The Cincinnati Reds are painful to watch at the plate right now. In the last 17 games, the Reds have averaged 2.4 runs per game. Monday night, August 4, marked the 25th time overall this season the Reds have scored one run or less.
Let's examine the correlating abysmal offensive stats that comprise the third-worst NL offense. The Reds have 912 hits on the year, No. 12 in the NL. At 1,399 bases, they have tallied the fourth-worst amount of bases in the NL.
Third worst in RBI. No. 11 in the NL in batting average. And worst than any other offensive statistic, and there are plenty to choose from, the Reds have a team on-base percentage of just .301, .10 beneath the National League average.
We look across the division at the offensively challenged St. Louis Cardinals. And while they're comparable with the Reds in nearly every offensive statistical category, the Cards are No. 4 in the NL in OBP. Their .317 OBP dwarfs the Reds' .301.
That may be a reason why a team that has scored fewer runs than this anemic Reds offense sits higher in the standings. It's not the pitching—the Reds' team ERA is 3.42; the Cardinals' is at 3.50. The Reds have allowed the same amount of runs on the season as the Cardinals (407).
Arguably the most crippling facet of this Reds offense right now is its inability to work pitchers, drive pitch counts up and, ultimately, cash in baserunners for runs. That's evident by the Reds' poor amount of walks on the season.
They've totaled 294 walks and are No. 11 in the NL in that category. The Milwaukee Brewers are the only team beneath the Reds in this category that occupies a playoff spot at the moment. They also have the second-best offense in the NL.
Most analysis surrounding the Reds of late has focused on their terrible inability to hit with runners in scoring position. But on the season, that's not entirely accurate, at least not to the point that it accounts for what Reds fans are witnessing right now.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Reds rank just No. 8 in runners left in scoring position per game. In fact, they leave fewer runners in scoring position per game than the best offense in the NL (the Colorado Rockies).
That doesn't mean the Reds are efficient at hitting with runners in scoring position. It probably means that their opportunities are far fewer than what other teams generate.
TeamRankings.com also illustrates the few amount of baserunners the Reds leave on base per game (13.33) in comparison to the rest of baseball. They leave the fourth-fewest runners on base in the majors probably because they don't get enough baserunners on in the first place to lead in this category.
Per TeamRankings.com, the Reds average just 2.64 walks per game. That's No. 24 in baseball.
What are the Reds missing? Among other things, they're missing their best hitter. Say whatever you want about Joey Votto, but he's played nearly half the amount of games as his teammates—on one leg—and still owns the highest on-base percentage on the team.
For as much criticism as Votto will incur because of his propensity to walk, the team would be decidedly better if more Reds adopted this approach. Not that everyone should be looking to walk; rather, if hitters didn't settle for balls outside of the strike zone, if batters made pitchers work to get them out, the Reds would find more opportunities with runners in scoring position, and likely more RBI because of it.
Look at it this way: Per SportingCharts.com, Jay Bruce is the Red who currently sees the most pitches per plate appearance at four. In 62 games played this season, Votto's averaged 4.32 pitches per plate appearance.
This, of course, enables pitchers like the Arizona Diamondbacks' Josh Collmenter to throw complete-game shutouts, like the one he threw back on May 29 in the Diamondbacks' 4-0 victory over the Reds. Prior to that game, Collmenter hadn't pitched more than seven innings in any other outing this season. When batters are that content to offer at anything and retire themselves, it looks easy.
Could the Reds use a bat? Sure. But would even an Edwin Encarnacion home run do much without anyone in front of him?
Is the problem rooted deep within the organization? That's unknown from my vantage point. But the inability to get on base has been an enormous problem during both Votto DL stints.
According to ESPN.com, the Reds achieve their highest OBP in the months featuring Votto, primarily April and June. Sounds obvious. Interestingly enough, April and June are the only two months the Reds tallied 100 runs or more.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.