It might look like this sometimes, but that doesn't mean it's not working.
Our spokesman has already apologized to Ryan Ludwick on behalf of the silent majority of doubters I'm going to assume we had on our editorial staff. I'll only add that not only did I not think he had it in him, I thought there was a decent chance he'd lose the majority of his playing time to Todd Frazier and possibly be DFA'd or traded by this point in the season if the Reds were still contending.
I'm not sure why I have to re-learn how meaningless April baseball can be every season, but I'm kind of glad I do. That way, I can be pleasantly surprised every year, while not having to sacrifice the fits of rage I enjoy entering into during the Spring.
After putting up a slash line of .190/.266/.397 during the first month, Ryan Ludwick has been long-swinging his way to becoming the Reds' best active hitter. His 132 wRC+ on the season beats all non Joey Votto Reds' hitters who have more than 20 PAs. In what might be the most-surprising facet of his performance this season, he's done it with almost identical home/away splits.
There's no question GABP has helped give his HR total a boost. But he's hit as many doubles on the road as at home (in 27 fewer PAs), while reaching base at a higher rate (.319 vs. .351). It's almost as if he's anticipated the holes I was hoping to poke in the theory that he's a good player this season. It's August; he is.
So while we don't know how the whole Ludwick-Frazier-Rolen continuum times out after Votto returns, Ludwick's unexpectedly delightful hot steak is doing two very important things. It's helping both to replace Votto's production (Ludwick has hit .338 /392/.794 over the last 28 days). It's also, hopefully, helping Votto to heal completely. With Ludwick mashing in LF - and Rolen doing the same at 3B - there's no reason to move Todd Frazier off first until Votto is completely ready.
The Pirates are stiffer competition than the Reds have seen since Votto went on the disabled list. For Ludwick, as for the rest of the team, it'll be a test. But even is he goes 1-13, Ludwick has been too good so far this season not to give him more than a series worth of slack. After all, a lot of us got over two decades of it to start off our lives.