I like to be contrary. I can’t help it. When the Reds were down, I generally wrote a bunch about what was going right or what figured to turn around soon. Now that the Reds are up, it’s time (for me) to look at what isn’t going right. This column, therefore, is about all that is not right in the Reds offensive world and whether or not anything can be expected to change.
But what does it mean when something isn’t going right? Simple. In this column, we concern ourselves only with offense and thus, any player or position producing significantly below what we would expect is a problem. Brandon Phillips isn’t a problem, for instance, because he’s hitting just fine for a middle infielder and is about where we should expect him to be. So what’s going wrong?
When I started this week’s column, my idea was to write about the bench, but that didn’t work because there isn’t that much to say. The Reds’ bench stinks. It stinks because there is no offense there. Fans get worked up a lot about the middle-infield backups with their terrible offensive numbers. I don’t worry about that so much because there aren’t any backup middle-infielders who can hit. If they could hit, they’d be starting.
However, the vast majority of teams (I looked) have someone – an outfielder, a backup corner infielder, someone – who can hit a little, but who doesn’t start. This guy may be flawed. He may have a big platoon split or he may make Lenny Harris look like Juan Castro, but he can hit. The Reds do not have this. The highest wRC+ on the bench is Brayan Pena at 79. If you eliminate him because he’s a catcher, you’re left with Chris Heisey at 70.
I never understood why the Reds jettisoned Xavier Paul and I still don’t. He was flawed. He wasn’t going to be a starter, but in the right situation, he could hit. Are you really telling me the Reds were better off with Bernadina or Schumaker or Santiago taking up at bats off the bench? It’s a glaring hole and something that needs be addressed.
I’ve written about Cozart in snippets often this season. His career wRC+ is 78, but this season he’s only managed a 58. His BABIP was terrible for much of the season and has come back a fair bit, but disturbingly, his power has been way down this year. He is normally good for 10-15 homers but has only managed two this year. I’ve often warned that Cozart’s usefulness will be short-lived (much as I love him), and there’s a chance he’s already approaching that point.
Votto’s numbers have been very good in general, but they haven’t been good for Joey Votto. I don’t know what to write here except that he’s obviously hurt and I don’t believe what the organization says about it. I would like anyone who questions his toughness or grit or whatever stupid thing to note that he is managing to contribute offensively despite being well below 100%. Still I wish we knew when or if we can expect it to get better.
We all know the story. Bruce was hurt. Is pretty obviously not hurt now, and his numbers are rebounding. They aren’t quite where we would expect them to be and his end-of-year numbers probably won’t look right, but I see no reason to worry about him going forward.
In terms of expectations, I see nothing else to complain about. Other players might not have been great, but they’ve been what we expected them to be. The biggest problem going forward is going to be the bench. I think in an ideal world, they would find a good hitter to start in left, send Ludwick to the bench, and jettison Schumaker. Sadly, that seems unlikely.
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.