The Reds’ offense came into Thursday’s game with an 88 wRC+, ranking 25th in the Majors. To further dive into the aspects of the offense that have thrived, and the weaknesses of the offense, we can look at some of their splits.
When doing so, it’s still critical to note that we are only around two months into the season, and sample sizes are still relatively small. When looking at splits, that becomes even more critical, as it takes longer for splits to stabilize given that it takes longer to rack up enough plate appearances for a meaningful sample size. Still, splits can often identify trends, especially if the splits from this season mirror what we have seen from the player in the past.
The most often cited split is the platoon splits, or in other words, how hitters perform against LHP compared to RHP. As a team, the Reds have posted a 95 wRC+ against LHP and an 85 wRC+ against RHP. Here is how each of the Reds’ hitters have performed through Wednesday’s game. Note that only players with 20+ plate appearances against each hand of pitcher are included below.
You can quickly see some of the trends that you might expect. Left handed hitters Jake Fraley and TJ Friedl have significantly worse performance against LHP, though Friedl’s is still close to league average. Much has been made of Fraley’s inability to hit LHP, and that’s a trend he’s shown throughout his entire career. That’s been even more pronounced this season, posting a negative wRC+ in a tiny 21 PA sample size. Kevin Newman, who had been advertised as a good hitter against LHP, has lived up to that billing, being 26% better than average against LHP while being unplayable against RHP.
There are also some less expected results we can see. Right handed hitters Jose Barrero and Wil Myers have struggled mightily against LHP, and while still well below league average, have been better against RHP. That’s particularly shocking for Myers, who has a career 116 wRC+ against LHP and a career 104 wRC+ against RHP. While it can likely be chalked up mostly to a small sample size anomaly, it’s still concerning how much of a step backwards Myers has taken this season.
Nick Senzel, Henry Ramos, and Luke Maile have joined Newman in being above average against LHP, while well below average against RHP. It’s perhaps most notable for Senzel, who’s seemingly taken the next step this year in becoming a quality hitter. In reality, he’s really only made an improvement against LHP, while taking a step back against RHP. His career wRC+ against RHP is 69, compared to a 98 wRC+ against LHP, so in a way, he’s still continuing the same trend he’s shown his full career. In his case, it makes you wonder if his true value going forward is merely as a platoon option, especially once the next wave of prospects makes it to the Majors.
Spencer Steer, Tyler Stephenson, and Stuart Fairchild are each somewhat notable for what you don’t see. Each of the three have less than 9 points separating their wRC+ against RHP and wRC+ against LHP, so they’ve been more or less the same player regardless which type of pitcher is on the mound. While that’s a good thing to see for an everyday player like Steer 0r Stephenson, it actually plays against Fairchild, whose best path to playing time is as part of a platoon.
The other most commonly used split is home and road splits. The Reds as a team have an 89 wRC+ at home compared to an 87 wRC+ on the road, so they’ve been fairly equal. Record-wise, they’re 14-13 at home compared to 7-15 on the road. Here’s how individual hitters have performed at home and on the road. Again, we will include only players with at least 20 plate appearances at home and 20 on the road.
Again, a few numbers initially jump off the page. Just three players – India, Steer, and Friedl – have been above average at home this season. Six have been above average on the road, with Steer and Friedl among those.
Your first assumption might be that GABP is a great hitter’s park, so you’d expect better performance at home, but since wRC+ is park-adjusted, it actually penalizes hitters. This can be most easily seen with Fairchild, who has a .703 OPS at home compared to .694 on the road, though his wRC+ is higher on the road. Yet again with Fairchild though (and Stephenson, for that matter), he doesn’t show noticeable splits, indicating he’s been essentially the same player in every situation this year.
Fraley, Senzel, and Barrero are a three-headed monster on the road this season, each above league average, while providing next to no offense at GABP. Ramos joins them in the same trend, though with a noticeably smaller sample size. Senzel has actually shown a similar trend in his career, with a wRC+ that’s 21 points higher on the road. It almost makes you wonder if Senzel has some sort of difficulty seeing the ball at home, similar to what happened with former Rays players Willy Adames and Tommy Pham at Tropicana Field. Fraley’s splits are likely more of a small sample anomaly, as he was better at home than on the road last season.
Other Interesting Splits
There are a few other splits that came up as interesting. Note that the following splits were pulled from Baseball Reference rather than Fangraphs, so OPS will be used in place of wRC+.
Jake Fraley showed some interesting splits when you break down by defensive position. While there’s likely no true meaning behind his OPS in LF compared to RF, it is somewhat notable that his lowest OPS came when he was acting as the DH. The DH is often an entirely different mindset, as it’s all you’re focused on during the game and it can significantly impact your routine, and some players have been known to struggle in that role. Fraley has actually performed better as the DH than when playing the field in previous seasons, but it’s worth noting that he still has a relatively small 110 plate appearance sample size as the DH, and makes this one worth monitoring going forward.
Much has been made about how difficult it is to keep moving a player around to different positions. The logic is that it gives the player more to think about and less ability to focus on offense. If we look at Senzel’s splits by position, it’s a bit interesting that he’s performed better as a CF than as a 3B this season, though the sample size in CF is admittedly still small. While Senzel is a natural 3B, perhaps the shift back to a position he’s only played sparingly in recent seasons has made it more difficult to focus on his production at the plate, or perhaps there’s zero meaning for the difference.
We can look at the same for Steer. In his case, the sample size is a bit larger, though still admittedly small. His OPS at first base has been drastically lower than at third base, and this is despite his recent hot stretch that has come while playing first base. Again, it’s worth wondering at least a little bit if moving to a less familiar position impacted his offense, especially since Steer went into a rough patch that lines up fairly closely with when he moved over to first base.
Lastly, much has been made of India moving from the leadoff spot to the #3 spot in the batting order since Friedl’s return from the IL. India has been so good leading off an inning, and even better as the first batter of the game, that it makes you further question the lineup switch. This one doesn’t even seem like a small sample size anomaly, as it’s been a continuation of a career trend for India. In 220 plate appearances leading off the game, India is slashing .314/.405/.524 with a .929 OPS, and also sports an .802 OPS in 470 career plate appearances leading off an inning. It remains to be seen if this is a long-term lineup change or just something David Bell wanted to try in the short term, but it’s clear India was comfortable in the leadoff slot. If he struggles from the 3-hole, look for Bell to move him back to leadoff in short order to try to recapture this prior success.
While splits can be interesting and potentially meaningful in the right context, it’s still important to stress once again that they often come with smaller sample sizes, and therefore take longer to stabilize. Splits have the most value when looking at continuing trends over a player’s career, and not just what they’ve done in a few dozen plate appearances. The biggest takeaway should be that there is value in leveraging the right splits in the right context, and they can make a big impact on the team’s performance, but still should be used with caution.