I had the pleasure of listening to Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley do the Reds vs. Rockies post-game show on the drive home from work Thursday. Towards the end of another long, unsuccessful season, and yet another losing road series this season, I wasn’t surprised to hear a list of complaints of what they thought was ailing this team.

Marty, especially, was very upset with the lack of team hitting with runners in scoring position, stating that they’ve been terrible in that scenario all year, and that they’ve been bad in that scenario for the past 4 to 5 years. The numbers reflect that outside of 2006, the Reds team batting average with runners in scoring position has been very similar to the overall team average.

Year Reds Avg Reds Avg Rank Avg w/no RISP Avg w/RISP w/RISP Rank Runs Per Game NL Rank
2009 0.242 16th 0.242 0.241 15th 15th
2008 0.247 16th 0.249 0.240 16th 12th
2007 0.267 9th 0.268 0.263 12th 7th
2006 0.257 15th 0.262 0.243 16th 10th
2005 0.261 8th 0.263 0.256 11th 1st

It seems to me that the problem has not been the Reds batting average with runners in scoring position, but the Reds hitting in general. Very lackluster, to say the least. So far this season, the Reds are tied for last place in the National League with a .242 batting average. It is true this year that their average with runners in scoring position is just .241, which is 15th in the NL, but that figure is nearly identical to their average without any runners in scoring position.

They aren’t hitting with runners in scoring position AND they are not hitting to put runners into scoring position.

Ironically, the Reds are doing all the things traditionally considered “the little things.” The situational hitting statistics at baseball-reference.com show that they have been above league average in most categories. They’ve been very good at sacrificing hitting, productive outs, and advancing the runner.

  • They’ve made the second most sacrifice attempts in the league this year
  • They’ve made more successful sacrifices than any other team
  • Sacrifice bunt success rate is 75%, which is 4th best in the league
  • Their productive out success rate is 6th in the league
  • The 4th lowest GIDP rate in the league
  • The 6th fewest strikeouts in the league
  • 2nd in the league in advancing a runner on 2B and nobody out
  • They are league average in scoring a runner on 3B and less than two out (50% of the time, which is saying something since they have the league’s worst batting average)

I know many of you prefer to look at newer statistics: OBP, SLG, and OPS of players and teams. And certainly, the Reds rank among the worst in the league in those statistical categories, too. But you don’t need complex statistics or situational statistics to see the primary problem with this team’s offense. With the weak overall hitting, the primary problem is not their batting average with runners in scoring position. It is a significant lack of base runners!

The Reds have had 3,096 base runners this season, which is 15th in the National League. The league average is 3,353 base runners. How can the Reds outscore the competition if they are only putting on base 90% of the runners of the league average team? Batting average with runners in scoring position is a highly irrelevant statistic if there is a scarcity of runners in scoring position.

UPDATE 8:45am: I’ve added 3 columns to the table to illustrate how the Reds have ranked in the National League in Avg, Avg w/RISP, and runs per game. I don’t see any correlation between Avg w/RISP and run production. In fact, the year the Reds led the league in runs, they had the 11th best batting average with runners in scoring position.