We know the Reds offense has been struggling all year long. We also know that FanGraphs plus stats make it very easy to compare lots of fun metrics to league average. Just like weighted runs created plus (wRC+), anything less than 100 is below average (good for strikeouts, bad for walks, etc.) and anything greater than 100 above average. Let’s take a look at which players stand out, both good and bad.

BB%+ and K%+

Scott Schebler (remember him?) may have had a short run with the Reds this year but he sure was taking a lot of walks. His BB%+ leads the team by a longshot at 168, well above Tucker Barnhart (136) and Joey Votto (134). Curt Casali and Josh VanMeter are also doing well, both at 126.

The worst culprits who are not taking walks are the usual suspects; Jose Peraza (45) and Jose Iglesias (41) are to be expected with Kyle Farmer (44) also underperforming. Freddy Galvis is down at 34 but is very early in his Reds career and has been excelling at pretty much everything else, so we will cut him some slack there.

Moving on to strikeouts, the five “J”s have all been above average. Josh (VanMeter, 99), Joey (Votto, 95), Jesse (Winker, 72) and both Joses (Peraza – 71, Iglesias 63) may not be lighting the world on fire at the plate, but they are at least striking out less than league average.

Kyle Farmer and Freddy Galvis have been strong underperformers (136) in terms of strikeouts. Farmer will need to improve his plate discipline going forward if he is going to be an above average hitter. Eugenio Suarez is pretty high at 128, with Casali, Barnhart, Dietrich and Aquino rounding out the rest of notables who are above 110. One surprise to me is Aquino with a 106 BB%+ and a 111K%+. The Reds will certainly take those numbers if he can keep harnessing his power like he has.

AVG+ and OBP+

Batting average doesn’t tell the whole story, but there are some interesting stat lines to call out here. Three players have an AVG+ greater than 100 but a wRC+ below 100. They are Jose Iglesias (113, 89), Nick Senzel (101, 92) and Joey Votto (101, 98). Eugenio Suarez (99, 116) and Derek Dietrich (80, 118) fall into the opposite category. This feels about right for Dietrich and Suarez, who have utilized their power to make up for below average contact ability. For Senzel and Votto, the Reds will be hoping they can improve their walk rates and power rather relying on batting average to drive production. Jose Iglesias definitely fits the profile of a high average, low on-base and power guy, which is exactly who he has been for the Reds this year.

OBP+ highlight some of the Reds struggles this year. There are only five players with an OBP+ greater than 110 and they all have relatively small samples. They are Freddy Galvis (133), Michael Lorenzen (120), Aristedes Aquino (116), Phillip Ervin (116) and Josh VanMeter (115). It is no wonder the offense struggled in the first half before these guys started getting playing time. The only full season starters who are above average are Jesse Winker (107), Joey Votto (106) and Eugenio Suarez (102).

On the flip side, none of the regulars are egregiously bad, with Kyle Farmer and Jose Peraza bringing up the rears down at 86 and 87. So while the new/young players are the only ones with good numbers, there are only a few liabilities in terms of getting on base, which is encouraging.

IS0+

If someone had told me the three Reds players with the highest ISO+ on August 23rd would be Aquino (269), Ryan Lavarnway (236) and Freddy Galvis (166), I really am not sure I would have signed up for this season. Once you look past the small sample sizes though, Dietrich (162), Suarez (142) and Puig (118) make a bit more sense at the top of the list. The frightening numbers are looking at the bottom three regulars, two of which are obviously Iglesias (68) and Peraza (58), but which also includes Votto (79). Votto has clearly struggled at the plate this year and his power outage is a huge reason why. This also makes a case that Iglesias and Peraza can’t/shouldn’t be in the lineup together. Once you add in the pitcher, that is three guys who are not going to hit for much, if any power.

BABIP+

Batting average on balls in play can be attributed to several factors (luck, shifts, etc.) but it does provide some additional insight since we know that extreme numbers are not sustainable.  For example, Freddy Galvis’s 182 BABIP+ is driving some of his hot start with the Reds and will eventually cool off as balls stop falling in for hits. Phillip Ervin (136) and Josh VanMeter (122) are two other who are sporting well above average BABIPs, and could be inflating their current numbers a bit.

Dietrich (118 wRC+, 65 BABIP+) and Aquino (194 wRC+, 87 BABIP+) are two Reds who have had good overall success despite well below average BABIPs. They also have two of the lower ground ball rates on the team, which is a big contributor to that. Keeping the ball off the ground is almost guaranteed to improve offensive production, especially when you have power like those two.

GB%+, FB%+ and LD%+

Speaking of ground ball rates, two Reds that have higher than ideal GB%+ are Winker (114) and Senzel (113). Winker makes up for it with a good LD%+ (121) but Senzel is below average in both line drives and fly balls, so from that perspective it makes sense why he has been struggling a bit. On the other hand, Votto has a seemingly strong batted ball profile (113 LD%+ and FB%+, 82 GB%+) but not as productive overall numbers. Still, it is a good sign that Votto is keeping the ball off the ground.

Other players with low GB%+ that have seen better success include Ervin (91), Suarez (88) and VanMeter (85). It is nice to see some younger getting the ball up as much as possible. If they can continue with strong approaches and good contact, there is a good chance some will be key contributors to the offense next year.

12 Responses

  1. Don

    Nice article.

    Not sure what all the advanced stats mean (being an engineer), it looks like a lot of numbers that can be put on a chart for a lower level manager to summarize something to a higher level manager on a chart as a summary.

    Some of them seem to contradict each other’s conclusions and Jose Iglesias’s value.

    I guess I am still old school, the batting average, runs scored and RBI’s mean that you are contributing to runs being scored since the team with the most number of runs win.

    Great advanced stats but no runs scored or RBI’s means the team will loose.

    Just like runs allowed by pitchers has the most direct impact on wins/looses for the team.

    • Jefferson Green

      You are correct that runs scored/RBI and runs (not) given up determined what happened in the last game (and the season to this point), but they (ERA, RBI) are poor predictors of which players will help the team win tomorrow (and next season). The advanced stats are much better for predicting.
      Classic example that may help illustrate the point: Alfredo Simon had an All Star season after the Reds picked him up (off waivers, no less). His runs given up and wins were well above average, but his advanced stats showed that he wasn’t in reality so good as his results in these categories indicated (good defense on that team combined with Simon being much luckier than average on hits falling in made a lower than average pitcher have better than average results in ERA and wins). Detroit needed a starting pitcher, so they traded two significant young players for him. They ignored the advanced numbers. Simon proceded to pitch that following season in the manner that his advanced stats said he would. He was well below average, fell out of their rotation, and Detroit wound up waiving him the next year. In the meantime, the Reds have an All Star third baseman named Suarez contributing significantly for many years.
      Hope this helps.

      • da bear

        JG, I would say choosing the appropriate stats is of utmost importance….and may vary from individual to individual. There is an art to add to the science, and going by raw numbers without having visualized the actual data points is what leads to mistakes.

        Anybody who watched those Alfredo Simon performances that led to his all star selection easily saw the numbers were not sustainable. Despite the decent ERA and very impressive W-L record, Simon was getting hammered. However, those balls were headed directly at fielders or were being caught due to great defensive play.

        Don is touching on the need for more advanced stats – offensive stats that get at the heart of what enables a team to win. Ones that appropriately value speed and good decision making – that would give some credit for outs avoided and take away credit for bone headed base running or poor fielding.

        And stats that expose who performs better when it counts more. Hitting performance when runners are on base. Performance weighted when the score is tied or within a run or two versus performance when the score is lopsided and the hitter is facing the other team’s shortstop on the mound.

        Finer details, more granularity is needed to make better assessments of who added value to the team. Ultimately who scored runs and generated runs, and who prevented opposition runs from scoring, while taking out the fluff production.

        That all matters, especially when the difference between .400 OBP and .350 OBP in a vacuum is 5 percentage points, or only 1.5 more times on base a week.

      • Doc

        Give a broad spectrum of examples, preferably across all comers. A single example is anecdotal, not scientific.

    • da bear

      Totally agree. Great article, but inhibited by what I’ll guess is lack of access to a database – if such a database exists – with more comprehensive information toward weighted values of plate appearances. An at bat with runners on base is obviously more important than an at bat with the bases empty.

      Extreme example to get at the heart of the interdependency of the VALUE of any individual player: suppose Mike Trout gets on base 100 out of 100 plate appearances and none of them are HRs. His WAR and wRC is off the charts. But if he scores ZERO times because Ohtani, Simmons and whomever hits behind him fail all hundred times to drive him home……Trout’s value to the team in those 100 instances are the same as if he’d struck out all 100 times….despite a very different WAR and wRC valuation.

      It’s a team sport, and for the team, imperative each dollar is spent wisely….especially for a team with a cable contract that draws revenues $150MM or $200MM per year less than the biggest market teams.

      • BigRedMike

        Fangraphs does have Win Probability Added and a breakdown of Low, Medium, and High Leverage situations.
        In your initial paragraph, an AB with runners on is more important than with bases empty. Does that apply if it is late in the game with a 5-10 run difference between the teams? Isn’t an AB in a 1 run or tied game with no runners on more important than an AB with runners on down 8 in the 9th inning?
        I think there just needs to be ratings for individual players and additional breaks of scenarios to utilize as needed.

      • Gary Davis

        They don’t “weigh” the at bats because it actually is important to hit when no one is on base. You have to get ’em on to get ’em in.

      • da bear

        To BigRedMike: absolutely. Totally agree, see my post in response to Jefferson Green above, mention that in the fourth para. The plate appearances should be weighted for factors such as total bases possible including potential bases for runners already on base, and of course for the score at the time of the game, and how close to sudden death the game is situated.

        To Gary Davis: yes there is value to getting on when the bases are empty so you can be driven home. All other salient points being the same, it’s just not as valuable a situation when the bases are empty (4 possible total bases) as when runners are on base (10 possible total bases when fully loaded).

  2. Ethan L

    I love the numbers and breakdown. Could I ask where you accessed these numbers. I’d love to dig around myself. Awesome stuff!

    • Shchi Cossack

      From Fangraphs, go to the ‘Leaders’ tab and select Batting Leaders 2019.

      The really useful aspect is that Fangraphs has a plethora of data and selection criteria that can be applied. If you just want to look at Reds hitters, select Reds from the Team pulldown menu. This creates a downloadable table with pre-selected common stats. Below this table is an option to customize the spreadsheet by adding and deleting the stats and selecting ‘Create Custom Table’

  3. Shchi Cossack

    The first 2 months of the season were inexplicably funky. So many hitters, expected to be critical contributors, received significant playing time with abysmal results. Other hitters produced just marginal results. Only hitters, Dietrich and Suarez, maintained productive results, leaving a lineup with more holes than threats. I don’t know what cause that mass early ineptness, but I think Bell’s lack of preparation to be game-ready during spring training combined with his insistence on continual commitment to playing some hitters despite gross ineptness probably contributed to the problem.

    I looked at the results beginning with the May 31st series against the Nats and the results are much more palatable.

    OBP+ (100+ PA): Winker (121), VanMeter (117), Ervin (116), Barnhart (110), Votto (109)
    OBP+ (100- PA): Galvis (133), Aquino (117), Casali (102)

    SLG+ (100+ PA): Ervin (119), Suarez (112), Winker (110), VanMeter (110)
    SLG+ (100- PA): Aquino (183, Galvis (167), Casali (102)

    HARD%+ (100+ PA): VanMeter (143), Suarez (115), Votto (110), Barnhart (108), Dietrich (106), Ervin (104), Senzel (104)
    HARD%+ (100- PA): Galvis (144), Aquino (115), Farmer (112)

    What I found perplexing was the SOFT%+ results. Only two Reds hitters were significantly above average. Peraza came in with a 133 SOFT%+ (no surprise there). The highest SOFT%+ of 146 was produced by Aquino!? Aquino has an 87 BABIP+ which corresponds with the 146 SOFT%+. Nothing else in Aquino’s performance comes close to an alarm flag.

    • Pete

      Pop ups. He hits a lot of them because of the upper cut.