Moments ago, I was perusing the most recent ZiPS projections for the Reds and I noticed something. ZiPS thinks Billy Hamilton is better than Ryan Ludwick right now.

I don’t happen to agree. I actually think Ludwick will be fine (just wait until my season-preview series, it’s coming soon! [that exclamation point means you should be excited]), but what if ZiPS is right on both fronts? How would you feel about an OF of Choo in left, Hamilton in center, and Bruce in right? It’s a lot better defensively and maybe better overall.

So, yeah, let’s have a fight about it.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 94 Comments

  1. They’re predicting Billy Hamilton to hit for a higher batting average and OBP but for Ludwick to hit 21 homeruns and for Hamilton to steal 54 bases. I guess they gave Ludwick an advantage for being a power hitter, which seems kinda unfair, as they play a very different role. In the end the predictions are nonsense.

    As I’ve said before, look at Bronson Arroyo and his 164.7 innings pitched. Where does somebody pull out that projection?

  2. I do not feel ZIPs is saying Billy is better than Ludwick at all in its projections. WAR is still an accumulation stat (based on playing time). ZIPS gives Billy 161 more Plate Appearances than Ludwick which accounts for the .5 difference in WAR. If you view their projected WOBA, Ludwick has .25 edge (.330 to .305). OPS+ says Ludwick (104) would be a slightly above average player, while suggesting Billy will struggle immensely (81). WAR is not an end all be all stat in Sabermetrics.

    I also think it’s a bit premature to say Hamilton after 17 games in the AFL is already polished enough to make the Reds better defensively in CF. I think he will be quite good there once he becomes fully acclimated to the position. I would rather revisit this subject in August if Ludwick is struggling.

  3. @redsfanman: It’s a bit cavalier to call “nonsense” on these. ZiPS typically performs very well. With Arroyo, the computer system sees an aging pitcher who was really bad two years ago and expects a decline. This is where we, as fans, can add specialized knowledge to improve on a projection using something a computer can’t see.

    I don’t know what you mean by “gave Ludwick an advantage” as I say, ZiPS clearly sees Hamilton as the better player overall (1.6 WAR to 1.1 WAR). I suspect defense plays a role there as well.

    In any case, while I would never advocate taking a projection system at face value, I would also never advocate the outright dismissal you provide. These things are very carefully constructed. When they show us something we don’t expect, it’s a good opportunity to question whether or not our perception might not be correct. Sometimes we’ll be right and the projection will be wrong, but more often, I’ve found, the reverse is true.

  4. @Sean: First, I agree with you totally. I mean, I absolutely think his speed would make him the best defensive outfielder on the Reds right now, but there is no reason to call him up.

    It is an interesting question, though. The PA difference doesn’t, in fact, erase all of the WAR disparity (though it does erase much of it). And what if, for instance, I’m wrong and Ludwick just falls apart and Choo really struggles in center and Hamilton does well in Louisville and then it’s the end of May? I don’t think all of those things will happen, but it’s possible, and it’s neat to think about how the team could try on a different look if they did.

    And yes, believe me, I know WAR is not a be all end all stat, but it is the best individual metric we have for valuing players. Neyer had a good post about this the other day: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2013/2/1/3942018/baseball-analysis-war-sabermetrics-scary-stuff

  5. If that scenario were to come about, I can already hear the debate about what that would do to the lineup. As in, who bats fourth? Phillips? Heaven and earth would come crashing down if Dusty’s Reds had two lefties hit back to back in the heart of the order, so would Phillips have to drop to fourth, with Hamilton and Choo hitting first and second? I’m not envisioning Dusty would trust Frazier to hit cleanup…. As with everybody else, though, I’m eager to see what Hamilton does in AAA.

  6. @Brian Van Hook: An interesting point that this discussion does raise is that the Reds will shortly need a long term solution in left. Ludwick will turn into a pumpkin eventually, and they don’t exactly have much in the pipeline right now where the outfield is concerned. Put more simply: Hamilton will replace Choo, but who will replace Ludwick?

  7. The last thread made me long for the good old days of Zippy.

    So far, on this thread, no one is really being rude.

  8. Let’s also remember that if we take it as a given that Dusty won’t bat lefties back to back (e.g. Votto/Bruce), then he also won’t do it with Choo/Votto. So, does Hamilton become the two hitter?

    I think either way, the idea of Hamilton and Choo getting on base ahead of Votto is enticing, but who do you bump from the roster? Are we going to let XP go? Is Ludwick willing to be a 4th OF? Are we willing to pay someone what we’re paying him to be a 4th OF?

  9. Billyrubin,
    whom do we bump? The extra man who has the best ST! Just like last year!
    I like exclamation point theme today!

  10. I don’t think the risk of retarding his development is worth it. If he tears up AAA, there may be a place for him on the roster during the second half. What a weapon he could be! . . . Otherwise, a full year at AAA should help him offensively and defensively.

    • I don’t think the risk of retarding his development is worth it.If he tears up AAA, there may be a place for him on the roster during the second half.What a weapon he could be! . . . Otherwise, a full year at AAA should help him offensively and defensively.

      That is, “not worth it.”

  11. Two points:

    1) Setting Hamilton aside, could I see Ludwick having a downright crummy year? Absolutely. He’s at that age where power hitting corner players simply drop off the face of the earth.

    2) I harp on this all the time (forgive me), but when you factor in how bad Choo will probably be in CF, could the Reds be better off in LF/CF with Choo/Hamilton instead of Ludwick/Choo? I think it’s possible. That doesn’t mean that Hamilton would be better than Ludwick, but it might be better for the Reds to play him. There’s two different questions involved.

  12. I still think that in spring training, Bruce will become the CF… but if Choo and Bruce were the corners with Hamilton in center, I have no doubt that the outfield would be much much better defensively. I have no idea if it’d be better offensively, though I think in the long run it’ll be so much more beneficial to let Hamilton take another year to develop in AAA at a new position rather than learn that new position on a team that is ready to win it all in 2013. No space for people to go through growing pains.. after a let down 2012 playoff loss, there’s no more time to waste this window of this talent overloaded Reds team.

  13. When I watch Ludwick play left… He looks pretty darn solid. That said, in big outfields, I expect we will see Heisey play more center with Choo moving to left or right occasionally. Everybody plays on Baker’s team. If Rolen comes back and they let Frazier occasionally back up at short (or Hannahan)… this bench will be very dangerous late in games at the plate.

  14. Totally double posting here.. but I saw how little they thought of Frazier when the player he’s compared to is Wade Rowdon… a guy who played 78 games in 5 major league seasons, compiling a .217/.283/.299 career line…. you’re telling me Todd Frazier’s #1 Comparison is a guy with a Career OPS of .583, had 6 career doubles, 1 career homer, and never had a single season of positive WAR?

    Can I be a cavalier and call “nonsense” on that at least Jason? Hah

  15. Random notes related to this topics:
    -Dusty Baker has shown a reluctance to ask the only two lefties (usually Votto and Bruce) in the lineup to hit back-to back, but change may be coming on that front. This year we MIGHT see lineups including Choo, Hamilton, Votto, Bruce, and Hannahan in the same game.
    -Billy Hamilton, I think he’d hit #2 or in the bottom of the lineup as long as Choo is around. They brought in Choo to be the leadoff hitter because he’s shown he can do well in that role, while whenever Hamilton makes his debut he’ll just be trying to adjust to playing MLB. They won’t want to rush him into a role that Choo is better suited for.
    -CF, I heard Walt Jocketty on the radio and he made the convincing point that they’re trying to build this team around guys like Jay Bruce, I really doubt he’ll be moved temporarily (for one year) to CF. It’s Shin-Shoo Choo’s job, until Choo leaves Cincinnati or moves to LF. Originally I thought Bruce would see time in center… but I don’t believe it anymore.
    -Xavier Paul, I think he’s a pretty sure thing to make the opening day roster but his future is very unclear, hopefully he’ll do well but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see him gone before the All Star break.
    -Ludwick, I think he’ll hit fine. Remember, he started slow in 2012 and kept getting better as the season progressed. I just hope he’ll get off to a faster start.
    -Rolen, I said it before and I’ll say it again, he isn’t coming back. He’s not getting a roster spot unless one opens up. Opening the season with three thirdbasemen and no backup shortstop doesn’t make any sense for anyone.

  16. I think you have to view the ZIPS projections with a healthy degree of skepticism. In addition to comparing Todd Frazier to Wade Rowdon, they also compare Chad Reineke to R. A. Dickey.

    Where the Reds’ outfield is concerned, it is very exciting to think of Billy Hamilton as the everyday center fielder. But I just don’t see where he’s better than Ludwick right now. We know Hamilton can run, but he has yet to answer whether he has learned his new position well enough to play in the majors, to say nothing of the questions about the readiness of his bat.

    I would be very surprised to see him with the Reds before late summer barring one of the following:

    1. He has a phenomenal spring and is so dazzling with the glove that he can’t be left off the roster.

    2. Ludwick does, indeed, fall off the cliff and none of the players who would replace him (Heisey, Paul and possibly Phipps) do any better.

    3. Multiple injuries in the outfield

    In years past, I would include the possibility of a mid-summer salary dump, but I really can’t see that happening this year.

    Personally, I think Ludwick will be productive enough that it really won’t be an issue. Anyway, it’s a nice luxury to be able to let a top prospect develop.

  17. Since when did BH become such a great outfielder. He has never been considered a good defensive player. That is why he is being switched to OF from SS. He couldn’t play SS. Ans when did Choo become such a liability in the OF. No he is not as fast as Hamilton. However he has never been considered a bad fielder. Why switch Bruce to CF for one year, when BH is expected to be here next year.Ludwick plays a very decent LF so what is the problem there. I hate to tell you this people, we don’t even know that BH can hit major league pitching.

    • Since when did BH become such a great outfielder. He has never been considered a good defensive player. That is why he is being switched to OF from SS. He couldn’t play SS. Ans when did Choo become such a liability in the OF. No he is not as fast as Hamilton. However he has never been considered a bad fielder. Why switch Bruce to CF for one year, when BH is expected to be here next year.Ludwick plays a very decent LF so what is the problem there. I hate to tell you this people, we don’t even know that BH can hit major league pitching.

      The fact that Hamilton might not be able to cut it at SS seems to me to be independent of whether he will be able to cut it in CF. It was not like he had problems catching fly balls at SS.

    • Since when did BH become such a great outfielder. He has never been considered a good defensive player. That is why he is being switched to OF from SS. He couldn’t play SS. Ans when did Choo become such a liability in the OF. No he is not as fast as Hamilton. However he has never been considered a bad fielder. Why switch Bruce to CF for one year, when BH is expected to be here next year.Ludwick plays a very decent LF so what is the problem there. I hate to tell you this people, we don’t even know that BH can hit major league pitching.

      Correct BH was never considered a great defensive player. But, that’s not the only reason for his move. In CF, he will hopefully stay healthier and no collide into other players several times a game, etc. SS is a lot more stressful of a position than CF.

  18. @bigklu18: I think that Ludwick would DEFINITELY outhit Hamilton, even with the regression that I expect from Ludwick. I do think Hamilton in center would give the Reds their optimal team in the short term. I think Hamilton in center and Choo in left will result in more “net runs” then Choo in center and Ludwick in LF. I think Hamilton’s defense (even at this point in time) will be better than Choo or Bruce in CF. But I still think the Reds should wait on Hamilton. First, I think that the difference probably wouldn’t be that large, and ZIPS more or less agrees. Second, I’m pretty sure that rushing Hamilton up will limit his ceiling as a hitter. Nevermind, the defense, I’m very confident that he can become a good defensive CF. I’ve mentioned this in earlier posts. The faster the Reds bring Hamilton up, the more likely he becomes a one dimensional player. I have no idea whatsoever if he will ever be more than a slap hitter, but it seems unlikely that he will if he comes up this year. At the first 0/15 slump he runs into, and it’s “just lay down a bunt and use those wheels.” I’d like him to have a mature approach to hitting, if at all possible.

  19. @bigklu18: I’m not sure how I responded to you on the last one. But I’ll do it know with something more relevant!

    1. Hamilton probably isn’t a “fundamentally sound outfielder” yet. He’s probably going to take bad routes sometimes, and might misplay some caroms off of the walls. I think I remember reading that most of his issues at SS were because his arm was inaccurate and a bit weak for the position. His range in particular (suprise!) is supposed to be really good. I think his flat out speed and athletism will make him an average CF at the MLB level. They used to say that Mantle was terrible fundamentally in CF at first. The ball went off of the bat, and he would just run someplace. But he was fast enough to correct and still make the play. I can see Hamilton doing that initially.

    2. The scouting reports on Choo lately have been “heckuva arm”. And…the rest. Think of an older, slower Jay Bruce, who takes bad routes. Not my ingredients for a CF, but like I said, I’m willing to give it a shot.

    3. Last year was first time I heard “Ludwick” and “solid fielder” in the same sentence since he started with the Cardinals. I don’t think he’s Gomes or Manny out there, but let’s not get carried away.

    4. As I said above, I think that Billy can “hit” major league pitching right now. It will just be at the expense of any plate discipline or sustainable hit skill he has. Which I reallllllllly don’t want to see.

  20. Juicy debate. Enjoying the read on this one.

  21. Hamilton is still a prospect at this point. That could mean either a Seaver or a Gruler. Let the minors dictate his course right now.

    I was imagining the days when the outfield would consist of Choo/Heisey/Bruce. I think all opposing baserunners would really think twice before taking the extra base.

  22. @bigklu18: I’ll answer some of your questions.
    1. When did Billy Hamilton become such a great outfielder? When Drew Stubbs was traded for Shin-Shoo Choo the requirement for an improvement defensively dropped significantly.
    2. When did Choo become such a liability in the outfield? When they announced he was being converted to CF, a position he isn’t really cut out for. Playing fine in a corner outfield spot doesn’t necessarily make a guy a capable centerfielder.
    3. Doesn’t Ludwick play a very decent LF? He did fine but he frequently got removed late in games in favor a defensive replacement and that’s likely to happen again in 2013.

    • @bigklu18: I’ll answer some of your questions.
      1.When did Billy Hamilton become such a great outfielder?When Drew Stubbs was traded for Shin-Shoo Choo the requirement for an improvement defensively dropped significantly.
      2.When did Choo become such a liability in the outfield?When they announced he was being converted to CF, a position he isn’t really cut out for.Playing fine in a corner outfield spot doesn’t necessarily make a guy a capable centerfielder.
      3.Doesn’t Ludwick play a very decent LF?He did fine but he frequently got removed late in games in favor a defensive replacement and that’s likely to happen again in 2013.

      1) Huh?
      2) So, just because he’s mostly played a corner position means he isn’t cut out for CF? That’s like saying before 1975, Pete Rose wouldn’t make a good 3rd baseman because he’s never played 3rd base. How about giving the guy a chance at it on a regular basis before passing judgement. Not to mention, you have seen who’s been playing CF for the Indians, right. Guys like Michael Brantley and Grady Sizemore. I would start them in CF, also, before most others.
      3) What would you consider frequently? Take out the last week of the season, when we clinched and, thus, Baker would look to rest players more, Ludwick got pulled about 10 times over the last 2 months. I don’t find that very frequent.

      • 1) Huh?
        2) So, just because he’s mostly played a corner position means he isn’t cut out for CF?That’s like saying before 1975, Pete Rose wouldn’t make a good 3rd baseman because he’s never played 3rd base.How about giving the guy a chance at it on a regular basis before passing judgement.Not to mention, you have seen who’s been playing CF for the Indians, right.Guys like Michael Brantley and Grady Sizemore.I would start them in CF, also, before most others.
        3) What would you consider frequently?Take out the last week of the season, when we clinched and, thus, Baker would look to rest players more, Ludwick got pulled about 10 times over the last 2 months.I don’t find that very frequent.

        Steve, the only thing I’ll take issue with is the Pete Rose comment…he wasn’t a good third baseman…he was adequate…and no matter how bad he’d have been, the offense from getting Foster in the lineup (and getting Vukovich out) would have been worth it.

  23. On a certain level, you might as well ask “Who’s better, John Havlicek or Jodie Foster?” Hamilton and Ludwick have completely different skill sets, and it depends on how much one thinks WAR in general and WAR projections in specific are very useful.

    I’d rather be Hamilton’s agent.

  24. *sigh*… Like the posters here really need more to argue about:|

  25. The Reds have been particular about defense the last few years. They have really put a strong emphasis on it. This makes me think that the Reds front-office doesn’t believe that Choo will be a terrible CF. Perhaps they think he will be below average but if they thought he would be terrible, I don’t think the Reds would have traded for him with the idea that he was going to play CF.

    I’ve seen Choo play quite a bit and although some of the metrics say otherwise, I feel he is an above-average RF. He has more speed than I think a lot of people here are giving him credit for. It’s also much easier to read the ball of the bat in CF is so much easier than it is on the corners. Choo has enough speed and enough arm that I think he’ll be ok out there. He’ll certainly not be a plus defender there but I think he’s a better option than Bruce and not quite as abysmal as some posters seem to think.

    As for Hamilton, I think unless there are a rash of OF injuries or unless the Reds fall from contention, he should remain in AAA until September.

    • The Reds have been particular about defense the last few years. They have really put a strong emphasis on it. This makes me think that the Reds front-office doesn’t believe that Choo will be a terrible CF. Perhaps they think he will be below average but if they thought he would be terrible, I don’t think the Reds would have traded for him with the idea that he was going to play CF.

      I’ve seen Choo play quite a bit and although some of the metrics say otherwise, I feel he is an above-average RF. He has more speed than I think a lot of people here are giving him credit for. It’s also much easier to read the ball of the bat in CF is so much easier than it is on the corners. Choo has enough speed and enough arm that I think he’ll be ok out there. He’ll certainly not be a plus defender there but I think he’s a better option than Bruce and not quite as abysmal as some posters seem to think.

      As for Hamilton, I think unless there are a rash of OF injuries or unless the Reds fall from contention, he should remain in AAA until September.

      Perhaps the Reds think that the offense is so much better than what they had in CF, and that Choo won’t be good, but will be competent or slightly below average. That is possible.

  26. It’s important to remember that Hamilton hasa grand total of one Arizona Fall League’s worth of experience as an outfielder. Yeah, he’s fast. But there’s a lot more to playing CF than just speed. To suggest that he could start int he majors as a CF right now is ludicrous. Let the man develop.

  27. @bigklu18:

    The advanced defensive metrics show Choo as being historically bad in CF and merely downright bad in RF.

  28. @LWBlogger: how long I want Billy Hamilton to remain in AAA depends entirely on how well he hits in AAA. Also his likely teammates in Louisville, Derrick Robinson and Ryan LaMarre, can play centerfield and might be options for promotion for some role, if they hit well and if there is an opening mid-season.

    • @LWBlogger: how long I want Billy Hamilton to remain in AAA depends entirely on how well he hits in AAA.Also his likely teammates in Louisville, Derrick Robinson and Ryan LaMarre, can play centerfield and might be options for promotion for some role, if they hit well and if there is an opening mid-season.

      What if Hamilton has an OBP of .450 with a BA of say .350 around June/July of this year. What’s he going to do on the big club—take Choo’s place? I don’t see it, aside from a pinch runner type in the postseason.

  29. @per14: Please note the sample size on his work in CF (83 innings). Also, Choo showed as really bad last year in RF according to the defensive metrics but his performance last year wasn’t typical of him and has skewed his career numbers in RF. I am also not a firm believer in defensive metrics telling the whole story about a player’s defensive contributions. They certainly should be considered but I find it hard to believe that Choo will be an overwhelming defensive liability.

  30. @Hank Aarons Teammate: I should have specified that a spot would need to open in the Reds’ outfield for me to want Hamilton to be promoted, most likely through an injury. If there is an opening I hope Billy Hamilton isn’t rushed if he isn’t hitting well – the Reds have other centerfielders.

    Whose is Billy Hamilton most likely to take playing time away from in 2013? Ryan Ludwick, I’d expect, with Choo moving to LF. And a lineup of Choo, Hamilton, Votto, Phillips, and Bruce. But that depends on a lot of things (like certain guys staying healthy) unfolding in a certain way.

    Also, I think Choo’s numbers in CF (same with Bruce’s) are pretty irrelevant since he’s been a corner outfielder for so long. He’s years older now and in effect Choo’s career as a centerfielder starts over from scratch. The best predictions we can make about his performance in center will come from what we hear from scouts.

  31. I suspect I’ve posted this before, but just because Choo won’t be Willie Mays in center field, the skepticism here — in some parts, at least — seems to paint him as the next Dave Kingman. For those of you not old enough to remember Kingman on defense, he might well stand as the epitome of “every flyball is an adventure.” I can’t believe Choo would be that far below average. … I also agree with the post above and have said before that I find it increasingly unlikely that the Reds would ask Jay Bruce to move to center if it’s only for one year. Do I think he could do it with some success? Yes, sure. But I can’t imagine it being done for just a year. Should be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

    • I also agree with the post above and have said before that I find it increasingly unlikely that the Reds would ask Jay Bruce to move to center if it’s only for one year. Do I think he could do it with some success? Yes, sure. But I can’t imagine it being done for just a year.

      I’m curious why so many believe, or even that the Reds believe, that it may be a bad idea to move Jay Bruce to CF, even if it’s for just a year? I don’t understand what the drawback of moving him back to the position where he played for nearly two-thirds of his minor league career and where he also actually put up better FP and RF/G numbers than in RF. He’s even already volunteered to make the switch, so it’s not like he’d have any problems with it. I just don’t see what the concerns with moving him to CF is, especially if it makes the Reds better next season. It’s not like he is going to play RF for when Hamilton finally gets the call.

      • It’s not like he is going to play RF for when Hamilton finally gets the call.

        Ooops, meant to say, “It’s not like he is going to forget how to play RF for when Hamilton finally gets the call.”

  32. By the way, thanks for changing that poll question. See the reference to last year’s playoffs still gives me the creeps …

  33. @Brian Van Hook: The level-headed analysis I’ve seen seems to think Choo will be something like -10ish runs in center and still more valuable than Stubbs overall.

  34. @Jason Linden: Just wondering: does this include the assumption that Baker takes Choo out for the 8th and 9th with a lead, and puts in a better defensive CF? I still think that could happen, especially perhaps with a July trade. You can pick up a really good fielding, terrible hitting, OF easily before the trading deadline.

    Probably wouldn’t change the -10 much, but maybe in high leverage situations…?

  35. @Hank Aarons Teammate: I wonder how you could weight such a thing. How many late and close situations are there in a season?

    As for a CF acquisition, I think it would depend on the Reds’ opinion of Heisey’s defense. Some say he’s amazing! Others say he dives because he is stretched in center. I thought Heisey would be the regular CF replacement, and probable starter on bigger fields.

    • @Hank Aarons Teammate: I wonder how you could weight such a thing. How many late and close situations are there in a season?

      As for a CF acquisition, I think it would depend on the Reds’ opinion of Heisey’s defense. Some say he’s amazing! Others say he dives because he is stretched in center. I thought Heisey would be the regular CF replacement, and probable starter on bigger fields.

      Somehow I forgot about Heisey. That makes sense.

  36. @Tom Diesman: The Cincinnati Reds seem to feel like they are building a team around a core group of players, particularly Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips. They could’ve moved Votto to the outfield to make room for Yonder Alonso, Phillips to shortstop, or Bruce to center, but in each case the guy wouldn’t be as good defensively in his new position. If they want to build around Jay Bruce, fine with me. Pushing him around the field depending on the year doesn’t set a good impression. Choo or Bruce can adjust to CF but there’s no sense in disrupting Bruce’s whole career for one year.

  37. I hate the hype around prospects. Hamilton has played all of 50 games at AA and we want him to be the starting CF because ZiPS projects Hamilton to be better than Ludwick? Wow.

  38. @redsfanman:

    Bruce played center when he first came up and Griffey moved to right. Did that “disrupt his whole career”?

    Switching positions for one year for the benefit of the team, and switching from positions that are so similar should be nothing for a player of Bruce’s caliber, especially given that he has played well there before.

    Finally, Bruce himself has already offered to make the switch. If he’s willing, that doesn’t seem to be much of a disruption.

    To say it would “disrupt his whole career” is hyperbole at its best.

    • @redsfanman:

      Bruce played center when he first came up and Griffey moved to right. Did that “disrupt his whole career”?

      Switching positions for one year for the benefit of the team, and switching from positions that are so similar should be nothing for a player of Bruce’s caliber, especially given that he has played well there before.

      Finally, Bruce himself has already offered to make the switch. If he’s willing, that doesn’t seem to be much of a disruption.

      To say it would “disrupt his whole career” is hyperbole at its best.

      You know why Jay Bruce is being considered as an option to move to CF? Because he’s done it before, right after he came up, that’s why. Not because he was good at it, not because anybody expects him to be a good CF, but because he was mis-cast in that role in the past to get him into the lineup. Similarly Brandon Phillips faced years of questions about moving back to shortstop on the grounds that he had done it before. I think Bruce and Phillips should both stick in the role in which they’ve both been so successful and pressure to move them to another position is only distracting.

      • You know why Jay Bruce is being considered as an option to move to CF? Because he’s done it before, right after he came up, that’s why. Not because he was good at it, not because anybody expects him to be a good CF, but because he was mis-cast in that role in the past to get him into the lineup.

        I’m not sure how we can know he was “miscast.” The guy played CF coming up, but somehow that’s irrelevant? For all we know the reason the Reds moved him to RF was because they thought from a budget standpoint going forward, it would be easier to find a serviceable and cheaper CF than pay the big bucks to Bruce in CF and find a way to afford a power producing corner OF.

        Just because someone can pedal a bike really fast doesn’t mean they couldn’t be even more efficient if they learned the intricacies of situational gear shifting. Baseball in not as linear as some, Dusty included, would like it to be.

        As Steve was saying, what’s most important is that the team figures out what is best for the team this year, in balance with what is ideal for an individual… sometimes those things have to compete.

  39. @LWBlogger:

    Your point about sample size in CF is a good one. That said, he hasn’t played CF at all since 2009 (and that for 8 innings). I think it’s logical to assume that he hasn’t been playing CF for a reason. That combined with the fact that all the “scouts types” say playing him in CF is foolish has me worried.

    You know: they both have small sample sizes but Ludwick’s CF numbers are better than Choo’s. Am I suggesting that Ludwick should play CF? No, but that’s kind of the point. I’m not sure why there is confidence Choo can play CF well when it would be unthinkable to suggest Ludwick could despite the fact that the numbers (in small samples) show Ludwick as better.

    Choo has plenty of incentive to make himself into an adequate CF. It would certainly increase his value. He’s obviously athletic. So, I am cautiously hopeful!

  40. @CI3J: I’ll add that almost all OF think they are center-fielders and almost all infielders think they are shortstops. You are much more likely to get player buy in from a player moving from a corner OF spot to CF. I agree that moving Bruce to CF for a year isn’t going to be nearly the disruption that redsfanman is suggesting.

    That said, I think Choo will be right at the lower edge of “adequate” in CF so there is no need to move Bruce.

  41. @per14: The reason I’m a little more than cautiously hopeful is that with the Reds’ emphasis on defense, they traded for Choo to play CF for them. It makes me think that the Reds’ front-office and scouting staff seem to think that he’ll be adequate out there. I’m hoping they are right because as you point out, if the metrics and some other scouts are right, the Reds will have some pretty severe defensive shortcomings in CF.

  42. The Reds are trying to build a team around Jay Bruce, not to build Jay Bruce around their team. They have high hopes of him winning a Gold Glove in RF but a conversion to CF will be a setback. Going into the season I think their priority is for Jay Bruce to focus on being more consistent and less streaky as a hitter rather than focusing on a temporary conversion to centerfield.

    Shin-Shoo Choo, on the other hand, is a stop-gap solution in center. He’s only be around for one year, and he might play part time in LF (on Ludwick’s off days). If they think he can do it, fine with me. Choo has a big financial incentive to perform well to justify a huge multi-year free agent contract.

  43. Whether Choo or Bruce is the best CF for the Reds, I hope the organization is open-minded about it going into spring training. And I’m afraid (in fact, I’m pretty sure) they won’t be.

    Bottom line: Neither Choo or Bruce has played enough CF for them to be a “lock” for the job in February.

    The “disruption” theory is unfounded in my opinion. Players *routinely* play more than one position, often in the same year, month or week.

    If (and that’s an IF) the Reds are better defensively with Jay Bruce in CF and Choo in RF, that’s how they should line up on April 1.

    But Dusty Baker is going with “We traded for Choo to be the CF and that’s the way it is going to be.” Pretty strange for a guy who almost regularly questions and ignores the stated wishes of the GM for player positions (see Edgar Renteria, Fred Lewis, Aroldis Chapman, etc.)

    • @Steve Mancuso:

      Whether Choo or Bruce is the best CF for the Reds, I hope the organization is open-minded about it going into spring training. And I’m afraid (in fact, I’m pretty sure) they won’t be. Bottom line: Neither Choo or Bruce has played enough CF for them to be a “lock” for the job in February. The “disruption” theory is unfounded in my opinion. Players *routinely* play more than one position, often in the same year, month or week.If (and that’s an IF) the Reds are better defensively with Jay Bruce in CF and Choo in RF, that’s how they should line up on April 1. But Dusty Baker is going with “We traded for Choo to be the CF and that’s the way it is going to be.” Pretty strange for a guy who almost regularly questions and ignores the stated wishes of the GM for player positions (see Edgar Renteria, Fred Lewis, Aroldis Chapman, etc.)

      I’m late to the “argument” due to a heavy workload, and have only read about half the posts, so I apologize in advance if I’m responding as someone else has …

      I don’t get the Baker bashing on player positions. Renteria played a total of 2119 games in his career, with 2114 of them at SS, 4 games at 2B, and 1 game at 1B. Baker played him 86 games at SS and 4 games at 2B. Seems like every manager he ever played for thought he was a SS; where’s the beef?

      Similarly, Fred Lewis played a total of 418 games in his career, with 358 in LF (85%), 47 games in RF (11%), and only 28 games in CF (6%) (Baseball Reference’s game totals don’t add up, but you get the general idea). Baker played him 45 in LF (92%), and 4 games in RF (8%). Fairly consistent with his career averages with a total of 4 different teams over 7 years.

      We can “debate” Baker’s preference for where Chapman should be, and I for one, believe that he would have been a starter last year if not for the injuries to Madson, Masset, and Bray.

      However, one player does not form a pattern. At least not when you lead with Renteria and Lewis.

  44. @redsfanman: You present baseball as a caste system… Phillips at 2nd because he’s there, Bruce in RF because he’s there, Chapman to close because he’s there… and really only the players can decide if moving is a distraction… The best anyone can say is that it may impact overall performance, just maybe. But mostly that’s just narrative from lazy sportswriters (or broadcasters) or fans to explain negative performance. It’s set up for an error in logic that any difficulty on offense is to be explained by the mind bending of moving positions.

    I’d think an organization that doesn’t have immeasurable assets might benefit from being more flexible and fluid in how they use their assets. Building around a player is not defined by whether he makes a brown patch of grass in RF or CF. Josh Hamilton played 66 games in LF and 93 in CF in 2012. For a career, he’s played 247 (LF) 395 (CF) and 68 (RF). He’s done alright for himself. Whether or not the Rangers “built around him” was determined more by money and interpersonal issues, not where he spent half of each inning.

  45. @Steve Mancuso: Players who routinely play more than one position are usually labeled as utility players rather than stars. In my opinion Todd Frazier’s flexibility really held him back in the minors – unlike Juan Francisco, Zack Cozart, and Yonder Alonso he was never the starting 3b, SS, or 1b of the future because he kept shifting positions to whatever spot was open. Even now ‘Super Todd’ will only stay at thirdbase as long as Votto is healthy. It’s both a blessing and a curse for Frazier.

    @Matt WI: I don’t present baseball as a caste system, but I believe in ‘go with what works’. Chapman closing, Phillips at 2b, and Bruce in CF clearly works.

    Todd Frazier and Brandon Phillips were both drafted as shortstops. Joey Votto was drafted as a catcher. Jay Bruce was drafted as a centerfielder. As players develop as a professional they frequently are moved into a more appropriate role.

    Why was Jay Bruce playing CF coming up? Because they wanted to move Ken Griffey Jr to a corner and CF was the only opening. Their priority was to get Jay Bruce into the lineup and they planned things out accordingly, with the intention that he’d convert to a corner eventually. I don’t think they ever saw Jay Bruce as a long term solution in CF, and he doesn’t become a better candidate for CF years later.

  46. @redsfanman: I meant Bruce in RF clearly works, not Bruce in CF. I think Bruce has a good chance to win a Gold Glove in RF but he won’t be a candidate if they convert him to center.

  47. @redsfanman: Winning a GG has not inherent to the team winning the WS. It’s about net gains for the team, not always the individual. If nobody on this team ever wins a GG and they win a title, what’s wrong?

  48. Also, I don’t think anybody here is saying that if Bruce were to play CF he would be as good there or better than RF. He might be though. He could be a lot worse. He might just be the best CF this year. But still, the team shouldn’t inherently be afraid of change for fear of “what if?”

    The team, the team, the team. What can make the team better? So unless somebody here is an agent for a player and has a vested interest in individual performance, it should be: The team, the team, the team.

  49. @Matt WI: I don’t believe for a second that the choice between Choo and Bruce in CF will have any bearing on the World Series. Jay Bruce winning a Gold Glove in RF will be a positive regardless of whether or not the Reds win the World Series.

    If you believe the difference in defense provided by Choo vs Bruce is enough to decide whether or not the Reds reach the World Series I guess we’re in a big disagreement over the significance of the decision regarding CF.

  50. @Matt WI: I think something to worry about with moving Jay Bruce (or Chapman) is collateral damage. You’re not just adding a question mark to the new role (CF), you’re weakening his previous role. I think everybody has more confidence in Jay Bruce in RF than in Shin-Shoo Choo. Weaken the defense in CF or weaken the defense in both CF AND RF? I’d choose the former and assume they can get by.

    It’s also worth recognizing that with Drew Stubbs gone the starting CF won’t be playing CF in every inning of every game. In 2012 Ryan Ludwick frequently got removed in favor of a defensive replacement. I expect the same thing to happen in 2013, although I think the defensive replacement (presumably Chris Heisey) would play CF and the starting CF would replace Ludwick in LF. It seems reasonable and realistic. Jay Bruce has never played LF, Shin-Shoo Choo has played LF a lot more than he’s played CF. In my opinion Choo’s experience in left also gives him an edge in CF.

    It’s nice that Jay Bruce offered to move to CF. It’s nice when Brandon Phillips offers to lead off. It’s nice when players volunteer to do things that they aren’t appropriate for to help the team. It doesn’t mean that taking them up on their offers is the best course of action.

  51. @redsfanman: I can’t remember who posted this…maybe Sultan? Preach?

    Anyway, when I was rending my garments over Stubbs’ lost defense, they posted a breakdown of “number of plays to CF” per game. I can’t remember the specifics, but I believe the point was that a “hard” CF play occurs, on average, once every three games or something. Does anyone remember that?

    • @Jared Wynne:

      I can’t remember the specifics, but I believe the point was that a “hard” CF play occurs, on average, once every three games or something. Does anyone remember that?

      I don’t know if we are refering to the same discussion, but the post I remember was completely subjective and intentionally erred on the side of giving more credit to the impact of Stubbs’ defense than it probably deserved.

  52. @redsfanman: You distort. You don’t even think it matters but go to great lengths to disprove an idea? I really don’t give a hoot if Bruce is in CF or not… simply advocating that anything is worth a look, and hoping people will consider possibilities without presenting opinion as fact or unfounded doom and gloom. I don’t give a hoot if Bruce wins a GG ever… there’s often a disconnect between an award and what is true. Just want a guy to help the Reds win, you know? I can openly acknowledge that Choo might be the best call, I hope he’s a rock star out there…

    Discussion is so much better when we can acknowledge the other side. There is such a huge difference between presenting an idea as “it is this way” vs “it might be this way” and understanding what we can know and not know, or how understanding how circumstantial evidence may or may not be informative. Sometimes exploring ideas like this is just fun, without making it right or wrong. It’s part of what (usually) makes this blog awesome, but somehow I feel I’ve unintentionally become part of the problem by failing to recognize what cannot be changed, even if the intent was trying to keep this place a little more awesome… for that, my apologies at large.

    Go Reds.

  53. @Matt WI: I’m kinda lost. I wouldn’t say I’m going to great lengths to disprove an idea, I’m just saying that it (Bruce moving to CF) isn’t going to happen and explaining reasons why, in part reiterating the points that I heard Walt Jocketty make recently on 700WLW. Initially I thought converting Bruce was worthy of consideration but I changed my mind – it’s not. As far as I’m concerned you’re welcome to make points about why converting Jay Bruce to CF is a good idea but I’ll continue to make points about why it isn’t.

    I care if Reds players win awards like Gold Gloves. I like seeing Reds players recognized as the best of the best. Brandon Phillips missing out in 2012 was very disappointing, albeit unimportant. I’d rather see a Gold Glove RF and a mediocre defensive CF playing next to each other than two mediocre defensive outfielders.

    I think a problem we have is that we’re predicting what will happen in upcoming baseball games and it’s not even baseball season. There’s snow all over the ground all around here. Also all we’re left with are minor details – which guy plays where, who gets a final roster spot – rather than old fashion debates about the lineup and playing time.

  54. Also I believe that Shin-Shoo Choo can hit well enough and consistently enough to offset criticisms of his fielding. Jay Bruce is known for his hot streaks and long slumps, frequent periods of criticism which don’t need to be expanded upon to include criticisms about his defense in CF. I want Jay Bruce’s attention to be focused on becoming a more consistent hitter.

  55. @redsfanman: You’re sort of begging the question. If we *assume* that there isn’t much difference between Choo and Bruce in CF, then of course, why move Jay Bruce to CF. You sort of create the conclusion based on the initial assumption.

    My point was that we don’t know if this statement — “There isn’t much difference between Choo and Bruce in CF” — is right or not. My opinion is the Reds should use at least the first part of Spring Training to find out. If Choo = Bruce, then Bruce moves back to RF. It’s really laughable to assert that a couple-week experimental period is going to be distracting or cause any lingering impact.

    I’m saying the Reds don’t have enough information and they should go into spring training with an open mind.

    IF (again, if) Bruce is a significantly better CF than Choo, then he should play there this year. To say that “can’t affect the World Series” is to make every single Reds decision unimportant if it can’t be connected to “winning the World Series.

  56. @Steve Mancuso: I’ve heard tell of a guy that once won the triple crown and MVP the same year he switched corners of the infield.

  57. @Steve Mancuso: Walt Jocketty seemed pretty sure that he had enough information already after talking to scouts and other Reds personnel. I’ve never seen Choo play but I’ll trust Jocketty’s judgment. There’s more to consider in the equation than just CF, including defense in RF, role of the CF (who will probably shift and replaced Ludwick in LF), and priorities Jay Bruce should have short and long term.

    @Matt WI: Unfortunately Miguel Cabrera’s fielding percentage is much lower at 3b than anywhere else. That’s why he was moved away. The Tigers accepted a defensive liability to get Miguel Cabrera’s bat in the lineup and the Reds are going to do something similar with Shin-Shoo Choo.

  58. For those members of the Nation that don’t follow twitter, it looks like Cris Carpenter is done for the year and his career.

  59. @Shchi Cossack: Really?? Wow. I kinda thought he would be around until he was 50, and annoying the crap out of me. What an amazing career for that guy. Still a jerk! Heavens, he is still a jerk. But what a career.

  60. @Shchi Cossack: That’s too bad. Tough one for the Cards, I wonder if it puts Lohse back in play?

    Also, the Reds should probably make sure the players are not available to Hal McCoy after Gomes and “Wainwright-gate.”

  61. Not only is Chris Carpenter finished but there are still injury concerns about Jaime Garcia. It’ll be interesting to see if the Cardinals can still make a deal with free agent Kyle Lohse or if they’ll go for a young rotation with Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, and Lance Lynn competing for spots. And Westbrook and Wainwright.

    My favorite memory of Chris Carpenter is him being tackled by Scott Rolen in the Brandon Phillips’ fight.

  62. Carpenter caused the destructive part of that fight. I was sitting about fifteen feet from it (Section 120, second row). The BP-YM fight had mostly ended but everyone was still on the field. Scott Rolen was shepherding Dusty Baker back to the dugout (remember that Baker and LaRussa really went at it in the first part of the fight). As Rolen and Baker passed in front of me, Carpenter said something to Baker that made Rolen so mad he went after Carpenter right up against the netting. That’s what triggered the Cueto and LaRue part of the skirmish. I couldn’t quite hear what Carpenter said, but it must have really been something awful to provoke Rolen, who was trying hard to be a peacemaker, that severely. There is zero doubt in my mind that Carpenter is responsible for that part of it.

  63. @Steve Mancuso: I don’t think ‘provoked’ is the right word, I don’t think Carpenter offended Rolen or anything, I think Rolen was just trying to protect his friend and former teammate (Carpenter) from getting into trouble. Rolen clearly wasn’t trying to hit anyone or hurt anyone, he just seemed determined to do everything he could to make people act professionally. But that’s just my opinion. Still, that image is what I’ll always remember Chris Carpenter for.

    • reds

      Dude, read Steve’s quote. Rolen went after Carpenter. And, you say Rolen was trying to protect Carpenter? From what, someone else from getting to him before he did?

      • Dude, read Steve’s quote.Rolen went after Carpenter.And, you say Rolen was trying to protect Carpenter?From what, someone else from getting to him before he did?

        In the video it looks like Rolen is trying to restrain and calm Carpenter, not hurt or punish him. Maybe to keep him from throwing punches, getting punched, or getting suspended. My impression is that they are friends and former teammates rather than adversaries.

        In the video when Cueto starts kicking people you can see Joey Votto and Homer Bailey doing something similar, grabbing Johnny Cueto and shoving him out of the middle of everything.

        Oh well, not important.

        @steveschoen:
        What? I agree that promoting Billy Hamilton is now even more appealing than it was before due to diminished range of the centerfielders on the roster following Stubbs’ trade. I never said Choo wasn’t capable of playing CF, I’ve implied that I think it’ll be tougher for him to perform well than in a corner spot, and I don’t think that’s in dispute. What would I consider ‘frequent’ regarding Ludwick getting pulled? It just seemed like under the right circumstances – the team ahead, his spot in the batting order presumably finished for the game, Ludwick (not Bruce or Stubbs) would get removed in favor of a defensive replacement. How often did that come up? I don’t know, but enough times to notice a trend. Ludwick got pulled before the other outfielders. I think that trend will continue in 2013 with Choo moving to LF, but we’ll see.

  64. @redsfanman: I’m starting to think there is literally nothing I could say that you wouldn’t find some way to disagree. I’ll repeat, I was sitting fifteen feet from the part of the fight where Carpenter *provoked* Scott Rolen. Rolen was on his way back to the dugout, with Baker in tow, when Carpenter said something that caused Rolen to head straight for Carpenter – the fight had stopped, Carpenter’s taunt and Rolen’s response restarted it. Maybe by the end, Rolen was protecting Carpenter (and himself) from the crowd, but there’s no doubt the fight had stopped until Carpenter said something. That’s provocation.

  65. Here’s how John Fay (and virtually everyone else) reported the fight and the Carpenter-Rolen part: “Molina took off his mask and got right in Phillips’ face. Scott Rolen came out and got Molina away from Phillips. Benches and bullpen cleared. Things calmed down. But it erupted when Rolen went after Chris Carpenter.”

    From Yahoo: Molina and Phillips were separated, and the fight seemed to die a few seconds later with Scott Rolen(notes) — a former Cardinals player — trying to make peace. When Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa started to jaw among the umpires, Carpenter (the Cards’ starting pitcher Monday night) interjected and screamed at Baker, which re-ignited the fight.

    Here’s the video (good times…) and around 1:20, you can see that Carpenter provoked the resumption of the skirmish. Rolen drives him into the wall.

    If Carpenter’s career is over, I’m not a bit sorry.

  66. I’m with Steve on this. Carpender is a faux gamer. He wasn’t durable, especially well-liked, and was the valedictorian of the LaRussa/Duncan School of Bitching and Moaning. Did you know: Carpenter has approximately 20 more wins in his career than Bronson (and is 2 years older). Good riddance to a legendary d-bag.

  67. Carpenter, that is (darn iPhone and sausage fingers).

  68. @Drew Mac: Great observation…puts into perspective how awesome Bronson is…No?

  69. I know this isn’t the forum for this, but on the heels of Ryan Braun’s name appearing in records of a certain doctor in Miami, I thought it was worth mentioning. I simply have to think that the Reds brass made the Latos trade partly on suspicions of Grandal and Alonso. So, kudos to Walt and the others who advocated getting Mr. Latos.

  70. @Steve Mancuso: I DID watch the video before posting that. I keep it on my phone, ha. I guess it depends on your definition of ‘provoke’, Carpenter evoked a response from Rolen (who he wasn’t even yelling at) but I don’t think that response was anger. Oh well.

    @rewquiop: It puts into perspective how wins are a matter of persistence. Staying healthy has always been Carpenter’s big problem and Arroyo’s big strength. Arroyo can probably get up to #17 on the Reds’ all time win list this year, passing Jose Rijo and Mario Soto.

    @Drew Mac: I don’t believe that the Reds knew anything about Yasmani Grandal, and Yonder Alonso has yet to be implicated beyond his choice of colleges. The thing Grandal and Alonso had in common was that they were worthless to the Reds except as trade chips.

  71. Well if can’t agree that it is good riddance to Carpenter, will be ever agree on anything.

    I remember (about the fight) being surprised when I read later the “smoothing over” quotes from Rolen about Carpenter and what went on between them because the TV replays showed it happened like Steve recounted above.

    On the PED front, I think it is highly unfair to drag Alonso into the conversation at this point. I don’t think he has ever been connected with any of the rumors or in any way with the situation except that he went to the U with some overlap at the beginning of his college days with Braun and then Grandal at the other end of his college days. And I could be proven wrong tomorrow but Alonso is one of those folks who’s body type almost screams NOT a PED user.

    To say Walt traded Grandal because he suspected he was involved with the PED situation is also a bit of a slap at Walt’s integrity. If WJ had information that Grandal might have been involved with with PED’s he was duty bound to report him to MLB, not dump on him the trade market. And also for all any of us know, the Padres may have insisted on Grandal over Mesoraco (or anybody else) as a prerequisite of the deal.

  72. ryan braun again linked to miami PEDs? looks like University of Miami (surprise, surprise) might be a hot bed for baseball PEDS……Even more laughable is Braun saying he used Bosch (not a doctor) as a consultant for when he got busted the first time. Braun might be in trouble….this may be another big PED bust out story

  73. @zab1983: I hereby motion we call him ‘Lance’ Braun for the upcoming season.

  74. @Matt WI: Or ‘Braunstrong’, if he took PED to make him stronger.

  75. Maybe that was why I never got too far. I needed to take PEDs… Ok seriously, I’m kidding. Even for the oodles of money one could make, it just isn’t worth the toll on the body… I am so sick of hearing about PEDs in the game. It seems the media coverage for it is just too much. Let MLB finish their investigation and punish the guilty if there is enough proof. The constant coverage this is getting is taking away from the fact that pitchers and catchers are reporting soon.

  76. My favorite Minor Leaguer is 7th on the Reds prospect list. I was impressed with Ryan Wright the first time I saw him take an AB in Dayton. Very exciting.

  77. @earmbrister: I think Walt Jocketty acquires players and Dusty Baker is given leeway to decide how to use them. As a result some fans perceive Jocketty as the good guy who MUST agree with them and Dusty as the evil obstructionist guy who gets in the way. Hence the perception of a rivalry between Dusty and Jocketty that I don’t believe exists in real life.

    Decisions, like regarding the use of Chapman, are frequently blamed entirely on Dusty Baker, after all he’s the face of the team, some fans seem to assume that he’s some kinda renegade. I don’t believe he’s able to make big decisions like that without the support of the other big guys in the organization, including Bryan Price, Walt Jocketty, and Bob Castellini. They’re all in it together and I believe they all have a say.

    You see something similar in politics (MLB blog or not, it’s a good comparison in my opinion), too – neither political party will suggest items for budget cuts. The side that recommends a cut to something you disapprove of – like education, PBS, or the military – is evil and the one that took no position is the one you can relate to. Similarly Dusty is the visible decision maker and you can believe whatever you want about what Jocketty wanted.

  78. @redsfanman: Well put, and well thought out.

    I like the comparison to politics, it is apt.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

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