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Josh Reddick, WTF?

August 7, 2013

Last year Josh Reddick got off to a great start and found himself the best right fielder in baseball by the All Star break in the American League (as measured by WAR). He was considered by many a snub for the All Star Game in Kansas City but was rightfully awarded a Gold Glove for his sterling defense in right field. All in all in his first year in the green and gold Reddick put up a .242/.305/.463 slash line with a .326 wOBA and 108 wRC+. Far from elite offensively but his 32 home runs were certainly unexpected by most, and all together with an OK 8.2% BB% and 22.4% K% he was pretty good and quickly became a fan favorite and worth 4.5 WAR to the A’s. In the offseason he grew a crazy beard, enamoring him to some other elements of the fanbase. All was well. Then the season started.

Today, Reddick went 0-for-3 in Cincinnati with two strikeouts. This absymal performance brought his slash line in 2013 to an anemic .203/.287/.326. His wOBA? A paltry .274 (entering today, as are the remaining stats in this) which if had enough plate appearances would put him seventh worst in baseball. His wRC+? A meager 74 a number that would be eleventh worst just ahead of Vernon Wells. Reddick has been walking more (10.6%), striking out less (18.9%) and seems to be a victim in part at least of his .239 BABIP. He has just five round trippers on the year. His ISO has dropped precipitously (.221 to 125). It isn’t clear what is wrong. There are a number of stats that show serious changes, while his line drives are equal to that of last year (21.2% for both) – and ignoring the fact that there is a degree of confusion/interpretation as to what a line drive really is – his ground ball rate has jumped (29.2% to 36.4%), fewer of his fly balls are leaving the field (14.0% to 5.4%) and fewer of his ground balls are turning into infield hits (7.4% to 5.1%). While the big drop in home runs can be explained, does this really account for the dramatic drop in the other stats along with BABIP?

Reddick missed time with injury and that can affect a whole slew of aspects of hitting. Furthermore, there was a good article today by former MLB ballplayer Gabe Kapler in which he discussed Reddick. The article’s focus was on Lars Anderson (nearly an Athletic himself at one point) but he compared the in sports jargon “cerebral” Anderson to Reddick:

“Reddick, who hit in front of or behind him [Anderson] in the lineup, had an athletic attitude that I’d seen in every clubhouse I’d occupied. Josh thought nobody could beat him and if that they did, he’d win the next time. His was a self-fulfilling prophecy advantageous for a baseball player. For Lars, it seemed to work in the opposite manner.

The Reddick/Anderson study has some implications beyond confidence and mental toughness. While there is no question that Josh was the most assertive hitter I had in Greenville that year, he didn’t have a traditionally “smart” approach to hitting. He walked up to the plate, identified a ball he thought he could drive — which was a pitch anywhere in the general vicinity of the state of South Carolina and at any speed — and swung as hard as he could.

We marveled as he got the sweet spot on balls at his eyes and shoe tops. And we often thought, when he whiffed on a ball in a similar location, “At what point did he think he could hit that pitch?” But Red never changed that approach. He never wavered from the see-ball, hit-ball mentality that so many quality major leaguers utilize to keep their heads clear.”

Maybe that there is the problem. Reddick hasn’t wavered in an approach that hasn’t been working for quite some time now. His 2012 success aside, look at how that year broke down and compare it to now:

  Slash ISO wOBA wRC+ WAR
2012 1st ½ .268/.348/.532 .264 .371   138 3.8
2012 2nd ½ .215/.256/.391 .175 .277     74 0.7
2013 .205/.289/.330 .125 .277     74 1.4

A lot there to find similarity with particularly and obviously with the advanced offensive metrics. Reddick maybe needs to not overthink baseball as Anderson did, but rather start thinking as it seems that American League pitchers have thought him through and figured it out.

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