Compare & Contrast: A superficial glance at Left Field

Position: Left Field

2010 Innings breakdown: Jonny Gomes - 71%

                                            Laynce Nix - 19%

                                            Chris Heisey - 7%

                                            Chris Dickerson - 2%

                                            Jim Edmonds - 1%

                                            Willie Bloomquist - 1%

2010 Composite batting line (over 650 PA):

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

584

83

157

29

4

19

86

5

3

46

144

.268

.329

.431

.760

BABIP

Contact Rate

Walk Rate

Batting Eye

SBO

RC/G

.327

75.3%

7.0%

0.32

5.8%

4.68

2010 Composite NL average left field batting line (over 650 PA):

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

CS

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

579

81

154

35

4

17

76

9

3

58

119

.267

.337

.434

.771

BABIP

Contact Rate

Walk Rate

Batting Eye

SBO

RC/G

.309

79.4%

8.9%

0.49

7.7%

4.89

2011 Contract status:

Gomes - $1.75M team option

Nix - free agent

Heisey - not yet arbitration eligible

Dickerson - with Milwaukee

Edmonds - free agent

Bloomquist - free agent

Advanced minor league depth:

Todd Frazier - age 24, 781 OPS at AAA

Sean Henry - age 24, 766 OPS at AA, AAA

Relative win increase, 2010 vs. 2009: -0

Brief summary of 2010: In 2009, Laynce Nix was the most frequent name assigned to the LF position in the lineup card, but fielded less than 40% of the season's innings in that position.  This year, the team took a large step forward in terms of stability-reference Jonny Gomes's healthy lead in innings played-but didn't make any gains in production over the prior year.  While Gomes had his moments, Red Reporter's award-winning 18 Game Capsule series tells us that 5 of the season's 9 periods witnessed Gomes posting an OPS under 700.  It's completely hit or miss for the guy, and as much as anyone in the lineup, he dictated whether the team had a dominant or a shaky offense.

Way too early knee-jerk outlook for 2011: Theoretically, there should be no easier position to upgrade; the current group represents a below average effort, and there will be dramatic upgrades available in the winter.  All it costs is money which does not belong to us.  Realistically, most of the team's LF innings in 2011 are likely to be given to someone already listed above.  Jonny Gomes has played several seasons now, but prior to 2010 never received more than 385 at-bats.  This year, he beat that previous high by 126 at-bats, but only hit 18 home runs, which would rank as the 4th seasonal total in Gomes's career.  This in a ballpark which collects home runs by the bushel.  Similarly, Laynce Nix hit but four dingers in 165 at-bats.  On one hand, throw in Heisey, and the group gave average production on the cheap.  On the other hand, their collective defense is poor, the team shouldn't be content with matching league averages, and in the case of the two primary players, it sure feels like the league's pitchers have got the pairing figured out.  If the Reds fill the position in a similar manner next year, I expect overall LF OPS totals to be under 700.  If this sounds low, try to find another slow outfielder with declining power and three times as many strikeouts as walks while managing to hit as high as .266.  Course correction city.

Bottom line: As mentioned before, this is a relatively easy upgrade.  While I fully expect the team to re-load for 2011 with the same group, and while I fully expect that strategy to yield poor results, I also think the results will be so bad, that team management will have their hand forced, and upgrade the spot by the end of May.  That could mean Heisey or Frazier, might mean a permanent position change for Yonder Alonso, or might mean a trade.  I hold on to hope that the team will veer from the conventional wisdom and be aggressive in the free agent market.   Speculative Buy.  Share prices are low, and while rumors of a future spin-off/IPO may be overblown, the winds of change are near.  Buying into emerging markets is never without risk, so keep a balanced portfolio, but there is significant upside to be had.

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