There are times in the off-season where writers and bloggers like me literally cringe while writing an entry. What do we talk about this week? We run through player analysis, we offer 700 words on why one player is going to do this next season, we regurgitate the same crap for months, desperate for a new spin, or more coveted, something new to talk about. Last evening, Walt Jocketty served it up on fiestaware, literally sizzling from heat.
Yesterday, the topic on every Reds blog was how the Reds needed to acquire a lead-off man. Today, it’s ten reasons why the Reds just became favorites to win the World Series. Think I’m being egregious? Hardly. I know you, Reds fans, because I’m one of you. Pessimism is ingrained in our DNA. It’s woven in the fabric of our nature. We’re so used to disappointment that our hearts have been encased in an adamantium vault. And adamantium isn’t even a real metal – it’s the stuff Wolverine’s claws are made of. Indestructible. Yet, today, I challenge you to tell me what else this team can do to improve.
In my last article, I wrote about how the Reds needed to give the best hitter in baseball a chance to punish opposing teams. Who could possibly be happier than Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips this morning? Joey Votto gets a lead-off hitter with a career OBP of .381 to set his table, while BP gets to return to a part of the lineup where he’s traditionally endured success. Batting 2nd, BP hits .279. The only spot in the lineup he’s had more ABs is the clean-up spot. When BP starts slumping, it’s usually evident that it’s because he’s trying to do too much. But when batting in spots as pivotal as 1st and 4th, it’s challenging not to feel like you have to, especially with an offense like the Reds so prone to droughts. That won’t be an issue for Phillips any longer. If Shin-Soo Choo plays to the back of his Topps card, Brandon is going to see a ton of strikes, lest the opposing team longs to face Joey Votto with two men on and no outs.
Choo isn’t perfect. His skills in center field are highly questionable and he hits lefties at an abysmal rate. His career batting average against left-handed pitching is .249. Last year, he hit just .199 in 206 ABs. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider platooning Choo with Heisey on days the Reds will encounter a tough lefty. But that doesn’t negate the stellar talent the Reds have acquired. Against right-handed starting pitchers in 2012, Choo mashed a .302 batting average and earned an OBP of .374. Take a second to let that marinate, then try to tell me the last time a Reds had a guy like this leading off.
Furthermore, he’s clutch with guys on base. In 2012, he had 159 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. All he did was hit .276 and acquire an OBP of .384.
If you’re concerned with trading Didi, it’s understandable. But you shouldn’t be. Every team in baseball has prospects. Every single one. There is a Didi Gregorius in literally every market. There isn’t, however, a Zack Cozart. There are more prospects than there are proven MLB players. Cozart is proven. He flashes a good glove and he offers the Reds some pop at shortstop. As for Didi, he recorded an OBP of .323 after four years of minor league baseball. No surprise that Didi was promptly traded to Arizona before the ink had even dried on the deal with the Reds.
There’s no guarantee that everything works out. The variables are endless. Injuries, slumps, etc. can derail even the most masterful of plans. But that’s part of baseball. The only thing a general manager can do is put their team in position to succeed. You walk up and down this Reds lineup, you peep the starting rotation and you consider the best bullpen ERA in baseball, and I ask you: what more could a general manager do, in this market, with this payroll?
Hats off to Walt The Architect. He’s done it again.