Cincinnati Reds, Dusty Baker: Right Move, Wrong Choice

Jordan FussneckerContributor IIIJuly 7, 2011

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 6: Daniel Descalso #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals is caught stealing second base against Edgar Renteria #16 of the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on July 6, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Baseball isn't a mystifying game.  In fact, it's baseball's pureness and simplicity that draw people to it. 

Football on the other hand, is littered with a million different concepts, schemes, etc. and a metric crap-ton of derivatives thereof.  If football is chess, then baseball would be checkers.

A good football coach is able to slyly orchestrate his players and outwit his opponent, much akin to a not-so-crazy Bobby Fischer.  Baseball coaching, similarly, illicits parallels to checkers: just don't screw things up, and the obvious move is usually the best one.

That's why it's crushingly painful to see the lineup cards Dusty Baker fills out.  I'm not asking that Dusty Baker put together the most flawless lineup ever, based on advanced regression analysis models.  I'd be happy with, "Oh hey, that number is bigger than that one."

To say Baker's approach to the game is a bit archaic and superstitious is an understatement.  I'm pretty sure the guy tells time with a sun dial and never walks too close to the camera bay, so as the black-magic devices don't steal his soul. 

Dusty has access to as extensive, advanced statistics and reports as anyone, yet makes some of the most baseless lineup decisions imaginable. 

I applaud Dusty for making lineup changes in last night's game.  Something needed done and the similar lineups he kept marching out weren't getting things done.  I'm fine with the temporary benching of Stubbs; he definitely needs to cool his head and recalibrate his approach.

With that said, change is nice, but change for the sake of change is ignorant.  When the lineup flashed across my TV screen my palm quickly introduced itself to my face.  Why an over-the-hill Renteria is batting second is a bit unfathomable.  One glance at the stat line below is enough to put things into perspective:



M Leake        P    30    5    .267    .600

E Renteria     SS  135  15  .230    .581


For as much as Dusty has staunchly supported Jonny Gomes in the past it's a bit perplexing that last night of all nights, Gomes wasn't in the starting lineup.  The one huge positive Gomes has to his game is his ability to hit left-handed pitching, yet Dusty chose to play Fred Lewis in his place.

Some people may point out that he won the game, which is fine, but that doesn't mean he made the right choices.  The Reds didn't win last night because of Dusty Baker, they won in spite of him.  For me right now in a perfect world, most nights Dusty fills out a lineup card it would look something like this:


Order Player Position
1 Drew Stubbs CF
2 Brandon Philips 2B
3 Joey Votto 1B
4 Jay Bruce RF
5 Ramon Hernandez C
6 Scott Rolen 3B
7 Chris Heisey LF
8   P
9 Paul Janish SS


Say what you will about Stubbs' lack of contact and strikeout numbers.  As ugly as it may be, he still produces because of his power and speed.  The way things sit, he's not an ideal leadoff hitter, but he's their best option. 

I also hate that Dusty usually buries Hernandez toward the bottom of the lineup.  He's currently your second-best hitter, treat him more like it.  Heisey has some pop in his bat, but his on-base is typically a little below par, so hitting in front of the pitcher would suit him.

Finally, stick Janish in the nine hole.  I'm a fan of the Tony LaRussa-esque, "If you have turd of a bat, stick him in the nine spot."  A big benefit is that once in a while, when Janish remembers how to get on that white bag 90' from the plate and to the right; he'll be on base for the power bats.