Yesterday, the Reds went to an arbitration hearing with Eugenio Suarez. I’m guessing it was great time and someone brought graham crackers and everyone sat around talking about the latest episode of My Big Fat Fabulous Life. (If you yourself missed it, it was big and fat and fabulous but actually kinda dead behind the eyes if you ask me). The Reds came away with a favorable result, but this isn’t about that.
Suarez had a very impressive breakout season last year. He posted a .260/.367/.461 hitting line and wielded a sharp glove at third base, accruing 3.7 bWAR. What I’d like to focus on here is that dap-ass OBP. A .367 OBP was a good 43 points better than league average, which is the kind of out-avoiding the Reds have rarely seen in a while. Of course, he was only third-best on the team in that regard, behind the obvious Joey Votto (.454) and the now-Angel Zack Cozart (.385).
It got me thinking about how the Reds have fared in recent years in developing, signing, recruiting, and acquiring hitters that are as adept at getting on base. My memory tells me the Reds have had some troubles of late in getting players who don’t make outs (flashes of Billy Hamilton, pre-2017 Cozart, and Drew Stubbs all batting at the top of the order still give me the fevers). So I went back through the years to see the last time anyone got on base better than Suarez in any given season in which they had more than 400 PAs.
Of course, Joey Votto has done it every year of his career as he casually walks his way to first base, the Hall of Fame, and our hearts. Beyond him though, it has been incredibly rare. Back in 2014, Devin Mesoraco had his one good season when he got on base at a .359 clip over 440 PAs. That was about 45 percentage points above the league average (remember when it was a Pitcher’s League?). Of course, he has been injured every since.
In 2013, Shin-soo Choo got on base at a .423 clip over 712 PAs, sparking a good lineup that scored nearly 700 runs. That was an impressive 105 percentage points above the league average. That was his only year in Cincinnati as he used that great season to score a $100 million contract with Texas.
Way back in 2008, Adam Dunn posted a .373 OBP in 464 PAs, which was good for about 40 points above league average. He was traded to Arizona that August. In his eight seasons with the Reds, Dunn basically hovered around that 40-points-above-average range.
That’s it. From 2008 to 2016, the Reds had three non-Joey Votto players post an on-base percentage better than 40 points over the league average in a season. Now, I haven’t checked that across the league to see just how upsetting that should be, but my off-the-cuff guess is that most teams have done better than that.
Which, I guess all of this is to say that I like Eugenio Suarez and I’d like to see him continue to hit like this in Cincinnati. I don’t expect them to come up with a bunch of Joeys Votto, but just getting a few other hitters that can avoid outs can go a really long way at establishing a baseball team that can win some baseball games.