(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
If Shakespeare were alive today, he'd most definitely be a baseball scribe. I mean, it's obvious, right? He wore his socks up to his knees...and that's pretty much the only parallel I can think of. But he most certainly would be fascinated by the tragic figure that is Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is currently mired in the worst slump of his life, as he is hitless in his last eight games, spanning 32 plate appearances. The numbers don't quite capture the despair of the situation though, as Stubbs looks as lost at the plate as Shakespeare's Robinson Caruso. Or something like that. I don't really know from poetry.
Now, before we really get into the meat of this, I must say that I have been one of the most staunch among the ever-dwindling ranks of Stubbs' supporters. He's a good ballplayer. Honest, he really is. Few players run the bases as well as he does, and even fewer catch baseballs in CF as well as he does. But we most certainly must do something about that funnoodle he found at the Days Inn indoor pool that he insists on using at the plate. All together, he's still a valuable baseball player. Guys who play elite defense up the middle don't just grow on trees. Unfortunately, they don't often hit at the top of the order, either.
So the way I see it, the Reds have four choices: bump 'im, platoon, 'im, sit 'im, or trade 'im.
Oh boy, is this guy fast. He's on pace for another 30-40 steals this season, which would be his third time in three tries. Problem is, of course, that speed on the basepaths doesn't matter if you can't get on the basepaths. Dusty Baker is a fine manager with many strengths, but his misunderstanding of this axiom is possibly his greatest weakness. Stubbs and Zack Cozart both are getting on base less than 30% of the time, which is absolutely unacceptable at the top of the lineup.
I understand Dusty's thinking here, though. Ideally, you want guys at the top of the order that get on base and run well. Unfortunately, he's been given a roster that is left wanting players that fit this profile. In fact, I see only two Reds starters that fit the bill - Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. And last I checked, I had to squint a bit to see them as OBP + speed guys. BeeP's OBP is .321 and Bruce's is .331. They are both above the league average, but only by a smidge. And they are currently being deployed as run producers in the clean-up and five slots. The real problem is that this team just doesn't get on base all that well.
So Dusty has to make do. If you don't have guys who get on base and run well, you gotta pick one or the other. Unfortunately, he picked the other. Regardless of past errors, it is definitely time to change course. It's been half a season and neither Cozart or Stubbs has shown the ability to get on base as an acceptable rate. It's time to move them both to the bottom of the order where they belong.
Like I said above, this team is really hurting for guys who can get on base. They also are seriously lacking in guys who can hit right-handed pitching. Only Joey Votto and Jay Bruce swing from the left side, and the righties are only hitting .232/.286/.361 against right-handed pitching. That is a ton of automatic outs through the lineup when the team faces a righty, which is like all the dang time. Stubbs is the poster boy for this disparaging split. Against righties, his career OPS is .681. But he tears up lefties at an .823 clip.
If the front office can go out and get a left-handed OF who can handle part-time duty in CF, I think it would go a long way towards picking up this offense. Of course, that is easier said than done. There aren't too many left-handed CFs out there who get on base, are willing to play part-time, and are potentially available. That doesn't mean we can't speculate, though. The Diamondbacks signed Jason Kubel in the off-season, thus relegating Gerardo Parra to the 4th OF role. There were rumors a few years ago that the D'backs offered to swap Parra for Chris Heisey, which I would be all up ons about right now. He played a good bit and did well when Chris Young was hurt, but they seem to be working him in pretty well as a late-inning sub, pinch-hitter, and occasional starter. Their OF is working well for them, and I don't see them screwing with a good thing.
And, uhh, that's about it as far as possible platoon partners go. Man, this building a baseball team stuff is hard.
This whole time, the Reds could have the answer to all this right there sitting on the bench. Chris Heisey plays CF just like Drew Stubbs. But he doesn't play it as well and he's not hitting well, either. Ugh. Let's just move on to the next one.
In case you didn't notice, I'm listing these possibilities in order of likelihood that the Reds will actually do them. I don't actually think the Reds should trade Stubbs, nor do I think they want to. But in it's current form, the roster is, as noted above, not exactly ideal. There are just too many players that don't get on base against right-handed pitching (Stubbs, Cozart, Ludwick, and Heisey are all ineffectual against north paws). Stubbs is still a valuable asset, and thus could probably fetch something in the trade market. Guys like Denard Span, Shane Victorino, and David DeJesus could possibly be available at the deadline and fix all of the issues listed above if penciled into CF everyday. Of course, that would mean clearing the way for them by flipping Stubbs. That's a lot of roster rejiggering, which is something that the front office has shown an allergy to over the last few years.
Again, I'm not sure what the Reds should do here. It's like Hamlet or something. What I am sure of is that something needs to be done. Except they probably shouldn't go around killing everyone to death like Hamlet did. Drew Stubbs is a good ballplayer for sure, but he just isn't the top of the order table setter than the Reds want him to be. It's time to come to terms with that and make adjustments accordingly.