The Reds have rightly made the choice to acquire elite pitching this off-season over adding a big hitter to the lineup.Ã‚Â Most Reds fans now eagerly await watching Mat Latos, Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson take the mound in a Reds uniform.
With the pitching upgrade accomplished, attention has legitimately turned to who else, if anyone, will play left-field for the Reds beside Chris Heisey.
But focusing on the LF question in isolation partially obscures a different implication of the Reds prioritization of improving the pitching staff — the failure to address who will bat clean-up for the Reds.
Last year, the 4-hole was a black-hole for the Reds offense.
The 2011 National League OPS for the #4 hitter was .807.Ã‚Â For the Reds it was .701.
While too much can be made of batting order, the league as a whole recognizes the importance of an effective hitter in the clean-up spot.Ã‚Â For the NL, the #4 slot had the second highest OPS, following narrowly only the #3 hitter (.811).Ã‚Â In stark contrast, the Reds clean-up hitter had a lower OPS than the team’s lead-off hitter (.774), second hitter (.715), Votto (.944!), the fifth hitter (.812), and even the seventh (.728) hitter.
Ideally, the clean-up hitter would consistently get on base, drive in runs, and encourage their opponent to throw Joey Votto at least one or two decent pitches a game.
Will Dusty Baker bat Chris Heisey between Votto and Bruce?Ã‚Â Or will Baker revert to his lineup from the early part of last year and use now-healthy Scott Rolen (OPS .676, yikes) as the clean-up hitter?
If Heisey can repeat his OPS (.797) of last year, he’d be perfectly acceptable batting fourth.Ã‚Â So would Jay Bruce (OPS .814) if Baker could overcome his phobia of using two LH hitters back-to-back.
Otherwise, should Walt Jocketty make one final off-season move by trading Aroldis Chapman for the best hitting LF offered in return?
Chapman’s role and performance for the Reds as a starting pitcher is still somewhat uncertain. But another team may assign a much higher value to Chapman, whether that be as a starter, closer and/or gate attraction.
Would writing Nelson Cruz’s (OPS .875 over the past three years) name between Votto and Bruce, for example, be worth the sacrifice in SP depth?