The 30 days have seen the Cincinnati Reds creep closer to the division leading St. Louis Cardinals out of shear grit and determination. It has not always been pretty but they have had their moments. On April 18 the Reds were 5 games out of first, sitting in 4th place only twelve games into the young season. Today the Reds are 2.5 games back and a game over .500 nearly a quarter of the way through season and we have cause both to celebrate as well as cause for concern.
Before the season began most people viewed the Reds as a team possessing the firepower to compete offensively with anyone in baseball. The concern has long been focused on the ability of the starting rotation to compete effectively and pitch late into games to allow the bullpen to be rested throughout the season. The results so far show that the starters in 2012 are in a virtual tie with the 2011 starters in IP/start. Both have pitched 5.98 innings per start with a miniscule edge to the 2012 group. The difference in 2012 is evident when you examine the earned run average of each group. In 2011 the Reds starting pitchers amassed an ERA of 4.47 in 162 starts, while this year in 2012 the number in early returns is a much improved 3.89. I hear a continuous outcry of fans that Dusty is the problem and I have occasionally questioned decisions he makes but the truth is he is right more than he is wrong and if he has a weakness it is his loyalty to his players. The same loyalty that makes players want to play for him.
But I digress…
The bullpen, even without presumed closer Ryan Madson, has improved as well posting an ERA of 2.28 compared to the full season ERA of 3.55 in 2011. The defense continues to play effectively with the Reds posting just the 5th fewest errors in the National League, the same as in 2011. So that leaves the offense and in particular the lineup to heap the blame upon and for us to dissect. Let’s try…
First off, Dusty Baker has submitted 29 different batting orders (not including pitchers). Six times he has used the same lineup twice and two times he has used the same lineup on three occasions. No one is in any danger of getting comfortable with the lineup card. The two most common lineups are as follows:
This lineup is 3-0 and has produced a more robust 18 runs in 3 games or 6 runs/game. Also consider, when the Reds score 3 or more runs they have only lost 5 times. Only three times (including last night) have they scored 4 or more and lost. The pitching has been that good.
So what lineup would I prefer. Well here it is and I will attempt to defend my decisions as we go along.
- Phillips-Brandon Phillips may not be the ideal lead off hitter but he can deal with the pressure and someone has to do it. He is not doing well in cleanup so maybe this will help wake up his bat.
- Hanigan-Ryan Hanigan is slow and this will cause a few double plays but he makes excellent contact and what the Reds need more than anything else are baserunners for Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to drive in. Stubbs in the two hole is a waste of his speed much as batting Ken Griffey Sr. in front of Joe Morgan was a waste. The difference was, Griffey got on base.
- Votto-Joey Votto can hit better than anyone on this team. He bats third. Period.
- Bruce-Jay Bruce needs to be here because of the threat he represents, it does stack two lefties together which may create an opprotunity for a left handed reliever to wreak a little havok but with the way the rest of the team is hitting these two are still better against lefties than anyone else is so it really does no harm.
- Cozart-Zack Cozart needs to get comfortable as a major leaguer before forcing him into a pressure cooker as the lead off hitter. Moving him here will allow him to become the player he can be.
- Frazier-Anyone who has ever followed my writing closely should understand how difficult this is for me to say. Scott Rolen‘s bat appears to have slowed to a degree that makes him an offensive liability. He is one of my favorite players on this team but I cannot deny Todd Frazier his shot given his performance so far this season.
- Heisey-I want Ryan Ludwick to succeed in a Reds uniform, but on the field Chris Heisey is putting up better numbers. If a left fielder who can hit came available though, this would be the first hole I would fill.
- Stubbs-This seems ridiculous on its face, let’s put the fastest man on the team in the place he can do the least damage but the thing is Drew Stubbs isn’t doing much damage and batting in front of the pitcher might give him better pitches to hit. With the ability of Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake behind the plate, a serious rally might occasionally be mounted before the top of the order ever steps to the plate.
These are merely suggestions but Dusty wants to win and he seems willing to try most any line up in his quest for something that clicks so this is my best attempt at a suggestion. If you have a different idea, feel free to share it with the BRM crowd. Can’t wait to here from you!
Tags: Brandon Phillips Bronson Arroyo Chris Heisey Cincinnati Reds Drew Stubbs Jay Bruce Joe Morgan Joey Votto Ken Griffey Mike Leake Ryan Hanigan Ryan Ludwick Ryan Madson Scott Rolen Todd Frazier Zack Cozart