Reds - General

Deep Breaths and Bold Thoughts

The off-day seems like a reasonable time to take a detailed look at where the Reds stand with one-sixth of the 2013 season in the record books. Sample sizes remain too small to offer meaningful extrapolation forward, but we can certainly make comparisons of the situation now to that of a month ago. And a month-long view offers more insight than an over-emphasis of recent games. In baseball, we know that what’s happened the last few days, good or bad, isn’t going to keep happening forever.

OVERALL

The Reds are 15-13. The April schedule was supposed to be tough, but it turns out the Reds have played only three series (Cardinals, Pirates and Cardinals again) against teams that finished the month with a winning record. All of those games were on the road. The Reds won their five series at GABP. While the overall winning percentage won’t assure qualifying for the post-season, an above-.500 record in April is a solid, positive accomplishment.

DIVISION

At the moment, the battle for the NL Central is more than the expected two-team race. The Pirates and Brewers are bunched tightly with the pre-season favorite Cardinals and Reds. Based on early evidence, the Cardinals may have the best starting pitching in the league and plenty of hitting. If they can stabilize their bullpen, it’s hard to see them fading. While the Pirates and Brewers have decent lineups, their pitching continues to be mired in the bottom tier of the NL. From the vantage point of May 2, it still seems likely the division will end up as a race between an ever-better St. Louis and the Reds.

BULLPEN

The Good Sean Marshall, who, it bears repeating, is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, missed most of April but is back and apparently healthy. After a shaky first week caused by overuse, J.J. Hoover has returned to his spring training promise. In his last seven appearances Hoover has given up no runs, with 6 strikeouts and one walk. Sam LeCure has been solid. So far, Logan Ondrusek’s strikeout rate is up and walk rate is down – baby steps forward.

The Not-so Good Jonathan Broxton has been assigned the eighth inning role. Like Aroldis Chapman, he hasn’t pitched more than one inning in any appearance. Broxton’s ERA was blown-up that terrible Sunday in Pittsburgh (in large part due to having not pitched for a week). But other troubling signs linger, notably his lagging K/9. Alfredo Simon has been mediocre, surrendering runs in five of his eleven appearances. Hopefully the Reds have seen the last of Manny Parra.

The Spectacular The virtue of assigning your most talented pitcher to the bullpen is that it makes your bullpen better. Indeed, Aroldis Chapman has dominated in his limited role. He’s made 14 appearances and converted all six save opportunities. Yet, the Reds’ best pitcher has thrown just one meaningful inning out of the 117 the Reds have played in compiling a 3-10 record on the road. #misallocation_of_resources

Going Forward With Marshall’s return to health, Hoover’s return to form and Chapman being Chapman, the Reds have their share of ultra-talented bullpen arms. If Simon and Ondrusek are the weak links, that’s not too bad. Broxton’s role exceeds his performance to date, which bears watching.

STARTING ROTATION

The Aces Remember when Mat Latos couldn’t pitch in April? Remember when Homer Bailey couldn’t pitch at home? Remember when Tony Cingrani couldn’t pitch in the majors at all?

Welcome to May, 2013. Latos was Cy Young in April. Bailey has given up 2 earned runs in 20 innings at GABP. And Cingrani has struck out 28 (!) major league hitters in 18 innings. And don’t forget Johnny Cueto, who was second among NL starters in swinging-strike percentage (Homer is seventh) before his injury.

The Solid (Senior) Citizen Bronson Arroyo pitched six innings or more in each of his starts. In four of those games, he gave up three or fewer runs. Bad Bronson has appeared only once and even then gave up just five runs. Sign of decline? Nope. His fastball velocity has even been a bit higher this year than in 2011 and 2012.

The Wild Card Mike Leake continues his enigmatic ways on the mound. His ERA, FIP and K/9 are in line with last season. His BB/9 is up a bit, but his HR/9 is down. Overall, Leake has been pretty much the same pitcher as last year. Keep in mind that last year Leake was 4.58 ERA/4.42 FIP.

Going Forward The rotation has actually surpassed their lofty expectations. It’s hard not to be excited about every start by Cueto, Latos and Bailey. Bronson Arroyo continues as a more-than-able #4. The crucial, lingering question is what will the Reds do with the #5 slot once Cueto returns. Mike Leake is perfectly acceptable in a resigned, party-like-it’s-2012 way. But Tony Cingrani, at least from the early returns, looks like he possesses a much higher ceiling. Sistene Chapel high.

OFFENSE

Shin-Soo Choo was acquired to fuel the offense with more OBP at the top of the order. As of yesterday, Choo led the major leagues in that statistic. He’s also on pace to hit more than 20 home runs. And for the most part, his defense in centerfield has been satisfactory. Check. Check. Check.

But in the same way the backs of their baseball cards mean the Reds’ underachieving hitters should eventually return to their career levels, Shin-Soo Choo will see his OBP decline. It should still be elite, just not other-worldly.

It’s also worth noting the profound split in Choo’s L/R batting. Against LHP, he is hitting just .200/.349/.257 while vs. RHP he’s mashed at .409/.541/.712.

Versus lefties, Choo hasn’t been the equal of even Willie Taveras in hitting or power (Taveras slugged .285 for the Reds in 2009). Yet, by keeping his walk-rate up and getting in the way of enough pitches, Choo’s OBP remains quite valuable, even against lefties. That walking business works. Against RHP, Choo is simply killing it. You read that slash-line right. Choo is slugging .712 against righties. Joey Votto slugged .600 his MVP season. More Choo, please.

Other than Choo, the Reds’ offense is pretty much what we thought it would be, minus their projected clean-up hitter.

Joey Votto constantly clogs the bases and has four home runs. Jay Bruce has struggled vs. RHP, but we know he’ll eventually heat up and carry the team for long stretches. His new approach against LHP has been successful at .341/.357/.512 and possibly indicates a higher trajectory for his overall batting average. Brandon Phillips has been inconsistent, though good enough to drive in 26 runs. Todd Frazier has slumped lately, but does have six home runs. While Frazier’s batting average is decidedly un-Super, his walk-rate is up. Devin Mesoraco, filling in for an injured and terribly slumping Ryan Hanigan, has an OBP of .364 and has proven capable behind the plate.

Zack Cozart is hitting .200/.225/.343 with four home runs. That’s below what his career minor league and major league numbers tell you he should hit, but on the other hand, he’s above expectations if you cherry-pick his AB in the #2 spot. Anyone with Cozart’s dreadful walk-rate has no business batting ahead of Joey Votto. Although an analysis of Dusty Baker’s lineup cards in the Votto Era would surely conclude that an abysmal walk-rate must be an official criteria for hitting second.

Ryan Ludwick, who slugged .531 last year (26 homers), was hurt on Opening Day on a hustle play and will be out until late July/early August at best. He has been replaced by a collective that is batting .190/.240/.275. Again, Willy Taveras slugged .285 in 2009. The in-house alternatives are not cutting it for LF. Exactly one month ago, I wrote that the Reds should fix this with a trade and I’m sticking to it. Cingrani can replace Leake.

Going Forward For perspective, remember that the Reds weren’t an elite hitting team last season. They finished ninth in the NL in runs scored and twelfth in on-base-percentage. More was expected in 2013 with a healthy Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the lineup. Ludwick’s injury has set that optimism back for now. Yet as April turned to May, the Reds found themselves second in the NL in runs scored and third in on-base-percentage. And the runs aren’t all from a handful of games. The Reds have scored five or more runs in 13 of their games – which exceeds the performance of the Cardinals (10), Giants (10), Dodgers (7), Pirates (12), Phillies (8), Braves (12), and Nationals (10) in that category.

CONCLUSION

The bullpen enters May at peak strength, the starting rotation is deep and excellent, and the hitting will come around because that’s what hitting does.

Deep breaths, yes. But… The Cardinals can pitch and hit, too. Winning the NL Central will be a huge challenge. A wild card slot must come at the expense of Atlanta, Washington, San Francisco, the Dodgers and/or whomever the surprise team is for 2013. With the margin of error razor thin, you have to wonder if the Reds’ aspirations can survive the suboptimal lineups, head-scratching playing time decisions and bullpen mismanagement.

Beyond better day-to-day decision making, fateful roster decisions lie ahead. They call for bold, hard — World-Series-winning — thinking by the Reds.

April’s record is no cause for panic, but it’s also not a prescription for the tranquilizing drug of complacency.

86 thoughts on “Deep Breaths and Bold Thoughts

  1. Well said.

    We’ve given the in-house alternative to LF a good, long look-see. The returns, even with some expected improvement, indicate a trade for either a 3B/LF/CF would be in order. I would not expect one this early, but the FO needs to be laying the groundwork with scouting and starting the conversation.

  2. I wonder in your honest opinion what the reds’ plans are for LF at this point? I would think a team would have a solution better than heisey and or pray someone gets hot? or is that where reds are at?

    • @zab1983: Great question. The timing of Ludwick’s return and his contract length are the worst possible situations for knowing what to do for a trade. If his contract was just one year, you go ahead and look for someone who could play LF for a couple years. If his contract was three years, you just find someone as a rental, who will be a free agent in 2014. If Ludwick wasn’t coming back at all this year, that also makes the move clear. But if he might be back in early August, maybe you can hang on with the in-house candidates plus someone off the scrap heap. Throw in there’s no knowing how he’ll hit when/if he does come back. But if he’s healthy, he’s definitely someone you want back in the lineup. Ugh.

      It’s easy for me to say the Reds should make a trade, but as the cliche goes, it’s much easier said than done.

      • @<a href="#comment-2259@Steve Mancuso: One interesting name (to me) that’s a bit outside the box is Grady Sizemore. He’s rehabbing in Arizona and looking to come back after the All-Star Break. I realize all the liability with him given his injury track record. But if he’s looking for a place to play for a few months to build a case for a longer contract (elsewhere), the Reds might be a good fit. If he’s healthy, he could play CF and move Choo to LF. OR, to be cautious, Sizemore could play LF which would be easier on his recovery. He’s a few months off, but just someone that might be an interesting option. Another downside for him is he doesn’t hit with enough power to bat cleanup – but he could bat second – and he’s left-handed.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Given that he’s left handed, I don’t think the Reds will go after him. Baker would never put him near the top of the lineup with Choo and Votto there right now. And, with Bruce in the 5 hole, you would only be looking at batting Sizemore in the 7 or 8 holes. And, Baker reserves those for the catcher and either left fielder or SS right now.

        • @steveschoen: I would word that a little differently, but basically I agree. Whether it’s a #2 hitter or #4 hitter, I think the priority has to be adding a right-handed hitter for a team with 3 of its best 4 hitters being lefties. I don’t see Sizemore, or any other lefty, as a fit.

  3. Good summary. The Reds will continue to choose Broxton over Marshall more often than not in critical situations, because the organization is stupid at times. Marshall will always be removed vs RHB when it matters.

    Little early to conclude about Ondrusek (as mentioned). We’ll see, I’d say.

    Reds fans dismiss the Cardinals every year it seems, when their organization overall is better and has been for a long time.

    Re: Bruce, if we’re sure he’s going to revert to his ways from past years, that would seem to suggest that he’ll probably revert vs LHP pitchers also. That one seems like trying to take the best of both worlds.

    Interesting that Mesoraco’s offensive performance to date (this year) has been very Hanigan-like (high OBP, abysmal SLG).

    • @Hank Aarons Teammate: If the Reds have to use set roles in the bullpen beyond the closer, I’d use Marshall ahead of Broxton. But ideally, it would be a mix/match situation with using Marshall against the lefties and best hitters on the other team – middle of the order guys. Reds fans really don’t appreciate how elite Marshall is because we have Chapman.

  4. One thing I just checked on. There has been some hype about how hard the Reds schedule has been. As for the number of games, they have played the 2nd most so far, second only to Seattle, but only one more than the Pirates, 2 more than the Cards, and 3 more than the Brewers (assuming the Cubs won’t be in contention). But, just as much hype as to the strength of that schedule, the Reds have had one of the easiest schedules in the league. The easiest schedule has been the Mets; the Reds are 4 places behind them. Given this information, I couldn’t say with as much confidence it’s going to get a lot easier for us.

    • @steveschoen: I think the idea is that it’s to be expected that the Angels, Nats & Phillies will be in the mix for playoff contention this year. Let’s face it, they’re underachieving at the moment. I think the Pirates & Cubs will both flirt w/ .500 and really, the only bad team we’ve faced is Miami.

  5. LF is definitely a puzzle piece that needs to get figured out quickly. Do the Reds go big, for a 4-hole hitter like Willingham? Or, do they get someone to play regularly and hit in the 2-spot, like a Marlon Byrd, Juan Pierre, etc.?

    Heisey has not shown to be a consistent hitter, and almost anyone would be better between Choo and Votto than Cozart. Something needs done, and quickly, to get this offense in gear.

      • @steveschoen: Agreed, he did fine in a pinch-hitting, one-off type of role. However, he’s never shown himself to be much of an everyday player when given the chance.

        This is a big year for the Reds – it’s all about risk management. Do they stick with what they’ve got and hope the offense will come around at some point, or do they take a chance on going after someone who could put them over the top while giving up a little (Leake, Lutz, reliever, prospect, etc.)? I have my doubts that XP, Heisey, and Robinson/Lutz is a combination that will help breed any real success.

        • @Vottomatic84: In one series of games last season, before Ludwick took his turn to try to win the LF spot, Heisey hit 288/324 starting 32 of 42 games, the only stint besides the recent one he’s had with Ludwick’s injury that allowed Heisey to show what he can do. Why didn’t he stay in the spot? Again, Heisey went first to win the spot. Once Ludwick took his turn, with how his bat was going, you couldn’t take it out.

          Again, Heisey is struggling just like many players are right now.

        • @Vottomatic84: I can understand the Heisey/Paul/whoever wouldn’t be who we would want for a starting LF. But, then, who do you go for? And, with what? We don’t have that much ready to trade with in AAA. And, I doubt anyone is going to give us a better player than Heisey or Paul even if we throw in both of them and several minor league scrubs. Even if they did, then where does that player go once Ludwick comes back? Are you going to have that player sit the bench, the player you just gave so much for? Are you going to have Ludwick and his $7 million sit the bench? Platoon that much money?

          Easy to say go get a person. But, with what? Then, what happens with the injured person comes back? The Reds are still in holding time. They are only going to make a blockbuster trade if they are still in the hunt, probably would have to be behind the leaders trying to find the piece to put them over the top (they may still make the move if only 1-2 games in front; 4-5 games in front, the Reds will stand pat I believe).

          There’s no guarantee Ludwick would be able to put up numbers like last season’s, either, coming off 2 seasons he did relatively nothing. I said it before and will say it again, my main concerns for the season:
          1) production from the 4 hole – still didn’t trust Ludwick. One season can always be a fluke. Make it 2 in a row.
          2) can the entire pitching staff repeat last season – pretty much the same reason. I have never seen a Reds staff pitch like that ever. But, again, doing it for one season can be a fluke. Do it two seasons in a row.

          So far, #2 is a yes.

  6. “The Reds have scored five or more runs in 13 of their games – which exceeds the performance of the Cardinals (10), Giants (10), Dodgers (7), Pirates (12), Phillies (8), Braves (12), and Nationals (10) in that category.”

    Careful, Steve. It’s been said several times, also, how the Reds are one of the league “leaders” in scoring 2 or fewer runs in a game, also. The offense is still what it’s been for the last couple of years, feast or famine. The only real improvement we have seen has been from leadoff, obviously.

    • @steveschoen: Seemed like back in MVP votto days he would be defensive against flame throwing left handers. nowadays it seems like he is defensive hitting against every pitcher? is that me being crazy?

      • @zab1983: I don’t think that is you being crazy–I see the same thing (maybe I’m crazy, too). He tantalizes with a really well-hit ball, then swings in desperation at a pitch he’d be lucky to hit at all. That he is as good as he still is is a tribute to his intelligence, diligence, strength and athleticism, but he’s not the Joey we’ve known.

  7. I don’t think the Reds can count on a productive Ludwick for the rest of the year. If Spring Training is any indication, it will take him a month or so of playing to get where he needs to be.

    They need to make a move for a bat and Leake is probably not enough of a chip to get the caliber of help needed.

    • @I-71_Exile: This is an excellent point that I had not thought of until you mentioned it. Ludwick might come off the DL after the ASB, but based on how long it takes him to groove his swing, it would be another three week at a minimum before he’d be ready.

      The darn shame of the whole situation is that Leake will probably never again be as valuable as he was this off-season. Hope he proves me wrong on that!

    • @I-71_Exile: I don’t think the Reds need Ryan Ludwick to burst onto the scene when he returns. Heck, maybe start out platooning him with Xavier Paul as he recovers. As long as he’s back to 100% by September and the playoffs.

  8. The key for this team is to stay close so that in July, when prices come down, they can get a LF for cheap.

  9. The Reds have offensive holes at left field and shortstop, just like we’ve all been saying for about 5 years now. I thought Cozart would eventually get his OBP up and make more contact, as at least some of his minor league figures would suggest, but he just isn’t getting it done offensively. He had one bad stretch of defense, too, but overall I think he is pretty solid defensively.

    In left, it’s a tough situation. I would consider promoting Henry Rodriguez to play third, moving Frazier to left, but I don’t know if Rodriguez can handle third, and he isn’t tearing it up now in AAA, either. Mike Leake? As a stopgap, they could trade not for a big bat but insttead for a guy to hit second against lefties, although I have no suggestions. Heisey just didn’t seize his opportunity.

    I’m not worried about the rest of the team. I’d like some more “consistency,” whatever that means, but right now it is TOS, with automatic outs at the 2 and 7 hole.

    And I’m boxing Itsmyluckyday and Normandy Invasion in the Derby.

  10. How about trading for Micheal Morse in Seattle. The former Nat. He has 9 times the HR’s as Bruce.
    Willingham is batting .235.
    Jose Bautista is batting .195.

    Many established players around MLB are struggling so far this year. Bruce is not alone in that category.

  11. One other note re: Chapman.
    Lots and lots of talk this year on the use of Chapman and comparisons to other P’s and teams philosophies and plans.

    Year 2 of the Nat’s Strasburg plan: 1-4 3.13 ERA.
    Year 2 of the Braves’ Medlen plan:1-3 3.26 ERA.

    Strasburg’s mechanic have flawed this year and now he was shaking his right arm and elbow most of his last start. Ouch!
    Maybe it is just there run support too, but so far, year 2 of those plans has not been successful.
    A Reds Chapman plan, if there ever is one, should take some note here.

  12. Excellent review Steve!

    I think Broxton has done better than he gets credit for. As you said, his numbers were inflated by one bad outing but overall he’s been solid. He’s looked like Francisco Cordero with performances that drive people crazy – letting runners reach base and so on – but overall he’s been pretty solid.

    I agree about Sean Marshall, and I think that getting him back was huge. Marshall is really underrated as he seemingly gets hidden in Chapman’s shadow. Also JJ Hoover has really turned things around recently after a tough beginning of the season. Logan Ondrusek might be the weak link in the bullpen but he’s been pretty solid, I think his biggest challenge is that people are so determined to dislike him because of the way he faded last season. Lots of people are still bitter about the final decision on Chapman, and he’s been great. Not just in save situations but also in tie games.

    Mike Leake, he’s still around but Johnny Cueto’s rehab start(s) coincide with Leake’s rotation spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cueto replaces Leake on May 8th vs Atlanta. The Reds might be saying that Cueto will make a second rehab start in Dayton on the 8th, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Todd Frazier is in a big slump but he seems to be immune to criticism. After all, he’s Super Todd. Bruce’s slumps are well documented. Anything that could be perceived as a slump by Votto is analyzed in detail. Frazier’s slumps are just ignored. It seems weird. Early in the season he looked like a solid #4 hitter, but not anymore.

    LF, I’ve never been a fan of Chris Heisey and I hope he’s finished as the regular LF. I agree that they should pursue a trade for a LF, but the longer they wait the less necessary I think it becomes. Ludwick will be back eventually, and I have more faith in him than many other fans – that’s always been true. I believe that trading key pieces of their future for a big bat like Willingham would be a BIG mistake, and Jocketty should focus on a #2 hitter or right handed platoon option for Xavier Paul. I’ve suggested Chris Denorfia of the Padres. Maybe somebody like that can be picked off the scrap heap, just like Xavier Paul last year.

    Cozart hasn’t hit well, no question about it, but at the same time his numbers are slowly improving. I’m all for moving him back down in the order if they acquire a better option to hit second, but I really don’t believe they have that option right now. He’s a shortstop and I still believe he’ll finish the season with satisfactory number. I don’t think that most people who criticize his hitting bother to look how other teams’ shortstops are doing – Cozart would arguably be an upgrade for Boston and Baltimore. For a while he was outperforming his counterpart on the Braves, Indians, and DBacks.

    The division, the Cardinals have gotten off to a hot start but I’m not as sold on them as other people. I think their pitching staff fading should be a huge concern for them. Lance Lynn did it last year, and who knows what to expect from Shelby Miller. I’m skeptical about Jaime Garcia’s ability to stay healthy. I think they’ll face some challenges after the All Star break – thinks should get tougher, not easier for them, as the season progresses. I have absolutely no faith in the Brewers to compete, and I think the Pirates’ goal isn’t to contend, it’s just to finish over .500. They’re the Pirates, winning 82 games is nearly impossible.

        • @greenmtred: I do like the idea of getting a platoon partner with Paul to play left field on the cheap. I think Paul can certainly hold his own vs. righties and a nice Johnny Gomes/Matt Diaz type would be a great complimentary addition.

          As for Cozart, he seems to get all of his hits for the week in one game and looks over-matched in all other games. The comparisons you made to the SS’s for the Orioles and Indians are not even close. Hardy and Cabrera have a much higher pedigree and track record than we could ever hope for from Cozart. They are just off to bad starts. I think Drew (if healthy) and Simmons will grade out above Cozart as well. They will have a higher average and higher OBP with similar/higher slugging (Cozart more HRs vs. more XBH for Simmons and Drew). Dbacks are an interesting comparison bc of Didi and how we kept Cozart over him. I feel that will be a very intriguing to watch this year when Didi comes back from his concussion.

    • @RFM: The dissatisfaction with both Broxton (this year) and Ondrusek (last two years) is with their BB and K rates. Nothing to do with “determined to dislike”. Everyone understands that Broxton’s ERA is meaningless at this point.

      I’ve never felt Frazier would be a great ballplayer. He has, though, been better than I thought. Meanwhile, Bruce has been worse than I’d hoped over the last several years.

      Cozart should bat lower in the order, and if he did his offensive #’s wouldn’t be as big of a deal, especially as you say since he’s a SS. However, his low OBP in his major league career really is cause for concern as to whether he will be enough offensively to tolerate (given his defense).

      I agree that the Pirates/Brewers don’t worry me. The Cards do, and I happen to agree that they will either suffer some injuries/wearing out. However, if they stay healthy, the Reds will likely be fighting for a wildcard game.

      • @Hank Aarons Teammate: Positive sign from Broxton: his velocity seems up from last year–seems to hit 95mph at will. I know that there’s more to pitching than that, but he’s a power pitcher, so it’s a good sign, no? He’s probably rusty. Pirates and Brewers do worry me. Everybody worries me. The Reds aren’t hitting.

  13. Re the Cards: Beltran is 36. Matt Carpenter will come back to earth. They too will face some injuries and may not weather the storm quite as well.

    • @rightsaidred: Matt Carpenter will come back to Earth?? He’s hitting .283 right now. I looked it up when I saw your comment. I think he’s capable of doing better than that yet. Not sure what you mean by that.

    • @rightsaidred: Matt Carpenter will come back to Earth?? He’s hitting .283 right now. I looked it up when I saw your comment. I think he’s capable of doing better than that yet. Not sure what you mean by that.

  14. Simply put, the “accessory” guys must carry their weight. This would be Frazier, Cozart, catcher and LF. I didn’t even name Bruce because he is supposed to be a solid fixture on this team. He is no better than he was four yrs ago. Unbelievable amount of strikeouts. Trying to make up for Stubbs’ absence I guess. Votto, Phillips and Choo will not be able to do it every day. Last year, the Reds won the division because Rolen, Frazier and Ludwick carried them in late July and August. Who is going to do that this year?

  15. “The Pirates and Brewers are bunched tightly with the pre-season favorite Cardinals and Reds.”

    Maybe I am misreading this, but before the season started every analyst predicted that the Reds would win the division, and that the Cardinals would take a wild card at best. Maybe the “pre-season favorite” is meant to refer to the Reds as well, but it confused me.

    Also, I think many people on here aren’t realistic when analyzing last season, both on a team level and an individual level. First, the Reds vastly outperformed their expected win-loss record while the Cardinals significantly underperformed their expected win-loss record (each by 6 games). While that stat may not be predictive, I wouldn’t bet on it happening two seasons in a row, and certainly not for both teams.

    Furthermore, several Reds’ players had seasons that were significantly greater than their previous best seasons, either in the minors or majors. Ludwick hasn’t quite proven that he can be as consistently productive during his career.

    Also, injuries are a part of the game, and they are exactly the reason why you need more depth than the Reds currently have. Apart from Votto, there were no other major injuries all of last season, and none to the starting rotation. I understand that losing the best hitter for a month is a lot of production, and the Reds were more or less able to fill that one hole in the lineup. But it is easier to replace the production of one player as opposed to several, and it is very rare that a team goes an entire season with as few injuries as the Reds had last year.

    Yes, other teams will likely have their injuries/regression to the mean as well. But I think other teams in the central have better farm systems and more depth to draw from.

  16. I think I can understand their reluctance to go get another LF. If you’re looking at this team on paper you’d be convinced that they are built to win as-is. The pitching staff is so good that it doesn’t take many runs to win a game for them, and even without Ludwick it’s tough to understand why the regular lineup can’t produce those few runs on a regular basis.

    If I were GM I’d be pulling my hair out. You look at the back of these guys’ baseball cards and wonder why the heck they aren’t producing. They’re certainly capable, considering how many double-digit scores we’ve seen them put up. Then they turn around and get two hits in two nights. As GM I’d be asking myself what else I have to do to get this team over the hump.

    • @RedZeppelin: The way the pieces were laid out for this team to begin the season, the expected offensive results were very high. Unfortunately, the pieces were lacking suitable replacements for more than short-term fill-ins. Once the peices no longer fit like a glove over the long-term, proper management was required to creatively adapt. That’s a problem that WJ seems to ignore. Yes, WJ should be asking himself why and what must be done to resolve the problem

  17. Ok, regarding the “Feast or Famine” offense, yes the Reds have seemed to show that tendency this season. We are only 1 game into May however and I expect these numbers to balance out a bit.

    For your reading pleasure I present the entire NL with what I will call “Famine Games”, defined as games where the team’s offense has failed to score more than 2 runs. Number of “Famine Games” in parenthesis:

    Miami (16)
    Washington (15)
    San Diego (13)
    Philadelphia (12)
    REDS (12)
    St. Louis (9)
    Pittsburgh (9)
    Los Angeles (9)
    Atlanta (8)
    Colorado (8)
    San Francisco (7)
    New York (7)
    Arizona (5)

    • @LWBlogger:

      The Reds have 13 games with 2 or fewer runs scored, if you count yesterday’s game. That is 45% of their games with < 3 runs a game. Cannot win a division or playoff games like that.

      • @WVRedlegs: They’re not. Either they are going to score <= 2 runs much less often, OR they are going to score very few runs total. There's no way they are going to over 162 games score a lot of runs but have tons of games where they score almost nothing.

  18. The Reds scoring in order this year so far:
    1,5,5,15,6,6,13,1,0,5,1,7,4,1,11,11,1,3,10,5,2,1,1,0,3,5,2,1,2.
    Over the last 10 games that is a total of 22 runs scored. Or 2.2 runs per game. Over the last 9 games it is 17 total runs for an average of 1.88 runs a game. That is brutal. Now that is an offensive rut.
    The first 10 games they scored 57 runs for a 5.7 average. Big difference.
    It is a trend. And a trend that has continued and carried over into May.
    WJ better get some irons in the fire working on one of those magical deals.

    • @WVRedlegs: The thing to consider though is teams go through droughts like this one. I think the importance of this drought has been magnified because it’s early in the season. I think when we take a look at May, we’ll probably find that the Reds don’t have quite so many “Famine Games”. At the same time, I don’t think they’ll have as many “Feast Games” where they score more than 10 either. I think part of what we’re seeing is just a result of the small sample and as the sample size grows, we’ll see a little more consistency in run scoring. If I had time, I’d look at the 2012 Reds compared to the rest of the league in this area. I think it would be a good study.

      No matter how you cut it, 2.2 runs a game probably isn’t going to get the job done. There’s no argument to be made there. I just don’t believe that the Reds are a 2.2 RPG offense. They averaged a little over 4 RPG last season and I think they are will end up slightly above that mark this year.

    • @WVRedlegs: It is not a trend. Were it a trend, they’d be scoring zero runs a game by the beginning of June.

      I’d call it a slump.

  19. A few times now I’ve seen the argument that Mike Leake should be traded for an outfielder. After all, when Cueto returns they don’t need him anymore thanks to Tony Cingrani. I think that is an absolutely horrible idea though.

    I’m all for Mike Leake getting sent to AAA when Cueto is activated, after all Tony Cingrani has been great. Thanks to Tony Cingrani the Reds haven’t missed a beat with Cueto out (I mean, struggles they’ve gone through haven’t been due to starting pitching). If they trade Mike Leake and another starter gets hurt the opening in the rotation would become a much larger concern than LF ever was (Armando Galarraga? Daniel Corcino? Pedro Villareal? Uh oh…). All because of a lack of confidence in Ludwick’s ability to return.

    In my opinion the DBacks drastically overpaid for Didi Gregorius. Maybe there’s another irrelevant guy in the farm system like that, who some other GM would treasure enough to trade a scrub outfielder capable of hitting against LHPs. Ryan LaMarre maybe, or Neftali Soto. Maybe Tucker Barnhart or Kyle Lotzkar. Trade somebody irrelevant for a scrub to platoon with Xavier Paul. Hey, well, at least it makes sense to me.

    • @RFM: I agree on not trading Leake as part of a deal for an outfielder. I think another injury in the rotation with no Mike Leake available to step in could be a major issue. I’m all for having 6 pitchers on my roster that can start. I know it’s been suggested that LeCure or Simon could start and perhaps they could make a spot start but 2, 3, 4 starts in a row? I don’t think that would be pretty. The Reds picked Xavier Paul off the scrapheap for nothing last year. Maybe Walt can pull off another gem like that and not have to trade anyone.

      I am not sure I’d call any MLB caliber player a “scrub” though. Even the weakest MLB players are ridiculously good players.

    • @per14: What do you mean by “satisfactory”?

      I’d say Choo’s defense has been more than satisfactory relative to the offense he has produced.

    • @per14: I don’t even think a season’s worth of data is enough to give an indication of how good someone’s defense is at a particular position. It may reflect how well or poorly they played that year but I don’t feel it’s enough to give an overall evaluation of their defense. The defensive metrics just seem to have wide swings for some players from year-to-year. When you get some consistent metrics over a few years, I think you can start to have an idea how good/bad of a defender a player is at a certain position.

      As far as Choo’s defense, it has been poor to fair in CF in my opinion. I also think he’ll continue to improve. He had one dreadful game in CF this year and that may effect his metrics at the end of the year. They won’t end up as bad as they look at the moment. In my opinion, he’s more suited for a corner OF spot but considering his offensive output, I’ll take what I’m seeing from him in CF.

  20. What I want to know is.. why is Corky Miller getting more playing time comparative to Devin Mesoraco when Hanigan was healthy?

    April 1st-19th(the last day Hanigan was “healthy”)
    Hanigan: 12 starts
    Mesoraco: 5 starts

    Hanigan’s not healty enough to play anymore and gets DLed, the Reds call up Corky Miller on the 21st.

    April 21st-May 1st
    Mesoraco: 7 starts
    Miller: 4 starts

    —-

    Now I know Dusty loves him some veteranyness, but is there some other reason? Does Dusty just hate Mesoraco for some reason? The only one of the three I can see developing into an everyday catcher is Mesoraco, so why isn’t he being given the chance? His Hits, Doubles, RBI, Walks, AVG, SLG, and OPS are all higher than Hanigan and Miller’s added together.

    • @ToddAlmighty: I could be wrong but with Mesoraco sitting on the bench so much when Hanigan was playing maybe Dusty is trying to ease Mesoraco into more playing time. He isn’t exactly used to playing frequently. Catching (particularly squatting down like that) is a tough position. Yes yes, he’s young, but maybe Dusty knows something we don’t. A few days ago Dusty mentioned in an interview something about a few of his players being sick with a stomach virus. I’m interested to see how much playing time Mesoraco gets in the next week or so before making a judgment on whether or not Corky Miller is getting too much playing time.

      As far as veterans, I think many of the veterans are guys who are respected in the clubhouse by their teammates, even if fans don’t particularly like them (or at least them playing). That includes guys like Rolen, Miguel Cairo, and Corky Miller. Dusty is a players’ manager and doesn’t like throwing guys who have earned the respect of their teammates to the curb, even though emotional decisions drive sabremetrics supporters crazy. Some of the veterans (like Rolen and Corky) offer(ed) something positive to the team other than hitting.

      Does Dusty hate Mesoraco? I don’t see it, although I clearly have a different outlook on Dusty’s decisions than many people.

      • @RFM: Yes, an uniformly positive view on every decision by Baker, right?

        I don’t think Baker hates Mesoraco. I just think he feels Mesoraco isn’t a good catcher.

      • @RFM: I could understand this IF Devin was getting more playing time this year than last year. But, he isn’t. Before Hanigan’s injury, Devin was playing less. After last season, Devin should be getting at minimum 50% of the playing time. As far as Devin playing a lot, in Louisville, where he was a AAA All-star, he played in 120 of 146 games. The year before, playing at 3 levels on the minors, he played 113 games. The most games Hanigan has played in a Cincinnati uniform? 112. Devin is quite use to playing more than he has been.

        Stomach virus? Then, Devin’s had it since last August, when Bakerman started cutting Devin’s playing time.

        So, you throw the young studs to the curb without even giving them the opportunities they deserve, who the club spent so much money and time on already with things like the #1 draft choice?

        Players’ manager? Sorry, but as far as I am concerned, that’s nothing but a bunch of BS. Showing confidence in one player means you don’t show confidence in another player. How is a player suppose to become a veteran without even being allowed to play? Which is another weakness of the Bakerman’s strategy. He talked a good game, looking to mix up the catching duties. But, he never followed through. And, now that he should be following through with giving the young stud most of the catching duties, just like he had Stubbs out in CF, just like Bruce in RF, just like Votto at 1st before his MVP, just like Janish at SS, just like Frazier at 3rd, just like Cozart at SS, all of them getting most of the playing time when they are healthy, including in their rookie year, he still only plays Devin barely over 50%, that only because the 1st string catcher is injured.

        The Bakerman intentionally talked bad of Devin to the papers. He cut him off of essentially all playing time last season. He was barely playing him this season. He’s giving a career minor leaguer more playing time at 2nd than Devin got at 2nd string. It’s fairly obvious to me Baker has something against Devin. That might be against how Devin plays the game. But, then, that’s why a coach is to bring a young player along, not let his skills erode on the bench. I’m confident that Devin’s lack of skills he’s shown since being with the big club “can still be” not getting the playing time he’s use to. He went from being “the man” in the minors to 2nd string with the big club, with a manager who will rarely play him. Devin’s suppose to produce “starting type numbers” while playing only 1-2 times per week? These aren’t dogs; they don’t sit and rollover on command. Routine is very important to many of these players. Playing 1-2 times per week isn’t any kind of routine. And, now that Devin “has the opportunity” to be able to get into a routine, the manager still isn’t allowing him to do it.

        As for the veterans go, you don’t compare Rolen and his career to Corky. I like Corky, also. But, comparing him to a HOF isn’t right. Rolen earned the opportunity to leave on his terms. Corky hasn’t. As well as, if those veterans are anywhere near the “players” that they are, they know when they are no longer better than the player behind him and, thus, step down, like Rolen possibly/probably did this season. Not to say Corky should step down. But, he has to know that Devin is a better player than he is right now. Corky is just listening to the Bakerman and doing what he is told, aka when to start.

        The Bakerman’s job is to win games, not to appease veterans. Just like Harris, Gomes, Tavaras, Patterson, etc., it seems like to me he’s playing Corky the exact same way.

    • @ToddAlmighty: The reserve has gotten 36% of the starts after Miller was brought up, and had gotten 29% before. Put Mes in for one (1) more start lately, and the numbers are pretty much identical.

      Maybe it has something to do with there having been no off days since Miller was called up, as opposed to several before. Miller is going back down shortly, and the Reds may as well keep Mes fresh while they can. He will end up with close to 300 PAs.

      Baker and Jocketty had an issue with Mes last year. That’s why Jocketty sent him down after the umpire incident. Nobody has said specifically what the issue was. Mes has come back very well this year, so Mes likely heard the message that Jocketty sent last year.

      • @Big Ed: But, then, also, Ed, considering that Corky is a career minor leaguer and Devin is suppose to be a young stud, our #1 draft choice we put so much money and time into, is suppose to be our “future” if not our “now” for catcher, and is quite use to being a regular everyday catcher, those numbers even get more outlandish.

        300 PA’s? I doubt it seriously. For, last season, of all the catchers who got 300 PA’s, all but one played over 100 games, all played over 90 games. The pace Devin was on before Hanigan got hurt was 60 games. If Hanigan stays hurt all season and never plays again, Devin is still only on pace for about 97 total games, assuming he catches 3/5 of the time overall.

        I don’t know if Jocketty had an issue with Mes; he may have. But, it is quite obvious that Baker had one before and still has one.

      • @Big Ed: Some need to remember with veterans and Baker, if he has a veteran option, he takes it. With Stubbs, he didn’t have a veteran option (As soon as he did get one in Jim Edmonds a couple of years ago, Edmonds was starting, injured again I believe soon after that). With Bruce, he didn’t have a veteran option. With Frazier, Harris even got the chance at 3rd before Frazier. With Heisey, Baker had Gomes he could go to.

        With Devin, Baker has a veteran option. He wanted Olivo, but didn’t get him. So, he plays Hanigan most of the time, then plays Corky behind Devin more than Devin played behind Hanigan. Frankly, I’m surprised Corky isn’t playing more than he is already.

  21. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mesoraco was nursing some nicks. He certainly took a nasty foul tip in the right wrist area last Saturday in Washington for one thing.

    However it also certainly looks like somebody doesn’t want him catching Bailey or Cingrani.

    • @OhioJim: My guess is that they’ve paired Miller with Cingrani because Miller had worked with him at Louisville earlier this year. He’s probably worked some with Mes, too, but so far Cingrani seems confortable with Miller, so why change.

      I ain’t buying the “Dusty hates Mes” story. If Homer thinks Des needs some defensive development, then he’s certainly in a lot better position than I am to recognize it. And Homer has millions of dollars on the line in making that call; we don’t.

  22. I sometimes wonder if Homer Bailey’s aversion to throwing to Mesoraco has anything to do with this:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-seasons-worst-called-ball/

    I don’t mean just because Mez set up wrong on one pitch that Homer has never forgiven him, but maybe it’s more Homer feels Mez in general just doesn’t set up right to catch the kind of pitches he throws. If I recall, just a week or two ago in an interview after a game, Homer made some comments that could be seen as praise for Hanigan but also subtle digs at Mesoraco.

    Who knows? But I don’t think it’s entirely Dusty’s decision to not have Mesoraco catch Bailey. However, it’s something that needs to be resolved if Mesoraco is truly to be the Reds catcher of the future.

    • @CI3J: Which I could agree. But, then, Homer needs to remember the times he shook off Hanigan, also, threw the pitch that he himself wanted to throw, and that got launched into the outfield seats. Devin is now at that position as a catcher. As well as, Devin is part of his team. If Homer has an aversion, he would be best for him to get over it. For, like Murphy’s Law, it will come time he will have to pitch to Devin; it would be best if he was to trust him back there.

      As well as, I will say, that is where the Bakerman needs to step in and have a talk with Homer, laying down the law that Homer needs to be able to pitch to Devin, period, and that Homer will like it, accept it, and go with it when Bakerman calls for it.

    • @CI3J: How many times has Mesoraco caught Bailey, as in ever?
      I can’t remember.

      In any case, I still remember everyone on Bailey’s case for shaking off Hanigan back in the day. Bailey’s not a good enough pitcher to be able to call for a personal catcher. (He’s certainly doing well in the last 12 months, but it’s not like he’s an established staff ace.)

  23. The weather could wreak havoc on this Cubs series. Hopefully though this weekend could shape up to be a good weekend in Chicago. Leake has pitched some of his best games in Chicago. Cingrani hopefully has a good day. And Latos continues his streak. Have to get the offense on track and give these guys an early cushion.
    Best scenario: top half of the innings the wind is blowing out and the bottom halves the wind is blowing in. I hope we hear “And this one belongs to the Reds” 3 times this weekend.

  24. There are 15 teams in the NL, leaving a nice even breakdown for the top third (1-5), the middle third (6-10) and the bottom third (11/15) for team performance. Any ranking in the top 7 (1-7) is in the top half of the NL. Any ranking in the bottom 7 (9-15) is in the bottom half of the NL. The rankings for the Reds as a team are listed below.

    Runs Scored:
    128 – 2nd in NL

    Plate Appearances:
    1141 – 1st in the NL

    Walks:
    110 – 1st in the NL

    OBP:
    .325 – 3rd in the NL

    The single most important team metric is runs scored. I don’t care how the runs score. More runs mean more positive offensive results and more offensive contribution to team wins, period. Every other metric is irrelavent, unless it contributes to increased run production. The Reds are in the top third of teams in the NL for Runs, Walks & OBP.

    AVG:
    .243 – 9th in the NL

    SLG:
    .377 – 11th in the NL

    OPS:
    .702 – 9th in the NL

    HR:
    27 – 9th in the NL

    XBH:
    74 – 10th in the NL

    SO:
    232 – 14th in the NL

    The Reds are in the bottom half of the league in what has traditionally been the sacred metrics for offensive evaluation, yet the Reds rank 2nd in runs scored, behind only the Rockies and their other-wordly offensive output aided by Coors Field.

    If the Reds’ recent offensive performance continues, they will quickly (probably in the next week +-) find themselves in the bottom half of the league in runs scored.

    What has changed during the recent swoon in offensive production? The Reds are no longer maintaining a selective approach at the plate. Instead, they are hacking from the time they step from the on deck circle.

    Leave VottoMVP alone! Votto has proven over a significant sample size, that he knows his abilities and how to hit a baseball better than anyone else.

    Get Cozart out of the #2 hole! If a hitter does not get on base at league average (.333) or at least in the top half of the team performance (.313-.318), he has no business hitting in the top of the lineup, period.

    Get Meso (and Hanigan when he returns) into the mix with the top hitters on the team! I don’t care if they are catchers and I don’t care if they clog the bases. Put their bats in the lineup where they can drive in runs or put themselves on base for someone else to drive them in and score runs. They should be hitting in the #6 hole.

    Start XP in LF against every RHP! Use the best players in roles they excel most often. Until Robinson demonstrates he is not effective with increased playing time, Robinson should start in LF against every LHP and be used in a strict platoon with XP in LF. Heisey is strictly a role player, pinch hitter, utility OF & defensive OF replacement. Let Heisey do what he does best and quit trying to force him into a role he doesn’t handle effectively.

    Of course if WJ makes a move to buttress the LF situation, that could alter the roles or even change the roster regarding the OF situation. There are innumerable options that could be pursued (a proven platoon hitter to share LF time with XP, a full-time hitter to take over LF, a full-time CF hitter moving Choo to LF, etc.) but those could only be evaluated after WJ pulls that trigger.

    • @Shchi Cossack: I think they are being so hacktastic because most of them are pressing at the plate and trying too hard. I know when I was slumping I tended to think too much and then when I found myself thinking too much I’d tell myself “see the ball, hit the ball”. Then I’d wind up just swinging away and not thinking at all. The team is slumping right now and I think they are trying to hack their way out of it. So far it isn’t working.

      • @LWBlogger: Trying too hard. That reminds me of an interesting comment I heard on the MLB radio channel yesterday (can’t remember who said it). Baseball is a sport where trying harder will likely backfire. In football, you can hit harder and run faster with success. But in baseball, trying harder means pressing and likely a lack of success.

        The reason I belabor this point is how it relates to the debate about “clutch” statistics. If “trying harder” backfires as a rule in baseball, what is it we expect players to do to excel in clutch situations? That’s the point of those who reject RISP and other clutch-oriented stats. Players have a certain level of being able to resist pressure – but they have that all the time. There isn’t a yet-higher level of “try harder” left for them in important situations.

        So not only is there the veritable mountain of studies that fail to find any ability of players to consistently elevate their performance in high leverage situations, there is also the sense that “trying harder” won’t work anyhow.

        • @Steve Mancuso:

          Are you familiar with the expression ‘he has ice in his veins?’ That is usually given as a sign of a good hitter or a good pitcher.

          How players can elevate their game in clutch situations is to stay calm. Other people on the field may be feeling the heat, but usually the player that can stay the calmest has the best chance of succeeding.

          Taking a deep breath and focusing is the baseball equivalent of running faster or hitting harder in football.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Mostly agree with you Steve. I’m not a big believer in players being clutch although a handful of players do have “clutch” statistics that are above their career norms enough to make me think that the idea of clutch hitting isn’t completely ridiculous. I firmly believe and have seen that those handful who are a significantly better or significantly worse are very, very rare. They are rare enough that I can understand my fellow SABR members who think that clutch hitting is a complete myth and rare enough that although I believe the idea has some merit, I’m not a ‘you gotta hit with RISP’ advocate. I agree that it usually comes down to luck in those situations. I’ve read many of the same studies that I’m sure you’ve read on the subject.

          On the handful that do succeed or fail, I think it really is their ability to stay calm in those situations.

        • @Steve Mancuso: “Being clutch” is something that can be practiced. That practice may still not 100% correlate to in-game performance. But, it can be practiced. Such as, Mr. Clutch, Michael Jordan, I believe I remember him saying how he was so clutch in his situations, “I practice those situations all the time.” As in, not just going out there shooting baskets. Not just shooting baskets off the dribble or off a pass, but practice shooting baskets with the sole intention that that shot, even though a practice shot, means the difference between winning and losing. I don’t mean as in the harder you work type of stuff, either. I mean, during practice, you are thinking, “The situation is 10 seconds left you have the ball. Everyone else is guarded. It is one on one. Your team is down by 1. Can you beat your man one more time to win the game?”

          The technique is all the exact same, whether there is 5 seconds or 5 minutes left in the game. Same with baseball. The technique is the same whether there is a man on or not. But, it can work with a player’s mind, that their team is counting on him to drive the run in. If they aren’t use to the pressure, if they don’t work well under pressure, they won’t be able to perform.

        • @Steve Mancuso: @Steve Mancuso:

          I think you are on to something there Steve. Just like when a player is in “the zone” those players say everything slows down. They don’t have to think about anything, they just react. See the ball, hit the ball.
          When a player is struggling, they certainly are pressing. And when you are pressing all sorts of things are running through your mind. Chaos in the brain. With MLB pitchers and their velocity, a batter doesn’t have time to think about the pitch, but to react. When a batter is pressing, a quick milli-second of thought on a 95mph fastball is all that is needed to throw a batter off his game.

        • @Steve Mancuso: In every occupation, or almost every one, and in all sorts of life situations, you encounter people (if you are lucky) who are cool under pressure, and I believe that that, as opposed to trying harder, is what makes a few people able to excel in the clutch. Do you have any doubts that some people choke? Not everyone reacts to pressure in the same way, and while major league players have likely, mostly, demonstrated a better than average ability to deal with pressure than many other people have, there will still be gradations among them.

      • @LWBlogger: @Shchi Cossack: Cossack, excellent comparison. I’ve never seen them so obvious like that before. I do remember someone posting something about the Reds are notorious for “swinging and missing” at balls in the K-zone but average for “not swinging” at balls out of the K-zone and for “swinging” at balls in the K-zone (not the swinging and missing). Wouldn’t that tell me they aren’t a very good hitting team? Sincerely inquiring.

        Nice post, also, LW. I sort of think the same way golfing. For golfers, it can all come together so much easier if they just learn to slow down, just make contact. Like in golf, it’s a lot better to hit the ball even if it is just 50 yards than miss it altogether. I can’t help thinking just what Joke-oby and that other former hitting coach Bakerman are teaching them to do. The only thing I hear from Baker is “get up there and swing”. Or, like yesterday, “It’s a bad combination right now.” No kidding!!!

        I would think just going back to the basics. Swing to contact, not for the fences. See the bat hit the ball. I remember Bonds talking about it, he made it sound really easy and really practical (I believe he was Mr. Steroid user, yes, but he still had to hit the ball). The way he put it, the catcher always had to catch the ball. You aren’t standing that far from the catcher. Just pretend that your bat is the glove and catch the ball. Of course, saying it is easy for us. Doing it for them is hard. But, then, that’s why they are there and getting paid lots of money.

  25. We had one guy in Cincinnati for a while whose BA with runners on was consistently higher that his BA with none on – over a period of years. His initials were Ramon Hernandez.

    I’ve spent some time considering the ins and outs of this… my theory is that the 7 spot in the order is the position that most lends itself to “situational” hitting, due to the fact that you’re probably a dectnt hitter, and you’ve got the weakest hitter in the lineup and the pitcher following you. Therefore, you’d tend to want to put the ball in play with runners on, but with no one on, a single/walk would most likely wind up with you stranded at first. So with nobody on, you swing for the fences…

    Of course, I could be utterly wrong about this. ;-)

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