September Swoon: The Reds' recent lack of offense

We all got a little carried away trying to hit hands-free home runs.

The Reds have had trouble scoring runs since the beginning of this month. That's arbitrary cut-off (they scored 9 runs on August 31), but that doesn't make it less true (does it?). And since five out of eight games this month have come against the Astros, it's especially puzzling.

The Reds are averaging 2.63 runs so far in September and are hitting for less power than they have in any previous month, despite having played 6 of 8 games at home.

We know the reason isn't the strength of competition. The Astros are the worst. The other team the Reds have played this month is the Phillies - resurgent, but still a flawed team. And the Reds have played six of the eight games at home, where their winning percentage is .611 on the season.

Starters faced

Maybe they've hit a tough string of starting pitchers?

Pitcher Date Outing Season ERA(+) SIERA
Lucas Harrell 9/1 7 IP, 1 ER, 7H, 3K, 1BB 3.83 (105) 4.04
Bud Norris 9/2 6 IP, 0 ER, 3H, 6K, 1BB 4.93 (82) 3.91
Tyler Cloyd 9/3 7 IP, 1 ER, 4H, 9K, 0BB 2.35 (AAA) -
Kyle Kendrick 9/4 6 IP, 2 ER, 6H, 3K, 1BB 3.96 (102) 4.32
Roy Halladay 9/5 7.1 IP, 1 ER, 8H, 5K, 1BB 3.87 (105)
3.57
Lucas Harrell 9/7 6 IP, 3 ER, 7H, 5K, 4BB 3.83 (105) 4.04
Bud Norris 9/8 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 6H, 4K, 2BB 4.93 (82) 3.91
Edgar Gonzalez 9/9 5 IP, 1 ER, 2H, 6K, 1BB 3.84 (AAA) -

Depending on what you think of Tyler Cloyd, you could probably call all of these pitchers above league average - with the exception of Bud Norris and Edgar Gonzalez. Taking Norris' starts as a unit, the Reds have hit him about the way you'd expect. The Reds have also gotten a bunch of base-runners on Harrell - 20 in 13 innings - but have scattered them.

Treating this as a small sample, I think the only truly baffling outing above came yesterday. Gonzalez is a 29-year-old pitcher who was playing for an unaffiliated Mexican league team earlier this season. Just as baffling - if not more - is that the Reds have also struggled to score against the Astros' bullpen - which is not a good bullpen. They've scored just 4 runs in 16 innings on Houston relievers.

Eyeballing it, I'd say it's equal parts good pitching by opponents, bad luck and bad hitting. There's not enough here to suggest the Reds are any worse than they've been over the rest of the season, but there's enough to remind us they're not an elite offense.

Lineups used

Dusty can't control who the Reds face, but he can (to a degree) control who plays.

Have there been too many bad players in the lineup this month? Probably not. Cozart has been out the last four games, giving way to Valdez and Gregorius. But Heisey has replaced Stubbs over three of those four games, while Votto has been back for the last three.

Offensive talent-wise, that seems like a wash to me.

Multiple slumps

Frazier and Ludwick have seen a very real downturn over these 8 games, while BP has been a cut below his normal self (Saturday night notwithstanding). Jay & Joey can hit as much as they want, but to put up crooked numbers there have to be other guys in line for the hit parade.

As long as Votto and Bruce aren't planning slumps for later this month, there's not much to worry about here. Frazier and Ludwick were probably due for some regression, but they're still much better than they've been. And the pressure should be off a little with Votto back and Rolen (hopefully) still around.

Bad luck

Having a few players slump at the same time could be considered back luck, of a sort. So can getting hits-but-not-runs, like the Reds did against Halladay and Harrell.

I don't see a suspiciously low BABIP at work, but the team has had 80 base-runners and only 20 runs. That's a 76% LOB% - higher than league average. It's meant 8 and a quarter guys left on base per game.

Lack of power is probably the biggest factor here.

Fatigue

It's a long season. Todd Frazier is playing his first fullish year in the bigs and hasn't taken a non-team off-day since July 30. Some of the off-days that appear on the schedule are just travel/recovery days in disguise. Some players are nursing hidden injuries or feeling the effects of late-season attrition.

I like this explanation as much as any other. OK, I don't "like" it. But it fits pretty well.

Some kind of collective psychological phenomenon

The Reds have hit these stretches before, both in the first half of April and in late-June/early-July. They happen to all good teams, especially those more heavy on run prevention. One bad game can stretch into a bad week if hitters start pressing.

#

Getting it all out of the way now was a good idea, Reds.

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