Talk about a quick turn around. Last offseason the Cincinnati Reds were being praised for their coaching hires. Some called them downright steals as the Reds lured Turner Ward away from the Dodgers, who had been a juggernaut offense in 2018, and took pitching coach Derek Johnson away from the Brewers. One of those moves resulted in a big break through for the Reds, who saw their pitching staff go from perhaps the worst in the league to one of the best. The offense, however, struggled throughout much of the season. And it seems that the performance of the team’s offense cost Turner Ward his job.

Dick Williams had this to say about the move:

Speaking for the organization, I want to thank Turner for the work he put in on our behalf. As we reflected on this season, it became clear that we lacked the alignment we were seeking with our offensive approach.

The offensive approach certainly is an interesting portion of that quote. The approach quote can be taken in a few different ways. Ward was a proponent of getting the ball in the air more. It worked well in Los Angeles. The Reds fly ball rate jumped up a small amount in 2019 from 2018, going from 34.5% to 36.3%. That could be as simple as a change in players from one year to the next.

Then there is the approach of the hitters. Jose Peraza looked like the guy we have seen before – swings at anything thrown towards the plate. Jose Iglesias was basically the same guy he’s always been, but with the added benefit of a juiced baseball (his adjusted stats were actually worse in 2019 than in 2018 – the baseball made a difference). Eugenio Suarez, despite hitting 49 home runs, had a slightly worse OPS+ than he had last year, thanks again to the baseball making a difference.

But, the big thing is, no one seemed to improve from either what they were last year in the Major Leagues, or what was really expected of them this year. A few players were what they were expected, but many flat out underperformed their expectations from an offensive standpoint. As a team the Reds wRC+ was 88, and their OPS+ was 87. In 2018 those marks were 95 and 95. The offense not only got worse, it got a lot worse.

Multiple players this season changed their swings from what they have used in the past. For some guys, like Aristides Aquino, it worked. But for more than a few other guys, it simply didn’t. Joey Votto is constantly tinkering with his swing, so we don’t really know exactly what – if any – effect that Turner Ward had to do with that one, but he didn’t really start hitting the ball until he went back to a swing we had seen from him in the past. Nick Senzel saw a few different swings and set ups during the season, even some that changed within a weeks span of time, too.

On the front of performance, the Reds letting go of Turner Ward isn’t surprising. But on the idea that he got one season at the helm, after being hired away from the best offense in the league, it’s certainly surprising. It does tell us that things weren’t acceptable, and that’s a good thing to see from the organization. If something isn’t working, don’t just stick with it because someone is still under contract. This move signals some sort of “accountability”. And maybe Turner Ward was a part of the problem. But the talent level needs to improve, too. The next hitting coach that comes in won’t walk into a situation with no talent to work with. But if the Reds want the offense to get where it needs to be, they need to add better hitters to the lineup, too.

57 Responses

  1. Seat101

    Good news! Whatever he was doing wasn’t working. And the front office saw that and he was gone. More evidence this is not your father’s Reds’ front office.

    I doubt I will ever know but I am curious as to how much input Dave Bell had in the hiring/firing.

    I’ll bet you 10 white castles that we have a new hitting coach by Halloween. Any takers?

    • Doug Gray

      No, but now I want to go get some sliders and fries.

      • Eric

        Right, Doug…and me in Raleigh/Durham. I think the closest WC is in London, KY. *sigh*

  2. RedsMonk65

    Good move in the right direction. Given the Reds’ season-long anemic production at the plate, I had been hopeful (but not optimistic) that this would take place.

    Williams: “As we reflected on this season, it became clear that we lacked the alignment we were seeking with our offensive approach.”

    Maybe the FO is finally getting it. … ?

    Agree the Reds need to add better hitters too. At least one. Two would be great. Three would be outstanding.

    Get the hitting.

  3. VaRedsFan

    I think this is a good move. He couldn’t seem to get Winker to hit the ball in the air.
    Aquino was great when he was first called up. And then he tailed off…maybe that was Ward’s influence too.

    • VaRedsFan

      VanMeter tailed off too…but both could be attributed to other teams getting the “book” on them.

      • CI3J

        So you know what that means…

        Promote the AAA hitting coach, Bull Durham. He’s Cincinnati born and raised, just like Bell, so they should get along well.

    • JB

      Honestly I think Aquino Tailed off because Iglesias or Barnhart was hitting behind him. No sense in throwing him something good to hit when you have 8th place hitters masquerading as 5th place hitters.

  4. J

    They should have offered to make him the hitting coach for just first innings. He seemed to know what he was doing until they got to the second.

    • VaRedsFan

      They should hire a hypnotist to help them overcome the pressures of late inning (7-9) hitting, as they ranked 29th out of 30 teams in MLB

      • jim walker

        And just maybe some of that 7-9th inning offensive mess was the result of the crazy quilt double switching?

        When a manager views hitters as commodities based on their handedness, what happens, especially if there is a lack of depth?

        Hope the Reds in house number crunchers are having a look a this.

      • doofus

        I like the use of analytics, but David Bell’s compulsive double-switching only hindered our hitters.

        Instead of allowing the hitters to focus on what they have to do the next plate appearance, they had to be aware that they may be pulled from the game.

        It does not seem that David Bell’s constant double-switching and line up machinations helped the line up at all.

    • VaRedsFan

      Along those same lines:

      Comeback wins:
      Dodgers – 48
      Astros – 43
      Reds – 29

      Walkoff Wins:
      Dodgers – 12
      Astros – 8
      Reds – 5

      Walkoff Losses:
      Dodgers – 5
      Astros – 5
      Reds – 12

  5. Roger Garrett

    Good points all the way around Doug.There is talent but some of the guys are what they are after several years in the big leagues.I like Tucker,Peraza,Iggy and Galvis but the data says they are bad hitters and the Reds must acquire some selective hitters that will take a walk.Suarez with 49 homers and a lower OPS really points out the value of walks.I won’t criticize him too much but he became an all or nothing hitter as evident by his 190 strikeouts.Ward really had to go and lets see what the new guy can do.

  6. Jon

    You certainly can’t lay all the blame on Ward, but the manager or the coach will usually be the first to go. The Reds need to focus on getting more men on base in 2020.

    • Michael E

      What, and clog the bases? That’s just plain, ole fashioned silliness.

  7. Sliotar

    Nice analysis, Doug.

    Reds were 12th highest in K%, 22nd worst in BB%…both figures were better in 2018, prior to Ward’s arrival.

    The Reds can’t “Solo HR” their way in the playoffs …. they certainly tried to do it this season.

    Big offensive innings are needed, especially with how GABP plays much of the year.
    More baserunners are a must.

  8. AirborneJayJay

    The writing was on the wall. Good move. Ward will catch on somewhere else. He won’t be without a job long. But it just didn’t work out in Cincinnati. The offense was really bad for long stretches at a time this year. A stark difference from last year.

  9. Tom Mitsoff

    While I am not in favor of the approach of trying to hit everything in the air in hopes that some of them will clear the fence, I am truly surprised that the Reds made this move. I doubt Ward had just a one-year deal, so the Reds are probably eating a year or two of his deal. Hopefully this is a sign that they are ready to spend to make needed changes.

  10. RedNat

    weird thing. I just looked at the rule book again and you CAN actually score runs without a homerun. it is still legal! lol

    In all seriousness though I think a new approach to the offense is needed for next year including Bell opening up the playbook a little more. I want to see more steals, hit and runs, bunts. let’s take a few more chances on offense. don’t know the comparative stats to other teams but the double play was our arch enemy this year. we need to find ways to get runners off first base next year by any means possible.

    • Jim

      I agree not sure when reds have had lead off hitter with good stollen base amount also get rid of closer who lost 11 games and make amari garret the closer and get set up reliever or use lorenzen maybe get a good bat for him. And prospects

      • greenmtred

        Recently. His name was Billy Hamilton (still is, I expect). But he didn’t get on base very often.

    • Don

      1st line made me chuckle.

      Team needs better situational hitting in 2020 to score more runs.

      • RedNat

        yes and that is the question. is it the hitting coaches job to teach situational hitting or is that Bell’s responsibility?

  11. Matt WI

    But, the big thing is, no one seemed to improve from either what they were last year in the Major Leagues, or what was really expected of them this year.

    This is the most telling part of this post. Great point, Doug. Props to the Reds for trying to act quickly too. I’ll never claim to know how influential a hitting coach is or isn’t, but something is broken in the way the Reds approached offense this year.

  12. jim walker

    Consider the following two points:

    A)The Reds adopted an offensive philosophy which ended up hurting their offense.

    B)The Reds adopted a bullpen philosophy which broke down their bullpen by the middle of the season.

    In both cases, neither philosophy was inherently flawed. In fact we know many teams have used one or both effectively. The issue is that neither fit the personnel the Reds had on hand to use when they implemented them.

    Maybe the real question should be who made the call to adopt these philosophies; and, does that person still has his job for 2020??

    • jim walker

      And wouldn’t it be really ironic if Derek Johnson survived not so much because of the success of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and (ultimately) Anthony DeSlafani but instead because the rule changes which will large eliminate mix and match bullpen usage in 2020?

  13. Ed

    Not gonna lie- excited about watching more heads roll!!! Schadenfreude! Drop that dead weight

  14. scotly50

    I do not think this team just got better because of the dismissal of Ward. This team needs upgrades on the field. And not just a center fielder, as rumored.

    • greenmtred

      Yes. Rome wasn’t built in a day, or by one firing. The Reds need better players to go along with a better approach.

  15. TR

    Yes, the Reds offseason has started off on the right foot: forward march.

  16. JC

    Really doesn’t matter, these players are who they are….typical in pro sports, players don’t play well, can’t fire all the players, so coach goes…..I’m indifferent. Dodgers were really good last year and this year really good also, you know why? they have better players, talent wins.

    The reality is when u look at the playoff teams how many Reds regulars would start or play a large role? Suarez and, I really don’t see many. Reds just have A LOT of easy outs.

    • Michael E

      I’d be REALLY happy if a few trades of multiple players for one upgrade happened and we had three new starting hitters that could be legitimate leadoff, #2 and #6 hitters or so.

  17. SultanofSwaff

    To a man, the Reds hitters each had their own approach at the plate and maintained it throughout the season despite large enough sample sizes that told them they need to change. Clearly the hitting coach made no headway in that regard. I heard Theo Epstein lamenting about the same issues with the Cubs. It’s clear the organization wants players with more than one approach within an at-bat. Votto is the only one who comes to mind. The heart of the lineup has a fair number of strikeouts in it…..all well and good when it’s accompanied by power, but other side of the coin is that our non-power hitters who don’t strikeout a lot DON’T walk either. Not a recipe for putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

  18. Scooter

    My fear is that the FO is scapegoating Ward. Using his release as a reason NOT to sign any decent offensive talent. They come out with, ” We’ve hired _________? and we are looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish with roster we have.” Buys the organization another year of middling success and dust collecting on the cash they don’t spend.

  19. vegastypo

    I’m surprised Turner Ward wasn’t a throw-in when Puig was traded to Cleveland. I never thought it was a coincidence that the Reds hired Ward and acquired Puig in the same offseason.

    • TR

      If Puig stays with the Indians, Ward will probably land in Cleveland as some kind of hitting instructor, if not the hitting coach.

  20. Old-school

    A one size approach doesn’t fit.
    Changing Nick Senzel is lunacy, let alone mid season. Get senzel.back to that elite hitter he was- hitting the ball to all fields with plate discipline and pop. Get Winker back to quality at bats going deep in the count.

    Reds set records for grand slams in 2018 because guys worked the pitcher and got on base.

    • Still a Red

      Re: Senzel…Hear hear! … or is it here here!

  21. centerfield

    Turner Ward is the scapegoat for Bell’s failure. The constant player switches probably contributed more to poor offense than anything Ward did. Add to that the weak lineups (Peraza in LF) and you have the manager sabotaging run production. Maybe Bell will be next on the block…..

    • Old-school

      All very good points- but Bell chose Ward as his hitting coach and the Reds weren’t firing Bell. Accountability is a good message.

    • Pete

      Buddy Bell is not Ward’s father so I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Interesting the
      juxtaposition between Ward and Johnson. Both made a difference though.

      Let me know when they clear out the front office and we can talk. You only have to walk a couple of blocks from GABP to see what the main issue is. Until Mike Brown turns over his operation to professional football people, the Bengals will stink. Unfortunately, the Reds are in the same boat with Bob C. Williams is not a baseball man. It’s a hobby to him not a true profession.

  22. Old-school

    Big news today on the Reds pitching front. Derek Johnson has secured more elite pitching instruction.

    • AirborneJayJay

      That is significant news. Getting the director of Driveline Baseball is impressive.
      I had been of the thought that the Reds might try to trade Trevor Bauer this winter. Not now. It might lead to Bauer staying an extra year or two.
      Cotham got a promotion to director of pitching. That was good to see also.

  23. Still a Red

    While it may be scapgoating, and easy to blame Ward for roster’s performance this year, it may go beyond that. Williams notes that part of Ward’s job was to create a strategy that would permeate the whole system…and that apparently wasn’t happening. To me that means articulating a strategy, implementing it throughout the system and making sure we start recruiting people who can deliver on that strategy. If there was a strategy to increase fly balls throughout the lineup…that may take a while for players to own.

    • DX

      That’s right and that is exactly what baseball has gone too. There is a reason why all good players swing up on the ball. The shift has changed everything. Small ball is gone. Don’t bunt don’t steal. The Reds just need to get better at getting the ball in the air more and getting on base. Home runs walks and strike outs will continue to rise.

      • greenmtred

        Hitting against the shift doesn’t have to mean putting the ball in the air. It can also mean hitting to all fields.

  24. Mason Red

    I’m not buying that the hitting coach was responsible for the offensive woes of the Reds. Instead it was a team full of hitters who are mediocre at best. If a big league player can’t hit consistently in the majors a hitting instructor isn’t going to magically transform him into a great hitter. The Reds need more offense by obtaining better hitters.

  25. Don't overthink it

    For me, Peraza is a great example of the Reds problem. He has speed, power, athleticism and a strong arm. But he just can’t hit. Just imagine what he could be for the Reds if he could hit. A real difference maker. Reds went and picked up J. Iglesias and later Freddie Galvis (after moving Gennett). Why? Because Peraza can’t hit.

    There’s something wrong with Peraza’s swing. His right wrist doesn’t look right and he’s lunging over the plate, looks to be off balance. Why can’t these guys just mirror good hitters? That’s what we used to do. Pick a star player who gets results and copy what they do.