Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Cozart raking while top of lineup struggles

Reds' shortstop is hitting a Major League-best .407 after Tuesday night
MLB.com @m_sheldon

MILWAUKEE -- The top of the Reds' lineup -- leadoff man Billy Hamilton and No. 2 hitter Jose Peraza -- have floundered thus far after there was optimism in the spring that their speed could ignite the club's offense. However, that was only if the dynamic duo could get on base, and thus far, they have not done that enough.

Hamilton went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts on Tuesday in a 9-1 loss to the Brewers, and Peraza had soft singles in a 2-for-5 night.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- The top of the Reds' lineup -- leadoff man Billy Hamilton and No. 2 hitter Jose Peraza -- have floundered thus far after there was optimism in the spring that their speed could ignite the club's offense. However, that was only if the dynamic duo could get on base, and thus far, they have not done that enough.

Hamilton went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts on Tuesday in a 9-1 loss to the Brewers, and Peraza had soft singles in a 2-for-5 night.

View Full Game Coverage

Although Cincinnati is fourth in the National League with 100 runs scored, Hamilton has a slash line of .213/.264/.250 -- including his current 5-for-45 skid -- while Peraza is at .226/.261/.262.

"We're better when they are on base and doing what they do on the basepaths. That's a big part of our offense," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "However, we've run kind of hot and cold. We've had periods of time where we've scored a lot of runs. [On Monday] we lost, 11-7.

"I just think this can be a terrific offense when those guys are getting on base. I think it gets the guys behind them better pitches to hit. That will be something we certainly look to improve upon and get some guys hot in the lineup, especially those two guys that can create more run-scoring opportunities. They're really our true speed guys hitting at one and two. We don't have a ton of team speed beyond the two-spot in our lineup as far as straight-steal guys. It's important."

Meanwhile, batting seventh for the 12th time in his 18 games, shortstop Zack Cozart went 2-for-2 with a walk to raise his Major League-leading batting average to .407. He has hit safely in 16 of his 18 games and is riding a five-game hitting streak. He started the season with hits in 10 straight games.

Cozart, who entered the night the MLB leader with a .467 batting average on balls in play, also has seven doubles and an MLB-leading four triples. His on-base percentage is .493. In the six games he didn't bat seventh, he batted sixth.

According to Statcast™, Cozart is outperforming his expected batting average (which is based on exit velocity and launch angle) by the largest margin among batters with a minimum of 50 at-bats. His xBA entering the night was .264. The same can be said for his expected wOBA (based on the same parameters), which was.334 entering the night.

With Cozart riding a wildly high BABIP and batting average, the odds are that he will eventually trend downwards. But could Price ride his hot streak by raising him in the order until Hamilton and Peraza get going? One issue is Cozart doesn't have the elite speed of the other two.

"[Cozart] gets good pitches to hit, and I'll take advantage of him hitting, but Billy has to get on," Price said. "When he was hitting second last year, it was a very potent part of our offense. We didn't have Jose, and if we did, I had Jose hitting further down in the order. For that to work, in order to get those good pitches to hit, you have to have a speed guy that's on base a lot. We really haven't gotten those two started yet."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds