I am listening to MLB Network Radio today and Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette and the talk shifted to the Cincinnati Reds based on the most disappointing season. Among that talk it got into the Reds lineup and Billy Hamilton hitting leadoff. Jim Duquette kept talking about how catchers will call a ton of fastballs when Hamilton is on base to give themselves a chance to throw him out because there is next to no chance of it happening on an offspeed pitch with Hamilton unless he falls over or overslides the bag. That got me thinking about who are the best fastball hitters on the team?
With that in mind, I headed over to Fangraphs to take a look at the Reds hitters values against certain pitches. I looked at the last two seasons for the players and am only looking at the other projected seven starters. The Reds have four players who are considerably above-average against fastballs over the last two years. Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier all showed up well on the positive side of the ledger against fastballs. Devin Mesoraco and Zack Cozart found themselves well on the negative side. Brandon Phillips was a tiny bit below-average.
Of course, a 2-year sample can hide some things. Brandon Phillips for example has been above-average against fastballs from 2007-2012. With his wrist/hand injury, perhaps there is an easy explanation for why 2013 is the outlier for him. Zack Cozat a bit below-average prior to 2013 but he really struggled against them last season. Devin Mesoraco was slightly above-average in his career prior to 2013 against fastballs, but really struggled in 2013 against them. Jay Bruce has always been good against fastballs, but he crushed them in 2013.
Then there is Joey Votto. Votto, one of the best hitters in the game, has crushed fastballs for his entire career. He seems to hit all pitches well though, but he really stands out against the fastball.
I think it would be wise to avoid Mesoraco and Cozart in the two spot of the lineup, while there are some OBP concerns with each of those guys, but also because they have struggled against the fastball. However I do think that the Reds of the lineup, no matter which of the other players winds up hitting second would benefit from hitting behind Hamilton.
Personally, I would love to see what Joey Votto could do if pitchers actually had to pitch to him more often and I would love to see him hit second. But as long as Cozart or Mesoraco aren’t hitting second (unless they turn things around on how they have performed against fastballs in their careers), the guy batting second should see an uptick in production whenever Hamilton is on base because of how they will be pitched.