Earlier this afternoon I explored the case for Paul Janish, the shortstop who is outperforming Orlando Cabrera while the latter sits on the DL. Janish is one of many Reds bench players who has contributed to the team’s success this year. A few commenters in the post point out a couple of other bench players who might provide an upgrade if given more playing time.
The Reds outfield this year has been not so good. The three players with the most PA — Jonny Gomes, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs — have wOBAs of .330, .322, and .319. Keeping Bruce and Stubbs in the outfield is understandable. They’re struggling, but they’re also young and considered part of the franchise’s future. Gomes might have the best wOBA among them, but he’s a year-to-year player at this point. In any case, his wOBA is heavily influenced by his torrid May, during which he produced a .445 wOBA. In the three months since he’s hit .304, .297, and .318.
Jim Edmonds was brought in to help, at least in a platoon with Gomes. He hasn’t hit too well since his move, but that’s a measly 15 PA sample. Chances are he’ll help fortify the outfield unit once he hits his stride. The Reds do have another guy who could help: rookie Chris Heisey. A 17th-round pick in 2002, Heisey has never been a highly regarded prospect despite quality minor league production. In 133 PA this season he’s produced a .381 wOBA. As in the case of Janish that’s likely unsustainable and could certainly drop when he’s exposed to regular playing time. But considering the way Gomes and Stubbs have hit there seems little risk in going with Edmonds, Heisey, and Bruce in the outfield on most days.
(And, if Dusty wanted to get cute he could platoon Gomes and Bruce.)
There was a mention in the comments, too, about the team’s catching situation. Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez have nearly identical wOBAs, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Hanigan has picked up a few more PA, especially of late. His season numbers, especially his .380 OBP, make an argument that he should see more time than Hernandez. But Hernandez has the edge in the power department, and his .359 OBP ranks seventh among NL catchers with at least 200 PA. Hanigan has also slumped since returning from a stint on the DL, producing a .258 wOBA in July and a .189 wOBA in August. Hernandez has a .361 wOBA in August, so if Dusty wants to stay with the hot hand he’ll give Hernandez more playing time.
This brings us to another interesting comment, that Dusty doesn’t want to mess with what’s working. There’s some merit to that, in that it sounds like a bad idea to piss off some key clubhouse guys. But I wonder what the on-field effect would be. That is, how would production suffer if a clubhouse presence like Cabrera were offended by Janish playing more often. Or if Gomes were upset over losing his spot to Heisey. If the aforementioned bench players can maintain their production when pressed into more regular duty, it would seem like they would help the team create more runs. At this point, in the middle of a pennant race, it seems like it’s at least worth a shot.