If you are a believer in FanGraphs’ DEF valuation for team defense, you’re of the opinion that the Cincinnati Reds were not a good defensive team on the whole in 2023. Their collective -24.6 rating sat 26th among all Major League Baseball teams, and while it was more punitive than many other defensive metrics, they were all mostly in agreement that the glovework was suspect on the banks of the Ohio River.
UZR graded them at -17.7, 23rd overall. UZR/150 was slightly kinder at -2.5, a mark that left them as the 19th ranked unit. OAA (Outs Above Average) marked them down as the second worst unit in the entire game, however, their -36 ranking better than only the Oakland A’s for the season.
Their defensive foibles were perhaps matched only by the constant rotation at the respective positions, a scenario indicative of a team with a fluid roster that was emerging from a rebuild. With hardly any regulars getting regular playing time for the full 162 and many of them plying their trade at multiple positions, it was both tough to get a feel for their full abilities while also difficult for them to carve out reputations as defenders across the diamond. Those two qualities are the primary drivers for winning Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, which made it hardly surprising that no Reds finished in the Top 3 in the voting at any position this year.
Rawlings announced their ‘finalists’ on Wednesday, though that is merely a formality - the trio of names at each position have already been voted upon and decided, so it’s merely a formality to include two of the names that did not win to add suspense for those parties involved.
Look, we know that Elly De La Cruz has the potential to be an all-world defender, but he played in just 98 games in 2023. Similar story with Matt McLain, should he get a chance to show his worth over a full slate of a season. There are some good defenders on this club (read: TJ Friedl), but this was simply not their year in the spotlight to earn such acknowledgement.
That said, it’s probably time to bust out the fungo bat and play some pepper all offseason, especially if the front office isn’t going to invest money in proven pitching. The defense, as a whole, must improve tremendously.