The notion of batting Joey Votto second in the lineup is nothing new. It has been casually thrown around for a couple of years now due to Votto's propensity to get on base. But Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com fanned the embers once more on Wednesday when he wrote a piece proposing the Reds should do just that.
It's a rather lengthy piece, so for the sake of time, I'll only provide the snippets that provide the best reasoning behind Castronvince's logic.
If Price is not already planning on batting Joey Votto in the two-hole, he needs to, because the Reds never did find a reliable No. 2 hitter last season and they can ill-afford to go down that road again now that their Choo-less leadoff spot is also a question mark.
It would be wise to leave one of the smartest hitters in baseball alone, from a strategy standpoint, and instead put him in a position in which he's all-but-guaranteed to get about 2.5 percent more plate appearances over the course of a season.
The Reds can ill-afford the conventional wisdom of batting their best hitter third when they have so much uncertainty ahead of him. In Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and, hopefully, Ryan Ludwick, they figure to have capable run-producers to slot in behind Votto, and the No. 2 spot would take better advantage of the patience that accompanies his pop. On average, the No. 3 hitter leads off an inning fewer than any other spot in the order, so why waste your highest-OBP output there?
In short, don't deride or alter Votto's approach. Maximize it.
I'll admit, the idea of slotting your best hitter anywhere other than the No. 3 hole seems peculiar, especially when you consider conventional wisdom. But Votto is not a conventional hitter by any means. In fact, his approach to hitting is somewhat revolutionary, and as with anything that is new, has been received by some with sheer reluctance.
Nevertheless, the proposal to bat Votto second shouldn't be viewed as that far-fetched. Sure, it goes against the grain, and a lot of baseball purists will adamantly object, but who cares? Just as long as the end justifies the means. I'm sure there are lots of teams who would love to have a career .419 OBP hitter batting second with a player who drove in 103 runs last year hitting behind him in the third spot.
With that being said, I don't envision new manager Bryan Price utilizing Votto in this manner. The former MVP will likely bat third just as he has always done in a Reds uniform. However, if the offense struggles, which on paper looks susceptible to happening, Price will want to obviously mix things up to try and produce more runs, and experimenting with a Hamilton-Votto-Phillips-Bruce top of the order may be a good place to start.