Four suggestions for improving Dusty Baker's lineup.
The Cincinnati Reds should feature a productive offense and a strong defense in 2011, but will Dusty Baker’s lineup construction optimize either asset? Looking at recent history, which includes poor OBP at the top of the order and his best defensive shortstop on the bench, that may not happen without a few helpful suggestions. So Dusty, If you’re reading this,here are four moves to help improve your run production and run prevention alike.
Earlier this week, Colin Wyers and I wrote about some of the qualities that make Ichiro so unusual, enabling him to flummox projection systems and opposing defenses alike. Chief among them was his proclivity for infield hitting. As we mentioned, Ichiro has led the majors in infield hit percentage, as defined by FanGraphs (IFH/GB), for five straight seasons. It’s clear that infield hitting is a skill; Matt Swartznoted that a similar statistic of his own creation, “Infield Reach Percentage” (essentially, times on base/IFGB, excluding fielder’s choices) has a .55 year-to-year correlation, indicating that the players who rack up infield hits one year tend to rack them up the next (and vice versa). That’s not only true, but intuitive: it stands to reason that speedy players with quick first steps (especially those who have the added advantage of batting from the left side) would show some ability to amass high infield-hit rates, whether or not they can actually control the trajectory of the balls they put in play.
Notebook has a look at the Cardinals' bench, plus some young Devil Rays and Blue Jays.
John Rodriguez is 27 and has had a very odd season. After an eight-year minor-league career playing in the system for his boyhood hero Yankees, the Bronx native hit the glass ceiling and signed with Cleveland as a minor-league free agent last November. His big spring (.320/.370/.760) opened some eyes, but the Tribe thought better of the limited sample size (25 at-bats) and he was reassigned to Buffalo. He struggled (.247/.323/.447, just five HR in 170 AB) there, but St. Louis must have liked something about him because player development director Bruce Manno crafted a small trade to get him. Rodriguez joined the Memphis Redbirds on June 9 and went Ruth on the Pacific Coast League: 17 HR in 120 AB; .342/.419/.808. A small window, to be sure, but for a team that's short a couple outfielders like St. Louis was and still is, you've got to catch the lightning in the bottle. Cards GM Walt Jocketty told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he had seen Rodriguez play four games before promoting him, and that the Memphis staff recommended him highly.