The Reds' holes

The Hardball Times has a feature on the biggest holes on Narional League contending teams.

The Reds place two players on the list of ten.

8. Eric Milton, starting pitcher, Cincinnati Reds

Innings: 101.1
ERA: 5.37

Eric Milton has done most things a pitcher needs to do reasonably well: he doesn't give up many hits (just over one an inning), he doesn't walk many guys (2.5 per 9 innings) and strikes out an adequate number of batters (5.5 per 9 innings). There's just one thing he struggles at, and if you're reading this site, you probably know that it's the worst possible weakness to have while pitching in the Great American Ballpark: giving up home runs. According to the 2006 Hardball Times Annual, Great American increases the rate at which fly balls turn into home runs by 11%, which is how it's possible for Milton to be such a bad pitcher despite so many positive skills.

It was obvious to everyone that Milton's signing was a bad idea at the time, and it's even more obvious now that he's taking up nearly $10 million of the Reds' $61 million Opening Day payroll. Given the lack of better options, Milton's contract and the fact that general manager Wayne Krivsky seems to have shot his wad with the Austin Kearns-Felipe Lopez deal, Reds fans will likely have to put up with Milton for the time being. However, it will be interesting to see if Krivskey, who wasn't with the Reds when they signed Milton, does to address the situation in the offseason.


2. Royce Clayton, shortstop, Cincinnati Reds

Plate appearances: 374
OPS: .655

Royce Clayton used to make his living as a slick-fielding, light hitting shortstop. And it's been quite a living--looking at his career stats, it amazes me that Clayton's been around for so long (will be over 2000 career games by season's end) without even once having had a good season at the plate. Now, at age 36, the bat is still as light, but Clayton's defensive skills, so long his calling card, have long since gone from good to pedestrian, leaving him past the point where he's a useful player.

Still, in the framework of this season, there is room for hope. Taking defense into account, Felipe Lopez wasn't actually giving the Reds that much production either. Last year, his hot hitting made his atrocious defense tolerable--this year, sans the .838 OPS, he's been a liability, posting an OPS less than 50 points higher than Clayton's, but with much worse defense. Sure, Lopez about 10 years younger and possesses much greater upside, but the Reds have managed to contend with the not quite hitting, no fielding Lopez to this point, so the downgrade to Clayton's production shouldn't be dramatic for the rest of the season.

That still doesn't make it a good deal, though, since when dealing with two comparable players the obvious move is always to take the younger one. On the other hand, Lopez was also making more money, and Krivsky felt he needed the upgrade in the bullpen. If the Reds make the playoffs this year and their bullpen acquisitions pitch well, then swapping a younger, more expensive hole at shortstop for an older, cheaper hole was probably worth it. Of course, there's also the matter of Austin Kearns, but that's a whole 'nother column.

Griffey doesn't even make the honorable mention list. Is anyone besides us noticing the horrible slide he's on?

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