2012 Reds

What Ryan Ludwick’s emergence might mean

Which position player leads the Reds in OPS (on base percentage + slugging) over the last 30 days?

(If you don’t specify ‘position player’ the correct answer is Mike Leake.)

Joey MVP at .925? No, but that’s a solid guess and when he has two healthy knees is invariably right. How about Super Todd Frazier? Nope. Another smart guess though, he’s hit .955. Is the answer clean-up hitter, Brandon Phillips? Kidding. He’s at .750. Maybe it’s All-Star outfielder, Jay Bruce? No, he’s OPSing .786.

The correct answer is Ryan Ludwick at 1.026. That may be surprising, but the fact is, that after a painfully slow start, Ludwick’s OPS has improved every month and has arguably been the team’s best hitter lately. Mr. Clutch, Jay Bruce, leads the club with 17 RBI over that period, but Ludwick has had some big hits, including Friday and Saturday against the Cardinals. Ludwick’s OPS is even better in high-leverage (clutch) situations at 1.091. His walk-rate is a tick above league average at 8.6%, which makes him a Jedi Knight of the free pass for the Reds. He co-leads the team with Joey MVP in WAR for the past 30 days.

Apply the usual caveats, and there are many. One month is a small sample. Thirty days is an arbitrary cut-off, although not one I cherry-picked to make him look especially good. The compelling Ludwick of June and July may quickly revert to the lackluster April or May Ludwick. And the 2009-2011 stat lines jangle around on his baseball card. All those things.

But suppose June and July are close to what the Reds can expect the rest of the way from Ludwick, what are the implications? Dramatic ones, actually.

1. Playing Time. You have to play that Ludwick in LF most every game. Meaning, Chris Heisey will see playing time in center field, if at all. More importantly, Ludwick’s emergence complicates the idea that an easy solution to the Todd Frazier/Scott Rolen conundrum is to give Frazier 3-4 starts per week in left field. Ludwick’s bat may lock Frazier and Rolen into a strict zero-sum competition for playing time.

2. Batting Order. I know, you can’t discuss this rationally with Dusty Baker filling out the card. But just maybe, Ludwick becomes a viable option for the Reds manager to use as the right-handed hitter preventing the Votto and Bruce streams from crossing. If Baker wants to use Brandon Phillips as #1 or #2, then June/July Ludwick can step ably into the clean-up spot. One small thing that arrangement has going for it is that Ludwick is, you know, a considerably better clean-up hitter.

3. Trade Needs. A month ago, most of the Reds trade discussions concerned upgrading left field, or at least left and center field roughly equally. That was before the Stubbs über-slump and Ludwick’s Cardinal-slaying heroics. Today, it’s really hard to imagine the Reds will trade for a left fielder with the effect being to bench their best hitter over the past month. The outfield target, if there is one, is clearly center.

General Manager Walt Jocketty told Hal McCoy yesterday that the Reds are looking for a lead-off and clean-up hitter, but could probably only do one or the other. If Walt has been keeping up with current events, and I’m confident he has, especially where former Cardinals and recent free-agent signings are involved, he’ll get that the new acquisition will have to be a center fielder either way. That rules out Carlos Quinten, Justin Upton, Josh Willingham and (dear God, please) Juan Pierre. Shane Victorino and Denard Span move up. Trading for a center fielder may be difficult to accomplish at a reasonable cost. The Yankees and Harpers are looking, too.

On the other hand, if you don’t believe in June/July Ludwick (and that’s perfectly sensible) then never mind.

But if Ryan Ludwick continues to hit close to this way, the Reds will have suddenly become a much different and better team.

39 thoughts on “What Ryan Ludwick’s emergence might mean

  1. Good points all around. I have to admit though my favorite part was getting to the end and noticing for the first time that you have Frazier linked now as “Super Todd Frazier”. I laughed pretty hard at that. He has to be one of the biggest factors this year in watching a very enjoyable team.

  2. I feel a trade at this point would be a self-inflicted wound considering the names I’m reading. The right players are already here, just not playing where they should be. Beside the cupboard is bare and due to current trade climate the Reds will have to give up way too much.

    It bugs me when I hear the Reds need a clean-up hitter when most teams would trade a sizable chunk of the their farm to get Bruce into their lineup as clean-up. Even still, how can the Reds lack a clean-up hitter when they are 5th in the NL in slugging and 3rd in HRs. How about Frazier, or Ludwick?

    Phillips was more than serviceable in 2010 and 2011 as lead-off.

    • I feel a trade at this point would be a self-inflicted wound considering the names I’m reading.The right players are already here, just not playing where they should be.Beside the cupboard is bare and due to current trade climate the Reds will have to give up way too much.

      Couldn’t agree more with this. With the extra wild-card spot this year, many more teams think they are still in the race than in years past. Any team looking to make a relatively big deal (such as a Span, Quentin, or Victorino) is going to sacrifice a lot of their farm for that guy. That’s not what the Reds should do, with so many of their quality players locked up for several/many more seasons. Unless Walt can pull a ridiculous deal, I wouldn’t make any trades.

      First, Ludwick gets 4-5 starts per week in LF, occasional fill-in for Bruce in RF if he starts to slump again. Ludwick is also a nice threat off the bench on his off-days.

      Heisey gets 3-4 starts per week in CF, and maybe 1-2 in LF. Hell, at this point I’d be happier to see Valdez over Stubbs in CF (although I know Stubbs will snap out of this funk sooner or later).

      Stubbs needs some bench time, and can be used as a pinch runner or late-inning defensive replacement until he remembers how to hit a baseball. I wonder if he has options left, as he might benefit from a few weeks in L’ville to get his mojo back.

      Obviously, Frazier needs to be getting most of the starts at 3B, Rolen starting 1-2 times a week and a late-inning defensive replacement sometimes. Frazier can maybe start once a week in LF, although with the way Luddy has been hitting its tough to take starts away from him.

      Here’s how the lineup should look most of the time:

      1 Phillips 2B
      2 Cozart SS
      3 Votto 1B
      4 Ludwick LF
      5 Bruce RF
      6 Frazier 3B
      7 Heisey CF
      8 (Catcher) C
      9 (Pitcher) P

      Ludwick and Frazier can be swapped, though I don’t see Dusty batting a rookie cleanup (just like he won’t bat a catcher anywhere but 8th).🙄

  3. How about we trade Joey Votto since all of our problems with clean-up and lead-off are predicated upon the fact he is a left handed hitter. 😉

  4. Boy would Denard Span completely turn this team around with his abilities.

    I still think the Reds will go for Juan Pierre though…he is just too cheap to pass up if the price is right.

  5. I take my hat off and humbly bow to Uncle Walt. I still think the Reds missed the boat by not signing Willingham as a FA in the off season, but the Reds probably weren’t even at the dock when that boat sailed. For the cost & apparent return, Ludwick is probably the next best option that was available. I’ll still point out that the Harris and Valdez transactions were simply bonehead moves, but the Reds are winning and they look ready to make a serious run. At this point, I agree that CF is the only position up for grabs. Pierre is only an option for LF. I only see two possible trade matches out there now, Span or DeJesus. If the price is right, either option would be a real boon for the Reds offense and neither the Twins nor the Cubbies are going anywhere for the next two years, so a trade may be feasible. With Span or DeJesus hitting #1, Phillips hitting #2 and alternating L-R-L-R for #3 through #6, the Reds would provide a punishing offensive lineup, even moreso if Cozart is moved to #8 and the catcher is moved to #7.

  6. Couple of questions around the CF position:
    1. Why shouldn’t the Reds play Heisey regularly in CF? He seemed to do well there earlier this year when Stubbs went out and he’s hit well most of the season.
    2. Why is everyone so down on Juan Pierre? I admit I have never seen him play, but his stats appear good. If you subscribe to the Billy Beane/Moneyball theory (which generally I do), then you need OBP and he has it consistently. His OBP would be 50 points higher than Cozart and 70 point higher than Stubbs. Certainly that would have to mean good things for Votto and the heart of the lineup.

  7. I guess I don’t get the strong feeling about Denard Span. If you’re basing that off this year alone, maybe. But in 2010 and 2011, Drew Stubbs had a better year. Even in 2012, Stubbs was outproducing Span through June. Stubbs has gone through a horrible slump in July. So I guess you could favor Span based on that. But it seems like a pretty small window to use for making a trade, especially if we have to give up much of value to get Span.

    People seem to fix on Span’s career OBP of .357. But that is a product of his rookie season 2008 (.387) and second season 2009 (.392). In the last three years, 2010 (.331), 2011 (.328) and this year (.340) his numbers are lower. His walk-rate over the last three years is 8.6% which is average and actually lower that Stubbs for the same period, which is 9.2%.

  8. @Gregg: Gregg, here’s my take on Pierre. https://redlegnation.com/2012/07/07/juan-pierre-no-thanks-shane-victorino-much-better/ To summarize: his OBP depends almost entirely on his AVG because his walk-rate is really, really low. His AVG fluctuates and is helped right now from unusually high BABIP. Moneyball says to look at the walk-rate. He has one of the worst. He has zero power, even doubles. His defense in LF is poor. The Phillies haven’t been playing him every night, he platoons.

  9. I also don’t understand the agita over the prospect of signing a .297 career hitter, one who happens to carry a .316 current year average.

    Pierre’s .329 BABIP this year is actually closer to his career average BABIP (.314) than his low 2010 and 2011 BABIPs (.294) were. So he was relatively more ‘unlucky’ in 2010 and 2011 than he’s been ‘lucky’ this year. You expect Victorino and Stubbs to rebound from ‘unlucky’ BABIPs but decree that Pierre’s low BABIP reflected a deterioration in skills. I’m not convinced that the stats support this verdict.

  10. @Steve Mancuso: If you’re going to make the “he’s only really been good this year argument for Span, you have to make it for Ludwick, too.

    Ludwick has an awfully high HR/FB ratio right now for instance. Not sure he’ll keep that up.

    Also, with Span, though he doesn’t walk as much as Stubbs, he doesn’t K as much either, so he can get by with a slightly lower walk rate.

  11. Ludwick is surging right now, there’s not doubt about it, but I don’t see him being this good for any longer than the next few weeks. However, I could see him rebound to hit around .250-.260 the rest of the way considering how he plays in a homer friendly park and says he feels just as good as his All-Star, 2008 season counterpart. A hitter’s self-esteem really does matter sometimes. This would be augmented if he was put into the cleanup spot because, as we all know, he’s a fastball hitter. Giving him pitches to hit would definitely help, and he also isn’t a groundball hitter, so he won’t hit into as many DBPs with Votto on-base. In away, he may be the best option at clean-up if Frazier doesn’t get more playing time.

  12. @Steve Mancuso: Steve, I find a rare point of disagreement regarding Span. My only concern regarding Span is medical. If he passes all (thorough and comprehensive) medical tests, he is an excellent option for a leadoff hitter. After his stellar performance in 2008 & 2009, Span suffered from a medical condition (vestibular neuritis) and had a subpar year in 2010. In April and May of 2011, Span was completely back on track and having another stellar year, then he suffered a major concussion and aggravating relapse of his prior medical condition during a home plate collision on 6/4/2011 and was out for two months. He played sparingly when he returned in August and never got up to full speed. This year his performance was again very good in April & May, but fell off significantly in June. The medical issue is a significant concern, but that is an issue for the doctors to evaluate. The big difference (and its a VERY big difference) between Span & Stubbs is his SO rate. Span stikes out 12.6% of the time and walks 10.0% of the time. Stubbs strikes out 29.3% of the time and walks 9.2% of the time. The BABIP for Stubbs (.324) & Span (.319) are virtually identical. It’s the SO that make the difference.

  13. @MikiLove: Miki, You may be correct, but Ludwick has demonstrated a seriously positive trend in his improvement. He is not the first hitter to complain about the stigma of PETCO Park and its negative effect on a hitters prowess. Ludwick has made a steady positive improvement every month during 2012:

    .190/.266/.397/.662 in April
    .224/.321/.388/.709 in May
    .253/.326/.582/.908 in June
    .333/.333/.630/.963 in July

    Even if he doesn’t keep up his current pace and just manages a line of .260/.330/.550/.880 for the rest of the season, he needs to start every day in LF and hit 4th with Frazier hitting 6th. I personally think Luddy may have reestablished his lost career (a big TY to GABP) and will patrol LF for the Reds in 2013 after they exercise his option.

  14. @seat101: That link has a lot of interesting news about the Reds. The Rolen piece itself was good. I doubt there are as many job offers out there waiting for Dusty Baker as he imagines. Maybe back to the West Coast, but I don’t see either the Dodgers or Giants looking for a new manager in the near future. I wouldn’t play ‘hard to get’ if I were Baker.

  15. @BloodyHo: That’s interesting about Span. You know a lot more about him than I do. The health stuff gives me pause – especially if the cost of a trade is much at all – he hasn’t been able to get healthy since 2009. If Stubbs stays in a slump, Span would be a big improvement. If Stubbs returns to 2011 production, let alone 2010, I don’t think Span would likely provide much of a boost. With Brandon Phillips available to hit first, the Stubbs/Heisey platoon could hit lower in the lineup and help with power that Span doesn’t offer. That said, I wouldn’t be unhappy with Span coming to the Reds, like I would be with Juan Pierre. I was just wondering why some seemed to be talking about Span as an All-Star.

  16. @Jason Linden: That’s right. I wasn’t making an argument for Ludwick or even that the June/July numbers were going to stick around. My point was to consider the situation IF he has really returned to something closer to his 2008 season.

  17. Steve, this is gret stuff as is all of your work. But I have to say, “Jedi Knight of the free pass” had me chuckling – well said!

  18. @Steve Mancuso: I wish Dusty would play hard to get. How about SD? Dusty’s starting five’s record this yeasr would transfer well to Petco, eh?

    Assuming it is Rolen’s last year (and I do), it seems to me that he should start as a coach in the minors before managing in the minors. I think he might have to learn how to motivate players who don’t have his mindset. I don’t think he would have a problem with players with less talent than his, just less (apparent or otherwise) motivation to improve and succeed.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I wish Dusty would play hard to get…..

      Just to add some possible perspective to Dusty’s comments, as Iv’e said before, within a month I am Dusty’s age.

      I’m just a work a day guy like probably just about everybody on this board. It is easy for us to forget that Dusty’s job is probably to him in some ways just like our jobs, i.e. a job.

      That being the case I’d guess he is at a point in life where he may be asking himself whether and if so for how long he wants to keep doing it regardless of success or failure or the situation.

      So Maybe he isn’t just playing hard to get. Maybe is hard to get….

  19. Heisey had solid numbers when he was getting a majority of the starts in LF, also. It almost seems like that Baker is finally giving each one about a month to earn the position. Given what each did, Ludwick is having the better bat, though Heisey’s wasn’t bad. Heisey is quicker and thus probably better in the field. If anything, our best outfield would be Bruce, Heisey, and Ludwick right now.

  20. This piece points up to what I have been advocating. The pieces to a better offense are in place just order them correctly. Fix the batting order. Don’t give up the farm on player from outside the organization. If you want to try something different, go to the farm first to see if they can contribute. Look at the 40 man , Phipps is back healthy, Henry Rodriguez is back , Lutz is a LH bat in AA. These people were put on the 40 man for a reason. Demote Stubbs and promote Phipps. Heisey has hit better and can play CF very well. Just sayin.

  21. @George Culver: @steveschoen: George, As I tell my wife, you’realways ‘JUST SAYIN’, but what you are saying I completely agree with and endorse. I believe that Mr. Baker might think he can hold the lineup hostage and force Uncle Walt’s hand to pull the trigger on a trade. Otherwise, Mr. Baker’s stubborn refusal to alter his lineup makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I would support a trade only if the return justifies the cost, which is probably not going to happen. Above all else, make the best use of what we have right now and ride that horse. Steve, I really believe a trip to AAA would do Stubbs some good and may reenergize his career. The best OF right now would be Luddy, Heisey & Bruuuuuuuuce, assuming of course that Heisey doesn’t hit at the top of the order. I would like to see a Kotsay or Podsednick brought in rather than bring up Phipps or Rodriguez or Lutz. They youngsters need the regular playing time. Lutz has stuggled since coming off the DL and Phipps has stuggled all year. Rodriguez may be ready, but he still needs work on his defense. I would like to see him performing at AAA until the September callup.

  22. @OhioJim: Yeah,but that would mean that Dusty was just “phoning it in”. You and I both know that Dusty is out there every day arguing with the umpires, experimenting with different lineups and different batting orders. Right?

  23. @seat101: Just based on my personal experiences with approaching and considering retirement, I don’t agree he would have to be phoning it in if her were considering retirement.

    For me part of the motivation is to prove to myself and others that I can still do the job as well as I ever did which is better than most will ever do it.

    I would think that would be applicable for Dusty, particularly since the metrics are pretty obvious in his position.

    The mental aspect is very different from the experience of being burned out earlier in life.

  24. Justin Upton was a center fielder all the way up through the minors and moved to right because Chris Young had already established himself in center. I don’t think that should rule him out as a possible center fielder. The cost to get him would be astronomical, but a lineup with Upton/Votto/Bruce/Phillips would be incredible

  25. Tonights lineup:

    Zack Cozart 6
    Chris Heisey 8
    Joey Votto 3
    Brandon Phillips 4
    Jay Bruce 9
    Ryan Ludwick 7
    Scott Rolen 5
    Devin Mesoraco 2
    Homer Bailey 1

    Down goes Frazier. Go figure. At least Stubbs out.

  26. @OhioJim:

    You make great points. I guess I have to say I don’t like Dusty’s managerial ways and I look for reasons why he won’t change.

  27. Reds regain first place by a half game with the Pirate loss today.

    A win tonight would make Cincy the fourth team in MLB with 50 wins.

  28. @George Culver:

    There are a lot of youguns in the lineup. You want one more? Perhaps this time there is a reason if you really do “go figure”.

    • @George Culver:

      There are a lot of youguns in the lineup. You want one more? Perhaps this time there is a reason if you really do “go figure”.

      @seat101: The best hitter of the young bunch? YES, want him in the lineup

  29. @seat101: I understand the importance of older players on the 25-man, but do the ages of the starting nine really matter? And other than the fly ball Frazier lost in LF (forget when, maybe against SD or somewhere out west before the break), he has shown no signs of rookie-ness that I can think of. I just don’t know how Frazier can hit a HR in game 1 (and score another run on the sac fly), then ride the bench for the next two games.

    That being said, I’m pretty okay with tonight’s lineup. I was half-expecting to see Cairo or Valdez starting somewhere, as Dusty likes to do on the give-away… er… get-away game of the series. Let’s bring out the brooms tonight!

  30. I just can’t believe they will get Pierre. Forget the part with the bat which is what it is, while he’s got the speed to play center, the guy does not have an arm at all. Pierre hasn’t really played there much it looks like for five years. If they get him, that’s where he is going to have to play.

    No matter how you add that up, I don’t see how he lifts up anything more than riding with what we got. I got to think eventually Stubbs will get some more hits at some point, so hopefully he’s bottomed out again and he can get on one of his streaks at some point.

  31. I feel reluctant calling for a trade when the Reds really aren’t bad off, but at least consider a trade on the bench? Valdez and maybe someone else for someone who bats in the upper .200s as a lefty?

    Ask me again on Tuesday. I’ll probably say everyone needs to go except Votto. trading feels liek a game of extremes sometimes.

  32. I like Frazier, a lot . I am not the manager. Dusty is. Are you surprised that Rolen and Ludwick are in the lineup? And do you agree that I have pretty much described Dusty’s thinking?

    Tangentially, I am sure if Frazier were to fall flat on his face tonight, it would not set him back, as it might do to another youngster (see Chapman, A), but Dusty might think so, eh?

  33. What Ludwick’s emergence should mean is that Stubbs gets to sit more while Heisey starts in CF. I like dc’s line-up with BP leading off and Ludwick hitting 4th. We’ll never see it if the Reds pick up a question mark like Pierre.

    It’s doubtful the Reds get a player like Span or DeJesus because of the trade cost. If they are just going to pick up another mediocre player, I would rather the Reds try their in-house solutions first.

  34. Steve, I’m curious about any research on the effectiveness of platooning players. Does it really work? How about when it involves players in their first few years in majors? How do prospects ever get in any rhythm if they don’t play everyday? Thanks.

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