Third Thoughts

A short time ago, I opined that maybe, just maybe, it could be time to look for an alternative a third base. I didn’t mean now, I meant a bit down the road. Well, I have a feeling someone may have shown that post to Reds starting third baseman Scott Rolen. He’s picked up his pace a little since then.

Well, the position of third base has been a bit better than I had thought. One reason I was somewhat down on the offensive production is due to the lack of power. It does still get to me a little, but the rest of the package is almost as good as it was last season. Here’s the facts…

There is one argument against all that I am about to say so I’m getting that out of the way now. It’s this: production by NL thrid basemen is really down this season. Okay. The white elephant is out. We can move forward here…

One fact that jumped out at me was that Reds manager Dusty Baker has used five different players at third: Rolen, Miguel Cairo (go fig), Juan Francisco, Chris Valaika, and Paul Janish. Well, both Rolen and Francisco have spent time on the disabled list. That led to Janish and Valiaka accumulating a few starts. Cairo, well, it’s just Cairo.

And that should make the above chart seem even more amazing considering the circumstances. I know the lack of power bothers me (and I don’t think I am alone), but consider those that have played the position, and I do understand. And I really do think Rolen has lost a tad of bat speed. He can still drive the ball, no doubt.

His DL stint? Before that his splits (in 17 games with 15 starts) were: .217/.246/.417 with 2 HR (1 HR was in a PH role) and 12 RBI. After the time on the DL (35 games with 32 starts): .275/.318/.420 with 2 HR and 20 RBI. The percentages are higher (even SLG), but the power and run production still aren’t where they should be.

Again, Miguel Cairo has proven to be the master of the substitution. In the 23 games where he has started at third, he has compiled splits of .299/.365/.442 with 2 HR and 11 RBI.

And the defense we have expected from Rolen has not changed one bit. He can still pick it a third. And the others have added defensive depth as a whole. Consider that Reds third basemen have committed the least number of errors (4), have the highest fielding percentage (.982), and are 4th in assists (164), and you can understand why I can give a nice grade for the position.

No, not a lot of bull or more stats to sling here. This may be as straight forward a good grade as there is to give. I don’t have to try and sugar coat some things.

Overall, Reds third basemen deserve a B-. Yes, the lack of the long ball does bug me and the fact that the rest of the NL third basemen are struggling does take away from the comparisons. The defense keeps this from a C. A whole letter grade for lack of homers?

Maybe it bugs me more than I think it does.