Cincinnati Reds in Review: LF Ryan Ludwick


One of the most cordial Cincinnati Reds in recent memory also serves as one of the most controversial. Ryan Ludwick never was an outlandish guy off the field, but was crucified for his play on the field; despite the fact that, well, he wasn’t all that bad.

So, where does this come from? How is it that a player who had just over 900 at-bats with the Reds in three seasons became such a dartboard for public scrutiny? Let’s delve deeper into the Ryan Ludwick saga.

Ryan Ludwick – Outfielder

It wasn’t even two weeks into Spring Training before the public had anointed Chris Heisey the everyday left fielder, be damned with that Ludwick. Kick him to the curb! Let him ride the bench! The only issue is, none of that made any sense.

Perception can blind reality. Ludwick had easily the second best season of his 12-year career in 2012 as the primary left fielder, despite having only had 422 at-bats. In that time, he clobbered 26 home runs, drove in 80 runs, batted .275 and had a .346 on-base percentage. For those that grovel over sabermetrics, he had a 130 OPS+ and a 2.4 oWAR, both being the second highest total of his career.

No one could ever mistake Ludwick for a defensive guru, but his offensive contributions were certainly above par.

Where things got dicey in 2014 was when manager Bryan Price decided left field would become a rotating door of Ludwick, Chris Heisey and Skip Schumaker. Without rhyme or reason, the three men would alternate in the lineup, sometimes three in a row, or one player for nearly a whole week. As a result, Ludwick’s numbers suffered.

I truly believe that a lot of the animosity derived towards Ludwick was salary-based. He was brought in to be the bopper in the middle of the order between Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and was paid like it. Making eight and a half million dollars in 2014 was magnified when he had only 400 plate appearances. On top of that, the team gave him $4.5 million to disappear this off-season.

Ludwick’s finally hoorah in Cincinnati was a convoluted muck. He did himself absolutely no favors as far as finding a new job is concerned, although as the free agent market trims down, a club may be interested in him to at least play the role of designated hitter. There is no doubt Ludwick can still hit; it’s now just a matter of staying healthy and getting consistent playing time.

Ludwick’s Stat Line:

.244/.308/.375, 357 AB’s, 20 2B’s, 9 HR, 45 RBI, 31 BB-94 K, -0.5 WAR, -14 RAA

Top Ryan Ludwick Moment:

In a season of wildly erratic playing time, Ludwick found it nearly impossible to develop any type of rhythm—that would show in his final numbers.

On a game-by-game basis, Ludwick didn’t have very many outstanding moments or games. His top moment of the season may be his only four-hit campaign, which came on June 15 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Shockingly, he would only have two games all season long in which he had multiple extra-base hits. Against the Brewers on this day, he’d lace three doubles in a Reds’ 13-4 rout.

Low Point of the Season for Ryan Ludwick:

Like sharks to blood in the water, fans swarmed Ludwick just ten games into the season when he produced a “Golden Sombrero” at home against the Tampa Bay Rays (four strikeouts in one game).

In just over a month from that point, the massive platoon began. It became a daily contest to guess who Price would just haphazardly throw in left field without any rhyme or reason. For a long-time professional like Ludwick, this must have been rock bottom.

Final Grade: C

In an odd way, I’ll miss Ryan Ludwick. His tenure in Cincinnati was borderline cancerous towards the end, despite having lasted only three seasons. Obviously, we wish him nothing but the best as he searches for a team with an opening for him and his powerful bat.

As Ludwick departs, the left field position is in no better shape than he found it. That is the tragic reality in Cincinnati.