The Cincinnati Reds will win or lose with offense in 2017

Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cincinnati Reds may have solved their starting rotation issues this year, but offense will decide 2017.

The Cincinnati Reds had their best offensive month of the season in August.  The first two weeks of September have been even better.  So far the team that has been playing since the trade of Jay Bruce to the New York Mets appears to be the team in essence that will play in 2017.

The Reds surged to tenth in MLB in runs scored in August, including  fifth in the National League.  They were eighth in hits, while still only ranking 26th in home runs. This is a sign of a team that has a diverse offense.

What turned things around?  It was a combination of factors.  The Reds suddenly found a new ability to draw walks.  They ranked eighth in the MLB in drawing walks in August after ranking 18th throughout the season.  That helped scored runs and put more pressure on the opposing pitchers to through strikes that could be turned into hits.

They also struck out the fourth fewest times in the majors and fewest times in the NL Central.  The offense became a new beast without Bruce.  It does have something to do with the fact that Bruce was replaced by Scott Schebler in right.  Jose Peraza’s call-up at the end of the month changed the offensive style as well.

A better on base percentages and fewer strike outs.  It was more than Jay Bruce leaving, but less than a complete change in the way the team hit.  About the same time Bruce left the line-up, Billy Hamilton began to bat lead-off.  With an OBP of over .300 Hamilton finally appears set to be that guy for the Reds.  Then his season ended in injury.

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Given the pitching progress why does this offensive improvement matter?

Two things are going on here.  The first and most noticeable is that the pitchers in Cincinnati are giving up more home runs than they have in quite a while or actually ever.  The Reds’ pitchers have allowed more home runs in 2017 than ever in franchise history.  This isn’t too alarming as the pitches are young and GABP is the first home field in Reds’ history that is truly homer friendly.  Adam Dunn heads to Cooperstown that way, but it’s not enough of a reason for the franchise record to be set.  With pitching in a downturn the offense must carry the load.

Next: Reds need a new way to decide who starts games

The Reds’ defense is also going downhill.  Changing from Todd Frazier to Eugenio Suarez at third and potentially from Zack Cozart to Jose Peraza shortstop downgrade what was recently an elite defense.  That’s just one more piece in the rebuilding puzzle.