Cincinnati Reds in Review: The Defense


Next up in the psychoanalysis of the Cincinnati Reds’ miserable 2014 season comes our over-reaction (is it really though?) to their defense.

Sure, there are some great glove men out there for the Cincinnati nine, but just what does that translate to? A whole lot, actually.

There is no definitive defensive metric that can correlate just how important the defense is, but you’ll have to take our word for it. As highly maligned as the team was for their deficiencies this year, there is no questioning just how excellent the leather was.

The Defense:


It has long been said that elite defenses are built up the middle. Whether it was intentional or not, it’s difficult to imagine a better catcher-second base-shortstop-center field combination in the entire league.

Zack Cozart did not hit a lick. But, to say he was tremendous defensively would be an understatement. Were it not for Andrelton Simmons’ presence on the Atlanta Braves, Cozart would almost certainly be collecting his first Gold Glove. He may not be receiving a gold plaque, but that should not diminish his excellence.

His double play partner has been the best second baseman the Reds have seen on their side of the diamond since a fella named Joe Morgan. A four-time Gold Glove winner, Phillips may be on his way to his fifth in just a few short weeks.

A human highlight reel during his 121 games this year, it would be a true upset if Phillips were somehow unseated from his throne. Even combatting his thumb injury towards the end of the year, it was still blatantly obvious just who the premier second baseman is in baseball on the defensive side of the field.

It was a banner season defensively for Billy Hamilton, who announced his arrival in the form of diving catches and robbed home runs. For the second year running, there were whispers from the national media, voicing their concerns over how for the second straight year, a player who had never played centerfield before would adjust to the position. The resounding answer is just fine.

Hamilton’s Gold Glove odds are kind of like how every parent believes their child is the brightest. Sure, Hamilton has been brilliant defensively, but he’s just going to state school for college, while Juan Lagares and Carlos Gomez are headed to the Ivy League, figuratively. Much like Cozart, Hamilton is gridlocked in terms of winning a Gold Glove any time in the near future.

The last component of the defensive dominance up the middle is backstop Devin Mesoraco. In his first full year as a Major League catcher, anything but two thumbs up is an inadequate representation. Despite the desires of Johnny Cueto—the team’s best pitcher—to pitch to personal catcher Brayan Pena, Mesoraco managed to catch each man on the staff and establish his own game-calling abilities. Throwing out runners will be a work in progress, but there is no doubt over the strength of Mesoraco’s arm.

Were the Reds merely below average at the remaining positions on the diamond, their defense would already be excellent. The fact that despite his dreadful season at the plate, Jay Bruce still churned out Gold Glove-caliber defense in right field was sensational.

He may not be in the running for a Gold Glove due to the constant flipping of positions, but Todd Frazier reinforced some legitimate versatility at either corner infield position.

When healthy, both Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick were both also extremely solid. Neither will ever be mistaken for some defensive runs saved guru, but anything in their vicinity was gobbled up.

Final Grade: A


This really was the one facet of the game the Reds did exceptionally well in 2014. Committing the fewest errors in baseball by a wide margin (72), this arguably was one of the best defensive teams to ever play in Cincinnati.

There were only four teams in Major League Baseball to have better than 40 defensive runs saved above the league average. Leading the way were the Reds with an astounding 68. Bringing up the pack? The St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

If there was ever any doubt that defense does win championships, look no further. It may not have seemed like it in 2014, but the Cincinnati Reds are on their way.