Several issues confront whomever the Reds hire as their new manager. Most of these will be decided by the front office, such as winter acquisitions through trade or free agency.
Among those deals, a possible trade of Brandon Phillips is the most noteworthy. Cincinnati Enquirer beat reporter John Fay discussed that possibility in his column on October 20.
“Given that his production was just average this year – seventh in on base average plus slugging percentage among National League second basemen – the Reds could get similar offense for a lot less money,” Fay stated.
Dusty Baker’s replacement will also be at the mercy of the front office regarding the fates of pending free agents Bronson Arroyo and Shin-soo Choo. Both players were significant contributors to the Reds’ push to the postseason last year, but are unlikely to fit into Cincinnati’s payroll with their expected raises in new contracts.
One crucial decision the new manager can make, however, concerns the batting order. He can finally do what Baker refused to do, even after all the evidence of its advantage. The new skipper can move Joey Votto into the two-hole where he belongs.
“Virtually all sabermetric models suggest that a team’s best hitter should move from No. 3 to No. 2,” said Benjamin Hoffman in a recent issue of The New York Times. “The theory of hitting your best player second centers on the idea that he will get around 18 more plate appearances a season, (and) it also reduces the plate appearances for an inferior hitter who had been hitting second.”
Even if they eschew the written theory, the Reds need look no further than their own history for proof that Votto fits the second spot. After all, the best all-around hitter of the Big Red Machine era not only played second, but he batted there as well.
Hall of Famer Joe Morgan had similar numbers to Votto in terms of power, on base percentage and batting average. As a number two hitter in 1973, Little Joe blasted 25 home runs, drove in 78, batted .287 and had an on base plus slugging percentage of .402.
Votto had almost identical numbers last year. The All-Star hit 24 homers, drove in 73, batted .302 and had an OBP of .435. The difference is that the Reds won a pennant with Morgan in the second hole; they finished in third place with Votto in the three hole.
Whoever takes over the helm in the Cincinnati dugout should make his first decision a sensible but critical one. He should take a page from Sparky Anderson’s book and put his best hitter in the number two slot and watch the team’s anemic offense suddenly show a little life.
The New York Times, 10/19/13