I’m a little reticent to wade into too much of the criticism of Dusty Baker for, well, being Dusty Baker, but since it seems like that’s the hot topic of the day, allow me to offer a brief, somewhat distanced, observation on the question of the Reds’ lineup.

Here’s a pretty stark fact: as of this writing (roughly 11:00 Wednesday night), the Reds have exactly three players who have accumulated at least 100 plate appearances, Joey Votto, Ryan Hanigan, and Todd Frazier, with an on base percentage of at least .330*. Votto, of course, easily eclipses that threshold with a downright ridiculous .478 OBP, and Hanigan also check in with a very respectable .361 mark, but Frazier barely qualifies for the group with an OBP of .331. Yes, that’s correct, the third best on base percentage on the entire Reds’ roster right now is a paltry .331. That’s not good. It also means that’s there’s not a whole lot that Baker could do to make much difference at the margins, as moving around a handful of low OBP guys at the top of a lineup is about as close to the baseball definition of rearranging the deck cares on the Titanic as you can get (not that the Reds are doomed or anything).

To make matters worse, it’s not exactly clear that either Hanigan or Frazier should first on the depth chart given the Reds’ current roster. Hanigan is a very underrated catcher in my opinion, but he’s splitting time with top prospect Devin Mesoraco, and the rookie obviously needs regular playing time to learn at the big league level, so giving Hanigan 75% or more of the team’s at bats from the catcher position probably isn’t a great idea. Frazier, on the other hand, presents problems with where to play him. I gather that putting him in leftfield in place of Ryan Ludwick is a popular idea, and Frazier has indeed been the better hitter than Ludwick so far this season, but Ludwick’s league average wRC+ of 101 isn’t awful by means, and since Frazier isn’t a natural outfielder, he gives up some of that offensive advantage over Ludwick in the field, making this a very marginal upgrade at best.

From a pure performance standpoint, there’s a much stronger case for starting Frazier at third base, his best position, and benching Scott Rolen, who’s hitting a measly .197/.258/.333 through his first 37 games played. On the other hand, this probably won’t happen in the near term, both because of the value of the brand name Rolen brings to the table, so to speak, and because Rolen wouldn’t exactly be a great fit for a bench role, since his playing ability is limited to one position. Given that, Frazier might actually be best utilized in a utility role of sorts, as long as he gets to spell Rolen at third semi-regularly.

Now I’m not trying to say that the Reds don’t have a problem with getting on base — they certainly do — nor am I really trying to defend Baker, per se. Heaven knows I’m far from a fan of Dusty, and the constant stream of nonsense he uses to justify poor decisions should embarrass everyone in the team’s front office, to say nothing of the pride he obviously takes in being ignorant of a couple of decades worth of progressing knowledge of the game. But Dusty, like any manager, can only go to battle with the tools he has, and right now that tool box is decidedly lacking in on base skills. Who should you blame for that? I don’t know. Maybe you can blame Walt Jocketty for saddling the roster with low OBP role players like Ludwick and extending Rolen through the twilight of his career. Maybe there just weren’t any viable, high OBP alternatives on the market to acquire (in the interest of full disclosure, I thought Kosuke Fukodome made a lot of sense for the Reds over the winter, but he just got released by the White Sox after hitting .171/.294/.195, so this stuff is hard). Maybe it’s an organizational failing, and someone needs to sit down and think about working on this with future prospects.

No matter who’s to blame, however, at the moment everyone in the front office would be well advised to spend their time figuring out how to add some on base ability to the top of this lineup, because it’s just not there right now. And that’s true whether Dusty Baker sufficiently appreciates it or not.

*That’s according to Fangraphs right now, and I’m not sure if they’ve updated their numbers to include Wednesday’s game yet, so this could be different by the time you read it. But not by much, so the basic thrust of this post holds.

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

You can email Chad at chaddotson@redlegnation.com.

Join the conversation! 79 Comments

  1. I have to believe that Dusty has a hand in the low-across-the-board OBP. His philosophy of “no walks no matter what,” insistence on batting the worst guys at the top of the order, bunting with guys that can’t bunt in situations that don’t call for it, etc. He’s arguably negatively affecting OBP in just about every way a manager possibly can.

    There is no doubt in my mind that a “good” manager would have at least a couple more wins so far this season.

    I don’t know what to say about Jacoby, but he sure is a target at this point.

    • I have to believe that Dusty has a hand in the low-across-the-board OBP. His philosophy of “no walks no matter what,” insistence on batting the worst guys at the top of the order, bunting with guys that can’t bunt in situations that don’t call for it, etc. He’s arguably negatively affecting OBP in just about every way a manager possibly can.There is no doubt in my mind that a “good” manager would have at least a couple more wins so far this season.I don’t know what to say about Jacoby, but he sure is a target at this point.

      Has Dusty ever straight out he is against players taking walks? Or did he say he prefers them being aggressive at the plate. To me there is a huge difference.

      • Has Dusty ever straight out he is against players taking walks?Or did he say he prefers them being aggressive at the plate.To me there is a huge difference.

        Dusty has said many times that OBP is all well and good, but that RBI-men are special etc.

        I’ve never heard him say that walks are bad, and I’m sure he never has.

        What is clear is that he doesn’t believe that maximizing baserunners is the best way to score runs. He’s still a big believer in clutch hitting, 2 out RBI guys, hitting with RISP and all that. And he often says things that are easily proven wrong with cursory looks at the numbers. I think this is what gets him in trouble with fans.

        I know personally, it’s frustrating to constantly here Dusty and the announcers talking about hitting with RISP as the problem, either in a particular game or over the course of the season.

        Plenty of research, and common sense, shows that sometimes a guy gets a hit with no one on, sometimes with someone on, and sometimes with some outs. Hitting is hard and you fail most of the time, so there’s going to be a lot of variation. The only thing you can really control is how many chances you get.

        • Has Dusty ever straight out he is against players taking walks?

          Well there is the classic “walks clog the bases” quote from a few years back… I don’t know where to find the original version of that, but it it is nicely memorialized on the masthead of this very website.

  2. It really does go beyond Dusty. The smoking gun here is Ryan Hanigan hitting 8th. The organization as a whole does not put any value on what a player like Hanigan brings to the table offensively, and this shows in the type of players they acquire as well.

    I’m not one for making predictions, and I don’t do so with any degree of seriousness, but here’s one I firmly believe – Ryan Hanigan will not be a Red on opening day 2013. If we look to make any offseason trades, he will be targeted by everyone we talk to, and this organization won’t get why.

  3. Since mid-May, BP’s OBP is up about 40 points to .330. I’m no math major, but I believe that means his OBP has been significantly higher than .330 since mid-May. And as far as I can recall, he hasn’t hit ahead of Votto one time in that span. Not once has Baker tried the lineup that maximizes OBP ahead of Votto and maximizes protection behind Votto, which I believe would be BP, Hanigan, Votto, Bruce, Frazier (or Stubbs/Cozart hitting second if it’s physically impossible to write Hanigan’s name there, and then Hanigan should be 6th). True, Baker hasn’t been given a legit leadoff hitter to work with, but there’s no reason to defend (even half-heartedly) his consistent refusal to maximize the tools he’s been given.

  4. On a similar note, I defended David Carr for quite a while (and to a lesser extent Joey Harrington). Everyone was saying they were awful, but I kept saying there was no way to evaluate them with o-lines that were so bad.

    Turns out they both sucked.

  5. Plenty of blame to go around for the Reds current roster of low OBP achievers. But Baker deserves his part, too. Whether one finds fault with his actual lineup, his recent statements show a profound misunderstanding of what it takes to score runs. It’s worth looking at OPS, not just OBP as well.

  6. Good stuff, Brien. The structure of this roster drives me nuts – specifically, the bench. All weak-hitting, slow middle infield types.

    I think Dusty should use Frazier like a poor man’s Tony Phillips, spotting Rolen 2-3 times a week, as well as spot starts in the outfield, to spell Ludwick/Heisey/Stubbs.

  7. Frazier just needs to be starting 4-5 times a week between 3rd and left and I’ll be happy. A note on Hanigan batting 2nd, not that I agree with this, but if Mesoraco is to share time, he couldn’t fit in the 2 hole as Hanigan can, so there’s something to be said about messing with a guy’s spot in the order every day when it comes to moving around Stubbs, Heisey, Cozart, etc. Not my sentiment, just trying to get in Dusty’s head.

  8. I have to point out that, with the offensive decline that’s been going on, OBP across the majors right now is .319. That means .330 is actually quite good. And currently, the Reds have five players (Votto, Bruce, Phillips, Hanigan, and Frazier) who’ve seen significant playing time and get on base at an above average rate.

    • I have to point out that, with the offensive decline that’s been going on, OBP across the majors right now is .319. That means .330 is actually quite good. And currently, the Reds have five players (Votto, Bruce, Phillips, Hanigan, and Frazier) who’ve seen significant playing time and get on base at an above average rate.

      That’s correct. And I’d like to add that .800 OPS numbers aren’t as abundant as they have been in the past either.

      • That’s correct. And I’d like to add that .800 OPS numbers aren’t as abundant as they have been in the past either.

        this isn’t true. I’ve heard the talking heads saying sort of the same thing

        there are virtually the same # of .800 OPS so far this season

        right now there are 60 players who qualify for the batting title with an OPS of .800 or greater. Last season there were 63.

        • right now there are 60 players who qualify for the batting title with an OPS of .800 or greater. Last season there were 63.

          and even better

          this season there are 97 qualified hitters with an OPS+ of 100 or greater. Last season there were 98

          • and even better

            this season there are 97 qualified hitters with an OPS+ of 100 or greater. Last season there were 98
            ReplyRepl

            and right as I hit send I realized that this is not accurate. Duh on my part, OPS+ is relative to league average. Ignore this statement

  9. Signing Josh Willingham would have really helped. .385 OBP. (And I hate to say it but keeping Jonny Gomes would have been an improvement over the team’s current LF situation. His current OBP is .380 and while last year he struggled, he maintained a high walk rate and struggled with a low BABIP. But I know he had other issues (defense)).

  10. A good way to tell how I feel about things like swinging at the first pitch or laying down sac bunts (non-pitcher) is to gauge how I feel when the opponent does it against the Reds. When either of those things happen, my immediate reaction is thanks (for the free out). I wonder how Dusty, or anyone on the staff, feels about that.

  11. i think there are some very valid point made in this post, because this roster isn’t set up to maximize times on base at all.

    that said, there’s one point that i don’t feel is correct. todd frazier gives up a lot more on defense at 3B, as the numbers show, and has been quoted saying that left field is his best defensive position.

    i’m fine with frazier getting time at both if it’s to spell rolen so he survives the season. but frazier is just a better hitter than ludwick, and the fielding difference in left, if there at all, is negligible.

    i can’t really understand why anyone would argue that todd frazier, who seems like our 3rd or 4th best hitter, should ever be on the bench. remember, he was a first round pick too. he’s got the same pedigree than stubbs, or mesoraco, or bruce, or bailey, or any of the other guys that we’ve given chance after chance too.

    • @wally mo:

      i think there are some very valid point made in this post, because this roster isn’t set up to maximize times on base at all.

      that said, there’s one point that i don’t feel is correct.todd frazier gives up a lot more on defense at 3B, as the numbers show, and has been quoted saying that left field is his best defensive position.

      i’m fine with frazier getting time at both if it’s to spell rolen so he survives the season.but frazier is just a better hitter than ludwick, and the fielding difference in left, if there at all, is negligible.

      i can’t really understand why anyone would argue that todd frazier, who seems like our 3rd or 4th best hitter, should ever be on the bench.remember, he was a first round pick too. he’s got the same pedigree than stubbs, or mesoraco, or bruce, or bailey, or any of the other guys that we’ve given chance after chance too.

      Great point which I had forgotten. It was a supplemental first round (minor difference being Stubbs was the 8th pick of the draft, Mesoraco was the 15th pick, Bruce was the 12th pick, and Frazier was the 34th) but the he was a first rounder nonetheless.

  12. Good point re league offense, Jason. I was going to say that but forgot.

    To follow on Josh’s point: in today’s lower run environment, is bunting a less-terrible idea than it was 5 years ago?

    • Good point re league offense, Jason. I was going to say that but forgot.To follow on Josh’s point: in today’s lower run environment, is bunting a less-terrible idea than it was 5 years ago?

      I think there’s a time and place for the sacrifice bunt. Usually it’s late in the game when playing for at least a tie (at home) or the lead (on the road). It also makes most sense with a runner on 1B, not a runner on 1B or runners on 1B and 2B. Lastly, you have to take into account if the guy you’re asking to get the bunt down has executed it well. If he’s a guy that doesn’t bunt so well, asking him to bunt is a bad idea.

  13. I’ve cooled off on the Dusty love, but I still get annoyed when he gets blamed for every loss. As far as Walt Jocketty, he’s done pretty well in my book. Everyone has said “All In” for this year (I’ve said it too.) But if you stop to think, he’s set the team up for long term success and take deals in the short term where he can get them (e.g. Madson, Ludwick) I believe acquiring players like Beltran and to a lesser degree Willingham would have hurt the long term future of the team. I mean who did you want? Beltran for 4 years or Votto for 10? Willingham for 3 years, or Phillips for 5?

  14. Great conversation. Big Heisey fan here, but I understand he’s struggling in a big way and needs to sit. Frazier should be starting almost every day somewhere as he’s earned it and it’s the best move for the Reds. Dusty has been beaten up terribly for his lineup and pitching decisions, but I think he’s doing fine considering the hand he’s been dealt (losing Madsen, so-so starting pitching, 2.5 solid hitters, et al.). Someone on this blog wrote about the redundancy of Ludwick and wasn’t crazy about his signing, but he’s grown on me with his productivity. Stubbs is still a great propsect, but he’s not a leadoff hitter and has room for improvement defensively. Keep Stubbs batting second until he fails. Wouldn’t mind a look at Ludwick or Frazier at cleanup.

  15. @wally mo:

    Well if you take Rolen away, than Frazier could be the everyday third baseman. But for now you have Rolen, and you really can’t utilize him as a bench player, so you’re sort of stuck flopping Frazier around between 3B and LF right now.

    As for his defense, he doesn’t have enough innings to make any sort of advanced metrics useful in evaluating him, and the scouting reports I checked all agreed his best fit was third base. To each his own, I guess.

  16. The gripes over Baker’s lineup construction cannot be taken in a vacuum. Baker’s lineup construction is a microcosm of his overall managerial style. He is the quintessential traditionalist, playing every decision by some godforesaken book written by the ghost of John McGraw.

  17. “…(in the interest of full disclosure, I thought Kosuke Fukodome made a lot of sense for the Reds over the winter, but he just got released by the White Sox after hitting .171/.294/.195, so this stuff is hard)…”

    I did too. That’s the reason you have scouts though. You say to your scouts “Fukodome has been solid the last few years. He seems to get on base and gives some quality ABs. What do you think?” If the scouts agree you maybe go for him. I’m sure WJ thought about it and I’m thinking some of the Reds’s scouts weren’t so sure. Or perhaps I’m way off and WJ didn’t think about it at all. You’d have to think he and his staff would have discussed everyone available in the Reds’ assumed price range though.

  18. Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s not the number of opportunities (to drive in runs), it’s coming through in as many opportunities as you can. That’s big.” With that mindset, I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Baker’s lineup and roster is not composed of exactly the type of player Mr. Baker wants.

  19. I am still amazed at how many posters think that Dusty is both Manager and General Manager.

  20. From Hal McCoy’s blog back on May 13. Read this and ask yourself how many of those first pitches that, say, Heisey swings at are fastball strikes?:

    AND WHILE REDS manager Dusty Baker is full up to here with the strikeouts, he is even more full over fans and media constantly harping on the Reds swinging at first pitches.

    “You have to attack the fastball and that’s one thing we have to start doing as a unit,” he said. “Everybody is asking, ‘How come this guy is swinging at the first pitch?’ Don’t you want them to take a pitch?’

    “Man, we’re taking fastballs,” Baker added. “And they’re all getting ahead of us. This game is not designed for two strikes and four balls. If that’s the case, none of us would have hit.”

    What do pitchers always say? The best pitch in baseball is strike one on the first pitch. So why wouldn’t you look to swing at one when it may be the best pitch of the at-bat.

    “I’m telling you, I don’t know where people get this, ‘Why did he swing at the first pitch?’ They want to get ahead of you, especially with runners in scoring position,” said Baker. “We’re too deep in the counts, drowning deep.”

    http://www.daytondailynews.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/cincinnatireds/entries//2012/05/

    • @RC:

      “I’m telling you, I don’t know where people get this, ‘Why did he swing at the first pitch?’ They want to get ahead of you, especially with runners in scoring position,” said Baker. “We’re too deep in the counts, drowning deep.”

      This is about as bad as I’ve ever heard Dusty. Pitches per plate appearance is a very important number, both for OBP and for making starting pitchers work, which also leads to runs. That he seems to not understand that at all is very troubling.

      He just sounds scared. Scared to hit with a strike, and when you are swinging scared, you’re going to make bad decisions. That’s exactly what Heisey looks like by the way.

      I remember reading an article about Robinson Cano’s explosion, and he said that it finally sunk in to him that not all strikes are good to swing at. When he started taking more strikes, and only swinging at his pitches, he started getting more hits, walks, and extra-base hits. But he had to start taking strikes.

      The longer you go in a count, the more chance your giving a pitcher to make a mistake. If you go up there thinking that you don’t want to get behind in the count, you’re basically taking a two-strike approach right from the get go, and not looking for your pitch.

      • This is about as bad as I’ve ever heard Dusty. Pitches per plate appearance is a very important number, both for OBP and for making starting pitchers work, which also leads to runs. That he seems to not understand that at all is very troubling.

        Not to mention that, against quality pitching, going deep in counts can be the difference between facing the guy for 6 1/3 instead of 9 (or 8 and a closer).

        • Not to mention that, against quality pitching, going deep in counts can be the difference between facing the guy for 6 1/3 instead of 9 (or 8 and a closer).

          That’s an excellent point. Isn’t that what the Reds were able to do against Verlander? Made him work just to get through six innings …

    • Is it at all possible that he might be referring to certain players (Stubbs, Cozart, etc) taking first pitch fastballs for strikes. There is something to be said for the fact that some hitters are have abysmal averages when they are behind in the count. These guys aren’t all Votto/Hannigan/Mesoraco clones.

      From Hal McCoy’s blog back on May 13. Read this and ask yourself how many of those first pitches that, say, Heisey swings at are fastball strikes?:AND WHILE REDS manager Dusty Baker is full up to here with the strikeouts, he is even more full over fans and media constantly harping on the Reds swinging at first pitches.“You have to attack the fastball and that’s one thing we have to start doing as a unit,” he said. “Everybody is asking, ‘How come this guy is swinging at the first pitch?’ Don’t you want them to take a pitch?’“Man, we’re taking fastballs,” Baker added. “And they’re all getting ahead of us. This game is not designed for two strikes and four balls. If that’s the case, none of us would have hit.”What do pitchers always say? The best pitch in baseball is strike one on the first pitch. So why wouldn’t you look to swing at one when it may be the best pitch of the at-bat.“I’m telling you, I don’t know where people get this, ‘Why did he swing at the first pitch?’ They want to get ahead of you, especially with runners in scoring position,” said Baker. “We’re too deep in the counts, drowning deep.”http://www.daytondailynews.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/cincinnatireds/entries//2012/05/

  21. @RC:

    Ya know, he’s actually kind of sort of on to something, but then he goes and destroys it by boiling a complex question down into some sort of obvious one size fits all truism. Quintessential Dusty.

    • Ya know, he’s actually kind of sort of on to something, but then he goes and destroys it by boiling a complex question down into some sort of obvious one size fits all truism. Quintessential Dusty.

      Yes, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with looking for first pitch fastballs. But if everybody knows you’re being 1st pitch aggressive all the time, then it’s another version of the old minor league mandatory 1st pitch take thing all over again – pitchers will use it against you. Like I said above, seems to me like Heisey hacks at most first pitches, and few of them are fastball strikes.

  22. @Brien Jackson: Here’s one quote I saw: “Frazier’s best position is left field, they tell me,” general manager Walt Jocketty said.

    http://fantasynews.cbssports.com/fantasybaseball/players/updates/1630078

    I assume “they” is scouts.

    i hear on you on advanced stats, and i agree with you that with what they have on the team, moving him around makes sense.

    My main point was that you should start with Todd Frazier in the lineup every day, because he’s shown himself to be a better hitter than the other two. Then you can move him around as necessary to “keep guys going” or rest Rolen or whatever.

  23. @wally mo: Exactly. Dusty would rather have somebody hit .375 with RISP in maybe 1-2 chances a game than have somebody hit .275 4 or 5 chances a game.

  24. @Matt WI: which is scary, because unless that guy is a .375 hitter, he’s probably not going to keep doing that. where as if you get guys with high OBP, you’re going to have those same 5 chances over and over and over.

  25. @Chris Garber: I’m not sure. It be less terrible because one run is worth more, but it might be more terrible because outs are more precious when it’s hard to score. I’d wager you can find the current numbers somewhere on fangraphs of BTB or somewhere like that. Either way, it’s still terrible.

  26. @wally mo: Maybe Joey Votto, he of hitting .300 with 2 strikes could talk to the guys on the side: “Guys… seriously, you can do this. Don’t listen to Dusty.”

  27. a couple of numbers to help with perspective with the Reds only having 3 guys with over a .330 OBP

    and as of this morning I think Phillips is now at .330 OBP 🙂

    In the NL there are 73 players with at least 100 PA with an OBP of .330 or greater
    That’s 4.6 players per team.

    6 teams in baseball have a team OBP over .330 and 3 of those are NL teams

    The Cardinals have the most players at an amazing 9!!!
    The Pirates have the fewest. 1!! McCutchen

    League average, which includes pitchers is .318

    But .330 is a good line to draw in the sand because the AVERAGE NL OFer has an OBP of .333

    the average NL leadoff hitter is a surprisingly low .318
    but the average NL #2 hitter is at .335

    it is why the Reds have the 14th offense in baseball despite having the best hitter in baseball.

  28. It’s all so odd because as a player, Dusty’s walk rates were pretty good.

  29. Regarding first pitch swinging, Dusty and Marty were talking a few days ago about Latos on the night when he had two hits. Apparently after Latos had one hit in the game, he asked Dusty before his next at-bat, when he was leading off an inning, whether he could swing at the first pitch. Dusty told him no. …

    Dusty said that if Latos swung at the first pitch and made an out, then “Cozart can’t swing at the first pitch.” (It would be a crime for Cozart NOT to swing at the first pitch he sees? We’ve got a guy at leadoff who can’t possibly function if he should take a pitch and fall behind 0-1 in the count?)

  30. @mike: Thanks Mike… can I ask how where do you go for finding things like performance by position? Like I was looking earlier for a way to see how Cozart compares to the NL Avg SS… are you using Baseball Reference, Fan Graphs (and if so… are you at a pay level to access certain stats)?

  31. @mike: Good stuff Mike. Thanks.

  32. @mike: Awesome… thanks. I finally found the BR league stats… before I could only find the team stats and it was driving me nuts. Thanks for sharing. Appreciate your efforts.

    • Awesome… thanks. I finally found the BR league stats… before I could only find the team stats and it was driving me nuts.

      I do find those league batting splits fascinating. There is SOOO much info on that one page.

      For example, next time (which *will* be the next time you watch or listen to a game) an announcer starts harping on a player not hitting well with RISP remember that NL League average with RISP is an average of .246

      it would be cool to look at an adjusted average with RISP something like RISPAvg+ 🙂

  33. completely off topic but I just got tickets to Sunday’s Giants/Reds game. My once a year chance to see the Reds in person.

  34. @mike: I’m going tonight and Saturday!

  35. I just wish the Reds hitting philosophy was to be selective.

    I think that if you have no strikes or one strike, you should only be looking for your pitch, the one you can drive. If it’s not there, whether it’s a strike or a ball, you take it.

    This not only makes pitchers work, but it gives you a better chance of hitting, and of getting a walk if they can’t find the zone.

    Once you get two strikes, then protect.

    Dusty’s quote seems to suggest that any fastball is a good pitch to hit, and that’s just obviously not true.

  36. I have a problem with the logic of this article. Lineup issues are relative to a team, not league averages.

    The contextual analysis could focus on a team relative to the league which is a condition precedent.

    Regardless the focus to answer the question that the article raises should not be arbitrary statistical benchmarks (.330) but on individual performance relative to a team and/or team performance relative to the league.

  37. @rightsaidred: i generally agree. phillips is now at exactly .330, but whether he’s there or at .329 doesn’t really matter. what matters is that he’s significantly higher than cozart (.295), heisey (.301) or stubbs (.310).

    ditto frazier, who is at .329 now.

    over half a season, about 300 plate appearances each, swapping phillips and frazier for the three guys dusty puts at the top would get you 17 additional base runners on in front of votto.

    that is better pretty much any way you look at it.

    • over half a season, about 300 plate appearances each, swapping phillips and frazier for the three guys dusty puts at the top would get you 17 additional base runners on in front of votto.

      this *is* exactly the point

  38. and on the Frazier topic, I started to get curious who of the group of OFers is likely to end up having the best season.

    thanks to fangraphs updated zips projections

    this season + projected for the rest of the season
    wOBA
    .338 Frazier
    .329 Ludwick
    .318 Stubbs
    .306 Heisey
    .293 Rolen

  39. @Brien Jackson: I’m not sure why you think Rolen can’t be used as a bench player. You mentioned in your post that he’s not versatile enough, but why can’t you bring him in for whomever and then move Frazier from 3rd to that position. It would do the exact same thing as bringing Frazier off the bench, but still give Frazier the extra ABs.

  40. @RiverCity Redleg: Makes sense to me.

  41. With the exception of getting a superstar lead-off hitter who plays CF, SS, or 2B, we can expect more of the same. It’s the philosophy that Dusty and Jacoby preach, and the players obviously take it to heart. Until we either get a quality bat at the top of the order (paging Billy Hamilton) or a new, fresh, up to date hitting approach, there is going to be more of the same. Dusty is an old dog who is not going to learn any new tricks.

  42. Meanwhile, it’s 102º in Cincinnati.

    • Meanwhile, it’s 102º in Cincinnati.

      I think if I were playing for the Reds, I’d be happy to be going to San Fran. It’s way to hot to play ball. I was a catcher and man did I dread days like this, especially when I aged past 30.

  43. The difference between a guy with a .300 and .330 OBP is one less out every 33 Plate Appearance, or about once every 8 games. I think we may be overstating how much it really matters, not that every little bit helps. Haven’t there been studies that show that line-up construction really doesn’t make much difference, but that the maximum by a hair would have the leading OBP guy (Votto) hit lead-off?

    As to swinging at the first pitch, the other team is competing, too. Pitchers quickly learn who takes the first pitch, and respond with a first-pitch strike. If the first pitch is what you’re looking for, then blast away, which was the point that Dusty was at least trying to make–that if you try too hard to go deep into counts, then you will miss some good pitches to hit. (And it works the other way, too–you can’t swing at the first pitch every time, although it does seem like Heisey and Cozart try to do so.)

    None of us really know how hard it is to hit these pitchers.

  44. Tonight’s lineup. How long is Dusty going to make Cozart keep batting first. The kid was 0-19 yesterday. Kind of surprising that part of Baker’s view isn’t taking the pressure off the rookie. On the other hand, Frazier stays batting seventh. I guess it would be discourteous to Rolen to move Frazier ahead of him.

    Cozart 6
    Stubbs 8
    Votto 3
    Phillips 4
    Bruce 9
    Rolen 5
    Frazier 7
    Hanigan 2
    Cueto 1

    Glad we have Cueto starting the road trip. This is a huge stretch of games. I’m really happy for all you West Coasters who are getting to see the team. Wear red and cheer loudly!

    • Tonight’s lineup. How long is Dusty going to make Cozart keep batting first. The kid was 0-19 yesterday. Kind of surprising that part of Baker’s view isn’t taking the pressure off the rookie. On the other hand, Frazier stays batting seventh. I guess it would be discourteous to Rolen to move Frazier ahead of him.

      Honestly Steve, I’m just happy he isn’t hitting Rolen 4th. I’m only half kidding too.

      Cozart 6
      Stubbs 8
      Votto 3
      Phillips 4
      Bruce 9
      Rolen 5
      Frazier 7
      Hanigan 2
      Cueto 1

      Glad we have Cueto starting the road trip. This is a huge stretch of games. I’m really happy for all you West Coasters who are getting to see the team. Wear red and cheer loudly!

  45. @Big Ed: I don’t think anyone is trying to say this is the be-all end-all of winning. but this thread is about lineup construction, so…

    over 600 PA, a guy with a .330 OBP will get on base 18 times more than a guy with a .300 OBP.

    so two guys would get on base 36 more times in front of votto. how many additional runs will that lead to? don’t know. how many wins? don’t know.

    but now imagine that you’re that manager of the reds and you’re given the choice of having 36 additional runners on in front of votto, and you decline. what would be your rationalle?

    if you can’t come up with a good one, then i submit that dusty IS in fact to blame for the reds lineup problems.

  46. Time is running out to vote for the All Star team.

    Should have mentioned on the lineup comment that it’s good to see BP in there, guess the head thing wasn’t serious. Good news.

  47. @Big Ed: using the lineup tool at baseball musings, tonight’s lineup is projected to score 4.3 runs per game. in the first 74 games of the year, the reds have scored exactly 4.3 runs per game.

    the tool proposes a lineup of:

    votto
    bruce
    stubbs
    frazier
    phillips
    rolen
    cozart
    cueto
    hannigan

    and that that lineup would score 4.8 runs per game.

    now obvioulsy, that lineup would fly in the face of so many baseball traditions that dusty’s head would explode and hank aaron would disown his memory. ain’t happening.

    but i post it because i think it’s too easy to say that lineups just don’t matter that much. half a run per game is 80 extra runs over the season, which is about 8 extra wins.

    the difference between an 85 win team and a 93 win team is HUGE.

    someday there will be a manager in baseball who uses this stuff, and i can’t wait to see what the results are.

  48. @Steve Mancuso: i’ll be wearing my bruce jersey, hoping not to get beer thrown on me. SF fans can be brutal, despite the cities lovefest reputation.

  49. @ Brien —

    I was surprised to see your article. Brave of you, considering the general tone here.

    It reminded me of a post by Steve M., who surprised me also by conceding that there wasn’t much flexibility in this roster, to allow tinkering with the lineup. In that post, he bagged the idea of moving Hanigan up, and stuck simply to moving Frazier into the cleanup spot, with BP moving up in the order. Steve would never ever be mistaken for a Baker fan, so the concession was notable.

    If one is hesitant to run with Frazier because he is a rookie, or because his numbers seem to be steadily declining (did anyone think he was going to keep up that pace?), you are left with a very similar lineup as is currently taking the field.

    I’ve been saying for some time that this team needs either a leadoff or cleanup hitter. I’m not one to hang WJ out to dry for his failure to find either yet, because there is only so much a team/GM can do in one offseason (I say one offseason, because I understood the stand pat mode of the previous offseason). Walt made 3 significant additions to this pitching staff this offseason. Anyone who doesn’t think that this team’s biggest weakness last year wasn’t pitching, wasn’t paying attention. Meanwhile, he has signed, to long term contracts, most of the core of this team.

    I’ll wade in further. Some people like to theorize that without Baker this club would be “x” (depends on the poster) better. It’s a faulty argument. They take all of the Baker wins, and theorize that any manager would add to the total. Baker has this team, the faulty roster one, in first place. No one would say this team is vastly underperforming its talent. His decisions and management of the team has contributed to those wins, whether you like him or not.

    • @ Brien –

      I’ll wade in further.Some people like to theorize that without Baker this club would be “x” (depends on the poster) better.It’s a faulty argument.They take all of the Baker wins, and theorize that any manager would add to the total.Baker has this team, the faulty roster one, in first place.No one would say this team is vastly underperforming its talent.His decisions and management of the team has contributed to those wins, whether you like him or not.

      How so? Let’s start with the premise that any manager at any level of baseball would have all of these guys playing in the correct positions and probably wouldn’t have any of the bench players playing any more regularly than they do. If the manager simply drew names out of a hat to determine the batting order every day, and then rolled a pair of dice to decide when to have guys sacrifice bunt or attempt a steal, the team would still win quite a few games. Would that be a sign of the manager doing good work, or would it be a sign that the team can win games despite a manager’s utter incompetence?

      • @zippy:

        How so? Let’s start with the premise that any manager at any level of baseball would have all of these guys playing in the correct positions and probably wouldn’t have any of the bench players playing any more regularly than they do. If the manager simply drew names out of a hat to determine the batting order every day, and then rolled a pair of dice to decide when to have guys sacrifice bunt or attempt a steal, the team would still win quite a few games. Would that be a sign of the manager doing good work, or would it be a sign that the team can win games despite a manager’s utter incompetence?

        This team hasn’t simply won “quite a few games”. This team is in first place.

        They’re in first place despite having no leadoff hitter. Despite having no cleanup hitter/third guy who is a legitimate thumper. Despite having a bench that can only be charitably called “somewhat weak”.

        Yeah, this team, a team that rivals the ’75 Reds or the ’27 Yankees, is somehow in first place “despite (the) mangager’s utter incompetence”.

        Yeah, you have a good point there.

  50. @earmbrister: my point is not that a different manager would have gotten X more wins with this team than dusty. i have no idea how well or not well he is managing this team behind the scenes, so i just don’t comment on that aspect.

    the point is that DUSTY, not another manager, could have this team scoring more runs if he didn’t stubbornly stick to his belief that CF and SS bat #1 or #2, basically no matter what.

    • @wally mo:

      @earmbrister: my point is not that a different manager would have gotten X more wins with this team than dusty. i have no idea how well or not well he is managing this team behind the scenes, so i just don’t comment on that aspect. the point is that DUSTY, not another manager, could have this team scoring more runs if he didn’t stubbornly stick to his belief that CF and SS bat #1 or #2, basically no matter what.

      You come across as a reasonable person, as you you didn’t insist that ANYONE could have more wins than Baker.

      I understand, perhaps even agree, that Baker is somewhat (lol) inflexible in his lineups. I’m not a fan of Heisey hitting anywhere near the top of the lineup when he starts. What I won’t say is that the team would score more runs by constantly juggling the batting order. Anyone, or any computer, could set the lineup based on OBP/OPS. What’s not guaranteed is the results. Baker obviously felt more comfortable as a player coming to the ballpark knowing his role and where he’d be hitting in the order. What’s the positive affect of that on this lineup? Can’t be measured.

      Meanwhile, this roster is devoid of high OBP guys. And it could use another banger in the middle of the order. Brandon Phillips after his slow start/injury, has been a stud. You can move him up in the order, but it can still be argued that they would still have no leadoff hitter and no cleanup hitter (or #5 hitter if you mistakenly move Bruce up).

      I don’t know what effect a rejuggling of the lineup would have on run production. But I do know where the Reds are in the standings.

      First place.

  51. Formatting was soooo bad on that… What I said was “Honestly Steve, I’m just happy he isn’t hitting Rolen 4th. I’m only half kidding too.”

  52. I thought of another way of looking at walks just a few minutes ago because of something Brian Anderson said on the Detroit vs Tampa Bay telecast. He said something that made me think: How do you feel when your pitcher walks a guy? Isn’t it even worse when it is a fairly light hitter in front of a really good hitter? What if it’s the 8th batter in front of the pitcher setting up the bunt (in the NL)? You don’t feel good when your pitcher walks a guy, especially in these situations do you? So, maybe Dusty needs to look at it from that perspective.

    The comment Anderson made that made me ponder this was “Walking guys just kills you.” and it wasn’t just the phrase, it was his tone. He went on to talk about the baserunners and pitching with guys on base and how those walks seem to come around to score. This is all old-school wisdom but from the pitchers’ perspective. So if walks are bad for pitchers, they are good for hitters.

  53. These 10 o’clock game are brutal on my sleep patterns.

  54. @earmbrister: They don’t have a leadoff hitter, and Baker’s “solution” is to put a guy there who rarely gets on base and has 2 steals for the entire season.

    Yeah, because he doesn’t have a great leadoff hitter, obviously the best solution is to put one of the WORST candidates in that spot. What else COULD he do?

    Yeah, you have a good point there.

  55. The Reds are in FIRST PLACE “despite (the) manager’s utter incompetence”.

    Too bad we couldn’t have found a manager who was just somewhat imcompetent. Then we’d be in, er, second or third place?

    Yeah, they don’t have a leadoff hitter. I guess your “solution” would be to put Phillips there. A guy that gets on base at a career mediocre rate of .322 and who has THREE steals for the entire season (BP hasn’t had more than 20 steals in a season since 2009). Not to mention that you lose his bat at cleanup when he is one of the most consistent RBI guys on the team. Maybe Phillips can bat at leadoff and at cleanup.

    Other posters here have used the .OBP argument to push for Frazier batting second (brilliant) or even Mesaraco (yeah, there’s that small sample size thing again).

    Face it, this team is devoid of high OBP guys who have any speed at all.

    Or you can just go with your “utter incompetence” nonsense.

  56. Baker’s philosophy on first pitch swinging is valid. How many times do you hear a pitcher say “I got behind in the count”. The first pitch strike is the goal of every pitcher. Knowing it’s coming gives the hitter an advantage. The game isn’t about taking walks or getting to the bullpen in the 5th inning every night. It’s a simply game. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. You hit the ball. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. Think about that.

  57. @earmbrister: The point is not what place the team sits. The point is whether the lineups are making the most of this roster.

    There is a “plank in the eye” problem if you are judging Phillips as a leadoff candidate while giving Cozart a pass. Cozart batted exclusively at #1 or #2 all year. Excluding Rolen, he has the worst .OBP of all Reds starters and only two stolen bases. These simple facts demand an answer and a lack of candidates is not an answer when nothing else has even been attempted.

    The most dominant hitter in the league has 47 extra base hits, a league leading average (and universe leading with runners on) and only 47 RBI. (Compare to his peer David Wright who has a similar average and only 35 extra-base hits and 47 RBI.) The problem is setting the proverbial table. Cozart is not the solution. The manager should have tried something else by now.

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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at chaddotson@redlegnation.com.

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2012 Reds, Dusty's Lineup Shenanigans

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