Hal McCoy: Reds don’t lead MLB in runners left on base, it just seems that way

The Reds’ Scooter Gennett swings against the Nationals on Saturday, March 31, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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The Reds’ Scooter Gennett swings against the Nationals on Saturday, March 31, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: Is Bryan Price using facial hair as a disguise when appears in public during the Reds rebuild? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Hiding behind a beard didn’t end well for Abraham Lincoln, John Lennon or Ernest Hemingway. Let’s hope Price didn’t say he won’t shave until his Reds reach .500 or he’ll look like one of the guys from ZZ Top. Or maybe he wants to be like Joey Votto, who can shave at noon and grow stubble by 1 p.m. Price should consider the fact no successful major league manager ever sported a beard.

»RELATED: Photos from Thursday night’s Reds-Cardinals game

Q: I know they keep statistics for runners left on base for a game, but do they keep them for the entire season and are the Reds the leaders in this category? — ROB, Beavercreek.

A: It does seem like the Reds leave a small army of runners on base, but they aren’t the worst. Just close. Through Wednesday’s games, they were averaging 7.45 runners left on base per game and that’s the eighth highest among the 30 major league teams. And they are consistent. For all of last season they averaged 7.01 runners left on base per game, which was the fifth most of the 30 teams. Amazingly, so far this season the Chicago Cubs are the worst, leaving 8.82 runners on base per game. Of course, you also have to get runners on base to leave ‘em there, which explains why Kansas City and Toronto are leaving the fewest on base so far this season.

Q: To me the absolute best baseball movie is “Long Gone,” a HBO circa-1987 film, but when I talk about nobody ever heard it, so have you ever come across it? RICK, Dayton.

A: No, I haven’t. But I looked it up and it is a story about the Tampico Stogies, a low minor-league baseball team and its star player and manager as they battle for the league championship amidst the corruption and racism of the American south. Sounds good. I’m going to check it out. My favorite baseball movie is “Major League,” which I watched every year a week before I left for spring training to get me in the mood. And the Cleveland Indians of the movie remind a lot of the Reds. My other favorites: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Natural and A League of Their Own.

Q: Why does Billy Hamilton continue to fake bunts on first pitch then take strike two, making it easy to understand why he hits .200 and does the batting coach suggest he change? — MARK, Fairfield.

A: Everything Hamilton does in the batter’s box perplexes me. And it seems when he does try to bunt the first pitch he fouls it off. The Reds have tried everything and everybody in an attempt to work with Hamilton’s approach to not only bunting but hitting. They want him to bunt and they want him to keep the ball on ground and out of the air. But nothing seems to work and it is why he finds himself batting eighth and ninth instead of his preferred leadoff. Next step? The bench or a trade.

Q: Can you tell us how a pitcher’s earned run average is computed? FRED, Dayton.

A: I can and will, even though I am terrible at math and leave all things with numbers to my math-teaching wife, Nadine. A pitcher’s earned run average is how many earned runs he gives up per nine innings. To figure it out you take the number of earned runs he has given up, multiple it by nine and divide that by the number of innings he has pitched. For example, in his first five appearances this year, Reds relief pitcher Kevin Quackenbush (don’t you love that last name?) has made five appearances, pitched four innings and given up five earned runs. So you take his five earned runs and multiply it by nine (45) and divide that by his four innings pitched and you get an earned run average of 11.25. I’m not a pitching coach, but I know that isn’t very good.

Q: What is the reason for batting Billy Hamilton ninth, behind the pitcher, instead of eighth, ahead of the pitcher? — STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: Manager Bryan Price’s explanation is that if Hamilton bats eighth and gets on base, he can steal second and the pitcher doesn’t have to bunt him to second, which is usually what happens when the No. 8 hitter gets on and the pitcher, batting ninth, sacrifices the No. 8 hitter. Also, with Hamilton batting ninth, if he gets on base and steals second, the next batter is the No. 1 (leadoff hitter) and he can drive him in with a hit. A perfect example was last Tuesday in Philadelphia when Hamilton, batted ninth, walked and stole second and scored on leadoff hitter Jesse Winker’s single. The problem, though, is that no matter where he bats, Hamilton is having trouble getting on base.

Q: At what point does Reds management decide that the talent development isn’t working and needs to be imploded? — RON, Clemmons, N.C.

A: How about tomorrow? I’d say today, but it’s Sunday and the front office is closed. Fans, and yes they are disillusioned, keep hearing about the rebuild with young players, but those young players just come and go. They were ga-ga when they traded Johnny Cueto for Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and John Lamb. Cueto keeps on rolling and the Reds have received zero from those three and Lamb is gone. They traded Jay Bruce for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell (who?), who barely made it out of rookie ball. That’s just two recent examples.

Q: What logical explanation can you give as to why the Reds would start Cody Reed over Amir Garrett? — TOM, Miamisburg.

A: I can’t give you any. And Amir Garrett wonders the same thing, as in, “What do I have to do to earn a start, have a horrible spring like Reed did?” You are preaching to the entire Reds fan base with this one. It just doesn’t make any sense, but they haven’t yet named me manager.

Q: Which former Reds played does the team need the most, Jay Bruce, Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto? — JACKI, Dayton.

A: How about all of the above. Unfortunately, what most fans forget is that most of those guys played on Reds teams that never won a playoff series and some of them played on last place teams. If they still had them all, they couldn’t pay them what they are now making. As Pittsburgh owner Branch Rickey once told Hall of Fame outfielder Ralph Kiner when he wanted a raise, “We finished last with you and we can finish last without you.”


Q: After you saw Hunter Greene’s Dayton debut, have you seen any other pitcher in a Reds uniform with that potential? — JEFF, Troy.

A: The Reds super-hyped No. 1 draft picks Ryan Wagner and C.J. Nitkowski, but neither panned out. I’d have to go back to 1967 when they drafted Wayne Simpson No. 1. He was a flame-throwing strikeout artist and was 14-3 with a 3.02 in 1970, his rookie year. But he hurt his arm and recorded only 15 more wins in the next three years and was out of baseball. Cross your fingers on both hands for the extended good health of Hunter Greene.

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