting Eugenio Suarez of 2018.
  • Votto, Puig, Schebler, Peraza and Kemp were well below their career numbers.

Important things to remember:

  • This is only one month of data. Use it to understand what happened. But it’s not a reliable predictor looking forward.
  • Using the turn of a calendar page as an endpoint is an arbitrary practice.
  • Professional projections (ZiPS, Steamer, Marcel, etc.) that were formulated before the season are still far more reliable for the rest of the season than extrapolating from the first month.
  • Age-related decline can be gradual or not-so-gradual.

[You can find more of Steve’s writing at Reds Content Plus.]

10 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    This was very interesting. It just goes to show just how disappointing the Opening Day OF had been in April. All 3 way below their norms. Two are now gone and the last man standing may be finally starting to thaw out. I was beginning to feel like Puig had stored his bat in a vat full of liquid Nitrogen. Maybe Votto’s bat is in a cryogenic freezer somewhere with Ted Williams head.
    I hope you do this same exercise at the end of May and compare it with April. Hopefully there will be a lot of improvement to show in May.

    • indydoug

      Maybe Votto’s bat is in a cryogenic freezer somewhere with Ted Williams head.

      Priceless!

  2. Sliotar

    Nice explanation, Steve, as usual, of why the reader should care about xwOBA and its application after only one month.

    As of today, the Reds are 7th in home runs in MLB. However, many of them are with no one on base. Several of Dietrich’s have been this way, all 3 of Senzel’s have been solo shots, etc., etc.

    If the bottom part of the lineup can get to league average….look out.

  3. jreis

    i am hoping Senzel will be our leadoff guy from today going forward. with his high obp and speed he should create a lot of havoc up front and allow Votto and Suarez to see some more hittable pitches.
    Also I am not too keen on having Puig in the clean up spot. HE Just seems better fit for a number 5 or 6 hole hitter. Once Scooter returns Puig can be moved lower down in the line up and then I think our offense will really take off

  4. David

    I would expect that at some point in this year, most of the players will end up near their career normal numbers.
    Someone may be in decline, and never get there, and someone may go way over his career norms (Dietrick?), and there is not much career to go on in evaluating Winker and Senzel.

    Having said the obvious, I also wonder if we will look at the Reds pitching in April, and see where that is. I think that, intuitively, their pitching was pretty good in April, but not sure how that compares with the individual career norms.

    And…..(subtle silence)….where will the pitchers end up by the end of the year.

    Cutting out data by month is always arbitrary, but it was the first real month of hitting “data”.

  5. Old-school

    What about ball park factors and weather. The Reds- probably by design – had a lot of Road games early when they won’t sell tickets at home – and in not so friendly hitter parks. Also Gabp plays complete ly different in cold wet April than warm humid July.
    I remember Puig crushing a ball on the left coast and caught at wall , thinking if that’s GABP in June it’s gone.

    I’m confident in this new outfield and Suarez is in his prime. The numbers on Votto are encouraging. Great info. Dietrich is a gem. Great addition. Iglesias as well, Jose that it is. I’d buy a ticket to watch him play SS. His offense is ok when considering that glove. What to do about Barnhart?

    • SoCalRedsFan

      I think Casali should start seeing more starts.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Ball park factors wouldn’t affect xwOBA because it’s based on how the ball is hit, not where it lands. But you’re right about weather possibly affecting bats. Of course, hot humid nights can be good for pitchers, too, for various reasons.

  6. Roger Garrett

    Once the OBP improves so will the runs scored.I expect Votto,Senzel and Winker to be way above league average.I expect Puig,Scooter and Suarez to be at or a tick above league average.All of these are probable because of their track record.The key will be at short and at catcher.Right now the homers and the pitching are constant but we must get on base more often.For the Reds to even come close to being in the hunt or a team nobody wants to play they must be a top 5 team in runs scored.A feat that hasn’t happened since I am going to guess 2013 if then.It can happen but there is work to do on offense.