After 70 games, the Reds have enough under their belt to warrant some closer inspection that can't entirely be brushed off by claiming Small Sample Size. They've played AL teams at home and on the road, most regulars have over 100 PAs both on the road and at home, and they've now played through chilly Spring air as well as the first bits of the Summer heat.
Three of the Reds' regulars have had a few statistical trends that I found interesting, so I took a closer look.
70 games into what is likely Choo's first and last season in Cincinnati, we can all agree that he's been the penicillin to the bacterial goop that had been the Reds lead off position for the last few years. His .428 OBP has him second in the NL (behind only Joey Votto), his .904 OPS is good for second on the team and 7th in the NL, and he's on pace to set a career high in walks by a wide margin. In short, he's been exactly the kind of lead off hitter we've dreamed about for years.
He's also been slowing down, though, and his otherworldly start to the season is beginning to look like more of a myth and less of a bump from switching from the AL to the NL.
In reality, he's showing that he's not the front-runner for NL MVP that he was through his first 40 games as a Red; instead, he's showing that he's exactly the player he has been over his previous 7 years in the league, and that's absolutely fine.
Choo currently has a 1.054 OPS vs. RHP compared to just a .554 OPS vs. LHP...but we expected that.
Choo has taken advantage of hitting in GABP to the tune of a 1.047 OPS at home vs. a .765 OPS on the road...but we expected that, too.
Choo had an OPS of 1.031 in April, but has seen that dip to .880 in May and just .709 in June...but we expected a bit of that, too. His career OPS by month has him off to hot starts (.856 in April), mild slumps (.805 in May), but also strong finishes (.912 in Sept/Oct). Seeing him rebound from an off June shouldn't surprise you at all.
In fact, aside from his increased walk rate, the only thing different from 2013 Choo and the Choo of yore is his propensity to be hit by pitches. His 18 HBP is already a career high, and if that number sat at what his career rate dictated (about 7 thusfar), he'd be looking at a season line of .278/.407/.476, which isn't much off his career line of .288/.386/.466, especially when you consider that his BABIP is just about in line with his career rate.
Go-cart's stat line is a weird bird. It's probably weirder than if Kinky Friedman and Charlie Scrabbles had a photoshop contest. It's Red Reporter level weird.
In fact, it may very well be the prototypical case study for the causation/correlation argument, the lineup protection argument, and the lineup optimization argument.
I'm not here to discuss the "why" portion of Cozy's year, however, or even the "what's next." I just want to look objectively at what he's done so far this season.
Cozart hit 7th for the first 7, and 8 of the first 9 games of the 2013 season before being moved to the 2 spot in the lineup more or less for good on April 13th. As the number 7 hitter in the Reds lineup, Zack has hit an oof-esque .105/.125/.263 this year (4 for 41 with 10 Ks and zero walks), and since the bulk of those PAs came at the start of the season, it's tough to say whether he's terribly bad hitting 7th in the lineup or if he just wasn't quite ready to start the year when the season started. I don't know, and like I said, I'm not delving into that.
What's undeniable, however, is what he's done since being anointed the primary 2 spot hitter in the order. In his 235 PA in that spot, he's hit a respectable .279/.306/.409, and while that's nowhere near ideal, it's perfectly acceptable given the parameters of a Dusty Baker lineup card.
I don't know if Cozy wears different contacts on days he hits 2nd instead of 7th, and I don't know if having Joey Votto behind him in the lineup turns him into that little guy at the bar who yaps incessantly because he's there with his football-player friends. I honestly don't really care. What I know is what I see, and what I see is a second consecutive season where he hits poorly in many spots, but hits markedly better when hitting 2nd in the lineup.
So yes, Cozart's .249/.275/.381 overall line in 2013 looks poor, but I don't find that particularly telling of how he's performed thusfar. I'll say it again: I'm fine with him hitting 2nd in the order. I
The 2013 season displayed by Bruce thus far has also been an interesting case study. In 2011, Bruce hit .256/.341/.474, and while his SLG was down, his walk rate was at an all-time high and he hit a pretty shockingly low number of doubles, resulting in a season OPS+ of 118. In 2012, Bruce's walk rate and OBP declined slightly, but he increased his SLG by 40 points to a career high, and his .252/.327/.514 line resulted in, again, an OPS+ of 118. In 2013 so far, Bruce's walk rate has declined precipitously, his BABIP has spiked, his HRs are down, his 2Bs are way up, and he's striking out at a career worst rate...yet his .283/.330/.495 line has him, again, at a season OPS+ of 118.
Which one's the real Jay? Which one do you want to be the real Jay?
Jay's hitting LHP (.865 OPS) better than RHP (.807), something he last did in 2010, and while his HR rate is down slightly, he's hitting line drives at a rate far better that at any point in his career (28.5% as compared to a career rate of 19.4%). This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if it's an approach change predicated upon his previous struggles away from GABP. His 2013 road average of .281 is well above his career road average of .236, and he's slugging better on the road this year, too (.453 to .417), and while he's still been better at home this year, his doubles rate at home is higher, his BABIP is higher (because he's trading doubles for HRs), and his SLG has decreased just slightly.
He's on pace for 28 HR, 51 2B, 109 RBI, 194 K, and an OPS above his career average. Whether these trends continue is anyone's guess, but it's odd to see Jay continue to be equally as productive in this year as in previous years while doing it in, yet again, a completely different way.