First year manager Bryan Price has made some decisions that have separated him from his predecessor, Dusty Baker. As Reds skipper, Price has so far been more willing to depart from traditional baseball strategies.
Price has fulfilled his promise to make the team run more, and statistics certainly prove that the Reds have done just that. Not only do they lead the National League in stolen bases, but they frequently take the extra base once they get aboard. The fact they they also lead in runners being thrown out on the bases is also proof that they are running a lot.
One of his radical decisions was to change the batting order, a move Dusty Baker constantly refused to make. Price moved Joey Votto up a slot to number two, giving him more at bats as well as veteran protection for rookie leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton. Injuries have since forced Votto back into the third hole, but the move served as a huge statement from Price.
One area where Price has followed Dusty Baker, almost identically, is the bullpen. In spite of solid baseball evidence, Price refuses to use his strongest arm except in the ninth inning.
Rather than wait until the traditional save situation, Price needs to use Aroldis Chapman when the club needs him the most. So far this year, that point has occurred much more frequently in the seventh inning than the ninth.
The team earned run average in the seventh inning is 6.16, almost three runs higher than the 3.73 overall. The staff has allowed the most runs (55) in the seventh inning, almost 20 percent of the season total of 283.
Likewise, Cincinnati pitchers have yielded 20 percent of their total hits in the seventh inning, 95 out of 593. As a result, opponents are hitting sixty points higher in the seventh inning, .307 compared to an overall .241.
These stats come as no surprise to the fans who have seen many leads slip away in the seventh, obliterating any need for Chapman by the time the ninth inning comes around. In fact, most of the situations in which Chapman has appeared he has faced the easiest part of the opponents’ batting order.
In his nineteen innings of work, Chapman has faced the seven, eight, and nine hitters 32 times. Conversely, he has faced the one, two, and three hitters just fifteen times, less than half as much. The Reds should be using their best reliever against the other team’s best hitters, not their worst.
As a former pitching coach, Price should give more consideration to the numbers of his pitching staff in the seventh inning. His failure to acknowledge these statistics has already cost the club several victories, games which could have the Reds in at least second place rather than fighting for fourth.