The Reds might have finally found their solution in the leadoff spot.
The Thursday Takeaway
Entering yesterday’s game against the Braves, Reds leadoff men had combined for a .164/.202/.270 triple slash—and that was after rookie shortstop Zack Cozart homered in each of the first two games of the series and went 2-for-4 on Wednesday. Twenty-eight teams’ number-eight hitters had logged a better OPS than the Reds’ number-one batters’ 472 mark. And though the overall stat line of their leadoff men is still awful, after completing a four-game sweep of the Braves, the Reds appear to have both hit their stride and solved their once-fatal flaw.
The 6-3 win over the Braves on Thursday gave the 25-19 Reds their first division lead of the season, as they pushed past the Cardinals, who lost a 10-9 nail-biter to the Phillies. Perhaps more significantly, though, the hole at the top of manager Dusty Baker’s batting order is that much closer to being plugged.
Michael Bourn had a career day playing at Great American Ballpark.
The Tuesday Takeaway Brandon Beachy came into yesterday’s game against the Reds having allowed just one home run in 54 innings this season. Great American Ball Park took care of that. Michael Bourn came into yesterday’s game against the Reds having hit just one home run in 201 plate appearances this season. Great American Ball Park took care of that, too.
By the time the Reds were celebrating their 4-3 win, Beachy had served up three long balls—a pair to Brandon Phillips and one to Zack Cozart—and Bourn had mashed two. Beachy’s home-runs-allowed figure had quadrupled. Bourn’s home-runs-hit mark had tripled.
Which NL starters are off to a worse start than the Angels' not-yet-sluggy first baseman?
On Wednesday, I examined a half-dozen American League hitters who are off to chillier starts than even Albert Pujols in an attempt to shine a light on a handful of developing stories centered around underperforming players. Of course, none of those hitters has the track record or the job security of the Angels' newest marquee attraction; neither do seven billion other people on Earth. In other words, they're a wee bit more likely to find themselves riding the pine or worse if they continue to flounder, and at the very least, their small-sample struggles—and for this the threshold is 70 plate appearances, not long enough for any key hitter statistic to stabilize—are worth your attention.
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Stick around long enough in the business of covering baseball and you're bound to hear accusations of bias, particularly when you bring a little extra vitriol to an analysis of somebody else's favorite team. Let's face it: Even the homeliest of franchises is somebody's favorite team, and the homelier they are, the higher the chance that its fan base gets a wee bit sensitive when folks come a-piling on. After getting under a few more skins than usual, I started this project a few weeks ago as a way of making light of the grudges, great and small, that I bear against every team—including the ones for whom I cheer when I'm kicking back on the couch or at the ballpark. Welcome back to the Hate List, where I've got something against your team.
Jason Heyward takes a step forward, while Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez are looking to get the ball rolling with their new clubs.
The Wednesday Takeaway
The Braves are counting on bounce-back campaigns from their corner outfielders and contributions from their high-ceiling pitching prospects as they look to return to the top of the NL East standings for the first time since 2005. If Wednesday night’s 6-3 victory over the Astros is any indication, they may get them.
Starter Randall Delgado earned the win for Atlanta, tossing five innings of two-run ball and striking out six. But the bigger story was right fielder Jason Heyward, who made his presence felt throughout the game and might be ready to resume his rise to stardom.
The Reds might be making a mistake by not starting Chris Heisey.
When the Reds let Jonny Gomes walk in free agency this past winter, it seemed Chris Heisey might finally get a chance to show that he could stick as the team’s everyday left fielder. The 27-year-old Heisey hit .254/.309/.487 last season, with an impressive 18 home runs in 308 plate appearances. His plate discipline left much to be desired, but his minor-league track record suggested that an uptick in walks and a decrease in strikeouts could be forthcoming.
On January 17, though, the Reds inked Ryan Ludwick to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, threatening the expected increase in Heisey’s playing time. The fit was odd, to say the least. Ludwick—coming off a .237/.310/.363 campaign split between the Padres and Pirates—did not offer much that Heisey wasn’t already providing. Both are right-handed hitters. Both have reverse platoon splits (although Heisey’s may be the product of a small sample size). Both produce the bulk of their value in the batter’s box.
What are some of the big questions surrounding the AL and NL Central?
Continuing what I started with the two East divisions on Friday, I've identified one nagging question I have about each team coming out of spring training, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon as the season nears. Today, it's the two Central divisions.
If Baseball Prospectus tracked how often a manager spurred a column, Dusty Baker might sit atop the leaderboard. Baker, now entering his 19th season as a big-league manager, is wont to trumpet old-time truisms over newfangled concepts like OBP. You could mistake Baker for a troll if his comments weren’t so consistent and his tone so genuine. Alas, that would be too simplistic. Baker is deeper than that; deep enough where the public can identify three idiosyncrasies to him. One is that he abuses starting pitchers—which may no longer be true—and another is that he enjoys the utility and company of a sturdy toothpick, but then again, who doesn’t? That leaves the third piece of his puzzle as the most interesting: his crush on veteran ballplayers.
Baker’s run as a manager started in San Francisco. It was with the Giants that Baker eventually formed a tag team with Brian Sabean, thus bringing tears to the eyes, glee to the hearts, and dollars to the wallets of older players. Baker’s reputation for desiring older players might be exceeded only by Sabean’s. That same Sabean once had this joke made at his expense: