One of the things you’ll see a lot in the SABR community is people worrying about pitcher BABIP. There’s good reason for this as pitcher BABIP tends to fluctuate a lot and you never want to assume a pitcher will be anything other than average in this category. This is why stats like FIP exist. ERA captures a lot of luck.
But, on a team level, it’s a little different. On a team level, BABIP (though it’s an imperfect measure) can be useful in telling you how good your defensive team is at turning balls in play into outs.
In 2010, the current good run of baseball started. The Reds were 9th in MLB in BABIP that year.
In 2011, they were 3rd.
In 2012, they were 12th.
In 2013, they were 1st.
So far in 2014, they are 1st.
Defense is a very hard stat to quantify on an individual level because there is so much going on around the player that is out of his control. But on a team level, it’s much easier. This team is good at fielding. It has been good at fielding for a while. Correspondingly, you should expect the Reds pitchers to have numbers that are a little better than they “should” be. That’s what comes from having excellent defenders behind you.
The Reds defense has, I feel, been somewhat underrated over the last few years because it is so hard to quantify, but it’s one of the things that make players like Zack Cozart and (if he hits a bit more) Billy Hamilton worthy of roster spots. It’s also one of the things that makes this a fun team to watch.