We criticize Dusty Baker around here a lot for his love the 1970's Dodger Way of playing baseball, and I believe it is well within our rights to do so. But I was wondering this afternoon if maybe Baker doesn't have much of a choice. Maybe small ball truly is the only way this team can score runs.
For instance, it's hard to score a lot when your team is last in the league in hits and base runners, and second to last in doubles, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Maybe the Reds have no choice but to try to manufacture runs since they sure as hell can't do it the easier way.
Then again, manufacturing runs isn't exactly getting them anywhere either. The team is second to last in the Majors in runs scored per game at 3.96, a pace that will give them the lowest team run total for an entire season since 1989, when 3.96 R/G was just over league average. This is despite (or because?) of the fact they are first in the majors in sacrifice bunt attempts and successes. They are also 5th in the Majors in productive out rate, a category led by the highest scoring team in the majors, the Los Angelheim Angels. The Reds also do an excellent job of avoiding double plays, bunting for base hits, and they are right at the league average for base runners taking the extra base on a hit. While they don't attempt stolen bases as often as we thought they would, their 71% success rate is at least acceptable for a team. I guess what I'm saying is that they aren't exactly making major mistakes with their attempts at small ball.
What we have is a bit of a chicken and the egg problem here. Are the Reds bad offensively because they are so committed to small ball, or are they committed to small ball because they are so bad offensively. Realistically, outside of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and maybe Jonny Gomes, do you think any of these guys are qualified to be driving in runs?
Is small ball the wrong reaction to this situation? I don't know. It's hard to say if playing "straight up" would make much of a difference for this team. They really don't have any sluggers - Jay Bruce still leads the team in home runs despite having been out for nearly a month. I still maintain that the biggest issue for this team is lack of opportunities. The Angels are scoring lots of runs despite only hitting 20 more HR than the Reds mainly because they do an excellent job of getting on base. They still make many of the same questionable small ball moves that the Reds make, but the wasting of outs doesn't hurt them as much because they have guys getting on base when they aren't trying to make outs. You really can't say the same for the Reds.
What do you think? Are the Reds just making matters worse by turning to small ball or do they even have a choice? Would it make any difference if they stopped?