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Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Ludwick back, who hits cleanup for Reds?

By David Schoenfield

Eric Karabell wrote about Ryan Ludwick's return to the Reds' lineup on Monday, which could give Dusty Baker the option of returning to his Opening Day lineup, when Brandon Phillips hit second and Ludwick hit cleanup, for a left-right-left-right-left-right top six with Shin-Soo Choo, Phillips, Joey Votto, Ludwick, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. Ludwick hit sixth on Monday but if he gets the bat going like last year, it will be interesting to see if Baker moves guys around.

Baker may look at Phillips' 89 RBIs and want to leave him in the cleanup spot. Phillips' production is a mixed bag, however: He's hitting just .260/.310/.410, good for an OPS+ of 93, so he's been a below-average hitter overall. But all those RBIs! Well, a lot of that is credit to Votto and Choo, who rank 1-2 in the NL in on-base percentage. Phillips has hit with the second-most runners on base of any hitter in the majors, trailing only Prince Fielder. He has, however, hit much better with runners in scoring position (.376) or with runners on base (.319) than with the bases empty (.195).

So what does Baker do? Phillips has hit .224/.269/.344 since June 15, so even though he's driven in 34 runs in 47 games (including a two-run homer in Monday's 2-0 win over the Cubs) over that stretch, he's using up a ton of outs and outs are bad. Yes, give him credit for hitting well with runners on base, but that has to be balanced against his poor production otherwise.

My guess is Baker stands pat for now, with Todd Frazier perhaps staying in the two-hole for a spell. If Ludwick gets hot and Phillips continues to struggle, then Baker makes a change. Personally, while I understand the desire to split up the lefties, I'd probably just hit Bruce cleanup, but that's not going to happen.

By the way, I figured the Reds had struggled against left-handed pitching this year, but actually their splits are pretty even: .720 OPS against RHP, .708 against LHP. But if Ludwick hits like last year, he'll help.