Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/26/13
CINCINNATI Ive never been one for extravagant statistics. I will leave that to people much smarter than I, but I do know you can quantify anything if you try hard enough and you can make stats pretty much say what you want them to say in order to fit your premise. My premise isnt a wild one. The Reds play really good defense. Day-in, day-out. Not just the spectacular, highlight reel stuff but the solid, understated stuff like getting back on a pop up into the no mans land between the infield and outfield and not having to make a diving stab at the ball. Stuff like hitting the cut-off man on a throw in from the outfield so that guy who just singled in a run doesnt move up to second and into scoring position. Or simply fielding the ball cleanly and throwing the runner out at first base. Watch enough other teams and you realize its not always the case. If you cant catch the ball, you cant play on my team, said manager Dusty Baker. In San Francisco I had Gold Glovers everywhere. I had capable guys who worked at it in Chicago and guys here. Go out and watch Joey (Votto) and Brandon (Phillips). You watch (Zack) Cozart. And Ive got a staff that works them. This game is not one to give away extra outs. The Reds have committed just 20 errors in their first 49 games, compared to 38 by their opponents. They are tied for the fourth fewest errors in the Major Leagues. Of the eight teams that have committed 20 or fewer errors through Saturdays games, six of them are at least five games over .500 and four of them lead their divisions. The Reds are one-half game behind St. Louis, which has just 18 errors in 48 games. Defense might be mundane but not on this team. We do take pride in it, said Cozart. I think thats a pitchers best friend when hes pitching and he knows that most of the time that you make a routine play. Were making good plays, too, but the routine plays are outs and thats key. Its keeping guys off base. If the pitcher has confidence in that then theyre going to pound the strike zone and let the guy hit it and not try to pitch around guys. Theyre not scared to let them hit it. Its such a simple concept. Let em hit it. Cozart has a .982 fielding percentage. Again, in todays day-and-age of sabermetrics that quantify everything up to how well oiled a players glove is, its an old school stat. And thats just fine with me for my premise. The Reds as a team have a .989 fielding percentage, tied for the best third-best average in all of the Major Leagues. Cozart, Phillips, Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce are all ranked in the top 10 defensively at their respective positions, while the Ryan Ludwick replacement squad of Chris Heisey, Derrick Robinson, Donald Lutz and Xavier Paul in left field would be ranked 11th with a .990 fielding percentage if they were one person. Yes, I know, not all of their games and chances have been in left field but you get my drift. The biggest thing with any defense is we dont make a lot of errors and as long as the plays that should be made are made, thats all you can really ask for. The good thing is weve got a couple of guys on this team who are capable of making exceptional plays, said pitcher Homer Bailey. There are some balls that Cozart and Brandon make look routine even though if you watch it from above they went a pretty good ways to get it. Vottos work at first base gets overshadowed because of his prowess at the plate. He doesnt buy into the theory that defense is contagious within a team but it is still a collective effort of each player working on his own game. You have to know your surroundings, especially playing next to a second baseman like Phillips who does get to so many balls. Only Howie Kendrick of the Angels has had more chances than the 225 Phillips has had this season. The team aspect of it is when the shortstop and second baseman figure out how to coordinate with one another, said Votto. I pay attention to where (Phillips) is at. Sometimes hell be leaning more towards a certain side and Ill adjust to that and respect his range but also Ill go get what I can and take away any hits I can. I dont really know their psyche but I think if youre a pitcher that had a defense that struggled behind you, you would have a hard time feeling confident in them. It would be frustrating and make you feel a little powerless at times. There's not much reason for those feelings on this team.
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