Cincinnati Reds have one of best defenses in baseball

Reds shortstop Zack Cozart fields a ball with his bare hand against the Giants on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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Reds shortstop Zack Cozart fields a ball with his bare hand against the Giants on Sunday, May 7, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Reds lead MLB in ultimate zone rating

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart made the type of play Sunday in a 4-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants that’s easy to overlook. He grabbed a groundball with his bare hand and threw quickly to first for an out.

The play didn’t have a huge impact on the outcome. It wasn’t memorable enough to show up in many highlight reels. It was just a solid play that demonstrated once again how strong the Reds’ defense has been in the first six weeks of the season.

“I rarely bare-hand a ball,” Cozart said. “If you see me bare-hand it, I absolutely have to bare-hand it. It’s my pet peeve to watch other guys bare-hand balls when a guy is a third of the way down the line and then they miss it and a guy gets a hit. I do not bare-hand, but I had to right there. I definitely don’t practice that.”

The Reds practice plenty of other defensive situations. That’s a big reason they rank fourth in baseball in fielding percentage (.988, 14 errors in 1,213 chances). The Reds often practice defense at 4 p.m. on nights when they play at 7:10.

“A lot of teams are doing that now,” manager Bryan Price said. “It’s a way to get your defensive work in before balls are coming off the bat in batting practice. It’s a chance to turn some double plays and do things you necessarily do as freely when batting practice is going on and you’re ducking line drives.”

According to FanGraphs.com, the Reds have the best defense in baseball. Their ultimate zone rating, which takes into account, among other things, runs saved by outfielders who prevent runners from advancing and infielders who are better than average at turning double plays, leads the major leagues.

“I don’t think we have a weak spot defensively,” Price said. “To be able to move Adam Duvall from corner infielder to left field and have him play gold-glove caliber defense, you couldn’t have seen that happening. We couldn’t have seen the transition with (Eugenio) Suarez moving from shortstop to third happening so quickly, but it’s been sensational.

“Even (Jose) Peraza getting regular reps at second base, he gets better every day. Then you have your stalwart out there in Cozart, who captains that infield. Having a veteran player in the middle makes everyone around him better. Suarez and Peraza can learn a lot from how Zack plays the game.”


NEXT GAME

Reds at Giants, 10:15 p.m. Thursday, FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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