With the season a little more than a third over, let’s check in on how the Reds are hitting. First, we’ll look at how the team is doing and then compare individuals to their own career numbers, to the MLB average and to how they were hitting in April, the last time we conducted this check-up. We’re not making predictions or projections, just discussing what has taken place.
We know the Reds offense struggled early. Their batting average (.210) at the end of April was last in MLB, walk-rate (8.5%) 20 out of 30, power (.166 ISO) was 18 of 30 and Exit Velocity was 28 out of 30. Overall, they were 26 of 30 in Runs Created (71 wRC+), or 29 percent worse than average. The main culprit was contact. The Reds xwOBA (expected, weighted on-base average) in April was .285, which put them dead last in MLB.
How have things changed over the past six weeks? Here’s a chart:
Better, but still not even average.
The Reds raised their batting average from .210 to .249 in May/June (the league hit .251) for a through-June 9 AVG of .233, good for a rank of 26 out of 30 in the league. The Reds walk-rate fell by 10% from April to May/June, landing them at 19 out of 30 in the league. The Reds power hitting stayed right where it was, good for 20 out of 30. Exit Velocity rose a bit. Quality of contact (xwOBA) followed the same pattern, improved but still below average.
The best summary of how the Reds have been hitting is found by wRC+, which weights all the hitting outcomes, including walks, and puts it on a 100-point scale. The Reds had been 29 percent worse than average. In May/June, they were only 11 percent worse than average.
Let’s take a look at individual players. The first four columns are wOBA, which is weighted on-base average. [FanGraphs explainer] It’s a composite stat that takes every batting outcome, assigns it a linear weight and scales it to actual run outcome. Not all hits are equal in value. Doubles are worth more than singles, etc. wOBA is one of the best metrics to judge overall performance at the plate. The fifth column is xwOBA (the “x” stands for expected). It takes Statcast data and measures every ball put in play and assigns a linear weight for the expected outcome. [MLB explainer] xwOBA adjusts wOBA for defense and luck.
I’ve organized them by position groupings to make the data more bite-sized. Start with the catchers:
No sugar coating here. Tucker Barnhart is having a terrible season at the plate with no sign of anything changing. 246 major league players have at least 150 plate appearances. Barnhart ranks 219 in wOBA. Curt Casali’s numbers are based on a smaller sample size, but they are significantly better than Barnhart. The fifth column (.310 vs. .280) is the best indicator of the gap.
Now to the outfielders.
Jesse Winker really slumped in May/June, with his wOBA falling sharply from .355 to .323. A decent chunk of that was bad luck, since his xwOBA was .342. But it’s still well below his number from last year. David Bell has been platooning Winker, so recent numbers are mostly against RHP, his better side.
Nick Senzel has been just a bit above average, which is an encouraging, but not blow-your-socks-off, start.
Yasiel Puig has rebounded a decent amount from his terrible start in April, and he’s been unlucky. The gap between his xwOBA (how he hit the ball) vs. his 2019 wOBA (outcomes) is large. But overall Puig’s numbers remain far below his career average.
Finally, let’s check out the infielders.
Joey Votto hit worse in May/June than he did in April. He’s way off his career number and even his 2018 figure. Bad luck is not to blame. That said, he’s still contributing right around league average (.322). If you’re looking for wispy silver linings, in his last 12 games Votto’s wOBA was a Votto-like .415.
Eugenio Suarez has been an above average hitter in 2019, but so far he’s hit more similar to his pre-2018 self, not a repeat of his breakout 2018 season.
Jose Peraza has improved since his dreadful April. But his numbers are still lower than Tucker Barnhart’s. Peraza’s problem remains that he just hits the ball too softly. 164 batters have put at least 140 balls in play this year. Peraza ranks #159 in percentage of balls hit at or above 95 mph Exit Velocity. His average EV is ranked 161 out of 164.
Jose Iglesias is coming back to his career numbers. Iglesias has had 2600 plate appearances and produced a .276 wOBA. There was no reason to believe he could sustain his terrific April output. The “luck” numbers indicated as much back then. He’s still having a nice season compared to what he’s done in the past, but be prepared for his spot in the order to be less and less productive.
Finally, there’s Derek Dietrich, who had an all-world May/June to add on to a strong April. Bell is helping that along by using Dietrich almost exclusively against RHP. Dietrich has also become more of a pull hitter, which explains his bump in homers. But he’s not going to hit 50 long balls. Since his 3-HR game on May 28, Dietrich has gone homer-less in 29 plate appearances. Still, he’s having a great season and there’s good reason that his approach at the plate will continue to produce above-career numbers.