With apologies to fielding, the two biggest components of professional baseball clubs are hitting and pitching. Baseball 302 stuff this is decidedly not, folks.
When a franchise gets both of those major tenets wrong, however, it’s probably worth pointing it back out. The 2022 Cincinnati Reds got many, many things wrong, and while luck and injuries and the fates often conspired to conflagrate those problems, it’s not as if their overriding plan was anything other than to get worse at those two things, the hitting and the pitching.
They dealt away stars during the winter, while waving goodbye to others they’d once employed. Once the season began, they continued that cull. So, it should truly come as no surprise that their bad offense and spotty pitching got progressively worse.
Thanks to the handy dandy splits searches from our friends at FanGraphs.com, we can further highlight not just that they were bad, but in which precise situations they were worse than most of their peers. All of their peers, even.
On offense, anyone with a pulse has come to know the single most defining characteristic of offensive success in the modern game. Jonah, if you will:
There are only three bases with which opposing pitchers can work before their inability to keep players off the bases turn into runs. Getting the first runner on, therefore, becomes the ultimate rally starter. Runs, man - this is how you begin to score them. Unless, of course, you fail to get that first runner on.
When batting with the bases empty during the 2022 season - y’know, scenarios in which the Reds were attempting to get the party started - they collectively posted just a .287 OBP. While that was not the single worst team mark in the game (it ranked 25th), their team wRC+ in those scenarios of just 76 was - you guessed it - the single worst team mark in all of baseball.
You may accuse me here of cherry-picking a bad pitching stat to complement the bad hitting stat, and I’d be willing to hear you out. Of course, there were so many bad pitching stats that it becomes much, much harder to find any team stat in which the Reds so much as ranked in the good half among their peers than absolutely last. So, for this particular narrative we’ll focus on one that would, in theory, be quite vital on a team whose offense struggles more than any other to even get into potential run-scoring scenarios:
Keeping runners on-base from scoring. Because if the offense isn’t going to give you anything to work with, you’ve got to buckle down in higher leverage situations just to give yourself even a glimmer of hope.
Anyway, in situations where Reds pitchers were pitching to opponents when their opponents had men on-base, they yielded a wOBA of .356. That, you’ll be shocked to hear, was the worst mark in all of baseball. For comparison’s sake, Starling Marte and Alex Bregman posted individual wOBA marks of .355 and .358 during the 2022 season, and that’s effectively what Reds pitching allowed to be pounded off of them on average during the season. To expand upon that, their FIP in these situations was 4.83, which was also - I know, I know - the worst mark in all of baseball.
If you jockey further into team pitching stats with men not just on-base, but in actual scoring position, you’ll find a similar story. The Reds owned a 5.05 FIP in such situations, which I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear was the worst in the game. They buckled down to allow only a .350 wOBA in those situations - only 3rd worst! - though the .471 slugging percentage they gave up in those spots was, unfortunately, the worst in the game.
To sum this up, the Reds offense couldn’t ever get the party started, while the Reds pitching couldn’t kick anyone out of the party even after the cops had arrived and started handing out citations.