Table of Contents

Friday, August 03, 2007

July 2007 Reds Review Part 2: Hitting

After scoring a season high 4.8 r/g in June (6th in the league), the Reds' offense declined fairly dramatically in July, scoring just 4.4 r/g (11th in league). The primary cause seemed to be a dramatic decline in power, falling from a 0.452 SLG in June to just 0.389 in July (14th in NL).

To try to understand what happened, let's look at the Reds' stats on the month:
B. Phillips 120 16% 5% 0.330 0.310 0.350 0.504 0.195 0.854 0.816 0.363 -0.2 17
A. Dunn 109 26% 17% 0.298 0.239 0.376 0.455 0.216 0.831 0.831 0.360 0.2 16
K. Griffey 111 15% 21% 0.209 0.205 0.369 0.375 0.170 0.744 0.874 0.303 0.7 15
Hatteberg 76 9% 18% 0.370 0.339 0.461 0.468 0.129 0.928 0.823 0.389 0.0 14
R. Freel 103 18% 3% 0.293 0.242 0.301 0.326 0.084 0.627 0.643 0.285 0.3 10
Keppinger 55 4% 7% 0.319 0.320 0.382 0.500 0.180 0.882 0.855 0.384 0.0 10
D. Ross 72 25% 10% 0.273 0.231 0.306 0.446 0.215 0.752 0.792 0.315 0.0 8
Encarnacion 86 20% 8% 0.259 0.221 0.302 0.312 0.091 0.614 0.679 0.282 0.2 8
J. Conine 54 9% 9% 0.256 0.250 0.315 0.375 0.125 0.690 0.759 0.305 0.2 6
N. Hopper 47 15% 4% 0.368 0.311 0.340 0.356 0.044 0.696 0.589 0.313 -0.5 5
J. Hamilton 16 31% 6% 0.500 0.357 0.438 0.643 0.286 1.080 0.870 0.460 0.0 4
J. Valentin 43 19% 0% 0.294 0.238 0.256 0.286 0.048 0.542 0.557 0.243 0.0 3
A. Gonzalez 35 31% 6% 0.318 0.212 0.257 0.303 0.091 0.560 0.542 0.250 0.0 2
P. Lopez 40 15% 3% 0.219 0.184 0.225 0.237 0.053 0.462 0.602 0.211 0.0 2
J. Castro 6 0% 17% 0.400 0.400 0.500 0.400 0.000 0.900 0.724 0.420 0.01

Ok, first, the good:

Brandon Phillips
had a fantastic month with his bat. Thanks to a high batting average, which was aided by a mildly high BABIP, and a return of a modest walk rate, he posted his first 0.350+ OBP month of the year. At the same time, he easily led the team with six home runs and 57 total bases, posting a fine 0.363 wOBA--outstanding performance for a middle infielder.

Scott Hatteberg was machine, though much of his on-base success (0.461) can be explained by his unusually high BABIP. Nevertheless, he continues to be of fine value on more active side of the Reds' 1B platoon. ... And therefore, he should have had trade value. But whatever.

For all my concerns about how Jeff Keppinger might push Encarnacion to the bench under Mackanin, there's no denying what a fine 55 PA's he had in July. I was very positive about Keppinger in my profile of him last February, and I'm excited to see him showing his worth in the big leagues. I do not see him as a starter, at least not with Eddie on the team, but I love him as an offensively-oriented 5th infielder.

And then the mediocre:

It's hard to call Adam Dunn's month bad, as the guy did post an 0.376 OBP on the month. But his power numbers (0.455 SLG) were the lowest he's posted in any month this season, and the Reds clearly needed help in that area. That said, he wasn't the main problem with the Reds offense by any means. It's also worth nothing that his walk rate was back up to normal after a strange decline in June. Dunn'll be fine, this was just an off-month for him.

Dave Ross posted a 0.750 OPS, and has not posted an OPS below 0.700 since April. His low OBP is not good, but his ISO of 0.215 is was in a virtual tie for the club lead last month. Given his defensive skills abilities behind the plate, I'm ok with this. ... though it sure would be nice if he could rediscover the 13% walk rate he posted last season.

And then there were the guys who had miserable months:

Ken Griffey Jr.
hit 0.205/0.369/0.375. What happened? His isolated power is about half of what it was in May and June, though it was his batting average that really killed his slugging percentage. His BABIP was a ridiculous 0.209 in July, which suggests that he had some bad luck. ... though it is worth noting that his line drive rate has been declining over the past few weeks, and is back down to the rather low rate that he posted last season (currently just 14.8% for the year, which predicts ~0.270 BABIP--far lower than his career rates). I'm going to want to wait another month before I start sounding alarms, but it's worth monitoring these last few months. At least he has still been walking at a fantastic rate...

Ryan Freel, on the other hand, has been positively awful since returning from his concussion-induced break, hitting 0.242/0.301/0.326 in July. You have to wonder if he is really okay, or if he needs to take another month off. His BABIP was 0.293, which doesn't suggest particularly bad luck, especially for someone who has an 18% LD rate. The biggest drop in his productivity seems to have been caused by his walk rate, which dropped to a team-low 3% in July. This from a guy who walked in 11-12% of his plate appearances from 2004-2006. In fact, his OBP was as high as it was last month simply because he managed to get himself hit by a pitch five times. I'm not sure what has happened--he doesn't seem to have been more aggressive, as his strikeout rates are right where they've always been. But over his career, those walk rates have been the primary offensive weapon that Freel has had. Without them, and with the drop in line drive rate he's shown this season (previously 20-25%), Freel has been completely impotent at the plate. And yet he accounted for more than 10% of the Reds plate appearances in July. Get him out of the lineup, Pete. ... or at least out of the leadoff spot. Please?

Edwin Encarnacion
actually had a worse month, by the numbers, than Freel, hitting just 0.221/0.302/0.312 in July. His BABIP was a bit low, but even adjusting it up to 0.300 doesn't push his OPS out of the 0.600's. Edwin's season, so far, is easily the most disappointing individual performance of the year. His strikeout and walk rates this season are pretty much where they were last season. But his line drive rate is down, and his isolated power is just better than half of what it was last season. I still have faith in the kid, and I think he can pull out of it--but if the Reds keep playing him (as they should), and he does not start to show improvement by the end of the season... Well...

Finally, the "reserve" Reds were even worse on the month, with the combination of Conine, Hopper, Valentin, Gonzalez, and Lopez creating just 18 runs in 219 plate appearances--a lower rate than Freel or Encarnacion. And those five players accounted for 22.5% of all Reds plate appearances in June. Combine that with Freel and Eddie's PA, and you have 42% of all Reds plate appearances in July providing replacement level (or worse) production. Frankly, it's a testament to the performance of the rest of the Red hitters that they still managed to score 4.4 runs per game.