80 wins

I know I’m just a silly baseball beat writer, but I have to be honest: I don’t get all the handwringing over the daily lineups from the Reds. Is having two struggling guys with below .300 on-base percentages optimal? Heck no. I wouldn’t prescribe that formula for any team.

But here’s the thing, it’s working for this team. Liking lineups isn’t supposed to be what the team or manager is judged by when you get to the bottom line — it’s wins and losses. Am I wrong about that? I don’t think I am. By the way, I think Brandon Phillips will return to the leadoff spot Saturday when Joey Votto returns.

The Reds might be 0-132 this season when it comes to people liking Dusty Baker’s lineups but after Wednesday’s 6-2 win over Arizona, the Reds are 80-52, which is the best record in baseball and its the club’s fastest to 80 wins since 1976. (That was a good season for that club, right?). Whether or not Baker is given a contract extension won’t come down to that he bats Drew Stubbs first or second, he will be judged by the team’s record. Most of the time, that’s how it should be. If the Reds reach the playoffs and this lineup prevents them from winning or advancing, then it  can be judged in the final outcome. But I don’t think this is the lineup we’ll see if everyone is healthy. The lineup is the way it is, partly because there aren’t many other options.

For the record, I think Ryan Hanigan should be batting eighth. I get that Hanigan has a.290 average and .382 OBP this season and that it’s way above what the top two guys are doing. But has anyone figured out yet that maybe that’s because Hanigan also benefits from hitting ahead of the pitcher? He has 38 walks, but 12 are intentional. Who knows how many other times pitchers worked around him, got into hitters’ counts that Hanigan could attack. Hanigan is a good hitter, but he’s not here to hit. His No. 1 priority is to catch and that he’s done that just about better than anyone in the NL. His hitting higher up means more at-bats, more running the bases if he gets on and that means wearing out faster. Catching beats guys up enough without the extra stuff. Sure, there are exceptions — Yadier Molina, Buster Posey and Joe Mauer to name three — but with all due respect, Hanigan isn’t as accomplished a hitter as those guys. He is good though. Could he score from first base on a double? Probably not often and that has to be a consideration too.

Hanigan starts three times out of every five games. Who would bat second when he’s not in there? He has shown historically he fades when worn down or playing too much. This is the first season he’s had where he hasn’t been on the DL or missed extended time with an injury. Does anyone get credit for playing it just right?

Fans have every right to complain about anything they want when it comes to their favorite team. It’s democracy in action and there’s nothing wrong with discourse when it’s done respectfully and thoughtfully. But what I’m seeing lately from some defies logic. Is the lineup you don’t like really preventing you from enjoying the wins or the team having baseball’s best record?

Managing is more than just writing out a lineup card. It’s knowing the personalities of the players, knowing the best matchups for hitters vs. pitchers and who needs rest because they’re looking sluggish. Does Dusty Baker get it right every time? No — I know of few managers that do. But this season, he’s done an exemplary job of managing his 25 people and has had the right touch on many situations beyond the lineups (rotation, bullpen for example). And that’s a big reason the Reds are where they are right now.

The Three Stars:

No. 3 star: Patrick Corbin, ARI — 6.2 ip, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 87 pitches/61 strikes. Corbin retired seven of his first eight batters and 16 of 18 and had a 2-0 lead for the first six innings. Then the Reds figured him out in the seventh with home runs by Chris Heisey and Dioner Navarro.

“He comes into the inning with 72 pitches I’m not really thinking about yanking him, he was in total control of the game and it got away from him quick,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

No. 2 star: Chris Heisey — 2-for-4, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs — Heisey sent a 3-1 Corbin pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark in left-center field for his first homer.

“I finally got a good count to hit in,” Heisey said. “I was sitting on a fastball and he threw it. It felt good to hit a home run. It’s been a while.”

Heisey hit a 3-2 slider from Matt Albers for a solo homer in the eighth. It was the fourth multi-homer game of his career.

No. 1 star: Mat Latos — 7 ip, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K, balk, plus two hits as a batter that gives him a six-game hitting streak. Latos survived a 34-pitch first inning where his balk allowed the first run to score. But he stayed tough and refocused his energies.

“He was probably amped up a little bit,” Dusty Baker said. “He was high in the zone and then he started getting the ball down and getting his breaking ball over. That’s what happens when you settle down.”



Man, what’s a Heisey gotta do to get the #1 star?

Heisey was worthy of a #1 star, but Latos kept his team in the game despite struggling in the first inning. Without Latos’ start, Heisey’s home runs would have only got him the Third Star

Could they be 85-47 with a better manager? How about 75-57 with a worse manager? The team has the talent to be well over .500 regardless of manager, so let’s see what happens in the playoffs before handing out any contract extensions. A good manager shines in the playoffs when every decision has greater consequences.

Responding to negativity on the internet is like bailing out the Titanic with a bucket. Ignore it.

I don’t complain about the lineups too much, but I’m tried of watching Drew Stubbs strike out. It’s pathetic. I probably put more blame on Walt for keeping him on the team than I do on Dusty, but he’s one of the worst guys to put in the top of the lineup. Yes, the team has the best record in baseball. But they don’t hand out trophies for having the best record, and I don’t think a team with Drew Stubbs batting first or second is going to produce the runs needed to win the WS. I hope I’m wrong… but I’m not satisfied with just making the playoffs and calling it a great year. This team has the pitching to win it all, but the black hole at the top of the lineup is a real weakness.

Try focusing on his defense which the pitchers appreciate immensely. Good defense leads to improved pitching which leads to more wins. Stubbs covers more territory than any other OFer the Reds have at the moment, a bit. Defense wins in all sports. Check the record.

You tell ’em, Mr. Sheldon! It is, however, only natural when winning/gaining something to think how much more or better one could be “if only….” But some “negative Nancies” obsess so much over it, it ruins their enjoyment of a potentially-great season. I would hope that, like me, the silent majority of Reds fans out there are just happy to have a winning team.

Mark, thank you for putting things in its proper perspective. The diatribe and the discourse on a nightly basis about Dusty baffles me. Quite frankly the anti-Dusty sentiment on the internet has the stench of racism to it. He’s a good manager. Hopefully good enough to lead this team to a World Series Championship. But let’s remember, fans, just how difficult that is. Just ask Ron Washington. I wonder if Rangers fans criticize him as much as Reds fans do Dusty?

It has nothing to do with racism and resent hearing that. It has everything to do with a stubborn manager that is narrow minded. Anyway, very happy we are winning now. Just hope it transfers to playoff wins!

I don’t think it’s racism. It’s just regular, “What’s he thinking?” that goes with the job. Rick Pitino, when he was basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, didn’t have this problem, but every other coach has had to deal with it.

I’ve got no complaints with Dusty. I do think the Reds should’ve given Mackannin a longer run than the one he got. Remember, Dusty might be the best manager the Giants have had since moving to San Francisco, thought Bochy is doing outstanding.

As Dusty said, pitching and defense is what is winning the Reds games, and although it is frustrating watching Stubbs struggle, he has made these pitchers so much more effective with his defense in center field.

Glad to see somebody gets it.

Mark, couldn’t agree more. I am not a Dusty fan, but I love the way this team is playing (in meaningful games, might add…), and he certainly deserves credit for keeping them focused and motivated.

Bill, how can you not be a Dusty fan. Guy is so much more than a baseball manager, who will, after this season give this city two divison titles. How long has it been since that happened. He also is a great guy and well versed in many fields. Just what strikes you the wrong way. Team is playing very well minus their best player,everyone on team gets along, rarely does anyone get in trouble. What more could you want??? If you filled out the line up card do you think we would be better than 80-52. WE are WINNING and heading to a division title. That is huge for this City and its fans not to mention the businesses in town.Enjoy the excitement and realize that there is often more than one right answer to a problem. it just might be that both your strategy and Dusty’s could work.

Stubby is definetly the best OF on the roster, bar none! But why does he have to bat 1 or 2? cant he bat 6 or 7? Move Frazier up. Move Bruce up. Put someone up there that isnt going to strike out 200 times/year. on the other hand, all that really matters is the W’s. if I were so smart, I would be in the dugout on game day, not my couch! whatever it takes, just keep the W’s coming!!

Thanks for saying it mark. I tweeted pretty much the same thing today. Best record in baseball, biggest lead in any division, 100 wins possible. Cy, ROY, Manager of Year, Batting Champ all possible. I guess Johnnie B. Baker does know how to run this team more than the honks constantly criticizing him everyday.

You are right Mark even if I am part of the problem. We just don’t understand the Stubbs vs. Heisey your 2nd star today. Well at least for me. I love Stubbs and want to see him succeed as badly as anybody! I just don’t understand why he is in the lineup as often as we see him. Maybe there is something wrong with Heisey, a bad attitude, doesn’t get along with Dusty or maybe they plan on dumping him or something. Just doesn’t make sense for a guy who had 18 homers last year to ride the bench as much as he is. I just wish we had more insight into the why’s is all.

Dusty has done an amazing job this year no doubt, he has pulled all the right strings, balanced the rotation just so, managed the relief pitchers like no other manager. Clearly he has to be the front runner for manager of the year.

We second guess what we don’t understand I’ll be the first to say that. Send my apologizes to Mr. Baker for being critical, he has made me a fan of his this year. Just please if you could you don’t have to justify yourself we just want to understand some of your mad genius logic with your lineup strategy. Whatever you are doing to win keep on doing don’t tweak that!

LOL – this is silly. Please stop defending Dusty and the Reds. The 1% of idiots on Twitter will never be happy. The other 99% of us are just happy to watch the Reds season in and out regardless of their record. You rock, Mark. But no need to write to the audience of 1%.

Well written piece Mark. I’m happy the reds are where they are and I am typically not one to criticize though I’m sure people will think I’m doing just that. Cozart is a rookie and probably shouldn’t be leading off…right now he tries to pull everything but I think he’ll get better. Stubbs has regressed since 2010 and I think he has lost complete confidence in the ability that I think is there somewhere because we’ve seen glimpses. I’ve never seen someone take or completely miss so many pitches that are right over the plate. I know he is the best defensive outfielder we have but it seems to me he comes to the plate a whole lot more than there are balls hit to a spot in the outfield that only he can run down. Heisey while not as fast is still and excellent fielder…I think a lot of people just want to know why he’s not given more opportunity give his past success. Final thought… Marty said today that you can’t tell him that not having Frazier in the lineup every day gives you the best possible lineup and we all know who the weak link is that should sit. When Votto gets back Todd needs to play everyday. Everybody on the planet can see that.

Check out a post I wrote a few days ago about Dusty Baker’s stats compared to current and historical managers.

I think Ryan Hanigan’s OBP is legit, not just an artifact of hitting in front of the pitcher. He’s had a high OBP his entire career…even in the minors, where most games are played with the DH. He wasn’t hitting in front of the pitcher most of the time back then, but his minor league OBP is .382

I agree with a lot of what you wrote: that wins and losses are the important bottom line for a manager, and I agree about Hanigan’s spot in the batting order (except in games when Valdez or Cairo play).

I will have to go back and reread your columns from last year when Baker led a playoff team to a losing record. I wonder if you gave him the same kind of blame for that as the credit you give him this year. Was he a “big reason” for their losing record last year?

I hope you’re right about the lineup change when Votto returns.

Last year: Volquez couldn’t find the strike zone.
Arroyo couldn’t keep the ball in the park.
NO offense from Yanish.
No offense from Left Field.
Rolen and Francisco hurt at the same times.
…and, of course, Stubbs.

Mark, you have every right to be ticked, and it’s good you took the time to express your frustration with those Reds fans who continually spew their negativity in comment threads. I read every post on reds.com every day, and used to read comments too. Then I stopped. Couldn’t stand the anti-Dusty rants, name calling, and negativity. By the way, I read all of YOUR posts too. (Also enjoy hearing you from the radio booth when I’m listening in on gameday audio).

Right on Mark ! I still can’t believe those evil fans made Dusty give up on Corey Patterson –or Willie Taveras–or Jonnie Gomes! The audacity of those ignorant amateurs. Why don’t they just quietly sit in front of their TVs and be content that Reds are as good as they possibly can be -since they’ve already won 80 games!

you bring up those names now makes me realize just how cursed our center field is. When has the dreadful void of that position start?

Ok. You can keep talking about lineups from 2008 and ’09 when Patterson and Taveras were Reds. I will keep covering current games and wins or losses without bias. Thank you for reading.

Thanks for replying. He stuck by Patterson too long & it hurt the team. He stuck by Taveras too long and it hurt team. Dusty had other options. He’s sticking with Stubbs too long and it’s a legitimate criticism. Or I’ve got it all wrong about Corey and Willie?

I’m not saying Stubbs doesn’t need a break (he does). Patterson and Taveras were terrible. My point was everyone’s complaining about lineups seems weird. When Patterson and Taveras were around, the team wasn’t playing well overall. That at least made sense.

I have to agree with aaron. You seem to have a chip on your shoulder and seem to toe the company line.

Mark great article. The fact is Mr. Castellini has done a great job of bringing in the right people to bring winning baseball back to Cincinnati. No easy task considering how the economics of baseball have changed since Free agency. The entire organization should be commended. GM. Manager,coaches (particulary Bryan Price),Player developement and marketing. The ball park is a place to have fun again. The fact some people are negative with their comments really doesn’t bother me at all. It is generating interest and debate. If done respectfully and with a open mind I’m fine. The lack of respect shown our manager is laughable and I ignore those comments. Because his decisions are different than those you would use doesn’t mean he is wrong and you are right. It is fun to manage along with Dusty but at the end of the day it is about WINNING. We are doing that better than anybody in the league. As a longtime fan and a 20 year military veteran I can tell you having your hometown team post a great season and beable to brag about it to your comrades is priceless when serving. It was great to be in the military in the 70’s. My advice to all is enjoy the goodtimes because if you care to look it doesn’t happen as often as we would like. If you can’t enjoy a 80-52 season to this point I really don’t think your trying very hard.

You know, I was grateful at the break that the Reds were in 1st place, but I didn’t think they were a good team. Now I do. I still worry about them facing good starting pitching in the playoffs, but let’s see, They’ve shown a pattern (yesterday’s game was an example) of struggling in the early innings against a pitcher, and then getting to him or his replacement in the middle-to-late innings. No reason why that can’t work in October. The thing is, here we are Sept.1, assuming there’ll be October games! Something going pretty good, right? If Stubbs is part of the magic, leave him where he is. If not, move him down the order or bench him, but I’m not complaining either way. I’m going to stop managing and general managing the team for a while and get out of its way. Go Reds. Do your thing! (Curt – what’s the m.n. now and how many games are they on pace to win? I’m too lazy to figure it out).

I get it that Baker has done a great job in the regular season to this point. He keeps his subs game ready with spot starts and keeps his regulars rested and fresh. I also have not complained where Hanigan bats and you have given great reasons for him in the 8th spot. I will even take back my complaints on Stubbs playing because he is so good defensivley. But why does he have to bat 1st or 2nd. With all the hot hitters in our lineup we could move Phillips to lead off bat Cozart second followed by Frazier, Ludwick, Bruce, Rolen, Then Stubbs and Hanigan. With Stubbs speed if he did get on base he could steal second and then Hanigan’s ability to make contact might result in some runs. This is what i think fustrates most fans on Baker’s lineup right now.

How many teams have you all managed……waiting…waiting…that’s right none….so shut your pathetic pie holes and enjoy the damn season…hate to see the mood if we were the astros. Just a bunch of bums hiding behind a screen name spewing BS all over here. Just stfu and enjoy the ride…its been an exciting one…thank you bob Walt dusty and all the players for your hard work this season and finally delivering a winner…something this rat hole of a town doesn’t even deserve

By the way concerning the lineup. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it….does it defy logic…yes…but that’s what makes it even better. They are 80-52 with it so stop bitching. Frazier will continue to play so stop bitching. Stubbs is what he is. Live with it. Its dusty’s team live with it. Don’t like it fill out an app for manager I guarantee they will laugh at your worthless ass. If anyone wants to challenge me on that, post your credentials. If not get off here or shut the hell up. I have read this all year and I’m finally just sick of it. And when it comes to mark Sheldon leave the man alone he’s doing his job and does it in fine fashion. I enjoy his rreads and insight to the team I love the most. Keep up the awesome work mark and don’t listen to these no talent hacks.

Well if the criticism isn’t deserved now, it will be deserved next week when Dusty is sitting the ROY for Scott Rolen.

you have serious issues. Part of baseball lore is fantasy. that is why the sport is so addictive to numbers. Predicting, analyzing, and participating in the team experience by putting together what you think should be best. That is part of baseball, always has been and always will be. Just like baseball will always have umpires. same thing. the guess at what is best are they always right no. But they guess at what they do just like the players, the management, and even the fans.
It is fun to question what the other scenarios could be. Part of peoples problem is that they put this team in a fantasy baseball roster and aside from our pitching we lose and we lose badly. How the heck is Dusty doing it? We want to know really. I give him all the credit in the world I really do.
Let people speculate don’t criticize them! it is part of baseball for crying out loud.
And if you think Cincy is a rathole why don’t you move on up to Cleveland?

As much as Cincinnati has given baseball we are more than past due for some great years with some playoff wins and a few world series titles. we are the oldest team in baseball. We are the greatest team in baseball and one of the greatest sports teams of all time.

I totally agree 100% with everything Mark has said here. Like I said in thread a few days ago. This lineup looks freaking nasty once JV comes back:

Phillips- 2B
Cozart- SS
Votto- 1B
Ludwick- LF
Bruce- RF
Frazier- 3B
Stubbs- CF
Hanigan- C

With the way Stubbs is playing, were going to see Bruce and Heisey getting some more time in CF and of course Rolen is going to get PT too. But I think Scott will step up and tell Dusty to keep Frazier in lineup as much as possible. But Scotty has been hitting the ball well and I want to see him gets some starts as well.

Plain and simple, this team has the perfect combination to go deep into the playoffs. A very strong rotation, and even stronger bullpen and an offense that hit’s the long ball.

Then stop your bitching and whining and let them give you some playoff wins and world series titles…. negativity towards them does what? NOTHING but piss ppl off. All this team has done this year is win. And have done it a lot of different ways. A total team effort. That includes players coaches (yes dusty haters that includes him) and the fans. So for all you haters. Go be cardinals fans because you all fit in over there you guys don’t deserve a winner anyway. I just love the reds win or lose year in and year out. I never question them. Would you want them to come to McDonald’s and criticize the way you do your job? Didn’t think so scrubs…

Mark’s opening line-“I have to be honest. I don’t get the handwringing over the daily lineups from the reds.” Sound to me like an invitation to explain it to him.It’s not b—hing or whining to ask if he got it with Patterson or Taveras in the same posistion: (it did NOT work for those teams). Must fans wait for the Reds to lose before any criticism is justified? Besides, Sheldon has rarely gone as far in his defense of a manager (or GM, or owner,etc.and I’ve got to also be honest. I don’t get that!

An invitation to explain it to him would have been “somebody explain all of the handwringing to me”…

Justin, just curious…..what did I bitch about? I think your point has plenty of validity. I’ve been a Reds fan since I could first understand what in the hell baseball was. I mean seriously, how many people do you know that still own and watch “Wire to Wire” on VHS? While I am not a Dusty hater, he does do some things from time to time that are major head scratchers and that’s the only gripe you really ever see people having on here. But, that’s where I agree with you. All year, Dusty has been constanatly giving us the only thing that should matter to any of us die hard fans…….Wins!!!! So, I agree, who cares about the lineup, who cares about what releiver move he makes, who cares about who he plays were and who starts and sits, who pinch hits….. He is pushing all the right buttons and it’s working to perfection. The people that get on hear and bash Mark for his opinions are the one’s whose posts I just skip right over. Stay Hot Reds and have a nice weekend off Mark.

Thank you! I have been trying to get people to realize this all season. Everyone blames Dusty for the 52 loses, but won’t give a shred of credit for the 80 wins. It’s fatiguing to read the crap over and over.

My biggest gripe is not with Dusty or his bashers, but with the low increase in fans. If attendance doesn’t pickup, it’s going to be tough to keep this team together.

The i8ncrease will come next year. That’s always the way it is!

I know last year wasn’t what people hoped for after 2010, but I don’t like that they’ve only increased about 10% since 2010. They increased around 4.6% each of the last 2 years. I’m hoping with the way the team is finishing this year that the increase will get a little bigger through the end of the season.

Wow talk about B & W. I give Dusty all the credit for the 80 wins. Yes i think the lineup would be more potent batting Stubbs in the 7th slot instead of the 1st or 2nd. I hold my head high when i proclaim myself a Reds fan and have been since the 60’s. One of the fun parts of baseball is discussing the moves your team/manager make and dont make. There have been those that use strong words against Dusty, some waranted some not, but to blast the city and its fans is really over the edge. I get you are fustrated at the negetivity but if you dont like it you do not have to read it. This has been a great season. I have been down to see the Reds over 30 times this year and have more to go to show my support for what management as a whole for the team, its fans and the city. As such i will continue to post on these pages my views, excitement and disapointment in our team.
As for Mark, I enjoy reading his pages and listening to him talk with Marty during the 2nd innings of games. I dont always agree with him but find he is right about 95%.

ANYBODY who doesn’t have a personal relationship with the 25 guys on the team, and thinks they know how to put together a lineup better than the manager, is jus showing that they don’t get what a manager’s job is. These guys aren’t players in a video game or simulation game. They are humans with emotions, personal issues, bad days, different responses to motivational techniques, etc. You can’t say so-and-so should be used in a different way, and point to his stats as evidence, because he might not HAVE those same stats if he were used in a different way. By far the larger part of a manager’s job is political and motivational and not “losing” his team. Anything and everything that the fans see is like 5% of the job.

Yes, they’re winning so we should overlook what might appear to an outsider to not be the best strategy, but I don’t like using that as justification or rationalization. The best strategy might still appear to an outsider not to be such a good strategy next year if they’re not winning.

Always enjoy reading your articles and your honest coverage of teh Reds. This time is no different. Could the lineup be tweaked, sure, could the pitching be handeld a little different sometimes, sure. However show me a manager that makes the right move everytime with 100% success rate? Folks, I’m not a big Dusty fan, but he has been right about 61% of the time this year! Well said Mark, adn keep up the good work!

It appears that since Mark posted “80 Wins” Dusty, Jacoby, & Stubbs had a meeting. Apparently lineup nirvana has yet to be attained. Seems Drew may not be starting in CF and batting 2nd as much as he was- even though “it worked for this team”. Can ya throw a positive slant on that for us Mark?

I believe if you read the blog post that I said Stubbs needed a break. I never advocated his batting 2nd. I just wanted people to quit bellyaching about lineups everyday.

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