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The Reds Are Winning with the Help of Walks Just Like the Phillies Used To

May 17, 2013, 3:35 PM EDT

mascot.phanatic

You don’t have to look hard to find the Reds’ warts.

Their .251 batting average ranks 17th in the majors, just 2 points better than the Cubs. And this is for a team that doesn’t do much mashing. Their .394 slugging percentage this year, good for 20th in the game, is less than good, and it’s only marginally better than last year.

Yet, Cincy has scored the sixth-most runs in baseball for its third-best record.

How? A .335 on-base percentage, third-best in the bigs, that’s how.

In other words: the Phillies opponents tonight at 7:05 p.m. are doing exactly what helped make the Phillies great during their World Series runs, something they don’t do anymore for mildly different results.

The Phils team OBP from 2007-09 was actually better than that of the Reds this year: .340. And those Phillies used to rely on the long ball, so a huge chunk of that on-base ability came from walks.

Similarly, the Reds OBP this year is despite an iffy batting average. So Cincinnati has needed a 10.3% walk rate, good for second in baseball, which means they’re basically guaranteed a baserunner with every turn of the order for about four per game — from bases on balls alone.

This is what walks do: carry you through slumps. Even if said slumps last 40-plus games.

So no, with a .304 on-base percentage, the Phillies aren’t overcoming their .246 team average (20th), .379 slugging (26th) for anything better than 148 runs (26th) and a sub-.500 mark.

More impressive, Cincy’s getting quality walks. With 29, Shin-Soo Choo has been walked more than only two players, and he’s done it from the leadoff spot. One of those players is Joey Votto, who’s drawn 35 free passes from the three-hole. Shocker: Brandon Phillips has 36 RBI, third-most in MLB.

For your obligatory “Jimmy Rollins And Ben Revere Haven’t Gotten On Base Much” note: Phillies leadoff hitters this year have been poor. Which is among the reasons Ryan Howard still has two fewer RBI than Yuni Betancourt.

Now, it just so happens that Votto and Choo are also hitting about .320 with pretty reasonable-by-their-standards BABIPs, which puts their on-base percentages into an otherworldly .450. The last to punch a full season like that were Albert Pujols and Chipper Jones in 2008, and they had to hit .350 to do it.

If they come back down to earth, oh well. The Reds will just walk their way to wins.

Things to think about when $50-plus million comes off the Phillies books at year’s end.