Reds: Scott Heineman starting over Shogo Akiyama is madness

Jun 10, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds out fielder Shogo Akiyama (4) watches from the dugout. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 10, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds out fielder Shogo Akiyama (4) watches from the dugout. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Reds are trying to secure a series victory over the Atlanta Braves and have chosen to start Scott Heineman in center field over Shogo Akiyama. I don’t care what the numbers say, this is madness.

We’ve gone from absurd to downright ignorant. I understand that left-handed pitcher Kyle Muller is on the hill for the Braves. And I know that David Bell loves to play the matchups. But starting Heineman over Akiyama is inexcusable.

Reds outfielder Shogo Akiyama is a better option than Scott Heineman.

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we? Muller is only 23 years old and has just two major league games under his belt, so forget the idea that perhaps Heineman has a good track record against the southpaw. He doesn’t.

On the season, Heineman is 2-for-27 (.074) with two home runs and a .490 OPS. In his career, Heineman owns a .518 OPS against left-handed hitters. He’s actually better against right-handers with an OPS of .626.

Heineman has 85 plate appearances versus both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. The former Rangers’ prospect has two homers versus lefties and three versus right-handers. He’s got only five extra base hits against right-handed pitchers and nine versus left-handers.

While Shogo Akiyama’s slash line of .224/.278/.269 is not impressive, the left-handed hitting outfielder has a career on-base percentage of .335. While I know it’s scary for modern-day managers to give left-handed hitters opportunities to battle left-handed pitchers, Akiyama is never going to prove that he can do it unless he’s given the chance.

In his brief major league career, Akiyama has just a .540 OPS against southpaws. That’s still higher than Heineman’s career OPS against lefties. The fact is, Shogo Akiyama has just 31 career plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.

At this point, if the Cincinnati Reds are not going to give Shogo Akiyama opportunities to play, they need to trade him to a team that will. I know that he carries an unusually high salary for a player with his numbers, but that’s just the reality of the situation. Cincinnati may need to take on the contract of a similarity unproductive player or eat a good chunk of it if they wish to deal Akiyama.

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There’s just no rhyme or reason to this line of thinking. With Jesse Winker out of today’s lineup, Aristides Aquino in left field, and Tyler Naquin on the bench, today’s lineup should have featured Shogo Akiyama starting in center field and batting eighth. Instead, we’re left with Scott Heineman. No disrespect to the Oregon alum, but this is just madness.