The Reds' offense was really bad last year. I mean, it was disgusting. For the season they scored a total of 595 runs, marking the first time the team failed to score at least 600 runs in a season since 1982. 1982! Given the demographics of this community, it's safe to say that the 2014 Reds had the worst offense most of you have ever seen in this city. But why were they so bad? In 2013, the Reds scored nearly 700 runs with essentially the same cast of characters. Key injuries and under-performing stars certainly contributed to the poor performance, but there is more to the story. For the Reds to be more productive at the plate, there is one thing they need to do more of... and it has nothing to do with power.
If you ask a random sampling of Reds fans what the team needs offensively, the vast majority will likely say something like, "a run producer," or "more power in the middle of the line-up." And sure, who wouldn't like to see more dingers? However, a quick comparison of the productive 2013 Reds and the putrid 2014 Reds would suggest that more power isn't the issue.
As you see, the Reds dropped dramatically. Just two National League teams scored more runs than the Reds in 2013, while only two teams scored fewer runs in 2014.
While the 2014 Reds hit fewer homers than the 2013 club, they were essentially the same with respect to the rest of the league; middle of the pack in the HR department.
No, the Reds didn't need more home-runs last year, they needed more men on base. With the departure of Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto injured for most of the year, the Reds saw a dramatic decline in the number of runners on base.
Let's recap: In 2013 the Reds ranked among the best in baseball in runs scored, despite being average in the power department. In 2014 the Reds ranked among the worst in baseball in runs scored, despite being average in the power department. The difference? Men on base. With Votto and Choo leading the universe in on-base percentage, the 2013 Reds got on base more often than nearly every other team.
The difference in OBP is not a result of dumb luck, or getting more hits (though those can factor into the equation). The dramatic change in the rate at which this offense was able to reach base was a direct result of their approach at the plate.
Lead the league in walks, score a lot of runs.
Near-worst in the league in walks, score very few runs.
And as a final point on approach, for those out there still of the mindset that Votto needs to "expand the zone." Consider the following.
*O-Swing% (outside swing percentage): The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
That's right. The 2013 version of the Reds were among the most patient in the league. All of those times Votto didn't "expand the zone," had a lot to do with that. As a result, the Reds drew more walks than any team in the National League and scored nearly 700 runs. Without that approach for much of the season, the 2014 Reds chased more pitches than two-thirds of the teams in the league. As a result, the Reds drew very few walks and scored fewer runs than any Reds team since Fast Times at Richmont High was released.