Can Ryan Ludwick Liberate Brandon Phillips?


Though most folks are happy with the acquisition of Jonathan Broxton, a lot of people are disappointed that the Reds made no moves by the deadline to address a big, gaping hole. The Reds didn’t get a lead-off guy. And the Reds’ lead-off guys account for the worst OBP in all of baseball. Dead last.

Shane Victorino? Juan Pierre? No deal. So the Reds stand pat. And in the meantime, the two guys at the top of the order are batting a combined .201 – that’s also good for the worst lead-off batting average in all of baseball.

That average could change, very soon. Or at least as soon as everyone gets healthy.

Ryan Ludwick’s performance of late could be game changing. Never mind that he’s putting this team on his back during Votto’s and now BP’s absence. If Ryan has found his stroke again, that will free DatDude from the chains of the 4 spot. Ludwick the Liberator could finally allow Phillips to take his .296/.336 to the top of the order.

Is Ryan Ludwick a legitimate four guy? In his career, he’s had 1,146 plate appearances batting cleanup. He has a .257 average to show for it and an OBP of .329. Nothing particularly stellar. But Ludwick hit .299 in 2008 with the Cards. Batting 4th, behind the best hitter in baseball at that time, he hit .295 and had 59 RBIs.

Can he replicate those numbers batting behind the current best hitter in baseball? He’s doing it behind Scott Rolen right now.

Also interesting about Ludwick is that he’s playing with a sizable chip on his shoulders. His post-game interviews are often loaded with incendiary subtlety. When he’s asked if he’s surprised at what he’s doing, you’ll notice a very minor defensive undertone. You’ll hear him recount statistics of his prolific past, as if he was some online schmuck with a blog. Last evening, he brought up the fact that he was at one-time the NL Player of the Month in 2008, that he hit well over .300 in that stretch. He’s almost offended at these kind of questions.

Ludwick doesn’t give template interviews. He’s assertive. After the Cardinals game that he ended with a walk-off swing, he was sure to note how aware he was of the criticism and doubt surrounding him, both outside of Cincinnati and within. You get a sense that Ludwick cares a lot about his image. Being sent to two pitcher-friendly parks that shrank his batting average dramatically was enough to hinder our confidence in him, but it’s painstakingly obvious that Ludwick never shared similar sentiments.

Neither has Dusty Baker.

“He’s been an RBI man most of his career,” Baker said. “This is the first time in the last couple of years where he wasn’t traded at the deadline. He’s doing everything in his power to try to find a home.”

Ludwick seems to have found one. A small ballpark on the bank of the Ohio, incredibly hospitable to home run hitters. If Ryan Ludwick really has rediscovered his stroke, then the true potential of this Reds lineup may finally be unlocked.

In my perfect world, a healthy Reds lineup looks like this:


That’s a serious 1-6, if we’re assuming Stubbs finally plays to the tune of the back of his baseball card. One thing is for sure – Joey Votto may have to adjust upon his return. There could be runners on base in front of him.