Those Ailing Reds Bats

As I look at this list I compiled, I am a little baffled. Baffled because in the ten games since Joey Votto returned, the Reds have offense has been offensive…in a not-so-good way. If you want to point your finger toward a general area as to why the Reds are only 5-5 since #19 made his way back into the Reds lineup, that would be the first place to start. Maybe the only place to look.

Sept 14, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Votto connects for a base hit during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. (Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)

Votto has had his “struggles”. In his 10 games since coming back, Votto is hitting .302, but has yet to hit a home run or drive in a run. The no home runs thing isn’t that big a deal, but the no RBI thing is a tad troublesome. One thing is apparent. Opposing teams are still leery of Votto as he has more walks (11) than hits (10) in this timespan. That would explain the .489 OBP Votto has posted. Even with being on base almost half the time, Votto has crossed the plate on only 4 occasions.

Upon Votto reclaiming his #3 spot in the lineup, Brandon Phillips was moved back to the leadoff spot. Having experienced success at the end of last season, he struggled early on this season and after missing some time due to a hamstring issue, BP was moved to cleanup upon returning. This was in April. Phillips was having a very good season. He even moved to the lineup’s third spot in Votto’s absence and performed maybe better than some had expected (.298/.324/.466 in 43 games). With the Votto return, BP was placed back atop the order and has produced a slash of .209/.261/.372 scoring 5 runs, stealing 4 bases and smacking 2 home runs since the switch.

Another player that flourished in Votto’s absence was Ryan Ludwick. It has been chronicled that Ludwick struggled at the beginning of the season, but slowly built up to an offensive crescendo Cincinnati was not used to seeing aside when Jay Bruce explodes with one of his patented rolls. Hasn’t been the case as of late. In his nine games of play with Votto back on the field, Ludwick is hitting .250 and owns an SLG of .361. He had not hit a home run since a two-homer game against the Cubs on August 18th when he hit his shot at Marlins Park the other evening. Upside: 7 RBI in those 9 games.

And what of Bruce? I could go back ten games as I have done with the others previously mentioned, but in this case, that wouldn’t tell the whole story. (In case you’re wondering: .214/.250/500, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 11 SO, 2 BB). We honestly don’t have to go back that far. Only go back to the game where Bruce faced Pirates hurler Wandy Rodriguez, a pitcher notorious for mystifying Bruce (now 2-for-32, .063 BA). Reds manager Dusty Baker usually sits Bruce when Wandy is on the hill. Well, Bruce started that game on Sept. 10, and was 0-for-5 with a walk. Now Rodriguez didn’t pitch all 11 innings of that game, but that .063 sure looks ugly. Including that game and all that have followed, Bruce is a cool 2 for his last 27 (.074).

The offensive deficient bug has found its way to Todd Frazier‘s bat as well. Frazier has played in seven of the ten games since Votto came back and his slash is far from impressive: .214/.313/.286. Of note, no home runs, no RBI. Frazier has yet to drive in a run this month. His last RBI was on August 28th against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he drove in a pair of runs with a triple.

The oblique injury to Zack Cozart has afforded Wilson Valdez with more playing time. He has notched seven starts in the last ten games (the other three by Didi Gregorius) and has produced a slash of .250/.280/.250. Nothing mind-blowing there. Might be actually a little better from a batting average standpoint than one would suspect. I mean, the Reds were getting a slash of .243/285/.402 with Cozart.

Good news is that Cozart is close to his return. More on that in a separate post.

Aug. 29, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Heisey hits a two run home run in the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. (Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

And exactly what should we make of Chris Heisey? With the re-tooling of the swing of Drew Stubbs (more on that shortly), Heisey has been getting a little more PT of late (6 starts in the last 10 games). While his BA (.233) and OBP (.258) are far from ideal, he has managed to score 5 runs in his 6 starts. Downside, 9 whiffs. But there has been something about Heisey in that when he is given the opportunity, something good usually does happen.

On Stubbs…the re-tooling has more work. In his last 7 games (4 starts), he has yet to produce one hit. In 14 plate appearances, 5 strikeouts.

Bright spot? You mean there is a bright spot? There is. It’s the catching combo of Ryan Hanigan and Dioner Navarro. It’s a two-way street, too.

Hanigan, one that won’t hit the long ball, has a BA of .313 and OBP of .353 in his 5 starts (7 games) while Navarro owns a .381 and .409 OBP in his 5 starting assignments (7 games). The duo has a combined .351 BA and .385 OBP. They have also accounted for 4 runs scored and 4 RBI. Navarro’s production has come strictly from the 7th spot while Hanigan’s has mostly come from his accustomed home of 8th although he has hit 7th once during this ten-game stretch.

Side note…defense has played a role especially for Hanigan, not just since Votto came back, but all season long. Hanigan has thrown out 49% of would be theft attempts (30-for-61) which leads all of baseball. The league average for this season is 27%. I think that memo is making its way around the league.

Yes, the bats are struggling. What better way to aid slumping bats than to head to Wrigley and face a Cubs pitching staff which yields the NL’s most walks (513), second least strikeouts (1,031), third most runs per game (4.62) and third most HR (162).

An offensive outburst is truly in the offering.