This has been talked about almost ad nauseam, but to be honest, I’ve grown tired of hearing about the Reds’ “woes” at the top of the lineup.
Let’s first address the idea that lineups actually mean a whole lot. This is one of my favorite articles, published at Beyond The Boxscore, which does a great job summarizing what Tom Tango and others found through “extensive research” on batting order (this research can be found in their book, The Book). In the opening paragraph it’s revealed that “the difference between an optimized lineup and a typical, mildly foolish one you’ll see MLB teams use is only about one win over 162 games.”
One might argue that calling the piece of paper Dusty hands to the umpire every night “mildly foolish” is an understatement, but the point remains. The amount of commentary we see on lineups FAR outweighs the importance they actually have on a baseball season.
But back to the mildly foolish part. Yesterday, a guy we might consider to know a thing or two about baseball pointed out that Reds’ leadoff hitters have a .247 OBP on the year. Not so much news as a reiteration of the belief that the Reds needed to acquire a leadoff hitter.
I counter with this: almost 70% of the Reds’ leadoff appearances have gone to rookie shortstop Zack Cozart. Cozart, while playing very solid defense and showing decent power for his position, has turned in the worst OBP of all Reds regulars in 2012. Not below average, or “kinda bad”… THE WORST.
I know this isn’t the first time someone’s taken issue with Dusty’s lineups, which makes it all the more maddening to me that so many believe the Reds need a new leadoff hitter. We have a new leadoff hitter. His name is ANYONE ELSE ON THE TEAM. (Besides Drew Stubbs, of course, who’s been penciled in 13% of the time and has an only somewhat less disappointing .301 OBP).
I realize that the counter to this argument is that Dusty isn’t changing. He’s not going to bat Todd Frazier or Ryan Hanigan at the top. Not in a hundred years. Which is why, as the argument contends, the Reds needed to find someone who satisfies both the “he just seems like he should be good at leading off” and the “he’s actually good at leading off” methods of evaluation.
If that’s the argument, then I give up. Let’s just accept that Dusty is who he is, and no matter who is manning the position, either the shortstop or the center fielder will be leading off for the Reds every single night.
But really, I’d rather get to the heart of the issue, and in this case, I think the Reds did just fine not to acquire a stereotypically speedy, top-of-the-order type who is marginally better than the players we already have.
Brandon Phillips has led off before. He has the third best OBP on the team (.336). Ryan Hanigan regularly turns in beautiful at bats and rarely strikes out, things you want out of your #2 hitter. Ryan Ludwick is slugging .540 and plugs right in at clean up, the spot Phillips would vacate. This isn’t logic reserved for the sabermetrically-minded. These are old school philosophies.
Perhaps it’s too much to ask at this point, but with just a few minor tweaks, it seems that most the of the Reds’ batting order “issues” could be solved.
Follow Aaron on Twitter @aaronjlehr