Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Season Recap by Position: Infielders

Day 1: Catchers
Day 2: Starting Pitchers
Day 3: Relief Pitchers
Day 4: Outfielders
Day 5: Infielders
Day 6: Management

In the fifth installment of our six-part recap series, we take a closer look at how the Reds' infielders performed this season.

"I think being able to play the infield is something you are born with. You can't learn it." -Former Red Dave Concepcion

Joey Votto - Coming off of a 2010 campaign in which he was named the league's MVP, the 28-year old produced another strong year in 2011. Votto recorded new career-highs in games played (161), doubles (40), hits (185) and walks (110). He led the league in OBP (.416), putouts (1,341), times on base (299), and ranked third among all position players in WAR (6.5). The Canadian earned his second trip to the All-Star Game while also making a strong case for his first Gold Glove Award at first base. There's really not much you can say other than Votto is one of the true superstars in the game today, period.

Brandon Phillips - While some may dub Votto as the team's MVP for '11, my vote goes to @DatDudeBP. He turned in his first career .300 season, boasted a career-high OBP (.353), and provided his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense at second (see his top 10 web gems of '11 here). Furthermore, in an effort to help jump start the struggling offense, the 30-year old offered to bat leadoff in the order -- the move paid off for both he and the Reds as BP batted .350 with a .990 OPS at the #1 spot for the season. Let's hope the organization and the former 30/30 player can reach a contract extension that keeps him in Cincinnati for a long, long time.

Scott Rolen - If you look back to try and find one glaring difference between the Reds in 2010 vs. 2011, you have to take notice of Rolen's productivity, or lack thereof. The 8-time Gold Glover and 7-time All-Star was limited to just 65 games because of various injuries. His absence clearly affected the squad on-the-field, as well as off. Rolen will undoubtedly get one last crack at the hot corner next year (as he is under contract through 2012), but if the Reds want to get back to the promised land, the 36-year old veteran must stay healthy and productive in '12.

Edgar Renteria - Cincinnati's shortstops fell under much scrutiny from fans this year, and Renteria was one of those unfortunate souls that were tossed under the bus. The 2-time World Series MVP performed well-below his career, season averages, but at 35 what can you really expect from the well-traveled 16-year veteran -- especially a guy his age playing a position as demanding as SS? In all honesty, the club got what they expected when they inked him to a one-year deal last offseason. With that said, expect 2011 to be the only year we see Edgar in a Reds uniform.

Paul Janish - Janish was also the target of some verbal abuse from fans this year, and when you tally up his season output, some of it may have been justified. Although the native Texan is mainly known as a defensive specialist, it should be noted that his offensive numbers in '11 were truly anemic. Aside from his .214 average, the 28-year old boasted a measly .259 OBP and an even worse SLG at .262.  Like Renteria, Janish's stay in the Queen City may be over soon as his contract runs out at the end of the year.

Juan Francisco - This promising young third basemen started the season on the Reds' opening day roster before being demoted, getting injured, tearing up Triple-A pitching, and eventually making his way back to the big club by season's end. The 24-year old saw action in 31 games in the majors hitting .258 and hitting the longest, recorded homerun in MLB in '11 with a 502-footer midway through September. Expect Francisco to push for more playing time next season as he contends and fills in for Rolen when needed.

Miguel Cairo - The stats don't always show it, but Cairo proved once again to be a valuable commodity for Dusty Baker's team. The Venezuelan native saw action at every infield position except short and led the team with 11 pinch-hits off the bench. He also set a new career-high in homers with eight in his 16th season in the league. The 37-year old will be back for at least one more campaign in '12 as he enters the second year of a two-year deal.

Zack Cozart - Despite only playing in 11 contests, it appears as though the SS job is his to lose in the coming years. The 6'0, Memphis native made quite an impression on the organization and fans alike during his short stint in the bigs. Cozart batted .324 in 37 at-bats before suffering a season-ending, elbow injury in July. Before that he hit .310 with 26 doubles and 57 runs scored in Triple-A Louisville. I'm sure I speak on behalf of all Reds fans when I say that Cozart may be the one player everyone can't wait to see come next spring.

Chris Valaika - 14 G, .280 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 2B

Group Grade: B+
I gave this group an A in the preseason post, so based on those expectations they didn't quite perform up to snuff, collectively-speaking of course. Phillips and Votto certainly pulled their fair share of the weight, but with Rolen missing so many games because of injury, coupled with the fact that the club got virtually no offensive production from their shortstop position, you have to grade them out the way I did. Assuming the Reds at least pickup Phillips' club option for next year, that Rolen can stay healthy, that Cozart is as good as advertised, and that Votto continues to put up MVP-type numbers, this unit may very well be the cream of the crop in the National League in 2012.


Anonymous said...

The right side of the infield deserves this grade or higher. But at the same time I think the left side brings the average for the group WAY down. No consistency via stats or personnel on that side just doesn't cut it. I know injuries played a role at both 3rd and SS but with NO production from SS I disagree with a B+.

Jimmi Adair said...

You're probably right. However, I struggle with the idea of giving a group that's halfway composed of Phillips and Votto any grade lower than I already did. And believe it or not though, Reds' third basemen ranked in the top five in the league in homers, runs, doubles, and extra base hits this season.