Cincinnati Reds Fire Third Base Coach Steve Smith


Sep 16, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart (2) is congratulated by third base coach Mark Berry (41) after hitting a home run during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the areas where the 2014 Cincinnati Reds came up short, one shortcoming we don’t hear much about was their baserunning, especially in the stretch from third base to home plate. After “leading” the Major Leagues by being thrown out at the plate 28 times, though, the Reds have parted ways with third base coach Steve Smith, according to C. Trent Rosencrans at The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Reds just announced the move on Monday, but Smith says he was told of the dismissal back on September 30, and that he feels like the “fall guy” for the Reds’ ugly season.

Cincinnati runners were snuffed at home plate on non-force plays 28 times this season, just ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 26. While giving up that many outs at home is not good for a team’s bottom line, it’s hardly an explanation for the Reds’ poor season.

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Using a heuristic measure of runs-to-wins developed my, we might have expected those 28 runners, had they all scored, to have added three wins to the Reds’ record in 2014. That would have left them at 79-83. Yippee!

Yes, I know that there would have also been 28 fewer outs, which means the Reds might have scored even more runs, but not all of those 28 would have scored with better running or third-base coaching, anyway. Even the best in the game in this category, the Houston Astros, were thrown out 10 times at the plate.

What’s more, the league average was 17 runners thrown out at home in 2014. Half of this year’s playoff teams had more than that number, and half had less.

In other words, this is not a make-or-break statistic for a good (or bad) team, but it may have been a convenient metric for making Smith expendable. But who replaces him?

Well, these positions don’t generally heat up the rumor mill to any extent, but one possibility that leaps to mind is Mark Berry.  Berry, you might remember, stepped down as Reds third base coach last December after a Spring battle with cancer, but he made a few token appearances with the team in 2014. If his situation has stabilized, he might be the first and only name on the replacement list.

As Rosencrans reports, the rest of the Reds’ coaching staff is expected to return intact next season, so if you were hoping for a shakeup, enjoy the jostling at third base because it’s probably the only movement we will see before spring.