The Reds led Major League Baseball in sacrifice bunts last year, a reflection of a consistent Dusty Baker managerial staple: station-to-station baseball. That tactic did not restrain Baker's club from attempting 136 steals, however. In fact, thefts are nearly always a part of Baker's small-ball philosophy, and steals help the value of the Reds' table-setters. However, Baker's overall offensive strategy often displaces more RBI chances from the middle to the lower part of the order.
Great American Ballpark can make any Reds hitter more valuable. While the park holds down triples rates more than any park in the league besides Dodger Stadium, it is an otherwise excellent place to hit for power. One of the top five home run fields around, GAB also sees more flyballs and line drives, with one of the lowest groundball rates in the league.
One might think Baker's experience with the Chicago Cubs, where he oversaw the destruction of Mark Prior's once-golden-yet-seemingly-doomed arm, would make him shy away from sending his pitchers out on long starting assignments. Not so. Baker's Reds tied the Arizona Diamondbacks for the most starts with 100 or more pitches in the NL.
Baker has generally led high strikeout, high pitch count squads, with pitching coach Dick Pole as a fairly constant disciple. Pole was fired after the 2009 season, however, and it will be interesting to see what impact new pitching coach Bryan Price will have.
Price's decade of major league experience in that role reveals one very consistent and important trend: a devotion to the notion that starters should be allowed to work out of jams. His teams have consistently finished very near the cellar in runners bequeathed to relievers, partially as a result.
Though once a Gold Glove shortstop, Orlando Cabrera now represents a sharp downgrade from Paul Janish on defense. Scott Rolen could play until the age of 40 and still be a great defender at the hot corner. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto round out a strong infield. The outfield is unsettled but talented and should be rangy from left to right.
Ryan Hanigan has a cannon arm behind the plate. However, aging starter Ramon Hernandez is coming off knee surgery and can't be considered as reliable as he used to be.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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