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The bizarre brilliance of Derek Dietrich’s 2019 season

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MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Dietrich...remember him?

If conjuring up the name ‘Derek Dietrich’ feels as if you’re diving through the annals of history, you aren’t alone. Despite his brilliant start to the 2019 season - one that included a pinch-hit 3-run homer to rescue the Cincinnati Reds on Opening Day - Dietrich has largely faded to the nether-regions of the Reds bench, logging just 6 total PA in the month of September.

If you trace back all the way to July 15th, nearly 2 full months ago, Dietrich has a grand total of 2 hits to his name. He’s 2 for 36 in that time, which reveals both how sparse his opportunities have been in that time and how sparse his production has been, as well.

It’s worth noting for the purpose of this article that both of those hits were doubles. In fact, you’ve got to go all the way back to July 4th to note the last time Dietrich actually hit a single in a major league baseball game, a span of some 70 PA. In that time, of course, he’s been plunked 8 times, taken 6 walks, and clubbed a homer, a quartet of categories in which he has produced one of the more outlandish cobbles of statistics I have ever run across.

Considering the presence of Freddy Galvis, Jose Peraza, Josh VanMeter, and Alex Blandino has largely relegated Dietrich into innocent bystander mode of late, there’s a real chance he’ll finish the season with the same number of counting stats that he possesses right this moment, especially given how far his ability to produce has fallen since his brilliant month of May. If so, it would end up being one of the more unique outputs the game of baseball has ever seen.

To date, Dietrich has been hit by an astonishing 25 pitches, the second most in all baseball. He’s also the owner of 28 walks on the season, as well as a career-best 19 dingers. None of those, in a vacuum, jump off the page in any sort of way, really, aside from the HBP numbers that were largely fueled by a fit of Clint Hurdle rage months back.

What’s astonishing in context, however, is that he only has 18 singles this entire season. Right now, with the season nearing its completion, Dietrich has more HBP, walks, and homers than he has singles. That’s simply unheard of.

On top of that, he’s the owner of a comically low .185 BABIP on the season, which is far and away the single lowest among the 297 MLB players who have had at least 250 PA in 2019. Second place on that list is Travis Shaw at .208, for reference. And given Dietrich’s all or nothing or plunking mentality at the plate, that’s actually somewhat easy to believe when you factor in that home runs don’t count towards BABIP calculations.

Dietrich, now 30 years old, was picked up by the Reds last winter on a minor league deal after effectively being punted away by the woeful Miami Marlins. He’s got a year of team control for the 2020 season, should the Reds choose to exercise that right, but the roller coaster season of production we’ve seen from Dietrich paired with the rise of other, younger players from the Reds farm who play similar positions means that there’s no guarantee he’ll actually be tendered a contract for next year, something that was completely absurd to say when he was blasting a dinger per swing back in May. If that’s the case, we’re watching the final days of one of the weirdest seasons not only in the history of the Cincinnati Reds, but in the history of MLB coming to a close, and as these 600+ words make clear, I thought that was worth emphasizing.

Thanks for the wild ride, Derek. We’ll always have Pittsburgh.

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