(This post was written by long-time friend of the Nation Michael Howes.)

Some things I was just wondering about…

Dusty Baker continuing to lead off Willy Taveras and building the lineups he does — is that the single worst thing any recent Reds manager has done to hurt the team’s chances of winning?

Usually lineup construction doesn’t have a big impact, but the Reds are close to being a good team, their offense is terrible, and they lose a lot of close games because they can’t score. In other words, having players ahead of Votto and Phillips could have a bigger impact on the Reds winning or losing than it might for, say, a really bad team like Washington.

It could be that small thing that pushes the team over the hump.

For example, I posted the numbers in last night’s game thread that Taveras had led off 16 games where he has failed to get on base even a single time.

The Reds are not only 3-13 in those games, but 5 of those 13 losses are by 2 runs or less. Sure, 3 of those 13 losses were blowouts, so it probably doesn’t matter if we had Bonds leading off, but the Reds could VERY reasonably be in 5-10 more games this year with one SIMPLE SIMPLE change. That’s a potentially HUGE impact.

Think about it, it’s a pretty crazy stat. All you need is 2-3 more runs over those games, which should be SUPER easy because we are talking about replacing 0 (or even NEGATIVE) production.

The Reds have been among the worst teams in baseball for a handful of years now. But a lot of the time, it has been because of a bad GM signing bad players — in particular pitchers — and the Reds manager not having much choice. In this case, Dusty has options…the fault falls squarely on him (not on Willy).

Is this the single worst thing a recent manager has done to hurt the Reds chances of winning?

54 Responses

  1. Mark T

    I agree that he is definitely hurting the team’s chances of winning. It’s an interesting phenomenon, exactly what he did with Corey Patterson last year. He gets it in his mind that a breakthrough is around the corner, and stubbornly sticks with a player who clearly cannot produce.

    And it’s discouraging because Taveras has not even shown himself to be a terribly good fielder. Dickerson has outshined him on both O&D.

    And most discouraging for me, if the bottom of the lineup gets something going, there is the prospect ahead of the pitcher’s hole and Taveras – two sure outs. Taveras is surely not to blame, but he is a rally killer.

  2. Y-City Jim

    We’ll see what happens tonight. RHer on the mound for St. Louis. Big series. My guess is he start Taveras though all sound reason screams to start Dickerson.

    What I wonder is how does this affect the team’s mind set. They are entering this big series knowing that a sweep could possibly put them into 1st place. The manager not only starts the worst hitter on the team but places him in the lead off spot. If I’m a player, I’m ticked off because I want the best team on the field.

  3. The Godfather

    Conspiracy Theory Alert: Last year the Reds sucked, bottom line. This year they are very good on the pitching side, poor on the hitting side, poor enough hitting that the team is directly affected by the poor hitting (i.e. 3-13 when Willy T. leads off, among other poor performers)and it results in losses. Anyway, my theory is this: Dusty doesn’t want the Reds to make it to the playoffs this year or make a run at the playoffs, he simply wants the team to improve marginally. Maybe get to .500 (He’s always saying if the Reds are .500 they’ll be in it) and in doing so he is a hero in Cincinnati (because of the previous 8 years of crappy baseball). The Reds then improve in 2010 even more and he gets a contract extension because he’s “built winner.” But if the Reds were to falter a little bit in 2010 after a near .500 finish, he can simply put the blame on unfortunate circumstances (injuries, lack of signings, etc.) and still get his contract extended (he has said he’d like to, God forbid, stay in Cincy a long time). Whereas if the Reds were to make the playoffs, or at least be in playoff contention until the last week or so, the expectations for 2010 would be so high he would need to have a winning team in 2010 in order to get a contract extension. So there is what I think, Dusty is using this season as leverage for a future contract.

  4. Kurt Frost

    Taveras will lead off and Dickerson will be batting 7th again.

  5. Travis G.

    That’s ludicrous, Godfather.

    Dusty seems a like an absolutely great guy to know, and I’ll bet he’s a terrific boss. But he’s stubbornly old school, and he believes the leadoff man should be a speedy CF who puts the ball into play. (He’s not the only person who thinks this way.)

    Taveras was brought in to be the starter, and Dusty seems to believe his track record, such that it is, has earned him enough respect to allow him to work his way out of this slump. I’m not sure about that, but I’ll bet players appreciate it. I will say that Taveras is not a very good baseball player, but he is not as bad as he’s been the last six weeks.

  6. MDCCCLXIX

    I looked at the Reds record with Taveras on base and it was like 27-13 a few days ago and 5-16 without him on base. This stat proves nothing though. Unless you think Willie distracts the pitcher and defense SO much that his HAVOC rating is 50 billlion. Since I wanted Taveras to work out better than most thought he would, I’m inclined to think so.

  7. David

    The thing about Taveras is that he had a very good April. It’s not as though Taveras has been awful since day one. However, it’s now July and I agree that it is coming at the expense of the team, especially when Dickerson and Stubbs have played well.

    But guys, Dusty IS willing to work on lineup changes. Bruce is falling in the lineup, as he should. Maybe its simply a matter of hitting Taveras 8th minimizes his skill set. It doesn’t. The only real place for Taveras in the lineup is at leadoff.

  8. AnnapolisRed

    David-Why in the world would you say that? That makes no since? What skill set? Chad to answer your question, yes. I agree it is Dusty being stubborn and giving a veteran player more chances than he deserves. I also blame Dusty’s bosses for letting it go on for so long.

  9. Plowboy

    HAHA! Godfather, that DOES make sense, considering who we’re talking about anyway.

    Seriously, I can’t even throw that conspiracy theory out the window simply because of the absolute utter disregard of Dusty doing his best to NOT put his best lineup out there on a regular basis.

    Mike, thanks for posting this. It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking for the last month and a half. Sorry for the long post guys, but I really have to get this off my chest:

    Many of you guys complained about Boone, Knight, Narron, etc., but I have NEVER seen anything like what Dunce-ty is doing with Taveras at the top of the lineup (let alone Gonzo in the 2-hole and the Patterson fiasco last year – not to mention, to a lesser degree, preferring Hernandez over potential Rookie of the Year candidate Hanigan). It’s completely insane! It’s like he’s TRYING to lose!

    Actually, I’ve had little problem with how he’s handled nearly everything else as manager (though he’s a crap interview), and if it wasn’t for his ridiculous CF,SS in the #1 and 2 spots, I’d probably be a supporter.

    BUT, ONLY because of his stubbornness are the Reds not in first place right now. I firmly believe that.

    Usually, I sit back and simply accept what the manager does because, after all, HE’S SUPPOSED to know what he’s doing to have gotten a job like that. But because of his obstinacy (stupidity?), he is BY FAR the worst manager I’ve seen in a Reds uniform – and that’s saying something.

    Why would you KNOWINGLY throw a better chance to win ballgames out the window by playing Taveras, let alone lead him off on a team with VERY little room for error on offense????????

    This genius decision could literally be at least a 5-game difference in wins and losses, and that’s the division folks,especially this year. He should be FIRED for that. The manager is supposed to HELP the team win NOT hurt it, and that’s exactly what Dusty is doing with these lineup constructions.

    When you have a legitimate chance to win your division, you should go for it, and with Baker leading this team, it’s simply not going to happen. Like I said, the manager is supposed to do everything he can to win with the resources he has, and Dusty simply isn’t doing that.

    If Castellini renews his contract, I will be absolutely flabbergasted.

    Oh, where have you gone Davey Johnson…..

  10. Chad Dotson

    I don’t think I’ve asked any questions on this thread, Annapolis, but I agree with you anyway.

    And I can’t understand a single word of David’s post. David, can you clarify?

  11. Mr. Redlegs

    I believe what David is saying is that Taveras has two primary skill sets: running and bunting. If he bats No. 8, in front of the pitcher, these skill sets are marginalized if Taveras gets on base, including hit-and-runs and taking the extra base on a hit (outfielders play closer and tighter on most pitchers batting).

    All of that is predicated on Taveras getting on base, of course, but I’m fairly certain that is Baker’s thinking.

  12. Steve

    First, just to clarify the record. Willy Taveras did NOT have a “very good” April, except in comparison to his June. In April he had 0HR, 2RBI, 5SB, 14R, .267AVG, .351OBP, .338SLG. So I would say he had a passable April, as long as you don’t care AT ALL about driving in runs.

    By comparison, Brian Roberts, leadoff hitter for the Orioles: 2HR, 7RBI, 3SB, 19R, .356AVG, .426OBP, .541SLG – that is a “very good” April.

    Second, to answer the question that Mike poses in the post, this is probably the worst thing in my memory, except maybe for Baker’s insistence on having Patterson lead off last year and bat Junior third.

  13. Mr. Redlegs

    Mike, I like what you wrote on last night’s thread and the topic again here today, but I wouldn’t get too bug-eyed about the Ifs, Ands and Buts about what a potential replacement at leadoff might (or might not) produce in wins and losses.

    At that point you’re making suppositions and guesswork on when and how runs could be produced. If these sort of predictions were finite and accurate, minus the human and intangible element of sports, there would be no reason to play games. Just punch in lineups on a computer and we all move along with our lives.

    Thusly, I seriously doubt Baker’s lineups are the difference in 5 games this season. When someone can positively *guarantee* us that a different lineup or batting order would have *positively* delivered a different achieved result, then I’m on board.

  14. Mr. Redlegs

    How is using Taveras at leadoff worse than the HIRING of Vern Rapp, Ray Knight and Bob Boone?

    You guys are talking about one player as if he’s difference in this team being something it’s really not. I’m talking decisions in managers that were complete disasters on multiple levels.

  15. Kurt Frost

    Technically it’s three player:
    Taveras and Gonzalez
    Taveras and Hairston

  16. Bruce in the OV

    I can no longer stand to look at Dusty’s Old School face or hear his Old School voice during the radio pregame.

    I could have filled in better lineup cards when I was in 5th grade. The Reds are two games back in spite of Dusty.

  17. JasonL

    Okay, so I used the baseballmusings lineup analyzer and came up with this (these are rough numbers, but should be pretty close to accurate):

    An optimal lineup would look like this (I didn’t use EE because he’s been hurt all year):
    Hanigan (C)
    Votto (1B)
    Dickerson (CF)
    Phillips (2B)
    Gomes/Nix (LF)
    Bruce (RF)
    Hairston (3B)
    Pitcher
    Janish (SS)

    This lineup would score 5.148 runs per game or 834 runs over the course of a season

    A lineup that is not optimal, but still sane, might look like this:
    Dickerson
    Hanigan
    Votto
    Phillips
    Gomes/Nix
    Bruce
    Hairston
    Janish
    Pitcher

    This lineup scores 4.889 Runs per game or 792 runs per season

    Last, here’s the Dusty lineup as best I can tell:
    Taveras
    Hairston
    Votto
    Phillips
    Hernandez
    Gomes/Nix/Dickerson
    Bruce
    Janish
    Pitcher

    This lineup scores 4.182 runs per game or 677 runs per season.

    What does it all mean? Well, if 10 runs equals a win (last I knew, that was the standard), Dusty’s lineup construction is costing the team 11.5 wins over the course of a season. Note also, that in the optimal and sane lineups, nothing is really being lost defensively.

  18. Bruce in the OV

    “A lineup that is not optimal, but still sane, might look like this:”

    Dickerson
    Hanigan
    Votto
    Phillips
    Gomes/Nix
    Bruce
    Hairston
    Janish
    Pitcher

    This should be the most frequent lineup. I’d love to see Hanigan hit with Votto’s protection, and its impossible not to like Dickerson in the lead off.

  19. Plowboy

    Mr. Redlegs, are you actually saying that you think Taveras at the top of the lineup hasn’t cost this team wins?

    Really? No, I mean it. Not even 2 wins, which would have them in 1st place? REALLY???

    Be honest.

  20. Travis G.

    Edwin’s back, per Rob Butcher:

    Today the Reds placed on the 15-day disabled list IF Danny Richar and returned from a rehabilitation assignment and reinstated from the 60-day disabled list 3B Edwin Encarnacion.

    Richar suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder sliding head first into home plate in the third inning of Wednesday’s 1-0 win vs Ari.

  21. Kurt Frost

    Good grief…maybe the call ups should stop sliding head first.

    So does Edwin have to chill and marinate for a few games or does he get to play right away?

  22. Glenn

    As you guys know I’ve defended Dusty many times in the past but even I can’t defend the indefensible. Performance-wise playing Taveras ahead of Dickerson makes no sense. This is why I’m left to believe that keeping Taveras in the lineup is a joint decision Dusty’s made with the approval of WJ. My thinking is that the Reds are paying Taveras big bucks and WJ is going to keep T in there as long as he can in hopes that this investment will somehow pan out. I, like everyone else at RN just don’t see how that’s going to happen. This is Patterson redux.

  23. Glenn

    With EE back on the roster, this should put JHR back on the back as a supersub as he should be. I’m not down on Hairston, its just that I don’t see him as a starter/difference maker on any contending club. Great role player though.

  24. Kurt Frost

    Get out of town…Hairston will be the starting SS until Gonzalez gets back. Then I would assume Gomes would sit for Hairston.

  25. mike

    A couple other things I was thinking about this morning about the lineup

    Did you know there are only 22 players in baseball this year with at least 150 plate appearances who’s OBP is over .400?

    You know of course, that you will see MOST of those players in the all-star game? You know them, Mauer, Pujols, Youkilis, Utley, Beltran, Wright, Braun, H Ramirez, Thome, Chipper, A Gonzalez, Ichiro, Hawpe, Nick Johnson, and our very own JOEY VOTTO

    there are a couple lesser know players Ben Zorbrist, Josh Willingham, Seth Smith, Jason Bartlett, Choo, and one of the only players not on the list who is an every day starter HANIGAN!!

    HANIGAN FOR ROY. Even if he can’t crack Dusty’s lineup cept maybe once a week

  26. AnnapolisRed

    Chad-I assumed the question was from you about Willie leading off. I see now it was Mike’s post. Sorry!

  27. Y-City Jim

    Sell out. Wow!

    Questions tonight:

    Dickerson or Taveras?
    Edwin in the starting line-up?
    Hanigan again?
    Janish or Hairston?

  28. mike

    with EE now back on the Reds and the Reds not needing to send Sutton back to AAA because of the injury to Richar Dusty has a chance to build a lineup that could score!

    Just imagine!!!!

    Dickerson
    Hanigan
    Votto
    Phillips
    Nix/Gomes
    Bruce
    EE
    Sutton

  29. RedFaced

    Thank you JasonL and thank you Mike. Good stuff from both of you.

    Personally I grow ever more weary of Dusty slotting Taveras as leadoff for most games. To repeatedly make the same mistake over and over again has to, in my eyes, be one of the worse things a manager (or any person for that matter) can do. As such I would argue that Baker has made some of the worst decisions of any recent manager the Reds have had. He simply fails to learn from previous mistakes, he is stubborn to a fault.

  30. Travis G.

    <i.Dickerson or Taveras?

    Both!

    Fay says: Dickerson 7, taveras 8, votto 3, Phillips 4, Bruce 9, hernandez 2, hairston 5, Janish 6, Bailey 1

  31. mike

    a little reflection

    I was wrong about Rosales

    I really thought he’d hit at the big league level and he still might be useful as a utility player but he sure did a lot worse that I thought he would. I know I’m not the only one who was screaming for his callup to try to help this TOS offense

  32. Kurt Frost

    I was right…EE has to chill and marinate before he can get out there.

  33. JasonL

    Mike: You might be wrong about Rosales and you might not. He doesn’t even have 200 big league at bats. Just glancing at his minor league numbers it looks to me like he would be good enough to play everyday if he could play good defense at short or second, but as it is, he is probably reasonably suited to the kind of role Hairston should have (super-sub). Anyway, he’s 26 now, so he’s getting toward the end of his growth curve, but if he keeps hitting at Louisville, I really wouldn’t mind seeing him as a spot-starting bench player for the Reds for the next several years.

  34. David

    First, why is Dusty Baker playing Willy Taveras? None of us will totally know the answer to that because we don’t know if what discussions ownership/management has had regarding his role. However, Taveras is capable of playing as a regular CF.

    In April he had a .351 OBP, five stolen bases and 14 runs scored. To me that is very good production out of a leadoff spot. We can disagree if I am setting the bar to low, but carry that out over the course of the year and I think pretty much everyone would be happy with a .351 OBP, 30 SB and 84 runs.

    For the sake of argument, since this post is on lineup construction, let’s assume Taveras is playing. Where is Baker supposed to bat him? It’s either 1st or 8th.

    Of Taveras’ 2222 career ABs, 1801 of them are as the leadoff hitter. So, at least three different organizations since 2004 have seen Taveras as a leadoff hitter. Why?

    What is Taveras’ skill set? Ignoring the obvious answer – none – the guy is a slap hitter with speed. Those tools are beneficial as a leadoff hitter, not in the 8th spot. He is absolutely no threat to steal a base with a pitcher hitting behind him. More importantly, he isn’t going to see a pitch there either.

    With his skill set it’s either play him at leadoff or don’t play him. I’m not so sure Dusty has a choice on playing him, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to see him leadoff. Is it the worst move a manager for the Reds has made? No, probably not.

    So justify hitting him at 8?

  35. JasonL

    Just for the record, if EE replaces Hairston (not going to happen, I know), he adds about 0.3 runs per game all by himself. Ideal lineup goes from 5.148 to 5.488 RPG and the “sane” lineup goes from 4.889 to 5.183 RPG. Here is the new “sane” lineup, btw:

    Dickerson
    Hanigan
    Votto
    Encarnacion
    Phillips
    Nix/Gomes
    Bruce
    Janish

    Now, think about this for a minute. Everyone says this a bad offensive team, but just using the resources available in a remotely rational way shows that they don’t have to be. How frustrating is that?

  36. Mark T

    If indeed Dusty is in charge of the lineup, as Bob Miller says, then the decision to play Taveras is Dusty’s call alone. Regarding his salary, those are “sunk costs”, which have to be paid out whether he plays or not. So salary is not an issue. So it is Dusty, and as I heard on pundit say about him when the Reds hired him, that he has never had an original thought. In playing Taveras and leading him off, he’s strictly going by the book.

    I thought about this in Cleveland when they were using the DH and Owings was pitching – would Dusty consider not using the DH? Not a chance. Book says no. Has he ever considered batting Owings anywhere but ninth? Not a chance. Book says noooo …

  37. JasonL

    David, here is justifcation: Willy Taveras is not a good hitter. He is going to make A LOT of out no matter where you put him. If he makes an out in front of the pitcher, it doesn’t matter as much because the pitcher wasn’t going to drive him in anyway. If he makes an out in front of Votto, well, that is an entirely different situation. Which would you rather see two or three times a game: Pitcher up with Hanigan or Dickerson on while Votto bats 4 times with the bases empty or Votto having men on he can drive in?

    You can talk about utilizing Taveras’ skill set, and that’s fine, but if you choose to utilize that, you are making poor use of the skill sets of Dickerson and Hanigan (they are good at getting on base) by forcing them to bat in front of the awesome Janish/Pitcher/Taveras black hole. If you want to score runs, you don’t worry about utilizing Taveras, you worry about minimizing the damage he does. That is the definition of the eight spot. Though, if you want, you can bat him seventh or ninth (the “second” lead off hitter thing) and I won’t argue with you.

    I do think Taveras is better than he’s played this year overall, but not as good as his April numbers. In the end, however, he is still not a good major league hitter and should not be at the top of anyone’s batting order. I don’t give a flying leap what other teams have done with him. He’s a 7-8-9 hitter until he proves otherwise.

  38. Y-City Jim

    Is Edwin sitting so he has a day to get re-acquainted to the MLB environment or is Dusty just unable to let Jerry Hairston sit?

  39. Y-City Jim

    From Fay’s blog:

    Encarnacion, activated today from the DL, might play Saturday.
    “I’ve got to see him a day or so first,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I might play him tomorrow. We’ll see.”

  40. GregD

    It’s so sad that the Reds have no other coaches or scouts in the organization and Dusty has to watch everyone practice before he can decide when and where they play.

  41. GregD

    If these sort of predictions were finite and accurate, minus the human and intangible element of sports, there would be no reason to play games. Just punch in lineups on a computer and we all move along with our lives.

    What a tired, useless argument.

  42. Plowboy

    GregD: EXACTLY. We need to use a little common sense her when talking about Taveras.

    And Jason #41, you hit the nail right on the head. Who cares if his skill set is only suited to leadoff when he rarely gets on?!

    If Baker simply HAS to play him, fine, but do NOT lead him off. Put somebody in front of Votto who can actually get on base!!!!!! THAT’S a HUGE reason they’re not in 1st place right now.

  43. Plowboy

    Oh, and why does Baker need to “see” EE before letting him play? Isn’t Sweet’s word good enough?

    My God, we actually get a chance to see our absolute best lineup tonight, and he uses THAT for an excuse?

    ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS.

  44. mike

    what skill set?

    what does it mean to “his skill set is only suited to leadoff”

    there is only 1(!!!) skill needed for leadoff and it’s being able to get on base
    Taveras does not have that skill

  45. Glenn

    Kurt, I can’t get any further out of town.

  46. Mr. Redlegs

    “What a tired, useless argument.”

    And yet 1,000 percent correct.