Cincinnati Reds: Why is Josh VanMeter still in the starting lineup?

MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 28: Josh VanMeter #17 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - AUGUST 28: Josh VanMeter #17 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Why does Reds manager David Bell continue to run Josh VanMeter out there?

I feel like I’ve been in the minority throughout the 2020 season, in that I’ve kept my criticism of Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell to a minimum. However, I can stay silent no more, as the Reds skipper is sending Josh VanMeter back out onto the field Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals as the team’s designated hitter. What in the world is Bell thinking?

Now, I fully hope, and to a certain extent, expect to eat my words after VanMeter goes 3-for-4 on the night with a home runs and five RBIs. If that happens, I’d be more than happy to eat crow, as that would likely mean a Reds victory. However, VanMeter’s recent stretch doesn’t fill me with confidence.

The second-year infielder has started four the past five games, going all the way back to the Cincinnati Reds series against the Pittsburgh Pirates that was cut short after one of Cincinnati’s players tested positive for COVID-19. Over those past four games, VanMeter is 1-for-15 (.067) with his lone hit being a double. He’s also struck out six times during those four games.

To be completely fair, in two of those four games, VanMeter was subbing in a second base for the injured Mike Moustakas. I’ll even forgive playing VanMeter at second base during Game 1 of the Reds doubleheader against the Royals. But there’s no longer any excuse for VanMeter to be taking at-bats away from other players.

Not only is Josh VanMeter in the starting lineup, he’s not even in there for defensive purposes. This is the second consecutive game in which VanMeter is the team’s designated hitter. What?! On what planet is a player who’s hitting .061 on the season your best option as the team’s DH? This makes absolutely no sense.

Now, for those who want to say, “Well, he’s facing a right-handed pitcher and David Bell is playing the matchup.” Okay, but while he’s 0-for-3 against lefties this season, VanMeter is just 2-for-29 (.069) against right-handed pitchers. That’s not exactly setting the world on fire. The light-hitting Travis Jankowski has a better batting average (.067).

At this point in a 60-game season, you’ve got to try something new. Sure, Nick Senzel will likely come back from the injured list in a few days and the Reds will have to make a move. Maybe it’s VanMeter, but it could be Jankowski. Regardless, every game matters.

When the likes of Aristides Aquino, Mark Payton and Tyler Stephenson are sitting down at Prasco Park, you’ve got to see what else you might have. Aquino smacked 19 homers in two months last season and Stephenson, though it’s just two at-bats, is batting 1.000.

David Bell could even look on his current active roster to find a better hitter. Matt Davidson has a .965 OPS, but hasn’t seen the field since August 11th. Phillip Ervin is not having a good start to the 2020 season, but his career .750 OPS is good enough to earn him a start over Josh VanMeter.

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I don’t know what Bell is thinking, but let’s hope VanMeter figures out what he’s doing in the batter’s box tonight. The Cincinnati Reds dropped Game 1 in an epic collapse last night and need to find a way to win Game 2 versus the St. Louis Cardinals.