The Reds were playing from behind after the first inning again Tuesday night. That has happened a lot this year, hasn’t it?

The Reds have the worst 1st inning run differential so far this season, scoring 74 times but allowing 113 runs. That -39 run differential is the worst in the majors and is currently tied with the worst 1st inning team of 2008, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Houston, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh all have 1st inning run differentials this season in the -32 to -30 range. Rounding out the worst 5, the AL West leading Angels have been outscored by 29 runs in the first inning.

The following chart shows where the Reds rank against the 20 worst first inning run differentials from 2005-2009. The stats are through Monday night’s games.

Rank Team Year Differential Rank Team Year Differential
1 ARI 2006 -74 11 COL 2005 -36
2 PIT 2006 -49 12 BAL 2008 -34
3 STL 2007 -46 13 BAL 2005 -34
4 TEX 2007 -46 14 COL 2008 -33
5 TBD 2007 -41 15 CHC 2005 -33
6 CIN 2005 -41 16 HOU 2009 -32
7 PIT 2008 -39 17 CLE 2009 -31
8 CIN 2009 -38 18 MIN 2007 -31
9 WSN 2007 -36 19 PIT 2007 -31
10 CIN 2006 -36 20 MIN 2005 -31

The Reds and the Pirates are the only organizations to show up on that list 3 times. At their current pace, the 2009 Reds could end up with the 5th worst 1st inning run differential of the past 5 years.

Why are the Reds so bad in the 1st inning this year? The Reds starters have the 19th best ERA of the 30 teams in baseball, and a little worse than league average ERA. They do have the 2nd worst offense in baseball. Do you think this is a sample size/split issue (they’ve had over 600 plate appearances and 145 1st innings pitched this year)? Or is there a problem with the 1st inning game plan? Either a poor or predictable strategy or poor execution?

16 Responses

  1. preach

    I don’t know if the sample size justifies this, but my first instinct would say that it could be that starters are not coming in loose. Perhaps not fully stretched out or mentally prepared.

  2. RiverCity Redleg

    I think starting the game off with Willy and Alex all but guarantees low scoring output on our side.

  3. Matt WI

    To know more I’d think you’d have to run a chi square or some other anlaysis to see if the first inning is significantly different than our run differential in other innings. I suppose you have to be just as careful saying that this run differntial is an important stat as Marty should be when talking about scoring with RISP.

    But otherwise, what RCR said… it’s probably more of an indictment against the Reds line-up and lead-off hitters than it is against the pitchers.

  4. Steve

    My inclination is to blame Willy Taveras (of course).

    Seriously, wouldn’t it be pretty easy to tease out the relatively blameworthiness of the offense and defense by comparing the absolute numbers of runs scored and runs given up? It could be that the pitchers have not given up much more than average in the first inning.

    If that’s the case then we can go back to blaming WT.

    How much of our 1st inning run deficit occurred in games when WT was the lead off hitter?

  5. Greg Dafler

    @Matt WI: I wasn’t trying to indicate whether the 1st inning run differential was or was not an important stat. I was only noting how bad that number is historically.

    @Steve: The Reds scored more runs in the 1st inning than any other inning this year. The pitching allowed more runs in the first than any other inning.

    Stats from all 30 MLB teams show that most runs are scored in the 6th inning, followed by the 4th, then the 1st inning.

  6. Greg Dafler

    It appears to be more of a problem on the pitching side of the ball:

    Inning, Reds runs scored
    1, 74
    2, 61
    3, 68
    4, 64
    5, 69
    6, 61
    7, 64
    8, 55
    9, 48

    Inning, Reds runs allowed
    1, 113
    2, 59
    3, 83
    4, 62
    5, 82
    6, 93
    7, 64
    8, 59
    9, 40

    Inning, run differential
    1, -39
    2, 2
    3, -15
    4, 2
    5, -13
    6, -32
    7, 0
    8, -4
    9, 8

  7. John

    I think if you cross-reference these numbers with Reds losses in low-scoring games (say, 4 total runs or less between the two teams), you might be able to exonerate the pitching.

    Then again, do we need to do a bunch of math to prove TOS, Dusty is a moron, and Walt sleeps at the switch?

  8. Steve

    Greg, thanks for the added stats.

    And seriously I don’t mean to create an expectation for more research, but…

    How does the # of runs allowed in the first inning compare to other teams’ # runs allowed? Maybe every team has higher numbers in the first inning.

    Likewise, do the Reds score fewer runs in the first inning compared to what other teams score in the first inning? In other words, does the Willy Taveras Effect dominate the Joey Votto Effect.

    In short, how do the Reds compare to other teams in terms of the absolute numbers?

  9. al

    while this year may be an exception across the league, iirc teams usually score the most in the first inning. the face value explanation is that it’s the inning that you have your lineup set how you want it, and starters often need an inning or two to settle in.

    the reds have had a ton of 1st inning meltdowns on the mound that account for a lot off this.

    but i still think a lot of the problem is that the reds blew the opportunity to set thier lineup in the best way they could for all/most of the season. we could have given other teams a few 1st inning meltdowns to balance it out if we didn’t hit the 2 worst hitters in the league at the top.

  10. Tom Diesman

    In regards to the Reds and the top two spots in the lineup. Here are some numbers I pulled recently on OPS by batting position for the Reds and MLB.

    RK TEAM BA OBP SLG OPS
    30 Cin #1 .247 .293 .328 .621
    27 Cin #2 .237 .301 .360 .661
    11 Cin #3 .276 .365 .480 .845
    23 Cin #4 .271 .328 .443 .771
    23 Cin #5 .245 .328 .409 .738
    22 Cin #6 .235 .317 .410 .727
    08 Cin #7 .259 .331 .425 .756
    30 Cin #8 .211 .297 .281 .578

    TEAM BA OBP SLG OPS
    MLB #1 .277 .345 .409 .753
    MLB #2 .276 .338 .421 .759
    MLB #3 .279 .360 .475 .835
    MLB #4 .273 .351 .476 .827
    MLB #5 .267 .341 .447 .788
    MLB #6 .261 .334 .435 .769
    MLB #7 .254 .319 .406 .725
    MLB #8 .252 .321 .384 .705

    The OBP of the top two spots in the order is < .300 combined. That's amazing. And sad.

  11. RC

    I, myself, am dumbfounded by the fact that the D’Backs were -74 in the first inning in 2006.

    And they only finished 10 games under .500. Wacky.

  12. Dan

    The inning-by-inning numbers are pretty striking.

    How much of this is Arroyo?

  13. jason1972

    How much can be attributed by poor preparation of the pitchers by the coaching staff/scouts?

  14. David

    It may also be a difficulty on the part of the players to adequately prepare given the number of lineups he has used.

  15. chris

    I suggest that by-inning run differential is irrelevant. Scoring and allowing runs are independent of each other. Comparing one to the other is mostl just distracting. Comparing our offense and pitching to the league averages is what we should do.