Cincinnati Reds in Review: The Offense

There will be little remembered about the 2014 season for the Cincinnati Reds as the years melt away and wrinkles begin to form on our currently smooth foreheads. All the gray hairs that began to form where good-looking blonde or brown once stood will be blamed on the rebellious nature of our children—not quite the tumultuous 2014 that some baseball team in Cincinnati had.

For 162 games, I, alongside countless others, sat behind some electronic device to consume an inhumane amount of baseball revolving the Redlegs in 2014. Plain and simple: things did not go well. After having made the Postseason three out of the last four years, this year was a bitter reminder that being one of the final eight (10) teams standing is a privilege, not a birthright.

This article will begin our series on grading nearly everything involving Cincinnati Reds baseball in 2014. If it happened, we’ll give it a grade. Agree, disagree, it’s all a matter of public perception. If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that hopefully, 2015 shows us brighter days.

The Offense:

 

It may seem odd to attempt to classify the giant enigma that was the Reds offense, but let’s go for it.

There were pleasant surprises, and there were massive disappointments. Players had breakout seasons that will undoubtedly force organizations to give them an uptick in pay, and some players had seasons so catastrophic, it has the fan base questioning why they got money whatsoever.

Outside of Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, there was not a player on the Reds roster who had an outstanding season. Compare that to years past when the club reeled off division championships in 2010 and 2012, where 5-7 players were having the best years of their career. There is no doubt now that Frazier and Mesoraco are forces to be reckoned with, but this season proved that no matter how good the pitching, without a balanced lineup, things are bound to go south.

It’s difficult to imagine the fact that the Reds three best offensive players could all sink like the Titanic at once. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce not only did not perform up to standards, it took the term “down season” to a whole new level. All three men had debilitating injuries which they battled through, so there is no question the toughness level, but when the results were so dramatically poor, it leaves a whole lot of eyebrows fixated in the raised position.

Despite the fact that he limped to the finish line, Billy Hamilton may still have the résumé to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award. It doesn’t take a devout Reds fan to explain the value of Hamilton offensively; it was quite simple, when he got on base, the offense hummed, even when the superstars were gone. Hamilton may never be the player his namesake was back in the 19th Century, but he doesn’t have to be. In order for this offense to turn the corner, Billy just needs to keep on being Billy.

If there is one stat to signify the disaster that was the Reds offense this season, it would be this: Brayan Pena played in 115 games. His previous career-high was 72. He would collect 372 plate appearances; his previous career-high was 243. His .253 batting average was actually below his career average. The same goes for his on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Pena did an admirable job in the role that he performed for Cincinnati, but to think that was a reasonable back-up plan is inexcusable. Preparing for a disaster can kind of being an uncomfortable topic in a Major League clubhouse, but if there’s no plan, there will always be 2014 to point to as the example of a complete disaster.

The last time a Reds offense was so inept? Try 1982. That club went 61-101. Prior to 2014, that was the last time the Reds scored under 600 runs.

Final Grade: C

Were it not for Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, this club would have been on the fast track to a “F” in not only the offensive category, but nearly every other category imaginable as well.

A “C” seems like a fitting letter grade for a club that did just barely enough to hang on most of the season. Some will argue that may even be too high, but there is no question that when healthy, there is still a sizeable amount of talent in Cincinnati.