Out in Left

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I know, a big no-brainer, but this sort of goes back to what was viewed as a couple of weakness regarding the Reds roster. You know, those two positions that almost everyone pointed at and said “The Reds have a gap here”. Those positions were shortstop (which I addressed somewhat the other day) and left field.

But the issues surrounding short were seemingly answered (in a popular kind of way) when Reds skipper Dusty Baker informed Reds fans during the Reds Caravan that Paul Janish was the guy at the position. That announcement was met with rousing applause. This also came on the heels of the signing of 2010 World Series MVP Edgar Renteria being brought into the Reds clubhouse. Reds fans were worries that Janish would once again be “passed over” for a veteran player. But I glossed over this the other day because of hitting woes from the duo.

Enough about that. So, what about left?

Baker asserted that Jonny Gomes would be the “everyday” right fielder. This was not met with as much enthusiasm from the Reds fanbase. There was a segment that felt an upgrade was needed at the position, but the real question would be from where would the upgrade come. Some had opined that maybe it should be Chris Heisey. Better defensively and maybe an equal to Gomes offensively if given the playing time. The Reds also went the free agent route and signed Fred Lewis. The Lewis signing was met with a bit of optimism as Lewis was considered an option at the leadoff position, the one position in the batting order that haunted the Reds in 2010. Another minor league free agent, Jeremy Hermida, has also played a few games there, but he has been optioned back to Louisville.

Well, none of the other three have seized the position as of yet except Gomes. Well, he has seized it. It’s more of a matter that Baker seemingly refuses to give up on him. That in itself has created an outcry from a lot of Reds fans.

And exactly how does this foursome (if you include Hermida’s numbers) compare to the other LFs around baseball with their offensive production…

Not too pretty seeing it laid out as such, is it?

So, there is been no progress made from the left field position. In fact, a big step back.

I know it’s becoming a standard practice for many of the fans to bash Gomes. While he does mean a lot with the walls of the clubhouse, to say he’s not getting it done with the stick would be redundant. Recently, Rds GM Walt Jocketty was heard on Reds Live prior to a Reds game saying something similar to he hopes the Gomes starts to hit. I wonder if maybe that time has ended for that hope.

Remember when Gomes was on a walk crusade? Early in the season, he was leading the NL in that category. He looked so disciplined and locked in at the plate that even when he would strike out, it generally was not a bad pitch and he was simply missing it. Not now. He looks totally lost. I heard (not read) somewhere that he was instructed to be more aggressive at the plate. That hasn’t worked out for May.

It hasn’t.

The majority of the Reds faithful have been adamant that Heisey should be the everyday right fielder. He’s is the best defensive option at the position, no question, and the momentum for “Hi-C” to be that guy is growing…at a pretty decent rate, too. I’m not so sure. I believe we’ve been down this road before, but I’ll bring this up again…

Is 53 starts over what amounts to a full season enough to gauge if Heisey should be the guy or not? Some will argue that the jury is still out on that and that Heisey has never received any type of real opportunity. In a sense, I do agree on that point. Maybe all he needs, as suggested by a few fans, is say about 35 PA to show Dusty what he can do if he tabbed “that guy”.

However, I’m inclined to ever so slightly lean the other way. I do think Heisey can play everyday…eventually, just not sold on it being now. But with the excessive lack of production from the position, I’d take Heisey’s starting stats compared to what the Reds have been getting so far this season. I mean a .226 batting average is a helluva lot better than .195 (which, by the way, is a stat to which he has been a contributor), isn’t it?

But look a little deeper. As a LF for 2011, Heisey’s splits are .200/.286/.320. As a starter, they are .211/.326/.316.

As I have already pointed out, Lewis was brought in at a somewhat bargain price of $900,000. He began the season on teh 15-day DL and began the season on a rehab assignment in the minors. In 15 games, Lewis compiled a .279 BA and a .436 OBP (12 hits and 12 walks in 55 PA). If only that could transfer to the MLB level.

Well, it is too soon to tell in regards to rendering a verdict on the Lewis signing. I think it’s interesting that one of the reasons Lewis was brough on board was due to the question if Drew Stubbs could handle the leadoff role. So far, despite still striking out at a high rate, Stubbs has performed at a level beyond what most Reds fans had thought. If you’re wondering if maybe Lewis could fill the void at the #2 spot (provided he gets the opportunities), he has done so with splits of .257/.322/.382. It’s the second most occupied spot in the order for his career (149 PA) with batting leadoff (925 PA) being the most.

Three options are no real answers. Something, somewhere has to give…