The offense is doing pretty well by conventional measurements—middle of the pack in runs scored (4.47 per game) and OPS. There have been several positive surprises from hitters this year. Narron has shown he is quite adept in using his pinch hitters. The club hits home runs and steals bases.
So why a thread about the offense?
I can think of two reasons:
1.) The Reds offense has been atrocious on the road. Like, .677 OPS baaaaaaaad. Only Griffey and AGon have OPSed .800 or better on the road. A team can’t expect to win road games hitting like that, unless it played its home games in Dodger Stadium in the 1960s. You get my drift.
2.) I think that Runs Scored overestimates the quality of this offense because this offense just can’t consistently score runs on a nightly basis. Let me demonstrate.
Here are the Reds’ runs scored for the ten-game stretch from 20 April through 1 May: 2, 1, 3, 10, 2, 5, 1, 8, 9, and 11. It’s almost like the offense is binary during this stretch: either 1 run scored or 10 runs scored. Only two games around the club average.
Compare that with what Milwaukee’s offense did during the same stretch: 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 1, 3, 7, and 12. Far less game-to-game variation, and much more consistency. Granted, Milwaukee’s offense averages half a run more per game, but the game-to-game variation is much lower. In statistical terms, the Milwaukee offense has a lower standard deviation in terms of runs scored per game.
And that 10-game stretch is consistent with how each club has performed for the duration of this season. Below is a chart that illustrates my point.
R/G = runs per gameCode:R/G SD <=2 runs <=1 run Reds 4.475 3.136528 15 9 Brewers 5.00 2.724161 4 2 Dodgers 4.575 2.827407 12 4
SD = standard deviation of runs scored
<=2 runs = # of games scoring 2 or less runs
<=1 run = # of games scoring 2 or less runs
The Reds’ standard deviation of runs scored is significantly higher than either the Brewers or Dodgers (the Dodgers have scored more runs per game than the Reds, even though they sport a lower OPS).
What’s the most damning about the data are the two right columns—the Reds have scored 2 or fewer runs in 38% of their contests. The club has scored zero or one run in almost a quarter of their games!!! I’m actually surprised the local media hasn’t made a bigger deal of this issue. And it matters quite a bit, because the only way a club can win if it scores one run is if it shuts out the other team. In a quarter of the games, the offense is giving no room for error on the part of the pitching staff.
My point is that, with respect to winning and losing, the marginal value of the 10th or 11th run is far lower than the negative marginal value of only scoring zero, one, or two runs. And if the Reds are scoring either one run or ten runs on any given night. . . Well, this phenomenon might help to explain why the Reds have underperformed Pythagorean projections. The bullpen isn’t the only group at fault. It’s the offense, too.
Looking at the above chart, using a home/road split, and the issue becomes a little more clear. The Reds offensive performance on the road has been much more volatile than it has at home.
So why the bad road splits, and why the high standard deviation of runs scored from game to game?Code:R/G SD <=2 runs <=1 run Reds Home 5.00 2.790963 5 2 Reds Road 3.95 3.389760 10 7
My hypothesis is that the Reds are investing in marginal offensive players that perform well at home, but don’t do so well on the road. In other parks, they would be exposed for the weak hitters that they are. Second, the offense is very static: it wins by hitting HRs. It might steal a few bases or walk now and again. But the club is notably weak in batting average and doubles hitters. It really isn’t a dynamic offense. A high-average hitter (or two) with gap power might help to round out the club.
[/longing for the days of Sean Casey and EdE]
So, to sum up the offense. . .
The good: Josh Hamilton, Dunn, Griffey. Lots to cheer about, generally speaking.
The bad: the game-to-game offensive consistency.
The ugly: the road offense.
This is the first in a series of three articles discussing the Reds 2007 performance. Next up—the defense.