Joey Votto is introduced at his old stomping grounds, the Dayton Dragons beautiful Fifth Third Field, on a rehab assignment Tuesday night. Photo Courtesy of Susan Heitz Hartman.

Who Are the Cincinnati Reds? National League Playoff Contenders in Focus

The Cincinnati Reds are 132 games into the season and have the best record in Major League Baseball.  They eclipsed the season win total from 2011 this afternoon in Arizona and still have 30 games left to play.  Even an average finish to the season should net 95 wins and 100 victories is in view.  So what defines this team?  Who is the face of the Cincinnati Reds?

On June 30th, this was Joey Votto‘s team.  He led the way in most statistical categories and his leadership on and off the field defined who this Cincinnati team was.  Joey missed a few games with inflammation in his knee as July began and even when he returned just did not seem like he was at 100%.  He appeared in the All Star Game and returned to start the second half of the season but on July 16 he was a late scratch from the lineup and I can still remember Marty shaken reaction during the beginning of the game explaining that Joey would undergo a minor procedure to clean out his knee.  The most optimistic Reds fan had an unsettled reaction, the reactions on various social media forums were far less positive.  For my own thoughts, I shared on Twitter my feeling that the Reds should be okay if he had a quick recovery and the Reds could win half of the games Joey missed.  Guess I was wrong on both counts.

It is safe to assume, no one anywhere in baseball could have predicted that without one of the best hitters in MLB the Reds would go 30-13.  No one.

So with Joey rehabbing with the Dayton Dragons and on the cusp of returning to GABP, who is this team?  They have excellent starting position but aside from Johnny Cueto, who are these guys?  Aroldis Chapman has dominated batters all season long but on a team full of potential closers some say he should be a starter (I have said it!)  Zack Cozart and Drew Stubbs have led off most every game all year long and seem to never hit the ball.  Over the next few days, I want to examine the Reds and compare them to the last teams with a real shot at making it into the playoffs, 6 teams fighting along with Cincy for the five playoff spots.

Tonight we will look at the top of the batting order, the guys who set the table for the RBI men to go to work.  On the tables ahead I have ordered the teams by win totals.  With Pittsburgh and Los Angeles both winning today, each of these 6 teams have reached the 70 win threshold on the day the Reds crested at 80 victories.

Lets start with the leadoff position.  Zack Cozart has spent the most time at the top of the order and he has struggled in his rookie season with glimpses of brilliance.

Leadoff Batters AB R H RBI BB SO BA OBP OPS
Cincinnati 573 68 118 28 29 121 .206 .248 .573
Washington 566 75 153 49 28 95 .270 .311 .726
Atlanta 549 85 157 55 53 129 .286 .350 .766
San Francisco 538 93 139 47 60 106 .258 .334 .750
St. Louis 548 83 147 51 52 68 .268 .335 .685
Pittsburgh 543 65 124 29 32 110 .228 .278 .635
Los Angeles 549 76 126 36 41 103 .230 .287 .589

The numbers seem bleak.  The Reds leadoff batting average is well below any of the other playoff contenders in fact they are at or near the worst in every single statistical category listed here.  Aside from scoring 3 more runs and recording one more walk and 8 fewer strikeouts Cincinnati is at the bottom of this barrel.  It may not make sense but in spite of leadoff futility the Reds still lead all of baseball.

Let’s take a peek at the 2nd position in the batting order:

Cincinnati 537 92 140 54 40 151 .261 .315 .728
Washington 528 81 136 45 51 115 .258 .322 .722
Atlanta 534 72 156 65 46 66 .292 .347 .782
San Francisco 537 76 148 54 41 78 .276 .325 .675
St. Louis 523 94 161 69 53 97 .308 .381 .864
Pittsburgh 523 75 138 56 35 118 .264 .315 .749
Los Angeles 515 85 126 39 58 109 .245 .329 .657

St. Louis has some of the best hitters in baseball at almost every position and batting second is no exception.  Batting second Dusty Baker has spent the majority of the season sending the fleet feet of Drew Stubbs to the plate.  The numbers here may surprise you for Cincinnati though.  Scoring 92 runs, the Reds only trail the Cardinals and while the on base percentage may be the worst the OPS shows that there is some power behind these numbers.

When you combine the runs scored by each team at these two table setting positions you may be surprised to find only St. Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles have scored more runs than the allegedly unproductive Reds.  Later this week we will look at the heart of the order, positions 3-6, as we continue to define these Cincinnati Reds.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz

Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB National League Central Division National League Playoffs

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