Al Behrman/Associated Press
Up to this point in the Reds' offseason, the biggest loser is Joey Votto.
Votto's approach has become a topic for debate this offseason, but Votto does an incredible job with what he's given. The big league average for strikes seen throughout Votto's seven-year career is 62.9 percent. Throughout the past two seasons, just 55 percent of the pitches Votto has seen were strikes.
Despite nearly an eight-point difference between the league average and Votto's percentage of strikes seen, he was able to post an impressive .317/.450/.520 slash line between 2012 and 2013.
Votto's lack of strikes seen stems from a lack of protection around him in the Reds' lineup.
Despite what his 103 RBI in 2013 might have you believe, Brandon Phillips is not very well suited to hold down the four spot in a lineup. Phillips is a marginal source of power, with 18 home runs in each of the last four seasons.
As evidenced by Votto's 135 walks—and more importantly his 20 intentional walks—last season, teams were far more inclined to pitch to Phillips with runners on base than they were to Votto.
Bruce has been a relatively consistent power threat throughout his career, with 30 or more home runs in each of the last three seasons. The 26-year-old, however, is inconsistent at the plate. At this point in his career, he appears unable to provide Votto with the protection he needs in order to get pitches to hit on a more consistent basis.
The Reds could have brought Choo back, which would have at least increased the possibility of runners on base when Votto came to bat, but his price was way out of their capacity to accommodate. The team also could have benefited from adding a revered power hitter, such as Nelson Cruz, but it appears as though they're content with batting either Bruce, Phillips or Ludwick in the lineup's fourth spot.
Ludwick seems like the logical choice, given the team's affinity for splitting up lefties Votto and Bruce, but unless he repeats his 2012 performance, expect to see opposing pitchers pitch around Votto quite often in 2014.