By Grant Freking
Through 92 games, the Reds leave everyone wanting more. More clutch hitting. More quality starting pitching. More Zack Cozart. Watching the Reds for much of the first half was like ordering a gourmet cheeseburger and getting a turd sandwich with mayonnaise. Just heavily disappointing.
However, I digress. After all, anything can happen in baseball. More specifically, anything can happen in the NL Central, where it’s pretty clear mediocrity reigns supreme. Let’s take a look at the side of the ball where these men with forearms the size of sewage pipes swing bats made from the Earth.
The Reds offense mirrors the recent trends in baseball: pitching rules, hitting drools. Despite Drew Stubbs’ best efforts, the Reds are No. 5 in the NL in strikeouts, not in the top three where many think they are. Thanks to Joey Votto’s best efforts (and the fact that the Stockings lack a true clean-up hitter), the Reds are fourth in the league in walks.
I could waste your time with a bunch of stats but everyone knows the gist of things in this category: Brandon Phillips and Ramon Hernandez have been great, Joey Votto has been good but not as great (again, he’s getting the Bonds treatment), Jay Bruce has been good and everyone else has mostly been average or worse.
A popular justification to the Reds struggles is that they’re a team chock-full of young hitters, which is true. Stubbs, Bruce, Janish, Heisey and Cozart are pups. But there comes a time where that excuse becomes just what it is, an excuse. Once you realize you’re in a slump that morphs into a flat-out problem offensively, you should correct it, and that goes for the older guys on the team as well. For example, I present the following problems, and since I’m such a nice guy, solutions as well:
Problem: Stubbs leads the NL with 122 strikeouts.
Solution: Normally I wouldn’t care about that stat, but since Dusty insists on him leading off, he HAS to put the ball in play more. Otherwise batting him first makes as much sense as filming a sequel for Larry Crowne.
Problem: Paul Janish can’t hit. Watching him bat unintentionally made me relive my high school baseball years where I could rarely hit a hard line drive out of the infield. Worse yet, he let his deplorable hitting affect his normally superb defense. Renteria was bad too. The Reds had the worst offensive production from shortstops in the NL.
Solution: Send Janish down to Triple-A Louisville so he can clear his head (already done). Keep playing Cozart. At least when the ball hits his bat it sounds solid, something that can’t be said for Janish at the moment. All of this will be void when the Stockings trade for Jose Reyes, of course.
Problem: He’s old. He wasn’t good offensively in the first half, yet, he made the All-Star team. Worse yet, he’s starting for NL. This isn’t an indictment of Rolen, it speaks to the joke the All-Star Game has become. I’m looking at you Alan Huber Selig.
Solution: Rolen the first half of 2010? 17 homers, 57 RBI’s, .290 average. All-Star. 2011? 5 homers, 36 RBI’s, .241 average. All-Star. Yeesh. So what to do? Hope he finds the Fountain of Youth in Phoenix. Seriously, the Reds don’t have a better option unless Walt Jocketty kidnaps Andrew Friedman and demands the Rays trade the Stockings Evan Longoria for Juan Francisco.
Problem: Gomes is not a starter, he’s a platoon guy that can hit very well against lefties. Fortunately or unfortunately, Gomes is a great clubhouse guy, which is probably the only reason he hasn’t been released yet.
Solution: Make Chris Heisey the full-time starter in left. Heisey has one less home run and the same amount of RBI’s as Gomes in 39 less at-bats.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.