Lefty Loosey

Probably the other position that has received a fair amount of criticism from Reds fans has been that of left field. No matter how you cut it, there has been less than stellar offensive production from the four (yes, four) players that have drawn starting nods. We will visit them each briefly and them go about the collective route.

First up will be the incumbent Jonny Gomes. After 2010, Gomes was a free agent and some wondered if his days in a Reds uniform might be over and done. Well, not so fast. The Reds signed Gomes to a one-year deal and it wasn’t an expensive one either. The question among a fair number within the Reds fanbase was …why?

The wants were an increase in the numbers that Gomes posted last season, better defense, and a guy that can produce on a more consistent basis. For a month last season, Gomes put the Reds on his back and carried them. This season, it has yet to happen, if it ever will. But Gomes has a couple of qualities that sit well within the clubhouse.

He hustles and his teammates like him. He fits within the team chemistry. No, that doesn’t mean he should be viewed as “untouchable”, but it appears that Gomes is just that despite providing numbers that are not close to those of 2010.

2010: 65 starts, .290/.345/.486, 9 HR, 54 RBI
2011: 44 starts, .250/.366/.474, 9 HR, 27 RBI

The rise in OBP is due to his increased walk rate (18 at this time in 2010, 33 this season). The HR are equal, but driving in runs is lacking. And so is the BA. Those two factors may be why Gomes has only drawn 44 starts (not including DH duties) thus far in 2011. His lack of production has drawn constant criticism among the Reds fan that inhabit Twitter.

The Reds signed free agent Fred Lewis as a possibility to platoon out in left along with Gomes. The Lewis signing brought a warm reception, at best. No one was overly excited about the transaction. Even Reds manager Duty Baker maintained a wait-and-see attitude when he proclaimed during spring training that Lewis was no shoo-in to make the Opening Day roster. Lewis didn’t as he began 2011 on the DL.

When he was healthy (and a productive rehab stint in the minors), Lewis was brought along a little slower that I would have anticipated considering his success during that rehab. Lewis has not duplicated that since donning the Reds uniform. His slash is .212/.303/.242 in the 19 times he has started in left. He has added 4 RBI and no steals. The stolen base threat was a reason Lewis was brought into the fold.

Perhaps the name you hear and read most often as the one that should be the everyday left fielder id Chris Heisey. Now before those on either side of the fence get going here, I realize that Heisey’s numbers as a starter are not impressive. I also realize that this young man hasn’t exactly been given the keys to even borrow the car. A phrase that Kerry constantly states is “small sample size”. It applies both ways, in my mind, where Heisey is concerned.

In his 15 starts as the Red left fielder, he has a slash of .247/.311/.395 with 3 HR and 9 RBI. Of the three listed here, he has the least number of starts. I’m am now starting to wonder a couple of things: Will Heisey ever get a legit chance (I’m guessing no at this point) and Can a three-man platoon work (another “no” in my book).

When you view how these three (and three games started by Jeremy Hermida) stack up against the rest of the NL, it looks like this…

The slash numbers are below average while the others are above. So why all the fuss? It’s called expectations, not for just the position, but for the whole team. As I said in the beginning, this is one position where the finger gets pointed at probably most frequently.

So my midterm grade: C-. When you compare this trio to the likes of Carlos Gonzalez in Colorado and Matt Holliday in St. Louis, things look bleak. They’re not that bad, but they could be better.

Note: stats reflected do not include today’s game.