Simple math: More runners, more runs
Reds by the Numbers
By John Erardi
CHICAGO - Amazing the amount of attention paid to the fact that the Reds were 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position in the recently completed three-game series at Wrigley Field.
Granted, a hit or two more in those situations and the Reds probably would have left town having won two of three, instead of only one.
But the Cubs weren't exactly gangbusters in the three games with runners in scoring position (4-for-27).
The biggest problem with the Reds is not that they went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
The biggest problem with the Reds is that they put only 20 men on base total - for all three games.
Granted, the Cubs put only nine more men on base.
Those nine additional base runners in a three-game series might not seem like a lot.
But they are.
Three extra runners per game is exactly the margin of difference between the Cubs and the Reds this year.
Going into Friday's games, the Cubs had 2,432 plate appearances in 127 games with runners on base - an average of about 19 per game. The Reds had 2,081 plate appearances with runners on base in 128 games, or about 16 per game.
Those three extra runners per game add up over the course of the season.
Men on base
The Cubs lead the league easily in runs scored (681); they average 5.4 runs per game with a league-leading on-base average of .358.
The Reds rank 13th in runs per game with 4.2, with a miserable .318 on-base average. They rank fourth in the league in home runs with 148, just ahead of the Cubs' 146.
The biggest culprit in the Reds averaging 1.2 fewer runs per game than the Cubs is that the Reds are 40 points behind the Cubs in getting men on base. 6
Before I left Chicago on Friday, I read with interest the interview that baseball writer Hal McCoy did with Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo said the Reds need to grow their lineup so that it more closely resembles the Cubs, who have a 7-hole batter (Mark DeRosa) hitting .280.
Arroyo is right. And his point holds up throughout the Cubs' batting order when one compares it with the Reds.
DeRosa vs. Phillips
DeRosa's .280 batting average is the basis of his .376 on-base percentage. His slugging average is .458. In sabermetric terms, this is expressed as .280/.376/.458.
Compare that with the numbers of Reds middle-of-the-order hitter Brandon Phillips (.267/.315/460).
Sure, Phillips has five more home runs (in 85 more at-bats), but DeRosa has 27 more walks (in fewer plate appearances), making him more valuable as a hitter.
Why? Because DeRosa is getting on base more than Phillips. For a team to score a lot of runs, it has to get a lot of men on base.
The Cubs lead the league with a .280 batting average; the Reds are at .245, 15th in the 16-team league, ahead of the Nationals.
(Which begs the question: If your team is hitting only .245 overall, why would you expect them to suddenly hit better with runners in scoring position? It doesn't work that way. For example, the Cubs' team batting average with runners in scoring position is only one point higher than their batting average overall. And consider: The Cubs are hitting only .213 with runners in scoring position when there are two outs. Yet, they still lead the league in runs.)
Focus on Fukudome
The Cubs' worst regular in terms of on-base average plus slugging average is Kosuke Fukudome (.748). But even with a relatively low batting average (.265) and little power (.385 slugging average), he is still getting on base (.363) at an above-average rate and helping to sustain a top-to-bottom offense. Fukudome has scored 69 runs, the same as Phillips.
Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano has the Cubs' worst on-base average (.340), but it would rank third-best among Reds who have significant playing time. (Jerry Hairston and Joey Votto are the top two for on-base average.)
The point: Do not get all caught up with what the Reds are hitting with runners in scoring position; beware those who do.
Pay more attention to how many runners the Reds are getting on base.
Improving that number is the only way the Reds have a chance to win next year.