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Can Scooter Gennett finally bring the Cincinnati Reds another 200 hit season?

It’s been a long 41 year dry spell.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The 1977 Cincinnati Reds season was a somewhat bittersweet one in many regards, at least as we watch it grey by the year. Tony Perez had been shipped away to Montreal prior to the season, the team only finished 14 games over .500, the back to back World Series titles never became a three-peat, and the era of the Big Red Machine was officially past its prime.

The 1977 Reds also featured something that the club has yet to replicate in some 41 years since, too: a 200 hit season by one of its players. Pete Rose smacked 204 that season for Cincinnati - the final such time he’d hit that many in a year as a Red - and to date that still marks the final time a Red has topped the 200 hit mark in a full season.

There have even been precious few close calls in seasons along the way. Rose topped out at 198 in 1978, Dave Parker swatted 198 in his brilliant 1985 campaign, and Sean Casey sniffed 200 with a 197 hit season in 1999, but Brandon Phillips’ 187 hit season in 2007 stands a distant fourth on the list of single-season totals during that time. Barry Larkin and Joey Votto - one a Hall of Famer, one soon destined to be - both can lay claim to 185 hits in a single season, but that’s as close as they’ve come to the somewhat mythical round number.

To be fair, hits haven’t exactly maintained their importance in the baseball world the way they once did. The evolution of how the game is both thought about and played, the advanced analytics that sabermetrics has brought out in the game, and the emphasis on both elevating the ball while hitting and shifting on defense has rendered hits a lower-tier spot on the ladder of statistical importance, with on-base percentage and where those hits go becoming of larger significance. Factor in the byproduct of focusing on power numbers and the spike in average fastball velocity - strikeouts - and the ball is being put in play fewer and fewer times a year these days, which means that there just aren’t as many eyes on hit totals as there once was. Still, the 200 hit plateau has been reached 166 times across MLB since Rose’s 1977 season, and nary a one of those has come from a Cincinnati Red.

There’s been quite the variety of players who have reached that mark in that time, too. Luminaries like Tony Gwynn, Wade Bogg, Ichiro, and Derek Jeter did it multiple times as their calling card, of sorts, but they were also joined both by the slap-hitting Juan Pierre, the hulking Albert Belle, and even the random 2004 season by Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson - he hit 201 in that career-year while never again hitting more than 151 in the other 11 seasons he played. Players that played for the Reds at some point in their careers also topped 200 hits in a season, as both Rich Aurilia and Bret Boone cleared that mark, albeit for other MLB clubs. In today’s game, however, it’s pretty much Jose Altuve leading the charge, with few players around the league truly fitting the mold of what it takes to reach 200 hits.

That mold, more or less, looks something like this:

a) plays everyday

b) hits for high average

c) rarely walks

I suppose that’s less of a mold than it is decoupling a simple math equation. To get to 200 hits, a player needs to hit for a high enough average over enough official at-bats, not just over plate appearances. That, of course, is how Joey Votto can own a career .313 average and play everyday and never get to 200 hits, since he draws walks such a massive amount of the time. To tie this whole article together, though, the 2018 Cincinnati Reds just might have a player who can crack the 200 hit mark, and it’s not Votto at all.

It’s Scooter Gennett.

Gennett, it’s worth noting, owns a personal best of just 136 hits in a season, which came just last year as a member of the Reds. So, while I pointed out a second ago how odd Jack Wilson’s name looks on that list of 200 hit seasons since 1977 based on his larger body of work, Scooter’s name would look even more outlandish on there under the same criteria. However, if there’s one thing that Scooter has done since being claimed by the Reds a year and a half ago, it’s show that the previous portion of his career truly is no real indication of what he’s capable of producing on the baseball field.

So far in 2018, he’s logged 94 hits in his 75 games played, his .331/.367/.528 line in 308 PA a rather stellar cog in the Cincinnati offense. That’s equated to 1.253 hits per game, which amounts to 203 in a 162 game season - if he were to play in every game. Of course, that’s not the case with Scooter already, as he’s only played in 75 of the team’s 78 games, which means we need to dive into his total at-bats to see what it’s going to take for him to maybe, perhaps, maybe be the first Red to top 200 hits in a season in 41 years.

If he somehow, some way maintains his sterling .331 average for the duration of the year, he’d need to get to 605 AB to top out at an even 200 hits on the year. With 284 to his credit through 75 games played, that means he’s averaging 3.786 AB per game played, and he’s currently 321 AB short of the 605 he needs at his current pace to get to 200 hits. Some fancy math means that on his current pace of both hits per AB and AB per game played, he’d need to play 85 more games this year to hit the 200 hit mark exactly on the head.

Well, the Reds have exactly 84 games left this season, which means this might actually be somewhat realistic.

Of course, there are a number of obvious variables that make that sort of strict math less of a prediction and more of a guide. For one, that’s assuming he maintains the 5.5% walk rate he’s sporting this year so far, though he’s walked as infrequently as 3.1% of the time in a season (2015, with Milwaukee), which means he could well get a few additional AB per game played down the stretch. He could also get moved up in the batting order, should Jim Riggleman continue to tweak things, which would get him more opportunities - though in a season that still looks like the playoffs are out of the question completely, Scooter could even lose playing time in September once rosters expand and more young players get opportunities. Or, y’know, he might well get a lot of hits in August and September as a member of another franchise altogether, given that he’s one of the Reds biggest trade pieces on the roster.

Still, the story here is two-headed, and both are pretty damn intriguing. On the one hand, there’s the fact that the Reds just haven’t been able to cobble together a 200 hit season since long before most of you were born, and on the other, it’s that a waiver-claim has netted the Reds another locally-born star fully capable of chasing that mark for the first time since the last one did.