Dusty Baker is holding the Cincinnati Reds back with his constant mismanagement. Traditional baseball thinking says, bat your best hitter third, and your best power hitter fourth. In the Reds case that would respectively be Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. How many times has Bruce hit cleanup? Twice in 30 games.
Why? Dusty Baker doesn’t like a lineup with left-handed hitters back-to-back. If he had his choice, he’d go right, left, right, left throughout the entire card. That’s not bad strategy if a team has a legitimate right-handed threat in the four-hole. Which the Reds do not.
The Reds have only two left-handed sticks. They just so happen to be their two best offensive players. It does makes a little bit of sense to split them vs. a left-handed starter. Against righties? It’s barely more intelligent than whipping out a crack pipe at a sheriff’s convention.
The object of the game is to score as many runs as possible, and preferably as early as possible to give your team’s starting pitcher a comfy cushion and to get to the opponents' pen as soon as possible. Batting Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen and Ryan Ludwick behind Votto and before Bruce isn’t working.
Want proof? Most stats are found on Baseball-Reference.com's 2012 Reds schedule and results page. In the 109 at bats where Bruce has been absent from the cleanup role, the Reds four-hole hitters are batting .202, with 11 RBI, and just two home runs. Over the course of an entire season 109 at-bats translates to 630, with 63.5 RBI, and 11.6 long balls.
Minus the .202 average, those are nice numbers—for a player batting second, seventh or eighth. To say the numbers are dismal for a cleanup hitter would be making dismal synonymous with outstanding.
Who Should the Reds be Batting Third and Fourth?
Votto is leading the league with 27 walks and six intentional passes. Why? If you need even ask that question, please refer to the two previous paragraphs. In the May 4 game against the Bucs, Votto was intentionally walked in the third inning. Yes, the third inning. All so the Pittsburgh starter Kevin Correia could face Reds' cleanup batter, Brandon Phillips, who promptly hit a weak pop to first.
The next night, the Pirates intentionally walked Votto again. Phillips struck out with two runners left stranded. Opposing teams are not afraid to walk Votto with weak cleanup batters behind him.
With Bruce batting after Votto, he would see more pitches to hit, would not walk nearly as often, and definitely would not be intentionally walked as much—especially in the third inning.
Bruce has led off innings 32 times in games he was not in the cleanup spot. Besides Reds leadoff batters that leads the team. In those 32 ABs, he has smacked four balls over the fence. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Bruce batting behind Votto with ducks on the pond instead of leading off those innings?
Bruce already has 10 home runs. Again, the Reds cleanup batters are on pace to hit only 11.6 over the entire course of the season. Bruce has 23 RBI, a pace of 124.2 in 2012. Sorry for the repetition, but Reds four-hole hitters are on pace to hit only 63.5 RBI in 2012. Barely over half of Bruce’s output.
For kicks and giggles, let’s say not batting Bruce behind Votto costs the Reds a very modest 0.1 per nine innings.
That would delete all extra inning losses, and one of every 10 one run games. Instead of their current 16-14 record that would give them a little more than three wins, making their current record 19-11.
Since one of those extra-inning losses came to the Cards, it would drop the division leading team from St. Louis to a 19-12 record, putting the Reds in first with a half-game lead.
Not exactly a scientific formula, but it’s close. Instead of 0.1 runs hitting Votto before Rolen, Ludwick, or Phillips—the number is probably closer to 0.25 runs per nine innings, or one run every nine inning game.
And even that may be low-ball.
Thirty games into the season is a large enough sample size for the Reds' stubborn skipper to fix this. Will he? Given his track record, probably not.
Article originally appeared on messybrains.com and was written by author