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.”