Cincinnati Reds

Dee Gordon

The best and worst MLB lineups have had to offer so far


This is a quick look at lineup spots by team through the first five weeks of the season, which have been the most productive and which have been the least. I’m just using OPS, so don’t take this as a study of any sort.

No. 1 hitters
1. Marlins – .894 (.422 OBP)
2. Cardinals – .894 (.387 OBP)
3. Rockies – .880 (.359 OBP)

league avg – .727 (.326 OBP)

28. White Sox – .580 (.287 OBP)
29. Reds – .500 (.233 OBP)
30. Athletics – .487 (.223 OBP)

The Marlins and Yankees are the lone teams getting a .400 OBP from the leadoff spot this year, and while that’s always been the ideal to shoot for, there’s hardly any chance of any team staying that high all season. Last year, only the Cardinals (.369) and Astros (.353) had even .350 OBPs from the leadoff spot.

No. 2 hitters
1. Reds – 1.084
2. Blue Jays – 1.001
3. Angels – .939

league avg – .751

28. Rangers – .560
29. Braves – .551
30. Brewers – .489

The Reds started off with Joey Votto batting second, and he was awesome, amassing an 1.173 OPS with a .474 OBP, six homers and 15 RBI in 17 games. So, of course, they dropped him back to third. Fortunately, Zack Cozart and Marlon Byrd have been pretty great in the two hole themselves, but that’s not going to last.

No. 3 hitters
1. Diamondbacks – 1.074
2. Cubs – 1.056
3. Dodgers – 1.045

league avg – .803

28. Nationals – .614
29. Rays – .557
30. Phillies – .515

The Diamondbacks are exclusively Paul Goldschmidt: he’s started all 32 games batting third.

No. 4 hitters
1. Mariners – 1.155
2. Nationals – .986
3. Royals – .975

league avg – .778

28. Twins – .608
29. Phillies – .576
30. Angels – .574

And the Mariners are all Nelson Cruz: he’s started every game in the cleanup spot and blown away the field.

What’s shocking, or at least would have been over the winter, is that this is the first of four appearances for the Angels in the bottom trio. The cleanup spot used to be Josh Hamilton’s. Now it’s 16 games from David Freese, 12 from Matt Joyce and five from Kole Calhoun (whom they much prefer hitting leadoff).

No. 5 hitters
1. Rockies – .949
2. Athletics – .949
3. Cubs – .846

league avg – .737

28. Angels – .614
29. Phillies – .588
30. Yankees – .576

Just because of the difference in hitting environments, Oakland’s .949 is more impressive than Colorado’s .949. They’re primary No. 5 hitter, Ike Davis, is at .867, but Stephen Vogt has provided quite a boost, with five homers in eight games batting fifth.

No. 6 hitters
1. Yankees – 1.023
2. Royals – .930
3. Dodgers – .869

league avg – .722

28. Cardinals – .549
29. Red Sox – .546
30. Reds – .535

The Yankees being dead last at No. 5 and way out in front at No. 6 is some sort of bizarre fluke. Brian McCann, primarily the No. 5 hitter, has a respectable .704 OPS in 21 games there, but Carlos Beltran (.407 in seven games) and Chase Headley (.435 in four games) have been horrible, dragging it down. On the other hand, both Beltran (.848 in nine games) and Headley (.824 in nine games) have been just fine as No. 6 hitters and they’re further bolstered by Chris Young (1.271 OPS, four HR in seven games) and Alex Rodriguez (2.528 OPS, three HR in three games)

No. 7 hitters
1. Dodgers – .933
2. White Sox – .828
3. Orioles – .787

league avg – .658

28. Red Sox – .434
29. Rangers – .425
30. Angels – .423

It’s the third of four appearances for the Dodgers in the top three. This one is truly a committee. Juan Uribe has started 15 of 32 games as a No. 7 hitter, but he has a modest .668 OPS. Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal and Joc Pederson have combined for 15 starts and hit .444 with five homers in 54 at-bats.

Boston, which entered the year with seemingly the game’s deepest lineup, shows up near the bottom for the second straight spot, courtesy of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Allen Craig. Their No. 7 hitters have combined for seven RBI in 33 games, five of them coming in Daniel Nava’s six starts.

No. 8 hitters
1. Reds – .932
2. Dodgers – .898
3. Marlins – .846

league avg – .673

28. Diamondbacks – .474
29. Angels – .392
30. Cubs – .297

The Reds take the cake for the most inconsistency by lineup spot this year. They top the list at No. 2 and No. 8 while also being last at No. 6 and next to last at No. 1. They don’t have any lineup spot in the .700-.800 OPS range. Their presence here is Cozart doing Cozart things, with some help from Brayan Pena. Even Skip Schumaker went 3-for-5 with two RBI in his one game batting eighth and he’s 4-for-27 with no RBI over the rest of the year.

The Cubs at No. 30 gets a big asterisk here; they’ve exclusively gone with their pitcher batting eighth. For the record, their No. 9 hitters have a .630 OPS.

No. 9 hitters (AL only)
1. Angels – .721
2. Blue Jays – .671
3. Tigers – .648

league avg – .583

13. Royals – .484
14. Rays – .480
15. Indians – .476

We’re taking the NL teams out of this mix and just looking at the AL squads. Oddly enough, the Angels top the list; their No. 9 hitters, mostly Johnny Giavotella, have a higher OPS than any of the spots from No. 3 through No. 8.

So, the absolute best of the lineups to date:

1. Marlins – Dee Gordon
2. Reds – Joey Votto
3. Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt
4. Mariners – Nelson Cruz
5. Rockies – Nolan Arenado
6. Yankees – Chris Young
7. Dodgers – Alex Guerrero
8. Reds – Zack Cozart
9. Angels – Johnny Giavotella

The Braves and Reds aren’t going anyplace



CINCINNATI — It’s a Tuesday night and the Braves are in Cincinnati to face the Reds. Both teams stand at 15-17 entering the game. That’s good enough to put them in a four-way tie for the 16th-best record in Major League Baseball. The atmosphere is something less-than-pitched. But with over 2,400 games a year and only a third of the league making the playoffs, this is what baseball usually is: a contest between a couple of teams not going much of anywhere on a random weeknight when most people aren’t really paying attention.

You’re not supposed to say that a team isn’t going anywhere on May 12. The conventional wisdom is that it’s too soon to say much of anything definitively until Memorial Day. That’s May 25. On that day the Braves and Reds will each, weather willing, be playing game number 44. But maybe that isn’t enough either?

“Once you get to 50 games, that’s where you’re kind of where you’re at,” Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski tells me. “You know what you have then usually.”

Fifty games. A week past Memorial Day. Is that enough?

“The old adage is 54 games,” Fox Sports South announcer Chip Caray says. “One-third of the way through. Because I think it was Walter Alston who said ‘every team wins 54, every team loses 54 and it’s the 54 in the middle that make the difference between whether you go to the playoffs or not.”

I’m pretty sure that was Tommy Lasorda and that the number was 60, but we’ll leave that aside. Either way that puts us into June. At least assuming all 54/60 of those early games weren’t already allocated by the Alston/Lasorda rule. But really, June has to be enough, right?

“There’s no real exact number,” Pierzynski says, “because you look at some teams and they won’t get hot until August. It just depends . . . every team thinks it can compete because of the wild cards. The opportunity.”

May 25. May 31. June 5. June 11. August? Maybe we can’t say that a team is going nowhere until the moment they’re eliminated? Pierzynski has a point there about the wild cards and improbably late surges. It can happen. Everything has changed in that regard since playoff expansion and play-in games and the like.

But no, I’m not buying it. Not here. Not with these Braves and these Reds.

Not a Braves team with the wreck of a bullpen it’s currently featuring. Not a Braves team with journeyman Kelly Johnson batting cleanup. Not a Braves team starting Mike Foltynewicz this early in the season. Hey, I like Foltynewicz. I think he’ll be a good one. He strikes out lots of guys. But he wouldn’t be in the bigs yet if the Braves initial rotation plans had panned out and he’s not the kind of guy who would be making mid-May starts on a real contender. Besides, the Nationals just woke up, kicked the Braves’ butts all over the park last weekend and look like they’re going to be back on top of the division soon. And if they don’t win it the Mets will. The Braves don’t, as the political pundits like to say, have a clear path to victory.

The Reds? As the night began they were seven and a half back of a Cardinals team that looks like a juggernaut. Or, at the very least, a typical Cardinals team. They’re winning games like crazy despite the loss of Adam Wainwright and despite their MVP candidate, Matt Carpenter, who recently came down with what I’ll diagnose from my armchair as African Trypanosomiasis.  The Pirates are above them too, despite struggling mightily and despite getting little if anything so far from their best player, Andrew McCutchen. And that’s before you mention the Cubs who, collectively, are the closest thing you’ll ever see to a golden retriever puppy with giant feet playing baseball. Maybe they’re not great but they’re way cuter than the Reds and don’t lack for energy.

Wait as many games as you want and expand the playoffs to three or four wild card teams and neither the Braves nor the Reds will be playing past October 4 this year. I’d actually bet they’ll both be in fourth on October fourth. So why in the hell did I drive down to Cincinnati to write about this game between two meh teams going meh places in 2015?

Precisely because they’re going nowhere. Because there are no serious implications here. Oh, sure, the broadcasters and some of the media covering it came up with some “keys to the game” beforehand and “key takeaways” afterward and, as I write this, just after the final out of the game the Reds won 4-3, they’ve all gone down to the clubhouse to ask the managers What it All Means. And, to be fair, it means a lot to Bryan Price and Fredi Gonzalez and everyone who takes a check from the Reds and Braves. But does it mean that much to us? Even Braves fans like me or Reds fans like the 23,780 who paid to come down here tonight (about 75% of which, I’d guess, actually showed up)?

Yes and no. “No” in the way we normally talk about sports meaning something. About how Tuesday night’s Rockets-Clippers game meant something or how Game 7 of the World Series or any given football game means something. This game wasn’t subject to 48 hours-to-a-week of hype. There weren’t scalpers on every corner looking to make bank on a hot ticket. The results of this game didn’t keep anyone up staring at the ceiling on Tuesday night except maybe Jason Grilli, who came into a tie game, gave up two hard hit balls in the bottom of the ninth and handed the Reds the win. This game didn’t lead to extended postgame breakdowns and/or drunken revelry or sorrow in some local bar.  It was not an event. It was just a ballgame.

But saying that is no insult. Indeed, it’s the highest compliment. It’s the very essence of what most of us love about baseball. The fact that it’s not an event. It just happens.

Baseball fades into the background over the course of months rather than demand that we drop what we are doing and Take Notice. It is the soundtrack of the summer. No, not even that. It’s the score. An accompaniment which complements our days and nights but which is unobtrusive and fits into the action rather seamlessly. Something the presence of which we rarely actively consider but whose absence would be jarring. It isn’t a loud roar, but a steady, comforting hum that maintains no matter what else is going on in our lives.

And thank God for that, because our lives can and often do carry plenty of drama and intensity of their own sometimes.  A lot of times, actually. We all just need to relax a bit.

Thank God that the walk over to Great American Ballpark from my hotel was over sidewalks full of people going to and from work or running errands, not people who painted their face in team colors and formed an increasingly unruly mob en route to the game. Thank God that the American Flag was brought in by a color guard on a human size flagpole and not unfurled, a hundred yards across, in the outfield by a thousand volunteers. Thank God the National Anthem was sung by Wally and O’Weida Gosser, the couple who have been singing the anthem here in Cincinnati on and off for 52 years and not reimagined by Consolidated Amalgamated Recordings artist Vampy Scalesalot in a rendition which lasted three and a half minutes and concluded with a flyover of Quinjets from the Eleventy-Seventh Airwing of the Ohio Air National Guard.

There will be time enough for that in October. We’ll have built up to it by then and the teams involved will have earned that attention, that pomp and that circumstance. But now it’s May and we have the Braves and Reds. Playing a game like the one they played on Monday and like the one they’ll play on Wednesday and like they’ll play, day-in and day-out, for the next four and a half months.

Some of those games will be boring. Some of them, like this one, will build steadily until the ninth inning and end on a walkoff double by Devin Mesoraco or someone quite like him. They’ll feature a home run that went 20 rows up into the left field seats but which, if hit in a different park, may have been caught on the warning track. They’ll feature a couple of good, but not great, starting pitching performances. They’ll feature a 38-year-old catcher who was never really known for his defense gunning down one of the fastest men to grace a baseball diamond in the past 20 years on a stolen base attempt as if he were Greg frickin’ Luzinski. They’ll feature a run scored because one of those good-but-not-great pitchers is a bit too green to be up in the big leagues just yet and he tried too hard to get the lead runner on a sacrifice bunt and threw the ball into the outfield (Folty! When the other team willingly gives you an out, by all means, take it from them!)  A run that was unearned, even though it was the fault of the pitcher and which, if it happened in the playoffs, we’d be dissecting for years, but since it happened on May 12 between two teams not going anyplace we’ll have totally forgotten about in a week and may say something neglectfully ignorant about how he’s been let down by his defense. Forgive us if we do that. There are a lot of baseball games and they all blend together.

Blend together into a tapestry of sorts. Not necessarily a beautiful one and probably not a rich one. One that, over time, we’ll mix up with some other season’s worth of games. But one which, as it’s woven, will hold our interest each and every day, at least on some level. It’ll keep us company. Keep us out of trouble. Keep us in touch with our friends who, like us, follow the exploits of a couple dozen guys with whom we have little in common for six months at a time. Keep us from watching too many dumb TV shows. That tapestry of weighted random number generators will give us something to look forward to each and every day until it gets too cold for them to generate random numbers and we’re left stuck in the ice in some sort of ersatz Shackleton Expedition for five months, waiting for the thaw of spring.

The Braves and Reds aren’t going anyplace. Thank God they aren’t. They’re here 162 days and nights between April and October, giving us something to watch and something to do. Sure, it’d be nice for their fans if they find a way to play longer and win the World Series or something, but those 162 are enough. That’s really all we need. In a world where everything seems so laden with meaning and importance and where the things we love the most are often just out of our grasp, those 162 ultimately meaningless games are exactly what we need.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights


Dodgers 11, Marlins 1: Andre Ethier went 5-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in this laugher. Although the Marlins had the highlight of the night. Hold on to you butts, my friends, and watch this drive:


Giants 8, Astros 1: Chris Heston tossed a two-hit complete game while striking out ten. Seeing a complete game from anyone who isn’t a thirtysomething frontline starter these days is sort of like seeing a double rainbow or the Shamrock Shake back at McDonalds or something.

White Sox 4, Brewers 2: Chris Sale had been suspended and thus had five days of rest instead of the usual four between starts. The extra day must’ve done him wonders as he struck out 11 brewers in eight innings of three-hit ball. In other news, “five-day” suspensions cause starting pitchers to, in reality, only be pushed back a day. May as well just do fines for starters instead of suspensions. The extra rest actually helped the guy here.

Royals 7, Rangers 6: The Royals took the lead in the ninth and handed it over to Greg Holland, who blew the save. Alex Gordon hit a homer in the 10th to give them the lead once again and it was once again handed over to Greg Holland and this time he locked it down. Well, got the win anyway, not the save. You can’t really blow the save then get the save. Statistics don’t work like that.

Cubs 6, Mets 1: Noah Syndergaard made his big league debut and it was not one he’s going to count among the best in his career, I don’t think. He started strong, matching zeroes with Jake Arrieta until the sixth inning when the Cubs hung four on him. Oh well, welcome to the big leagues, kid. Kris Bryant went 3-for-4 with a homer and a triple. The homer was a long one, but the triple was maybe more impressive, going the opposite way, farther than it should’ve given the swing he put on it. Guy just has crazy power:


Rays 4, Yankees 2: Chris Archer looked like he was going to get pummeled early, but managed to only give up two runs in a first inning when the first five men he faced reached base. Then the Rays rallied for two in the seventh and two in the eighth. Attendance was 10,417. Not even the Yankees can draw in Tampa Bay anymore.

Reds 4, Braves 3: Yesterday, when I tweeted about how I was heading down to Cincinnati to cover this game, someone on Twitter told me that I should ask Bryan Price why Devin Mesoraco  — who has been limited to pinch-hitting duties due to hip problems, thus leaving the Reds with, in effect, a 24-man roster — hasn’t been placed on the disabled list yet. It’s still a good question, but last night it was good for the Reds that he was around, given his pinch-hit walkoff double. The reason that was the winning run and not merely the tying run was because Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz threw away a ball while trying to get the lead runner on a sac bunt in the seventh rather than take the dang out the Reds were trying to give him. The lead runner scored the tying run. In other news, it’s harder than you think to not yell down at the field at the top of your lungs from the press box when the team you root for does something boneheaded.

Tigers 2, Twins 1: A walkoff bloop single for Ian Kinsler in the tenth, set up by an Anthony Gose double. Before that Alfredo Simon and Kyle Gibson dueled.

Pirates 7, Phillies 2: Four straight wins for the Pirates who you knew dang well weren’t going to scuffle along all year. And you knew Andrew McCutchen was going to right the ship too. Here he singled and hit a two-run homer to back A.J. Burnett, who allowed only one earned run in seven innings.

Blue Jays 10, Orioles 2: Edwin Encarnacion hit two homers. This is where I’d insert that “Nacho Libre” clip, but someone went and took it off of YouTube. Oh, there are a lot of them there still, but not the one that’s just ten seconds long with no pre-roll ad. Really, YouTube ads have killed the short video clip as insert comedy. This makes me way sadder than it should, because that was some comedy right there. Not as much comedy as the Orioles’ defense last night, but some good belly laughs.

Cardinals 8, Indians 3: A two-out three-run homer by Matt Holliday was just one of the many, many two-out RBI hits for the Cardinals. Indeed, all of their runs came on two-out hits. Indians pitchers: 66% is a failing grade no matter where you are. Lance Lynn shut the Tribe out for six innings, striking out 9.

Mariners 11, Padres 4: There was a time, not too long ago, when an M’s-Pads might not score 15 runs between them in a three game series. Here the ball flew out of Safeco, with Mike Zunino hitting two homers, Nelson Cruz hitting his league-leading 15th and the Mariners smacking six in all.

Athletics 9, Red Sox 2: Lots of blowouts out west last night, eh? The A’s snap their six-game losing streak thanks in part to Josh Reddick, who had four hits with a homer and three RBI. Eric Sogard drove in three himself, as Boston’s starting pitching continues to be a horror show.

Angels 5, Rockies 2: The Angels rallied for three in the eighth, thanks in part to Albert Pujols straight-up stealing second base and then coming around to score on a single. He reached base by snapping an 0-for-13 skid. But I’m sure no one was worried about that because, obviously, Pujols is all about his wheels and speed don’t slump. The Rockies have lost ten in a row. Which is some seriously special stuff.

Diamondbacks 14, Nationals 6: Two homers for Mark Trumbo, who drove in four. The Nationals had never given up 14 runs before. Not since they were the Expos, at least. Even if they and their fans like to pretend they were never the Expos.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

Scott Van Slyke

Dodgers 5, Marlins 3: The Dodgers blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth when Christian Yelich hit a two-run homer. Scott Van Slyke answered back with a three-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the inning. Quite the night for Van Slyke, who screwed up in the fifth by not running home fast enough from third after tagging up, costing his team a run when another baserunner was doubled off. In the seventh he completed a double play in the field by nailing a runner at home plate who himself was trying to tag. Then the walkoff. Great highs, great lows. Such is the stuff of well-lived lives.

Braves 2, Reds 1: For the second straight day the opposition rallies off of Aroldis Chapman in a tie game. One could choose to call it an aberration. Or one could lean into Bryan Price about breaking Old School Rules about using your closer in non-save situations thereby messing with closers’ naturally fragile egos and routines. Let’s go with aberration and leave closer usage shaming for someone else. As it was, Phil Gosselin and Nick Markakis singled off Chapman to open the ninth, Gosselin stole third base and then scored on a wild pitch to give the Braves the 2-1 lead that would hold up.

Note: I’m going to tonight’s Braves-Reds game as a media member. To, like, actually cover the game and maybe write a story about it. I have an idea of what I’m writing about, but if there’s anything particular you’d like to see explored, comment about it.

Orioles 5, Blue Jays 2: After a longer road trip than they had expected, the Orioles are back in Baltimore. And it suited them well as Manny Machado and Chris Davis homered in a three-run first inning, Adam Jones homered later and Ubaldo Jimenez was sharp once again. He struck out nine while allowing two runs, actually, and lowered his ERA to 2.41.

Pirates 4, Phillies 3: The Pirates continue their mastery of the Phillies and win their fourth of five overall. I think this year a lot of teams will discover a mastery of the Phillies, newfound or otherwise.

Yankees 11, Rays 5: CC Sabathia had something like nine runs of run support total in his previous starts this season. Last night the Yankees scored nine while he was in the game. That certainly helped the big guy finally notch his first win of the season but so too did his striking out nine in seven innings. It was a home run parade for the Bombers’ offense, with A-Rod, Chase Headley, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira all going deep. A-Rod also stole a base. That’s 323 for him. Only 15 stolen bases behind Willie Mays! I wonder if the Yankees will make note of that in their little media fliers.

Brewers 10, White Sox 7: Milwaukee had a 6-0 lead after four innings, and led 7-2 heading into the seventh. They blew that, but late homers from Elian Herrera and Khris Davis put them back on top, turning what could’ve been a game symbolic of a bad team collapsing into a symbolic game of a team with a new manager and a new attitude persevering. Speaking of attitude, Carlos Gomez hit cleanup for the first time and homered and tripled. After the game he said he felt “sexy” hitting cleanup. “It’s a different feeling. I go to the plate like, `I’m the man.'” You are. You’re bad. You’re so bad you should be in detention.

Rangers 8, Royals 2: For the second straight day Adiran Beltre hit a homer, giving him 399 for his career. Prince Fielder and recent callup Thomas Field also went deep. The Royals were understandably not at their best, as they arrived at their hotel at 5:45 AM following Sunday night’s rain-delayed game in Detroit. Say whatever you want about these guys being rich and having great jobs and charter flights and all of that, but it’s ridiculous to play that late on Sunday and then have to travel 1,200 miles and play on Monday. Teams playing Sunday night getaway games should have off-days the following Monday, full stop.

Cubs 4, Mets 3: Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each homered in the first inning — Bryant into the newly-opened bleachers — giving Jacob deGrom a rude awakening. Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores hit back-to-back-homers of their own later in the game, but the hole was too deep for New York. Three scoreless innings for the Cubs’ pen. Which is a big deal for them given how much of a liability it’s been for them this year.

Nationals 11, Diamondbacks 1: The Nats had a 10-0 lead before folks who had to fight a little extra traffic to get to the game could find their seats. Josh Collmenter gave up nine of those ten runs before being yanked with one out in the second inning. When he is good he is very, very good, but when he is bad he is horrid.

Red Sox 5, Athletics 4: Tied at four entering in the 11th with Pablo Sandoval leading off the inning, a 5-4 Red Sox lead three pitches later. Not bad for his first game back in the Bay Area since Game 5 of the World Series. Oakland has lost six in a row. They’re 0-6 in extra innings.

Reds designate for assignment Kevin Gregg

Kevin Gregg Reds

It’s unclear why the Reds used 37-year-old Kevin Gregg in late-inning, high-leverage situations for most of the season, but they’ve come to their senses and designated him for assignment.

Better late than never, but before being dropped Gregg went 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA in 11 appearances, allowing 12 runs in 10.2 innings spent mostly as a setup man for Aroldis Chapman.

Gregg also had a 10.00 ERA in 12 appearances for the Marlins last season, so this could be the end of the line for the right-hander after 13 seasons, 177 saves, and a 4.24 ERA for six different teams.