As I enjoyed this afternoons game I started thinking about consistent run production and how it affects the outcome of games throughout the season. It goes to the heart of a number of subjects that Reds fans regularly are often concerned about. We seem to leave a lot of runners on base and fail to capitalize on opportunities that present themselves during the course of the season. I not only wanted to know how productive the Reds have been but I also wanted to see how the Reds lineup stacks up against the published list of top National League All Star hopefuls.
I started out by looking at the Reds lineup. The methodology was straightforward. Using the wonderful tools available at baseball-reference.com I calculated the number of games in which each player scored a run or drove in a run and divided that total by the number of games played to arrive at a production percentage. Based on the results a number of surprising conclusion can be achieved. Here are the Reds totals:
One flaw in this analysis is that it counts a pinch hit appearance as a game played and no matter how good a pinch hitter is he will lower production numbers simply by a lack of at bats. Keep that in mind when looking at the Reds bench players. I did review Chris Heisey‘s numbers and discovered that when he gets more than one at bat in a game his numbers are 22 games with production among 35 games played for a production percentage of 63%. It is worth noting that this percentage is higher than all but 2 National League outfielders and is better than all Reds outfielders.Another surprising conclusion can be made when examining the Reds catchers. Both tend to clump production into large bursts during a game rather than game in and game out. With catchers in mind let’s take a look at the All Star vote leaders behind the plate.
The Braves Brian McCann leads in votes and in production percentage. Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy also has a percentage of 52%. This is the only position with no players eclipsing a production percentage of 60%. Putting this into context for older Reds fans, Johnny Bench in his 1970 MVP season produced in 98 of 158 games for a production percentage of 62%. Let’s move over to first base next.
Talk about a dead heat. Prince Fielder has 10 more home runs but this does not boost his production percentage beyond that of reigning MVP Joey Votto. Fielder, Votto and Howard are all playing extremely well so far during the first half of the season and I would be surprised if that does not continue into the second half. Last season Joey Votto produced in 93 of 150 games earning the MVP award at a 62% production percentage. Less than what he is doing in this allegedly “off season” he is reported to be having.
A lot of ink in Redlegs country in the past few days has referred to the fact that Brandon Phillips has fallen behind Rickie Weeks in All Star balloting. We should all rise up against this injustice and look at the consistency of Brandon’s performance. Here are the numbers:
Brandon does what the team needs. He scores runs or drives them in as needed and when you add his defense into the equation this should not even be a contest. He is leading the Reds in production percentage and has the third highest percentage in the entire National League. Let’s compare him to Joe Morgan in ’75 and ’76. In 1975, surrounded by all of the cogs of the Big Red Machine, Morgan produced in 96 of 146 games for a production percentage of 66%. In 1976, without Tony Perez, Morgan actually increased his percentage. He produced in 97 of 141 games for a production percentage of 69%.
At Shortstop the numbers actually took my breath away a bit. All season long I have listened to discussions about how the Reds need to make a trade for Jose Reyes. Upon looking at these numbers and comparing them to the likes of Bench, Votto and Morgan we simply can’t possibly afford him.
At a National League leading 72% production rate I decided to look at both Rodgers Hornsby and Barry Larkin to see how they might compare to Reyes season. Larkin won his MVP award in 1995 and produced in 80 of the 131 games he played in for a production percentage of 61%. Hornsby who by any account I have ever read is the best shortstop to lace up his spikes and the numbers seem to verify this fact. In 1925, his first MVP season he produced in an astounding 109 of 138 games for a production percentage of 79%. Four years later he won his second MVP award producing in 118 of 156 games for a production percentage of 76%. This is the company Reyes is keeping this season.
Third base presents a bit of a challenge to evaluate. None of the numbers are up to the standards set around the diamond. Placido Polanco has the most games where he either scored or drove a run in but at 55% it is not a convincing argument. Only our own Scott Rolen breaks the 60% barrier which came as a surprise to me.
In order to compare these numbers to a Reds MVP I decided to use Pete Rose circa 1973 even though he played left field during the season. Let’s face it, the Hit King was never on the field for his defense. In 1973 he produced in 97 of 160 games for a production percentage of 60% the lowest of any of the MVP’s I analyzed. I decided to also look at my favorite non-Reds player, George Brett who in 1980 produced in 82 of just 117 games while hitting .390 for a production percentage of 70%. In the same year Dayton native, Mike Schmidt, won the NL MVP at third. He produced in 98 of 150 games for a percentage of 65%.
Finally I looked over the numbers in the outfield.
Shane Victorino missed a few games but has the best numbers in this group followed by Matt Kemp. I find it interesting that Matt Holliday is in the money with the voting public given that his numbers are virtually identical to Scott Rolen at third. I am biased so I would vote for Victorino, Kemp and Braun before either Cardinal but that is petty. Drew Stubbs is a lot closer to the leaders in this category than I expected. It is a shame he has not received any support over players far less worthy than he. For comparison I decided to take a look at George Foster in 1977 and Frank Robinson in 1961. Robinson produced in 106 of 153 games for a production percentage of 69%. Foster won the MVP award in 1977 giving the Big Red Machine 6 awards in just 8 years. He produced in 102 of 158 games for a percentage of 65%.
I hope you find this as interesting as I did. It does put Jose Reyes amazing year in perspective and it makes me appreciate Votto, Phillips and Rolen even more than I already did.
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