Last night the Cincinnati Reds 6-game winning streak came to an end with a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It dropped the Reds to 6-2 and now they have just the second best record in baseball, a half-game worse than the 7-2 Los Angeles Dodgers. After not getting the start in center field on Friday, Nick Senzel returned to the lineup on Saturday and he picked up right where he had left off. After starting the season 0-7 with three walks in the first four games, Senzel went 3-4 last night to bring him to 8-13 in the last four games. He also has as many walks in those four games, two, as he has had strikeouts.

The 25-year-old outfielder leads the National League in runs scored with nine. He’s been on base 10 times this season and he’s scored nine runs – that’s got to be coming close to some sort of record, right? He’s currently hitting .400/.520/.500 on the season.

Tucker Barnhart and only hitting left handed

Last season saw Tucker Barnhart make the decision to give up hitting from the right side of the plate. He had always struggled from that side of the plate, dating back to his time in the minor leagues. This year is the first full year he’s only hit from the left side of the plate. So far, so good. Barnhart hasn’t drawn a walk yet this season, but he’s also 9-22 with four doubles and a home run. He’s hitting .409/.435/.727. Against lefties he’s gone 2-3 thus far. Those two hits represent more hits than he had against them last year in 22 trips to the plate.

Mike Moustakas is controlling the zone

For his career, Mike Moustakas has been a guy who has made plenty of contact for a guy with some pop in his bat. His career strikeout rate is 15.9%. But along with his contact rate he’s never been a guy that’s walked that much. It wasn’t until 2019 that he walked over 8% of the time in a single season in his career. In 2019 his walk rate jumped to 9.1%, and then last year it jumped up to 11%.

This season he’s taken both the contact rate and the walk rate to new levels early on. He’s struck out just once this year, good for a 2.9% strikeout rate. He’s also walked seven times, good for a 20.6% walk rate. His outside of the zone swing rate is down at 20.6% – significantly lower than his career rate of 35%. He’s also swinging a lot more in the zone right now. His career zone swing rate is 70.4%, but this year he’s swung at pitches in the zone 81.5% of the time. Interestingly he’s making a lot less contact in the zone when he swings. Small sample size for all of this, of course, but he’s at a 79.5% zone contact rate this season, while he’s been at 88.6% for his career. All said, Moustakas is hitting .360/.500/.600 on the year through 34 plate appearances.

The team as a whole has been handling the strikezone fairly well early on. The Reds have the 6th best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball. Only the San Diego Padres have struck out less frequently. Cincinnati’s walk rate so far is middle of the pack as they sit at the 15th spot in baseball with a 9.2% walk rate as a team.

NL Central Standings and Playoff Odds

As we head into play today the Cincinnati Reds are still atop the National League Central at 6-2. Their playoff odds via Fangraphs dropped after their loss, and now they are one again behind the Milwaukee Brewers within in the division in the projected records and playoff odds (by 0.4 games). Sure, it’s the second week of April, but if you can’t have fun watching and following baseball, especially when your team is doing well, what are we doing this for? Let’s look at the standings and playoff odds via Fangraphs.

Team W L GB Playoff %
Reds 6 2 0.0 38.9%
Cardinals 5 3 1.0 24.5%
Brewers 4 4 2.0 41.4%
Cubs 4 4 2.0 15.5%
Pirates 2 6 4.0 0.1%

13 Responses

  1. Bred

    Striking out less is and walking more is obviously good. I’d always heard that by the time a player reaches the show that their approach was too difficult to alter. Votto has a new approach to do damage and not walk. Geno seems to be striking out as much as ever. Considering that for the most part the players are the same as last year, what are some thoughts on why this good trend is occurring?

    • Klugo

      This is such a good question. One that Ive asked myself, also. The Reds got roasted during the playoffs on national TV for their “plate approach”. It obviously seems different, and so far, much better this season. So, what gives? Was there some deep stat diving by the managerial/administrative staff and then subsequent sharing and coaching during the off-season? Is this more a player driven thing? A lot of reflection has seemed to take place. I do wonder how that went down. It’s really the difference between good and great. Good coaching and great coaching. Good players and great players. Honest reflection, effective adjustments, hard work.

      • Justin

        Maybe it took last year’s results to get guys to buy into his hitting approach?

        We’ll know the way we know DJ is a difference maker. Players will talk about it.

    • Doug Gray

      That’s a solid general rule, but it doesn’t hold true for everyone. For the most part, it’s about eyesight and being able to identify the pitch in time. That usually doesn’t change in big leaguers unless a guy reaches the big leagues very, very early, in which case you can see those things change simply due to a little more experience. When guys do change in this area it’s usually for one of two reasons: They go Sammy Sosa on the league and pitchers start to get far more careful throwing in the zone, or it’s a guy who always understood what they were seeing and thought they could hit it (because they could make contact with pitches out of the zone), but finally realized that just because you can get the bat on that pitch out there doesn’t mean it’s producing quality results and they stopped trying to make contact on that pitch, thus increasing their walk rate (and likely a little improvement to their strikeout rate and hitting stats, too).

      As for the difference as a team, it’s honestly pretty simple: BABIP is not killing them this year. Last year they were 7th in baseball in strikeout-to-walk ratio. They weren’t making as much contact, and they were walking a bit more. But the 100 point difference in BABIP – going from worst ever to third best in the league at this point goes a very, very long way.

      • redbeard

        How much do you think the new hitting coach and possible new philosophy he brings is making a difference (with the obvious sample size caveat)?

      • Doug Gray

        The hitting coach is the same hitting coach that the Reds had last year.

  2. kevinz

    Good stuff hope keep the approach using on Offense.
    Will this be used in the MILB as well?
    Thought so, but just wanted to make sure.

  3. LDS

    So is India injured? Sick? Or is Bell simply giving the youngest guy on the active roster a rest, instead subbing the position player with the lowest batting average on the team ( excluding pitchers). Meanwhile, the oldest guy on the active roster, who can no longer hit his wait is starting yet again? Or is this India hasn’t been hitting righties as well, particularly on the road so we’ll use the guy that hasn’t hit righties either? Seems unfathomable. I’m sure it’s just another Bell-ism that old guys like me will never understand.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Bench players need to start every once in awhile in order to be effective when called upon.

      • LDS

        And old guys need to start every game?

      • VaRedsFan

        9 hard hit outs (95 mph or harder…leads MLB). Are you even watching the games?

      • LDS

        Sorry, most baseball fans these days put too much emphasis on such descriptive metrics and not enough on outcomes.

      • VaRedsFan

        You’re describing the uneducated fans.