After nearly two months of — lets just get it out there — disappointment, the Cincinnati Reds rallied to give us two weeks of promise fulfillment. It was a 12-game streak that vaulted the club and its fans from despair to elation.
After 46 games into a 60 game schedule, the Reds were 20-26. They had inspired little hope, going 5-8 their previous 13 games. David Bell’s lineup was absent Jesse Winker, Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel. Eugenio Suarez was ailing a bit. All the Reds offense seemed to produce was double plays. “Promising” is the last word you would have used to describe the club’s chances of making the postseason.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the 2020 Cincinnati Reds played twelve games like the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, winning ten. In those ten wins they outscored their opponents 61-24. They won 1-0 and 10-5. As a result, Bell’s team qualified for the postseason for the first time since Johnny Cueto dropped the ball in Pittsburgh and the Reds dropped the axe on Dusty Baker. That was back in 2013 for those too young or still too heartbroken to remember.
What turned things around for the 2020 Reds?
Folks who write and talk about the team will search for explanations to create fan narratives. Yet, it’s probably the case no one thing or event — like a pep talk by a clubhouse leader or manager — was responsible. It could even be that nothing happened. The wins might simply be the product of a few players having two good weeks together as part of the normal ebb and flow of a baseball season. In 2018, when the club lost 95 games, they won 10 of 12 in June. The 2017 Reds, losers of 94 games, won seven of eight games, twice. Streaks are as much a part of the sport as the Seventh Inning Stretch.
So instead of looking for elusive meta-answers that may not exist, let’s appreciate what happened at its simplest level — the players and their star performances.
Over the 12 games of the streak, the Reds offense scored an average of 5 runs per game, up from their season-long average of 4 runs per game. It was mostly due to hitting more home runs. Their isolated power jumped from .186 to .238. They also walked a little bit more. But the Reds also struck out more and didn’t hit for much of an average. Their xBA for the streak was .242 compared to .243 the rest of the season. So it wasn’t that singles started to fall it. It was the balls started to fly out.
To pull off a 12-game streak like the Reds did from 9/13 to 9/25, nearly every player contributes here or there. But a few stood out. Here are the offensive standouts and in a follow-up post we’ll cover the pitching leaders.
In 48 plate appearances, Moustakas hit four homers, five doubles and walked six time. He hit one single to go with those nine extra-base hits. The power surge fueled an isolated power of .415. Moustakas created runs metric (wRC+) was 155, or 55% better than league average.
All four of Moustakas’ homers played crucial roles in the Reds streak, largely in its second week. On September 14, in the second game of the doubleheader with the Pirates, after the Reds had squandered an early 3-1 lead and trailed 4-3 in the 5th inning of a 7-inning game, Moustakas crushed a 3-run homer to centerfield, turning that game around. On 9/21, his 3-run homer in the 8th inning proved to be the difference in beating Milwaukee in the first game of that huge series. On Friday, Moustakas powered not one, but two homers in the Reds dramatic win in Minnesota that clinched the postseason. Over the 12 games, Moustakas scored 10 runs.
In 49 plate appearances, Votto had 9 hits and 10 walks (a walk-rate of 20.4%) for an on-base percentage of .338. Four of those hits were home runs, producing an isolated power of .333. In total, Votto’s run creation (wRC+) was 150, or 50% better than league average.
Votto’s home runs came at big times. His first-inning two-run homer against Milwaukee on 9/23 gave the Reds a 2-0 lead. He homered in both halves of the doubleheader sweep of the Pirates on 9/14. In Game 1 that day, his solo homer broke a 0-0 tie in the 4th inning. Votto’s walks contributed to important runs and rallies. He walked last night before Mike Moustakas blasted his two run homer and give the Reds a 2-1 lead. On 9/20, Votto’s 2-out walk was crucial to a 5-run rally against the White Sox. On 9/15, he walked and scored in a 3-run first inning in a game the Reds would beat the Pirates 4-1.
Votto’s MVP-like performance during the streak was part of the month-long revival he’s experienced after being benched at the end of August.
You expect to see Votto and Moustakas on this list, but not Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali and Tyler Stephenson. The three of them had 40 plate appearances playing catcher or pinch hitting (Stephenson had others as DH that aren’t included here). The trio hit four home runs, walked five times and scored eight runs. Their collective run creation metric was 154, or 54% above league average.
Stephenson hit a two-out pinch-hit walk-off homer against the Pirates in the first game of the 9/14 doubleheader. He also drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk to tie up the 9/13 game with the Cardinals. Casali’s homer gave the Reds a 3-1 lead over the Brewers on 9/21. Barnhart started the Reds 5-run inning in the 9/18 game against the White Sox the Reds won 7-1.
Opponents attempted five stolen bases during the streak and Tucker Barnhart threw out four of them.
Second-Level Hitting Stars
Other hitters who contributed at least 20% above league average during the streak were Shogo Akiyama (wRC+ 130) who boosted his walk rate to 20% and managed a BABIP of .417. With David Bell opting for veteran players down the stretch, Freddy Galvis (wRC+ 127) collected 30 plate appearances during the streak. He walked (13.3%) and hit a home run, with an on-base percentage of .400. Galvis had three hits including a home run in Friday’s win over the Twins. Eugenio Suarez (wRC+ 127) smashed three homers and walked seven times (16.9%). Suarez’ 2-run homer off Brandon Woodruff was crucial in the Reds 6-3 win over the Brewers on 9/21 and might have been the biggest hit in the streak.
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