RED MONDAY | Reds bullpen stats, plate discipline woes, review of last week and more!

Welcome to Red Monday, where fans of the first-place Cincinnati Reds can start the week with clear-eyed analysis of how the team is doing and where it’s headed.

The Week That Was 

We wrote about David Bell’s extension, Will Benson’s resurgence and the concept of team chemistry in relation to the swirling trade rumors about Jonathan India. 

The Reds lost a close series to the Brewers two games to one.

  • Monday The Reds dropped the series opener to the Brewers 3-2. The score was tied 2-2 going into the 9th. Alexis Diaz gave up a run on two hits and a walk. Elly De La Cruz provided the Reds runs with a two-run homer. Graham Ashcraft went 5.1 innings striking out eight and walking four. 
  • Tuesday The Reds evened the series 4-3 as Andrew Abbott out-pitched Brewers ace Corbin Burnes. Abbott threw six shutout innings with nine strikeouts and just one walk. Will Benson (7) homered in the 9th, giving the Reds two huge insurance runs. The Brewers rallied with three in the 9th. Alexis Diaz came in to relieve Daniel Duarte and gave up a hit and a hit-batter before recording the final out. Matt McLain had two hits and a walk. 
  • Wednesday Brewers’ pitching shut down the Reds offense in a 3-0 loss. Freddy Peralta struck out 13 Reds in six innings. The Milwaukee bullpen closed the door with five Ks of their own over the final three frames. The Reds drew zero walks against the 18 whiffs. 

After an off day, the Reds took the series from the Dodgers in Los Angeles.  

  • Friday The Reds jumped on Dodger starter Bobby Miller for three runs in the 1st inning and held on for an exciting 6-5 win. The first five Reds batters hit for a cycle, with an Elly De La Cruz leadoff triple, a Matt McLain double, a homer by Jake Fraley (15) and a single by Jonathan India. Spencer Steer added his 15th homer later. Brandon Williamson “scattered” eight hits and four walks in 5.2 innings, allowing two runs. He struck out just two. Lucas Sims had control problems and gave up three runs. Alexis Diaz got the final four outs for his 31st save. 
  • Saturday The Dodgers managed only two hits, but both were home runs by Max Muncy as LA managed a 3-2 win. Luke Weaver struck out two and walked two in six innings. Fernando Cruz and Buck Farmer contributed shutout relief innings. 
  • Sunday The Reds cruised to a series win with a 9-0 thumping of the Dodgers in the finale. Elly De La Cruz (7), Matt McLain (11) and Joey Votto (9) homered. De La Cruz had four hits total. Jake Fraley had three hits. Graham Ashcraft threw six shutout innings with no walks. 
The Week to Come

The Reds finish the road trip with a huge series in Chicago then return home to begin a six-game home stand: 

  • Four in the Windy City against the Chicago Cubs (8:05 pm, 8:05 am, 8:05 pm, 8:05 pm)
  • Three at home against the Washington Nationals (6:40 pm, 4:10 pm, 1:40 pm)
Plate Discipline Woes

As they were getting shut out by Freddy Peralta and the Brewers bullpen on July 26, it felt like the Reds were swinging at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. I mean, a lot. I knew better and shouldn’t have looked. But with the 18 strikeouts (and no walks) that day the mind wanders where it wanders.

Here’s a graphic of the swings and misses by the Reds through the first seven innings. 

That struck me as a lot of whiffs on pitches out of the strike zone — way out of the strike zone. For comparison, I did a check on the Brewers.


Maybe the dramatic difference that day has stuck in my memory and draws my attention to similar chasing since then. Was it a quirk or have the Reds been going through an increasing lack of plate discipline lately. So, I thought I’d dig in.

Among the first posts we published at Reds Content Plus was one about plate discipline and chase rates. It addressed the statistic O-Swing% which measures something simple — the percent of pitches outside the strike zone the batter swings at. In other words, his chase rate. We found that plate discipline stats stabilize early. At 60 plate appearances the batter’s record is sufficient to judge, yet batters do change over the season. Also, not all chasing is the same. Swinging at a pitch just off the plate is different from swinging at a pitch a foot out of the zone. 

Do all those wild swings by the Reds matter? Does chasing pitches out of the strike zone hurt their production?

To analyze the importance of chase rates, Statcast breaks the pitch area into four categories. The dotted green line represents the strike zone. Heart takes up most of the zone. Shadow is just inside and just outside the zone. Chase is the yellow area and away from the strike zone but not as far as the Waste category. 

Here’s what the data shows from every swing taken in the Major Leagues since 2008 (in case you’re wondering, it’s about five million swings). The enormous drop off in production from chasing pitches outside the zone is beyond dispute. 

Whether it’s batting average (BA), hitting for power (ISO), weighted run production (wOBA) or exit velocity on contact (EV), batters are much more successful swinging at pitches in the heart of the strike zone compared to shadow pitches or chasing. The gradation between the three categories demonstrates the further away from the heart, the worse the batter does. 

So, now that we’ve established the significance of a batter’s chase-rate, let’s look at the 2023 Reds. 

As we’ve worked through before, the 2023 Reds offense has gone through three phases. Through May 25 (roughly) it was one of the bottom offenses in the league, both in terms of average and power. From May 26 to July 8, it was one of the league’s best offenses. Then since the All-Star break, it has been something else. 

It turns out that the team’s chase-rate has jumped since the break. Before May 26, it had been 24.3%. From May 26 to July 8, it was about the same at 24.7%. But since the ASG, the Reds chase-rate has jumped to 29.3%. 

How does that compare to MLB overall? The MLB chase-rate (O-Swing%) for MLB in 2023 has been steady around 29%. That means the Reds were doing an excellent job with chasing until the break and have fallen to right around average since. Has all of baseball been worse since the break? No. Steady at 29%. 

Let’s dig a little deeper. Are specific players the main culprits or has this been a team-wide phenomenon? Here are individual player O-Swing% up to July 8 compared to after the All-Star break. 

About a third of the team has experienced no significant increase in chase-rate. Will Benson, who has the team’s lowest rate, has been even better. Joey Votto has also chased less since the break. Jonathan India is about the same. 

Five players have seen jumps in their chase-rate. TJ Friedl’s O-Swing% has increased dramatically, from 21% to 35%. Spencer Steer, Jake Fraley and Elly De La Cruz have also been significantly less disciplined in recent weeks. Tyler Stephenson and Matt McLain’s chase-rates have increased but less than the others. 

The composition of the team has changed as well. Christian Encarnacion-Strand has a super-high chase-rate and he wasn’t on the team in the “before” period. Elly De La Cruz, who also has a high rate joined the team on June 6. 

One caveat: The sample size since the All-Star break is small, from 45-60 plate appearances. 

Being less disciplined at the plate not only knee-caps contact quality, it also reduces the number of walks. League average is 8.6%. The Reds were walking at a rate of 10% from May 26 to July 8, but have seen that rate drop to 6.8% since the break. In particular, Jake Fraley (51 PA) and TJ Friedl (59) have not walked once since the All-Star break, covering 110 plate appearances. Both had excellent walk rates (12.6%) before that. Spencer Steer’s walk rate has dropped from 14.0% to 4.3%. 

What’s going on? 

A. Young, inexperienced players

B. The pressure of a pennant run

C. A big dose of good (Brewers) pitching

D. All of the above 

The good news: A few games could reverse the trend and get the team back to their performance level of the six solid weeks earlier in the season. 

Reds Bullpen Stats

We chart opponent bullpens for the series preview, but we haven’t laid out the basic stats for the Reds bullpen in a while. This is the same table we use for the opponent previews.


  • Alexis Diaz – Outstanding by any measure, elite strikeout rate
  • Lucas Sims – Solid numbers, SIERA doesn’t like the walk rate, used in toughest spots
  • Ian Gibaut – Lots of innings, solid-to-good across metrics
  • Derek Law – ERA lucky per xERA and SIERA, high walk rate
  • Buck Farmer – Lots of innings, solid-to good across metrics, low walk rate
  • Alex Young – xERA and SIERA consistent, sole lefty
  • Fernando Cruz – ERA inflated, other metrics excellent, second-best K%
  • Daniel Duarte – SIERA hates the low K% and high BB%
In Case You Missed It

Edwin Arroyo blasting a home run Saturday night. It was the 9th of the season for the 19-year-old shortstop. 

[Featured image: Reds Facebook]

Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.