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The Uncommon Careers of Adam Jones and Howie Kendrick

Brett Favre was fascinating to watch and not just because he won football games. Fans watched in awe of how he won football games. Favre was often referred to as a gunslinger with unorthodox mechanics and a propensity to make questionable decisions. Mike Holmgren claims to have “aged many years to that relationship” because Favre’s fundamentals and decision-making weren’t always enviable. And yet, Favre had an innate ability to overcome perceived weaknesses that many thought should have precluded him from success. Baseball players also succeed with apparent shortcomings and overcome the odds because they have some special talent in one area or another. Two current examples are Adam Jones and Howie Kendrick.

Adam Jones isn’t an elite baseball player in the same way that Favre was an elite football player, but Jones is very good. He also has a “flaw” that typically prevents hitters from being effective and yet, Jones has hit at an above-average level for his career. In this regard, Jones is a rare talent in the same vein as Favre and an interesting case.

Jones loves to swing the bat, as I’m sure all baseball players do. But Jones loves to swing the bat more than most. His career Swing% is close to 55% and has never fallen below 52% in any year of his career. He swings at a large percentage of pitches out of the strike zone as evidenced by his career 40.5% O-Swing%. This habit has led to a low career walk rate of 4.5%. The FanGraphs glossary would categorize this walk rate as “awful”, and it is. In fact, Jones’ walk rate is so low that we would expect him to be a below-average offensive player, which he is not.

In 2013, 101 players finished with a wRC+ above 100. Of those 101 players, 79 of them had a walk rate of over 7%. The top 16 players in terms of wRC+ had a double-digit walk rate. By contrast, only four players in all of baseball had walk rates above 10% and finished with a wRC+ of under 100. This data makes sense. Typically, players that know the strike zone and avoid swinging at poor pitches hit better than those who extend the zone frequently.  Of these 101 players with an above-average wRC+, only nine finished with a walk rate of under 5%. Those players are listed in the table below.

Player BB% wRC+
Starling Marte 4.4% 121
Shane Victorino 4.7% 119
Adam Jones 3.6% 118
Torii Hunter 4.0% 117
Howie Kendrick 4.5% 116
Jean Segura 4.0% 107
Daniel Murphy 4.6% 106
Salvador Perez 4.0% 105
Manny Machado 4.1% 101

Jones was the only player to have a walk rate under 4% and still have an above-average wRC+. He still finished in the top 50 in wRC+. His .285/.318/.493 slash line was solid, and he had an excellent .208 ISO.These are impressive numbers for someone who walked 25 times in 689 plate appearances.

You’ll notice Howie Kendrick on that list. Again, Kendrick isn’t a superstar, but he has been an above-average offensive player for his career. Kendrick also has a tendency to swing often, swinging about 54% of the time in 2013.  Even so, Kendrick slashed .297/.335/.439 while walking only 23 times in 513 plate appearances.

The 2013 season isn’t what makes these two players interesting. Many players have had solid seasons with poor walk rates. Jones and Kendrick are interesting because they have made a career out of walking very little and still producing quality offense. Both players debuted in 2006 and have around 4000 plate appearances. In the last 25 years, only six players with 3000 plate appearances or more have managed to maintain a walk rate of under 5% and a wRC+ of over 100.

Player BB% wRC+
Steve Garvey 4.6% 108
Howie Kendrick 4.6% 107
Adam Jones 4.5% 107
Tony Armas 4.7% 105
Ivan Rodriguez 5.0% 104
Brian Harper 3.9% 101

Pretty amazing. As their careers continue both players may have down years that take them off this list, but the fact that they have hacked their way to this level of production is astounding. They are truly rare players.

This rare talent also displays each player’s offensive weakness. Based on how other players have performed, Kendrick and Jones would likely be more productive offensive players if they swung at less pitches outside the strike zone and walked more. In the same interview linked above, Mike Holmgren mentions that Favre was able to tone down some of his poor tendencies in order to improve his performance. Favre was always going to look and play differently than other elite quarterbacks, but he started winning more consistently because those differences became less extreme.

Both Kendrick and Jones will likely need to improve their walk rates to remain good offensive players as they age. So far this season, Kendrick has shown signs of improvement. He has a 9.5% walk rate in 201 plate appearances.  Jones continues to swing as often as he can. He owns an almost unfathomable 2.5% walk rate. These numbers help explain why Kendrick has had two of the best months of his career while Jones has been mediocre.

Regardless of what happens going forward, Jones and Kendrick have had oddly productive offensive careers to this point. We can simultaneously appreciate their uniqueness while also seeing the blemishes related to that uniqueness. They aren’t elite offensive players, but they have remain productive in spite of a flaw that often keeps players from even reaching the major leagues.

Votto vs Casey vs Perez: Battle of Reds First Basemen

It’s funny how various factors affect how we interpret reality. Growing up, my family owned a boat. We would go fishing, water skiing, and tubing on the Ohio River and on several lakes. When I was a kid, I thought of this boat as a yacht. It was huge! I had all kinds of space to move around and acquire different angles of my brother being thrown from a tube. We had snacks and life jackets in hidden compartments. The seats were wide enough for me to lay down after an especially heinous wipeout. In my mind, we could have lived on that boat.

One time, I came home from college and my uncle and cousin wanted to take the boat out. I jumped at the chance to board our cruise liner and relive some of my youthful adventure. When it came time to board the boat, I realized something: our boat is tiny. The boat could only carry four people on the water legally. The seats were perfect for 12 year old me to lie down, but the extended version of myself could barely stretch my legs at all. I quickly came to a startling conclusion: my perception of our boat had not been entirely accurate. As a kid I didn’t have all the facts. I didn’t realize that only four people could ride in the boat at one time. My senses had deceived me. And for a long time, my memory had deceived me. The boat got bigger to me each year I was away from home. These are two different problems. Our senses may create a narrative that isn’t based in reality. We may also lose perspective on events, people, or experiences as time goes by.

We often do this. We remember things as grander than they actually were. Some of those things were great to begin with, but we embellish them to lofty heights. I recently read a comment from a Reds fan where he stated that besides 2010, Joey Votto has basically been Sean Casey as an offensive player. The commenter also stated that Tony Perez was a better hitter than Votto and insinuated that Votto’s 2010 season was a norm for Perez. Before I address these comments, I need to say a few things. All three players had great careers to varying degrees (Votto’s career still on going). All three players had and have strengths and weaknesses to their games. By examining the facts, I do not intend to belittle anyone of these great players. Let’s look at some numbers.

Sean Casey 1405 .302 .367 .447 130 .145 109 16
Tony Perez 2777 .279 .341 .463 379 .184 121 58.9
Joey Votto 929 .312 .419 .537 163 .226 155 33.8

These numbers tell us several things. While all three players were great offensive players, Votto and Perez are and were a few steps above Casey. Casey was better than Perez at getting on base, but Perez power numbers dwarf Casey’s. Votto trumps Casey by a wide margin in both on-base ability and power. Casey’s career 109 wRC+ shows that he was a good offensive player; he just isn’t on the level of the other two.

The real comparison is between Votto and Perez.  In fairness to Perez, who played long enough to have some seasons that drove his career numbers down some, I decided to take his six-year peak and compare it to Votto’s six full seasons. In the table below, Perez’s numbers are from 1970-1975; Votto’s numbers are from 2008-2013.

Tony Perez 898 .288 .359 .496 161 .208 138 30.2
Joey Votto 905 .312 .420 .537 159 .226 156 34.0

At their peak (which likely continues with Votto if he can stay healthy), Votto is a little bit better. wRC+ is a good indicator of how each player compared to league average in their era. To this point in his career, Votto has a 156 wRC+. Perez surpassed this number only twice in his 23 year career. Votto gets on base at a much better clip and according to SLG and ISO, he surprisingly hits for more power.

Perez was a phenomenal player. He also had a phenomenal team around him. To this point though, Votto has been a better hitter. Those who remember Perez as a great offensive force are correct, he just wasn’t as good in his peak as Votto has been. Perez had much better teammates than Votto and that might account for some selective memory. The Reds of the 1970s scored an abundance of runs. Perez was a big part of that. Votto’s Reds do not score nearly as much but not because of Votto’s efforts.

While our senses may cause us to draw faulty conclusions, the numbers tell a more complete and accurate story. Reds’ fans should celebrate what Votto has done in his career. We will likely look back at him as one of the greatest Reds’ hitters ever.

Five Reasons the 2014 Cardinals Could End Up Like the 2013 Nationals

Many expected the 2013 Nationals to roll through the National League East and contend for a World Series. Some even suggested they had potential to win 100 games.  The Nationals ended up winning 86 games and losing the division by ten games amidst injuries and poor production. The 2014 Cardinals begin Spring Training with similarly high expectations. They just won the Nationals League pennant and by most accounts, had a great off season. But just like the Nationals of last year, the Cardinals are not without their flaws and susceptibilities. I concede that the Cardinals are far more likely to have a great season than not. They are probably one of the five best teams in all of baseball. But for the fun of it, let’s consider the factors that could make 2014 a challenging year for Cardinals’ fans.

RISP regression

The Cardinals famously hit .330 with runners in scoring position (RISP) in 2013. It was the highest RISP average in baseball history topping the 2007 Tigers (.311). The Cardinals had a number of above average to excellent hitters, so we would expect them to hit well in these situations. But .330? When the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, they led the league in hitting with RISP with a .290 average, 40 points off their 2013 mark. The 2012 team hit .264 with RISP. The Cardinals are likely to return to earth and hit somewhere between their 2011 and 2012 versions. This drop in hitting with RISP will probably reduce their run totals.

Matt Carpenter is how good, again?

I can’t believe my eyes every time I look. Matt Carpenter accumulated 7.0 WAR last year? I know he was good. I know he was VERY good. But is Matt Carpenter a superstar type player? He very well may be. We would be foolish to rule it out. But Carpenter may also turn out to be a 3-4 WAR player with one monster year. He was poor defensively in 2012 (-7.8 Def) but solid in 2013 (1.3 Def). We still don’t know what kind of defender he really is, and he is moving back to third base this year. Carpenter hits extremely well but .318/.392/.481 are difficult numbers to duplicate. The Cardinals probably aren’t counting on Carpenter to put up those numbers again, but they need to make up that lost WAR somewhere.

Young guys not ready

The Cardinals will likely give a large number of at bats to Kolten Wong and super prospect Oscar Taveras. By all accounts Taveras has star potential, but young players often struggle to adjust to the Major Leagues. Even Mike Trout struggled to a .220/.281/.390 in his first 135 plate appearances as a 19 year old. Taveras is a couple years older than Trout was at that point, but he is also replacing Carlos Beltran. Beltran is a poor defender at this point, but he still hit well in 2013 with a .296/.339/.491 slash line. Taveras may become a star one day, but in 2014, he may not be an upgrade over last season.

Kolten Wong has the inside track to play second base every day. He hit well in the minors but struggled mightily in his short stint in the big leagues. While we can’t make predictions based on 62 plate appearances, Wong did nothing to inspire confidence with a .153/.194/.169 slash line and 4.8% walk rate. He won’t be that bad, but the Cardinals must have some concerns about his ability to hit every day at the Major League level.

Old guys declining

Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday combined for 10.1 WAR in 2013. They will be 32 and 34 during the 2014 season, respectively. Neither player is ancient, but they are both due for some decline soon. Holliday has remained steady the last three years as a 4.5-5 WAR player. His defense has been poor the last two years and won’t get much better. He derives his value from his bat. In the last two years, Holliday’s ISO has dropped from .229 in 2011 to .190 in 2013. Holliday’s numbers may not fall off a cliff, but he certainly may regress some.

Molina had an excellent year in 2013. He recorded a career high .319 batting average. His defense is impeccable and probably better than we can quantify at this point. BUT, his batting average was a result of a career high .338 BABIP, 32 points higher than his previous high. His ISO also dropped from .186 in 2012, to .159 in 2013. Molina had an ISO of under .100 for four straight years from 2007-2010. As he gets older, his ISO could drop back into that range. Catcher is a tough defensive position and Molina’s offensive decline may be accelerated due to the strain of catching every day. Molina and Holliday will likely both be good players in 2014. However, producing over 10 WAR again will be difficult.

Good (but not great) pitching

This factor is the hardest one for me to see. The Cardinals certainly have plenty of talent. Nonetheless, Adam Wainwright turns 33 this season and had a career year in 2013, something he isn’t likely to replicate. Jaime Garcia is coming off shoulder surgery on his pitching arm. Michael Wacha was impressive in a small sample size, but he has started only 26 regular season games as a pro and 17 of those were in the minor leagues. The league hasn’t had time to adjust to Wacha yet. These factors could cause problems for the Cardinals pitching staff in 2014.


Are all these things likely to happen? No. But any combination between these things and bad injury luck could cause a fate similar to the 2013 Washington Nationals. The Nationals 2013 season proved once again that any team is vulnerable regardless of perceived talent and/or expectations. The Cardinals are no exception.

Joey Votto: 6-WAR Player

In spite of the ridiculous scrutiny regarding his 2013 season, Joey Votto is one of the best hitters in baseball. He also has a large contract that begins in 2014. Big contracts have seemingly brought bad baseball voodoo to some of baseball’s best (injury to Pujols noted). As Votto begins his mega-deal, both ZiPS and Steamer show him declining by over a win in WAR in 2014.  Because of how good he has been for the last four years, I found this projected decline somewhat surprising. I decided to dive into the numbers and found some really interesting things.

Votto has had four straight years of excellence. Since 2010, he has the third-best WAR among position players (25.1), the second-best wRC+ (164), the second-best wOBA (418) and the best OBP (434). Votto is at least in the conversation as the best hitter in baseball over this four-year stretch. But for some more perspective, let’s look at his last four years in detail.
























































Quite impressive. Votto has earned over six WAR every year except 2012, the year he injured his knee and played in only 111 games. He played many of those games injured as well. The only reasonable complaints are that Votto’s power dropped some in 2013, and his defense was poor (decent for a first baseman). The extent to which Votto’s knee surgery affected his power in 2013 remains to be seen, but it isn’t like his power numbers fell off a cliff.  So what do our beloved projection systems say about Votto’s age-30 season in 2014? They say he will be good but not quite as elite as he has been.

Projection System


















N/A (149 OPS+)















The encouraging part for Reds fans is that both Steamer and ZiPS think Votto’s power will tick up a little. The hope is that Votto’s knee will be healed, and he will return to the doubles machine he once was, with a few more home runs as well. But Votto is also entering his age-30 season. His best power days may very well be behind him. Or maybe not. I’ll get to that shortly.

The other numbers are similar to the four previous years with one noticeable difference. Both projection systems predict Votto’s batting average to drop below 300 for the first time since his rookie season in 2008, where he struggled to a 297 average.  The cause of this decline in batting average is our old friend BABIP. ZiPS has Votto’s BABIP dropping to 334 even though Votto has averaged a 368.5 BABIP for the last four years. BABIP can fluctuate wildly from year to year,  but Votto has shown the ability to maintain a high BABIP throughout his career. We can expect him to do a little better than these projections. If every 10 points of BABIP equals about 0.3 in WAR, Votto is likely to gain between half a win and one full win.

But the equation 10 points of BABIP=0.3 WAR is with all other stats being equal. If Votto’s BABIP is higher than these projections, he is likely to also have some more extra-base hits, including a couple more home runs. This added power would raise his value even more. Both projection systems already have his power rising from last year. Votto could have a few years of solid power left, especially if his knee is fully healthy.

This puts Votto around six-WAR territory. The other important factor will be his defense. Votto’s defense was poor in 2013 compared to his previous two seasons. He was a top-five defensive first baseman in 2011 according to FanGraphs’ Def and would have been top-three in 2012 had he played enough games to qualify. To remain a six-WAR player, Votto will likely need to return to an above-average defensive first baseman. Steamer has his defense at about the same level as 2013. I do not believe ZiPS Def adjusts for position, but it appears they think he will be average to slightly above-average defensively for a first baseman.

The Reds have much bigger problems than their superstar first baseman. They lack the ability to get on base consistently. They have serious question marks in left field and center field. The reality is that the Reds are a borderline playoff team right now and need Votto to be an elite player to have a legitimate chance of returning to the postseason. After looking at the numbers and with the prospect of a fully healthy knee, It is easy to see Votto continuing his run of excellence.

Billy Hamilton: 2014 Leadoff Hitter?

The signing of Shin-Soo Choo gives the Rangers a player with strong on-base skills, solid power, and decent corner-outfield defense. The signing also left a gaping hole in the outfield for the Reds. Choo was one of three Reds starters that got on base at an above-average clip. He was easily the first- or second-best offensive player for the Reds in 2013. While he was miscast in center field, Choo brought a great deal of value to a team that needed his particular offensive skill set.

Walt Jocketty has stated that Billy Hamilton is the new center fielder and will likely bat leadoff for the 2014 Reds. Hamilton starting in center field should come as no surprise as the Reds do not have many other options. The wisdom of Hamilton batting leadoff is at least up for debate. You can easily go look at his projections for 2014 and draw your own conclusions, but I would like to at least provide some context.

Every baseball fan knows about Hamilton’s speed. He is ferociously fast. He stole 155 bases in the minors in 2012 and successfully stole 13 bases in 14 attempts in limited major league action in 2013. Speed is nice , but it is certainly not close to the most important skill for a player in the leadoff spot. Reds fans may know this best of all from watching Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras, and Drew Stubbs flounder at the plate. Those players were wickedly fast, but as the saying goes, you can’t steal first base. None of them had the on-base skills to bat leadoff, but they found themselves there anyway because of their speed. To avoid this list of failed Reds leadoff hitters, Billy Hamilton will need to get on base enough to justify being at the top of the order. That is the obvious question: can Hamilton get on base to use that blinding speed of his to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples? There are signs that he can but others that he shouldn’t in 2014.

The 2012 season launched Hamilton into top-20 prospect territory. He obviously broke the stolen-base record, but he also showed some ability with the bat. In a 132 games between high A and AA, Hamilton hit .311/.410/.420. He had 14 triples. His walk rate rose dramatically from the year before. Hamilton looked like a perfect leadoff hitter through two levels.

Then 2013 and AAA came. Hamilton slashed .256/.308/.343. His walk percentage dropped from 16.9% in 50 games in AA (small sample size noted) to 6.9% in 123 games in AAA. it was arguably his worst season as a professional. He looked completely overmatched at times and questions about his ability to get on base resurfaced.

So which is the real Billy Hamilton, and what does it mean for 2014? Hamilton’s ceiling is likely between his 2012 and 2013 minor league performance. In five seasons as a minor leaguer, Hamilton slashed .280/.350/.378. Coupled with his speed and potential excellent defense in center field, that slash line could make him an All-Star-caliber player. The hope is that 2013 was a product of learning a new position and a significant drop in BABIP from over .370 to .310.

Still, Hamilton was very inconsistent at the plate in 2013 and didn’t prove he could hit AAA pitching for an extended period of time. The major leagues are an obvious step up in competition, and it would be surprising to see him match his .280/.350/.378 minor league career slash line in 2014. Steamer projects him to have a .305 OBP, and after last year, it is easy to see why.

While it is very possible Hamilton could surpass gloomy projections, the Reds probably shouldn’t risk it in 2014, at least at first. It makes much more sense to see how Hamilton adjusts to major-league pitching in a less important part of the lineup (7th for instance). He would get fewer at bats and would not be so heavily scrutinized if he struggled adjusting to the level. If he performs well, he can always move up in the lineup, but the Reds likely have better leadoff options than Hamilton to begin the year.

If Hamilton plays excellent defense in center field and has a good year on the bases, he will provide solid value for the Reds. To fill Choo’s shoes, he will have to hit closer to his career minor league mark as opposed to his 2013 numbers. In 2014, that may be difficult.

Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, and Perception

We have come a long way in evaluating players and yet, perception still clouds our judgment. Perception awarded Derek Jeter several Gold Gloves during years where he was a poor defensive player. Perception will likely award Nelson Cruz a hefty contract this winter. While there is no way to know for sure, I fear that perception may have played a role in the biggest trade so far this offseason: the well-documented Mark Trumbo trade.

Plenty of writers have covered why this trade looks like a poor move for the Diamondbacks so I won’t dive deeply into that. I desire to understand how Trumbo could be valued so highly (assuming the Diamondbacks feel they gave up quality for quality). Dave Cameron wrote an interesting article about how Trumbo was both overrated and underrated. He stated that Trumbo’s one great skill, breathtaking power, is a frequently overvalued skill. Kevin Towers seems to be one of those who overvalues power and made the trade based on that one skill.  But is Trumbo’s power the only reason that a team might overvalue him? With this in mind, I decided to find a comparable player and at least speculate to the perception differences that may cause a team to overvalue someone like Trumbo.

That player is Pedro Alvarez. The similarities are actually quite amazing. The following table contains combined information from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the two years that Trumbo and Alvarez were both full-time players.














Mark Trumbo













Pedro Alvarez













Holy smokes! Every time I look at these numbers, I am shocked at how similar these two players were over a two-year span. Trumbo is one year older and right-handed, but that’s where the differences end. Neither gets on base much or is a great defender, but Alvarez wasn’t terrible at third in 2013. They both derive their value almost entirely from their power and strike out way too much. They are the right-handed and left-handed versions of each other from an offensive standpoint.

I’ll admit that if someone had forced me to pick between the two players before doing the research, I may have gone with Trumbo. Why does Trumbo seem to get more attention than Alvarez?  Well, the markets are obviously different. Los Angeles draws a lot more attention than the finally revived corpse that is Pittsburgh baseball. What else does Trumbo have that Alvarez doesn’t? Trumbo has one giant first half in 2012 where he flashed skills he probably doesn’t have.

Pedro Alvarez’s best half of baseball was probably the first half of 2013. Alvarez hit .250/.311/.516 with 24 home runs. That is an impressive stat line, but it doesn’t show any growth in other skills outside of Alvarez’s impressive power. He didn’t get on base much more than other stretches of his career, and his average remained similar to his 2012 line of .244. He has never given anyone any reason to believe he is more than a one-trick pony.

During the first half of 2012, Trumbo hit .306/.358/.608 with 22 home runs. He was an All-Star, and some people thought he had taken a big leap forward. It was the kind of first half that can change perceptions, even though it was a small sample size. The second half proved unkind. Trumbo hit .227/.271/.359 with 10 home runs. But what a first half!

I have no idea whether Towers put any stock into Trumbo’s first half in 2012. Probably not. But it isn’t hard to see how teams could talk themselves into thinking that Trumbo has untapped potential based on that half. Regardless, the perception of Mark Trumbo as an above-average player likely comes from his undeniable power and one monster half of baseball that he has never come close to duplicating. It makes me wonder whether Towers would have given up two young players with potential for Alvarez if he had been available. Considering Alvarez is another “100-plus RBI, 30 home run guy”, he may have. But then again, he may secretly be banking on Trumbo as a real impact bat that produces in more ways than one. While there is no definitive answer to that, this comparison is another precautionary tale to overvaluing short sample sizes.

Team On-Base Percentage and a Balanced Lineup

Teams that get on base often score more runs than those that don’t. We know this, and it comes as no surprise. In 2013, the Red Sox had the highest team OBP (.349) and also scored the most runs in MLB. The Tigers had the second-highest team OBP (.346), and they scored the second-most runs. Team OBPs can tell us a lot about the effectiveness of an offense (obviously not everything), but they can also be misleading if proper context isn’t applied.

The Cardinals scored 783 runs in 2013, good enough for third in MLB. The rival Reds scored 698 runs, 85 fewer than the Cardinals. There are many reasons for this gap in runs scored, but I would like to examine just one of them.  The Cardinals had a team OBP of .332 while the Reds had a team OBP of .327. On first look, it appears that the Cardinals and Reds got on base at a similar rate. But a major difference exists below the surface. Take a look at the chart below of the top eight hitters by plate appearance for both teams (Chris Heisey gets the nod over Ryan Hanigan as to not have two Reds’ catchers on the list).

Reds OBP Cardinals OBP
Joey Votto .435 Matt Carpenter .392
Shin Soo Choo .423 Matt Holliday .389
Jay Bruce .329 Allen Craig .373
Todd Frazier .314 Yadier Molina .359
Brandon Phillips .310 John Jay .351
Devin Mesoraco .287 David Freese .340
Zack Cozart .284 Carlos Beltran .339
Chris Heisey .279 Pete Kozma .275

The difference is quite evident. The average OBP in 2013 was .318. Seven of the top eight Cardinal hitters got on base at an above-average clip. Besides the pitcher, there is one easy out in that lineup. The Cardinals maintained a ridiculous batting average with RISP, but that matters much more because they always had people on base.

On the other hand, the Reds had two on-base Goliaths. Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo camped out on the bases. They became one with the bases. The problem was that the Reds had only one more player with an above-average OBP, Jay Bruce at .329. The other five players struggled to get on base consistently. Three of them had OBPs under .300.

So while the Cardinals achieve a high team OBP through balance, the Reds had two hitters who significantly raised the team OBP. Take Votto and Choo away, and the other six Reds on this list have a combined OBP of .305. That is a staggering low number for six of the top hitters on a playoff team.

What does this teach us? Well, team OBPs do not provide insight into how balanced a lineup a team has. The Reds would be foolish to think they have a lineup that gets on base enough to be an elite offense. With the loss of Choo, the Reds offense may struggle to produce runs at a league-average clip as Votto and Bruce could be stranded on base countless times.

A balanced lineup was a major factor in the Cardinals scoring the most runs in the National League. Their team may have had an excellent .332 OBP, but their top eight hitters by plate appearance had a .355 OBP. As a group they were excellent. The Red Sox were similar in that their top eight hitters by plate appearances all had above-average OBPs with Stephen Drew coming in eighth at .333. Think about that! The Red Sox eighth-best hitter at getting on base was 15 points above league average.

Even though the Reds finished 6th in team OBP in 2013, their on-base skills were lacking. While the Cardinals had only a five-point advantage in team OBP over their rival, they were much more adept at clogging the bases. Team OBPs are great, they just don’t always tell the whole story.