ESPN 1530's Mo Egger took a head-first dive into something every Cincinnati Reds fan has been well aware of through the season's first six weeks: Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton are having a hell of a time at the plate.
With Jay, Mo noted the consistency that Jay's batting average has had in hovering just over the Mendoza line for most every month since the middle of 2013, and while he acknowledges that batting average isn't the perfect metric for evaluation - which I'll echo - it is at least a metric that displays something, and that something it's displaying hasn't been good at all. Jay's career history of streakiness, current awulf BABIP (.194 vs. a career mark of .290), career best walk rate of 13.7%, 37.5% hard-hit ball rate, and distinct lack of enticing alternatives in RF mean the team is likely going to just stick with him every day in hopes he, and they, can ride out this frozen streak, but the rest of the Reds' flawed roster can only carry them so far while what was once their 2nd biggest offensive weapon hardly provides much at all.
As for Billy Hamilton, well, that's a case that I fear is far more cut and dry than that of Bruce. Jay's a player with thousands of PAs of something different than what we've seen of late, and at just 28 years old, there's ample reason to believe he'll turn things around at the plate at least to the extent the increased shifting he sees will allow. With Billy, something just doesn't seem to be there, and he's looked as confused as us each time he takes the batter's box.
Billy owns one of the lowest hard-hit ball percentages in all of baseball (just 18.2%), which gives me at least a slight bit of reason to think his .232 BABIP is only slightly suppressed as opposed to being supremely suppressed given his otherworldly speed. He's 0 for 8 on bunt attempts this season after having gone 17 for 54 in 2014, and his .179/.258/.262 line while hitting lefty (the side he didn't hit from until after being drafted and asked to switch hit) has looked increasingly lost. Billy has just 6 extra base hits on the season, and more and more it's looking like the 2nd half of his 2014 season is more the rule than the exception. As a result, the .176/.231/.265 line the Reds have had from the leadoff spot in the order ranks them dead last in the NL in both OPS and OBP (and 29th in MLB in both by a hair), and they rank dead last in SLG from that spot in the order. The .550 OPS they've received from CF is also the worst in the majors among team CF, as is the .253 OBP from that position.
I'm not on board with Mo's suggestion of sending one, or both, back to Louisville to work on things, but I do agree there needs to be a shake up in the lineup. Billy has no business hitting leadoff until he shows he can right the ship, and while there aren't a ton of other in-house candidates to fill that void thanks to the team's free-swinging tendencies, I'll go on record right now in suggesting that I'd like to see Jay Bruce get a shot in that spot in the order while he's walking the way he is. Something along the lines of this:
Cueto 4-eva P
Just for a blip. Just to see how it feels. Just to see if a slight change in thought process is enough to get a few hitters going.
Elsewhere, the Louisville Bats announced that May 23rd will be Superhero Night at Slugger Field, and the uniforms they'll be wearing that night should pretty much be the ones they wear every single night. In fact, put some dang pointy ears on the batting helmets and make them wear capes, too.
In scarier minor league news, the Carolina Mudcats bus wrecked and flipped in the wee hours of this morning, but fortunately there were only a few injuries, and none of them seem to be severe. The latest edition of the Mudcats are the the Carolina League A+ affiliate of the team with whom the Reds are currently entangled - the Atlanta Braves - but from 2009-2011 a separate iteration of the Mudcats played as the Reds' own AA affiliate in the Southern League. The team was en route to Myrtle Beach, SC for a series set to begin today. Scary, scary stuff.
In Reds-land, Tucker Barnhart claimed responsibility for the 103 mph Aroldis Chapman pitch getting past him and to the wall in the 9th inning last night, a pitch that misseed its target scored as a wild pitch that Tucker obviously feels was a passed ball. Tucker seems very much like the kind of player to step up and take blame, and since the game-winning run scored on the play, I'm sure he's pretty torn up about it. It's a tough way to have a game slip out of hand, for sure, but there were plenty of other things that went on last night that cost the Reds just as much as that pitch.
Finally, Pete Rose debuted as a Fox Sports baseball analyst yesterday. I didn't watch. I'm probably not going to watch. Dave Clark of the Cincinnati Enquirer has a pretty comprehensive rundown of what Pete had to say, though, so if you're interested in watching the first step of the inevitable high-speed collision of a hype machine and a runaway train, have at it.