Strange but True: Three Reds Should Be All-Stars

Not so many years ago, baseball fans would open up the morning newspaper, sip their coffee, and scan the previous night’s box scores. Once a week or so, the paper would print the league leaders in various statistical categories. Cincinnati baseball fans would eagerly scan the newsprint trying to find the Reds on the leaderboards.

Aaahh, memories. Things just aren’t the same these days. (Wait, when did I start talking like my dad? Happy Father’s Day to Bill, I guess!)

Anyway, nowadays you’d have to run your finger down your computer screen or, more likely, scroll down the phone to check the stats. But if you had stumbled out of bed on Monday morning and powered on the phone to check the stats—this is what you guys do on Monday too, right?—you would have noticed something completely unexpected: Your last-place Cincinnati Reds were very well represented atop the leaderboards. Hey, there haven’t been very many wins to celebrate in 2018, so let’s enjoy this, shall we?

Check it out among all National League hitters:

Batting Average:1. Scooter Gennett.340
On-Base Percentage:1. Joey Votto.433
Slugging Percentage:1. Eugenio Suarez.568
Runs Batted In:1. Eugenio Suarez48
2. Scooter Gennett47

That’s startling, isn’t it? The Reds have league leaders in four different categories, and three different players are responsible for those heroics. It’s almost like the Reds are good! (Then again, the Reds have two pitchers tied for the NL lead in most home runs allowed and another pitcher is tied for fourth on that particular leaderboard. So you can see why Cincinnati is struggling in the standings—it’s not the offense’s fault.)

This is always a fun time of the season for me. All-Star Game balloting has begun, and since the days I stuffed the ballot box for Barry Larkin—he should have started the All-Star Game over Ozzie Smith at least four more times—I have been in love with everything surrounding the Mid-Summer Classic. Even today, in a lost season, I love the drama and discussion over who gets picked and who gets snubbed.

We’ve suffered through two and a half months of miserable baseball filled with losses and lousy defense and worse pitching. Somehow, though, we can look up and find reasons to enjoy watching this team. And the fact that the Reds have three legitimate candidates for NL All-Star honors is perhaps the best reason of all.

Gennett may be the most surprising of the three. Sure, he had an incredible breakout season last year, but everyone (present company included) was pretty sure he would regress significantly in 2018. It hasn’t happened, to say the least.

Scooter is not only first in batting average and second in RBI, but he’s fifth in the NL in both wRC+ and wOBA (aka, fancy sabermetric stats that are pretty good in determining who is hitting well) and tied for seventh in the league in home runs. In other words, it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s the real deal with the bat in his hands. Scooter isn’t a fluke!

Suarez’s incredible production may be even more satisfying for the devoted Reds fan. After all, he eagerly signed a seven-year contract extension in the off-season and has responded by improving in almost all respects. As noted, he is first in the league in RBI—despite missing 16 games with an injury—and slugging percentage. He’s also tied for third in wOBA and fourth in wRC+, barely ahead of Gennett in those categories. Suarez and Gennett are tied for seventh in the NL with 12 homers.

They’re not only deserving All-Stars, but both are legitimate MVP candidates at this point in the season. I’d love to see both those guys standing on the first base line as the All-Star rosters are introduced at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. later this summer. Even moreso, I hope to see Joey Votto honored again.

Votto is leading the National League in on-base percentage. Ho-hum. If he finishes the season atop the league in OBP, it’ll be the seventh time in his career he’s achieved that particular honor. Only five players in baseball history have led the league in OBP that many times: Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, and Ty Cobb. Are you serious with that list?

As fellow Votto devotee, Nuxhall Way scribe (and Redleg Nation editor) Jason Linden has noted, Votto is in the top ten all-time in OBP and top five in the live ball era. Oh yeah, and he’s also in the National League’s top 10 this season, as a 34-year old, in batting average, wRC+, wOBA, and wins above replacement. He’s like a fine wine, just getting better with age. Yet he’s only been selected to five All-Star teams, which seems like a criminally low number for a future Hall of Famer. #VoteVotto

In fact, all three of these Reds hitters are among the top 10 in NL wins above replacement. All three are, without question, deserving of All-Star recognition. The early balloting, however, isn’t particularly encouraging for the hometown guys. At this point, Gennett is third among NL second basemen, Suarez is fourth at 3B, and Votto is in fifth place among first basemen. It’s going to take some work to get any of these guys into the starting lineup. And with the Reds struggling in the standings, it might be difficult for Cincinnati to garner more than one representative on the National League roster. The rules say the Reds must have one player on the team, but who do you exclude?

I say none should be excluded. Let’s start stuffing the ballot box, Reds fans. It may be the only fun we have all year long.

Chad Dotson is a contributor to Nuxhall Way, and the founder of Redleg Nation. His first book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds, is available now in bookstores and online. He’ll be signing copies of the book at 2 p.m. June 30 at the Reds Hall of Fame.

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