Dusty Baker. Sweet, sweet Dusty.
I was slathering Dustiny cream all over my person back in the day, too. It was one of those fun things you experiment with in college, like partying, stealing rival mascots, or drinking every day until you're 35 and realizing you can't stop. You know, a phase.
And as I came of age, I realize that Dusty Baker drove me mad. He was infuriating. I think the final straw was Tsuyoshi Shinjo DHing and Kenny Lofton playing center in the World Series. The World Series! Shinjo fielded like Andres Torres, but with a good arm. Lofton fielded like Angel Pagan, but five years older. But Baker wanted to keep Lofton comfortable. Okay.
The Giants won that game, too, which is kind of Baker in a nutshell.
But we're here to talk about the Reds' offense, and I bring this up because I'm expecting to find two things:
1. Some silly lineups. We're talking well beyond Theriot hitting second.
2. A preponderance of bunting
I don't know if either of these were a part of Reds baseball in 2012. So let's head over to Baseball Reference and take a look.
Aw, man. We just missed. For most of the year, Zach Cozart was hitting leadoff. That's amazing. Cozart is like Brandon Crawford as a leadoff option, but without the plate discipline. And when it wasn't Cozart, it was Wilson Valdez, Xavier Paul, or Drew Stubbs. All amazing leadoff options. Lately, though, Baker has gone with Brandon Phillips, which makes a lot of sense. Dang it.
Cozart is still hitting second a lot, so that's fine and dandy. The rest of the lineup is about what you'd expect, but Dusty does have one goofy card that he likes to pull, and that's playing Scott Rolen over Todd Frazier. The former is basically Joaquin Arias now -- you can compare Rolen's .245/.318/.398 to Arias' .270/.304/.389 before you even adjust for ballpark. The latter had a splendid rookie campaign, hitting for good power, though he really slumped to end the season, going 13-for-74 in September, with five walks and 19 strikeouts.
I'd still play Frazier. Dusty will probably play Rolen.
Conclusion: Not as much lineup nonsense as I was expecting, but I'll take it. Also, Miguel Cairo started 16 games at first this year for the Reds, which is beautiful.
Success! Cincinnati is second in the league in sacrifice-bunt attempts. They're also 13th in success rate.
Conclusion: Yessss. Good work, Dusty.
Here's the problem, though. Lineups and bunting don't make that much of a difference. Over a 162-game season, sure, it'll have an effect. In a best-of-five series, a lineup quirk or bunt could take the Reds out of a big inning, or it could give the Reds a run or two they wouldn't have otherwise had. We're talking about slight differences in probability.
If you're going to review an offense, picking on Dusty isn't going to help. Instead, here are some hastily assigned categories.
Hitter who scares the absolute hell out of me, oh no, oh no, oh no
Hitters who scare me
Hitter who I refuse to believe is this good, which means he's probably the one who will murder the Giants this series
Honorary 2011 Giants
The rest of them
I was terrified the Giants were going to sign Ludwick this offseason. Terrified. He had his best year since 2008. Do you realize that the 2010 Padres probably would have won the NL West if Ludwick weren't such an anvil for them? He hit .211/.301/.330 after they traded for him, good for -0.6 wins. He had 2.3 wins before the trade, so if he kept that up and gave the Padres an extra win, that two-win swing would have … yup. It would have been close, at least.
Bonus: The guy the Padres gave up would be a very annoying Padres pitcher now. So fine work, Ludwick. Please don't take it out on the Giants over the next week.
Phillips had a down year compared to last season, but it was actually a very typical year for him. I still don't trust him, probably because he's murdered the Giants in his career, hitting .301/.356/.506 with eight homers in 176 at-bats.
Bruce is one those wait-he's-how-young? hitters, as he's just 25. He has a ton of power, but he can be pitched to. Which scares me, because Tim Lincecum doesn't do a lot of pitching these days.
The rest of the Reds are Honorary 2011 Giants. Good for them. Don't be jerks about it, and keep doin' what you're doin'.
That leaves Joey Votto. Oh, how I wish there were readily available technology that allowed you to put this GIF in a heart-shaped locket:
That's the best. I'd clutch the locket, look toward the heavens, and mutter prayers in a different language every time he came up. Alas, I don't have one of those. So I'm left to be terrified on my own, without any help.
I've been pledging fealty to Votto all year, and you can read about it here, if you're so inclined. He was good before, but then he found, if not Bonds-like patience, the closest we've seen since. He had 25 more walks and five more doubles than anyone on the Giants this year, and he missed 51 games. Think about that. He's a freak.
The strength of the Reds is their pitching, but Joey Votto exists, and this is a fearful thing. Hopefully the Giants don't do silly things when he's at the plate.
/sits back and waits for Ryan Ludwick to crush the Giants for no good reason