Are you scared, yet?

The Reds keep winning, but keep scoring fewer runs while doing it.  I’ll leave the exact statistics to others, first because it’s depressing and second, because it’s enough to know this: for the month of September, the Reds are at or near the bottom of the NL in many key offensive measurements.

That’s not something to woo about.

But, is it something to boo hoo about?  Have the Reds’ bats gone into a deep and somber slumber from which they cannot be shaken?  Are we witnessing a foreshadowing of October in Philly 2010, when Cincinnati hitters looked over matched at the plate, as if they were swinging Dusty’s Australian toothpicks instead of Louisville’s oaken lumber?

Have we seen the best of the Reds’ hitters?

Like that high school girlfriend you had who seemed to be crazy about you one minute, but didn’t know who you were the next, Offense is fickle.  Here, then–poof.  Gone.  Nowhere to be seen.  Offense doesn’t sit by the phone waiting for Todd to call.  Ask Jay Bruce.  He’s been dating that gal for as long as we’ve known him.

Is that all it is?  Is Offense some ephemeral gift a team has no control over?  Are the Reds at the mercy of the winds of fate, or are there real reasons why this team suddenly cannot plate runs?

First, let’s understand that this simply not an offensive powerhouse we have here in the Queen City this season.  That fact has been obscured somewhat by the Reds home run production for the first five months of this season.  However, it’s time to recognize that this rendition of the Cincinnati Red Stockings is probably not going to carry the day with their bats.  They are a middle of the pack offense in the NL—at best.

September has brought with it some challenges that have helped stifle the offense.  They are:

  • An expanded roster.  More players mean different lineups everyday.  It means looking at players with an eye toward the future, not necessarily what is the best offensive lineup on any given day.
  • Personal goals.  Once it was clear the Reds weren’t going to be caught, it was time to take some swings to pad personal stats.  I won’t name names, but some guys have been swinging for the fences, when a well placed opposite field hit would have done the job quite nicely.  Even Frazier was quoted as saying he wants to get into the lineup so he can get his 20th HR.
  • Mentally tired players.  Quite a bit of gas was spent holding the fort down while Joey was out.  It’s only natural that players have let down a bit.
  • Team philosophy.   Let’s face it: certain players are going to be on the post-season roster whether we like it or not.  They are soldiers who have been here all year and are not suddenly going to be jettisoned at this late date.  If you’re going to depend on these guys, you need to get them some ABs to keep them sharp, even if it doesn’t result in an optimum lineup.
  • Youth.  Cozart and Frazier are important cogs to the offense.  Cozart because of the pop in his bat and Frazier because, well, he’s Super Todd.  Zack hasn’t experienced the depth and breadth of a full major league tilt.  His season ended prematurely last year.  Todd is used to being done in early September.  There is an adjustment to be made here that is often overlooked.

The Reds will tighten up.  Players who have been taking it easy or thinking about their own personal milestones will redirect their mindset.  The vets will refocus and make sure everyone else does, too.  Less clear is how much of an anchor having Drew Stubbs in the lineup and having Todd Frazier out of the lineup will prove to be.  On the eve of Joey Votto’s return to the lineup, Marty Brennaman made a very pointed observation in the direction of Dusty Baker when he said on the air:

If Todd Frazier isn’t in the lineup when Joey Votto returns, the Reds are not putting their best team on the field.

Can a middle of the pack offense survive that decision when the best pitchers in Baseball start taking the hill later this week?

Is the Reds’ post-season in danger?