Four outfielders. Three outfield positions. Early returns with the Reds’ 2018 outfield rotationÃ‚Â werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t favorable for then-manager Bryan Price or interim manager Jim Riggleman.
I understand the idea that it would be better to be able to get into a rhythm as a big leagueÃ‚Â baseball player. Knowing youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to be in the lineup every day would allow for the mind toÃ‚Â be at ease, if nothing else Ã¢â‚¬â€œ although with the Reds, there would seem to be evidence thatÃ‚Â Adam Duvall would benefit from multiple days off, given his solid first half numbers in 2016 andÃ‚Â 2017 (and putrid second half numbers).
But the airwaves and Twitterverse have seemed to be full of naysayers when it comes to theÃ‚Â infamous four-man outfield rotation since the season began in late March. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy to buyÃ‚Â into the thought that it canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work, given the dismal start at the plate from Duvall, BillyÃ‚Â Hamilton, Scott Schebler, and Jesse Winker.
But as a lifelong Reds fan, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help but remember a few platoon situations that have not onlyÃ‚Â worked, but contributed mightily toward successful seasons. I go back to the 1990 World SeriesÃ‚Â team and recall Mariano Duncan, Ron Oester, and Bill Doran splitting time at second base. Hal Morris andÃ‚Â Todd Benzinger were both vital to helping those Reds to the title, and Glenn Braggs — much toÃ‚Â the chagrin of many Paul OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill fans from Columbus down to Cincinnati — was used againstÃ‚Â lefties a lot that year.
The 1995 team NL Central champs advanced to the NLCS with a platoon of Mark Lewis and Jeff Branson at the hotÃ‚Â corner.
But this piece is about multiple outfielders playing in a successful platoon situation, so letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s go back toÃ‚Â the magical summer of 1999, when Greg Vaughn, Mike Cameron, Michael Tucker, Dmitri YoungÃ‚Â and Jeffrey Hammonds all played between 123 and 153 games in the outfield.
First off, Young did appear nine times at first base and once as a designated hitter, but theÃ‚Â success is undeniable.
Vaughn was a mainstay in left field, filling the vocal leader role in his first and only seasonÃ‚Â sporting a goatee in Cincinnati. He hit 45 homers and drove in 118 runs, and I can rememberÃ‚Â many a trip up I-71 after games listening to callers tell Tracy Jones how terrible VaughnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s .245Ã‚Â batting average was. Fact was the slugger got on base at a .347 clip and slugged .535. Not tooÃ‚Â shabby.
Mike Cameron was in center field for 146 games and brought speed and gold-glove caliber playÃ‚Â to the table after arriving via trade for Paul Konerko the previous offseason. He sported an on-base percentage of .357, stole 38 bases and clubbed 21 home runs.
Tucker played solid defense and got on base fairly regularly (.338). Young would have been aÃ‚Â prototypical first baseman had Sean Casey not already been there. (Unbelievably there was aÃ‚Â point in 1998 when the Reds had Casey, Konerko, Young, Eduardo Perez, and minor league legend Roberto Petagine in the fray at first.) Young slashed .300/.352/.504 in his second full season as a Red.
Hammonds, who was acquired the season before for longtime third base prodigy Willie GreeneÃ‚Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ think Edwin Encarnacion without the eventual 40-plus home run seasons in other uniforms Ã¢â‚¬â€œÃ‚Â was a good defender who totaled 17 home runs and slashed .279/.347/.523.
Four of the five main outfielders for that Reds team sported an OPS+ of over 100, with TuckerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ‚Â 90 being the lone subpar result. To put it into perspective, even after a few hot weeks by allÃ‚Â four of this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s revolving outfielders, the only one with an OPS+ over 100 was Schebler (120).Ã‚Â Winker (95), Duvall (87) and Hamilton (64) were all slightly, or grossly, below league average.
The funny thing about the 2018 outfield is that even though it continued up until ScottÃ‚Â Schebler briefly left the team to go on bereavement leave on June 21, the rotation actuallyÃ‚Â started to bear fruit after Riggleman announced its demise, claiming Winker was the odd manÃ‚Â out. Winker started hitting, but so did Duvall and even Hamilton. Schebler had been installed at theÃ‚Â top of the batting order shortly before taking his leave and he was performing well.
A rotationÃ‚Â isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ideal, and maybe the likely best scenario in the second half of the season includes only a coupleÃ‚Â of the original four players, along with someone like Scooter Gennett on a daily basis.Ã‚Â None of the members of either the starting pitching rotation or outfield rotation performedÃ‚Â well in the first few months of the season. But notice what happens when hitters hit andÃ‚Â pitchers, well, pitch?