Injuries plagued the position during the 2013 season.
Over the past few years, one position that had somewhat plagued the Reds had been left field. During the 2012 season, Ryan Ludwick stepped up and produced some numbers that were a bit foreign coming from that position. The Reds rewarded Ludwick with a two-year, $15 million deal.
Well, as fate would have it, Ludwick went down on Opening Day. Shoulder surgery was required and, quite frankly, there wasn’t one individual that could fill the void. The Reds started with Chris Heisey. Then he hit the disabled list. In his absence, the Reds went with Xavier Paul, Donald Lutz and Derrick Robinson.
Keep in mind that this grade is not solely pointed at one individual player. It is directed to those that played the position and how they performed while at that position.
The Reds used seven different players in left field in 2013. Here’s how each produced offensively while manning the position.
No single player manned left field for 60 games. Heisey was the closest with 59. Not all of those were starts as he entered some as a defensive replacement.
Let’s look at the bottom line of the table above. Here’s how the Reds left fielders ranked among the 15 NL teams in the following specified categories. The second ranking will note that ranking for that same category from the 2012 season.
Runs – 14th; 12th
Home Runs – 10th; 5th
RBI – 9th; 6th
Batting Average – 11th; 7th
On-base Percentage – 12th; 7th
Slugging Percentage – 12th; 4th
OPS – 12th; 4th
For 2013, the Reds failed to rank in the top half of the National League in all of these categories. Last season, only in runs scored did the Reds fail to rank in the top half. This tells the complete story of the Reds left field bats.
I know some tire of hearing about the injuries the Reds incurred during this past season, but the absence of Ludwick was big. Granted, there was no guarantee he could replicate his 2012 season, but his absence was certainly felt.
Left field isn’t high on most people’s list of premium defensive positions. I dare say some might consider it to be the least important of the nine. Still, can’t let balls get into the corner. Got to get to cut off the ball before it gets into the gap. You might have a feel for where I’m going here.
Not much as much credence is given to numbers such as fielding percentage and number of errors these days. If this was the case, The Reds left fielders would be getting an A. They only made 2 errors for all of 2013, second least in the NL. Their combined .994 fielding percentage was second best in the league.
Now let’s get down to the “other numbers”. Kind of a mixed bag. Three defensive stats I primarily look at are DRS (defensive runs saved), UZR (ultimate zone rating) and UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating for 150 games). The Reds LFers fared decently in two of these three. Their DRS of -4 was 10th in the NL. These days some consider DRS as is THE defensive stat. Just for your viewing, Reds LFers ranked 6th in UZR (1.4) and UZR/150 (-5.2)
I also peek at one other number: RZR, or revised zone rating. RZR is an older, more simplistic version of DRS. It takes into account how many balls hit into a specific zone are recorded as outs. Not as many components as DRS or UZR.
The Reds LFers had a RZR of .885 this past season, placing them 13th in the NL. Not the entire story here, though. According to Fangraphs, that .885 would be considered as being between above average (.860) and great (.900). While the ranking seems poor, the overall range is not as bad as the rank.
You might wonder why I spent so much more time on the defense over the offense. All you needed was that table to clearly see where the deficiencies at the position were this past season.
Don’t think I need to dwell on this too much. The bats were lacking and the fielding was a little better than we might give credit.