I know it’s early; I know the sample size for this season is small.

But, I’ve seen enough.

I’ve seen enough this year, last year, and the year before, and I’ve studied enough statistical charts to know that our lineup is wrong. I don’t just mean the batting order….I mean who’s playing on the field and on the bench.

Dusty Baker said he was called out for his opening day lineup, and rightfully so. There’s usually some prestige to that opening day lineup, something used to set expectations. Dusty says he used the best lineup to try to help the team win based on matchups; that may be true, but those thoughts were undermined by his use of the bullpen.

All that being said…what I’m proposing could save us salary, should make us a better team, should improve our offense and our defense, and gets some of our young players playing time in ways to maximize their success while taking advantage of the anticipated best years of their careers.

These things need to quit happening:

–No more Orlando Cabrera batting second; no Janish batting second; maybe a moratorium on any Reds shortstop currently at AA or higher batting second in the lineup. Yes, Cabrera gets the bat on the ball, but he makes outs, tons of them, including being one of the major league leaders in grounding into double plays.

–Ditto for Brandon Phillips hitting fourth. Brandon brings energy with some power, not power with some energy to cleanup, plus, he’s also one of the league leaders in hitting into double plays. Two of our top four hitters regularly hit into double plays…wow…what a way to stop an offensive rally.

These changes need to be made:

–Paul Janish needs to be our shortstop. I know we invested in OC, but in the last few days, I’ve seen some devastating defensive stats on OC’s 2009 season, including a report that OC’s 2009 was the worst defensive year of any player in baseball since 2003. Our team is being built on defense, and that can’t be undermined by our shortstop. Meanwhile, Janish’s reports show that he may have been the best defensive shortstop in baseball last year, playing a little more than half the time.

–We need Ryan Hanigan to be our catcher, not Ramon Hernandez. Hanigan tied for the league lead in caught stealing percentage last year (40.4%) and is a guy that gets on base. Okay, he’s not the best RBI guy, but does he have to be? If Dusty feels that strongly about clutch situations, save Hernandez to bat in a clutch situation.

–We need to platoon Chris Dickerson and Jonny Gomes in LF. I know Gomes has power, but his platoon splits are pretty strong and Dickerson is better in the outfield.

Here’s an unpopular one: it’s time to platoon Jay Bruce in RF. Yes, I know he’s still young. Yes, he needs a chance to improve. Yes, he seems good with the glove. However, his career 592 OPS against left handers is near the level of a pitcher’s OPS. And, the defensive metrics from last year seem to indicate that RF was not our strongest defended outfield position. It wasn’t bad, mind you. The metric shows that RF saved seven runs above average last year, but CF saved 14 and LF saved 17. While Bruce’s defense has been good, he actually hasn’t been our best oufield defender.

It’s time to recall Chris Heisey and install him as Bruce’s platoon partner in RF; Heisey’s defense is good, too, and it’s time for him to hit.

–It’s time to recall Todd Frazier and make him our utility guy, not Miguel Cairo. Give Frazier some major league at bats and give him playing time spelling Rolen, Phillips, Votto, and a corner outfielder from time to time. I don’t know how OC would do off the bench, but that’s where he needs to be at this point. I don’t know how well OC would do playing 2b or 3b; he’s played 1686 career games at shortstop, and only 33 at second base with no other positions played in the majors. If he can’t do that, or if we can trade him, recall Drew Sutton or Chris Valaika (if Valaika can prove he’s recovered his batting stroke after his poor 2009).

My roster:
Catcher: Hanigan, Hernandez
Infield: Votto, Phillips, Janish, Rolen, Frazier, Cabrera (or Sutton or Valaika)
Outfield: Gomes, Dickerson, Stubbs, Bruce, Heisey, Nix

My lineup vs. righties:

Drew Stubbs CF
Scott Rolen 3B
Joey Votto 1B
Jay Bruce RF
Chris Dickerson LF
Brandon Phillips 2B
Ryan Hanigan C
Paul Janish SS

(I expected to have Dickerson first and Stubbs sixth, but I can’t argue with how Stubbs has played in the majors).

vs. LH:
Drew Stubbs CF
Scott Rolen 3B
Joey Votto 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Brandon Phillips 2B
Chris Heisey RF
Ryan Hanigan/Ramon Hernandez C
Paul Janish SS

As for Todd Frazier: I think he needs to be starting at least three times a week, spelling different players. He should probably bat second, moving Rolen down to 4-5-6, depending on who’s resting on that particular day. Nix and Cabrera would be bench players for me.

And, yes, I have 14 position players listed; we don’t need 12 pitchers. Let’s try giving some of our relievers two innings every now and then.


Rotation: Harang, Cueto, Arroyo, Bailey, and Leake
Bullpen: Cordero, Masset, Rhodes, Herrera, Owings, Burton

Finally, my opinion on the keys to our season: Homer Bailey and Jay Bruce

I believe Homer is going to have a dynamite season. If he does we can beat .500. If Jay Bruce can bat .270 with 35 homers, I think we can be a wild card contending team. If the other younger guys I suggest here can play to where they are “projected” to play, I think we can have a really, really good team, with more pitching help on the way, both in the bullpen and the rotation.