Time and time again Josh Reddick came up with runners in scoring position in last night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. In a pattern that has become increasingly frustrating for participants and spectators alike, Reddick flopped.
The Dodgers didn’t lose the game because of that, but let’s be clear about something: Reddick’s failings at the plate made it much more difficult for the team to win.
I’ve mentioned my feelings about Reddick batting clean up on Twitter on several occasions. I’ve also been called on it by Twitter followers. Fair enough. Every fan is entitled to his or her opinion. However, I don’t think social media is the best place to have an extended debate, so I will drop my two Dodger blue cents here.
First off, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating Reddick be removed from the lineup altogether. Let the guy play – I just don’t want his automatic out coming up in one of the most critical positions in the batting order.
The other day a Dodgers blogger/writer/reporter whose opinions I respect and generally agree with, dropped a statement in the ongoing Reddick debate that really surprised me. When asked whether Reddick should be dropped in the batting order, he said batting order is not important to him.
That blew my mind, as I’m of the belief that batting order is absolutely important. Of course, the difference in batting 6th or 7th isn’t going to make or break a team’s chances on a given day. However, you better believe it matters who regularly bats in the top five spots of the order, and an argument can be made for which order those batters come up.
Clean up hitters matter. The man who bats fourth is there for a reason. He is most likely a team’s most consistent power hitter. As the name denotes, it’s his job to drive the ball and knock in base runners, clearing the bases.
Since Reddick’s arrival to the Dodgers in a trade with the Oakland A’s, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has almost exclusively batted him fourth. In eight seasons Reddick has amassed 94 home runs and 126 doubles. That comes out to an average of 11.75 home runs and 15.75 doubles per year. The man has not exactly been knocking the cover off the ball over his career, but Roberts has insisted on keeping Reddick in a power slot.
One Twitter follower suggested Reddick should remain there because he’ll see better pitches in that spot. the idea is that will help Reddick break through. Perhaps. That was one of the arguments for keeping Justin Turner in the third batting slot through the first two months of the season, despite Turner’s atrocious performance in that position.
Even if one grants the notion that batting Turner third eventually helped him to become the powerful batter he is today, the Dodgers had the luxury of it happening early in the season. They had two months to allow Turner to work things out. This isn’t April and May. The Dodgers are engaged in a day-to-day battle with the Giants to secure the NL West, and they don’t have a month of ballgames to twiddle away until Reddick finds his swing.
The Dodgers are winning more than they’re losing – for now. But we are fast approaching the point of the season where every game is precious. The Dodgers play the second place Giants nine times over the final stretch. How important do you think those games will be? How big will one RBI or one lost inning be in each of those games?
As I mentioned in the article I wrote about Turner’s early season struggles (which we here at LADR credit with assisting Turner’s revival):
“We’ve all heard about one player’s bat meaning so much to a team – how one hitter can set the pace for everyone. If that’s true in a positive sense, then it must also be true as an opposite. One player, batting in a prime spot, and constantly failing, can set the tone for a game. He stops momentum, harms the dynamics of an inning, takes the enthusiasm out of the home crowd, and lifts the spirits of the opponent.”
Those words were true then for Turner, and they are just as true now for Josh Reddick.
You don’t have to take my word for it. The other day Bulldog Orel Hershiser talked about this after another non-productive out from Reddick. To paraphrase, Orel said at some point Reddick will stop being a guy who is just pressing, and his failings will become “a thing”. Not only for him, but for his teammates as well. He said Reddick is approaching that point.
Bulldog as a TV announcer is the ultimate company man. He rarely says anything approaching criticism of the team, or an individual player. He puts a positive spin on almost everything the Dodgers do. To hear him speak so candidly about Reddick’s troubles, and how they may eventually affect his teammates was to me, incredible. Since Hershiser made those remarks, Reddick hasn’t improved one bit.
Josh Reddick went 0 for 4 yesterday, and stranded three RISP in a game the Dodgers lost by one run. The Dodgers cannot afford that non-performance to be repeated in clutch situations over and over down the stretch. Clean up hitters matter.