Cincinnati Reds: Base running blunders contributing to close losses

ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 04: Paul DeJong #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals turns a double play over Jose Peraza #9 of the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning at Busch Stadium on June 4, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - JUNE 04: Paul DeJong #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals turns a double play over Jose Peraza #9 of the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning at Busch Stadium on June 4, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

One and two-run losses have haunted the Cincinnati Reds this season. The team’s base running blunders have not helped in these close contests.

It has been no secret that the Cincinnati Reds have played in a lot of one-run games during the 2019 season. Entering play on Wednesday, according to Baseball-Reference, the Reds have played 77 games overall, with 28 of them having been decided by one run. The team’s poor base running has been a big factor in many of those losses.

It is commonly believed that in baseball there can be many random variables that can affect the outcome of these games, meaning one-run game records for most teams tend to stabilize near .500 by season’s end. However, prior to a 3-game series sweep of the Houston Astros, the Reds were just 9-16 in one-run games, despite playing like a team capable of being in the postseason race.

The Pythagorean Record, which creates a hypothetical record for each MLB team based on how many runs they have scored, versus how many they have allowed, suggests Reds should be 43-34. A mark like that would place them third in the National League by winning percentage.

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So, the question clearly becomes, what some of the factors are that the Reds can control that are contributing to their bad luck in one-run games. One of the reasons could be that the pitching staff has been so strong, while the offense has been abysmal at times; particularly at the beginning of the season, making for low-scoring, tightly contested games. However, another overlooked reason could be that the Reds have been one of the worst base running teams in baseball.

In late November, the Reds made the decision to cut ties with one of the fastest players in the game, center fielder Billy Hamilton. Offensively, that move has paid dividends, as Nick Senzel, the new everyday center fielder, is slashing .271/.328/.492, with eight home runs. The departure of Hamilton, however, has created an issue for the Reds on the bases.

Without the speedy Hamilton, the Cincinnati Reds have still managed to steal 33 bases, which is sixth in the National League, and right around the league average. However, the Reds have also been caught 21 times, which leads the Rockies by one for the most in the National League.

Some of that can be contributed to the fact that Cincinnati is stealing more than they were at this time during previous seasons. But, leading the league in a statistic such as caught stealing, which essentially erases potential runs, is something that may have caused the Reds to be on the losing end of so many close contests.

Looking at the advanced stats (and yes, I know some of you want to leave the page now, but please don’t because these are important too), the Reds have been even worse. Using Fangraphs’ BsR (BaseRunning) stat, which encompasses a team’s ability to not only steal bases, but also how well they advance from base to base, take the extra base, and avoid double plays, the Reds rank 29th in baseball, ahead of only the Miami Marlins.

On the individual level, the Reds possess three of the poorest baserunners in all of baseball, as Jesse Winker ranks last at -3.7 BsR, while Eugenio Suarez is fourth-worst at -3.5, and José Iglesias is 15th-worst at -2.0. That is not to say that the Reds should suddenly decide to bench these players.

Each one of the trio has contributed in great lengths offensively and defensively, particularly Iglesias, who is a sleeper pick for the NL All-Star team. However, it does put into perspective that there are significant areas of improvement for every player, even the best players.

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It is beginning to dawn on me that some of you may not like this negative energy on such a passionate Reds’ fan page. However, it points out that the Reds have a clear weakness, and while things like this can always improve as the season rolls on, it could also be a big reason for the success or lack thereof in one-run games. Hopefully David Bell and the rest of the team can iron out whatever the issues are before we get too late into the campaign.