Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dusty Baker's Genius Rarely Fails to Surprise

In a world in which Copernicus  was  nearly drawn and quartered, da Vinci was barely one step away from the pillory and Einstein was ridiculed as "addle-brained," is it any wonder that the genius of  Reds manager Dusty Baker is so frequently misunderstood?

In an iconoclasm unparalleled since Baker chose Willy Taveras and his .275 on-base percentage as Reds leadoff batter, and scolded Adam Dunn for walking too much and "clogging up the bases," Baker has now selected swing-and-miss, right-handed power hitter Jonny Gomes to hit in the 2-hole.

Many less-gifted baseball strategists might have thought Baker should have opted in favor of the axiom that a high average, left hander would be better suited to bat second to ensure that the ball would be hit behind baserunners in order to promote their advancement.

That would be too obvious.  Baker has chosen instead the element of surprise.

Stunned by the switch,  frustrated infielders are left to helplessly bump into one another like blind moles on the dark side of the moon, or so it would seem.

Brandon Phillips is right handed, and might seem to be a better choice to bat second, because he is a much better hitter than Gomes, who is hitting .186 (with an OPS around .460 over the past month).

But seeing as Phillips has hit barely more than 20 homers a season with no more than a .275 average Baker cannot resist using him as a cleanup hitter while the highly regarded Jay Bruce (and his 10 homers) bats as low as seventh and gets plenty of time on the bench .

At least Gomes doesn't hit into double plays, owing to the fact that he strikes out more than a third of the time.

Critics so foolish as to question Baker's brilliance need not despair, however.  His lineup cards are a little like Cincinnati's weather; if you don't like it, wait a while and it will change. Baker has used an average of three different lineups a week since the season began.