Of all the shady and nefarious dealings perpetrated by the Washington football franchise under Dan Snyder’s watch, one of the final ones involved potential tampering with former All-Pro quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, you may recall, was drafted #1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts and excelled there prior to abruptly retiring at age 29 with a trio of years remaining on his contract, opting to enjoy post-football life before his body consumed any more punishment at the hands and helmets of NFL defenders.
Luck has been retired for some four years now, and that has absolutely nothing to do with Cincinnati Reds baseball. What does have to do with Cincinnati Reds baseball, however, is a rather egregious lack of luck, at least as defined by their success at turning balls put in play against them into outs.
From the pitching’s perspective, they’ve been the single most unlucky team in the game, owners of a .344 BABIP staff-wide. That’s the highest mark in all of Major League Baseball, with anemic Missouri clubs St. Louis (.332) and Kansas City (.318) next up on the list. (For the record, the Chicago White Sox (.318) are now tied with KC after everything a weekend filled of watching absolutely everything their bats touched fall in for hits in Great American Ball Park.)
Things have been lucky enough for the offense of the Reds, at least. Their .311 team-wide mark ranks tied for the 6th highest in the game, with the .329 mark from the Philadelphia Phillies the highest of the 30 clubs. That the Reds pitching mark is so much higher than the highest team mark does at least reinforce just how unlucky they’ve been, I believe, especially since Cincinnati pitchers have been middle-of-the-road in groundball rate (42.7%, 16th overall) and hard-hit rate (30.9%, 19th). In other words, they aren’t simply out there allowing line-drive lasers hit harder than any other club, they just aren’t turning them into outs nearly enough.
(Their barrel-rate allowed (8.0%, tied for 17th highest) backs that up further, even if the hard-hit rate listed on FanGraphs’ Statcast page doesn’t match up with the one on their team-stat page.)
Does the team’s defense factor into this, at all? It sure does, and for the most part FanGraphs (and other metrics) continue to rate the Reds overall defense as sub-par. That said, it currently rates as slightly below par, far from ‘worst baseball on the planet,’ so it’s hard to pin the lack of balls in play converted into outs solely on the glovework.
Andrew Luck is not returning to football, much less to the Washington Generals. Hopefully, though, luck returns to the Cincinnati pitching staff, particuarly to Nick Lodolo, whose .435 mark through 34.1 IP this season isn’t just absurd, it’s the highest mark among the 76 qualified pitchers by a ridiculous .066 points (Miles Mikolas, at .377, is second).