With the season a little more than a third over, let’s check in on how the Reds are hitting. First, we’ll look at how the team is doing and then compare individuals to their own career numbers, to the MLB average and to how they were hitting in April, the last time we conducted this check-up. We’re not making predictions or projections, just discussing what has taken place.
We know the Reds offense struggled early. Their batting average (.210) at the end of April was last in MLB, walk-rate (8.5%) 20 out of 30, power (.166 ISO) was 18 of 30 and Exit Velocity was 28 out of 30. Overall, they were 26 of 30 in Runs Created (71 wRC+), or 29 percent worse than average. The main culprit was contact. The Reds xwOBA (expected, weighted on-base average) in April was .285, which put them dead last in MLB.
How have things changed over the past six weeks? Here’s a chart:
Better, but still not even average.
The Reds raised their batting average from .210 to .249 in May/June (the league hit .251) for a through-June 9 AVG of .233, good for a rank of 26 out of 30 in the league. The Reds walk-rate fell by 10% from April to May/June, landing them at 19 out of 30 in the league. The Reds power hitting stayed right where it was, good for 20 out of 30. Exit Velocity rose a bit. Quality of contact (xwOBA) followed the same pattern, improved but still below average.
The best summary of how the Reds have been hitting is found by wRC+, which weights all the hitting outcomes, including walks, and puts it on a 100-point scale. The Reds had been 29 percent worse than average. In May/June, they were only 11 percent worse than average.
Let’s take a look at individual players. The first four columns are wOBA, which is weighted on-base average. [FanGraphs explainer] It’s a composite stat that takes every batting outcome, assigns it a linear weight and scales it to actual run outcome. Not all hits are equal in value. Doubles are worth more than singles, etc. wOBA is one of the best metrics to judge overall performance at the plate. The fifth column is xwOBA (the “x” stands for expected). It takes Statcast data and measures every ball put in play and assigns a linear weight for the expected outcome. [MLB explainer] xwOBA adjusts wOBA for defense and luck.
I’ve organized them by position groupings to make the data more bite-sized. Start with the catchers:
No sugar coating here. Tucker Barnhart is having a terrible season at the plate with no sign of anything changing. 246 major league players have at least 150 plate appearances. Barnhart ranks 219 in wOBA. Curt Casali’s numbers are based on a smaller sample size, but they are significantly better than Barnhart. The fifth column (.310 vs. .280) is the best indicator of the gap.
Now to the outfielders.
Jesse Winker really slumped in May/June, with his wOBA falling sharply from .355 to .323. A decent chunk of that was bad luck, since his xwOBA was .342. But it’s still well below his number from last year. David Bell has been platooning Winker, so recent numbers are mostly against RHP, his better side.
Nick Senzel has been just a bit above average, which is an encouraging, but not blow-your-socks-off, start.
Yasiel Puig has rebounded a decent amount from his terrible start in April, and he’s been unlucky. The gap between his xwOBA (how he hit the ball) vs. his 2019 wOBA (outcomes) is large. But overall Puig’s numbers remain far below his career average.
Finally, let’s check out the infielders.
Joey Votto hit worse in May/June than he did in April. He’s way off his career number and even his 2018 figure. Bad luck is not to blame. That said, he’s still contributing right around league average (.322). If you’re looking for wispy silver linings, in his last 12 games Votto’s wOBA was a Votto-like .415.
Eugenio Suarez has been an above average hitter in 2019, but so far he’s hit more similar to his pre-2018 self, not a repeat of his breakout 2018 season.
Jose Peraza has improved since his dreadful April. But his numbers are still lower than Tucker Barnhart’s. Peraza’s problem remains that he just hits the ball too softly. 164 batters have put at least 140 balls in play this year. Peraza ranks #159 in percentage of balls hit at or above 95 mph Exit Velocity. His average EV is ranked 161 out of 164.
Jose Iglesias is coming back to his career numbers. Iglesias has had 2600 plate appearances and produced a .276 wOBA. There was no reason to believe he could sustain his terrific April output. The “luck” numbers indicated as much back then. He’s still having a nice season compared to what he’s done in the past, but be prepared for his spot in the order to be less and less productive.
Finally, there’s Derek Dietrich, who had an all-world May/June to add on to a strong April. Bell is helping that along by using Dietrich almost exclusively against RHP. Dietrich has also become more of a pull hitter, which explains his bump in homers. But he’s not going to hit 50 long balls. Since his 3-HR game on May 28, Dietrich has gone homer-less in 29 plate appearances. Still, he’s having a great season and there’s good reason that his approach at the plate will continue to produce above-career numbers.
Reds need hitters and young ones. Both are heard to acquire and with very few trade chips it will be tough to make it happen.Nobody in the pen is untouchable for me so shop them and see.May get lucky and a team may over pay for Garrett or Iggy or some package with one or both.Always a team that thinks they can.Dodgers and Braves need help in the pen badly and have young position players to offer.
Interesting stuff, thanks for the good read. One small comment – to echo a remark you made in one of your other articles, using months as cutoff points is arbitrary (though convenient).
If we look at Votto (chosen b/c I, like many others I imagine, have been pretty focused on his batting details specifically, given his slow start), we see that while May/June overall was worse than Mar/Apr, that’s entirely due to a terrible 8-game stretch at the start of May in which he batted .100/.229/.100 for an OPS of .329.
From 5/10 through yesterday, he is hitting .314/.372/.461 for an OPS of .832. Combining those two periods creates the impression that he’s been batting worse lately, which isn’t true. Granted, I’m sure you know that, and I also know that using month-type delimiters on data is easily-understood and commonly-used, so this isn’t really meant as criticism so much as additional info.
Finding the sweet spot between granular accuracy and ease of comprehension for the audience isn’t easy.
Any opinions on why seemingly every player outside of Dietrich is regressing? I wasn’t one to put the blame squarely on Bell or Ward, but if at the end of the season every player is below their career (or last season) numbers it would seem it would have to be some sort of systemic issue with their approach. I don’t know what to think, I could be persuaded either way.
Amazing how many people just assume that Gennett returns from a three month layoff without missing a beat while an entire team of players with no layoff can’t hit their way out of a back yard lot.
Totally agree Doc. He may need one pitch, but who knows if he barrels it up or swings and misses. I highly doubt he steps in and starts raking immediately. He’s had back to back career years, at some point he’s going to level back to his career numbers. We need to be realistic in our expectations for what Scooter will bring to this Reds team.
I’m guilty of continually checking Votto’s xwOBA on a rolling week or two week basis. I keep expecting to see it above 0.350, but hope for 0.375+. It’s 0.328 for June. I’ll keep trying.
Ozuna (.872 ops) is good, but he seems to step in the bucket now for some reason? He was better in Miami. Plus he would cost so much? I can’t see the Cards letting him get away. They have some age on that offense and would probably have a hard time replacing him.
How about Avi Garcia (.856 ops)? He lit the Reds up for 3 hrs in 3 games in gabp last year. He just turned 28 this week. He got a 1 yr deal from Tampa for 3.5 mil. He has more of an injury history then Ozuna, but that also puts him the Reds price range! Best case scenario is that Puig gets it back of course! He’s already here. He’s much better defensively then AG or Ozuna.
They need atleast 1 right-handed thumper besides Suarez & Senzel. We know that. To me the big question is Winker? I’d play him every day or platoon him w/Ervin atleast? Ervin has all of 98 career atbats vs lefties in the bigs, but at the same time he’s got a .873 ops vs LPH and he’s a 1st rounder. I’ve never seen a 1st rounder get treated like a FA scrub. Back-n-forth to the minors and barely used? Brandon Dixon is hitting for Detroit. Turn these young guys loose already? Schebler and Peraza are not a part of the Reds outfield moving forward. They just aren’t?