If you're a Cincinnati Reds fan, you're most assuredly concerned about this team's ability, or inability of late, to produce runs. A quick look at the MLB offensive rankings confirms as much. The Reds are currently No. 28 in the MLB in runs scored. Their 202 runs put them ahead of just the Padres and Braves in the NL.
But it wasn't always like this. While the Reds have yet to put together a notable hot streak in terms of wins, a quick revisit to April's offensive showing should illustrate that offense wasn't always the problem.
At the end of April, the Reds were eighth in the NL in runs scored. To put that into perspective, the Reds had scored just two runs fewer than their measuring stick, the St. Louis Cardinals. At the time, this now offensively anemic team had more hits than the scorching San Francisco Giants.
So what changed?
At the end of April, the Reds' team OBP was .322. That was the fourth best OBP in the NL at the time. Moving to May, we see a dramatic decrease in runs—the Reds went from scoring 102 runs in April to just 86 in May.
While they recorded just ten fewer hits, the team's collective OBP went from .322 to .288. And now the Reds stand nearly 30 runs shy of those Cardinals.
While there have been plenty of injuries to blame for the Reds' offensive woes, has there been any injury more crippling than Joey Votto's?
Votto's current OBP sits at .410. At .410, Votto holds the fifth best OBP in the NL, and this guy has not played a game since May 15.
Furthermore, a quick review of the week prior to Votto getting that MRI hints that he was probably plagued by the quad long before he was pulled.
The difference between a decent April and an abysmal May seems to be the Reds' ability to get on base. With Joey Votto set to return, how can anyone realistically discount his importance to this lineup?
Enquirer Columnist Paul Daugherty writes in his daily morning blog The Morning Line:
"But for those who arrive here daily carping about the Reds injuries and thus implying that everything will be peaches once everyone is whole, well. . .
This Votto ain't that Votto.
He's not the MVP Joey. We could argue all day about the relative merits of Votto's OBP, but the truth remains, the Reds need RBIs in the middle of the lineup. Is Votto the guy for that?"
Cincinnati does need RBI, that much is certain. But isn't it brutally obvious that, unless the Reds plan on hitting nothing but solo home runs, they desperately need base runners?
Does the discrepancy of OBP between April and May not scream the importance of getting on base?
Joey Votto led the NL in walks the day he was kept behind in Cincinnati while the team headed to Philadelphia. As stated before, his .410 OBP would, today, be No. 5 in the NL.
Say what you will about the Reds and their offense, but know the difference between a lineup with Votto and a lineup without.
The Joey Votto effect is both measurable and tangible, even if he's not hitting 30-plus home runs or driving in 100 RBI. He awards guys like Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce the chance to drive in 100 runs or more—something neither had done before last season.
Is there honestly any doubt as to how the top run-creator in the NL last year might significantly enhance an offense that is struggling to create runs?
(All stats courtesy of ESPN.com/MLB)