Reds Rebound: Realistic or Reverie?

facebooktwitterreddit

Just over a week ago, I told you to relax. I suggested that the Reds recent struggle were the result of tough competition and some bad luck. I told you that the Reds would rebound, and stay in contention for the NL Central title. Since that post, the Reds have gone 4-3, and inspired little hope. Well, I’m back again, to tell you that there are still reasons to be hopeful about this club.

Bronson Arroyo

Arroyo has been simply terrible this year. With an ERA over 5, he has allowed nearly 2 HR per 9 innings. But this should come as no surprise to Reds fans. Historically, Arroyo has struggled early in the season.  In 2010, Arroyo posted an ERA of 5.47 in his first 11 starts. By the end of the year, his ERA dropped to 3.88. He accomplished this by posting a 3.60 ERA in June, a 2.81 ERA in July, and a 2.97 ERA in August.  For his career, Arroyo’s ERA is 4.75 in the first half of seasons. He sports a 3.66 ERA in the second half. In short, Arroyo’s slow start is normal. You can expect improved pitching from Bronson moving forward.

Edinson Volquez

Unfortunately, I don’t have any interesting splits on Volquez that suggest he typically improves over the second half of the season. I can tell you that at first glance, Volquez appears to be the victim of some “bad luck” thus far. To determine such a thing as “luck,” we can look at batted-ball information. According to fangraphs, 18.4% of fly-balls allowed by Volquez have left the park for a homerun. The league average HR/FB ratio is 6.8%. For his career, Volquez’s HR/FB ratio is 11.6%. In addition, Volquez is allowing fewer line-drives (15.7% this year, 19.2% career) and fewer fly-balls (30.8% this year, 33.8% career), while inducing more ground-balls (53.5% this year, 46.9% career).  He is also striking out more batters per 9 innings (9) than the league average (7.2).

All of this suggests that Volquez has been unlucky this year. Despite allowing fewer line-drives and fly-balls, he’s giving up more homeruns.

One aspect in all of this that Volquez can control is walks. Volquez is walking more batters than usual, and that’s certainly not “bad luck.” Nonetheless, pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery typically struggle with control for a period of time. The further removed from the surgery we get, the more likely Volquez will reduce his walks.

Jonny Gomes

The Reds have seen little production from left field this season. Jonny Gomes, in particular, has been miserable for much of the season. While I am not a huge supporter of Jonny Gomes, it appears as though he has also been a bit unlucky this year.  Gomes is striking out more than usual (34.6% this year, 30.5% career), but his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) suggests he has been unlucky in 2011. For his career, Gomes’ sports a .292 BABIP. The league average BABIP is .293.  This year, Gomes’s BABIP has dropped to .229. So, even when Gomes does put the ball in play, he’s simply not getting hits as a result. The law of averages suggests that this will change. Expect better “luck” for Gomes moving forward.

Scott Rolen

Rolen has also been bitten by the “bad luck” bug. His BABIP has dropped from .302 in 2010 to .264 in 2011, despite the fact that he’s hitting more line-drives this year (20.3% in 2011, 19.4% in 2010). Additionally, his HR/FB ratio has dropped dramatically, from 11.6% in 2010 to 3.5% this year. It is possible that this drop is due to a loss of “pop” in his bat, but such a dramatic decline suggest some degree of bad luck.

Paul Janish

Another “black-hole” in the Reds’ lineup has been the short stop position. Paul Janish has never been a great hitter, and likely never will be. Still, many of us belief that he can hit “enough” to justify playing time. As with the others mentioned above, Janish has been “unlucky” this year. Despite hitting more line-drives (22.6% this year, 18.9% in 2010), Janish has seen his BABIP decline (.255 this year, .283 in 2010). He is striking out less than last year, and hitting more line-drives. This should typically result in improved batting average. Instead, his average has dropped more than 30 points from 2010 to 2011.

Realistic

It is possible that these trends will continue, but highly unlikely. Sure, many of the Reds are underperforming, specifically the starting pitchers. But it is completely reasonable to expect many of these players to rebound, given the bad luck that has occurred at key positions. Arroyo will likely put together a solid second half, as he has done throughout his career. Volquez will likely see fewer fly-balls leave the park and harness his control, as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. Jonny Gomes, Scott Rolen and Paul Janish will likely see more balls fall in for hits. In the end, the 2011 Reds will resemble the 2010 Reds, when the law of averages takes over.